On Thursday, November 19th, Boston-based sports lifestyle brand ’47 hosted ‘Secret Walls’, an underground, Fight Club-inspired live-art battle between graffiti artists at Fenway Park. Tucked inside a private garage at the corner of Yawkey Way and Arthur’s Way, two separate art crews participated in a 90-minute live art battle as local supporters cheered on. Boston artists Dan Woulfe and Percy Fortini-Wright of Studio Fresh took on NYC artists Greg Mishka and L’Amour Suprim of Monorex, with New York ultimately taking the crown at the end of the night.
Deck The Halls is a skate deck art show brought to you by Witch Dr. and Steez. We have 100 blank decks we’ll be selling in the coming month at both Steez HQ and Witch Dr. for $25. Get yours before they’re gone. Artists will have until Dec. 5th to do whatever they want with the deck and return them to Witch Dr. A huge art show will then take place at the new Witch Dr. Gallery on Dec. 10th with live music, free food and drinks. 80% of all sales will go directly back to the artists, with the other 20% going towards x-mas toys for unprivelged local kids to have an awesome x-mas. It’s a win-win for everyone and will be a ton of fun. Help spread the word!
Most decks will be displayed vertically. Decks can be shipped to anyone out-of-state, but will cost around $10 to do so. For more information please e-mail email@example.com
Polish artist Jakub ‘Mr. Werewolf’ Rozalski will have his worked displayed at The Good Life bar in Boston from now through the end of November. 22 different oversized canvases will be hung on the walls of the bar, each showing off the artist’s incredibly unique style. Make sure to stop by The Good Life on 28 Kingston Street in Boston before the end of next month, and check out this amazing art while it’s still up!
To purchase any of Mr. Werewolf’s prints or for more information, please visit http://www.houseofroulx.com/collections/mr-werewolf. All images courtesy of Mr. Werewolf, House of Roulx and The Good Life.
‘DISTURBING THE COMFORTABLE. COMFORTING THE DISTURBED.’
KR3W recently caught up with our Rights Refused artist at his home in San Diego to document a day in the life of the artist, Sketchy Tank. We are proud to present the SKETCHY TANK x KREW RIGHTS REFUSED collaboration for Holiday 2015, available in select retailers worldwide.
For more information on Sketchy Tank and his work please visit: sketchytank.com
Filmed and edited by Erik Derman: vimeo.com/nsyppl
Direction and Story by: Deke Angel and Sketchy Tank
Art Direction: Deke Angel
Music: Wagner, Das Rheingold – Vorspiel, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti
Posted by: Official Genius |
October 21, 2015 | Categorized under: Art, Videos
“Thank you skateboard, you led me down the path that brought me to snowboarding which introduced me to the camera, which opened up the planet for my eye to focus in and photograph amazing times, places and gatherings with family, friends and colleagues. I wouldn’t change a thing in the past; I will evolve and follow my heart into the future.” – Blotto
Blotto is an American photographer. For over 250 days each year, for the past 14 years, he has been documenting the snowboarding life. In doing so, he has become one of the most inexhaustible photographers the young sport has yet seen. For more information on Blotto you can visit his website.
“Zotem” is the latest piece from London-based designer Kim Thomé. It was unveiled this week at the London Design Festival and is a 18-meter-tall double-sided monolith embedded with more than 600 custom-made Swarovski crystals.
Featuring a colorful blend of light and movement, Zotem occupies a central space in London’s V&A Museum, rising vertically from the Grand Entrance up to the Contemporary Ceramics gallery on the sixth floor. Making use of the high atrium, Zotem creates a visual link between the two spaces, prompting visitors to explore the building’s interior architecture in a new way.
The title, Zotem is a word-blending of the sounds and meanings of ‘totem’ and ‘zoetrope’ – a 19th century animation device that pre-dates film and gives the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of isolated drawings that appear to move as they flick past the eye in quick succession. The looping mechanism of Zotem, which is visible through the open sides of the structure, also references the traditional animation device.
