The name Groovy Troopers should be familiar to anyone who has been attending psy parties in Cape Town over the past 15 years. Whilst they were originally based in Gauteng, where they threw 10 parties from 1998-2002, the decision was made to move to party hungry Cape Town. Ever since then, Groovy Troopers have thrown over 30 of some of the best indoor and outdoor parties hosting a variety of genres. With Mandala Project next weekend, we thought a little insight would be cool for the readers. Thanks to Delphi and Jacques Carsten for putting these informative answers together!

Psymedia: What is the philosophy behind Groovy Troopers? Tell me a little bit about starting out in Gauteng?

Groovy Troopers: The Gauteng techno-scene was really vibrant with counter-cultural energy between ’89 and ’93 in ways that Cape Town wasn’t (except the last months of 1990, when Eden was going). We drew a lot of inspiration from the Jozi-scene’s magical vitality as youngsters fresh out of school! When we got going with the Groovy Troopers in 1998, we wanted to duplicate the old techno scene’s revolutionary spirit. We started off throwing underground word-of-mouth parties in the commune we’d started up, and ended up in abandoned warehouses and farmhouses. After that, Cape Town’s great outdoors seemed the natural way forward! Basically, what we do echoes the Situationist belief that it’s only possible to fight the spectacle (hyper-reality, the simulacrum, whatever you want to call spectacular media culture) with a spectacle! There are pockets of resistance lurking in even the most postmodern pockets of the postmodern world! If you think we’re nuts, check out Hyperdub label manager Steve Goodman’s  ‘Sonic Warfare’ and Afro-futurist raver Kodwo Eshun’s ‘More Brilliant Than the Sun.’  Like us, these headz are celebrating a permanent and ongoing revolution!

Scott Rennie Photography – Vision Serpent 2012

Psymedia: When and why did you make the transition to focus on psytrance?

Groovy Troopers: Psytrance is psychedelic techno! When we started off we followed the Goa formula – mixing together different techno-styles to build a kind of psychedelic journey. It was a natural transition to go completely psytrance when the musical subculture itself began to produce a variety of psy-styles that lent themselves to the idea of journeying (which, for us, remains the essence of what the psychedelic experience is all about). Set and setting are equally important in this respect – hence our attention to detail and production.

Psymedia: How do you go about selecting artists for events?

Groovy Troopers: In the case of internationals, we work with the artists whose music and outlook we admire. We choose them carefully so that they can fit in with the Groovy Troopers experience and complement what’s happening in terms of local acts. If the vibe is really good, we’ll bring them back! In the case of both locals and internationals it’s crucial that the energy be friendly and uncomplicated. That also means working out a good synergy between the local and international acts. We put together a variety of styles within psytrance to create a journey and tend to like local DJ’s that are versatile and can be moved around on the lineup. Simultaneously, we do have a specific psychedelic Groovy sound that we’ve been building on for years… not just a sound, but a vibe as well! We’re always keeping a close eye on local and international acts, as well as on emerging talent in the scene! We like to give new people opportunities, so we encourage new DJ’s and talent to send us links to their Soundcloud demos!

Scott Rennie Photography – Vision Serpent 2011

Psymedia: How long in advance do you begin preparing for your annual outdoor parties?

Groovy Troopers: The prep work starts well in advance – four to six months before the actual event! A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work needs to happen. In fact, each production is so huge and intensive that there is no break in our yearly schedule. More often than not, productions overlap!

Psymedia: What critical elements that take a lot of time preparing do most party-goers overlook?

Groovy Troopers: The list of critical elements is endless. What people see is only the finished product … in the weeks leading up the event and during the event there are numerous different elements that have to be carefully managed, coordinated, calibrated and recalibrated. Attention to detail is critical for creating a Groovy vibe!

Scott Rennie Photography – Vision Serpent 2012

Psymedia: With outdoor parties growing every season, there are a bunch of people who are upset regarding large turnouts. At the same time there are those who complain about lack of décor, inefficient sound, etc. They also often forget international artists are not viable if the turnouts are lackluster. Please comment.

Groovy Troopers: I don’t think many people have an idea of what these things cost to organize! We’ve come full-circle in terms of the question of turn-outs. In the beginning it was all word of mouth and limited numbers. After a while we realized that we could no longer continue financially without accommodating a larger crowd. That said, we’ve realized the importance of preserving the energy and special qualities of our earlier smaller productions, while making room for a bigger crowd. The balance is possible – it just takes a lot of calibrating, learning from past mistakes and not cutting corners to make it work.  

Psymedia: What kind of legal procedures are necessary?

