“With the band naming itself after a drug, expectations of ecstasy and let-go are going to be exceedingly high. Thankfully, Ketamine is expressively addictive.
Ketamine soars, so much so that if I were wearing headphones that seduced with their music whilst I leapt from a cliff, I’d expect to fly.”
– Wicked Rock, July 2004
Critically-acclaimed exponents of rock, Ketamine, played its second-ever live performance to a full house at the renowned Metro Theatre in Chicago, USA. This was the result of submitting songs to Act IV 2001 – a Smashing Pumpkins tribute concert held annually to give unsigned bands the opportunity to prove themselves in these hallowed surrounds whilst paying tribute to an iconic band. A mere seven bands were chosen to perform at this event, with some eighty acts from around the world competing for these limited slots each year.
The band was the brainchild of founding members Shannon Hope and Jason Every. Within three weeks of its sudden and remarkable inception, the duo had recruited the session musicians to rehearse their tribute show covers and newly penned originals for the USA tour, recorded their Smashing Pumpkins cover of “Disarm” (which was selected for the tribute album to be released at the show) along with their first original track entitled “Stay”, and firmly lodged themselves in the South African media. So well was Ketamine’s performance received by the audience and organisers alike at their American debut in July 2001, that not only was the band re-elected to play the tribute show in 2002, but they were furthermore honoured with headline act status.
During their brief sojourns in Chicago, Ketamine members were lauded and approached by that city’s high-profile recording engineer and producer Bjorn Thorsrud – of Smashing Pumpkins and ZWAN fame, among many others for whom his skills have helped earn Billboard USA chart hits. In an interview with Barney Simon from 5FM, Bjorn described what he thought of Ketamine when he first saw them at the 2001 Chicago concert: “I was actually pretty amazed. I didn’t know they were from South Africa until after I heard them play. I was sitting watching the show with Billy Corgan and we were listening to the songs – y’know some of the songs people were doing that were different. It was pretty fun, and then Ketamine played an original which I thought was a Pumpkins song and I asked Billy, “which one was that, I can’t remember it?” He goes “it must be an original ‘cause it’s not one of mine”. It was such a good song and had such good energy, I couldn’t believe it and I go, “where are these guys from?” He’s like “South Africa” and I was like, “you gotta be kidding me”.”
Having kept in close contact since their first meeting in 2001, Thorsrud worked with the band on the pre-production of their material. This ongoing correspondence regarding the musical direction of Ketamine peaked in December 2003, with Thorsrud traveling to South Africa to produce a 5-track EP with the band. Mixed and mastered by Manny A. Sanchez (who also boasts a modest artist biography including the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Incubus, Oasis, and Dave Matthews), “A Perfect World” was released independently in June 2004.
Ketamine received extensive radio playlistings, both internationally and locally, during their brief independent career, with tracks receiving airplay on South African stations 5FM, East Coast Radio, UCT Radio, TUKS FM, Red Cap Radio, and SAFM, and international airplay on Live365 in Canada, and Radio Sumadija in Serbia. Their 2001 single “Stay” (the original track that had caught the attention of Bjorn Thorsrud) charted for nine weeks on UCT Radio’s SA Top 10, reaching and maintaining a high of number 2 for three weeks, and charted within the top 10 positions on the Top 30 for a total of nine weeks, reaching a high of 6. All five tracks off their 2004 EP release earned airplay on stations around South Africa, Serbia, and Canada, and the band received a profile feature by Barney Simon on the World Chart Show on 5FM in December 2004. In addition, the band’s live performances and recordings were flighted on M-Net, DSTV, ETV, and Swiss TV, along with numerous interviews, reviews, and features in various local and international print publications.
Further to regularly gigging around the South African club circuit, Ketamine featured high on the rosters of major festivals and events since its inception, including Woodstock IV, Rock Concert 2, Siemens Mobile Wave Tour, Flux New Year Festival, Rock Show 2002 at Carnival City, and Splashy Fen Music Festival where they headlined the opening night in 2004.
In spite of their remarkable successes and irrefutable promise for a propitious international career, the group disbanded in 2006. Ketamine’s short whirlwind career and unexpected split, however, set the stage for Miss Hope’s solo incarnation two years later.
I love what I do because I’m honest about it, and I’m not out to prove myself as a woman, but as a musician. It’s not about being the only girl in an otherwise male rock band, but rather about making music that means something. We all sweat the same on stage anyway.
– Shannon Hope, Salt Water Girl Magazine, November 2003