This session had been tentatively arranged the night prior, but I wouldn’t have felt bad if he’d canceled because I knew Zae began his day around 5am and made it home 8pmish. That being an extremely long day usually leaves a person mentally drained. About 7:45pm I received the call that he was about home and wanted to know if we were still on. After collecting the necessary tools (the digital recorder and camera), confirmed the location on Google maps, warmed up my motorcycle and was off. The nights adventure to score an interview had just begun.
Arriving at his place he explained the need to head to a particular location where he could hand off some cash to a friend of his girl’s who is currently studying down in Guatemala. Because of his hours he was unable to make the much needed deposit to her account. Zae figured he could take out several birds with one stone, getting some dinner, a few beers, and this interview done at that same spot. Well, first things first, to get there.
With no valid drivers license he asks if I would mind driving his gf’s car. After confirming that insurance was cool we went out to fire up the ’84 Accord. Ummm, no go, some electrical problem. I’d give him a ride on my motorcycle (something I still have yet to do) but he’s got no helmet. The alternative became bicycles. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I really rode a bicycle anywhere.
Through the dark side streets of Portland we cruised, and I could feel the breeze of autumn in the air. After dodging a couple of hairy intersections, and retrieving my digital recorder before it got ran over we arrived at Tiger Too, ordered a couple Bridgeport IPA’s and introductions were dealt out. Zae ordered himself the 1/2lb pepper jack cheese, bacon and sliced jalapeños fire burger. Unfortunately, for some reason we didn’t get around to the interview here, the fries were good though, and the pints might have warmed us to some decent conversation. Even more unfortunate was that I hadn’t noticed just how tired this guy had become.
Regardless, back at his place he made the attempt to go through with this interview, the best that a sleep deprived delusional individual can.
Moments of Truth~ Please describe your primary creative endeavors.
Zae~ Graffiti art slash vandalism slash bike riding, masturbating slash gardening.
MOT~ Okay, umm, so is that how you want to break it down? Maybe, what medium do you most focus your creative energy?
Z~ Rampant vandalism.
MOT~ Why have you chosen this medium versus all those other fantastic ones out there?
Z~ There are not that many other fantastic mediums out there as far as I’m concerned.
MOT~ Alright then, well, break it down where you grew up?
Z~ Primarily grew up in North East Portland, spent my early childhood years in Olympia, Washington where my childhood memories rest. I preside in SE Portland now-a-days.
MOT~ Tell me a little bit about this gardening that you do.
Z~ Gardening is a meditational experience. Vegetable gardening not landscaping, you can watch things grow and get to eat them, it’s kind of fun. I’m not as into it as I should be, it’s more of an old people hobby, even though old folks might not exploit it as much as they should, uh, tomatoes are amazing, fruit, obviously it’s a very exploitable region. I mean if you don’t have to buy produce in the store why should you? Heirlooms, the most legitimate thing you can work with.
MOT~ Do you have any particular memories when you started focusing your time and energy on your creative endeavors? Say, about the time you started switching off all other avenues of the other not very many other creative endeavors and started focusing on this rampant vandalism thing?
Z~ Around the time when I switched off was when my brother David was murdered down in Eugene, Oregon. Uhhh, I kind of shut off completely. I was already pretty anti-social as a kid, and I had very few friends and it stuck me in a whole different world. I was already kind of getting into graffiti and I accelerated that world, graffiti art, graffiti vandalism, what ever you want to call it. From there just went into a few years of depression and uh finding myself and making friends finally that has brought to where I am now.
MOT~ So you think you made a lot of friends through that avenue that you wouldn’t have necessarily made in any other way?
Z~ I think with out graffiti it would have been a lot harder for me to grow as a person and find a community. That was my community and that was my way to come up in the world which I didn’t have before.MOT~ That’s a good transition to my next question how would you describe the community you grew up in and do you think that the community influenced your ideas style or just the way you approach life in general?
Z~ My community was both very positive and very negative at the same time. It was very polarized. You got your violent shit head irresponsible side and you got you artistic expression community blah blah blah, whatever people call it. A lot of people try to label, catagorize, every thing’s a category, label or syndrome these days, soooo I like grey areas, I like things to be grey, except for walls.
MOT~ So do you think the community had a large impact on the way you think about things or do you think you would have just come up with them on your own?
