Maxxx Von Wilmann never created a separation between his musical experience and the creation of his visual art, one naturally lead into the other. Picking up a camera at the ripe young age of 13, Maxxx soon became engulfed in the allure of processing his own film and the timeless nature of the darkroom. He was drawn to “the smell of the chemicals and the alluring glow of the red safelights.” Growing up on the west coast, he split his time between San Francisco and the Berkeley area at a time when punk and hardcore were serious scenes to be a part of. It wasn’t long before he realized that the camera in his hand doubled as a free ticket into any show he wanted to see. Selling his image making skills in exchange for entry into shows via connections with bands and local zines, Maxxx remembers wild nights peeking through the shutter at bands like Jawbreaker, Neurosis, and Fugazi. He found a good deal of success early on, publishing images in magazines like Flipside and Maximum Rock and Roll. By 16, he had made the music he loved a part of his own life as well, recording his own demo tape with a band he put together from the ground up. He sold copies at shows that were covered in custom jackets he had made on the Xerox at his mom’s office.
To this day his art and his music remain inextricably intertwined. We got in touch with Maxxx as he was on tour with his band Deep Space for the summer. Based out of Austin Texas, the psych rock group describes themselves as being, “created in the wee hours of acid trips and séances within the desert lands of Austin TX.” Give their work a listen and you will certainly see why. Grimy, dirty guitar licks and solid drumming are immersed in a darkly soupy sonic mash of bass and extra terrestrial synth. It all seems to perfectly envelop the lyrics, which are echoing out to us from the far side of an unfathomable void. Deep Space is a perfectly literal band name, which seems refreshingly honest in this day and age. Maxxx is listed as contributing guitar and sonic alchemy.
Not that the camera had been forgotten, he still carries it with him on tour, but these days Maxxx is pretty excited about his paintings. The musical references throughout his work always seem to be at the forefront, either gleaning ideas from exciting song lyrics or actually utilizing the inherent history and beauty of out-moded forms of musical devices such as tapes and records as supports for his painting. He states, “For me, analog media, like cassette tapes and 8 tracks, have an aesthetic beauty that an mp3 doesn’t possess and never will.
We caught up with Maxxx for a few quick questions in between shows while he was recently on the road with Deep Space. Here’s a section we found particularly enlightening in relation to his work:
NY Arts: Which artistic venture do you consider your main creative outlet, music or visual art?
Maxxx Von Wilmann: I see it as a kind of bricolage, I make music and my conceptual art practice in tandem. As for this moment I’m on tour with Deep Space writing this from Salt Lake City, so today, music, but I draw and take photos along the way.
NYA: Do you connect with any other musicians who make visual art as well? If so, who are your favorites?
MVW: Christian Marclay, I like his cyanotype cassette tapes and the collaged records … man I wish I had thought of that! Michael Borremans is a great blues guitarist, and in my mind is doing the best work out there in paintings or video. I saw a show of Alex Brown’s at Feature Inc. last November, he was the guitar player of Gorilla Biscuits. Raymond Pettibon as well, but I don’t know how much he plays music any more. Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO…the list goes on.
NYA: If you could create the album art for any musical group other than your own, who would it be for and why?
MVW: This is an impossible question. There are so many bands in history and present that I would love to be involved with. Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine; the sounds they create are like soundscapes, really atmospheric and painterly. Also, Neil Young or Van Halen.
That last part about sums it all up. Even the music Maxxx finds himself drawn to represents itself visually. Music and visual art have always been the same for Maxxx and his talent has flowed seamlessly between the two. We hope that never changes.