BY: DAN JAMES (BOMBING SCIENCE)
Bombing Science: I suppose we should go through the whole formalities first. What do you write? Who ya’ rep? Favorite paint and color? Favorite style to paint and favorite object to paint?
Askew: I write Askew, I rep TMD, Stick Up Kids and F1 crews. I don’t have a favorite color really but I use Ironlak exclusively. They have been kind enough to sponsor me the past couple of years and it has made so much possible…I am so grateful for that opportunity. As far as having a favourite style to paint, I like knowing I can paint what’s appropriate for a given occasion or surface. Generally I like pretty stripped back styles with an emphasis on something between traditional letters with structure and something awkward with the odd strange or original take on New York style. I’m not a snob when it comes to what I paint as long as it looks better after I paint it. That’s a fairly subjective thing though I guess.
BS: On the subject of style. You’ve always had a very definable one. Was there anyone that really influenced you growing up? What was the scene like in Auckland when you were coming up? Did you have alot of people to work with and draw off of, or was it more solo missions every night?
ASK: I’ve been influenced directly and indirectly by such a huge rage of artists, seriously the list would be long. I would say almost everything you see in life somehow shapes your take on your artistic approach. It’s like learning a language or developing a repertoire to draw from at any given time. Of course there are certain writers that have had a very direct influence on my style. Growing up in the Auckland scene there was only a handful of writers doing anything and only a couple of them really had a significant influence on my actual style. Mostly I was just inspired by the fact that people were getting up and actually doing it, that alone was enough. For the most part I was influenced by peers and people that I’ve connected with so people from TMD and RTR have always motivated me. I like to believe that ultimately I’m self taught, like a lot of my generation and of course learned the most from getting out there and just painting as much as I could.
BS: You seem to really have a keen eye for 3D’s. Was there anyone who schooled you on that, or did you put it all together yourself?
ASK: I used to be really into painting 3D stuff, mainly because locally that was a niche area that no one was doing and I felt I could put my stamp on it and use that to stand out within my scene. I was lucky to paint some walls with Loomit and Daim and I watched their approaches carefully and applied them to my pieces. Technique though has little bearing on the actual shape of your letters and in my heart I know I couldn’t abstract the letters too much so I eventually went back to a more traditional approach. I think I learned many valuable lessons in painting 3D pieces which can still be applied to classic letter structures. I have a sense of how to make the letters look dynamic in a space without making my piece into a rendered object.
BS: Auckland seems to be the style capital of New Zealand. Do you feel there’s any particular reason for that? And how do you think it compares to the world’s other style capitals?
(I.E.-NYC, LA, San Fran, Berlin, Paris).
ASK: I think population dictates which NZ scene stands out and gets more play. Half the country’s population live in my city and the scene is massive compared to the other main centers like Wellington and Christchurch. There are good painters in all those places though. I’m not sure how we stack up as a style capital compared to places I’ve been like NY, LA, Berlin and Paris. I think we’ve been too influenced by those places to have really created a truly local style but it’s maybe easier to comment from the outside looking in rather than from where I’m standing. TMD have really tried to work in unison in a way and have encouraged the next generation to take what they want from us in order to promote more of a regionalised style. It’s still hard to see how much of an impact it’s having although I can see traces of what we do rubbing off on a few others. I think that’s healthy though.
BS: At this point in the game, do you hit the blackbook anymore? And if so, do you go to it to work off of it when painting, or is it more off the top of the head? What do you think is the importance of sketching verses first hand practice?
ASK: I think sketching is good for unlocking ideas, but that’s all I do. I have very rapid drawing sessions spending 2-5 minutes on a piece just trying to be as fluid and free as I can. I never do perfect full-coloured blackbook sketches and I may have a loose idea of what I’m going for before I do a wall or whatever but usually it’s a fairly spontaneous process for me. These days I like to draw more from the environment around me, discuss political events of the time or at least create some type of dialogue that can engage the viewer.
BS: To the same line of question, do you feel a yourself becoming more active or less active in any particular type of writing at this point?
ASK: I don’t get up enough tags at the moment. I actually really enjoy tagging but I’m usually more motivated to do a bigger piece of work more than a tagging mission with the time I have for painting. I used to tag more when I was into drinking and hitting the town. I’m very active right now on every other level and there isn’t really an aspect of writing I haven’t done or at least tried to do. I’m not done yet either!
