18 February, 2014 18 February, 2014

Ryan ‘Bugs’ Heathcote – Playing Tunes In The Tube

Two years ago, Ryan Heathcote was booked into a scholarship to study the Balinese music of gamelan. As a goofyfoot with a passion for both music and hollow lefts, the move to the island was an easy one for the former Border provincial shredder nicknamed ‘Bugs’ to make.

Over 700 days have passed and Bugs hasn’t found a reason to leave the island, instead he has been enjoying unbridled inspiration in the barrels, bars, beaches and jungles of Indo. He is also the first musician that we’ve heard of who has recorded a music video almost entirely in the tube.

Check it out below, then read the interview as we catch up with one of South Africa’s rare mermen – Ryan ‘Bugs’ Heathcote.

Howzit Bugs, tell us where you grew up and when you left SA to take up residence in Bali?
I grew up in Slummies and moved to Bali just over two years ago.

How do you make ends meet in order to afford the Balinese diet of Bintangs and rice bowls?
Rice is cheap here, but Bintangs are old school, bru. We drink Panther now – made from bits of real panther so you know it’s good! To make some cash I teach surf lessons in Kuta.

How long have you been playing music for?
Since forever ago! I had a punk band in SA when I was 12, and we toured with the Nudies, Squeel and Wonderboom for a bit.

Inspiration can come at any moment for Bugs.

Your music video is (as far as we know) a first in the music world. We’re yet to see any MTV musician playing a guitar in the pit. How did the video come together?
All the friends who got me there were the most important, but I did the filming with a borrowed GoPro and laptop. The laptop survived, but the GoPro was not so lucky. The idea came together after I took my guitar out at Desert Point, then I lost it and heard the locals found it months later. I knew that day I was on to something.

And the merman tail? What’s that about?
He’s probably some Masters of the Universe action figure manifesting from a childhood obsession, but for now the Merman is pretty wishy washy, think Zoolander, but in the future vids he’ll show his super villain persona.

Does dancing around a jol in a merman tail get you any hits from chicks (asking for a friend)?
The tail is a big turn on!

Tucking in on the Bukit peninsula.

Looks like a lot of South Africans these days are taking up residence in Bali, or at least staying there for months at a time. Is Bali becoming the new London, or at least the poor man’s tropical version of London? How big is the crew there?
The crew is not so big, but the ous are tight. We all get on famously and joke about our SA Dreamworlds.

Got any interesting stories involving the SA posse that side?
Bru, any given Sunday will see Guy (Morgan) dancing naked on the tables at Single Fin Sessions, while the other ous are trying to steal your chick in a more subtle manner. The all-Saffa trip to the Mentawais that we did last August was a hands down classic! We seemed to sail into the swell of the year the day we arrived, and that’s where me and Harald Steinmann started The Nakedsealife band. Harald has been in Indo for ten years just living a full-on jungle existence, and he couldn’t stop commenting on how pleb Lance (Morris) and I were lugging our huge rice cooker around with us. We’d shoot a fish and just chuck everything in the rice cooker. We also used it to boil some water for a before bed bath.

Navigating the long tubes of Desert Point.

One last question. What sort of a chord does a merman like yourself play inside of a reeling left shack spinning over a coral reef?
In my new vids, I’ve started recording the actual sound of the guitar, which is a mission to keep in tune, but usually I like to jam the Mer7th chord.

Shot Bugsy. We’ll meet up soon at one of your secret Balinese lineups. We just waiting for you to send coordinates.
Shot Zag, yea the tail has got a GPS, bru…

A late evening session at Padang.


For more from Bugs, check out this clip titled ‘Endless Bummer’ by Craig Mulligan (filmed as a UCT project in 2011) featuring commentary and music by Ryan:

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