"I think me and Wisk opened up a can of worms with this book
because a lot of these guys were real emotional, some of them were
really hateful towards us because they didn't wanna relive the past.
Some of them were very grateful, and some of them were teary eyed.
We are talking about guys that probably stopped writing in the late
80's so we are revisiting some childhood memories for them. Bringing
out old pictures, reminiscing and it's touching. It's like going
back to something you really loved and it just sparks that light in
you and yeah, it really brought back the energy and they really,
really appreciate us doing this project because its something they
have always loved and they walked away from it for whatever reason
but now a lot of them have actually gone back to it."
- Let's break down what you guys have put together with
"The History of Los Angeles Graffiti" book?
This book came around as far as the idea back in 2005 with me
and my partner Wisk. Wisk is like a graffiti legend in the L.A.
scene. Me and him were discussing in 2005 different ideas as far
as putting a book together. Myself, I was thinking "well I
would like to put a book together based on the history of the
Belmont Tunnel." Belmont Tunnel is a legendary yard,
actually L.A.'s first yard where everybody who had ever painted
actually had gone there first as far as L.A. graffiti writers.
Wisk's' idea was like "let's just do the whole
history" and that made a lot more sense. Now initially when
we decided to put this book together, we thought "well we
have a bunch of obstacles." First of all tracking down the
writers and actually thinking about how we are gonna go ahead
and compile this book together. Is it gonna be one book or is it
gonna be a series of books? We decided to put the book together
based off of eras. Graffiti started in Los Angeles in 1983
because really that's the only times you can really prove it
based on the pictures. A lot of people talk about how they
started in '81 or '82 but there are really not a lot of pictures
to prove that. Myself, I started back in '84 and '85 and Wisk
started in '85 so we remember everything. We decided the first
book was gonna be 1983 to 1988. The reason why we did that was
because we didn't wanna short change Los Angeles and give them
one book called "The History of Los Angeles Graffiti
Art" based off of 1983 and present. That's just not
possible and we see that too many times with other books. I mean
there is so many great books out there, so many big graffiti
books so we decided we need to do something different really
because you only have one shot to do it.
- How hard was it to track down pictures from '83 to '88 because
that seems like a tough task right there?
Relax - I
mean me and Wisk had a bunch of pictures, but by far we didn't
have all those pictures. We were fortunate enough to have the
cooperation of most of the writers that we interviewed. The
thing that you have to remember is that the writers from '83 to
'88, all of them are at least in their early 30's to 40's and
another thing about the first era is we weren't thinking about
taking pictures. We were just doing it. Because everything was
illegal, there was no such thing as legal. So you weren't really
carrying a camera with you to take pictures. Fortunately a lot
of the writers did have their pictures. Luckily we were blessed
enough to get these pictures from them. The really hard part
about them was that a lot of them were in really bad condition
so we spent a lot of time taking it into Photoshop but also
keeping the original color content alive. We didn't want to
alter the color or make it look brand new. We wanted to fix it
up so it could be at least a little presentable. But yeah that
was definitely a big challenge. There was some stuff that was
real questionable also as far as was it really at this year,
what's the name of that writer? So based on what we knew from
our knowledge and information provided by the writers, we did
the best we possibly could and if it wasn't for a lot of those
writers, we wouldn't even have half of those pictures.
- When you did get these pictures, stories, etc., what
percentage of them were still writing?
Okay, we have 57 interviews in the first book. Including me and
Wisk, maybe only about 5 writers were really actively writing.
Now since then, a lot of them have come back out of retirement
and are writing now, but initially no. And what I mean by
writing is not necessarily doing illegal stuff.
- When you did sit and speak to these guys, did you feel like a
lot of them missed those times and just writing in general?
Yeah it was crazy. I think me and Wisk opened up a can of worms
with this book because a lot of these guys were real emotional,
some of them were really hateful towards us because they didn't
wanna relive the past. Some of them were very grateful, and some
of them were teary eyed. We are talking about guys that probably
stopped writing in the late 80's so we are revisiting some
childhood memories for them. Bringing out old pictures,
reminiscing and it's touching. It's like going back to something
you really loved and it just sparks that light in you and yeah,
it really brought back the energy and they really, really
appreciate us doing this project because its something they have
always loved and they walked away from it for whatever reason
but now a lot of them have actually gone back to it.
- I know you guys knew you had a good project, but with a book
of this size and the cost to make it, did you guys have any
doubts or worries that maybe this might not work?
Sure. The way we did it was we compared it to some of the
graffiti books and some books of that page content, pictures and
that kind of binding and we found out that any book that size
was two times more expensive then our book. But then we had to
think "okay then it might be two times more expensive but
they are not graffiti books." A lot of people think
graffiti books are to a limited audience but that's when we said
we are not presenting it as a "Hip-Hop/B-Boy" graffiti
book. That's why we have a cover that's different and you can't
even tell its graffiti. We wanted it to be presentable and we
wanted it to reach out to different audiences, not just graffiti
artists but also to normal everyday people because it's a
history book. So we just knew that sure there is a chance it
would flop, but we just felt that by working hard and getting it
into the right peoples hands, that it would do decently and it
really has done pretty good.
- So when you finally released the book, how was the reaction
and were you guys happy with the results?
