Die Antwoord leave Interscope, will release "TEN$ION" on their own new indie label

[UPDATE: Here's the video that led to the "divorce."—XJ]

Anyone can not sign with a major label (see there? you just did it yourself!), but to sign with one and then sign off abruptly when the label tells you your work needs to be reworked for more mainstream appeal? That's news.

And that, according to those close to the matter, is what just happened between South Africa's Die Antwoord and Interscope/Universal Music Group.

The zef-rockers have a new album in the can, TEN$ION. It was to be their second release on Interscope, and due out within the next few months. The band chose a track to lead with as a single, titled Fok Julle Naaiers ("Fuck you all," loosely). The label heard it, perceived it as too hard for a single, and according to our sources, wanted the entire record to be reworked for more pop appeal (think Gaga or Black-Eyed-Peas). Ninja and Yo-Landi would have none of it, and asked their attorneys (one of whom was Michael Jackson's former rep) to sever all ties with Interscope, forgoing a million dollar guarantee on the new record and choosing complete creative independence.

From the band's online diary:

So anyway... Interscope offered us a bunch of money again to release our new album TEN$ION.

But this time, they also tried to get involved with our music, to try and make us sound like everyone else out there at the moment.

So we said: 'U know what, rather hang on to your money, buy yourself something nice...we gonna do our own thing. Bye bye'

The band will release TEN$ION through a new independent label of their own, ZEF RECORDZ. Songs will be available as digital downloads and on flash drives, "Because CDs are like motherfucking VHS," Ninja tells Boing Boing.

Their first single, Fok Julle Naaiers [Video Link], will be released for free today as a DRM-free, spreading-encouraged track. The band plans to make more music freely available in this way, and tour like hell starting in January or February of 2012. There are other odd plans in the works, and interesting details of their new independent business model, which will be made public soon.

They tried to release the music video they created (without label involvement or assistance) for this track on YouTube, but YouTube blocked it due to a copyright claim by Interscope/UMG (this despite the fact that the band and the label have already divorced; seems like the copyright claim wheels turn slowly).

Yo-Landi tells Boing Boing there's another surprise in the video. "It features the first rap verse by the real DJ HI-TEK, our gay deejay, who haz just bust out da closet wif a muddafuckn vengeance!"

They're uploading it from a bad internet connection in Johannesburg as I type, and we'll re-post it here as soon as it's available.


  1. awesome! so great to hear they have that kind of integrity…saw them play in LA, love them so much….really excited for the new album and video!

  2. So glad they dropped Interscope and Jimmy Iovine.  Iovine embarrassed himself on American idol last year. Guy couldn’t produce a turd without shining it to a mirror finish. Not the music I enjoy anyway. Keep saying Fok Julle Naaiers to all the haterz out there Ninja and Yo-Landi.

  3. Jesus. Seriously – it is not clever to replace the letter S with a dollar sign. It was not clever the first time someone did it – it was hokey and trite. It is even more hokey and trite the billionth time. Stop, stop. Why don’t you try something more twenty-first century, like replacing an H with a hash sign? E.g. #okeyandtrite

      1. Once they’re re-established as an indie act watch out for new next level typography hijinx. You will be all, № wa¥, that §hi† is zef.

        1. This may be the time to reveal that my parents christened me M@rkt3ch, but I spell it Marktech.   You see?  More than cool.  Ironic.

    1. I agree the $ is overused but I forgive them because it works with the image they have cultivated for this band.  Same with the Z in Recordz.

  4. Kudos for the “artistic integrity” and all that but musically, I will never understand the Boingboing’s never-ending fascination for this group.

    And saying “our gay DJ” (even if he “haz just bust out de closet”) reminds me saying “my black friend”.

    1. And saying “our gay DJ” (even if he “haz just bust out de closet”) reminds me saying “my black friend”.

      Let me explain this to you.  My people have a little visibility problem.  We’re not immediately identifiable just by looking at us.  And the media has a long-standing habit of not mentioning our existence – FOR THE CHILDREN.  So when people mention that we exist, it’s not tokenism; it’s survival.  Haven’t you ever heard the phrase:  Silence = Death?

      1. “We’re not immediately identifiable just by looking at us.”

        I’m sure some of the Tea Partiers could come up with a solution for that if they put their heads together.  Maybe a cute little patch you could put on all of your clothes?

      2. “My people have a little visibility problem.  We’re not immediately identifiable just by looking at us.  And the media has a long-standing habit of not mentioning our existence – FOR THE CHILDREN.  So when people mention that we exist, it’s not tokenism; it’s survival.  Haven’t you ever heard the phrase:  Silence = Death?”

        Right, but it seems contextually odd considering the content he’s spitting on that track.

    1. Did Townshend ever finish “researching” that “book” he was writing? He seems a bit divorced from reality these days.

  5. I was thinking this was going to happen: label would let them be as weird as they like to make a splash, and then tell them to reign it in to ” broaden their appeal”. But if they’ve borne the cost of the album production as well as any video, then ‘Fok Julle Naaiers” indeed. Die Antwoord is a raw wound, profoundly expressive at the same time they are hysterically over the top: you can’t put a band aid on them and kiss it and expect it to be all better.

