I got to Los Angeles with not a lot of money and true to the lore of guns n roses songs, it was quickly gone. Needing free fun/parking, i asked friend/goof/collaborator Matt Gondek for a spot to paint and he introduced me to Frank, who was nearby the Start LA HQ painting some monstrous purple burger man. He gave me a cigarette and had tight can control. The next night I watched him compete in and win a live art battle for Secret Walls. He drew Donald Trump as Chucky from Child’s Play barfing a maelstrom. That’s when i decided to interview him.
We sat down at Start LA the next week and shot the shit about art, burgers, working for Monorex/Secret Walls/Start LA and incorporating (and maybe reconciling) graffiti as a 9-5. Check it:
Ok. So. what’s the Frankzilla origin story? how did you get into graffiti?
Grew Up in East LA, Lincoln Heights specifically. I grew up in an area heavily populated by gang bangers and graff writers…So naturally, I was always curious about the graffiti that surrounded me. I would roam the LA River when it was a thing or walk the tracks, watching trains shoot through with tags and pieces surrounding them. It was always an interest of mine growing up, always had an appreciation for it but I’ve only been painting for close to 2 years now. I had a bunch of graff friends who liked my cartoon characters and doodles. They always told me I should put them on walls but I never imagined myself doing it. Eventually, a bunch of dudes from a crew I’m now apart of (KRS) had a little road trip to Las Vegas to paint some yards. They invited me to come paint with them but I had no idea what I was doing. Once I picked up a can, I fell in love. It made the process of creating something big a lot easier than I expected. Since then, I’ve done a handful of trains and 1 billboard lol
So you were more character focused that letters? or did you do both?
I started with shitty tags…I was always terrible at it. I would tag Frankzilla here and there but it never really stuck with me. I always drew growing up. Raunchy characters and my favorite cartoons….graffiti and cartoons somehow collided with each other for me
Haha yea frankzilla is a lot of letters to write. What cartoons resonated with you as something you could connect to graffiti? Comics? Anime? Punk zine looking guys?
Nickelodeon was my shit growing up. I always thought Disney was for pussies. But Nick was like, gross and inappropriate…Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, Aaahh! Real Monsters, KABLAM, all those 90’s shows heavily influenced my style. The slime, the gross details, the anatomy of the characters was so dope to me. I would draw gross shit, which then made me look like that weird kid down the street.
So what were your first couple characters you’d regularly get up with?
Fuck! I wish I had all these drawings from when I was a kid. My ex has about 3 folders of drawings I would draw her. It was an 8 year relationship so she has most of my earlier pieces.
But the characters I drew as a kid were mainly copies of these cartoons I watched. I think one of the earliest drawings and characters I use to draw was drawing babies riding bikes off of cliffs…in retrospect, it’s fucked up. It made no sense, but in my head, it was fun to draw. My aunt swore there was something wrong, even restricted me from drawing many times….I’m sure there was. But yeah, my style always changed growing up… I never really stuck with one thing until I got older
My teenage years were my best days
What are you drawing these days? And are you still getting up? Or have you transitioned into the more legal side of things with street art? Also, whats up with the burgers?
I’ve always had a fascination for drawing food. I think it has to do with the different textures that come with it, the small little details. Burgers became a thing because it has all the elements. But honestly, I don’t want to be known for 1 thing, which is why my shit is always changing. It’s my thing now. Many years I was drawing my characters vomiting and I figured out the psychological part of why I drew vomit.
But yeah, I do get up here and there…my throwie is a sad burger so if I’m ever roaming the streets, I’ll do a little sad dude. But my passion is trains. I fucking love the idea of my art traveling. I’ve had pieces go to Washington, Texas, Oregon…I’ll get random people sending me messages about something I did on a train sometimes. But now, I do more legals more than anything because I have a great job, a girlfriend, bills….shitty grown up responsibilities…but the drive is still there. I’m always ready to get my ass up to hit a yard whenever I have the time
So how did you get involved doing legal walls? Where in LA? And who are you doing them for mostly?