Initially yeah we were pretty happy when it first came out, I
mean for two guys that had a dream and actually went forward
with it. You know raising the money and getting the money, we
thought this is pretty damn good. Now I can tell you working on
the second volume that we have learned a lot from that. We
learned how to do things differently and we just learned a lot.
But we are really happy with its release definitely.
- And what was the reaction that you got from the writers you
talked to after they actually saw the book?
Like most graffiti books, your not gonna satisfy 100 percent of
the graffiti artists, but I could tell you we satisfied like 99
percent. Most of them were just astounded that we went through
that process. I think they were very shocked that we went
through with it and very honored and blown away by it. I mean
not only in Los Angeles, but people in New York. I spoke to old
school artists from New York who were very proud of us for what
we had done. We have supporters throughout all of Europe,
Australia and all over. I think they were just blown away
because there has never been a book series like this ever done.
Because number one, to put together a book like this you have to
have the trust and respect of the writers to know that your
actually gonna go through with that. To have the cooperation of
writers is everything. They are the ones who make or break this
book so you have to think about that. It's like a domino effect.
They tell their friends who tell their friends and you get the
support. So yeah, I mean we didn't make everybody happy because
a lot of them would say "oh this person wasn't in this
book" or "why wasn't this person in it?" and
there is a lot of reasons for that. One, they are either dead,
locked up, didn't want to be part of it or we couldn't get in
contact with them. But most of the people definitely like the
- How much of an impact do you think the book has had on the
scene since its release?
Well there has been a couple of L.A. books that have come out
since then, but that's cool. Anything to bring L.A. out I'm all
for it. I have seen resurgence in the whole scene. I can tell
you that for the longest time, a lot of peoples views on
graffiti in the United States was purely New York and that's
based off the early era of the 80's which rightfully they did
establish and major respect to them, but what a lot of people
don't know that when we started we kept on going and progressing
and we haven't died down, where New York the highlight of New
York was really the 80's and the subways and that whole era
which came to a halt due to the heavy political standpoint of
the Mayors and all that so New York really came to a halt in the
late 80's. Sure you have your bombing but it hasn't been the
same since that time. Where as we (L.A.) have been constantly
progressing and getting better and influencing to where now a
lot of people are looking at Los Angeles as the mecca of the
United States. This is where all the graffiti is going on, this
is where all the styles are being defined. We are influencing
other cities and other countries and I would like to think a lot
of it has to do with this book too.
- Financially for writers where do you see Graffiti going? How
much has changed since the early days as far as being able to
make a good living off of this art?
Relax - I
can tell you that it all depends on who you know. It's not
really based off of just graffiti. I don't think graffiti is a
fad. It's here like Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop was thought of and looked
at as a fad, but its here and it's not going anywhere. I think
it has to do with marketing. It really depends. Like you can be
really good and have like the dopest letters and characters, but
if your not marketable, if you don't know how to market yourself
and know the right people then your not gonna get any jobs. So I
really think it's about who you know. But I can tell you the
people that have done this are making a killing off of it. I
have a good buddy that is a well known graffiti artist and his
painting sold for 90,000 dollars each. I mean he is making bank.
So I think yeah it's really going good. I think that artists in
Los Angeles and all over the United States are doing pretty good
as far as the ones who are making a living off of it. But I can
tell you that the ones that do is really small. But the ones
that are doing it on the side, they are doing pretty good. I do
see it though getting a lot better as time goes by because it's
becoming more accepted in places where you wouldn't normally see
it. I mean you see it in the Midwest, you see it everywhere. I
mean even in Alaska your seeing it. It's becoming more common
- So how far back do you go in this Relax, do you still write
and what is the word so far on Volume 2?
Yeah I've been writing since '84. I was born and raised in
Hollywood, Los Angeles. I have seen it all writing back in '84
and I still write to this day. Of course I don't do anything
illegal because I'm obligated to focus on this. You know I keep
up, I travel and try to hook up with different writers and
collaborate. I'm offered jobs here and there. As far as the
second book, it's almost completed. It's gonna really, really
blow people away when they see it. I'm fortunate to have over 75
interviews in this one. We really fine tuned the book, changed
up some of the layouts. We have some big heavy hitter names and
I will throw one out there. I can tell you the second book will
have Chaka in there. He will be in this book, we have a video
interview on the DVD and he will be at the panel discussion for
a second book at the Moca Grand Avenue on November 17th, 2007.
So that's the first time I have released that out. We have a
couple of other guys we don't want to say yet but this second
book is so thorough and so complete and it really has a lot to
do with the first book. People believed that we could do it so
now they are coming out of the woodwork and making sure that
themselves and their crews are represented correctly. That's how
me and Wisk are, we represent all of L.A. It's not about me and
Wisk, we're just here to represent this whole city and let
everybody know that we have a rich history and that we been here
for a while and we will continue to make these books to let
people know about our history.
In Los Angeles @5pm Sharp "Straight Outta Queensbridge" Cormega Backed
On The Turntables By DJ FM Of Sick Symphonies Sounds Provided By: DJ Lord
Plus: Live Graffiti By EZRA & More
TBA, Cookout (Caribbean Food), A Sneak Preview Of Cormega's Upcoming DVD
"Who Am I" & More... When: Saturday September 22nd, 2007 Time: 4pm-8pm
33third L.A. 5111 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles 90013 Info: (310) 694-3460
Cost: $10 NO TICKETS SOLD
AFTER 4PM DAY OF EVENT!!!
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