The international deco team MAE & MOA started decorating psytrance parties as early as 1991. They have been one of the first to introduce UV decoration to psytrance parties and festivals all over Europe, creating uniquely themed atmospheres and psychedelic worlds via big scale UV paintings as well as sculptures.
MAE & MOA have been decorating some of the biggest and most famous festivals all over the globe. For the last 10 years, they have been working together with the Vienna based Phoenix Firedancers, broadening their scope to show and stage design and perfecting their technical knowledge and experience with various materials, lighting and 3D landscaping.
While MAE & MOA are most famous for their massive and long UV backdrops, they have progressed now to creating and combining their paintings with big lycra and LED installations, turning their imaginative landscapes into a multidimensional experience.
MAE & MOA interview
Hey Mae & Moa, first let me introduce you to my readers; who are you, what are you doing and what qualifies you to do it (vocational training, skills, work experience etc.)?
Mae&Moa is Jerome from France and Mel from Germany.
Jerome has a classical art education while Mel is originaly a costume designer. Mae&Moa worked for TV productions, cinema and theatre productions while becoming more and more involved with the psytrance scene. Around 1991, the team started decorating parties and festivals, introducing UV decoration to psytrance parties and festivals all over Europe. The idea behind it was to create uniquely themed atmospheres for each party and create psychedelic worlds via big scale UV paintings lycra installations, stage scenery as well as sculptures.
Where did you two meet each other the first time and who convinced who to build the team Mae & Moa?
We met in Cologne/Germany in 2002 – naturally, at a party!
While the team Mae&Moa was originally formed in 1995 by Jerome and Flo, Flo at one point left the team and Jerome continued by himself until Mel came into the project in 2002.
How did you get the ideas for the first UV decoration of a psytrance party?
After travelling to Goa and Thailand in 1994/95, Jerome moved to Munich to work with Natraj Temple. Here, he met Ran More (Hovek Olam) and Maxi (fluorelysium) who were the first decorators working with fluo colours. Together, we decorated the club and produced massive UV paintings. Collaborating with each other and inspiring each other, we each developed and refined our own styles.
Why did you choose psytrance parties for your work, not another kind of event or another scene? And what has kept you here for more than 25 years?
We have always been fascinated with the music and atmosphere in this scene!
The people at psytrance parties are special and the atmosphere is completely different from, say, a rock or hip hop crowd – more relaxed, friendlier and more fun – and we wanted to contribute to this colourful culture with our art.
Describe your art in 2 sentences
Our method is the design and transformation of the perception of space.
Our goal is to create a sense of harmony by way of total immersion in our art.
You started and also became famous with big UV-Backdrops. What materials did you use and what materials and techniques are you using today? Tell us a little bit about the Mae & Moa evolution.
The first backdrops we did were painted on bed-sheets with spray cans.
Refining our techniques, we started using brushes and airbrush, working with fluo acryl paint on huge canvasses to realize massive décor series’ up to 80 meter long.
Today, we are still using airbrush and stencils to paint on lycra to create our canopies as well as digital Art by printing on fabrics. A big difference is that while in the beginning, we mainly used “classical” art techniques like painting and sculpting, in our current installations we use lighting with LEDs and mapping as an integral part of our artwork.
Do you have some impressions of your first decorations to compare it with the massive arrangements of today?
Of course our art is growing bigger with every year. The installations have become a lot more intricate and thus more complicated to set up. Also, the use of lots of different materials, technologies and techniques, especially introducing lighting effects into the décor set-up, has given us new possibilities of realizing our visions.
How did you finance the way from 1991 until today?
Well, to live from our art has not always been easy. It’s a way of life and you never know what tomorrow will bring. At the beginning, we had no internet to promote ourselves. We had to make contacts by travelling a lot, so we moved all around Europe from party to party. Today, things are a lot easier in this respect. The social media helps to stay in touch with the whole world. And of course, the scene has grown quite a bit and there are a lot more festivals and parties to decorate.
Have you created and implemented all sculptures, backdrops and paintings by yourself from the very beginning? If yes, where do you take this creativity and inspiration from?
Yes, it was always just us.
There are so many ways to draw inspiration from! Travelling for sure is one of them. Also, there are a lot of great sci-fi movies and comics which can serve as inspiration. For us, it’s all about taking inspiration from whatever you find and wherever you find it, digesting it and then creating your very own visions.