Z~ If the world wasn’t fucked I wouldn’t think the way I think. I mean it’s not like we live in some third world country. Things are handed to Americans that aren’t handed to the rest of the world. I can’t say I grew up in poverty. Nobody in America really grew up that impoverished, I mean maybe a handful of minorities, perhaps if your in the dirty south.
MOT~ Yea it’s tough to say that over here in the northwest, people are pretty well taken care of.
Z~ You can do what you want to do if you have the right mind-state. But sometimes, family has a lot to do with it, . . . I lost track of the original question falling out into different tangents.
MOT~ How would you describe your creative style? What is it you are trying to accomplish or express with the medium that you choose to use?
Z~ Well, as far as graffiti goes it’s full on freedom of speech, full on freedom, you’re not allowing someone else to speak for you, or going through some commercial medium, it’s all you and your own community. Which is an excellent thing, and it can also be a retarded thing half the time. But you get your good with your bad and your happy and sad, smile now cry later.
MOT~ But like in any medium [of life] you’re going to have rules people are supposed to follow, there’s like levels of engagement, it’s like it breaks down to a militaristic form of combat. How is that free versus something else? How do you set yourself apart?
Z~ UngWell, you’ve got your rules and boundaries, you’ve got those that choose not to follow any of the rules or boundaries and you’ve got those that are strict to the rules of the game, what is allowed and not, ya know. I don’t know, in a smaller city like Portland everybody makes there own rules, and nobody really gets checked. But I know in bigger cities the graffiti community is tough. You can’t really fuck around in some places. In Portland I’ve gotten away with some shit, and shoulda’ got my ass kicked, but I didn’t. But ya know, I’ve also given people passes on getting their ass kicked, it goes either way. Maybe I’m just a mellow dude.
MOT~ Do you have any particular sources of inspiration, what ever might inspire you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be artistic or creative….
Z~ I love nature, I love the balance between nature and civilization, that’s an inspiration. I love my dad, he’s an awesome person, with out him I wouldn’t be anywhere.
MOT~ Do you have any particular artistic influences, styles of thought you might emulate?
Z~ As far as artistic influences, you gotta go back to the old school folks. I’m not even going to elaborate that much. Your “Style Wars” people and what not. As far as artists, Salvador Dalí, Picasso, I haven’t studied art really that much to know this or that. I’ve always been mostly a free thinker, but I am considering trying to be more structured, get into meditation, reading a lot more books, basically, because I don’t feel like I know shit about the world. If I ever expect to travel and learn about the world, I am really way off base. It just involves traveling and reading, hopefully I will eventually figure out a true direction. Right now I’m pretty much in limbo land, and that can happen when you chose lifestyles that I’ve chosen. I’ve been a wandering graffiti writer up until about two years ago. Those two things combined, being a traveler and artist, you can experience a lot of things people don’t get to experience, but you can also put yourself in a void where you don’t learn other things about the world. A kind of tunnel vision.
MOT~ Do you have any creative goals in mind? A direction you plan to work toward? Some specific goals you’d like to try and achieve.
Z~ I’ve always wanted to be a free lance journalist. Originally I begin putting out my own magazine, now everybody seems to have their own magazine. Everybody’s a graphic designer… I put out three independent graffiti slash commentary magazines from ’99 to 2002. This was back when Kinko’s was very exploitable, and my dad has a printing background so that was helpful. They were full size, color.
My dad’s been running printing presses since the 60’s, that’s his official trade. And now he’s dabbling in it a little bit, and part of the teachers union. He’s a major inspiration, done a lot.
MOT~ Were you able to glean any knowledge or methods of printing from him?
Z~ I would be around when he was running them, and he’d be helping people with their poem books. Always working on something whether through work or helping other friends, and obviously that rubbed off on me. The ink kind of attracted me, I thought “I could get into that.” I’ve always had a writing urge, although it’s kind of died off in recent years. Everything goes in cycles, so I’m likely to get back to it, eventually. I need to get back into the practice of writing, reading more, and educating myself, dancing around questions that people ask me.
MOT~ Zzzzzzzz (loosing my train of thought as ‘Mr. Bungle’ surf rock plays in the background)
Z~ Yea, I’ve been working the blue collar muscle and beer drinking muscle the last two years. It’s feels good, certain aspects, but it’s also pretty exhausting.