    One thing I was not thinking at all:
    Hi-Tek is gay (?)

    One thing I am very sure of:
    $aurabh doesn’t get zef.

  6. “Naaiers” = fuckers. So the translation of the single’s title more accurately is: Fuck you, fuckers.

  7. I would have loved to witness that meeting. I bet someone someone at Interscope said the word “Autotune” and then someone from Die Antwoord choked them. 

  8. Too hard…  Did they see any of their videos for their first album?  I mean in Evil Boy they are swinging around a giant penis….

  9. Presumably, Interscope thought a million bucks was a good investment if they could tweak the music, but not if they couldn’t. I don’t understand why exercising or negotiating an out from a contract is somehow sticking it to the man.  

    1. um, because it is a reaction to some “the man” trying to stick it* to them by changing their sound from outside the band? maybe?

  10. Yup, not loosely translated it is Fuck yous fuckers.  Ah, reminds me of Frank Booth and New Jersey – where every part of the sentence can be fuck.  Ah, the fucking memories.

  11. When a group checks how much money a label pays them vs how much money they can make selling their own Cd/DVD at gigs, the label loses every time. Plus the label will cut out their CD when sales drop.

  12. I can’t wait to see the retrospective documentary about them in a few years when we can see the full historical context of exactly how alien they are and at the same time just reflecting and amplifying what is out there in their own rich and granular vision. 

    Seriously, they are one of the few bands ever to make me uncomfortable because I can’t singularly define them and their actions.

  13. I can’t be the only Boinger who absolutely hates Die Antwoord, can I? I checked them out on Xeni’s recommendation and “Enter the Ninja” was, in my opinion, seriously one of the most horrendous songs I have ever heard, and I don’t throw that phrase around blithely. I understand that some people here like them, but personally I’m getting sick of the feeling that BB is “A Directory of Wonderful Things, and Also Music Industry News Exclusively Concerning Die Antwoord.”

    1. “… Also Music Industry News Exclusively Concerning Die Antwoord.”

      Surely the number of MP3s made available for listen on BoingBoing in the past few weeks, to say nothing of the past year, would prove otherwise.

    2. BB is becoming a directory of tired memes (Die Antwoord, steampunk, tiki, etc.) with, sadly, only the occasional inspired post.

      1. Then why are you here?

        I’ll never get people who whine about the content of a blog, yet continue to read it often, and then comment.

        1. I’m here because I’ve been following boingboing since the days of the magazine.  Why give up now?

          I’m still here because of the occasionally brilliant posts.

          1. Then what’s the point of your whining?  If you don’t like a post … why not just scroll by?  There are plenty of other posts.

            Yet, even though you claim to dislike this post (and much of BoingBoing)… here you are, commenting.  And refreshing.  And commenting some more. You sure are taking a lot of time out of your day commenting on a post you claim to dislike! Normally when I dislike something, I move on to something I like. The internet is vast, ya know?

          2. > Then what’s the point of your whining?  If you don’t like a post … why not just scroll by?

            Why not complain? Seriously – why not? Should we all self censor and contribute only positive energy?

          3. Oh give it a rest. I read BoingBoing daily too, and its better than ever in my opinion. And the editors clearly work really hard to make it so, its a frickin miracle this blog is as consistent as it is, and for the whopping price of $0. And all you can do to thank them is complain with these whiny posts of yours?

    3. It’s not as if there is a Die Antwoord update every day.  I check BoingBoing daily and this is the first Die Antwoord update in quite some time.  Your hyperbole is annoying (seriously, BoingBoing has tons of posts every day and a very, very small amount of them have anything at all to do with music, let alone this particular band; stop exaggerating).

      Don’t like them?  Utilize that scroll bar on your mouse and go on to the next post.  There.  Easy.

      For the record, I’m not a huge fan myself, though I totally respect what they are doing.  The music industry needs weirdos like these.  Keeps things interesting.

  14. Xeni, your call-out of Black Eyed Peas is spot on.   (Not get all hipster on you but) BEP’s early stuff was far more interesting, creative, and unique than the cookie-cutter pop they do now. 

  15. Aw, c’mon people. This isn’t about this particular band, it’s about the record label system and how it’s possible to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to it.  Too bad Captain Beefheart didn’t have this option back in the 60s when he was stuck in a contract and blocked from recording anything.

  16. I’m still a little confused about Die Antwoord.  Based on the way they present themselves on their website and they way they talk about themselves, one would presume that they’re serious about what they’re doing.

    Listening to their music, however, I’m tempted to accuse them of simply biting Ill Mitch.

  17. I love Die Antwoord and I think they totally fit in with the Boingboing philosophy of celebrating Happy Mutants and DIY culture.  I ususally pirate all my music but I will be buying this album to make sure Die Antwoord gets the financial recompense they deserve for being so awesome!

