Los Angeles Graffiti Pioneer:
Make One STN
Interview by Gabe the Saint
50mm Staff Writer
Gabe the Saint catches up with one of the pioneers of Graff in L.A. Although he’s not the only one, he is amongst the handful that first graced the walls of L.A. He is highly recognized amongst old-schoolers and Graff-scholars yet rarely acknowledged amongst the new-schoolers. He is a legend of its own kind. A smooth character.I hit him up with a few questions to get his take on Graff; his other pioneering adventures south of the border and ...
GTS: I will start with the typical question that is always asked in interviews. What year did you start writing?
MakeOne: Dude like 1980!! I remember I used to….ahhhh - just kidding. I started writing writing in 84’. Albeit, I can honestly say I got into Graff around 82’ through the whole breakin’ scene.
GTS: Many of the early writers in L.A. where looking at New York Graff as a source of inspiration. Is that true in your case? Did the Gang Graff influence your styles?
MakeOne: I have to admit that yeah, at first, the NY Graff played a significant role in my early Graff years. Not necessarily in style but the drive for it. The Gangster-writing also influenced me as well; again not in style but the principal behind it, to write your placaso (your name) and get your gang (your crew) up and known. But for me it was not only the NY Graff and/or the Gangster-writing but the “I was here” slogan, the stoner writing, the punk writing, the hippie culture, the surfer fonts and the rock-band logos and posters that influenced me and inspired me too. Graff just became the outlet for me to release my fascination for letters.
GTS: Legal or illegal, what do you prefer?
MakeOne: I like both man. I began with a lot illegal stuff. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of doing illegals. As far as legals go, well that’s pretty much what I dedicate myself to now. I am too old to be incarcerated over Graff. Albeit, I do romanticize my impulses to bomb but when I’ve attempted it I just over think it!! It’s just not the same for me. Besides I don’t condone illegal activities. (smiles)
GTS: I am noticing the resurrection of bombing. Do you think that it has to do with the fact that there are fewer yards to paint, it’s trendy or…what is your take?
MakeOne: Mmmmmmmm…..naaah. Not necessarily. I don’t think that it's the elimination of yards that‘s at the heart of it. If cats were bombing whether we lacked yards or not I’d assume they’d still bomb, right? Some of it may be cause its trendy but I think it is its momentum and the genuine mass absorption of Graff. And for writers that resurface to bomb, it may be their attempts to either prove they’re still down, rekindle the flame of their younger Graff days or just simply do it just because.
GTS: Public art used to be respected. Around town, I have noticed that many of the Murals are getting bombed. What is your angle on this matter?
MakeOne: I think it’s absolutely WACK!! As far as murals being respected, I recall murals always getting dissed; either by gangsters (didn’t you watch Colors?) or with a few tags here and there. I agree there has been an increase over the last decade and I think it’s a way for those cats to instantly score on temporary landmarks. I think it sucks and it is a blatant display of disrespect, not to the city, but to the artist. Regardless of what the mural’s message is, whether you agree with it or not, it boils down to the artist’s hard-labored art and form of _expression and convictions…………is that not what we’re attempting to convey through our art-form?? Don’t some of us demand our art to be respected? for our voice to be heard? Art is art! – and as The Beatles said “Let it be!”. I also think it’s TOY to hit-up trees and churches, synagogues, temples….etc.
|GALO is everyone in LA and LA Loves YOU!! - Make |
GTS: Recently you had a billboard running on Sunset Blvd that read “ L.A. Loves Galo.” Can you tell us something about that piece?
MakeOne: LOL! yeah man! It was pure fun. Just plain ole fun. I intended it to be a message of LOVE. I know I know – mushy huh?!! But I also wanted to prompt the question – “who is this GALO?” well - GALO is me, you, the next door neighbor, the bum on the street, the writer, the hooker, the toy, the drunk, the hated, the loved, the despised, the ordinary, the short, the big-headed, the poor, the rich, the star, the person at the coffee-shop, the geek, the guy in the sex-shop, the single mom….etc. To sum it all up; GALO is everyone in LA and LA Loves YOU!! L.A. loves you in spite of who you are! I also wanted to bring a smile on the faces of those that know me……..and lo and behold peeps would call me up laughing telling me they’d just seen my face on a billboard. Mission accomplished! It’s hilarious. Every so often I get random people approaching me saying – “Hey man!! - LA LOVES GALO!” I love it! That’s this year’s motto! LA LOVES GALO!
GTS: What about Graff in galleries?
MakeOne: Its dope. Cool. Just another medium to get up. I believe Graff should be in galleries. Graff is definitely a noteworthy form of art. All this about Graff is raw and this and that and “keep it real” and it should only remain on the streets is all good and dandy but Graff is like any other art. It can be confined but at the same time it can be all out and raw. It’s the same with so called “refined, polished-up” art that’s on the streets. Just cause it’s on the streets is it considered street-art? Or is it just art? Same thing with Graff – if it’s in galleries is it no longer Graff? Graff I so resilient man. To me, it ultimately depends on how you choose to display it and where you wish to display it and how you execute it. You don’t have to compromise its integrity to show in galleries. i.e. Barry “TWIST” McGee. Showcasing in galleries isn't necessarily an inherently evil thing as long as you keep the work authentically expressing the subculture with which it is associated. Graffiti to me is the art of manipulating letters. Period!
GTS: Many Graff writers hate the Internet. Do you think that the Internet is positive or negative for the Graff scene?
MakeOne: I think it’s both. As positive as it can be, it can also be a negative. No need for in-depth details cause its just that; both positive and negative. I personally think it is an easy source to proliferate your name, to connect with other writers, to cheat the system; whatever! Zephyr said in one of his interviews that the Internet is a “Global Bench” of Graff.
GTS: Many of the younger writers do not remember the Radio-tron, which was instrumental to the L.A. Graff and Hip-Hop scene. Can you tell us something about it?
MakeOne: Yeah man – These younger writers not only don’t remember the Radio-Tron but not know of it either. The Radio-Tron was the epicenter of the Hip-Hop scene for LA in its early stages. A lot of the Hip-Hop and Graff culture in LA is solely attributed to the force behind the Radio-Tron. The Radio was a club where many Hip-Hop pioneers set foot on, performed, danced and pieced. It was also a youth center; a safe-haven, a place where many could come and leave all the negativity that inundated our streets outside the door. It was a place where one can come and chill and just be themselves. There was no element of or room for racism or discrimination. It was a good spot! The demise of the Radio was certainly an unpleasant loss. I truly miss the Radio!
GTS: I heard someplace that you did 14 pieces in one night. That sounds like a big ass cramp in the index finger. What was that all about?
MakeOne: Awe man – yeah!! It wasn’t only me though. It was Defer, Skept, Doc and Sine (R.I.P.) – we all collectively did approximately 14 pieces in one night. And no, my fingers did not cramp-up – now they would – but back then??? naaah! But here is the condensed version of it. We started one afternoon. It was Defer and myself painting at the old Pan Pacific Theatre. Doc and Sine showed up when we’re nearly done. Once done, we shot down to the tunnel to bust a few more pieces. Doc jams home and then we hooked-up with Skept somewhere near Rick’s pad. We busted a few more pieces in the vicinity and Def crashed-out nearby. Skept, Sine and myself still on “mission-mode”, we went out and busted more pieces. We took a little break inside a laundry-room nearby, I woke up and woke Sine up too and the two of us took off cause lazy Skept was still “sleepy” and chose to stay. It’s early a.m., we run into Def who was looking for us, we asked him to keep watch and I bust a GALO with leftover paint on 3rd and Loma. I signed my name and wrote “the least conceited and the undefeated” and I also – aumm….stole Def’s saying of “God Loves, Man Kills”……and that’s it! If you ever you run into any of these guys, MAKE sure you ask them. I am certain they’ll gladly recount it for you.
GTS: The Graff and Hip-Hop scene is huge in Mexico. I heard somewhere that in the beginning of the movement down there you where a D.J and introduced Graff as well?
MakeOne: oh geeez! – this will be one of those long answers. A DJ? naaaw - not necessarily but close. When I ran off to Mexico cause I got deported …I mean…to get over my girlfriend dumping me, I was under the assumption that breakin’ was gonna be all over Mex. When I arrived, apparently the breakin’ and hip-hop fad was gone and everyone defaulted back to classic-rock! Of course they had their Rancheras, Nortenas, Spanish-Rock and Cumbias and what not but as far as English music goes, it was mostly classic-rock, new-wave, brit-pop and of the sort. A lot of Tears For Fears and DM if you catch-my-drift. Anyhow – even though I liked that music I was still a die-hard Hip-Hop fan and was in dire need to hear it in clubs. One more “Shout! shout! let it all out” and I would’ve been shouting and letting it all out! I befriended a club-owner of this one hot-spot in Guadalajara called Recorcholis. Don’t ask me what that means. It was more of a chill-spot with a dance-floor than an club. Locals would come and ride their bikes and park their “cool” cars up front while some had drinks inside and/or out. Anyways - I persuaded this guy to allow me to play some of Hip-Hop CDs– you know? some BDP and PE and what not. With a little help of Mellow Man Ace’s song getting some airplay, they were a little receptive to my idea of playing Hip-Hop. Steadily people dug it. I’d bust the freaking Robocop and the Guess and occasionally break and next thing you know Wednesday nights became Hip-Hop night and people would come from other cities to the joint. We had replaced the Lambada with Freaking and the Running-Man.
I basically applied the Radio-Tron’s mindset and tactics. That’s pretty much it. Thanks also to groups like Wilfred y la Ganga and their song Mi Abuela (laughs) for really pushing the Spanish-Rap thing back then. It still took a while for Hip-Hop to be where it’s at today in Mexico. Even with its recent crossover trend.
Graff? – Well, the local kids were emulating the whole gangster writing and would draw the cholo with the hat and locs and what not. You know which one right? Anyways – there were some Graff-like tags here and there but NOT!! I started hitting-up my name – GALO – specially near my job cause there was this chick I dated, Esperanza, that lived a few doors away and I wanted her to see my name. She was hot too! I remember some neighborhood “thug” (Bruno) got pissed-off cause I was all up in his hood with tags, throw-ups, cardboards with my name nailed to trees and posts. It was funny. Anyways - I eventually did some Graff for my cousin’s salon-shop and for my friend’s stationery store and I also did an illegal piece, an Amor piece that I did a few blocks away from where I lived. I used all Corona cans. It was a piece I dedicated to my ex. BTW - I need to obtain a copy of that pic from her. Everyone liked it and I eventually got my cousins and their friends and the neighborhood kids to involved. I assume the chain reaction effect ran its course.
GTS: Finally, what do you think a true Graff writer is?
MakeOne: A true Graff writer is one who does it from the heart! The measure of it is up to the individual! As it is, we spend too much time attempting to define what a “true” Graff writer is. Why not narrow it down to the heart of the writer and accept it as what it is for that individual. The true essence of a Graff-writer will always be a compendium of ideologies anyways.
GTS: Any last comments?
MakeOne: Yeah man – thanks to 50mm for all the support. I’d like to give some shout outs too. I can’t mention everyone, even though I wish, but here are a few: Sizer, RickOne, Sketch, Eyer, Panic, Dyle52, Hael, Envy, Unit, Defer, Doc43, Skept, Cab, Shandu, Yem, Relic, Besk, Jack, Cash and a big wassup to TEMPTONE - the baddest hand-stylist ever, the epiphany of a true Graff-writer. We love you man and you’re in my prayers! SINE, GEO, RISCO, EASIE - Rest in Peace!! and to everyone else, listen to PJ Harvey. Watch Seinfeld. Seek God. Love Me and hit me up too. I’m out!
GTS: Thanks for your time Make, stay up.