MOT~ Do you have any books, resources, or tools that you turn to for your main creative endeavors?
Z~ I used to rely heavily on music as a kind of guide, which I forgot about in recent years. I’ve been getting back into music as inspiration. I come from a very musical artistic family so it only makes sense, I’m destined to be a whore to some sort of art. So it’s no surprise that I’ve dedicated myself to graffiti, music, some sort of art (drifting off to sleep)
MOT~ Well, do you think you have a particular process from start to finish? Like from the development of an idea to
Z~ Basically I’m a scatterbrain so any pocket of creativity I relish in….
MOT~ How do you collect it, organize yourself?
Z~ It just comes to me, a lot of the time I’m really lazy and I’ll spend a lot of my time thinking I’m really bored and in reality I’m not, I’m just not living up to what my potential offers me…. (questioning his sleepy thoughts) that doesn’t make any sense. Not living up to my potential is what I meant to say.
A lot of the time I don’t record my ideas, I don’t stick with them, and I don’t follow through with them.
MOT~ Why not?
Z~ Uhhhhh, scatterbrain laziness that’s somehow imbedded in me. I don’t know if it’s a birth defect or what. I mean I definitely have honed my creative abilities in the past, so I know it’s there. It’s definitely always there, that’s the thing, I know it’s always there, but I can always put it off. . . .
MOT~ Do you enjoy having these ideas? Why not capture them, what might keep you from taking them into fruition? Do you not see a need for it to become part of physical reality?
Z~ I think a lot of the time I am very picky and I scrutinize myself too much and don’t let things just come out, and I don’t let things happen; therefore I eliminate them from my thought process and forget about them. That’s not a good thing, because I do have a lot of good ideas, “Oh man, I could just take off on this.”
I don’t know, what’ll happen is I’ll get off work, forget about it, have a couple beers, ‘whew.’ A year later I’m like, “I wonder if I could still work on that?”
Sometimes I do, sometimes I can come back and do it, paint something, further the idea, put it back on the back burner and let it marinate. I figure with youth, I’m still young, 27, got a lot of steam yet to blow off, a little bit of partying left to do, not too much but I figure, ya know, I got all my 30’s and 40’s to hunker down and finally capture all that creative process. Write, read, art, travel, I mean, it’s all still there, right now I’m just working on trying to get a career together as far as making money, I’m going with the trade, I have no desire to go to college or an office and sit behind a computer all day. I don’t know. Hands on. But I’ve paid for it, physically and mentally.
MOT~ When you’re working on a project, putting something together, what tells you it’s complete?
Z~ I try to like to work in one big spurt, I try to be 90% done from start to finish. I try to get it started, come the next day and tweak it out a little bit. I like to get things done all in one, that’s probably part of my problem sometimes, with the continuing artistic endeavors is that I don’t allow myself time to put things together in order, and I just want to get it done I guess. I mean, I might take my time, but I want to get it done. I could add this little rinky-dink there, or through this in there. It’s like with music, you can come up with a simple song, figured out the lyrics that night, bust it out and record it, sometimes that’s the best way to do it. It sounds like a corny comparison but I know Tu Pac would just sit in the studio and just pump out songs.
MOT~ What about the possibility, I mean, I don’t know him personally, but that he sat down and thought these songs out in his head years and years ago. . . . I don’t think that’s something to be discounted, to be able to develop something in your mind. The challenge can be in manifesting it into the material world, put it down, to share with other people. In your head it’s one thing. . . he could have easily done that.
Z~ Yea, that’s how my thought process works too, maybe not exactly like that, but I definitely lay out plans in my mind. A traveling freelance journalist in my 30’s, been thinking about it for a while. Maybe because it’s such a fantasy idea that you could get hired by the ‘New Yorker’ to say do a story in Brazil one day “Oh wow, that guy that wrote about Brazil for the ‘New Yorker’ was amazing” and the next another rag wants to hire you to interview some ghetto g’s in Harlem….MOT~ Why do you think you do an artistic thing instead of others who’ll just come home and watch TV?
