Interview from 50mmlosangeles.com but I thought I'd share it...
Writer Spotlight: COLT 45 TKO LOD OTR
Posted 2004-08-26 by Unit
Unit: Seriously, WHY do you write? What motivates you to write? Dig deep...
Colt45: Really, I motivate myself because I constantly doubt myself. Everyone thinks Iím a major egomaniac, and I am arrogant at times, always on purpose of course. But actually I continually doubt myself and I am never satisfied with what Iíve accomplished in any area of my multi-layered life. So for graffiti, I just always come down hard on myself. Every spot anyone has, I slap myself for sleeping on it. Every night I donít go out and paint I hate myself for being a lazy fuck. Every time I go to a club instead of painting I feel like Iím falling off. Every night I stay home with my lady, when I have one that is, I feel like a pussy. All because I could have been out crushing shit but I wasnít. Iím real hard on myself with the shit I paint too. It could have been bigger or proportioned better. I could have incorporated more colors or my can control wasnít perfect on one letterís highlight. I always need more sketches because I do the same ones over and over and over and over. So in every aspect of graffiti and my life, Iím always hating myself for not doing better. Which is pretty ridiculous because Iíve accomplished more in my short life than most people could ever dream of. But still, in every area of my life I always feel like I could go further no matter how far Iíve gone already.
My policy is if your grandma canít read my piece then Iím doing something wrong. -Colt 45
Unit: Graffiti involves so many variables but the two prominent values seem to be artistic originality and fame... Do you consider yourself an artist or a marketer?
Colt45: I am definitely on the marketer side of that dichotomy if you want to create one. I donít really feel there is a dichotomy between art and advertising, advertising is just using art for a purpose. For them itís to sell shit, for me itís to increase my reputation. But my graffiti is definitely designed to advertise myself in such a way that any and everybody knows who I am and can easily read and recognize my work when they see it. A lot of people want to push the limits of style and rock the most original shit. I am not one of them. I donít need to come out with some new style or gimmick every time I paint to make people notice my work. I do the same thing so many other writers have done before me. I just do it bigger, better and more. I do the same things repeatedly like an advertising campaign so people will recognize my name when they see it and therefore increase my reputation in their eyes. My policy is if your grandma canít read my piece then Iím doing something wrong.
Unit: Talk about your goals for graffiti art and for yourself as a person in society.
Colt45: The obvious goal is to increase my reputation so that I get more love, hate and respect than anyone else. But on a deeper level I think what weíre doing as writers is representing our culture. Graffiti is a very important part of our culture and itís entirely ours. Thereís no radio station deciding whoís successful and whoís not. No MTV deciding who runs primetime and who doesnít. If you got the balls, the skill and the steel to do it and back it up, then you can do whatever you want, go as far as you want to go, and have only yourself to slow you down. I really think graffiti is important as a cultural representation of ourselves. I think every writer needs to push themselves to paint as much and as well as they possibly can so our culture is as strong as it can be and never dies out. I figure even if I die or go to jail forever, Iíve inspired thousands of other kids to go out and write graffiti. And of those thousands, maybe a few will be as good as I was when Iím gone. And as long as we can inspire enough kids to keep our culture alive, we will all live forever through them. I donít see graffiti as a negative thing the way the police and the media often make it out to be. I see it as a positive thing in our lives that we share with the generations that follow us. Iím not on some ignorant ďlets cause as much damage as possibleĒ shit. In a society where young people lack any way of proving themselves to their peers other than sports, rapping, and gangbanging, graffiti gives young people an opportunity to do something productive with their lives while earning the respect that many people want as a part of growing up. Not everyone can be or wants to be a pro athlete or millionaire rapper or die hard gangster. But anyone can learn to paint quality graffiti and earn recognition by getting up.
Unit: It seems like our everyday lives have become completely immersed in advertising messages. Talk about your first memories of advertising... Billboards etc.. Do you think there is a correlation between advertising and American style fame graffiti?
Colt45: Well I smoke a lot of weed so asking me for memories is hopeless. Iím so bad I look in the mirror sometimes and see a stranger. But as far as advertising I think graffiti is a form of advertising. They advertise their product or service, we advertise ourselves. And frankly, some of us do a better job advertising ourselves than any million-dollar advertising budget could ever do. Sometimes I wonder why advertising firms donít try to hire me to work for them. I understand propaganda a hell of a lot better than a lot of the people who make some of these stupid advertisements. Some of the shit I see on billboards or on TV makes me wonder what the fuck theyíre selling anyways. Itís like looking at a piece and not knowing what it says. Iím like ok, another million dollar advertising budget down the drain. I think a lot of these advertisers are better at pitching an idea to a client than at pitching a product to the public. If these turkeys had half a brain theyíd have me on salary as a consultant to make sure their shit is going to get the message across. Hey, everyone knows who I am and my budget consists of gas, food, paint and chocolate blunts. Lucky for them I already have a career so Iím not about to start my own advertising firm and put them out of business. But I would consider doing some consulting if I was approached and the money was right. I could use some extra vacation money, not to mention it just kills me when I see advertisements that missed the boat. I could probably start a new career in advertising correcting their mistakes.
Unit: Talk about graffiti in terms of now. What does it mean to be a graffiti artist. Why do you think kids get into it?