My career as an artist has been the driving force of me staying lowkey about my work. My dudes from KRS are fucking nuts….they do it all: Trucks, freights, walls, billboards, bandos, everything. With that comes risks….many of these dudes have real lives, families, jobs, all of that. But they still risk it all. Not to say they don’t, but for me personally,I have too much to lose. I’ve come from such a shitty background and had to fight my way up on my own…and to get locked up because of some potential toy shit is something I’m not always willing to do. Don’t get me wrong, my passion and drive is still there….get me on a day where I’m with the homies and we’ve been drinking and I’m more than likely gonna fucking do it lol
But most of my legal shit is either asking business owners to either paint their box trucks on stores. As well, I work for a company called Monorex and High Rise Murals where the focus is on commercial murals and pieces. One of the highlights of my Career was doing background pieces for a commercial with Heineken over in Miami. Tons of fun
How did you get together with Monorex and High Rise? Do they function like advertising companies where a client wants X so you paint X? Or do they procure spots for you guys to do what you feel? And what do you do for Secret Walls and Start LA? Same thing?
It’s complicated to explain, but Monorex is a company that connects brands to a variety of artist for a specific job, whether it’s designing an art series for a brands or creating a brand collaborations. So within Monorex are the in-house brands and creative platforms which is High Rise Murals (mural based), Secret Walls (art battles), and School Walls (art battles for the youngins). For all of these, I am the graphic designer…I make the flyers, clean up designs before finalizing, shirt designs, all of it
Ahh so secret walls & high rise and all these platforms are under the Monorex Umbrella then?
Yup! Monorex is the papa and the rest are the kids….it’s a hierarchy of creative platforms
So out of these creative platforms, which one provides you with the most fulfilling work? What keeps you the busiest with a paint can?
I do a lot with Secret Walls. Secret Walls has developed me into this artist I never knew I could be. Because it’s a timed, freestyle art battle, it becomes a calculated process where you have to think ahead before you start working on something. But as far as what keeps me busiest with a can, I would just say I’m the platform that keeps me busy. Where I work, I meet amazing artist like AMUSE, COPE2, Jon Burgerman, Captain Cris, Tewser, Binho, Conzo, all these incredibly amazing dudes and they inspire me to just fucking paint shit
Most of all of these things mainly associated with Start LA
Tell us a lil about secret walls, how many secret walls competitions have you done? And what is your overall takeaway from the experience– other than changing the way you think about making art.
Secret Walls is live art battles between 2 sets of artist, whether its 1v1 or 5v5. These events are time battles meaning the artist have 90 minutes to creative something either on canvas or on a wall. It’s all freestyle drawing so there are no sketches nor are there pencils. Everything is done using only black ink, acrylic, or spraycan.
Me personally, I’ve done 6 shows. I’ve worked side by side (or against) artist like Matt Gondek, Elle NYC, Nina Palomba, Lillipore, Tuesday Bassmen, Upendo, Woes, Jake Merten, Joey Lee, Captain Cris, Start Vault, Conzo, Penelope Gazin, and Kliuwong.
Being a part of the SW crew has made me more comfortable about myself as an artist. I’ve had so many people come up to me, wanting me to sign their blackbooks and sketch books because they actually like my work. Too my, it’s so fucking alien. I’m not use to that attention…I’m use to hating myself as an artist, always trying to figure out what I’m actually doing, not really liking my own work. But when strangers tell you otherwise, that shit drives you.
Outside of work, where do you want to see happen with your own artwork? Are there any projects or pet projects that have your attention right now?
At first, when I was painting, I really wanted to be a gallery artist…but going to so many shows and meeting different artist has pushed me away from the idea. There’s so many fake people within the industry, people willing to do whatever it takes to suck money from you without give 2 shits about the artist. Now, I honestly want to be a muralist…I want to paint big shit. My goal is to paint something as big as 10 stories.
Last question is a thinker: in a kind of philosophical sense, what do you think is so important about graffiti and street art? How has it changed the art world? Coming from your own subjective experiences and the shit you’ve observed in your work & travel.
I think what makes graffiti and street art so important is giving voice to those who couldn’t do otherwise. Graff is a form of anarchy, a fuck you to everything. It’s your identity and for some of us, without our trigger fingers, we don’t really have a place in the world. Everything has a story, even graffiti…we communicate through our art and people get to see that on a large scale.
Graffiti is so commercialized now…it has become one of those things we just accept…it’s part of the LA culture..without it, this place looks fucking dead. I don’t necessarily agree with graffiti becoming such a mainstream thing now because it’s about aesthetics, whether or not it looks pretty. “Oh, I love graffiti, but not those stupid tags.” But people forget that it has a history and there are ways to doing things. The mainstream forgets that and ignores the raw form of it.