I called him to get the facts.
Hello Portable. When was the last time you were in South Africa? And what changes, musically and any others have you seen since your last visit?
PORTABLE: When I was here last, Cape town, it was before the soccer world cup, so now after that, there’s so many small new changes, like transport infrastructure improvements, though sadly only in the surrounding tourist areas. Musically, at a quick glance, things are more or less the same – which is a little worrying, but this is only my perspective and I’ve only been here for a short amount of time. One thing I can be cheekily subjective about is that these coming gigs, the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival and TOYTOY will be my largest audience from my home country to date, which is humbling, and to be frank, a long time coming.
You’ve lived overseas for a while, what are your earliest recollections of the electronic dance music scenes in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and the interaction between them?
PORTABLE: It’s no secret that early Chicago house played a huge role in my early development and my current Portable aka Bodycode aesthetic. When I lived in Johannesburg, House Africa played a pivotal role in exposing this sound to the wider audience, me included. I have found memories of warehouse parties in Johannesburg where Graham DJ’d which was really inspiring. In Cape Town during the apartheid years, there were many illegal gatherings where the general euphoria of early Chicago house and their freedom themes fit in perfectly with the struggle for change at the time.
“If I had listened to the many doubters and not believed what I had to offer no one else has, I would still be working in that bank in Cape Town and getting fat in the suburbs.”
What advice could you to local DJ’s and performers who want to live and work overseas.
PORTABLE: What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. But what works for everyone, we already know – which is to carve out something unique that is your personal style and do it because you love it, not for the fame and fortune. Work hard and be prepared for many setbacks and never give up. Listen, really listen to yourself, then you can ascertain if you’re delusional and just hold onto your day time job or persevere. In many ways things are even more difficult now than when I started out, going overseas is not going to make you successful! Having something unique that you truly believe in, eventually will. It all sounds corny I know, but it’s really the truth. If I had listened to the many doubters and not believed what I had to offer no one else has, I would still be working in that bank in Cape Town and getting fat in the suburbs.
What other challenges have you come across during your time overseas?
PORTABLE: In every country you are always a foreigner. I’ve grown so accustomed to that, that now, I quite relish in it, to be apart from a particular nationalism is really quite liberating. I have lived 10 years in London, five years in total in Lisbon, Portugal and onto my fifth year in Berlin. And right now I feel like a citizen of the world, for lack of a better phrase, and that, in its own sense is very liberating. I’ve been living abroad for 20 years now, so to list all challenges I’ve had would take up the whole page. But now I am on the other side of that motivation and am reaping the rewards.
Coming from SA, you describe the project of Portable as an “atmospheric project that acts a living link between the indigenous sounds of his [your] youth”. What are these indigenous sounds?
PORTABLE: When I lived in Cape Town I used to scour the library for field recordings of tribal music. At the time, we could rent vinyl from the library I would spend many a night listening to these records in my room, being absorbed by these sounds. Today I am still doing something of the sort, but processing these sounds, incorporating and reinterpreting them into my own sound. When I am live it’s so much fun, because it adds another layer of procession and perspective. My live is LIVE; I would have the sound parts ready, like the bass drum, hit hat, pad, drums, etc, as the ingredients and then the live set would be the recipe of sorts to cook into a delicious life affirming meal!
Lastly, a light-hearted question: you claim African and electronic to be your genres (house and techno not to forget!) but, what would you say would be a good blend/mix/mashup African and electronic artists? I’m thinking Brenda Fassie – Weekend Special with Daft Punk – Get Lucky mashup. What are you thinking?
PORTABLE: Well, I would say Brenda for sure, Get Lucky, really? No, you can’t really mean to take anything that wins a Grammy award seriously can you? So mashup I would much rather have Brenda Weekend Special with Afrikan Sciences, and if you don’t know who he is, you don’t know where it’s at, LOL!