Is there somebody like an Mae & Moa mentor or teacher who helped you with your first artworks and deco arrangements?
Not really, when we started, there was nothing there yet that could have served as guidance. We were only a very small group of people doing this kind of decorations in the world. Of course, we learned from and inspired each other, and everything was up to us to create.
Tell us something about the way of your impressive arrangements from the first underground psytrance partys to he biggest psytrance festivals in the world. How did you become one of the most popular decoration teams?
It was a long process of work. It was not always easy to survive in the past but we did. We just never gave up trying out new things, and learning by doing is the key.
Over the years, we have invested a lot of time and money to create all our decorations. What kept us going in all this time is the simple fact that we love our job!
Are there different preferences of decoration styles between countries and cultures?
Not really. The scene is open for all sorts of styles, just look at all the different kinds of decorations that have been explored and installed all over the world. This openness and curiosity is one of the wonderful things about the psytrance scene.
Since 10 years you have a cooperation with the „Phoenix Firedancers“ from Vienna. What’s the story behind it? How did you meet each other?
We meet Marc, the founder of Phoenix Firedancers, in 1995 at the Natraj Tempel and became very good friends. In 2004, Phoenix decided to realize a huge 90 min. show in Vienna. That’s when we joined and produced the décor. After a huge success, we decided to stay in Austria and continued working with Phoenix, creating some of the most amazing shows with them.
It’s been 10 unbelievable beautiful years of fun and experience.
Describe your typical working day?
It starts with coffee! ☺ Then answering some emails, planning the day.
We go into our studio to paint, but some days we have to spend only cutting lycra, other days to sewing it all in the shapes we need.
Of course, when we design a new set up, there are days when we are only work on our computers, creating the blueprints for our installations.
Of course you have to practise a lot with new materials, ideas and techniques. Is there something like a big Mae & Moa warehouse of failed experiments where you can remember how everything became what it is today?
Yes, we do experiment with lots of different materials. Of course there are failed experiments, too, but those never even make it out of our studio! It happens that we paint something, trying out a new idea or a certain colour and it just doesn’t fit or look good. So we just start over until we are satisfied.
What appeals you to create new landscapes year after year?
We always have new ideas that we want to realize. Every set we create gives us new ideas for the one to come. And it is of course very exiting to create something new!
Have you ever created something that did not effect the floor and audience like you wanted it to? So tell me one or two of your biggest failures.
Tshitraka in 2004 for example. We had been working for days to build a construction to hang our backdrops all around the dance-floor. Then just some hours before the opening, a massive storm hit the festival. Everything we built was on the floor. Guests from the festival helped us get it all back up, and then the wind changed and came from the other side. We made it on time, barely, with lots of helping hands. So in the end, what could have been a big failure actually turned out to be a great experience, because of all those people who stood by us ad helped us.
The Zoom in 2005 was a very hard experience. The whole team got sick with food-poisoning because of the catering. Nobody could do their jobs and put up the décor as they should. The weather condition made it all worse, we had mud up to the knees and non-stop rain. That was definitely one of the worst jobs ever!
I often hear that the Psytrance scene changed a lot (like every scene). In Germany it’s always a big discussion about it. Is it the same in the rest oft the world?
It is true, the scene is changing a lot. And not only in Germany, of course.
We don’t see it as a bad thing, though, it’s just different. There are all kinds of people interested in trance and psychedelic music now, it is no longer an underground scene. Some people miss this sense of belonging to a subculture, but we don’t see the sense in wishing for the past to return. The psytrance scene is a living thing, so it has to change and evolve! Also, it is still very different to any other scene, even if a part of it feels almost like pop-culture. There are still those places and festivals where you can find the sort of hippy spirit in which it all started. And especially this scene is (or should be) open enough to give room for everybody who wants to be part of it, to help understanding and unifying people instead of breaking them up in sub-scenes.
How do you think the psytrance scene changed since 1991? And what are the good and bad things about it (in your opinion)?
In the past, people where really happy with the music, the decoration, just the feeling of the community and most important: being a part of it. They felt they were part of a movement, a community.
Today, many people seem to expect perfect entertainment without feeling that they, too, play a part in making the party what it is. On social media like facebook, there is a lot of complaining going on when these people’s expectations are not fulfilled, and it seems many don’t have a clue of how much hard work, love and passion people pour into this.
Is there something you want to give our readers on the way through the next years of psytrance?
Respect and tolerate each other.