It took more than 19 hours for Die Antwoord, South Africa’s bonkers electro-rap collective, to travel from their homeland to Lollapalooza, but not even jetlag was going to stop emcees Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er from fighting crime — or doling out alternate South African history lessons.
We caught up with the “I Fink U Freeky” duo before their afternoon set Friday to hear about the robbery they stopped moments before arriving at the festival, their plans for an upcoming TV series, and why they’re done with making albums.
EW: At a festival, sometimes you get people checking you out for the first time. Does the audience feel different at all?
Ninja: In the club, everyone’s come to watch you. At a festival, it’s like a club in the front, and the big crowd behind them are other people seeing it for the first time.
Yo-Landi: There’s a spider on your shirt.
Ninja: It’s a small little thing. [Flicking it off] We just stopped a crime.
Yo-Landi: It’s like a black widow.
Ninja: We were driving down the street, and then this guy was running fast. He was crossing the road from the one side, right here, just before we got here. He was running, and as we were getting into the car, he didn’t slow down. He just ran right in front of the car. I noticed that the dude was running too fast. I think he did something weird. It happens a lot in Africa. You see guys running too fast, like there’s no reason to be running that fast. This chick was running after him, and we asked her what happened. She said, ‘He took my money,’ and then we chased him. We stopped the van and took him hard to get the money back.
Where does stopping a crime fall on your wildest tour stories?
Ninja: Pretty high up. It was weird.
Yo-Landi: It was so smooth. He jumped up, and Ninja caught him, he held him down, got the bag back, gave it back to the chick.
Ninja: I just strangled him. She didn’t want to call the police. I just hit him in the ear with my shoes. I took my shoes off and just hit him in the ear.
Yo-Landi: It was so fluid. Then we just got back into the van.
Ninja: When we caught him, he was trying to call a taxi. He was fried. His eyes were like, whooooo. His eyes were cooked. I think he was on drugs. He looked like he was. And he was pretty buff. We filmed it.
You filmed the whole thing?
Ninja: Just me after we got him. It looks like I’m doing UFC on the floor with someone.
And are you making any short films too? [Die Antwoord premiered Umshini Wam, a collaboration with director Harmony Korine at SXSW in 2011.]
Ninja: We’re working on a short film project, but it’s a secret. It’s not a short film. We’re doing a TV show. We were going to do a film, and then we watched Breaking Bad. Suddenly we wanted to do a TV thing. I didn’t know you could do such insane stuff on TV. We’re doing a TV series.
And Breaking Bad inspired it?
Ninja: And Twin Peaks. I hadn’t watched TV since Twin Peaks.
When will the TV show come out?
Ninja: I don’t know. We’re shooting a pilot episode at the moment. We worked out the whole thing, all the seasons.
Are you guys still planning on coming out with solo records?
Yo-Landi: We decided to just do singles, not records anymore. It’s so long. You have to take a year off. At the end, you make maybe 20 songs, and we only end up using 10. It’s such a long process. In the end, the ones with the videos are the ones that seem to be [popular]. So we think it’s better to make a single and make a video for it, a single at a time, instead of a full album.
Ninja: You will get an album over a period of time, an album’s worth of material. But we’re just dropping a single with a video. We feel like it’s a waste for us to make a song with no video. It’s an extension. It’s all one thing. The song exists really strong, and the video gives it a good frame. It’s all part of the same thing.
It does seem true with you guys that it’s hard to separate the video from the song.
Ninja: Yeah, but you can f— up. You have to be really careful when you make a song or anything, a video especially. You can f— up a song.
With a video?
Do you feel like you’ve done that?
Ninja: Never. We won’t release it.
Yo-Landi: We’ve done it.
Ninja: We’ve made four music videos that we’ve thrown away, four full-on productions.
Because it wasn’t 100 percent?
Ninja: It didn’t flow. It wasn’t perfect. It has to be an extension. It has to be exactly the same as the song, like it can kill. We’re really careful about videos.
When I read that you were going to put out solo albums, you were also going to put out one last Die Antwoord album after and disappear…
Ninja: We’re always thinking ahead. We have fun in the moment, and we’re always thinking, ‘What’s a cool thing to be working toward?’ Things change the whole time. At the moment, the big deal from us it the television show.All our music is going to go in it, and new music is going to occur inside. It’s an on-going thing, our songs and our story. It’s the story of how Die Antwoord began and the future of Die Antwoord in a TV series.
You’re going to film it in South Africa?
Ninja: Most of it.
Do you do a lot of shows in South Africa?
Ninja: Sometimes. Not a lot. We do it selectively because it’s small. On special occasions.
How does your fanbase differ there?
Ninja: There’s about a bazillion more people in America than in South Africa. They’re different.
Yo-Landi: South Africa is pretty f—— retarded.
Ninja: There’s two sides to South Africa. Our experience in South Africa is there’s a minority group that are in tune with us, but for the rest of South Africa, we’re quite notorious. South Africa is amazing on a certain level, because it’s very innocent and naive like us. So when you go to the outside overseas, it’s completely overwhelming, it’s so organized and energized and efficient. When people do well, everyone gets ‘Yeah! You’ve done good!’
In South Africa, the epicenter is dysfunctional, it’s chaotic, it’s corrupt, there’s a lot of problems with it. When we get exposed to the good stuff from overseas, it’s like, ‘Oh my God,’ it’s like this rich treat. But then the downside in South Africa is when someone does well in general, if it’s not for rugby or something very commercial, like safe and acceptable, everyone gets pissed off that you’re doing good at something, that you’re standing out. It’s very small-time thinking. There’s a thing called crab in the bucket. It’s a syndrome. When one crab tries to get out of the bucket, the rest of the crabs kill it and pull it down. We get that a lot in South Africa. But we love it there and will never leave.
Do they think you don’t represent the country well?
Ninja: They’re just insecure. The majority of South Africa is insecure. The minority who relates to us? They don’t give a f—. It’s a combination. South Africa is made up of people who don’t give a f—, and a majority that’s insecure. The insecure people don’t really exist. Yo-Landi broke it down really sweet. She’s like, ‘Sometimes doing shows in South Africa, it’s a yin yang thing. On one side you get like a fighter, warrior group of South Africans who are proud, it’s like this fierce pride thing. And on the flipside, it’s like doing magic tricks for retarded children.’
Yo-Landi: They don’t know what they see.
Ninja: They don’t know what’s going on. But you cant be angry with them because they’re a little bit retarded. You’re just nice and carry on. Maybe you can help them understand reality better one day. It’s just kind of funny.
Do fans ever tell you, ‘I went to South Africa after hearing you guys’?
Yo-Landi: Everyone is going to South Africa now. Justin Bieber, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga. Who else is it? Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Ninja: Nicki Minaj is going to South Africa. We blew South Africa up. The history of South Africa is Nelson Mandela, District 9, and Die Antwoord. That’s the history. There’s some other stuff that went down in between, but those are the important points.
Read more on EW.com:
Dhani Harrison’s Lollapalooza memories include angry parents and Soundgarden-inspired vomiting
On the scene at Lollapalooza Friday: The Black Keys and Black Sabbath deal in different kinds of darkness
Lollapalooza 2012: Five questions going into the weekend