Yo Nax: Like NikNaks, he’s an original
Van Pletzen musician Yo Nax is clean after nearly two years of sobriety and is now ready to work on new music.
Matthieu Auriacombe, also known as Yo Nax from the group, Van Pletzen, composing at his home studio in Northcliff, Johannesburg. Picture: Neil McCartney
Is it a cowboy lost in the city or is it the reincarnation of the NikNaks man? No, it’s Yo Nax, the thirtysomething artist with punk-inspired clothes and tattoos from the electro Mengels [a mix of English] group, Van Pletzen.
Fans know him as Nax or Naxi, but Matthieu Auriacombe’s friends simply call him Makkie.
“Matthieu is my government name. I had a French father and an Afrikaans mother. Matthieu is too hectic to pronounce so people just called me Matthew.”
Auriacombe and his brother were born in France. “After France, we moved to China where I called myself Makkie and then people started calling me Makkie,” he says.
He moved to South Africa with his mother and brother at the age of almost five, to Pretoria where he went to school. He matriculated from Nuwe Hoop School.
Auriacombe says something was bound to happen with anAfrikaans mother who sent him for an English education.
Auriacombe says he always wanted to get involved in music. “My dad and my uncle were jazz musicians. After school, I went to work at Gearhouse, a live sound company [in Johannesburg] where we worked at live shows. We did the sound and partied a lot and played in bands.”
An early start
Auriacombe says he started earning money from playing in a band at the age of 21. “We were getting some money for getting dronk [drunk] basically,” he laughs.
When Auriacombe returned to Pretoria, he got a job from his brother’s good friend, Peach van Pletzen, to work in his studio.
“Eventually we started Van Pletzen and the rest is history. “Yo Nax was kinda my alias and then I turned into him.
In our first music video, Peach said I looked like the guy on the packet of NikNaks chips and then it kinda stuck,” he says.
Auriacombe played his first gig at the Oppikoppi festival in Grade 10, when he filled in for his brother’s band as a bassist. “
My mother even let me slip school to tour with him. It was such a cool experience, I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life,” says the musician.
Van Pletzen was the first Afrikaans group that Auriacombe joined. He says in 2019 his life changed for the better when he realised and admitted to himself that he was an alcoholic and an addict.
“From 24 years old, I was drinking every day until a point where I drank a full bottle of gin while getting a day’s work in,” he says.
Auriacombe says at some point, everyone knew, his family, friends and band. “I was fked up the whole time. I was dronk the whole time. That’s why I looked different, I looked unhealthy,” he says.
Auriacombe says not even rehab could help him come clean. “Until I almost died at a festival. My organs said to me, tjom [chum] we are done and klaar. At that moment I decided that I would never drink again.
They had to resuscitate me and it was kak”. The musician says it had nothing to do with the rock-star lifestyle.
“It was purely addiction. I figured it out later in life and it all adds up to why one does substance abuse. “I didn’t know why I was numbing myself, but then I started working through it, and now I am in a good place.”
Auriacombe says during addiction it comes to a point where no-one can tell you to stop because you won’t stop unless you want to stop.
“I became so unhealthy that things started happening to me that I wouldn’t tell other people.” He says his life is much better now.
“I met the best person in the world when I got sober, my girlfriend Ceylonia. Everything has just got better,” he says.
Auriacombe says he is now ready to groot things up after nearly two years of sobriety. And he says Van Pletzen get their fair share of hate online.
“They say how dare we misuse the Afrikaans language. I don’t see it as hate, just close-minded. I’m sure they aren’t bad people and sure, Auntie Sannie’s melktert [milk tart] rocks, but fk man, we are just a band, it’s art. Don’t take us too seriously, it’s called satire,” he says.
“People say they don’t understand what we are saying but the music bangs and that’s all that matters to me.
“Mengels is simple. We all have that one friend that will bring wors to a braai and mix the language. People have been using slang for decades,” he adds.
Auriacombe is working on new projects which will see him taking the mic to sing electronic tunes in 2024. He adds that fans can look forward to another surprise project.
“I always wanted to sing. I’ve been quiet my whole life and now I am going to say everything I wanted to say,” he says.