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? When did you start, what crew do you rep (if any), and what’s the story behind “Bus166”?
Thanks for the opportunity. I started writing in 1991. Did the typical toy shit for a couple years, then got serious about bombing and trying to learn more about real graffiti. Was fortunate enough to get put on MSK in 1993 and started learning more skills and the way things worked in the graff culture. I went pretty hard throughout the 90s, then went to college to study graphic design; the workload in the design program was so crazy, I fell off the graffiti scene while I was there. After that I started building my business, so I took a couple more years off and came back on in 2006. That few years I was away, things changed quite a bit. The yards I used to frequent were all gone, social media was taking hold, and things were really unfamiliar. I feel like I fumbled through close to a decade painting here and there. Fast forward to 2015, I opened my gallery/graff shop and felt like I was really finding my purpose in the graff culture.
So one of the first things I noticed you are probably the most business minded graffiti artist I’ve come across. Which is really exciting, what lead you to want to build this business at machinestudio.com and what do you offer here? It’s interesting to see a graffiti artist offering not only their own art, but supplies, custom stickers and a podcast so I’m curious how this came about.
Really appreciate this question. I started a motion graphics company in 2002 doing design and animation for TV shows, so that got me started in business. Around 2014 or so, I started getting the itch to give back to the graff culture. @machinestudio started primarily as a space for graff shows and blackbook sessions. Open every day, local writers could come in and draw in our books, look at art, and things like that. Selling supplies sort of evolved organically to pay the bills, but I eventually got hyper focused on making it a sustainable business. Paying attention to the needs of graff writers, I tried to build a business that fills some of those needs. They need things to paint/write with, a lot of writers like stickers, they need educational content, etc., so we’ve been working hard to deliver for them.
At the time of writing this, we sell spray paint, markers, sketchbooks, caps and things like that. We also print high quality stickers and we have some of our own products like Drip Machine (mop marker), Metal Machine (correction pen style), and some others. All of this is available at our shop in San Pedro and on our website.
Speaking of your podcast do you just interview other graffiti artists? Who has been some of your favorite guests on your show?
We’ve had a couple of guests and I have some recorded with guests coming out, but the Graffiti Machine Podcast is more about providing personal development kind of information to help elevate the minds of graffiti writers. When Kub and I started working together on it, we genuinely wanted to help improve the graff culture by helping writers improve themselves; while neither of us are self help gurus or anything like that, we have read and experienced a lot, we wanted to pass on any information that helped transform our lives. I’ve been reading a significant amount over the last couple of years and I find sometimes a tiny bit of information can hit you right where you need it and have life changing effects. The goal of the project is that some of the information might hit with others in the same way it hit for us.
Tragically, Kub passed away about mid year 2020, so I’ve been doing a lot of solo episodes to continue the mission. The project is very important to us and I am putting things in place to get very consistent with releasing the content this year.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why?
I like Steve Grody’s Graffiti LA and Roger Gastman’s Freight Train Graffiti, but there are lots out there that I’ve enjoyed looking at. I also really like the Bombing LA video from 1988; it’s really cool to see some of that early stuff.
One of the things thats always interested me about graffiti but I never thought to ask is why some artists gravitate towards working with postal labels, why is that? Is there a history behind this aspect of writing, and why do you offer these for sale on your site?
I believe it started mainly because they were free at the post office, but over time, they gained a sort of cult following. I personally like the way graff looks on them and we hosted some events around them. The ones we sell on the site are oversized versions of them (11×14) and we hosted several art shows with them. They were some of the best shows we had at the studio. It was a really cool opportunity to have some of the biggest names in graffiti represented in those. Once everything settles down, we’ll definitely be revisiting the ‘Big Postal’ events.
For those that are aspiring to take their craft and turn it into a business that actually makes them money enough to be sustainable, what is your advice? Do you think its unrealistic to try to make a living off of your art alone without other sources of income?
I really like this question and it’s a conversation I’ve had more than a few times. I believe that working very hard, staying consistent, and being a student for life is a recipe for success for just about any endeavor you want to pursue. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to make a living using your artistic talents, but I do think making it as an artist selling your art alone can be challenging. You have to think that even if you’re the most talented artist to ever live, personal taste is always going to be a factor. You have to find people that like your stuff. I would imagine there are some crazy masterpieces out there that nobody wants to buy simply because it doesn’t fit the buyer’s personal taste.
One thing I’ve often suggested is finding a craft you can use as a commercial art like design, sign painting, photography, video, or something along those lines as a way to generate income while you try to become a full time artist. While this isn’t the same as selling your personal art, you still can use your talents to earn a living. I find it to be a more practical approach to it since you’ll be directly filling a need of a customer. I have no experience selling art outside of commercial art, so I don’t have any first hand advice on selling your art; these are just some things I’ve thought about over the years and I’ve had success in the commercial art space.
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint? Who is your favorite hip hop artist and why?
I’m more of a metal/classic punk guy. Lately, I’ve been pretty heavy on Black Metal. That said, I usually don’t listen to anything when I paint. Not sure why to be honest. I do like Hip Hop, but it isn’t the kind of music that gets me going.
Do you get to travel a lot or have you in the past? Any crazy travel stories you can share?
I don’t really travel much. I did have some fun painting various places in the 90s when I was on tour with a hardcore band I was playing in called Eyelid. No crazy stories, but I have some good memories. One that stands out is hitting some trains with Roger Gastman in Salem, Massachusetts. It was a long time ago, so I can’t remember how this came about, but we met with a witch before we went painting—I think she was the mother of someone we were painting with. She gave us each a smooth black stone to keep us safe. I remember keeping that stone for years after that.
When you were coming up who inspired you and taught you the ropes and who inspires you now? Who are the artists that are inspiring you now?
My first mentor was Gank/Gkay. He pulled me out of the toy world and showed me how shit really was. I can’t say enough about how much knowledge I gained about bombing, navigating neighborhoods, who’s who, tools and all that kind of stuff by hanging around him. He introduced me to Eklipse who was a massive help in developing my style in the 90s in addition to providing great leadership.
I still pull a lot of inspiration from the past along with the present. The list is a huge list, but I’ll rattle off some that are top of mind to me Gesr, Jaber, Saber, Kems, Tempt, El Mac, Revok, Helio Bray, Aloy, Tyke, Prime, Myte, and tons more. I’m also inspired by lots of things around me and the way they look. Rusty textures on things, highlights on metal objects, reflections, the sky, shadows, old brick walls, etc.
Any shout outs you would like to give? where can people follow you?
Shoutout to all writers; kings & queens to youngsters just getting started. Shoutout to Wesley and Bombing Science for the thoughtful questions. I really appreciate your effort on this.
You can find me on Instragram @bus166, but I’m most active @machinestudio. You can also check out @machinestudio on TikTok and The Graffiti Machine Podcaston most of your favorite podcast platforms, graffitimachine.com and YouTube.com/machinestudio.