Interview with PATHONE at Moustache Café in Logan Square, September 20th, 2011:
I met PATH at MOS through NERD, who was his partner on an Akira production on 36th and Albany. I had the opportunity to watch PATH and NERD work together for a bit on Saturday and was impressed by the intense focus he put into even the buffing (priming) process (along with having to do some major gardening because of the tree branches that ran right into the wall—giving new meaning to the term “urban jungle”), and the dynamic design they had, with an anime character in the center, a city skyline, and detailed lettering on either side. Hailing from New Mexico and spending most of his career in Denver, PATH has been writing since 1995. He kindly agreed to give me some of his thoughts about the state of graffiti art, and his reactions to the festival, and suggestions for how I might format this future-book project into something that lets the non-graffiti writer reader understand the different styles of the writers’ I interview. He helped underscore the fact that one of the biggest questions that comes up with regards to graffiti (by graffiti and non graffiti writers alike), about its often illegibility, has two right, and opposing answers, which is that if it is totally legible it is easy, and we get lots of easy texts in the form of advertising (RAVEN pointed this out in an earlier interview) but if it is not legible it is harder to teach the public or convince the public to give it a chance, and it will reach less people (HASTE explained to me on Sunday), and that graffiti having both an underground and a public character can be positive. Thanks to PATH for this interview.
The transcript is below:
Caitlin Bruce: Why did you start writing?
Path One: It depends on how you define it because I definitely started throwing up stencils and stuff and what not like really young, but yeah probably like ’95.
CB: What got you into it, who kind of motivated you?
P: Well I was in a kind of smaller city so we didn’t really have any of that and um well before I started straight up doing graffiti graffiti I was always just outside, I always like seeing art, and I always loved ninjas, and just all the same thing if you combine all three of those, that’s what street art is.
CB: In what way is it ninja-esque?
P: Well you gotta climb, well if, in my opinion, you are probably climbing a lot of fences, you are probably going to a lot of you know abandoned buildings, being on a lot of roofs, and just creeping around in general.
Sort of like the action or the sort of movement of it?
P: Yeah for sure.
CB: Was there any person in particular that was important for you in terms of developing your style?
P: Uh, backtrack to the first question—that’s how I first started doing ‘street art’ in general but then graffiti came around when I got ahold of a magazine probably just like a Scribble mag, I don’t know what it was, I don’t remember, and that like changed everything. I was like “whoah,” this shit’s awesome and that’s when I actually started doing letters and whatnot.
CB: So you were really influenced by magazines. Do you remember which ones in particular were…
P: I think it was scribble, I know I had tons of Scribble mags. And eventually I moved to Denver not long after there and from there it was all about DF Crew, EMIT, mostly EMIT and EAST. Most of those dudes I knew from those magazines, it was really cool to see their stuff in real life. Because graffiti has a lot more impact in reality, its huge, its way bigger usually …
CB: The feel of it?
P: Yeah, it puts you on blast for sure.
CB: Where did you start writing?
P: Las Cruces New Mexico, and then Denver for like, the greater portion of my career I guess.
CB: When you were working on your project at MOS this weekend did you run into residents? Because one thing I am curious about is the relationship between the event and the community.
P: No actually—that’s a good question—I didn’t see a single, well I saw a family pull into their house, that was it.
CB: For you, in New Mexico, where is the most groundbreaking graffiti being done?
P: In New Mexico?
CB: Or Denver?
P: New Mexico had a really good freight scene, and there are some really notorious dudes that crushed that in Albequerque, and Santa Fe has a lot though I don’t know about street art though I know that Dr. Sex is from Santa Fe and he’s like a total psycho when it comes to slamming it, GREY is from Albuquerque too, a San Fran legend. It’s weird, there’s a lot of people from Albuquerque that just move somewhere else. Giant’s from Albuquerque too…
CB: Do they ever come back?
P: Yeah Giant came through, I think he came back opened a tattoo shop and then went back to the Bay.
CB: So there’s like this flow of artists? That’s really cool.
P: Yeah there is three—there is SHOULD, