UP CLOSE & PERSONAL: KEENAN OAKES

Photography by Katinka Bester (Sakawa Boys first promo shoot, 2014)

With being in bands Wildernessking and Sakawa Boys opening for Heavy Metal majors like Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse and recently – Wildernessking –  just finishing their first international tour. Keenan Oakes takes us through his journey.  Read it below

Keenan Oaks Wildernessking

Photograph by Ab Al-Tamimi  (Wildernessking live at dB’s, Utrecht, Holland, 2017)

 

1.   When did the bands Wildernessking & Sakawa Boys start out?

Wildernessking started in 2011 officially, but operated under a different name from late 2009 until early 2011. The band started out as nothing more than a fun side project while we (myself and guitarist Dylan Viljoen) waited for our main band at the time to start recording, rehearsing and playing shows. I joined Sakawa Boys in March 2014, but the other members were playing together for a couple of years already, on and off.

 

2.   Was it a path you always wanted to go in to?

Not until I truly discovered music, and it completely took over my life. I was a good sportsman at school and I really wanted to make a career out of being a professional cricketer. Looking back now, it seems like the easier option. This whole (alternative) music thing, especially in South Africa, is very tough.

 

3.   Do you remember your first live show? When, where was it and what was the experience like?

I played at my high school’s talent show with what was my first band. We were called Aertite. I really enjoyed the show and have a vivid memory from that night, but I was pretty horrible. I hope that my passion made up for it, haha. That was in 2003 and I had just turned 17. I was crazy about Linkin Park, Korn, Deftones and Limp Bizkit at the time.

 

4.   Is it hard, not just being lead vocals for two bands, but being part of two bands? How do you divide yourself?

 I play bass and do vocals in Wildernessking (and manage the band on top of those duties). In Sakawa Boys I just play bass. It can be a little hard at times, but it’s something that I really enjoy, so it’s not a chore or anything. I have good time management skills (I also work 2 jobs), so I just have to plan my weeks/months, sometimes even years. My role in each band is very different, so each project (whether an album or a video) is always interesting and comes with a different dynamic.

 

5.   Where do you get your inspiration from for your lyrics?

From literature, the human struggle/condition, and I still draw a lot of inspiration from the natural world. I am definitely a romantic, so that comes through in the writing for Wildernessking, and any other writing I do.

 

6.   Do you (both your bands) have any pre-show rituals?

No, but after being on tour recently, I feel that it’s almost essential; to be in the same headspace, so you can perform at your peak. A little group meditation will go far in making the show an even better experience I think. Both bands have a little prep talk and some banter before we go on stage, and I guess in some way that is our pre-show ritual.

 

7.   You’re also a bass player. How did that interest develop?

Funny story. I picked up the bass when Heathens started (the band that eventually became Wildernessking)… Dylan and I knew that we wanted to keep the amount of members to a minimum and we knew that we would be able to do so with the style of music we had in mind. I wanted to be really involved in the writing process and actually play an instrument (a far cry from my previous band, The Horror Cast), so I picked up the bass, because Dylan played guitar, and I would then be taking on the role of 2 people, so that meant we only needed a drummer. I borrowed a bass from a friend and sort of forced myself to learn. Since then I’ve really taken to the instrument. I love it.

 

8.   As a bass player do you prefer playing with a pick or fingers?

It really depends on the song and what it requires. I use a combination of both, but mostly play with a plectrum. I’ve been playing with my fingers a lot more recently and I am really enjoying the challenge. 

 

9.   Wildernessking has played alongside major heavy metal bands like Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse. How was that gig landed and what was the experience like?

I think we just did an online submission with a really good motivational letter. The Behemoth show was organised by the same guy who does Witchfest, so playing at Witchfest (alongside Cannibal Corpse) was just an extension of our invite to open for Behemoth the year before. To be honest, the shows were great, but the experience didn’t differ drastically from a normal show. There were strange rules about both events that I would prefer not to mention.

 

10.   Any other future international metal bands you (guys) would like to play alongside?

Yeah, always. Enslaved are like heroes to us (to Dylan and I at least), so to open for them would be a dream. Wolves in the Throne Room, Pallbearer, Yob, Primordial, Katatonia, and a few others would be amazing too, and definitely life-changing.

 

11.    Wildernessking did their first international tour. What was the experience like?

Ah, it was an incredible experience, to have an insight into that world. We learnt a great deal, sold a lot of merchandise, made new fans and had a lot of fun along the way. I hope we can go back with a new record and our original line-up.

 

12.    Are there more gigs coming up for both bands in Cape Town?

Nothing at the moment. John Seth, the singer/guitarist of Sakawa Boys just had a baby and he lives with his fiancée in Sweden. But when the dust settles, I’m sure we are going to do some cool things. We definitely want to put out a new album at some point and do an international tour. A Cape Town show is always on the cards, I just don’t know when that will be. Both bands are sort of on a break now.

 

13.     Besides the bands, what other interest does Keenan Oakes have?

I have a passion for alcohol. I work at a gin bar and at a whisky bar, and have big plans to open a bar of my own one day. Other interests include hiking, writing (I self-published a little poetry collection with a friend back in 2014), and really just listening to music and hanging out with my friends.

 

14.  Being in a post-heavy metal band and indie band, do you have interest in other music genres? If yes, what are they?

Yeah of course. There’s not a style of music that I don’t listen to, or have a deep aversion to… In general I love hip-hop (I probably listen to it the most out of any genre), rock, soul, jazz, electronic music, etc. Metal will always be my greatest love though.

 

15.  What’s next for Keenan, Wildernessking and Sakawa Boys?

I actually just started a new band with my girlfriend and a few of my really close friends. We recorded on 26 August 2017, so look out for that soon. Right now I just plan to focus on my personal life for a bit, and then kick off 2018 with a (musical) bang, and I hope that includes the recording of a new Wildernessking album (we wrote a new record between January and May this year but never got around to recording it), and some new Sakawa Boys music will be great too.

 

Catch Keenan Oakes – Wildernessking on social media here:

FB: Wildernessking | IG: @wildernessking | BC: Wildernessking Band Camp