Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can you give us a brief introduction to who you are, what your history is in the graffiti game and what crew do you rep? Where did the name flying fortress come from?
Hello! Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen! My name/alias/tag is FLYING FÖRTRESS (with an “Ö” if your keyboard provides it…). The name is stolen from a WWII bomber plane. When I was a kid I used to do model-kits and I loved that airplane for its little references to the Millennium Falcon and the Freak Brother’s tour bus. Later I picked the name as I like the paradox within its name/meaning: “flying” for the manhood’s dream of being totally free like a bird or dream… and “fortress” for the need of a rock-steady safe place of home and safeness. I started writing Graffiti in 1988 somehow, starting to scratch my school room desk and vandalizing the walls along my way to school and stuff like that. Since then I am playing. Crews & team players: JBCB – Jukebox Cowboys / 5410 (which is a secret number… but a reference to our crew’s fav drinking song) / 243 (my mates from London) / YCP (my bratans from Croatia) / RWK – Robots Will Kill (from NYC)
When I look at your work I am blown away by the simplicity you bring to your designs, they look like there is some definite anime or at least cartoon influences on your work, who were the artists either in or out of graffiti that inspired your current style?
For my style references I would name writers like Loomis, WonABC, NEON and a couple more of the Munich’s old school/pioneer heroes. As I came to the game by seeing their stuff first in my home city Munich. A bit later I picked Spraycan Art and Subway Art for sure, but those Munich guys definitely been the first shot. But even before Graffiti, I had visual influences from skateboarding. Artists like Andy Howell (New Deal Skateboards), Ed Templeton and Jim Phillips (Santa Cruz Skateboards). And while doing some current art project with re-using old letters and stamps I got aware that even before skateboarding I was building up my taste from collection post stamps, as these little stamps are artworks itself. This all build me up. The clean style might be due to being a Virgo zodiac sign… no clue haha. I like it clean and bold.
3)What is the significance of the Teddytroops in your work?
The idea in the very early 2000’s was to use an icon instead on a classic tag which is a coded script for the insiders. So as being a character writer since the first days I wanted to have a figural icon for me to use in repetition. After a few try&errors, I got that soldier/trooper and I felt like the idea of having troops sent out to public space to occupy it is something with a second layer of meaning. Also, each trooper is turning part of a bigger army, so each one is taking its part for the bigger cause. Also, I used to write Bear on trains and even before I painted Teddy Bears next to my track-side pieces… so the bear/teddy is my long-term golden thread.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why?
Ah, a quick one, easy: it’s definitely both Subway Art and Spraycan Art books. The impact and flood wave made it all up.
After looking over your extensive body of work i assume you do this full time, I’m curious if you can tell us how you got the ball rolling for this to be your career?
Uh, this is a way-longer story… a bit too long to tell now and here. But basically, it’s about taking a chance and believe in yourself and your potential. I#ve been through dark and dry periods. But the trick is to keep on creating. Even if you don’t see a quick success. It’s a bit bla-bla-bla. But for the start of my career as doing all this as a freelance and independent artist I had to face a crisis before. Working as a graphic-designer and illustrator there was a big hole/crisis around 2002/2003 with no regular job requests popping in. So in a way I was able to focus on my very own projects to start things up. A crisis can be a chance. The same with the last „Covid“ year. From looking like the whole thing is breaking down old things it forced me to re-organize things and it turned out to be a chance to do things better.
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?
A lot of retro stuff. Kid of the 80s… Punk Rock from the 90’s. And Italo & Cosmic Disco from the dance floor.
Are you self taught or did you learn from an adjacent field, such as graphic design or fine arts?
I studied and got my Bachelor’s in Graphic Design. But the most I learned from my classmates at university as they helped me to un-learn my pompous Graffiti-skills I thought I already ruled the world. And also my comrades at my first freelance shared-studio space. From them I learned more than before, even all the business things to start being freelance.
Any crazy travel stories you can share?
Ahh, way too many! Bad bad stories! More than just we shaked cans, we go to the yard, there was security, we wait, security left, we made. But the good stories are to be told in a moment of beers&laughs together in a bar!
How has graffiti changed since you came on the scene?
Thank God is changed and it’s still changing. Meaning developing. As Graffiti (and my Graffiti too) is almost a thousand years old it would be a pity (and boring) if it wouldn’t change and evolve. Sometimes I feel stuck in a one-way alley myself and then I happily see things moving forward and that hooks me up back again. Graffiti has still it’s dynamic and vibration. Not everywhere. But I guess without that energy it would have been gone long like other art movements in pop culture before…
Any shout outs you would like to give? where can people follow you?
Big thank-you to all the long-term supporters and for all the follow-up on my work. I know I’m an old fart now but I still love the game and I am trying hard every day to be creative! Hope I can also make you feel this in my work.
You can see my work on the old and dying internet: www.teddytroops.net or on Instagram: @flyingfortress243
Interview by Wesley Edwards