Mahs (@hakoagogo) ‘s characters have a vibe that can’t be denied. Looking at his illustrations, you can hear the beat in your head and imagine yourself walking to the rhythm through the city. At a glance, you end up in that old-school universe where Mahs wants to take you. That happened to me the first time I saw one of his pieces: the T-shirt he designed for the Tiempo party.
When I visited Fukuoka, I spent my last night at this party’s first anniversary, held at the Kieth Flack Club. At Tiempo, a new generation of students makes the iconic club their own to DJ and dance among friends to techno, house, or whatever genre each of them decides to share. Although it was my first time at that party, in that club, and even in that city, I bought the T-shirt as soon as I saw it — its design caught me. I decided to find out who made it and write this interview.
Chorareii: First, introduce yourself!
Mahs: Hello, my name is Mahs, please read it as ‘mouse.’ I was born in 1998 in Osaka and now live in Fukuoka. I like club culture and street culture and draw from the inspiration I get from them.
Your art is reminiscent of 90’s old-school hip-hop, urban culture, and graffiti of that time. Is that the kind of street culture that inspires you the most?
Since I was little, I loved manga like Dragon Ball and One Piece, and I used to draw a lot of characters. I think hip-hop graphics have a similar touch to those manga-like drawings. That mix of two cultures that I like is what hooked me, so I naturally started drawing this kind of picture.
I also simply like the clothes of old-school rappers and dancers. It’s dowdy and straightforward. When I watch old footage from that time, it makes me want to draw!
You often draw DJs and dancers. Are you a DJ or a dancer yourself? How does music influence your illustrations?
I hang out in clubs sometimes, and I also DJ. I tend to play music more at home or outside with friends than in clubs. I really like to dance to four-on-the-floor music. I used to like hip-hop, but I often listen to house and techno.
As for dancing, I was never taught to dance, I just do it on my own. When I draw dancing characters, I often draw them by remembering the movements I do, so they may be similar.
Rather than just listening to music, I dance with my friends or watch rappers live. Watching people dancing to the music and dancing myself has had a big influence on me. I like to draw the silhouette of the whole human body, so those things are very helpful.
Your characters sometimes appear in the city. You are from Osaka and you live in Fukuoka, can you imagine your characters living in those cities, would their styles, tastes, or personality fit in?
Yes! It’s like I’m projecting myself onto the characters when I’m hanging out in those cities, Osaka and Fukuoka. I think the stimulation from hanging out in the city is important in generating ideas.
The characters are smoking, walking, dancing, skateboarding… Their attitude suggests that they are enjoying themselves in a carefree way. Do the characters resemble you?
They look like me! LoL The characters in my illustrations are often inspired by myself and my friends. There are a lot of people around me, including myself, who take the stance of enjoying themselves in a carefree way! Thanks to them, I have fun every day.
Your drawings often appear on flyers for music events at the Kieth Flack Club in Fukuoka. What does this club represent for you?
Kieth Flack is a club I have been going to since I first came to Fukuoka, and I feel like it is my home among the clubs in the city. The sound and the people who gather there are really great! We’re hoping to keep doing that!
You have designed merchandising for the Tiempo party, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. What is this party like and what is your connection to it?
The organizer of Tiempo is my university classmate, we have been good friends ever since we first came to Fukuoka. I know the other Tiempo members well, and that’s why I have a strong attachment to the party. The DJs are outstanding, and it’s a fun party that I love! It’s mainly house and techno, and I always have a blast dancing in the front.
Do you think old-school hip-hop culture is still alive in Japan today?
Old-school hip-hop is often associated with the clothes and the music of the time, but I think it’s more of a vibe of when the culture was first born. Playing music on the streets, dancing with friends, rapping, doing graffiti, and hanging out in your own way, without money. There are many people around me with that kind of stance, and in that sense, I think it’s alive and well in Japan today.
Where would you like your drawings to appear in the future?
I have only exhibited my paintings once before, and now I am not so much interested in where, but rather I would like to have many people see my paintings.
When I did a solo exhibition before, a lot of people I knew came, but I would like to do an exhibition where people who are not my acquaintances, people from a different culture from my own, can come to see my work!
Follow Mahs (@hakoagogo) on Instagram and Twitter.
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