“It’s the good times that matter. When you’re alive and you’re young. It’s the fun bits that you remember”. That’s what Roger Goode told me. And I believe him. Shorter than I imagined, and sexy in a manic, huggable, funny, wacky kind of way, he’s the king of the South African dance and club scene – hosting the most influential dance radio show in the country on 5FM – so who would know better that he?
Roger Goode scored a massive international dance hit with In the Beginning in 2002. It catapulted him to MTV stardom. He had created the infectious trancy house track in his bedroom with a “small computer and a keyboard”; going from self-admitted geek to funky desirable celebrity in little more than a couple of years. In addition to his role as radio show host, he’s also carved a niche for himself as one of the most bankable club DJs in the country. If Roger’s name is on the marquee it’s usually a sign that it’s going to be a damn fine party.
We meet at DCM club in Joburg’s Heartlands. It’s strangely mausoleum-like in the day. Cavernous and empty, it’s an apt place to dissect the state of South African dance club culture. Roger makes no bones as to his eagerness to connect with his gay audience and flatters Mambaonline by calling it a “walky-talky to the gay community”. He arrives with a minder from his publicity company; he makes it clear that he’s not always able to be as brash and forthcoming as his nature demands. It’s apparent that he feels the weight and responsibility of celebrydom. He nevertheless still proves to be engaging and entertaining. And he makes me laugh.
Where did the impulse to be involved in music come from?
It’s a peculiar thing. I was hugely involved in information technology, assembling computers – a proper computer geek – I loved it. Computers, science fiction… those kinds of things… And I come from a very musical family. And at some point I figured out that you could combine my love for sound effects and music with computers… I figured out how to make music with computers and from there it’s just been like building Lego… I’d end up tinkering in my room…
Which came first, DJing or making music?
I never used to like going out to clubs. I never used to like socialising in the way that people do. In fact I didn’t really drink alcohol until a couple of years ago. And now I’m like aaarrgghhh… I started DJing at the Fez in Cape Town. In its day it was more than a club, it was an institution. I used to go there to listen to house music. Nowhere else in the country could you hear music like that. At one point Cape Town had this edge over everything else. You felt like you were having this underground European nightlife experience.
DJing behind the club decks is one thing, it’s quite another to do radio. When did you realise that you would be suited to that?
I’ve always been involved in theatre. I love acting, I love movies. I’ve directed plays and I’ve acted in plays – my whole life. Even as kids it was all about doing plays. And making movies on our video cameras… I love laughing, I love making people laugh. And on radio I was just comfortable in front of the mic. I never wanted the show to be like wallpaper – background sound. I always wanted it to be like a magazine of cool. Like you’d be paging through all these cool things…
Your take on the state of dance music right now…
The genres have all done like a complete flip-flop. The harder style music has died out worldwide. House music is the flavour of the month. It’s interesting the direction music is going in. This Electro thing to me still seems like it’s trying to find its feet. It’s not real electro – it’s still developing. The reason that Electro is happening is that I think that people want the big party experience to come back. For the last three or four years it’s been groove bars – small intimate dance floors. Which is fine, but imposes limitations on the kind of music you can play. All the genres of dance music seem to be colliding and amalgamating into this global sound.
Is there a difference between the club scene in Cape Town and Joburg?
Look, I’m biased. I always will be. I grew up my whole life in Cape Town. I’ve lived here [Joburg] for four years and I hate it here. In Cape Town there’s still a kind of panache… there’s a… you can look in the thesaurus and find other words like that… (laughs). It [Cape Town] just comes across to me as a lot more sophisticated in terms of the music and quite definitely the environment: I tend to feel like I’m a VIP in Cape Town and I’m not in the VIP room. Whereas in Joburg… it’s a very fast paced town. Things are a lot more extreme, a lot more grimy and I find that clubbing experience is that way also. Quite ironically, you’d think that a place as big as Johannesburg, with the kind of money that rotates in this town, that the clubbing experiences would be downright awesome…
There’s been a lot of debate on our site about the value people are getting in clubs and at parties…
I don’t feel like the public are really being spoilt in any way… And I don’t know what the solution is… I don’t mean to be negative about this. I’m not supposed to, but I never get to voice my opinion about it… I very rarely complain about anything but I am disappointed. There are very few places I get excited to go to… And if you’re paying the kinds of prices that you are at some of these clubs, I honestly think that people should be spoilt rotten.
What is South Africa’s best club?
[Thinks for a long time] At the moment, Opium in Cape Town. In Durban, the Panama Room is nice. But I’d say Opium. I’d give it to Opium.
Do you think that club DJ’s are as interesting to the public as personalities as they were in the 90’s?
I don’t know. I think so. I’m still a groupie… It’s a weird thing. I’m a groupie of the DJs. I’m young – I’m only turning 25 – so I still dote on some of the DJ’s and I think that’s kinda cool.
“Not that I’m going to talk about my sexual preferences… that’s personal…”
Do you think that your show has had an impact on the dance scene in South Africa?
A lot of people tell me it has. I think it’s reaching a point where it will have. I’d like to see that.
And that impact would be…
I’ve always wanted nightclubs and dance music not to have this childish stigma attached to it. It’s actually a very sophisticated thing. Going out should be about getting dressed up and looking nice and being a gentleman. It’s almost like an old school romantic thing. Just to make it a little bit more suave. A bit more ‘James Bond’…
Considering the huge success of In the Beginning why haven’t we heard more from you as a musician?
I went on a sabbatical, as I like to say. But we’ve been in studio for the last year now and all I’ve been doing is cranking out tunes. There are some secret weapons on the way… I can’t wait to hear what people think of it. I like to think that I’ve been training my ear. Ultimately the one thing I really love most is making music. That’s what I really need to be doing in life. It’s time to tak