Groovy Troopers:  The legal procedures are endless – especially in the wake of the 2010 World Cup. Throwing an event is now a serious affair, with national, provincial and local authorities all in the mix. Structural engineers, electrical engineers, public safety inspectors, fire-chiefs, traffic officials and police (provincial and local) all have to give their stamp of approval. Documents and plans have to be drafted, submitted, stamped and signed. This relates back to your previous questions about budgets and turnouts because all this officialisation has significantly upped the budget expenses. Smaller parties aren’t exempted from the loop and, throwing an outdoor event without official approval now jeopardizes the whole scene. In many parts of the world, throwing an outdoor party is now impossible. If we want to continue enjoying our freedoms in an increasingly surveillance-orientated world, we’re going to have to be realistic about it!

Scott Rennie Photography – Vision Serpent 2011

Psymedia: Why did you decide Groovy Troopers outdoor parties should be a three day event, as opposed to a 24 hour event from Saturday to Sunday?

Groovy Troopers: This is simply a question of giving party-goers a bigger bang for their buck. The Friday nights allow party goers to experience the intimacy and energy of a smaller event. The big event on Saturday and Sunday add a whole new dimension of décor, production and staging. We run two dance-floors on Saturday and Sunday to extend and diversify the musical and physical experiences available to our punters. But this is all part and parcel of an ongoing experiment to see what works best … who knows what the future has in store!

Scott Rennie Photography – Mandala Project 2011

Psymedia: What does the new venue have to offer, and what you do for the local community?

Groovy Troopers: Each venue offers its own unique potential.  This one has some very obvious benefits in that it is very close to town (less than 100kms!).  More importantly, however, is the unique and beautiful natural setting! We tend to appreciate venues that are snuggled into their own valleys – and this one fits the bill completely! There are two rivers, a spring, rolling hills, mountains … and lots of green spaces! It’s a private nature reserve, which is another added benefit that adds to the experience! We’ve done a lot of hard work to develop it into a venue where punters can feel safe and comfortable, while preserving and enhancing what’s already there. It’s a really magical space that needs to be experienced and celebrated!

Farming has harmed the general area (in terms of soil erosion and biodiversity loss) and it would be a pity to see this venue go in the same direction due to lack of funds (a private nature reserve costs money to maintain and farming is one way in which land is made to pay for itself, so to speak … unfortunately by being converted and damaged!). We always like to have a local cause that we support – a school or community project. This time, we are putting extra capital into conserving a pocket of nature, which is a very important community service in its own right!

Scott Rennie Photography – Mandala Project 2011

Psymedia: Tell me about the recurring titles ‘Mandala Project‘ and ‘Vision Serpent’, why you chose those dates, and if there is any difference in the atmosphere you are trying to create?

Groovy Troopers: Both Mandala Project and Vision Serpent have names that relate to different sacred aspects of the psychedelic experience.  Mandala Project is connected to the various significances of the number 11 (the number of magic or ‘energy tending to change’). Each year, the party falls in the 11th month, on or just before the 11th day of that month … so for us its about celebrating, witnessing and ‘potentiating’ a portal or gateway into evolutionary space.  Mandalas have always been used for this purpose and they have both a meditative and a healing function. So, for us, it’s the party becomes a way of working through and with the energy of a particular year in order to bring out its transformative potential. Vision Serpent, our March party, is about working with that new energy – the  energy of the new-year, which needs to be directed forward.

The name Vision Serpent refers to the Mayan bringer of vision, the serpent-like shape of the DNA molecule, the staff of Hermes, the spinal kundalini energy, Oshunmare (the Yoruba regenerative spirit), Mami Wata, the staff of Moses and numerous other cultural referents.  Serpents are not only associated with animal spine, but with the spine of the world, the axis mundi (which connects past, present and future). March is also when the new astrological year begins, so it’s a good time for adding this kind of flavour to the celebration! Again, we are not working within any kind of organized religious or specific cultural framework … we retain a degree of playfulness, combined with a profound respect for human potential and the necessity of providing the right set and setting for joyful celebration!

Scott Rennie Photography – Vision Serpent 2011

Psymedia: Would you say Facebook and other social media platforms are directly linked with the growth of outdoor parties? Is it a good or bad thing?

Groovy Troopers: Social media platforms are important tools in an increasingly networked society so it would be foolish to think that they haven’t played a role. They are an extension of the ever-important ‘word of mouth.’ Simultaneously, they are indicators of just how ‘virtual,’ hype-driven and overstimulated culture has become … and this is by no means a completely positive phenomena! It’s worth considering that the world remains a physical place; these networks can only amplify and extend what is already out there in the physical world.

Psymedia: Thanks for the interview! Any last words?

Groovy Troopers: The Groove needs to be experienced directly! See you at our next party!

CHECK OUT:

  • Groovy Troopers Official Website
  • Groovy Troopers on Facebook
  • Next Event: Mandala Project 2012