Witchdoctor Productions is a company South African metal heads are probably familiar with for bringing down massive acts like Behemoth, Soulfly and Konkhra, to name just a few, and of course putting together the massive Witchfest Metal Festival. They are a dedicated and passionate group of individuals, and their most recent project is set to reinforce the wider scene even further.
Iron Tusk is their new baby, a live music venue in the heart of Newtown, Johannesburg with many draw cards sure to pull a crowd. “Quite a unique feature we have is the balcony. So we have two floors with the balcony looking down on the bands. It’s also got a beer garden. It’s like an urban venue that plays alternative music and has pool tables, foosball, xboxes all in the middle of the city,” Shaughn Pieterse, CEO and co-founder explains.
Iron Core Entertainment was developed to run Iron Tusk as a separate entity as Shaun explains, “Basically Iron Core is the same people who own Witchdoctor, it’s just a different company that allows that brand to sign deals and do things with any band without being attached to the Witchdoctor name, that has been associated with metal.”
The heart behind the venue is to create a space where young artists can play on a top class stage, with professional sound and lighting, while fans get to discover this fresh talent and have a place to drink, socialise and feel at home. Week days are there to showcase the many different facets of the SA music scene, with no genre restrictions whatsoever. Whether you are a bedroom house producer, a garage band, or a singer songwriter with a story to tell, there will be a slot for you on their stage. “Monday to Thursday the venue can be hired by anyone of any genre, so we’ll have dance nights, student nights, whatever. Then on Friday and Saturday we want to keep it like old school rock n roll to metal, and keep it semi-alternative so that those people have a place where they can go to and also, people who are interested in the music can come and see it and see what it’s all about,” Pieterse declares.
Enter the weekend, and Iron Tusk transforms into an alternative club where they draw back to their roots, focussing on the alternative and metal scene. Iron Tusk hopes to be the answer to the live music question in Joburg, and they have done everything in their power to ensure that happens. “We’ve hired one of the best sound guys in Joburg as our in-house sound engineer, we have good equipment, good stage sound and lighting, good backline for the musicians… We are trying to create a place where it doesn’t just disappear,” Pieterse says, referring to the many venues that have come and gone over the years.
Aside from the tech behind it, the owners are dead-set on getting the music out there, be it alternative rock or metal, something they are actively trying to grow, or up-and-comers who simply need a stage to perform on. One way in which they hope to do that is not charging door fees. “We are trying to do a lot of free events. A huge part of our model is the development of the local scene and that’s why we want to do the no cover charge thing. You know, when you’ve got new bands they need people to see them and part of that deal is the quality lighting and sound, so that when you see a local band you don’t think they are a shit band just because the sound was shit. We want bands to get 100% from the sound guy and the lighting guy so nothing distracts from the music,” he says.
And if you are wondering how the bands will make money – Iron Core has thought of that too. By giving artists part of the bar turnover rather than the door fees, they hope to establish a model where the hard work bands put in, gets paid off by the one thing that South African fans love just as much as the music – drinking. It’s a different way of going about things, and though I agree with the model in theory, I’m interested to see how it’s going to work out in practice.
I think that alternative music lovers will quickly make this venue their home but it remains to be seen how Iron Tusk’s all-encompassing genre policy is going to go pan out, and with a long history of hard core metal behind their name, Iron Tusk could be the answer to a very specific call.
Follow Jessica on Twitter.