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New Hero’s vocalist Scottie Moore talks the decline of rock ‘n’ roll and staying relevant on SA’s evolving scene

Any muso who’s ever said, “The scene is dead” would happily give an arm, a leg, their lucky plectrum and a box of illegal cigarettes right now to go back to that last gig they played at that bar they tried to get you to go to where the sound was average but the specials were cheap.

Personally, I wasn’t particularly chuffed with the state of the music scene when and where we left off and if you’ve ever bumped into me at The Shack at 2am on a Wednesday morning, we’ve had this conversation before.

In retrospect, it wasn’t the scene as a whole that was dying, but rather the scene I was moving around in. And we all know that things and scenes change.

Scottie Moore, New Hero vocalist, knows this all too well. “I was in a band called REBURN, and we were actually at our peak,” he begins. “I mean we’d struggled for many years. [But] when we got nominated for a SAMA Award in 2015, that’s what opened my eyes. I went to the SAMAs and not one single person knew who we were. And basically what I saw was the downfall of rock, and where rock was going in this country.”

At their peak, 4 of the 10 songs from their last album were on heavy radio rotation, and five years later, he’s still confused as to why it didn’t work out. “I don’t know what it was,” he shrugs. “REBURN was everything to me. We’d done pretty well but I started to see a ceiling and I just literally told the [REBURN] guys, ‘Look guys, I’m out!’”

Almost immediately after his band exit, long-time friend Keaton Carelse (aka dubstep DJ and producer GRIMEHOUSE) joined forces with Moore to start NEW HERO in 2016. Moore tells me about the duo’s various phases, and I’m in stitches when he explains why their initial commercial sound didn’t last. “First of all, I’m a fat bastard and I can’t dance and it doesn’t help that I sound like Justin Bieber if I can’t get on stage and pull that performance off, you know what I mean? We learnt that very quickly. Our first gig was Plett Rage and if you’ve ever seen someone die on stage for one whole hour, it was that gig,” he explains.

I ask if he feels that they’ve settled into their sound, and he laughs it off, “Oh my God we’re still looking for it. We’re constantly searching, that’s why we call ourselves genre-fluid. You know, at the end of the day, we’ve been doing this so long that it’s more about us having fun.”

We talk about the stark difference between audiences who attend rock gigs and the EDM party-going crowd “Who,” he interrupts, “Wanna take a couple of pills and jam with their mates? Ya, it’s totally different. Look, I’ve really enjoyed the rock scene. I enjoyed the intensity and I enjoyed the intimacy of playing in a band ‘cause it’s like a living, breathing machine. But the crowds are awesome with the dance styles.” There’s something powerful about performing for and connecting with a 20 000-strong audience who have one goal and one goal only: to lose themselves to the music and really get down!

Their latest EP, Silence Between Space, sees the duo taking their sound to the heavier, darker party scene of the underground. Keaton’s background in hard house makes its way to the fore and, coupled with Moore’s powerhouse rock vocal stylings, levels them up New Hero 2.0.

Moore describes the thought process behind the EP, “It’s a journey. A lot of the time we used to make music, and we’d have to differentiate between radio and the club mixes. And where we have the most fun is in the club, but we can’t play the radio edits in a club set ‘cause it doesn’t have the energy, so we’ve been moving towards what can we do that is commercial enough [for radio] but can also be played in the jol.”

The first song is an especially vocally intense introduction, and from there, the rest of the EP builds in intensity around it, and it keeps going, harder and higher energy.

Silence Between Space begs for a powerful sound system, sweaty bodies bouncing up and down, a dance floor where social distancing is a thing of the past and masks don’t exist. Moore cannot wait for his scene to come back to life so that they can reclaim their hard house throne, and he concludes, “You know when you take something away from someone, they want it more? I think the scene is gonna come back with a bang. We’re South African – we love to party!”