Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can you give us a brief introduction of how you got to this point? I’ve read your interview and it seems like you’ve had quite the life, from being in prison to now being one of the big figures in L.A. tattooing and graffiti. How did all of this go down?
I write OG ASHER in downtown Skid Row Los Angeles California. I’m state raised and was started doing time in CA institutions when I was 13 year’s old. It all started in CYA when we were in “school”. A lot of young offenders could not write traditional grammar. So, the staff allowed us to write anyway we knew how. By doing so opened the flood gates for neighborhood handstyles to not only be deemed acceptable but now celebrated!
This gave me something to focus on and really planted the seed of what my style is based on today. The authenticity of what I do can’t be faked or duplicated. People who are from southern California take great pride in their neighborhoods and barrio’s especially when it comes to Los Angeles gang culture, and the form of lettering created by us here is an art in itself recognized and copied worldwide. This speaks volumes about what it means to me to carry on with traditions in these iconic streets that I’m truly blessed to be able to walk every day.
Now in my 40’s I take great pride in my work and I choose to do this style of neighborhood graffiti in the streets of LA that I have been practicing for decades because I want my graff to represent me and stand tall and proud. Respectively like monuments on Easter Island.
Also because I want my Graf to be BOLD not colorful wildstyle. So, I would say my style is a hybrid of neighborhood lettering blended with traditional graffiti techniques.
You mentioned in your previous interview that you view tattooing and graffiti as forms of “sacred markings”, can you expand on what your philosophy is behind what you do?

Being a traditional tattooer apprenticed by old school bikers when I was in my early 20s gave me the foundation to be able to create permanent markings as a way to support my young and growing family at the time. Also, this gave me the opportunity to travel and meet other artists that shared a common interest for the fundamental application of lettering in all forms.

The thing about creating a tattoo for someone and doing graffiti are polar opposites! That’s why I enjoy doing both. Tattooing is rewarding financially and can give a good feeling of accomplishment. Graffiti is creative destruction and I don’t get paid for it.
The performance factor of tattooing is a huge responsibly not to be taken lightly in my humble opinion. Graffiti to me is whatever I want it to be and I don’t have to listen to anyone tell me how it’s supposed to look or where or when to do it.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why? 

The first book about graffiti I saw was SubWay Art. The thing of it was it didn’t show any of the West Coast graffiti. It was all trains from a few particular lines of the New York City SubWay that ran outside a particular photographer’s window at the time who decided to document it. I couldn’t relate to it or their East Coast style that’s heavily based on Funk they call it.

The book Los Angeles Graffiti by Steve Grody has a character of a mouse doing the L A fingers on the cover and that was more my style for sure. It depicted A real version of the streets of LA and the graffiti that I’m a fan of the most. I used to look at that book so much I memorized it. That’s how much I loved that book!
You’ve said before that growing up you were big into skateboarding before getting into tattooing or graffiti, did you ever have any ambitions of being a pro skater instead? 

My first love as a kid was a useless wooden toy! Skateboarding for me was LIFE! That’s the only thing I wanted to do. From sun up to sundown, day in day out. Nothing else mattered to me. This put me in the streets constantly in crazy situations surrounded by lawlessness and the ever prominent neighborhood graffiti.

So the two things I enjoyed the most as a kid I still do to this day 30+year’s later. At the time I had every intention of becoming a pro skater. I watched every movie that came out and read every skateboarding magazine out there I could get my hands on.
Year’s later when I was 15 my friends started a small company and opened an indoor skatepark.
This gave me the opportunity to skate with some pros on a regular basis and I realized that I didn’t look like they did when they were skating. If your a pro, your fluid and you have style. It just looks like you were born with a skateboard on.
You either have it or you don’t. I was really good, had a dope half pipe in my backyard growing up so I am better than average for sure. Just not pro. I excepted it and started pursuing a career in writing instead. Even though I still skate to this day!
What was Los Angeles like for you in your early days in the 90s? Would you consider this to be the best period of your career?

The 90’s era of LA graffiti pretty much skipped me completely due to incarceration and family obligations. I wish I could been there for the RTD BUS WARS, the LA river bed parties, and the iconic street legends.