Zotem will be featured at the V&A Museum until October 31st.
INAUGURAL STREET ART FAIR TO MAKE WAVES IN THE L.A. ART SCENE THIS OCTOBER
Street Art Fair International presents ‘Street,’ the first-ever global street art fair commencing with its first edition in Los Angeles at Siren Studios Hollywood in October.
Street will host a series of events for Platinum and VIP Cardholders, including private performances, and exclusive parties. Street opens on Thursday October 1st with the private preview. The goal of Street to provide a venue for creators of quality fine art and fine craft to meet with the art-buying public.
The massive public exhibition will celebrate graffiti and street art’s global movement from October 1st through October 4th at 750 N. San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood CA 90069. Attracting leading collectors, curators, influencers and critics from across the globe; the three-day outdoor event will commence with a private preview for press, VIP, celebrities, curators and the artists on Thursday, October 1st. Following L.A.’s premiere ‘Street’ edition, the fair will travel internationally, popping up in major cities where the street art movement is alive.
For more information, contact Casey Napolitano at 818.404.5090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iain McKell has photographed subcultures across the world, telling the stories and sharing the faces of characters that depict individuality and uniqueness. McKell has followed and lived among the new age gypsies in England, taken bus trips from New York to LA with people from all over America, and captured the personalities of underground communities, such as skinheads and carnies. Iain explains how he found himself using the fine art of photography to shoot the spirits of the non-conformists of the world.
How did photographing the Seaside Resort launch you into what you have done and what you are doing?
Well I suppose the Seaside work was the point where photography came into my life, kind of. I was at art college doing graphics, and it was a very strong fine art college as well, at the time. I sort of went into art courses at 17 and it really impacted me. So the photography to me was a sort of realization that as I was doing this graphics course, you kind of dabbled in photography as part of the course, but I could see it as a way of kind of doing something very personal that was my fine art, really.
I could explore fine art through photography and the notion of my life, my world, my diary. I think I originally called it Private Reality. That’s what my original title was when I was 19, when I did it that summer. I was at that sort of point where my brain was just rewiring. And I think at 19 you kind of … I don’t know. You become adult, I think. I liked the way that photography had this sort of belief that people believe in a photograph. I was looking at American photographers, actually, like Diane Arbus and Bruce Davidson and that kind of just really opened up sort of a Pandora’s Box, really, about what photography was. I think looking at Diane Arbus’ work at that age, at 19, and just the impact of it on me, it was clear to me that she was an artist. It just spoke so clearly rather than abstract art, which you need to understand the background to the work.
Photography still has that realm of rock and roll, really. Like music, when you hear it, you don’t need to know anything about music. You just listen to it. You either get it or you don’t. It’s either good or it isn’t and it moves you. And I think photography has that kind of directness like rock and roll, actually. I think Diane Arbus is very rock and roll. And I think that with the Weymouth people, I kind of realized, I thought, “Well it’s not New York and all glamorous and all that. It’s this backwater town in England nobody’s heard of.” But it’s kind of like my world and it’s just as mad, you know?
A lot of your photography, like you said, focuses on the culture and the people. So what was your favorite one that you came across?
Well I suppose … I don’t know. I think that obviously the gypsies were a long-term project, so that kind of had that behind it. It’s been a sort of a lifetime’s work, really. Originally I started photographing them in the mid-80’s and then returned 15 years later and found that some of them had sort of renegaded off and evolved to back to the future with horse and wagons, you know? So they’re kind of like that sort of blend of 18th century meets 21st century. Pure, truly underground.
So because they’re constantly moving and kind of living in that authentic style of traveler, after all it’s in the title, isn’t it? The new age travelers that come from the hippie culture, and the 60’s really are also quite ghetto. Very restricted by the law of movement really. Whereas the horse drawn manage to subvert all that with the romanticism of the horse and the image it portrays. And they are constantly on the move so it’s totally organic and kind of free.
