Rico is an artist I came across on Instagram not too long ago, and thought his stuff was pretty dope and wanted to do an interview with him. Being able to talk with Rico was great, he’s a really personable friendly guy with some great stories and words of wisdom to share from his hometown where he honed his craft in Brisbane, Australia.
First off thanks for doing this interview. So what got you involved in graffiti writing as opposed to doing illustration or graphic design or anything else? I imagine you would do well in any other graphic arts industry but why graffiti?
I started writing graffiti about 15 years ago. when I started I wasn’t even thinking about making money or painting stuff that appealed to the general eye. It was about getting up, destroying shit and having fun. Vandalism is the best. I met a dude in my first year of high school who’s older brother was out bombing the train lines and painting nice pieces, and was also a bboy. He showed us the ropes and the more of an insight i got into the graffiti/hip hop scene, the more I became obsessed with it. The rest is history.
How did you learn to develop the style that you did? Did you have anyone mentoring you or did you learn just from constantly experimenting? Who were your heroes when you were coming up?
I like to think my style came from the city I grew up in – Brisbane, Autralia. it was originally influenced by stuff I saw on the streets and the tracks – not the internet. I grew up on the north side of my city, and spent a lot of my teenage years on the south. Crews like DTS PMC DSM AKM DIE TBK ADW DS BWP (to name only a few) had the city and trains on lock, and were killing shit in style. Same colour end to ends, full colour track side productions – this was what the kings did, and what we aspired to do. Over time I tweaked my style bit by bit, and must say that travelling has now influenced what I paint alot, but I still like to think that the backbone of my style is from back home where it all started.
What crew are you a part of? I see you like doing a lot of figure with @ciaonelius and others so I’m curious who takes what task? Do you draw out the character and he comes back in with the color? When you are collaborating how do you figure out who does what tasks?
Haha if only we were that organised. I mainly write MCK and SMO crews, as well as being a memeber of others. When we collaborate, one of us usually has an idea in mind for the character or the theme. We throw around colour schemes (or the colours we have in our bags) and just see what happens. SMO crew are who i paint most of these productions with, and amongst the 7 of us are very different styles and backgrounds in the sense of where we are from and how weve grown up. We’re all from different parts of the world so we all have our own input and something different to bring to the wall… most importantly we work as a team to get these walls done. Everyone is allocated a task so you just gotta suck it up when you get put on background duty!!
There is one piece of yours that has the character Spider Jerusalem from the comic Transmetropolitian that I really like. The character in the book is known as being heavily inspired by Hunter S. Thompson, with his gonzo journalism and drug use. Why did you choose to draw out this character? Are you a big Hunter S Thompson fan? I imagine a portrait of him would go well in your pieces!
I have actually painted a hunter s character before, I love the guys work and what he’s about! I’m a massive comic fan in general and its my favorite style to paint. iIpretty much just search through comics and comic material to find stuff that i feel like painting. If it looks badass, then its on the next wall.
Where have you traveled to and where would you like to go next?
I’ve been all over Australia and New Zealand. I’ve explored a lot of Europe and the UK as well, and spent a little bit of time in south east Asia.. i love everywhere I’ve been and would go back in a heart beat. Graffiti has helped me explore new cities and make new friends everywhere I go and generally I stay in touch with these people. Next on the list is Canada and America, although I’d love to head to Africa or anywhere with a graff scene and an affordable flight, and I’ll go.
What kind of playlist do you have going on whenever you paint these days?
Pretty much anything to suit the vibe I’m feeling. I’ve got a lot of different genres on my playlist these days, but generally have drum n bass pumping out my headphones. Its up beat and energetic, and helps me get shit done.Aalthough @ciaonelius is usually the dj these days, so whatever the fuck he has blasting out the speaker is what were listening to!
What do you think is the most important thing one can do to grow as an artist?
FUCK OFF THAT EGO! It really annoys me when I meet people who think they’re the best. and think ‘this is my best piece, and its the best I can do’. Listen to people when they criticize your work. Tell them to fuck off if you don’t like what they say, but listen. There is always room for improvement, and there will always be someone better than you. Try new things and take on challenges that make you think and work outside of your comfort zone and just keep working hard. Stay humble. Dont be a dick.
Do you have any crazy chase stories? Anyone in your crew ever been chased off when yall are throwing up a piece?
Ive got a few haha. From police to angry vigilantes legging it after us, I’ve had my fair share. one that still haunts me to this day was when i was out with my co-defendant VISE on the C-Line back home. We were going to rock a full colour production on a stretch of the line we were very familiar with. We parked the car where we always do, grabbed our big bags of paint and started walking to the spot to get onto the tracks. Next minute an unmarked cop car came creeping around the corner. We both looked at each other and said ‘fuck’ and started running. I made it to the 6 foot fence, climbed up and jumped off the top onto the track rocks. I felt a pop in my ankle but kept running. It felt like my foot was rolling under my ankle, almost like it wasn’t connected. I threw my bag of paint and made it to a small wooden fence where vise was waiting for me. I told him my ankle was fucked and he should keep going. I crawled through the bushes and found a storm drain to hide in. Minutes later I had a swarm of cops drag me out with tazers pointed at me. I just kept yeling ‘my ankles fucked my ankles fucked’ as they pinned me down threatening to hit me with the tazer.
Turns out people were doing break and enters in the area and we matched the description. After being treated like shit in the cells, the paramedics came and dosed me up on sweet sweet morphine and took me to hospital. A week later i was having surgery to fix my ankle and in the process had to have my leg broken. I spent the next 6 months in and out of hospital, getting treated for infections and what not, and was also left thousands of dollars out of pocket. the worst part was 4 days after this happened, i was supposed to be boarding a flight to Canada, followed by New York and then London. ah well, shit happens, eh?
Is there anything that annoys you about the graffiti scene? What advice would you give to others who are starting out in graffiti?
As i said earlier – ego really annoys me and ruins the image I have of many writers in my mind when i finally meet them. To a certain extent the internet these days also annoys me. When I started out, graffiti was all about looking up to those in your city, and not online, and your style reflected where you were from. It was a part of paying your dues in my eyes. if you blatantly bit someone from your city you were called out too. You couldn’t get away with that shit. these days, a writer from Australia can jump online and plagiarize a writer from somewhere else in the world, and people wont notice its someone elses style. It also seems that writers are painting for ‘likes’ more these days, but I guess thats just part of graffiti in the 21st century now?
Any last words or shout outs?
Peace to all the writers out there and shouts to MCK SMO and the OE gang up in Edinburgh. Graffiti for life. ACAB. Never trust a non drinker!
You can follow rico on Instagram.
Interviewed by Wesley Edwards