Guitarist of the Month: Steve van Niekerk

“Steve is one of those jaw-dropping guitarists who I did not realize could exist without being in their 40s until I moved to the UK. He was a year above me at uni and is a rare type of guitarist. The type who can not only play extremely technical things, but also does so with feeling and soul. I feel like in his playing he remains true to himself and that’s something very inspirational to me personally, even above all his technical abilities. I am very lucky to know him and I think you’ll enjoy reading how the mind of such an exceptional human works.” – Neli

What brought you on the path of a career in music?

My parents didn’t play any musical instruments. My grandfather did, but I never met him. Maybe there is some ancestral connection there!

Initially, I had a lot of friends who were really into music and they would show me stuff and tell me why this music is better than the other one and such things. I quite enjoyed that. I wanted to play the drums but then I heard power chords what Linkin Park plays and was like “Wow!”. Then my dad got us all guitars and I played more than everyone else. On my next birthday, I bought an electric guitar, stopped skateboarding and started to play the guitar all the time.

Together with Natalie Kelsey you are part of the duo Nastee Chapel. How did you decide to start playing together?

We were together for 3 years before we approached something like that. We moved from a flat in London a little bit out of town to a 16th-century cottage. Then Natali wrote what would become our first single “The Bucket”. At the time of her writing it we weren’t a band or anything. She just wrote it and asked me to put in some guitar backing that fits the feel. I went to play it and realized it is really hard!

She then showed me Townes Van Zandt who plays like that and I really loved it. I had never before heard that kind of playing. So yeah, we actually started through original music and jamming at home.

You have awesome outfits that we can see on social media! Do you dress like that on the regular or pick them up, especially for playing this type of music?

The outfits are mainly influenced by Natalie. She inspired me also! I was super excited to find out that the closet is also another outlet through which you can express yourself.

We get those clothes from several places. Nataly inherited lots of clothes from her grandma and we also go to charity shops. But day to day it is also nice to dress well. If you are struggling to feel good, dress good and that might help! But it is definitely the early days when it comes to our outfits.

I know you do busking, at play at pubs and historical venues. What would you say you enjoy most playing live?

These days it is true busking, because it is always different depending on the people you are playing for and then you sort of adapt. If someone gives you a load of energy you sort of give as much back. But with busking people are usually very shy and need time to soften up. And it could be amazing, sometimes people say stuff like “Oh, you made my day”!

You play also the mandolin. How is that going? What at the main differences and similarities between the two?

I don’t play the mandolin like I do the guitar, but guitar and mandolin actually translate quite nicely.

The mandolin is tuned in fifths, rather than fours like the guitar. Also on the mandolin you can actually play faster easier and it is also easy to play loud on it. If you want to add more excitement to a performance, the mandolin can do that. But I actually learned it out of necessity, we needed someone to play mandolin on your recordings and I was like ‘Okay, that can be me’. I did the same thing also with the banjo.

Who are some guitarists or instrumentalists or musicians in general, who are inspirational to you?

At the moment it is people like Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings – this other shredding bluegrass guitarist. There is also this pianist I really like – Hiromi Yahara, and through her I found the guitarist Dave Fiuczynski. He has a band named Screaming Headless Toros and I was super influenced by them. John Petrucci from Dream Theater is also a massive influence. That is to mention a few.

What are you working on at the moment?

In the band we are doing some album artwork for the album which we already recorded and are making final mixes.That is very exciting, we can’t wait to release it, but we don’t have a release date yet. Personally, I have been singing a lot, just trying to work my voice. Through chanting I stumbled upon throat singing.

Follow Nastee Chapel:

Follow Steve:

Watch the whole video:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *