Mtshali, Michael Jackson and manga – the many influences of coolest cats MaxX & Love
InArts’ bi-monthly interviews explore culture by asking creatives about their life in the arts and which artists in other media stimulate them. This time round, MaxX & Love provide the answers.
MaxX Monticoe and Sechaba Ramphele are the real names of MaxX & Love, a dynamic young duo who play the blues and tell stories inspired by their own lives.
When did you first identify as a creative artist?
MaxX: In Grade 9, when I saw a mime artist for the first time. It was fascinating and I thought I want to do this. I’ve also been fascinated by acting since I watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when I was seven or eight, but it was more that I wanted to be like “that” since I didn’t understand the whole concept of acting.
Love: I’ve known since I was a really young kid that I wanted to be an artist-performer. I had seen a performance of Michael Jackson and, similarly to MaxX, I just knew that I wanted to do “that”, not really knowing or understanding what “that” was. But when I was about 10 I was aware of what it was as I’d started writing songs and poetry.
Outside of your medium, what branch of art most stimulates you?
Love: It’s a tie between acting and dancing.
Which artists in said discipline have significantly inspired you, and why?
MaxX: Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. Depp because of his creativity and DiCaprio for the immense, sheer truth in his acting and also the focus in his eyes.
Love: Will Smith was the first actor I remember watching whose performance made me want to act professionally. I think his career has been incredible. Jackson inspires almost everything I do as an artist and professional but, as a dancer, imitating how he danced is how I learnt to dance. His approach to learning various styles of dance, from jazz and contemporary to breakdancing, and creating a style and approach of his own, is something I’ve worked to create for myself as well.
What to you is art’s most important function?
MaxX: To help mankind make sense of their emotions and life.
Love: To help people express themselves and their feelings and to share, preserve and create culture.
Local creatives in any medium that excite you?
MaxX: Mtshali. Having sat down with him and heard his story and what made him come to Joburg. Understanding his journey and where he’s at. Also what an advocate he is for the black child. What he stands for and the opportunities he tries to grant. Also, his work is incredible – love it.
Love: Daev Martian, ByLwansta, Amongst the People I Know, Malcolm Wope, Loyiso Leomile, Archi, Tom Saison, Bokani Dyer, Zoe Modiga, Manana, Luyanda Zwane, Zeno Peterson, Zigi, Kagiso Lediga, Ndabo, Reba Red, Julian Plato, Roho, The SN Project, lordkez – jeez, there are way too many to mention but those are some that come to mind.
What specific work, be it in literature, music or visual art, do you return to again and again, and why?
MaxX: Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same. In 1973 they had a concert at Madison Square Garden; they also made it a docu-film and a live album. In that show, particularly when they’re performing Since I’ve Been Loving You, there are these two girls in the front row and during one of Robert Plant’s choruses you see one go through a transition where you literally see the art and the meaning of what’s happening land on her soul. And the other girl, right at the end of the song she brushes her hair back and she has a cigarette in her mouth and there’s just something about that moment where it’s almost like time just stopped for her and life made sense.
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Love: One Piece. It’s a manga that’s also been adapted into an anime – among many things – from Japan, created by Eiichiro Oda. I’ve rewatched the anime three times at different points in my life since I started watching it when I was 18. It currently has 1,072 episodes and 1,090 chapters out and is still releasing more of both weekly. I’ve recently started reading the manga from the beginning. One Piece is without a doubt the best story I’ve ever got to experience. The world building! The characters are unique and fleshed out and important to the story. I can’t understand how Oda has been so consistent for 25 years with creating such a huge, well-thought-out, inspired and engaging world. Absolutely brilliant.
What are your thoughts regarding the AI revolution?
MaxX: I don’t have any.
Love: I’m trying to be optimistic about it, but I can’t help but feel like we’re losing human connection and intervention and the desire for those things in art, in the workforce and in life in general. It feels like AI is another leap in technology that could push us further in that direction with the intention to create convenience. No doubt there are loads of positive contributions it can make across the board, but, unfortunately, at the expense of some things that I really value.
Any project you’re unveiling or wrapping up?
We are currently wrapping up our first single, He’s Got Your Love, and getting it ready for release in the coming months. A release date hasn’t been locked down yet, but it’s coming really soon. We’re also in the early stages of putting together a body of music that’ll hopefully be ready for people to enjoy by early next year, if not the end of this year. But know for sure that These Blues Might Get You Too! DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.