Man's a Mag Man

Sit down for story time with The Lake magazine’s Stefan Naude

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Nick Gordon

Stefan Naude tells great stories. Like that time he designed the first album cover for the Parlotones – “they were a different band then!” – or when he worked as a chef and hotel manager in Chris Chameleon’s restaurant in Verkykerskop, or was the first publisher to print ‘Fokofpolisiekar’ on a magazine cover, or when he shared a house with Battery 9, or when he was almost implicated in a murder.

“I picked up a guy in-between George and Mosselbay, the airport road, not the highway, and this guy I picked up had just strangled his wife to death. I’d first driven past her sitting in the car, thinking she had passed out, because a lot of people would do that when they were too drunk, you know, small town vibes. Further down I picked up this guy hitchhiking. I didn’t know this dude – there were two video shops and I had a contract at the other one – but I would see him outside this video shop while I was driving to my one next to the Spar in Grootbrak. So I never knew him, but I recognised him. He said that it was his girlfriend back there, and I said that he couldn’t just leave her, so we turned around and I watched this dude speak to her for like four minutes. Then he came back to my car, gave me a fist bump and told me that it’s fine, I could go, and that he was going to drive her home. It was four days later when I read about the murder in one of the small articles in Die Burger, and that if anyone had any information they should come forward. So I went to the police station and after the first interview they assumed I was involved. Luckily I’d been at this railway bar, McNasty’s, like the Kimberly Hotel of Grootbrak. It was on the railroad tracks and this dude once drove his Uno onto the tracks next to the bar like a McDonalds drive through. That was rad, but his car was f***ed. Anyway, the McNasty’s barman told the cops I had been there and that they must tell me I still had a R200 bar tab that I needed to settle...”

This is just one of many stories Stefan regales us with while visiting him at home and his shared office space off Kloof Street, a small box he’s worked from for the last three years with Brendan Body, Brett Bellairs, Clint van der Schyf and Luke Jackson. The space is filled with band flyers and posters he finds on his walks, as well as a Scope-era poster that The Lake’s fashion editor, Kristi Vlok, hung. There’s no music playing and when there is it’s either jazz, Allen Watts speaking calmly about life, or Slayer.

“I walk to work, that’s rad, and as you can see work’s just a telephone line, internet, and a computer.”

Returning from his five-year stint in London, Stefan got an internship at Rooi Rose and then worked a bunch of different jobs for different titles. Between all this he’s designed skateboards for Familia, done a book project for Nike, and made a documentary for Jagermeister called JAPANESERUBBERONCOUNTRYTAR, where he followed bands across the country for six months and photographed them using his Sony Ericsson K1810. He’s also worked as a chef, pulled draughts in a pub, worked as a researcher, carried camera bags for photographers and made a name as an artist. Stefan cofounded Session skateboarding magazine, created the original look and feel for Hype magazine and transformed Stage magazine into something people actually wanted to read. And if it seems that he’s living his life on borrowed time, he is.   

“I was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome and am on my fourth pacemaker, a little box underneath the skin that I first got when I was 19. Marfan makes all my fibres really elastic, so my heart started feeling really loose. Like, I’m also extremely double jointed. That’s why I age differently. I don’t have as many wrinkles as someone my age should.”

It’s neither Stefan’s sordid tales of famous friends or that bum ticker that got him onto our Superbalist 100 list, but his love of the printed page and commitment to independent publishing.

“I’m from the middle class ghetto of Randburg where I just skated and hid away at my Afrikaanse Hoerskool. I remember the first time I saw The Face. Someone brought one over from the UK when I was 13 and we were still so cut off from things like that. This was 89 and later on, locally, I liked De Kat, which was quite cutting edge and then it just disappeared. CNA did Transworld, because it was more clean cut, but Thrasher and Slap were a little harder to find. Slap, Thrasher and Big Brother Magazine had a huge influence on me in the skateboarding world, but so did Color and Bikini. Bikini was a heavy one but The Face was the shit. I used the same font on The Lake. Much respect. And then as a kid I read lots of Mad. I actually learned to speak English and got my sense of humour from Mad.”

Stefan flips through some magazines on his desk, showing us his treasured items – things like Zebulon Dredd’s zine from when Long Street was still hip - “Rad man. That dude was punk as f***!” - and then he’s flipping through another mag and laughing to himself about an article in there, Smoke on the Water, about the 86 surf riots. Suddenly Stefan’s mood changes and he’s on a rant about all the mediocrity of mass media, how mags need to become more collectible, less throw-away, and how publishers need to document trends instead of churn out trash.

“There are too many publications running the same content. There’s always the same trend that they seem to follow, year after year. The same recipe every 12 months, the same faces – f*** that!”

So Stefan made sure that The Lake didn’t follow any of the clichéd formulas – “You’re not going to read an article on how to look more sassy!” He's made a decision to feature people who don’t usually get their time: older more established guys who have proved themselves, kids on the way up, hidden gems and stuff that takes a little more digging. “It’s more about obscurity, I think. You can’t really label The Lake, it’s unexpected.”

So far The Lake has been called out as one of the most beautiful products in South Africa. They’ve made it past ten issues and Stefan says that they’re growing so fast that they now need things like a proper copy editor, a digital department, and that it often feels as if he’s reigning in a bunch of wild horses galloping away from him.

Joking how he’s really committed to winning the Superbalist one hundred thousand, Stefan says that one of the ways he plans to do this is by starting “a Clinton vs. Trump thing” between him and Baseline’s Adrian Day. “I saw him kick Eddie!”

However, he quickly counters and shows his softer side.

“I actually voted for Adrian. We go way back and he is a good friend. We have the same taste in music, grew up in the same hood, skated at the same post office… We slept on the streets of Munsta in Germany in 97 when we went to watch the World Cup of Skateboarding, before the X Games bullshit. We hate the same shit and we laugh at the same shit. We stole drinks at BARUMBA in London watching Norman Cook and getting massive on them tings. I’ve got some stories man…”