HEAVY METAL & THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC: South African Sludge Juggernaut Ruff Majik

Heavy Metal and the Global Pandemic is a new series that focuses on examining how metal bands are dealing with the COVID-19 world. Heavy Metal is unique as a genre for often writing songs steeped in dystopian imagery, the darker side of the human condition, and of course – death. However, these are unprecedented times for everyone, including musicians with an inclination for chaos.

Pretoria, South Africa’s doom juggernaut, Ruff Majik was originally formed in 2012 by guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist/guitarist Jimmy Glass, and drummer Benni Manchino. Since then the band has released the EPs The Bear (2015), The Fox (2016), and The Swan (2017), followed by their first full-length Seasons (2018), and last years TǻrnHaving developed a loyal following in the South African scene, the band has since found worldwide recognition. The bands next full-length album, The Devil’s Cattle, is set for release on October 30th via Mongrel Records, and features the addition of multi-instrumentalists Evert Snyman and Cowboy Van to the core trio.

In May the band released the single, “All You Need Is Speed,” with a lyric video (below interview). Last week, they released the single and video for “Who Keeps Score.”

From the press release:

The animated video is a collaborative effort between Lllewellyn Van Eeden and long-time illustrator of the band, Annemarie Buchner. The idea was to illustrate and animate an enticing storyline about a band of vampire hunters that bit off a little more than they could chew. It’s got church burnings, zombies, high speed car chases, bad dancing – everything you’d want out of a B-movie, jam packed into three minutes and thirty seconds.

Comments vocalist/guitarist Johni Holiday, “Vampires are at large I tell you, vampires! Yeah. No seriously, some people are just so goddamn draining. The only way to beat them is to write a loud and fast song and jam it out with some friends.”

You can follow Ruff Majik on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your band, be it cancelled tours or studio time? 

Johni Holiday: Well, luckily we had just finished up recording by the time the lock-down hit us, so that was good. Our touring plans have gotten wrecked though, and moved out all the way to next year – c’est la vie, I guess.

Where are you sheltering in place and what are your circumstances? Are you alone or with family? How are you coping? 

Johni Holiday: Me and my wife are staying in a house together, so it’s not so bad. It’s just the fact that we can’t play shows that’s a bit of a bummer. Otherwise life is quite normal again right now.

How are the members of your band staying connected? 

Johni Holiday: Well, since the hard lock-down has been lifted in our country we’ve been able to get back to practicing together, but other than that we keep in contact with video calls.

Concepts of “virus” and “pandemic” are no strangers to heavy metal lyrics and imagery. Is it strange that we’re now living in such a world? Also, have the current circumstances provided any inspiration for writing new material? 

Johni Holiday: It’s a strange time indeed. Every time I go out to the shops and see people with their masks on it feels like I’m in a movie. And yeah, I think it has inspired some new lyrical concepts, but they might be nudged out by some other ideas over time.

The absence of live music is no doubt affecting the audiences and communities who thrive on the experience of seeing bands perform. But, as performers, what’s it like for you not knowing when you will be able to return to the stage? 

Johni Holiday: I think that’s the single most frustrating/infuriating/disheartening thing I’ve ever had to deal with. It’s like a part of life is missing.

Music provides solace for many in times of hardship. What have you been listening to in these strange and uncertain times? 

Johni Holiday: Well, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mark Lanegan, Run The Jewels, Black Rainbows and Elephant Tree. It changes every week though.

Ruff Majik - The Devil's Cattle cover
Ruff Majik’s LP The Devil’s Cattle is out October 30th via Mongrel Records

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