Why I started the ‘Wu-Tang of hippy communities’ and will eventually go off-grid

Hacktivist vocalist Jot Maxi explains why he’s trying to live outside of the system, relying on the kindness and skills of strangers

Why I started the ‘Wu-Tang of hippy communities’ and will eventually go off-grid
Jot Maxi, speaking to Paul Travers
Fanta, Psymedia

I'm living in Toulouse now for many reasons. I lost my mother to suicide, I found myself in an abusive relationship, I was in a job I didn't really like and my neighbours took me to court for noise pollution. My whole life had crumbled around me.

I just thought, ‘When was the last time I was happy?’ And it was six years prior to that when I had no money and I was sitting on the street in Marseilles, and I just thought, ‘Go back.’

It is easier to live differently in France. It's a bigger bit of land so if you want to live out in the middle of nowhere, you can. I know lots of people who do, but you can also actually have a place and a part-time job and live without getting in debt. The whole world is tilting towards capitalism and we'll all fall down that plughole eventually, but for now France is a little further away from that hole and it's easier to live outside of that debt struggle.

It's not the band and the touring life that keeps me with a foot in society or on the grid. It's the fact that right now I like living in a city and it's not quite bad enough to make me run. In 10 or 15 years I'm definitely going to go off the grid. I have lived in squats and off the social security system twice in my adult life. Nobody says, 'I'm going to live with a community of hippies off the grid,' but it just becomes that. I can honestly say that the times in my life that were least stressful have been when I've been the poorest. It's almost like the more you have, the more your outgoings go up and the stress increases. You have to pull in the reins and say no.

Because I am in a city I don't trade for food and electricity and the bare necessities, but when I need to make a music video or record music I don't have to pay anything out because I have that network. I have the guy who makes the videos and I do his paperwork because he doesn't speak very good French. It's a musicians and artists' community and it’s called Outside The World. I was a little reluctant to put a name on it because it almost becomes a product but we sat down and discussed it. The best thing to compare it to is like Wu-Tang. It's an extended group of people who all have different talents and abilities, skills and interests that we share and exchange. It's been going on for such a long time and so many good things have come out of it, we thought we probably should give it a name and a logo without making it too similar to the capitalist enterprises we stand against.

There's also a rehabilitation programme I'm involved with, but that's very early days. I'm not proud to say that for 20 years of my life I don't think a day went by drug or alcohol-free. It's now five months that I've been 100 per cent sober. It was just time, and I met some people doing a 12-step programme and they have a worldwide community unlike any I've ever seen. It's all self-supporting and community-based and I have the role of liaison between our 12-step programme and the rest of France. If we could tap into that, the communication and community, not just for addicts but for everyone, that could be a huge thing.

When it comes to running from the cities… here they walk the street with machine guns and that's just accepted as normal now, since the Paris attacks when the Eagles Of Death Metal played. That was when people came to accept groups of soldiers armed to the teeth walking round like it was absolutely normal. When there was the lockdown you'd go in the street and they were the only guys out. I was thinking if there was one more step towards martial law I wouldn’t stay. Lots of people would not stay in cities if that was the case. And if it comes to that, joining and forming our own eco-villages based on trade and growing our own food and generating our own electricity, if there were people that joined us with alcohol and drug problems, that would have to stop. When you're trying to fuel basic lifelines – food, electricity, water – there can't be people feeding these addictions and not trying to stop. I've seen it in squats when somebody is draining the resources more than they're chipping in. You have to nicely ask them to leave because if they don't want to help themselves they can't help anybody else.

The future looks bleak but there are changes we can all make. When people achieve a successful self-sufficient community it's automatically anonymous, otherwise it would defeat the purpose. But there are sites like Better Humans, HighExistence, Money Tamer and even lifehack.org, which gives you a load of tips about how to live more economically and self-sufficiently. I know it sounds hippy-dippy, but if we all thought about how we lived, what a difference it would make. It's about how we travel and how we consume. It can be about a purchase but also where you live, what you eat. You can think, 'Is this the best choice for me and others or is it just the way I've always done it?'

I'll end with a story of a man walking along a beach, picking up starfish that had washed up on the shore and throwing them back in before they died. There are hundreds, and another man comes and says, 'There's too many, you'll never save them all. What difference does it make?' He picks another one up and throws it in and says, 'Well, it made a big difference to that one.' You can make a difference. Even if it’s a small one, all these things matter.

Hacktivist's new album Hyperdialect is out now.

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