BS: I like to hit people off with a rapid fire section here:
1.Greenery, brew, spirit, wine or none?
ASK: None. Apart from Coffee I’m drug free.
2. Country living or city life?
ASK: I’m into the city, but then it’s only 45 minutes from my house to dopest beaches in the world.
3. Gold or silver?
4. No meat on the bones, or a gal with curves?
ASK: A good balance. I’m not into super skinny though.
5. God or no God?
ASK: Some type of God concept but not one attached to a structured religion.
BS: Do you feel there is anything that pre-disposes someone towards graffiti writing?
ASK: I have a few theories about commonalities amongst the people I know but no generalisation seems to work all the time.
BS: Other than writing is there anything you feel you have the same amount of passion for?
ASK: No, not really. There’s things I like doing but none match the obsession I have for this. It’s beyond a hobby, it’s my life and every other skill I have some how relates back to this.
BS: Has writing ever cost you anything you held dearly?
ASK: Other than money for fines, which I couldn’t really care less about it’s cost me nothing. All the time and sacrifice has been worth it for me and most of what has come has been positive or an interesting experience. Maybe ask me in another 20 years though and I’ll see if I’m a balanced and healthy human then!
BS: Is there anything you’d like to say to the new generation cats coming up in graff right
ASK: Just to try and see the bigger picture and try to achieve something important with your painting. Learn to document what you do well, you’ll regret it if you don’t!
BS: If you could only do one last piece, what would be the colors and structure of it?
ASK: I seriously don’t know how to answer that question! I just like to paint every piece like it could be my last, you never know!
BS: What if graffiti was legalized tommorow? Would you still write?
ASK: Would never happen so I don’t feel like that’s a scenario worth giving much thought to. I don’t get as much satisfaction from painting permission spots unless I really bring some type of ‘wow’ factor that I can’t bring illegally.
BS: Has there ever been a time when you’ve thought about giving up writing? If so, what led you to that train of thought?
ASK: Last year was the hardest time for me on a lot of levels. I contemplated a lot of things I’d never thought of before and really had a quiet battle with some type of depression or emptiness that I couldn’t kick. I didn’t feel like an adult or that I had anything substantial to show for my life other than a bunch of pictures. The most positive thing that happened to me came from something potentially really negative. My hard drive literally exploded one morning and I lost ALL of my photos. Of course I had a lot backed up or in printed format but maybe not everything. At first I panicked but then I started trying to find everything again and very systematically went through all my albums, DVD’s of digital photos, other peoples collections and put the call out to magazines to send me back anything I’d sent them. I think I found about 95% of my work again but it was with such critical eyes I looked at it all during this time. So many tightly cropped photos with no real context or connection to the environment and so many stories to tell and no real documentation that re-conveyed those experiences. I felt kind of blank like it was all for nothing but then decided it was time to turn things around and radically changed my approach to my work. I have such a renewed vigour for painting since then and I’m engaged because I’m fanatical about contextualising my work and documenting the process and ideas behind it. It feels like it has substance and purpose for me now.
BS: On the first Disruptiv mixtape we got to hear a little of what you do on the mic, in the warface freestyle. Can we expect anything, muscially speaking to come out from you anytime soon?
ASK: I started rapping and making beats in 1990 when I was 11 years old. The Warface freestyle and some stuff I did on the early Breakin wreckwordz mixtapes were the first things I ever officially put out there though. I actually was on all the first 4 Disruptiv mixtapes but not as a solo artist. I released a street album with my crew Tomb Raiderz and a solo mixtape as well. My rap career fell victim to the same hard drive crash and I lost all my music I was working on including around 140 beats. I really assessed at that time what MC-ing meant to me in comparison to the art side of things and realised I didn’t have anything important or original to say in that arena. So I stopped, Simple as that.
BS: And finally anything that TMD or SUK is doing you want the world to know about? And of course, here’s the obligitory shout section, if you’d like.
ASK: We are just doing what we do, Painting and doing our best to improve every time. Shouts to all my friends around the world!
BS: Askew I’d like to thank you very much your time, man. It is of course an honor and, a priviledge to get a look at everything through your eyes. Keep on doing what you are doing, you know we’re loving it.