We visit Montle and Natalie at their home high up in the hills
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon
“I used to be homeless,” says Montle Moorosi, and it’s easy to tell when he’s lying because it’s whenever his lips are moving. “I never thought that God would grant me all this pasture. An acre!”
It’s actually only half an acre, but like all the best lies, Montle’s monologue holds a soupcon of truth. Ever the voice of reason, Montle’s much, much better half Natalie Perel interrupts, saying:
“Aren’t we supposed to talk about curating our space? How we spent all this time at Milnerton Market buying up dead peoples stuff?”
M: “This feng shui was inspired by Chow Yun-fat.”
N: “Actually my dead grandmother.”
M: “Chow Yun-fat’s early movie, The Killer. I recommend you see it – tale of revenge. The feng shui was inspired by that. Is feng shui Chinese or Japanese?”
N: “I don’t know; it’s good for cats.”
Their cats aren’t here today, which is a pity because The Way of Us likes to feature pets in our My Den stories whenever possible. I don’t even bother asking where the cats are because Montle will probably say that he ate them. Getting any sort of sense from the guy is impossible as he lives by his own code with scant respect for most things, least of all my interview process. That said, he does make for a very entertaining interviewee nonetheless, and at least there’s always Natalie to get the real story from.
The couple starts the tour of their home by walking us around to the back of the house and up a garden path where the driving range net is. The garden is overgrown and being so high up on the mountain means that there’s not only the risk of annual fires that happen at least every other year, but also venomous snakes and spiders that can jump to cock-level.
“We don’t get scared here,” says Montle, puffing out his pigeon chest. “Why? There’s a snake guy we phone and when Natalie has night terrors about the Khoi San I light some buchu to cleanse the place.”
Montle swings at the golf ball in front of him, and the gold Jesus piece and the gold Versace Medusa head swing from a pair of gold chains that hang low around his neck.
Did you make this?
M: “Yeah, yeah, sure, I made it.” And then pointing at a dog bowl full of water. “This is also where I eat.”
N: “My father made it. Montle helped tie up the netting.”
M: “I can’t play golf as much as I’d like to anymore. I got carpal tunnel from my mouse. This remix thing isn’t helping at all. I need cortisone shots.”
We move to a wrought iron table in the front yard that looks out across Hout Bay. There are views of The Sentinel on the right and if you look left you can see past Chapman’s Peak and all the way to the Kommetjie lighthouse.
It’s rude to ask, but Montle doesn't deserve any pleasantries and so I do it anyway. How do 20-somethings afford to live like this?
“It was a hookup,” says Montle. “A friend of a friend of a friend’s friend.”
Their non-answer is an answer, and one doesn’t have to dig too deep to figure out that this is one of Natalie’s parent’s homes, which is still filled with the trophies her father won when he raced Formula 4 in London in the 70s.
“No, that trophy is mine,” Montle lies, again. “You’ll see a lot of racing trophies around here. I used to race back in the day. These are all mine. And I just came back from Italy racing in Monza. I don’t know if I told you that?”
That was actually Natalie’s brother, who has been racing since he was 13-years old, and most recently raced for the Lamborghini team in Italy. Amongst all the racing trophies there’s a desk in the dining room where Natalie works while Montle has turned the second bedroom into his studio. Even though they’re not going to work every day in the traditional, nine-to-five, clock in and clock out sense of the word, they’re not laying about either.
“I want to figure out how to code a video,” says Natalie when I ask her what she does at her workstation every day. “No film. Animate the whole thing using code. People already do that net art type shit. I went to AFDA to do cinematography. Actually did my honours there. Studying is tight. A lot more chilled than having to work.”
Montle’s studio is the first studio he's worked from that isn’t also his bedroom, and he proudly shows off things like his synthesizer and, er, “a keyboard for when I do gospel by the train station. That’s my treadmill. I’m working out every day. All day. Getting ready for the, what’s that… ? The Two Oceans!”