I was actually in Phoenix Arizona raising my family, a prison term in a maximum-security prison in 1995 at Florence kept me from participating in the heyday of 90’s graffiti.
Some people in LA wonder how I just popped up out of the blue or say I’m from Phoenix.
No matter what they say about me, the streets don’t lie! What I do in the violent, kaotic, hetic streets of downtown Skid Row every day, painting main Street fill-in Block letters top to bottom, in broad daylight so everyone can see me (I’m currently out on bail, too. BTW) is some real LA LEGENDARY GRAFFITI!
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint? Who is your favorite hip hop artist and why?

I listen to all types of music when I paint. Music is the rhythm of life. It sets the mood. There is no party without music!

I typically listen to Psycho Realm when I do graffiti though.
they are a real Los Angeles-based underground group that embodies and encompasses the sound in a style that is truly LA street culture. Psycho Soldier 4life

For those out there that are hungry to improve at their craft but don’t know how to exactly what do you recommend? Is there any specific practice or exercise that you have discovered that has helped you over the years? 

If anybody is looking to progress or get better at graffiti I would have to say practice your lettering first and foremost. Specifically your tags. tagging is the most quintessential part of graffiti yet is the most visually offensive to the majority of the populace. Illegibly scrawled messages on the side of the building conjures up images of gang activity and reduces the use of public transit in neighborhoods where this is predominant and causes property value to go down.

the thing of it is for somebody growing up in these neighborhoods doing graffiti is an outlet and an opportunity that gives them a voice that is something bigger than themselves and radiates worldwide. Because the word Los Angeles and itself is a brand. People look to the streets of LA for the stomping grounds to bite Style.
So for me practicing your lettering in your tags is the only way to achieve a better result and to make your stuff stand out. A tag is your signature and that’s all you got when you start. how far you go with it how far you take it how far you travel how much you get up how much notoriety you get how much damage you do how much Fame you create and how much longer do you have is based off of that tag and how much you put into it. I have books and notebooks filled with tags that I do daily summer really crappy and some of them show a little bit of promise. But I keep doing it
You say you paint primarily in the skid row area and I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the situation in Skid Row that you would like to share? Or any stories that come to mind when you think of Skid Row?

Living in Skid Row is definitely one of the most unique areas in the United States. It is synonymous with drug use and homelessness and the mentally ill. the reason why is because the city has created like a reservation right in the middle of downtown where there is a large number of buildings that are dilapidated and single room occupancy that are affordable to low-income people. Everybody else in the city avoids this area at all costs. Some people drive-through and hang their arm out the window with a video camera others blow the lights and stop signs rather than stopped and be confronted by people on the streets because of fear they might be assaulted or robbed or worse.

I would be lying if I said the stereotypes don’t ring true for a reason but not for everybody. For me, this is an opportunity for affordable real estate in LA. But over the years of living here, it’s become much more than that for me personally. I’m part of the urban landscape and I’m part of the community and I’m celebrated here by people in the streets that most people would be scared to talk to or even look at up close. These are my beautiful friends and Neighbors.
I live and work in the mecca of graffiti and can step outside my studio and paint graffiti anytime day or night and it will reach all ends of the world.
I work with several homeless Outreach organizations here. by not only donating my time but my artwork as well and I never document or show these things because it’s something I do out of love for the city that gives me so much rather than to exploit the people in the situations are in bye taking pictures of me handing out food t to try to get internet Fame. That makes me sick to my stomach when I see that.
Skid Row California is a flat out Warzone and that’s an understatement. Yet the people who have the least give the most. I have seen the most selfless acts of kindness from people here who can barely even communicate and that to me is something that I’ll never forget. And that’s why I take so much pride in the place that people think is so ugly. beauty is skin-deep and I have seen the prettiest people do the ugliest things. I’m quite content and with my life in downtown LA
Any shout outs you would like to give? where can people follow you?

I would like to give a special shout-out to all the people worldwide that support me and my artwork and what I do here in the streets of LA. The people who send me Tattoo equipment, amazing artwork, money and support, out of the kindness of their hearts that are perfect strangers have become like family to me.

one day I hope to travel to see all of them personally they know who they are and I can’t thank them enough you guys mean the world to me and I will not that you guys down. The fact that somebody in my city even knows my name is a huge accomplishment to me personally but the incredible artist and Graffiti Writers from around the world reaching out to me is still very humbling and I just want to say you guys all inspire me more than you know..

You can find my graffiti in the streets of Los Angeles California Phoenix Arizona San Diego California and coming soon to the streets of Mexico.

You can find me on Instagram at @asher_the_great1
Interview by Wesley Edwards