Hi! My name is Gil and I am a sing-songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. If this was at my show I would also say something weird like “Ich wünschte ich ware ein Eichhörnchen und ein Sumo-Ringer, weil dann kan ich mehr Nüsse und sushi essen.” It helps to break the ice 😉
What brings you to Germany?
I first came to Germany on a three month trip to Berlin in April 2014. I had some time and bit of extra money and I had heard that Berlin was the coolest city in the world. I wanted to see what that was like. I played a few gigs for the experience and then met my (German) girlfriend. So between those two things I have been coming back as often as possible. At the moment I spend about half my time in Berlin.
When did you start playing?
I played guitar really really badly from when I was about eighteen – basically I could play Free Falling by Tom Petty and one or two other things – and I have also played bass in an experimental rock/poetry band that didn’t really require any technical skill. But in my early thirties I decided that I wanted to try become a real artist of some sort so I started learning to play the guitar properly and write songs and stuff.
Have you always wanted to become a musician? Are you from a family of musicians?
I think I have always wanted to but until a few years ago I was never brave enough to admit that to myself. No one in my family really plays an instrument in a way that could be influential but they all really like music and I think that was enough to plant the seeds early on.
How does your typical day look like? 😉
I try wake up at a reasonable time, around 9am or 10am, have some breakfast and coffee and then start working. My work on any given day depends on what is happening in my life at that moment. Over the last couple months I was working on a soundtrack mostly sitting in my little home studio and writing music. Now that is done and I am getting ready for a tour so I am practicing and trying to get all the last minute admin and promo done. (When I am putting a tour together then it is just weeks and weeks of emailing and planning). When I come back from tour I want to finnish a new album so it will be a couple months of writing and recording and fundraising. So it really depends. In between all this I also write advertising copy for an extra living so that gets done whenever it comes in. Socially, because I work from home, friends drop by now and then for a coffee and I also try to go for a run or a swim every couple of days. In the evenings I’ll be doing some more work or just hanging out with my girlfriend when we are in the same city.
Does a musician need to know German to play his music in Germany?
I don’t think so. Obviously it helps but I think you just need to know enough to introduce yourself on stage and say one or two small things to make a connection with the audience. I have found that people in Germany are mostly quite accepting and welcoming even if you can’t really speak German.
Has your music been influenced in some way by the German culture since you moved here?
I think it has a bit. I was definitely inspired by what I saw other musicians doing on stage and my live show has evolved a lot as a result. Being in Germany and getting exposed to the possibilities in the European music scene in general has been really inspiring and made me more focused on what I am doing. The scene in South Africa is much smaller and it is easy to feel that there are only limited possibilities. Also, at one point I thought it would be a really stereotypical thing to cycle around Berlin while listening to Kraftwerk. I didn’t know their music before and now I am quite a fan and I have started to hear some of that influence coming out in the new music I am writing.
What projects are currently working on?
As I mentioned before, I am about to head of on tour and then I to record a new album for release in September. I’ve written about half of it so I need to write the rest and then record it.
For musician how important is the concept of nationality and national identity?
It’s probably different for everyone but for me I think it is quite important. Not that I am a nationalist or that I am trying to project a particular identity but South Africa is such a complex and political country that I feel like my own path through life, which is mostly what my songwriting is focused on, can’t ever be completely be separated from the path of my country.
What does 2016 look like for you?
It looks like a year of trying to repeat things but improving and getting a better understanding of them. The last couple years has been full of firsts for me: first proper album, first time promoting a release in Europe, first gigs in Berlin and the first tours around Europe, that sort of stuff. This year I am really just going to do all that again but this time with some experience to help me along the way. Hopefully by the end of the year it will all add up to having a more solid base to work from.
Gigs, blog, videos, info at www.gilhockman.com