It’s sunset in the multiverse’s replica of the South West Australian bush, the last rays of the smoke-hazed sun striking out through the white gums. Catching the light, a concrete wall stands resolute, the last solid structure amongst the ruins of the building. Scattered amongst the rubble, broadcasting equipment, monitors, lights, and cameras glint in the growing shadows. A small bonfire illuminates a television news readers table and a staunch group of figures, zipped head to toe in reflective white hazmat gear and speed dealer sunnies.
I come here, as I often have, to this digital reality to talk to the personified energy of all the Myriad Suns. The devil who was once an angel in the eyes of god. SayBaybae. But it looks like the devil changed address. A Hazman enters a new IP into my VR set, and I arrive at my destination.
Nelson: Hey SaBaybae, what's going on? Thanks for welcoming me into your home.
SaBaybae: Pleasure, pleasure. Welcome to the altar of the ego. It’s temporary. I like to change things up every so often to keep things interesting. What have you been up to since our last show?
Nelson: I’ve been working hard on music - the debut SUPEREGO album, ECSFXNTASY singles, painting…
SaBaybae: Busy, Busy! I saw you pop online to do some VR art the other day, but you didn’t come to say hey? Why the cold shoulder?
Nelson: Oh, sorry man, I only had a little spare time to jump on the VR and try some new ideas on Kingspray. I mainly use it to create aerosol simulations, paint ideas, and make random 3d objects, not socializing much. I need to come and visit you more often, though.
SaBaybae: Well, you bring me some fashions next time and we’ll say all is forgiven.
Nelson: Ok. What are you feeling?
SaBaybae: Moon Boots. Oh, wait… I think I have some. What’s your favorite color?
Nelson: Um… red?
SaBaybae: *Clicks fingers* So I hear you’re raising the next generation of vandals under the guise of ‘teaching kids how to paint’.
Nelson: Yeah, come visit me at the YMCA. These are pretty much the only legal walls you can paint in Boorloo. I run a youth art gallery there.
SaBaybae: What a sweet thing you are. Pretending to help the children while you use all the materials to progress your art career *wink*. If you ever need a model for some live painting, you know where to find me.
Nelson: Haha! Caught out! Interesting proposition. I’ve never painted anyone red before. How does that melanin make you feel?
SaBaybae: I love it! I love my skin, the way it glows, the look on people’s faces when they see it for the first time! Weird stares, looks of repulsion, the evils. I don’t mind, though. They just obviously haven’t made friends with their own inner devils. I revel in the shock, and I think it’s important to highlight that skin color is controversial. Digitally we can already change skin color like a cuttlefish. Going from avatar blue to moulin rouge to peacock hues. I wonder how the world will navigate such physical augmentations in real life.
Nelson: That would be wild to see and experience. So, what do you feel like when you get on stage?
SaBaybae: A stage is a wondrous place. I feel free and volatile, indulgently languishing in movement and sound, the myriad of sun's energy. I spin my web like a spider and then wait for the impetus to fly to me. I like not having to play by a script. Yes, there are lyrics and phrases stored in memory, but I’m free to freestyle whatever the moment evokes. It’s an interesting place and space to create from. There’s stage energy written into it. When I take you over, we access something you normally wouldn't be able to. How do you feel before I take you over? Naked and feeble, I'd imagine.
"When I take you over, we access something you normally wouldn't be able to."
Nelson: Before a show, I’m a chiller. I’m not one to channel high energy 24/7. I like conserving it for when it’s needed. Immediately before we play, though, I feel tense and excited - sometimes stressed, making sure the space is set for you to have all the freedom. When I feel your skin coming on, the possession or metamorphosis into you is like leaving all my normal life, thoughts, and emotions with my clothes in a heap. Then a sense of glee and mischievousness creeps in, and I’m open to whatever happens in the moment.
SaBaybae: Mmm, possessing you is delicious. I’m always trying to give the exorcist a run for their money with my writhing. What about your other bands? Do you invite other alter egos in?
Nelson: There’s an altered ego - a consistency in high energy. I feel the energy you put out you will receive. Once on stage, it is up to performers to create an experience where almost anything is possible. Having an Alter Ego pushes me out of a self-conscious experience into a more free-flow state. On stage, I imagine it as energy sorcery, wielding it around, throwing it back and forth, trying to build it up to a crescendo to create collective catharsis, challenging ideas, or new experiences.
SaBaybae: Yes, we love the wank of it all. Do you feel my devil energy at other times of your life, outside of the stage?
Nelson: Sometimes I feel myself channeling you off stage, yeah, I can feel you living in me sometimes when I’m not in red.
SaBaybae: That’s freaky, man.
Nelson: Maybe. Or maybe it's just balanced, the darkness and the light. Having you around is super exciting. You’ve got all the reckless abandon and style for us both. When you opened for Pond in a white tennis skirt and mesh t. I gotta say your red legs looked pretty good in that thing.
SaBaybae: Suits have been my thing as of late. I like wearing suits because they’re rigid in a slick way, so traditionally formal and symbolic of wealth, status, professionalism. They feel restrictive, but I like fighting through them as I perform. They’re trying to hold me together, hold me back, and I'll let them for a while until the red sweat of my skin eats through the pristine white. Moving and grooving wildly on stage, the buttons start to rip off, the tie loosens, the struggle to break free of the cocoon of suffocating fabric, ripping off the layers down to the raw flesh!
Do you wear skirts?
"I like wearing suits because they’re rigid in a slick way, so traditionally formal and symbolic of wealth, status, professionalism. They feel restrictive, but I like fighting through them as I perform."
Nelson: Not often. I mostly wear Puffer jackets, ski pants, and tracksuits. Functional stuff.
SaBaybae: How would you dress if you had no restrictions?
Nelson: If I had no time or money restrictions, I would wear some full tech outfits, like Neon Genesis Evangelion-type suits or Latex chameleon skin with flexible and adaptive nanofibers that can make different shapes like spines, protruding or undulating structures.
SaBaybae: Oh my dear, you’ve been living in the wrong reality! Next time I’ll lend you a suit. This one is made from the earth’s crust and lava. Do you want to try it?
Nelson: Won’t that burn?
SaBaybae: All in the name of fashion baybae.
Nelson Mondlane has many personas. The Australian-Mozambican MC performs under the moniker POW!NEGRO shifting seamlessly between genres for bands SUPEREGO, Myriad Sun, ECSFXNTASY, People Taking Pictures, and a rotation of features. From his altar of egos comes an on-stage performance with experimental audio, visual, and rap group Myriad Sun that will have you transfixed. Nelson graces the stage is The Devil himself, skin blood red head to toe, with a blonde bob and chrome horns, proceeding to deliver one of the most enigmatic, energetic, and euphoric performances out of Perth in a hot minute.
Words: Nelson Mondlane
Photographer: Sally Paton
Final Image: Brandon Ward