For upcoming musicians, the thought of having 8000 people at a concert, is both a daunting and exhilarating thought.
For Angus Burns, this is a sign of hard work and determination paying off.
“I started with music as a child, studying classical piano. From there, I started playing the guitar, which was mostly self-taught, and by the age of 16, I was playing in pubs. After high school, I did my Bachelor of Arts in Music and became a professional musician in the 1990s with the band Stonedhenge.”
Playing in Durban, the hard rock band established a reputable name for itself within the South African music industry. “The band entered a competition and won. We also appeared on Top Billing, aired on 5FM and did a song for CWeed’s album, Durban’s Best Unsigned Bands.”
Building up a following, Angus and his fellow band members did tours with the popular 90s band, Arapaho.
“We were quite a dark band at the time, but our music was relevant to the times. Our song which was recorded for the CWeed Album, focused on the political violence following the 1994 elections. Unfortunately, the Rave scene then hit Durban and took over.”
With the Rave scene making it difficult for musicians to find venues to perform, Stonedhenge eventually broke up.
Angus then moved to Pietermaritzburg for his environmental work and music. “I joined another band, before joining the Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters as a guest artist. I became a regular with them and still perform with the Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters.”
Over the years, Angus has performed at 11 Splashy Fen events, White Mountain and at a CWeed concert which saw between 7000 to 8000 people. “I also have a fun band named Free Beer with musicians from Vryheid.”
With a deep-seated passion for music, Angus says it is difficult to say which genre is his favourite. “I love hard rock, alternative and heavy metal. But I also enjoy the blues, classical music, bluegrass country and Cajun music,” he smiles.
The highlights of his career include performing at the CWeed concert, being interviewed by Top Billing with Stonedhenge and being playlisted on 5FM.
“Another major highlight for me was being invited to perform with Ginger Baker on his farm.”
Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker is an English drummer and a founder of the rock band Cream. His work in the 1960s earned him the reputation of “rock’s first superstar drummer”, while his individual style melds a jazz background with African rhythms.
Angus has also brought out two solo albums, one album with Stonedhenge, one album with the Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters and contributed to the CWeed album in the 1990s. With five albums under his belt, Angus has led an illustrious career in the music industry to date.
“For me, music has never been about fame or money. I never wanted to be a rock legend. For me, it has always been about artistic release.”
With years of experience in the music industry, what does Angus believe are the biggest challenges that musicians face?
“When someone wants you to perform and they expect you to do it for free, telling you that you are playing for exposure. Saying that to a musician is like going to a restaurant and saying you will eat their food and write a review for them.”
As a professional, Angus says he will only perform for free at legitimate charitable events.
“People need to realise musicians have costs and they are a drawcard. For an established musician, being expected to perform for free is an insult.”
Angus explains another challenge musicians face is mainstream radios don’t promote alternative bands. “They mainly promote commercial music, which means a lot of good musicians do not get the necessary exposure.”
Another issue is unhealthy competition between certain musicians. “I saw it in Durban, where musicians pretend to be friends and then they will bad mouth your band. There is enough music to go around and a bit of competition is good for everyone.”
Yet, despite the challenges, Angus said there is a lot which can be enjoyed within the music industry.
“I have paid my dues in the music scene and I would say I enjoy the artistic release, meeting amazing people who have become lifelong friends and the various experiences while performing. As much as we entertain people, they entertain us, and the band sees everything that goes on in the crowds. I always say I could write a book on what I have seen,” Angus smiles.
For those upcoming musicians who yearn of performing at a professional level, Angus explains one must be prepared for hard work and never giving up.
“You will have to pay your dues, but you should never allow yourself to be exploited and you must know your worth, You must also be prepared to rough it out at venues, experiment with your music and don’t conform to the commercial standard of music. Also, look at other bands for support and learn from established bands.”
Having established a name for himself in the music industry throughout the years, Angus Burns is a truly iconic musician within Newcastle.