I was originally a skinhead when I was in my teens and now I was in my early 20’s. But when I was 16 I was a skinhead so I was kind of like revisiting it as a skinhead, if you understand me, but with absolute detachment with the camera. And I mean I’ve been on the road with the travelers and they’re trying to get up a steep hill, and it’s a new tarmac road. And the horse is slipping, his feet can’t get a grip and the wagon’s going backwards. And I’m sort of there, kind of photographing it or filming it or whatever, and they’re going, “Iain, put your fucking camera down. Come and push”, you know? It’s like the closest you can be, you know?
When you shot Kate Moss with the gypsies, you actually did live and sleep with them. That’s getting pretty close.
The point was to do the experience, really. It was a fashion shoot. It kind of makes a lot of sense, actually, to bring those two together, you know?
There was talk behind the scenes. The producer was kind of getting worried and spoke to her agent so that we could get her a hotel, you know. But of course she’s, “No, no. I’m going to camp with Iain. We’re going to party.” So yeah, it was good. And it was good for everybody involved, really. I mean the travelers enjoyed it as well. Throwing a party for Kate Moss.
Your blog, Look At Me Look At You, is invested more in the street photography which kind of goes with your style already of cultures and street photography. But what inspires your blog now?
Tumblr and all these sort of blogs, it’s like, where’s the curation of what you’re doing? It’s like people put things into the space onto social network or Instagram or whatever, so fast. So it kind of means something else, you know? And that’s fine. Maybe that’s more what it should be. I was just using it as a tool initially. I was like, “OK. Shoot this street.” And that’s all fine but in the end I thought, “No, I just want to slow down again.”
I’ve then since decided actually I wanted to get back to the kind of roots of my work again, really. Back to the work I was doing in Weymouth and I was thinking about British seaside towns again. It’s getting back to sort of like a personal project rather than subjects, you know?
I’ve got musician friends in New York, and I kind of ended up on the other side of Brooklyn where no one goes, even the taxi driver is getting really nervous. It’s sort of a location that’s like dimly lit with an alleyway. When you push the door open there’s barbed wire everywhere and it looks like a kind of squat or something. I could hear this music at the other end of the alley way and it was like someone’s loft apartment in the other side of Brooklyn. This band was playing in the front room, you know? It’s kind of like Sex Pistols or something, you know? Like sort of brilliant. It was quite, quite interesting. Eventually I got on the Greyhound and I did a straight across, but due to stuff that was going on in New York, it all kind of sucked me in. So I kind of just did this sort of zigzag across America, going across in a straight line from New York to LA.
I just slept on the bus for three days and for three nights. And just photographed 24/7 really. I just photographed this sort of bus journey across to LA. And I called it An American Prayer. Well that’s my working title anyway, which is The Doors last album.
That really brought it home in a kind of darker side in a way, excessively poor people on the bus. But, the characters in there were the best characters. But they have a story. There was a black lady, had been blind since she was 19 and some surgeon had messed up her operation. She had some minor operation and it blinded her. I got off the bus in LA, followed these gangster types down to the airport, stayed in this really gaudy motel and got some really interesting pictures from it.
Sounds like a really good experience.
It was. It was like … It’s all kind of underground. The point is it’s like I know that Greyhound’s not a subject that hasn’t been touched on before. Nothing new in that. But at the same time I haven’t seen anyone that’s actually gone on the bus and just sort of lived on the bus. I don’t know, I might be wrong.
You don’t really know how you end up in these places and taking pictures of these people, it’s just kind of something you do and something that happens.
Yeah, the digital age can help with capturing anything at any time. Everyone can take pictures now on their phone, and they have digital cameras, and their computer. Has it affected you in any way?
Yeah. Oh God. I think it’s great that people are visually becoming more aware. I kind of always knew that photography, even when I was really young, because I came from a creative background, and I had that aspiration to be an artist, there’s always been different aspects to photography. It’s a big subject, yeah? At the end of the day I knew instinctively that there was this secret world of photography that was understood by a few and I found that very cool and interesting.
