Anything But Normal
Andrew Thompson - 9 Sep 2008, 00:00
(1978 reads) In 1997 a young man named Waddy Jones unleashed a brand new rap character onto the local music industry. This character was called Max Normal and was based on the star of Waddy’s favourite comic book at the time. Max Normal loved rapping, and he ruled the underground rap scene in Johannesburg for some time. Until, one day, some important folks over at Channel O decided he’d look great on television, and soon Max Normal’s face could be found in living rooms across the country.
The new job at Channel O would be short lived, because unfortunately those same important folks were listening to Y-FM when he dissed them on live radio. It was probably for the best though, because in 2001 Max Normal went from an underground rap movement to a full-blown band. Soon kids all over the country were jamming to South Africa’s most original outfit, and Max Normal was poised to become the next big thing in SA music.
But as quickly as they arrived, they disappeared. With a group packed so full of creative energy, talent and ego, it was hardly surprising. Everyone went their own ways, Max Normal was no more, and all the kids were sad. But this was just the beginning for Waddy Jones, and the next few years would see him go through many outlandish character changes: some bizarre, some utterly confusing, but all equally I-don’t-give-a-fuck incredible.
Fast-forward a handful of years, and it seemed that if Waddy Jones was ever going to be a household name once again, he would have to resurrect his favourite alter ego. So, after much careful planning, Waddy Jones secretly morphed back into Max Normal, and then reappeared alongside a powerful new crew, who called themselves Max Normal TV.
For everyone who's followed the progress of the Max Normal machine, the real question is why Waddy is the only surviving member.
“When I asked the members of the Max Normal live band if they wanted to join the new Max Normal TV crew, they all politely declined,” says Waddy Max.”[Guitarist] Mark [Buchanan] and [drummer] Sean [Ou Tim] were very nice about it, Simon [DJ Sibot] was a little nasty.”
Despite these unspoken issues, the new crew, consisting of Max Normal, Yo-Landi Visser, Justin Denobrega, and Jakob Basson, went ahead and put together one of their most considered packages to date.
“The people I surround myself with these days receive my deepest care and thought to date,” says Waddy. “I think this emotion is reflected in my art.”
The first album to be released by Max Normal TV is definitely indicative of this, and Good Morning South Africa has been met with confused and somewhat cautious acclaim. Despite this, Max seems to underplay it all. He describes it as a “fun little pop-art experiment”, and doesn’t think he’ll see any financial rewards for their efforts. According to Max, the album, which features a range of languages and many new and whacky cultural references, is really just an attempt to be coloured. “I like coloureds,” he says. “I want to be coloured.”
Even though they don’t hold too much hope of making cash from the project, Max Normal TV’s careful multi-pronged plan seems to be paying off. Their high-energy PowerPoint presentations are guaranteed to sell out even the biggest clubs in SA, and as a result there are throngs of dedicated groupies scurrying after them. But perhaps the biggest show of appreciation towards Max Normal TV is the recent invitation to perform at Pukkelpop In Belgium, one of the more progressive music festivals in the world.
According to Max, they landed the gig simply by being “Next Level,” and by the sounds of things it all went pretty well.
“The backstage area was like a 5 star hotel,” he tells me. “My favourite is the Belgian dessert. I went back three times and I nearly puked from eating so much. I can’t even tell you how nice the dessert was. I still can’t believe it.”
According to Max, the group is pretty big in Belgium. “The crowd at Pukkelpop was wild and crazy. I’ve played Pukkelpop three times before this. This time banged the hardest.”
He then tells me about their performance at a club in Antwerp called Scheldapen, which he claims is the best club he’s ever played.
“It's situated in a little deserted part of town next to the harbor, then in amongst the trees stands a cute little old railway house that can fit about 200 people inside, but they let in over 400 people! The people were all so fresh, friendly and fun.”
Apparently food is very important to Max, because he tells me in detail about the killer vegetarian meals that some sweet ladies in the back cooked up for them.
But if you think this means that Max Normal will be around for a little while longer, you’d be wrong. He’s already scheming for his new project, which this time he’s sure will rake in the bucks. It’s called Die Antwoord, and it’s apparently “mad fuckin gangster rap mafia for life.”
According to Max, this is the project that’s going to buy him that house in Nature's Valley and another in Switzerland. The first part of Die Antwoord will be 'Wat Pomp,' a new television show that stars Wad:e and Yo-landi Visser, “two energetic personalities who hit the streets of South Africa to see what’s pumping.” This will transform into a series of short television stings, and eventually into a full-length feature film.
“Die Antwoord will also be presented to the world as a wild and savage rap crew from the deep, dark, depths of Africa. Die Antwoord rap crew is going to perform live before the screening of Die Antwoord feature film at the Cannes Film Festival in the overseas. It’s gonna be hot.”
You can be sure that even when the day comes for Max Normal to push his bare hands into wet concrete on a Hollywood sidewalk, lurking somewhere behind him will be the softly-spoken Waddy Jones, who’s really just a regular guy.
“I also can’t wait to be sitting in the back row at Ster-Kinekor at the Waterfront, watching the opening titles of Die Antwoord,” he says.
“With a big half-liter of Coke, throwing popcorn at the people talking too loud in front of me,” and no doubt wishing that they would please, be a little bit, considerate.
If anything, you can bet your life that as soon as the final credits roll, he’ll rush back to Die Antwoord HQ to put his next big plan into action.