  18. Always like to hear about Artists making the art they want to make, and ignoring those who try to change it. Especially when it sound like they made the exact sort of record Interscope should have been expecting. As an aside, I don’t really like the band either, nor do i like the plinky- dinky sound of a ukelele (pretty much every other stringed instrument sounds better IMO) but I don’t go comment on posts just to say that. nobody is forcing you to read every damn post are they?

  19. Die Antwoord are great.  I actually didn’t bother checking out their videos for ages, cause I don’t normally care for comedic bands, but they manage the rare feat of being hilarious while at the same time completely enjoyable in a sincere way.  They’re original, likable characters and they make great pop  music, and anyways, I haven’t seen them mentioned on BB for ages. 

  20. Call me skeptical, and this has nothing to do in particular with D.A., but having worked in the dreaded Music Biz for a very long time, including a stint at a major label, I don’t think it’s going to be all that easy for the group to “sever ties completely” with Interscope.  I have no idea what was in their previous contract, but I’d bet a wooden nickel D.A. probably still owes the label some dough (because the majors ALWAYS rig the system in their favor) if not another album or two.

    It was a huge mistake for them to sign with a major in the first place.  I’ll be very, very surprised if they manage to pull through this completely unharmed.  I’m all for them trying to “go indie” or do it themselves and wish them the best of luck.  But I’ve seen too many good bands (and had a couple of friends) get get completely fucked over when it comes to the complexities of negotiating an exit with a label.  I predict Interscope will do everything they can to destroy D.A. in retribution.  They have fancy lawyers and nothing to lose.

    1. The interesting part of this story is that DA also has some pretty fancy lawyers. Honestly, I hope to see iovine and ninja just go at it in a WWF-style smackdown. Literally. I want to see them in a wrestling match to the motherfucking death. With jello.

      1. It would certainly be a lot more exciting than the actual proceedings will be.  But even without knowing what was in their contract, were I a betting man, I’d wager that at the end of the day, D.A. are going to owe a lot of money.  It’s going to be messy, even without the Jell-o ™.

  21. Good for them, I say!  

    Am I a huge Die Antwoord fan?  Nope.  But I bought a few of their tracks; and while I can’t call it the creme de la creme of the genre: it’s not supposed to be!

    It’s foreign, funny, foul…both unique and derivative.  Why not?  I bet the live shows are cool…

    And what’s with the ‘this underground rap group from South Africa has opinions about race and sexual orientation that does not coincide with my worldview; that’s wrong!’?  or “BB is tired because they don’t celebrate all the things I think are cool!”  As an inveterate complainer and occasional crybaby I recognize the symptoms, and have the perfect remedy: a nap and/or shower, a soothing bout of masturbation and a nice hot cup of shut the fuck up.  It really works!

    Go Ninja, Go!

  22. “Fok julle naaiers” actually translates to “Fuck you fuckers” in the sense that they are using it. Naai being the Afrikaans word for sowing, “sowing machine” being “naaimasjien”. In Dutch naai also means sow. But through generations it’s been more generally used to describe fucking/fuck.

    I’m Afrikaans by definition, but am completely bilingual, English being my second language (lately it’s felt more like my first to be honest).

    Just ask if you need help translating anything else…lol

  23. To all the people who are correcting the translation, thanks for the interesting context, but there’s a video of an interview with Ninja where he says its’, “basically, fuck you all.” Not that the nit-picking really matters, but the BB post is correctly sourced FWIW.

    1. While the BB source is correct, the actual translation expands on what Ninja said. “Fok julle naaiers” translates to “Fuck (all) you fuckers”. So we’re not nitpicking, just giving  the full translation.

    2. Yes it’s correctly sourced, but “fuck you all” definitely doesn’t carry the same weight as “fuck you fuckers”. It does say “loosely”, just thought I’d give the “tightly” translated version…lol

  24. The more stories I read and the more I listen to Die Antwoord………….The more I respect and like them.

  25. i fucking love them! i am so happy that finally there is some real artist remain out there! and that we are not going to deal with another lady gaga of my ass!

  26. I’m not really a fan of the music, but I’m going to buy a copy of the album when they release it just because they stood up for their artistic vision and THAT deserves to be rewarded.

  27. I’m kind of sad they are off interscope. The fact that Waddy, through his viral tinkering, made it on a major label was kind of a great hope for musical experimentation. Since he clearly came from an underground rap history prior to creating Die Antwoord. I feel like just their presence in a mainstream context would be subversive. By leaving, I feel they’ll just fade into relative obscurity, Just doesn’t seem smart. They’re not gonna get bigger than they ever were. I thought the point of this project was for him and her to do something more accessible while still highlighting the weirdness he was into since the early 2000s. Then again Yo Landi turned down Dragon tattoo so maybe they just don’t give a fuck about money an fanbase expansion, which is cool but ….are only the most boring people willing to make it through the pop machine? I feel like Eminem or certain pretty weird people made it through pretty well, getting sort of watered down from their alpha style but its interesting when someone changes the landscape. They had the potential to do that, but now may fall victim to indie tastemakers cruel hearts and flavour of the month adultery

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