Colt45: The correct nomenclature is, graffiti writer. To be a graffiti writer in my humble opinion is to write graffiti. Our kind of graffiti. Not some art fag picture shit or whatever. If you go out and do other types of art, stencils, posters, pictures, paintings, whateverÖ yo, all the power to you. But you ainít no graffiti writer. Iím a graffiti writer. Now thereís a few exceptions to any rule, a few people do a character for their shit. But if you think youíre one of the exceptions, youíre not, until further notice. Youíre an artist, not a graffiti writer. Now as far as why kids get into graffiti I think has a lot to do with how modern society fails to offer many feasible options for young people to earn respect and prove themselves among their peers and in their community, especially for boys and young men. Everyone wants to be popular and get respect and attract the opposite sexís attention, except for gays of course on the last one. So for a lot of young people, graffiti is a way to prove themselves, and make friends, and earn their peersí respect, and attract females, and just to be somebody.
I think thereís only two things that can make me stop writing, love and death. -Colt 45
Unit: If graffiti is considered to be a form of art how do you feel about other more accepted art forms like sculpting oil painting multi-media etc.? Do you consider graffiti to be art?
Colt45: Yes, despite my spite for art graffiti is a form of art obviously. Now I can understand why people in the art-for-sale world donít want to acknowledge it, because itís free. That fucks up their whole trying to make money agenda. We donít do graffiti to pay the bills, we do it because we love to do it. We do it because it is a part of our culture. We do it because we are respected by our peers for the graffiti we do. As far as other art forms I like some shit and donít like others. It depends on the artist and the piece. But I do go to gallery openings as a part of my social agenda and I do look closely at the art on an aesthetic level and also on a practical level of materials used, technique, difficulty, etc. I can definitely appreciate anything if itís well done. But if you come at me with some phony ass shit Iíll pull your card quick.
Unit: Do you ever feel that your graffiti art was/is motivated by political convictions? If so, how did you express those motivations?
Colt45: A few pieces in particular I have done had a political message contained in them. Everyone and their mother knows the billboard on the 101 I did. I did the theme for the first time I believe when we were about to go to war in Iraq because I was so pissed off that it was really going to happen. I have a lot of friends and family in the armed services and I sure as hell donít want anyone I care about getting hurt or dying so these bloodsuckers can pillage that country and make off like bandits. Their money ainít worth our blood. So I did the billboard to express a political opinion and also to reap the fame of my name being done with that anti-war theme.
Unit: Some people say graffiti by definition is illegal and therefore should exclude permission artists from being defined as graffiti artists... What is YOUR definition of graffiti and WHO should be considered legitimate graffiti artists.
Colt45: I donít think graffiti has to be illegal. And likewise I donít think if you do some art illegally, that it can be considered graffiti. Defining modern graffiti is difficult if not impossible to accomplish. I would suggest that graffiti is letter-based, name-driven, individual-focused, primarily aerosol, art. Now there are exceptions to all of those features in graffiti though. Some writers do characters without letters or around other peoplesí letters, but these writers also have a name and do write it or do letters for it at least once in a while. Its just their characters are their point of recognition. Some of writers also do their crews letters rather than their own name some or most of the time, but most writers do their own individual name most of the time, unlike gangs, whose graffiti tends to emphasize the name of the gang before the names of individual members. Also a lot of writers use other materials to write graffiti; bucket paint, markers, inks, scribing tools, etc., but most graffiti is done with aerosol paint. So its hard to define what it is we do, but somehow I can always see something and tell if its graffiti or not.
Unit: Talk about bombing murals...
Colt45: Yeah Iíve hit a lot of murals and it might seem like that would be malicious but really, its not. What happened is they stopped buffing the murals cause the mural people wanted to refurbish them, but they never had the money to paint over graffiti when new tags or whatever popped up on them. So they kinda just went to shit and we started hitting them because they already looked horrible and the murals were already destroyed so we figured fuck it, if they donít care why should we. But I definitely think if they have restored a mural you shouldnít hit it. If a mural is clean then writers should let it ride just out of respect for other people. I donít want them painting over my art anymore than they want me painting over theirs. Damaging something that is undamaged hasnít really gave me kicks since I was about 16. Iím a hell of a lot older than that now. But all respect aside, these muralists got paid five figures to paint these murals in the first place so Iím like, yo you got your money, what the fuck do you care. And the art in those murals on the freeways is really really pathetic. Thereís a whole lot of graffiti writers I can think of who are infinitely better than any of the muralists who were paid five figures to paint that bullshit. And all of the writers I know of would have done it for free just to get the recognition from their peers for the art they produce. But you want to arrest us and charge us with felonies and fuck up the rest of our lives because we painted on your shitty murals that were already fucked up in the first place. Sorry, but you get no love from me.
I hear my boy on the radio advertising little shitty cars and Iím like, man whatís this world coming to. -Colt 45
Unit: What do you think about corporate interests using graffiti style art to promote their products? Is it a good thing that graffiti artists get paid by advertisers to promote a product or event?
Colt45: To tell you the truth I think its way weird. I feel like Iím in the twilight zone sometimes. I hear my boy on the radio advertising little shitty cars and Iím like, man whatís this world coming to. I mean a fool gotta pay the rent, I can feel that, but I canít help but feel negative towards it. And Iím sure the people who are getting paid think its weird too. But they canít talk shit like I can cause theyíre getting paid and Iím not. I can understand that kids like graffiti style art and putting what kids like on your product makes them want to buy it. But having an art gallery/ hip-hop show/ cultural event to promote a little dingy car, I donít know about that one. If they want to sell cars, maybe they should put the money into the engineering and concept department because those cars suck.
Unit: Lastly, when will you stop bombing? Realistically, what would it take to make you stop forever.
Colt45: I think thereís only two things that can make me stop writing, love and death. I think if I like got married to some dope ass fairy tale female I loved and who loved me and settled down and had kids and all that, Iíd have something in my life to lose and I wouldnít be out putting my ass on the line acting a fool. But at this point in my life I donít really have shit that I care about to lose so fuck it. I donít really care. The other thing that can stop me is death. But donít get your hopes up. Iím hard to kill.
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