I don’t have much of an inclination to be a writer or journalist. If an opportunity arises, I’m occasionally keen to participate, but the assumption of free work and a brief period spent in the competitive wastelands of fishing for freelance work soured any keenness I once displayed. I still enjoy interviewing people and maintain a wish list of subjects I’d love to document a conversation with. On the writing front, I’d sooner write a brief piece on a product for a brand for money than waste my energy peddling glorified advertorial for nothing. I think out-and-out corporate copy is a little more honest.
Despite this cautious approach, I wanted to speak to my friend Maxime Buchi because he doesn’t deal in one-word replies and because he asked if I wanted to conduct an interview to coincide with the release of Sang Bleu #6. If you have common ground but never grew up together, it’s strange how much conversation discusses other people’s past and output without ever broaching personal stories. If you know Mr. Buchi, you know that he’s an intense individual with a multitude of philosophies.
After conducting this interview almost a year ago in an incredibly noisy branch of Byron Burger (where background sound and dense dialogue muffled by food munching made it hell to transcribe), our outlet to publish it made the decision to stop running features. A few other outlets were approached but they wanted it edited down, which we felt rendered it pointless (and made me give up on magazines that operate within the industry I work entirely) and a mismatch for Sang Bleu’s glorious sprawl. Another good friend, Nick Schonberger wrote a great intro, but still, we had no choice getting our doomed chat published anywhere – either digitally or on paper – so Maxime upped it on the Sang Bleu site a couple of days ago. I’m blaming Maxime for any typos too. Here’s an extract:
GARY: You’ve got a Gucci Mane tattoo. What incited that addition to your body?
MAXIME: Gucci Mane as a rapper is pushing what I think is postmodern. He represents my idea of postmodernism in rap. Even before the albums he was representing something extreme and new in the same way as NWA back then. If you listen to it now, late 1980s rap was so theatrical. And then in the early 1990s, tension started building up. If you listen to NWA going into ‘The Chronic’ and if you listen to Ice Cube’s solo albums you can feel that it’s getting more and more serious.
G: It reaches an apex around 1992.
M: With the LA Riots.
G: When’s the first time you saw tattooing in hip-hop? Tone Loc’s Crip tattoos were early. There were a lot of shoulder tattoos but Treach from Naughty by Nature seemed to be on forearms early.
M: You know what? I just remembered the other day, that the first rap tattoo I remember was a French rapper from the group NTM.
G: What was the tattoo?
M: It was a logo that MODE2 designed.
G: MODE2′s and Chrome Angelz’ work lends itself to a tattoo very well.
M: MODE2 designed that logo and it was the cover of their very first single. It was a mini CD. Joey Starr had it tattooed at the top of his shoulder. You can see it in the video of ‘Le Monde De Demain.’ If I remember well, I even got it as a sticker in on of the early issue of infamous french rap fanzine ‘Get Busy,’ I am not talking about the watered-down 2000 resurrection, but about the early 90′s photocopied ones. The first copy I got — the one with the sticker — had a MODE2 illustration on the cover too. I still have it. It’s amazing. I used to think that the first rap related tattoo I was struck by was in the Warren G ‘Regulate’ CD booklet.
G: The ‘Long Beach’ back piece?
M: Yes. It’s so good.
G: You grew up in Switzerland. What was the hip-hop scene like there? Is it like Germany, where people really get into things?
M: Yes. I have a feeling that hip-hop kicked off in France and Germany as a very serious cultural thing. Switzerland came early too. Bambaata used to visit. We had the Zulu Nation, of which I was a member. Those who could were traveling to NY as if it was going to Mecca.
G: If you can only get certain things sent over, you’re going to get serious. What got you into hip-hop?
M: Rap. I grew up in a very political environment and my parents were very left wing.
G: Were they bohemians?
M: Kind of. In a Swiss way, whatever that means! They had strong values. I read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ when I was a teenager. I declared I was a communist when I was 12. Obviously, I didn’t know what it really meant, but I could understand and agreed people should generally be more equal. My grandmother was an Italian Protestant. We had that obsession with America right out of post war Italy. And also because of the hippy culture my parents were into.
G: Did your parents have any interest in the Black Panthers?
M: Absolutely. My parents didn’t like punk. For them it wasn’t an option. It influenced me. For them rap was that fight in America for civil rights. Obviously, they couldn’t understand the lyrics – then they might have had another opinion. They might have had another opinion. The first rap I heard was Run DMC’s ‘Tougher Than Leather’ which was pretty hardcore. Rhythmically and lyrically it’s pretty tough. From then onwards I was only interested in things that were tough sounding.
G: Getting a backpiece as a first tattoo is a bold move. Don’t most people end with that?
M: In Japanese tattooing you start with your back then expand to your entire body and that’s totally how I approached it. I was totally ready for such a commitment. I had been considering my tattoo for a long time. That’s just the way I am. A backpiece is a personal and symbolic investment. It’s like having a good watch. Not a lot of people know, but those that know appreciate.
Jorg at Beinghunted has started talking about the origins of his site. I’ve long cited BH as a key inspiration on what I do and with the current array of content management tools, sites like that being updated in HTML makes them seem like something from another world. Ease-of-use 12 years later is staggering, but as the man points out, it still works. I remember seeing the Hideout version of the Nike Presto on there (see above) in late 2001 and desperately hunting them until they mentioned that they were a one-off a few weeks later. Were they made by Nike? I’ve never known, but that Jordan IV Cement theme seemed unique at the time. Bear in mind that these were the days when an Alpha Project shoe could appear in a major Hollywood production, like this cameo from the Zoom Seismic in 2000’s Hollow Man.
The Mo’ Wax Urban Archeology trailer shows that James Lavelle and everybody else involved seems to have plenty to dig through. This video was presumably meant to coincide with a Kickstarter link to raise book and exhibition money, but at least it’s happening. There’s plenty of Mo’ Wax music I couldn’t listen to in 2013, but the imagery and ephemera collated is something I’m keen to see. Will the Mo’ Wax Bulletin Board get a mention too? That was a key digital nerd meet up spot to see in a new century and wait for releases that never seemed to happen.