There’s dust and a spider web on the treadmill. Natalie says that Montle is actually busy with a 365 project where every Friday he releases a new remix.
N: “He does so much work anyway he might as well put it out there. The internet should be free.”
M: “I’m the hardest working man in the game. I can’t stop. Don’t know what else I’d do? The say a man is defined by his work. The work will set you free.”
N: “Cape Town has a general sense of mediocrity.”
M: “You could put a turd in a hat and give it a keyboard and Cape Town would consider it high art.”
Okay, fair enough, it’s easy to call bullshit on everything and to be anti-everything. So what’s cool?
“What’s cool?” laughs Montle, mocking my question by saying it in what I’m guessing is supposed to sound like my voice. “There’s this guy Big Hate. He’s pretty awesome. Bhughati. Nah, I like anything that’s not Gqom. Everybody used to hate house not too long ago. ‘It’s gay bruh’. Now I get 21-year old promoters asking me, ‘Montle do you play techno?’ F**k you, I’ve been playing techno all my life. I hate that we live in such a gimmick-driven market. I hate how everyone will say how great you are but are scared to book you. Actually I don’t hate shit. That’s a big word to use. I’m disappointed. People are scared of stuff that they don’t understand. But then they don’t even try to understand you. People look at me like I’m a savage from the mountains. I just don’t like being average. So if I’m going to be a bad guy then I’m going to be the best bad guy you’ve ever seen. That’s why I work hard. But I need to eat. So I also need to do some brown-nosing. I don’t know anyone whose stomach is full without having a bit of shit on their face.”
After that rant we move over to the couple’s bedroom, where Natalie talks me through some of the art that includes work by herself, her mother, her grandmother and her famous uncle whose name I forget. There’s also a lot of Montle’s unsold artwork hanging all over the house, from when he contracted TB and spent his time convalescing by drawing everyone from Fani Segerman to Roger Young and then trying to sell these unflattering portraits to the subjects of his derision.
“I wasn’t making music at the time and just needed something to do because the medication I was on was hitting me strong. I’d always been drawing, but when I got TB I had a lot of time that I spent practicing. Art is just as hard as music, but I get more enjoyment from music because I’m better at it. Only for that reason."
There’s a photograph of Montle above the bed that he says he’s hung there to protect Natalie from her night terrors because apparently their house was built on a Khoi San burial ground.
“The photo’s by a Zimbabwean artist from Joburg,” says Montle who has also sat for artists as esteemed as Pieter Hugo. “He’s a dick because he made a lot of money off of that, exhibiting my face around London, but I did not get a penny. I did it not knowing he was going to blow up and make all the monies.”
There’s a pile of Steinbeck next to Montle’s side of the bed and what could easily be a third bedroom, but is actually a walk in closet, on Natalie's side of the bed. Montle walks us through this space listing a bunch of his favourite foods, because Montle.
“Lobster, crab, wild boar, pheasant, pigeon, salat, all kinds of salat… I slum it down sometimes, get some Nandos. Common common food. KFC. She loves KFC like a little…” Montle looks over his shoulder and whispers: “African.”
I’m pretty exhausted by now, and I ask Natalie how she manages to keep up.
“I suppose the biggest problem is that I don’t know when Montle is being sincere. Like, when we moved here he kept asking me if I wanted to go walk in the mountain with him and I was kind of laughing it off because I didn’t want him to turn around and say ‘Hahah you idiot!’ because he’s always mocking those people who post pics of themselves on top of Lions Head. Turns out he really did want to go and, well, we live here and still haven’t walked in the mountain.”
“I’m from Lesotho,” says Montle. “But I went to school in Bloemfontein. Otherwise I’d have to go to school in a mud hut. Okay, not a mud hut, think of a house in Wynberg in 1962. No, Plumstead in 1954. Like somewhere a poor white guy, like you, would live.”