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Hotbox Studios: Memories, legends and stories


The story you are about to read is based on true events. The names of the people have not been changed so for when you, the reader, should ever come to meet these individuals it is incumbent on you to either doff your cap, hat or hoodie to them. But knowing all of them, I can safely say that buying them a drink would be the least hero worship they’d accept.

This story begins like all others I have told, and have been told by others… “Mom, I swear it was not my fault”. Okay, wrong story but it REALLY was not my fault. It was Hotbox Studio’s fault. What you will read might make you feel like some liberties were taken with the veracity of the truth, but you if you were not there, then you missed out on the best part of being a Pretorian – also, just shut up and read.

Pretoria’s nights, at the time in question, were a series of bars filling up with unchecked hormones that would lead to rash decisions being made in bathrooms, alleys and the occasional backseat of a car while the car guards watched – that was Hatfield at its most giving. The swell of bodies that flooded Hatfield Square at the time brought with it the inevitable “rowdiness” most associated with a ship full of seamen – curious how university freshlings behaved.

The year was 2009, and the overwhelming sense of the FIFA circus which was about to roll into town had South Africans in some pre-orgasmic state (we all know how that story ended from an African team perspective – thanks a whole bunch, Luis Suarez). I remember Henk was working at Herr Gunthers, Willie was always seen but not often heard (I still think this is the case, but to a lesser extent these days) and Chris was managing at Aandklas – the home of rock music and concussions brought about by big-boned women falling off tables (true story). These three knew something was missing, and that Pretorians were in desperate need of an alternative for their partying requirements. Hotbox Studios was born of this need.

Many will have heard the stories of the legendary Hotbox parties that were to become the not-to-be-missed events on the social calendar of all Pretorians – even the “brave” Johannesburgers at a later stage. But not many will remember that it all started with a few bottles of Tassenberg wines and the inimitable Tidal Waves one evening. On that evening nothing untoward happened except only a shit ton of marijuana was smoked – a hotbox to christen Hotbox Studios.

Fast forward to a few events later – the resident feline Jinxx had been hunted, captured, held above the kitchen counter against the wall and been immortalised in thick black permanent marker. Never had I seen a cat that nervous in my life, and yes, the animal activist in me today (no sexual innuendo here) sometimes scolds me but not without a little chuckle. Lucy (the resident cross-bred hound) would join the team later, but she was always mingling with the gathered masses to fall prey to an outline – although many photos were taken with her. Henk had his own version of the call of the wild, “Let’s go and get Yoda”, and from that point you were bound to remember very little.

What started out as a place that sought to cater for the needs of the musicians rapidly gained the reputation for being the only place to be seen until the sun came up the next morning. Jack Parow famously stated that Hotbox Studios was the best place he’d yet played in his young career – a sentiment I can bet my Woolies undies on as being shared by many who have appeared on flyers bearing the Hotbox Studios logo. The bands and performers who created some of the best musical experiences between those graffiti-laden walls are too numerous to count and attempting to do so is as futile as trying to remember everything that happened during one of the best times Pretoria has had.

This is where the story starts to become part of lore. You see, Hotbox Studios, aside from being an operational recording and rehearsal studio was also the gathering place for souls in search of an alternative experience. Right now you think this might be verging on cult-like, and you would not be wholly incorrect. Whenever a Hotbox Party was announced, Pretoria would be frenzied.

Blackberrys would not stop ‘beeping’ nor vibrating with friends making plans for their livers, and preparing water tight alibis (read: filthy lies) for their parents and others they’d already promised to spend time with. Unlike all other parties, a Hotbox Party did not require you to make a stop elsewhere prior to get your ‘game face’ unless you were the type to arrive already a few drinks ahead of everyone else. Another, and more important, fact was that all Hotbox parties were illegal – except for one where a once-off liquor license was sought, and that same liquor license was to service two years of near liver failures for so many (I might be wrong). One time the fuzz got to the gate while inside there was a table set up where the soon-to-be revellers paid to enter. The brave officer asked what was happening and whether alcohol was being sold. He was told that the booze was free and the people were not paying to enter, but donating to some fake charity that came into existence on the spot. I could not believe how convincing the story was after all the tequila that had been consumed – also no officer of the law wants to deprive a needy charity of what would have clearly been a nice financial windfall, and the kids of Pretoria were so kind in his naive opinion. This was not to be the last time the law would be duped into believing that there was something socially beneficial happening around the corner from the store that was once run by Mischa. Again, it was Hotbox Studio’s fault.

Thinking back, where else could you be at a party where a young man in a pink gown, and a penchant for public nudity, would saunter amongst the gathered masses and disrobe? This, believe it or not, had a 100% success rate, although I do not recommend it for everyone – only Joubert (Henk and Willie’s cousin) could pull it off with such style. Mind you, he too was at times on the receiving end of pranks pulled when everyone had gone back into their holes of choice. He once passed out on the floor in his room and between me, Henk, Chris and Haezer we built a pyramid with his hi-fi speakers, took the remote to the sound system, locked him in and then proceeded to switch it on at high volume. He rose from those speakers like a drunken phoenix ready to kill all those behind his rude awakening.

Even week days were not safe. On one seemingly quiet Wednesday we (Chris and I) made our way to Hotbox Studios for what we thought would be a quiet drink – big mistake. We ended up with luminescent paint all over our faces as we’d unwittingly stumbled onto a “private” birthday party. The following day was not kind. These were the days of our lives – the best days to be more exact.

Another story about Hotbox Studios that is often told by those who were present is the story of the young lady who ‘discovered’ that her favourite rocker was a recreational drug user. The wail she let out was one I can only imagine one would make while witnessing the death of your most favourite deity – she had been touched on her heart’s studio. The said rocker shall not be named. End of.

And then there is the story of a young man, who on a Sunday morning stepped on a used condom while walking around barefoot. His wail elicited more laughter than anything else because he firmly believed that he had walked on the disposed prophylactic of another famous musician who had come to enjoy Pretoria girls before a song was made about them. It seemed like there was never a safe place to be in that glorious mess of at times bare human flesh strewn out over every inch of available space. I say never a safe space, except the roof.

From the first Hotbox Party to the Dogbox Foam Parties – a union between Griet Artists and Hotbox Studios – and to every other party where the line-up was meticulously curated to bring ultimate pleasure to the awaiting public, there was never a time one was left feeling that the organisers had run out of ideas. That cannot be said with that much conviction of late with other events.

Why then after two years of the best fun was Hotbox Studios brought to what many believe was a premature ending, well that is a question you can ask Chris, Henk and Willie when you see them at the Hotbox Studios Last Hoorah on 11 November 2017 at the address many of us would never forget, 1072 Schoeman Street, Pretoria.

I for one plan to not ask too many questions, and I refuse to promise that there will not be a well of emotions ready to spill out on the evening. 400 tickets are all that is available. Get yours for R500 to avoid disappointment.


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