They say that all true artists must suffer, but some people take that a bit too literally. That’s what David Poole, one half of South African jazz-dance duo Gold Fish, discovered as a child. ‘My violin teacher had a ruler with a thumbtack pushed through the end, so that if I didn’t bend my arm properly he would smack me with it. Or he’d poke a pen into my arm and keep it there until I’d got the position right. And I was only six!’
It’s no wonder that he dropped the fiddle at the first opportunity. Still, talent will out, and after dabbling with cellos and guitars, David found himself drawn to the saxophone and jazz music. But it was a fascination with Saint Germain’s electro jazz and Kruder And Dorfmeister’s downtempo beats that changed both David’s life and that of his fellow Gold Fish member Dominic Peters. ‘We realised that few live acts were appearing in clubs. There was always the bongo drummer or the saxophonist playing along to the DJ, but nothing with a lot of organisation behind it. I’d tried playing alongside DJs and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like the fact that there was no control over the music. It was just musical karaoke and it got a bit boring.’
The answer, it seems, was to forget all about that DJing nonsense and make the music live, while still providing the beats, melodies and hooks that would keep the dancefloor full. So the boys gathered together a small mountain of equipment – mixers, samplers, grooveboxes and the like, along with keyboards, saxophones and a double bass – and started doing their thing. And their thing, it seems, is something indeed. ‘We did a regular gig in a little place that could fit about 120 people comfortably. By the end of our residency it housed about 200 uncomfortably. We just built things up from there.’
The partly improvised nature of their sets means this building process is as much determined by the audience as David and Dom’s own talents. ‘If the crowd’s giving the band a lot of energy, the music steps up a lot and becomes more energetic. And because we record our live improvisations to work on in the studio, our music went from relaxed and downtempo to much more hyper. The audience and the band feed into each other.’
That audience is growing all the time, no doubt helped by the band opening for the likes of Fatboy Slim, Paul Van Dyk and Stereo MCs. In fact, the audience includes some surprising members, even if David is oblivious to them. ‘We were playing a gig in Ibiza over the summer and this blond guy in Speedos came over to Dom and said, “Hi, you must be Gold Fish. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m Duran Duran.”
‘It turned out it was Simon Le Bon and he was there with his wife, Yasmin! Then I ran over, not knowing who these people were – I was a huge Duran Duran fan but I didn’t know their faces – and said, “Dom, we need to get onstage, what are you doing?” He said, “This is Simon and Yasmin,” and I was like, “Yeah, good to meet you,” and ran off!’
And karma being what it is, well… ‘One time, we’d finished playing a set and this big American guy ran up to me and said, [affects goofy American accent] “Hey man, you guys are amazing! I love you guys! I love Basement Jaxx! And I said, “That’s not us!” And he looked stunned and said, “Well who the hell are you?”’
Not that people will be asking that question for too long – Gold Fish have released an entry in the Perceptions Of Pacha CD series, following in the footsteps of the likes of Pete Tong, and are gearing up to an international re-release of their first album, Caught In The Loop. And now they’re playing Dubai, too. It seems that these Gold Fish have a gilt-edged future.
Gold Fish play Home at Chi on October 17.