It is pretty convenient for the purpose of this blog that I already know so many South African artists as I was fairly heavily involved in the S.A music scene when I lived in South Africa being a DJ and all. Back in the day my music promotion company called Big Love used to promote artists, musicians and DJs and do some Workshops at a place called the Armchair theatre in Observatory, Cape Town. Gil used to manage this place and he is also friends with many of my mutual friends.
I had heard that he moved to Johannesburg and then I heard that he was also a musician and I came across a colab track of his with Shotgun Tori on Soundcloud which I really liked, but I did not see him again for a number of years. It has been quite funny being so far away from home and then running into people I knew again here in Europe. I have been following some bands and keeping track of South African artists and muscians who visit here, so it was great to go out to a bar I saw he was playing at and catch up with him again.
He mentioned that he wanted to come back to Berlin soon, but I did not expect to see him here again after just 3 months! It was so good to catch up with him and some other well known South African electronic artists (who I will blog about soon) again at a very cool bar with a view called Klunkerkranich.
Gil was busy for months but I finally managed to lock him down for an interview on his second trip to Berlin. Last time just before he left, he was also very excited about his new album which I was lucky enough to get a copy of.
So you are back in Berlin, obviously enjoying the city and had a good time last time. How long will you be staying for this time?
Yup. I’m going to be staying for another three months so I’ll be here until mid-January 2015.
I see you have already had some more gigs here – tell me a bit about your favourite gigs or venues so far (from this trip and last)
I like most of them. I guess the ones with nice sound and lighting setups are the most comfortable to play but there has been a nice atmosphere in most of the venues I have played. And they all have something going for them whether it is the setup or the audience or just the vibe of the place.
Have you got any exciting gigs lined up?
The one gig I am really looking forward to is a Nelson Madela tribute that I have been invited to play on 5 December at Yaam.
What do you think about the Berlin music scene? Did you meet some cool people while here?
I thinks it really great. In terms of opportunities to play it is obviously far beyond the scope of anything in South Africa. There are also many more artists working at very different levels which is exciting to be exposed to. I did meet some really cool musicians from Germany as well as from Ireland, Australia and Italy who are here on a similar mission to me, so it has been good to have the camaraderie.
You had just released an album last time you were here. I had a listen to the CD and it is great! Tell me a bit about your latest album – how many albums have you released? And how can people get hold of your music?
The album – called Dolorous – is my third release (before it I had already released an album and an EP) and it is an attempt to broaden my sound a bit. Up until now the music I have been making has been pretty straightforward acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, with maybe a bit of backing guitars or percussion on the recordings. But after a while it began to feel like it didn’t really reflect my interests musically and I was getting a bit frustrated with the format. So with Dolorous I tried to include a lot more of what I like or listen to. It’s a bit of a mix of styles – bit of folk, rock and electronica – but I think it holds together nicely. The best place to find my music is at gilhockman.bandcamp.com but it’s also on iTunes and most other digital platforms.
Do you have any weird or interesting stories relating to your lyrics / meanings of your songs?
Most of them relate to something particular in my life. I guess the most obvious one is a story about a weird trip to the doctor (The Ballad Of Me And The Doctor) but they all come from something I have seen or felt or experienced.
What do you love most about Berlin and would you like to live here permanently ?
The thing I like most is the sense of opportunity. In terms of trying to develop a career as a performing musician it just feels like the rest of the world is a lot closer than in South Africa. I feel like in Berlin there is that much more of a chance here to make something happen. Having said that, I am not sure about a permanent move. I can easily see myself coming here for the best part of two or three years but, on the one hand, I still feel very attached to South Africa and, on the other, I will have to keep an open mind in terms of whatever opportunities might come up musically.
What do you love most about South Africa and living there?
It’s home, for a start, which is something that can’t really be replaced. Close behind that is the sense that whatever you do in South Africa can really have meaning for the broader society – that somehow, just getting out of bed and going to work every day is a contribution towards a bigger idea.
How does living in Johannesburg compare to living in Cape Town? Is it as dangerous as it is made out to be?
I think Joburg is great. It’s my home town so I am a bit biased but I think it really is the heart of the country. Cape Town is beautiful but it can be a small place. Obviously everyone feels differently about things things but, for me, I feel that from Cape Town you don’t get much of a sense of the rest of the country. In a way the rest of the world just disappears when you live there. While Joburg can be a tough town it has its own beauty. There is a great atmosphere of people who are both really driven and supportive and there is very little of that cooler-than-thou attitude. As long as you are putting your efforts into something – be it economics or advertising or finance or law or art, doesn’t matter what – you get acknowledgement. You can also witness the growth of the country and progress that is being made in terms of transformation.
Do you have any advice for any budding artists or for artists who also may want to come over to Berlin or Europe – how to go about that?
My main advice would be: just to give it a shot. While any project like this is going to require a lot of hard work and planning, there is so much to experience and learn that you won’t get at home – and thats not a criticism of anything in South Africa, its just a practical thing. And while everyone gets things done in their own way, this is what I did and maybe it will be helpful:
- Learn how to commit yourself to a long-term plan (and by long term I mean at least two or three years)
- Buy an airplane ticket for about eight or ten months time.
- Spend the time in between saving money and organising your trip
- Email as many venues and fellow artists as you can to make contacts and set up shows (set yourself daily goals of, say, 10 or 20 emails).
- Go with an open mind, knowing that you will discover things that you didn’t expect.
- Rinse and repeat.
A bit about yourself
My name is Gil. I am musician. I also like playing soccer, reading and problem solving. Haha. I am not really sure what to say to this one. I guess I am the type person who is always chasing his dreams. I have done a few different things in my life so far, with varying degrees of success, but I am always guided by the question: ‘Is there anything else I would rather be doing right now?’ As long as the answer is ‘no’ then I am doing the right thing and I will stick with it until the answer changes.
I am playing a bunch of gigs in Berlin between now and the middle of January. You can find the dates and venues on my website – gilhockman.com
Gil’s music is what I would consider folk / love ballads about life and friends. I could explain more, but maybe it is best to take a listen for yourself or come to one of his gigs in either Berlin or South Africa – for now that is.