It’s like the people that do things first are innovators, and then it gets commercialized. It happens all the time. Everyone’s artsy now. Everyone’s got pink hair and mobile phones and phone cameras and selfies and … I don’t know. It’s all … I don’t know. I think it’s fine. I think it’s like, the point being, I think there is still this special place of photography as a fine art, you know?
You’d say, “Everybody thinks they’re a photographer.” Actually, no they don’t.
When I went to Burning Man for the first time I thought I had a clear understanding of what to expect and what it is. I was prepared for it. When I got to Black Rock City and spent some time there I realized that people who have never been there before would have little understanding of what Burning Man really is. So I asked the question to people who make Black Rock City what it is.
7th Burn | California
“Burning Man is a free form jazz odyssey.”
3rd Burn | Lviv, Ukraine
“Burning Man is home. It’s an expression of freedom and love.”
2nd Burn | Brooklyn
“Burning Man is a place where people go to create their version of an ideal society. It’s a place where art, party, family and work become one. It is a place that is created for you to be yourself.”
1st Burn | Malmo, Sweden
“Burning Man is a planet on this earth different from everything else. Those who visit Black Rock City will experience humankind in the best way possible where money and religion don’t get in the way. Everyone could benefit from a Burning Man experience.”
18th Burn | Detroit
“Burning Man is a place to unleash your monster and be the superhuman that you are.”
4th Burn | San Francisco
“Burning Man is a test of a human spirit and taking that spirit into a greater conquest in the outer world.”
Dytch66 is a street artist from California. Born in LA, raised in Venice and started drawing at an early age. Growing up in the 80’s Dytch was heavily influenced by the art scene around him. Graffiti was a way for him to share his art with the city that he fell in love with. Dytch has been travelling the world attending in graffiti and fine art events since 2006 and he still lives in LA as a full time artist.
So where were you born and raised and when did you first get into street art?
I was born in Culver City my family lived in Venice since the 50s. I spent a lot of time in Venice visiting family and I lived there for a little bit but was always moving up and down the coast, I ended up living in Redondo Beach through high school.
I think I got into GRAFFITI in the early 80s when breakdancing hit the West Coast, I had always been an artist but didn’t really have any direction until this, I think what sparked my attention was when I was younger in Venice my dad and I would go to the beach and swim and hang out and people watch. I noticed all the special people would come there to express their rare and sometimes strange talents. At that time I was already coming from a skateboarding heavy-metal, punk rock background, I fell into place with it being such an organic environment, but yet anarchist type of art form that was all about free expression, I was consumed by this new Hip hop movement.
How did you initially meet all of the guys in the CBS crew?
I met the guys from the cbs crew through a couple friends that I did graffiti with my buddy Snoe was already from cbs he started bringing me around to meet everybody. This is right around the early 90s At this time I was really into doing illegal graffiti, writing on freeways and trains and any landmarks I could get around the city. It’s all about getting my name up letting everybody know who I am but at the same time coming from an Art background I wanted more I wanted to do something more creative than just tag my name on the wall I wanted to paint murals, that’s how I ended up in Cbs I was looking for a crew that was at the highest caliber of that artform, I got in Cbs crew in 92 I was about 17yrs old.
How were you able to better your art work? Did you have a mentor of some sort or did you go through any schooling for it?
my early mentors were “Snoe” and TJ who goes by the name of “Tiki Jay” now. They were both a couple years older than me but Helped guide my talent and showed me the ropes through graffiti, remember GRAFFITI was in its very beginning stages for the West Coast everything was still experimental at the same time the gang banging era was happening which was also hard on us because the city was ours and we had not one neighborhood, we wrote in all neighborhoods so we also had beef with all the neighborhood gangs because they didn’t like taggers. and you couldn’t really let people know that your a graffiti artist because there was no place for that at the time, people didn’t understand if we were artists or gangsters.
