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Culture, Music

A Man of Collaboration

by Roger Young / 05.08.2011

Long before Die Antwoord and Spoek Mathambo there was a colab between Markus Wormstorm and Sibot called the Real Estate Agents that literally blew the lid off underground South African electronic music and defined mzansi glitch hop. A man of collaboration; Markus Wormstorm has worked alongside Sibot producing dark beats with both Ninja when he was Waddy and with Spoek in Sweat X. To get the full picture of what he’s currently up to it’s perhaps best to checkout his website. He has worked as script developer and composer for EA games and his Blackheart Gang project has created a coffee table book and sculptures that have been exhibited locally, in Europe and in the States. At present he is working as a producer, composer and writer on an interactive ibook. The Blackheart gang are often asked to speak at conferences like f5 in New York and Cut Out in Mexico. Apart from all of this, Wormstorm has developed a Science Fiction novel over the last four years and has recorded a series of songs for an album called “not I, but a friend”; all modern classical pieces written for cello, violins and clarinets with a slight electronica influence. He will be performing some of his new music with a classical ensemble on the 15th of August at the next New Evenings event, of which he is a partner.

Mahala: Do you ever make anything entirely on your own?

Markus Wormstorm: Yeah that’s how I started but I got caught in collaborations for a few years. At the moment I’m doing strictly my own thing again.

What is the value of collaboration?

I suppose it’s fun because different people specialize in different things and you never know what you’re gonna end up with and obviously it’s more fun being in a gang or a band.

What is your next big musical venture? Who are you working with at the moment?

At the moment I’m focusing on writing all of my new music as musical notation so that it can be performed by classical musicians. I’m writing a three piece at the moment that will be performed at New evenings on the 15th of August (for clarinets, vibraphone, marimba, cello.) I want this little project to be sophisticated without being pretentious. Some of the songs have humorous themes. One of the songs is for instance based on a quote by the ANC western cape secretary Songezo Mjongile “The DA’s philosophy is that the Western Cape is a European outpost surrounded by natives who want to take it back to the stone age”. I recreate my interpretation of these irrational fears with the tribal elements within these arrangements, particularly with the marimba and vibraphones. Another song deals with a streetkid’s hallucinations while on glue. Although these arrangements are executed in a traditional way, they are still strongly influenced by my electronica and techno background. I will also add electronica elements to the pieces when they are performed live. I would plan to release my album “not I but a friend” later this year.

Markus Wormstorm - New Evenings

You have a pretty interesting google autocomplete; has that helped or hindered you?

(laughs) Yeah, when you type in my name in Google one of the ten auto completes is “….is short and fat.” which sucks, even though I suspect there might be some truth in it.

Diss tracks are common in Hip Hop, they often read as bitter flattery, how serious is the diss from Ninja? Is it all fun and games or is the hostility genuine?

I’d say hostility. In hindsight we probably should never have worked together to begin with, but I suppose you live and learn.

That’s your only collab that’s ended badly, how did Sweat X come to an end and why? Do you still communicate with the Spoek?

We really get on. We travelled the world together, played shows everywhere, wrecked hotel rooms, kissed girls (you know that old chestnut) for years on end. I’m very glad that he’s doing so well, I mean he’s on the cover of magazines all around the world. I was the best man at his wedding.

And Real Estate and Sibot?

He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. My collaboration with him was one of the most important things in my life for a long time. And we’ve both got tattoos on our chests to prove it.

Markus Wormstorm - Conference

How does the relationship with Ree Treweek and Jannes Hendrikz in the The Blackheart Gang work? Who is the driving force? How do you brainstorm that stuff?

Ree and Jannes were the best men at my wedding. They are my bestfriends and have been for many, many years. Ree and I just sort of develop stories over time and they slowly turn into books, games, movies, and operas.

The electronica scene is quite diverse in South Africa at the moment from Mr Sakitumi to Yesterday’s Pupil, Dirty Parrafin and PH Fat. Is this just the way music is going or do you see it as coming out of that early 00’s influence and success of yours and other projects, like Lark or Real Estate?

We did break new ground that’s for sure. Back then there was nothing like the Real-estate agents. As far as how things have changed I really can’t pretend to know.

A lot of these younger acts like PH Fat, Spoek, Double Adaptor and Haezer are touring internationally a lot more than seemed possible before, it almost seems easy, did you tour to such an extent? Are we just hearing about this stuff more because the media landscape has changed?

Again I have no idea. I do know that Spoek and I toured so much that we had to pretty much move to EU. And that SA media only really showed us love after they read about us in European magazines. I don’t know if that answers your question. I also think that Griet’s doing an amazing job in breaking their artists internationally.

How readily is electronica accepted by South African audiences outside of the club scene?

There is a very small audience for the kind of stuff I want to be doing. But I’ll never underestimate this city. I want to break some new ground in the future and I hope that I’ll have a local audience to share it with.

Is it easier to pay the bills now than when you were younger? Does it get better if you stick to your ideals?

Yeah sure, i love growing older everything just seems to get easier. And yeah I think it’s important to stick with what you love rather than to get influenced by whatever happening around you.

Who were you’re major influences starting out?


What made you choose this path?

Many little paths led me here.

Do you keep in touch with the club scene? How important, as an electronic artist, is it to be at Fiction every Tuesday?

Eish, I hope not very. As I said I’m slowly moving away from that world into new unexplored terrain.

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