Z~ I don’t know. I’ve tried to be the guy who comes home and watch TV, but I’ll be watching a show and think “this isn’t funny, I know people who are funny in real life, this doesn’t fucking compare.” I mean, I’ll get one laugh out of some hit show, one good laugh, and yet I can go hang out with one of my funniest friends and be cracking up for hours, just drinking a couple beers and laughing harder then I ever have in my life. I’d say Bore (RIP) for instance was someone like that. I’ve never met a funnier motherfucker in my life. He would just entertain you to know end, to the point where you’d just be on the floor and couldn’t handle yourself, and coming home and watching TV doesn’t compare.
I mean, when I was a kid, and didn’t have any friends, I could sit and watch TV for days and days, and maybe I got it out of my system then. I can understand lonely people, people who grew up on TV and that’s all they know, but that’s not me. I can watch a movie.
MOT~ Do you have any particular style?
Z~ Off beat, I try to do something a little bit different. I come from an off-beat family, I can’t live with myself if I’m just some generic dude, just going with the flow. If you’re in an art medium, especially graffiti, you can’t just be some Joe Schmoe, like I’m gonna copy Twist style or something and live off of it for years. A lot of folks might do that, copy generic do-dads or do different variations on different peoples styles, and it’s just boring. I might find myself doing that, and “well yea,” I’ll call myself out and switch it up. Other wise what’s the point, you got to do something different. People get all egotistical about shit, yet they don’t do anything different then the last thirty years of thousands of people who have done it. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
If you’re not weird and off beat, . . . you don’t necessarily have to be weird, but if you’re not having fun with what you’re doing what’s the point. You get all those attitudes and egos, I don’t know, that doesn’t apply to me.
I feel like at points graffiti has become a job for me, I don’t like that. I like it to be fun. People stress me out on going painting, and want to go paint some dumb spot that’s been painted a hundred times before, and push to do something I don’t care about. I don’t know, graffiti, there’s more to life then that, people can get caught up dwelling on one little thing. There’s more to life then that.
MOT~ Do you have a potential direction you’d like to go?
Z~ I could go in so many different directions, that’s probably part of my problem, I’m a scatterbrain. I’d love to be a jack-of-all-trades, but it’s not realistic. Basically I could be the guy who does graffiti, owns a bar, is a photographer, journalist, prints a magazine, travels the world, I could be all these things at once, in my mind. I don’t know if it’s realistic, reality crushing a lot of things sometimes, but if you are clever enough, and time things right, I think you can do a lot of things, life is a long time. I think life is pretty long. I’m 27 and stressing out, and I don’t think I should be stressing out. I’ve got like God know’s how many years in front of me. . . right?
Sometimes you’ve got to push yourself a little farther and live dangerously. Maybe I should climb a mountain or something, I don’t know.
MOT~ Who are some of the musicians that inspire you, and what about the creation of that music inspires you?
Z~ Well, I’ll throw out ‘Captain Beefheart,’ he’s kind of like balls out free flow of music, sometimes it doesn’t make any sense and sucks, and sometimes a beautiful song will just materialize and you’re like “where did that come from?” So that’s one example. I feel like that’s me, I go on different wave lengths. I could come out crazy, or really chill, or smooth, I could come out psychotic, I feel kinda psychotic these days. I’m a metal head at heart though. I love some Iron Maiden, probably one of the best bands that ever existed, Metallica is classic, I can just really chill out to them. Metal for a person like me, and I’m sure for most metal heads can geek out because it hits that wave length, relaxes you, go along with every note of the shredding guitar. It equalizes the brain patterns that aren’t quite normal. That’s where metal comes in for some people. Ya gotta hear some thrash, out of this world musicianship that equalizes those brain patterns. Not that I can’t listen to some mellow music, I love good folk, really I’m all over the place. I enjoy gangsta’ rap, I could go on for days about music.
It would seem obvious, and probably most people know the need for it, but actually developing and sticking to a regimen or routine that allows a person to exercise their creativity regularly is a tough act to follow. Working long hours the majority of the week leaves a person exhausted mentally and physically.
There are endless bound reams of paper on “How to…” do this or that. The act of dedicating oneself to a craft on a constant long-term basis that does not provide monetary results is energy wasted by modern American societies predominant standards. This leaves me a little stumped. Every individual seems to be essentially on their own in that no one else can truly make a decision for another. I think Zae is of a much more optimistic bent then myself. His paradigm is one filled with time; I, on the other hand, think time ends with every passing second. So ends this post.