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Gary Rathbone

Gary Rathbone

/ South Africa


Arriving in Johannesburg in 1980, Gary was part of the post-punk music scene that emerged there at the beginning of the 1980’s where he played with fringe acts the Suburban Blank Boys and Empty Set at alternative venues such as The Boogie Barn and Metal Beat. He co-formed the innovative pop-minimalist collective What Colours!, that also featured former Asylum Kids drummer Steve Howells, and played extensively in Johannesburg and across the country before leaving South Africa briefly to avoid further military service.

Coming back in 1994, he joined up with former What Colours! bandmates Richard and Megan Frost and former Exhibit A singer Tara Robb to form Urban Camouflage (named after the What Colours! cassette EP release). The band only played a few gigs before morphing into The Spectres, with the arrival of bassist Allan Lusk from No Exit.

After earning a recording contract with major South African label RPM in 1987, the band begin working on their first three singles – Teddy Bear, Ancient (Secret of Love) and Be Bop Pop. All three tracks made a major impression, with Teddy Bear topping all the charts country-wide and being one of the last songs by a South African band to make the official South African singles sales charts before they were abolished in 1989. Their debut album, Be Bop Pop, was released in 1989.

However, the group disbanded at the end of 1989 when Gary went on trial as a conscientious objector during the turbulent times of the Apartheid era in South Africa and it wasn’t until late 1990, after the ANC and Communist Party were unbanned and all political prisoners released and his trial ground to a halt, that he was able to once again pursue his musical interests, briefly putting together a new band, The Faith Shakers, featuring jazz/cabaret singer Barbora Tellinger and keyboard player Steve Philpot. But with so much else happening, there wasn’t much time for pop and the project never really left the ground.

Although deciding to focus on his work and family commitments for the next 25 years, Gary continued to write new material and perform solo support slot sets in South Africa at venues like The Radium Beerhall and The Bohemian…and later at various ‘open mic’ nights in London – where he had relocated in 2012 after a year living in Nigeria and 3 years in Kenya.

Gary returned to South Africa in October 2018 – with a batch of new songs and new recordings of old songs, having discovered the power of a decent DAW and home studio productions. And thanks to his long-term friendship with Neill Solomon, a publishing agreement with Solomon’s Passage One Music saw his efforts finally getting some exposure on a few South African TV show soundtracks.

Now Passage One is proud to announce the recent release of Gary’s 1st solo EP, Fly, through major South African indie label Just Music. Fly is the 1st of a trilogy of EP’s Gary will be releasing over the next month or so, featuring the material he has been working on over the past three years in London and Johannesburg.

The 4-track EP – which features the songs A Love Song, Cold War, Esplanade and What You Love (Is What Kills You) – was produced in London by long time musical collaborator and ace guitarist Darryll du Toit and is available on all digital music platforms world-wide, including Amazon Music, Google Play, Apple Play, Spotify, Deezer and Tidal.

The 1st track slated for airplay is the punchy electro-pop A Love Song, which explores the complexity of love in abusive relationships.

The EP also includes two bonus tracks – an earlier ‘pop-groove’ version of Cold War produced by Gavan Eckhart and a re-imagined, gentler version of Esplanade – a song dedicated to Gary’s hometown of Durban on the South African East Coast.

Gary believes his key talent as an artist is ‘making shit up’, rather than any actual musical ability. But you could say that’s exactly what song writing is all about – and he truly hopes that everyone will enjoy the shit he’s made up for them on Fly!

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Agency Passage One Music

Phone +27 82 442 7217