The First Moment I Stood In The Vocal Booth For Fokofpolisiekar And How It Changed My Life


I have played in a few bands as a teenager. It all started when I was 15 years old. I played my first show as the lead singer in a High School Battle of the bands which was held in the Bellville Civic Hall. We heard that the Battle Of The Bands was for High Schools in the surrounding area, so we formed a band called Hydrint and entered the competition.

I fell in love with rock music, more specifically grunge, about two years prior to The Battle Of The Bands. It was 1994 and Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the biggest bands around. My two elder sisters also introduced me to bands such as The Violent Femmes, Pixies and Rage Against The Machine.

I got sacked from Hydrint after my first show at The Battle Of The Bands

At this time I learnt how to play open chords on the guitar. My parents surprised me with an electric guitar when I turned 16 and that took things to another level. I was not only inspired by International bands, I was also inspired by a band from my surrounds called Springbok Nude Girls. The Nudies released their first album in 1994 and their success made it seem possible to be in a successful band even though you are a kid from Bellville.

I got sacked from Hydrint after my first show at The Battle Of The Bands. That first show wasn’t great at all. One of the tunes was a Red Hot Chilli Peppers cover and I sang it in an octave to high, this was obviously a massive fuck up. This experience turned me off the idea of wanting to be a singer and for that brief time I decided to stick to playing guitar and bass in bands. I still fancied myself as a decent back-up vocalist and I could sing decent punk harmonies.

In 2001 Hunter Kennedy experienced a little bit of success in our band called A New World Inside. We were signed to a punk label called Revolution Records which was based Johannesburg. We eventually recorded our first album at B-Sharp Studios which was a pretty decent studio based in Johannesburg. 

We constantly joked about starting an Afrikaans punk band, during our time in New World Inside. Wynand Myburgh and I lived and worked together. We were both live sound engineers and Wynand eventually became the make-shift manager and travel companion/driver for our band.

We used to joke about our fictional afrikaans band taking over the country by playing gigs in small South African towns. One day on a stoned drive to Strand, Wynand and I came up with the name for our fictional afrikaans punk band which was Fokoffamiliemotor. We thought it would be a great name for our Afrikaans band. I happened to mention this name to Hunter during a phone call and a couple of weeks later, Hunter turned to me and asked: “What was the name of the band again? Was is Fokofpolisiekar?”. This name was an improvement to what we thought was the perfect name for our afrikaans band and from that moment the name stuck and it gave us a reason to create this afrikaans punk band.

I became the singer of Fokofpolisiekar by default.

Snake was commissioned to play the drums, because he was one of the drummers we knew that could hit the hardest. Wynand was the bass player and Hunter and myself were the guitarists and singers. Johnny was invited to one of our earliest jam sessions, purely to hang and check us out. Johnny had an immediate influence on us as a band. His presence was felt even before he picked up a guitar and we were blown away by his skills as soon as he began to play. I realised I was no longer the guitarist as soon as I heard Johnny play and because of his skill as a guitarist and the fact that no one else wanted to be the vocalist, I became the singer of Fokofpolisiekar by default. I wrote 2 songs for the first EP and Hunter wrote the other 5. I was the singer and I had to deliver. My aim was to sing higher than I was used to so that I didn’t sound like a pop punk kid, so the songs were written in a key higher – I had to push myself.

We got some money together to record our first EP at B-Sharp in Jozi. It was the place we knew we could get the best sounding record for our money. The whole EP was recorded in 5 days and I tracked my vocals on the 4th day of recording. Everything sounded amazing and Johnny drove me to tears when he played the lead guitar on ‘Tygerberg Vliegtuig‘ –  Bear in mind, I was also insanely stoned at the time.

I stepped into the live room to record the vocals. I was stoned, emotional and hopeful. I started singing the first tune we wrote which was ‘Fokofpolisiekar’ and it was a complete fuck up. I went to sleep that night in a tent which we stayed in during our week of recording. I reflected upon the day’s recording as I lay on a stretcher and I could not help but to think what a fuck up my recording was. The next morning I stepped into the studio sober. It was not a breeze, but I eventually nailed everything in a couple of hours.

That first Fokofpolisiekar EP made me a singer and a frontman – This was something I never intended to be. It’s 14 years later and I have 9 albums, 4 EPs and thousands of shows under my belt. I have made music my career and this afrikaans punk band from Bellville made it all happen for me. I feel really honoured that I was a part Fokofpolisiekar and that I still am.

I am so fucking privileged to be able to wake up every morning to make music for a living.

About The Author

Francois Van Coke, is the lead vocalist, songwriter and founding member of the South African alternative rock bands Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel.