Rocking through life on her own terms and conditions
Karen Zoid was in her first band at 13. "It was an all-girl a capella group that I started with some friends so that we'd have an excuse to bunk maths. We sang covers at old-age homes in dresses that my mother made."
Singing for grannies in home-made dresses didn't put her off wanting to be a rock star and by 16 she was singing with her then boyfriend in a garage band called Koma (Coma in Afrikaans).
"We got gigs playing at teenage birthday parties and rocking school halls," she says. "Before long I was busking on the streets of Melville."
With a passion for music and trained in both music and film (Zoid attended the National School of the Arts and then the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance - Afda) she was destined to succeed in the music industry.
She was fronting for the band Bad Weather when she was offered her first record deal at the age of 21. "I decided when I got that album contract to change my surname. My father was a diplomat and an American always called my Dad Dr Grief (from Greeff). I wanted a more pronounceable and certainly less morbid surname."
While she was at Afda a friend made an experimental movie called Zoid. "I looked up the meaning of the word in an American slang dictionary and the definition was 'a person who doesn't conform to societies' norms and expectations. That seemed right."
Zoid's brave, honest and often humorous lyrics, in English and Afrikaans, recall the succinct style of country music full of a paradoxical light-hearted pathos but with a rough rock edge. Her songs are reminiscent of Koos Kombuis and Valiant Swart, making us laugh at ourselves as we bemoan the way things really are. Her lyrics are clever and cutting, but she never loses sight of the funny side of things.
Zoid can also be incredibly tender and romantic in her songs.
"At this stage in my career I'm still writing about things around me and how I perceive them, more than about what I feel. I think that will come later, when I calm down and start looking inward for material," she says.
Zoid's new album, Terms and Conditions, includes the singles Do What You Do and Bly By My (Stay with Me), which are already hits.
This, her fifth album marks a slight departure from her rock-chick angst and includes songs that are softer and uplifting. Terms and Conditions is a strong mixture of Afrikaans and English rock, folk and alternative music.
"I love performing live," says Zoid. "Being on stage is an incredible high for me. It's the one space where I believe you can say whatever you want to say and be who you want to be. For me it's the ultimate freedom of expression. There's also nothing that can beat that adrenaline rush of being up there getting your act together for all those people that have come to see you."
Zoid has played with stars like John Mayer, Annie Lennox, Metallica, Seal and Queen. She counts these performances as some of the greatest times in her life. "My parents didn't want me to pursue this career," she says. "I'm busy proving them wrong."