But unfortunately we had to be a bit of both to get by, this was the time of “StreetSmarts” not “StreetArt” you couldn’t go to the mall and buy this image at Hot Topic. By the end of this I was looking for a new direction and new mentors one of my buddies from Cbs crew that left and started studying fine art and soon after became a master oil painting his name is “Sergio Sanchez” A close friend I grew up with, he’s been a huge impact on my art career through his teachings he’s brought a consciousness to this art form that gave me the ability to continue to grow.
I saw that you do some pretty big named commissioned pieces such as the Ariana Grande wall painting you did, how did that come about?
I’ve been working in the Art field for quite some time now, from working production in the film world, working for playboy magazine or doing custom illustrations,canvases,Tattoo, Airbrushing,commercial advertisements & Fine art Murals
I do a little bit of everything. I’ve acquired an extensive client base from this experience
Are there any big projects you’re currently working on?
Some future plans coming up for this year are to do another European graffiti tour, with “Meeting of styles” paint a high-rise building in downtown LA and lots more gallery shows
What are some challenges you face when you’re about to paint one of your huge wall murals?
Some of the problems we face when we’re painting one of these huge Murals our weather conditions, when you’re using aerosol sometimes the weather being too hot or cold can affect the way the spray paint works also another part of this where problems can occur are the planning stages if you don’t plan your production out right you could run into problems throughout the whole project. And always have a team of trustworthy people get each others back.
Before you were you doing commissioned work how did you get your art noticed?
In the beginning it’s hard to get your Art known just because you’re always paying dues like doing a lot of illegal GRAFFITI to get noticed or just getting paid minimum wage to work for someone else, but one thing I learned is having a really good work ethic and working hard will get you noticed as you continue to grow as an artist eventually grow into a place where you’re selling your work to clients is when you’re on the path to becoming famous.
Besides street art are there any other art forms you practice?
In the beginning when I was trying to learn how to paint and figure out the formula to making this all work I tried a little bit of everything but now I’ve just grown into using one medium being spray paint and being able to get good enough to use that for everything from Canvas to full-scale Murals.
Your piece “Leap of faith” is an incredible piece, how did you come up for the inspiration behind it all?
My idea for the “leap of faith” mural was too create and impact something that was beautiful but yet colorful and designed well. I saw these images of tigers hunting in the water and I thought for a tiger to hunt in the water must be an extreme circumstance of survival, and that’s where the title of “leap of faith” comes from, meaning that sometimes in life you just got to jump in and hope for the best. So I changed the hunt to a graphic design cannonball of color and concentrated on trying to paint a beautiful tiger for people to admire?
Any advice you could give to those who are trying to come up in the street art world?
My advice to anyone coming up in this art world, would be to work hard and never take shortcuts. Be masterful of one thing not average at everything. Become who you’re meant to be.
I met KARMA against a barbershop wall a few months ago at the release of our 32nd Issue featuring Esoteric. He is the type of dude that emits a palpable vibe of respect and accomplishment without saying a thing. After getting to know KARMA, and his story, I started to realize how incredibly different the music and creative industries have become in a relatively short time. I think that as a community, we tend to get enraptured and distracted by the most current “forward thinking” trends, without ever questioning the origin or integrity of what we consume. KARMA’s work ethic and aesthetic spell out a clear message–know your history.
“…we get to be the gatekeepers of it, all these authentic pieces of genuine history.”
“When you don’t know the provenance of what you’re working with, that’s reckless.”
“I left my job at the design firm and my mother was like, ‘Are you crazy…’”
So let’s start by going back to when you were younger, growing up with 7L. How did you guys get into Hip Hop? When did you end up crossing paths with Esoteric?
It’s 1985, I’m ten years old, that’s when everything really started. We were listening to tapes that 7L’s older brother and a couple other older guys we knew had, like Slick Rick, Run D.M.C, Public Enemy. We really got into it. A lot of the kids that we went to grade school with were into rock like Def Leppard or Van Halen and stuff…we weren’t into that so we used to bring our boomboxes on the bus and get in trouble for blasting NWA.
