Phillips alto ego, Bernoldus Niemand, made his debut in 1984, and in 1985 he released the critically acclaimed “Wie is Bernoldus Niemand?” album. Targeting the monolithic Afrikaner “cultural establishment” the album was promptly banned by the SABC, although the song “Hou my vas Korporaal” would become an anthem for the anti conscription movement.
In its time it was utterly new, inspiring “alternative Afrikaner” performers like Johannes Kerkorrel and Koos Kombuis who would spearhead the Voëlvry boerepunk movement some years later. James in fact was invited to join the Voëlvry bandwagon for a successful, if controversial, tour of the country in 1989 which featured musicians who sang in Afrikaans and had been inspired by the Bernoldus Niemand album. Phillips and an expanded Lurchers line-up were added to the Voëlvry bill under the name “Bernoldus Niemand en die Swart Gevaar”.
Phillips had always regarded the Niemand alter-ego as a side project and had already abandoned the songs on the “Wie is Bernoldus Niemand?” album. Ironically he was now performing to the biggest audience of his career, but under another name and singing songs that he no longer considered part of his repertoire.