In this interview, we get to know our February Featured Artist, Max Ammo. Raised in Mexico City and now based in Vancouver, Max is a formidable and subversive audiovisual artist. In this interview, they talk about their humble beginnings, their process, and their exciting upcoming projects. Check it out!
SM: First of all, how are you today? Where are you, and what is in you immediate vicinity?
M: I’m doing good! A little bit tired since I volunteered to make some loops that will be projected during CORRIDOR Festival in Seattle on Feb 24th. That’s wrapped up now and I am pretty happy with what I sent. Hopefully everyone enjoys them and the festival turns a success!
Currently I’m sitting in my apartment in Burnaby, I’m working from home today because of the snow, so my immediate vicinity is the snowy garden where some raccoons and birds are hiding. Closer than that is my production table with my synths, drum machines and noise makers.
SM: Can you tell me about the drive behind your creative work? What is it that moves you to make art and music?
M: Ever since I was a kid I’ve had the urge to create and experiment, and the fact that I’m an only child also meant I had to find ways to entertain myself, so drawing became my first form of artistic expression. I guess I did watch a lot of cartoons growing up and really wanted to be able to do that. My mother was always very supportive in that regard and continues to be, so I’m very thankful for that and has always kept me going.
Dreaming and daydreaming have always been an endless source of inspiration as well, so it just seemed natural to tap into whatever was going on there and not being afraid to transfer it to drawing. I also find that being able to grab a blank piece of paper and start piecing stuff together bit by bit until it suddenly it’s a world in itself is just a great achievement. You get to build bridges in between concepts that are very far apart and also end up with really weird looking creatures and places. Improv sessions like this are what compose most of my body of work and they are usually very raw, but at the same time very honest and usually quite funny.
Another thing that has always driven me is doing things in a way I am not expected to do because I was assigned female at birth and all that comes with that assumption. This made me really angry growing up, so it became a definitive force within my work to transgress those absurd limitations, and that has mostly manifested through making grotesque/slippery/melting/teeth-grinding/slimy/noisy subjects. That doesn’t mean that they have to be gloomy and serious, in most cases these are accompanied by colour and humour. I also felt that the absurd, the ugly and weird were themes and aesthetics that only men were permitted to depict or explore, so I just wanted to claim that for my own even if only I was aware of it. Not everything I do is this way and it’s not a definitive rule but I take pride and pleasure in doing so.
Regarding music, it’s a relatively new pursuit of mine. Although I’ve always had an impulse to get into it, I suppressed it for the longest time because “I didn’t really know how to play an instrument”, and my surroundings as a teenager in Mexico City were mostly dominated by male figures playing guitars.
Then electronic music started to wash over it was still just a bunch of dudes for the most part but little by little I started to see more a more diverse array of performers and that was very important thing for me, and continues to be. Just seeing all of the projects and efforts that have come to being in recent times, but also the (re)surfacing of all those others that were erased and silenced before this moment is just enough to get me going. So when I came to live in Vancouver and didn’t know anybody, the first thing I did was just buy a cheap korg synth and just try to do whatever I could with Garageband during the winter (I arrived in the middle of December of 2014). When I was in school the next year I also made the sound for both of my films and I enjoyed it so much that I just decided to take Goo seriously (which is my solo project). It couldn’t have been possible of course without the support of a bunch of local and international array of friends and even strangers pushing me forward.
I think there is something very magical about finding and ordering sounds, filling physical spaces with noise, suspending sounds in time, or making small spaces feel infinite. It’s very soothing most of the times but it proves a challenging puzzle at the same time to fit everything together into a track that flows.
Playing live is also an amusing experience, like going out of yourself in public has a very special charm. I’m actually pretty shy but when I start playing I just enter like a trance-like state and concentrate in the sound and nothing else. Next thing I know the performance is over and I have no idea what just happened kind of thing haha. I love that.
SM: You seem to have many a tool in your belt. What pathways do different mediums open up for you?
M: Well, experimentation is probably the most important part of my work, so once I know how to make something I just want to learn or try something new. I don’t like to have limits to what I’m capable of, so branching out just comes natural and it also helps me create different spaces, feelings, situations, and also end up meeting a different group of people that I would have probably never met if I just did the same thing.
I also feel that I could never make with music what I can do with animation or illustration, but they inform each other in what I do and I can make them interact which is probably my favourite part of being able to work with different mediums and formats. It just leads me to different places and carries me forward, don’t know how to explain that, but it keeps me interested and helps me refine and redefine myself and my art.
SM: What's in the works for you, and what do you hope or envision moving forward?
At the moment I’ve been taking some illustration commissions, like a cover art for a NAAFI release for Fuete Billete and an illustration to be printed by Rosa Pistola who is a Colombian fashion designer/DJ who lives in Mexico City. She is making a line of t-shirts and all the funds are to be donated towards animals in street situation, which is a big problem in the city. For the next couple of months I will be working in a digital animation project that should be fun, and somewhere in the middle I will be playing in Victoria as part of Verboden Festival alongside Beast Nest, Big Debbie (both rom L.A) and other supporting acts from Victoria. Further down 2018 I hope to make a release with tracks that I have yet to record and more things I want to try putting together. Further into the future my plan is to make a new film, 15-20 minutes long. It’s actually a more ambitious project but I have been sitting on it for a while, adding and writing. And maybe in the distant future having an animation studio/soundhouse of my own, and perhaps touring Latin America. Who knows?