We would come home from school and record Yo! MTV Raps on cassette recorders and make tapes. We were young, we weren’t going into New York or anything yet. It was just about whatever we could get our hands on. Then we were actually renting 4-tracks and stuff from Daddy’s Junky Music and from used record stores, using them to make terrible beats and stuff. You know just figuring it out– then we kind of graduated into buying older records like jazz records, funk records. We would be like, ‘Oh, this is the sample that Premier used on this song.’ Oh my God! You know, it got to the point where we felt like we could make beats. 7L was always the real talent but I tried to dig for loops and help.
Seems like you had a very driven DIY mentality straight off the bat. If you wanted to get it done, you had to do it yourself.
Yeah, you know, it wasn’t easy. We used to ride our bikes to the Record Exchange in Salem; it’s still there. Anything that was rap record or looked like a rap record, we bought. If somebody was on somebody’s song, and you saw it, you bought it. We would go to Strawberries or like, Tape World in the mall where you had to ask the clerk to go behind the desk, and as a kid they never wanted to sell to us because of the parental advisory sticker. Just to be a jerk they would be like “Yeah I can’t sell this to you.” It was a totally different world then.
Then 7L and I went to Salem State. They had student radio and we would listen to these two rap shows. There was one that played all stuff we liked; Gangstarr, Organized Konfusion, Wu, Nas and Biggie was just barely coming out, and we would be like, man who is this DJ? He would rap at the end of his shows, you know, we were like we need to meet this kid. We finally went to go meet him at the radio station, and long story short it ends up being Esoteric. We ended up being totally like minded, he grew up on the same stuff we did, Hip Hop, Star Wars and comic books, basketball. We just really hit it off. Once we got our licenses and stuff we started driving into Boston to go record shopping. I remember taking the train in and going to Nubian Notion or Funky Fresh Records.
So what were you studying at Salem State at the time?
Originally, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted, but it was definitely going to be something to do with art. My junior year I realized that graphic design was the way to go. Salem State actually had a really great art department. My mother was a professor there and I could go for free so I took advantage of that. When I got into graphic design, 7L started making mix tapes and stuff so we needed somebody to do the art. It was like all right, I’m going to learn how to do graphic design so I can make tape covers for his mixes or flyers for gigs.
Were you guys an official group at the time?
We were like a loose conglomerate of a bunch of kids. We didn’t know what we were actually going to do. Some kids were more serious than others and some were better than others. Eventually we really just got down to the three of us, 7L, Esoteric and myself. We started out under the name, God Complex.
Then we met this dude from Boston, Madsol, at a music conference and for some reason he really took a liking to us. He was from the same projects that Edo. G was from and for some reason he saw something and took us under his wing. He knew a lot about the industry. He had a show on WZBC which was Boston College radio. Basically he was like, “I can produce your record. Your beats are good, but I’ll bring you into the studio.” We ended up producing a bunch of demos with him between like 1993 and 1996.
Did you guys have to pay him?
No, there was no money. If we went to a studio, we paid the studio time. There was no money; it was just like people trying to get on. Then we met another guy Adam Defalco (Papa D!), and another kid from Salem State, Josh Gagne, he went by Truth Elemental, he had a group too. He was like, “You guys are dope, my group’s dope, let’s press up a record. We’ll just figure it out.” He did some crazy scam and got some sort of student loan from Salem and we just got the money up.
We pressed the initial EP and one side was his group, Architects of Intellect and the other side was us as God Complex. Then we just started sending it to every rap magazine we could find, or we’d go and give the record to whoever was spinning out in New York or Boston.
We’d go to New York and just hand out records to whoever would take them. On the back of the record was our phone number, and I remember first time we got a call, it was a crazy 800 number. That number is originally how we met Vinnie Paz from Jedi Mind Tricks and Celph Titled. One time Prince Paul actually called and was like, “Yo, this is Prince Paul. Somebody gave me your record at the Rock Steady Crew Anniversary. I just wanted to call and tell you guys keep doing your thing. You’re really dope. This record’s hot. We’re like, Oh man, Prince Paul. Then it was like…all right we can do this. It really gave us some confidence.
After the EP came out, I got all these local kids, and everyone was dope and complemented each other. So yeah, we went and started what would be Brick Records, basically not knowing anything at the time. Somebody needed to do the art work, I was the most art inclined person and had access to stuff at Salem State. I was taking graphic design classes and teaching myself all this other stuff on the side. I was printing stuff at two in the morning for free. It was just total guerilla style.
Brian Coleman was writing for CMJ, which was a big college music journal at the time, wrote up our God Complex record and called it “the best indie hip hop record of the summer,” or something like that. Then all of a sudden, we’re getting calls from all over the country from record stores. Like, “Yo, I need these records.”
When it started to get serious there was this plan for a couple European tours with The Artifacts and Hieroglyphics, but I was like, ‘Dude, I can’t go to Europe for three weeks. I’m dead broke, they’re not really going to pay us. I’m in school.’ So it just basically came to a point where I had to make a decision. So I think I’m not as musically strong as the other two, if I stay in school and forgo on all this cool stuff that’s happening, then I can finish school, which was something I wanted to do. Then I can help run the label and do the art…
Was that a hard decision for you to make?
Yeah, it was and looking back on it… I mean I’m glad in the long run, but I definitely missed out on some great experiences. We had just basically started when I finished school and got a design job at a firm in Boston. I was still doing all this stuff on the side again, using all their resources at night and stuff.
Did you see yourself falling into a managerial type of role for the group?
Yeah, I didn’t really realize it, but definitely. I was letting them be the artists and I was falling back to make sure the stuff was as tight as possible. We still didn’t know what we were doing. I was just doing everything I could. It was kind of that role. Then we just started signing other acts to Brick Records and had the opportunity to do a record with MF Doom.
What record was that?
The Doom and Grimm split EP record. This was before Doom had the mask. I have a roll of a hundred photos of him with no mask on, he’s got like a stocking mask on his head or his hat is real low on his face.
Then my partner Adam got a job with Landspeed Distribution when they opened up out of Boston, and I ended up getting a job as the Art Director there without knowing basically anything about being an art director, I had this portfolio of all DIY stuff that I printed at Salem State.
I left my job at the design firm and my mother was like, “Are you crazy, you’re going to work for some start up record label?,” but I ended up staying with them, and then as Traffic and with Get On Down for almost 12 years. I got to do a lot of big records – Cormega, Freddie Foxxx, 5o Cent, Mobb Deep – all the Cold Chillin’ and B-Boy and Warlock re-issues, the big Wu-Tang box sets – worked with Sony and Universal etc. So by now I have a bunch of experience, I’ve worked with every rapper you can think of and have this amazing portfolio. Meanwhile, I’m doing freelance work with Stones Throw, Greensleeves, Now- Again, Jedi Mind, Kenny Dope, Jazzy Jeff.
Then about four years ago I was really burnt out and just got into a bad place.
I had come out of a really long relationship. My grandmother had severe Alzheimer’s and she was living with my parents… there was a lot of personal stuff going on. I was really burned out of the music industry and was starting to get sick of it. The industry was starting to get really selfish and petty, everybody was out for self and out for money.
All the technology changed, the digital age came in and everything got easy . Now you can record an entire album in your mother’s bathroom on your phone.
It just got really bad for me. I thought it was getting really whack. Like I said, there was a lot of personal stuff going on, stuff that I was dealing with in my family, personal stuff in my own head. My brother had been building his company JG Autographs and we had been loosely talking about me coming in for years. He was always like, “Yeah, I could really use your help,” but it was never to the point where I could justify it or I wanted to walk away from the music stuff. Then he started getting bigger and he got a couple of other employees and he was like, “I think we can do this. I want to take this in a different direction. I want to really rev this up.”
So I said let’s do it.
I was really depressed and very anxious, I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was extending myself and not getting much back in return. It didn’t even have anything to do with money. I was still doing stuff for kids for free because I believed in them.
It just got to a point when it wasn’t fun anymore. The shows started getting terrible, the scene was falling apart and I was like, I’ve got to get out of this. I felt old, I felt out of touch with it.
The other thing was that I sacrificed a lot of personal work. I had to start taking time for myself because I kind of lost that. Around that time I started doing more freelance work for companies outside of the music industry and I liked that.
How are you able to approach each assignment that comes across your desk with a fresh outlook? What were some of the struggles as an art director?
Yeah, it’s hard. It was getting to the point where I was trying to make innovative packaging designs but the budget was gone; the physical stuff just wasn’t selling like it used to. When something ten years ago would have sold ten thousand copies and now its only going to sell a thousand, you can’t justify putting tons of money into packaging or large campaigns.
So from there you moved on to JG Autographs where you work now with your brother?
Yeah I had this opportunity with my brother, Jared, and his company. The initial project was to re-imagine, re-tool and re-build the website from scratch. Everything is custom because every piece we handle is a one of a kind. Say you have 100 photos of Clint Eastwood and they are all singed. You don’t just put one up and sell it, if there are 100 you have to put every single one up because it’s the individual autograph you are selling not the generic item. It’s murder from a retail platform – it’s crazy on the backend.
So Jared and I, with the help of a great team of developers in NH, built this cutting edge website; it was responsive before we even knew what that meant. We were just designing to fit multi-platforms. I know nothing about web design, I’m all print, so I was applying an album campaign to it – where you need the same content to display correctly on a CD, LP Cover, cassette, post card, poster and billboard.
The dream was to come in and build up JG, which we’ve been doing, getting more into historic and cultural antiquities and items, and then launching a 2nd division that would cater to more fine art, graphic design, photography projects, hopefully some publishing.
So that is House of Roulx – the new brand that we are launching this Spring. I’m serving as Creative Director, and Jared and I are both curating the projects. We are working with our in-house team and other artists and creatives, both renowned and up and coming. I just want to create a brand you can trust and believe in, and follow and collect. You may not be into every single thing we do, but hopefully you can at least appreciate where it’s coming from and the final quality of it.
KARMA, your work ethic and mentality really resonates with this genuine do-it-yourself quality. Do you think that after leaving the music industry the work you found yourself doing with JG, and handling all this incredibly unique and collectible historical memorabilia kind of satiated what you were missing in music?
Yeah I think so. The best part is, I’m learning every day and I like that. I like to teach myself things – I like to help grow things toward a greater goal. I’m a big reader, I’m very much into art, film, photography and books. I’m that jerk who buys the $200, deluxe version of a package when you could buy the Walmart edition for $9.99. I really appreciate that stuff, I appreciate collectibility, so I understand it. I’m trying to cater to myself.
It just takes me back to the grassroots of learning something new. Like I really didn’t know much about the Civil War and now I know a whole lot; I can read these vintage documents or handle original photography, and I really enjoy that.
Working with photos from say Carl Van Vechten with the Harlem Renaissance and learning how he changed the scene for the black and gay community in the ‘20s and ‘30s, basically by being a really cool off the cuff photographer who documented it all. That stuff is super important culturally and we get to be the gatekeepers of it, all these authentic pieces of genuine history. Not like the mass market crap you see today that will be gone tomorrow.
When you don’t know the provenance of what you’re working with, that’s reckless. It’s like coming up with a rap song and you sample Puff Daddy who sampled Grandmaster Flash but you don’t know who Grandmaster Flash is, or you love MIA but you don’t know that she sampled The Clash but you don’t care either. Or these designers that jack a logo or a theme from someone who jacked a logo or theme from someone else. Like you love Supreme but you have no idea who Barbara Kruger is. I just think if you’re into something you should see it through – be way into it – study it. When I get into something I need to know everything about it.
Coming up in the Hip Hop scene you had to know everything because you could get called out constantly. I had to know, wanted to know, every lyric to every Rakim song and every Lord Finesse song. I needed to know who Futura, Dondi and Fab 5 Freddy are, and the roles they played.
If you wave a flag, you sure better know what that flag stands for.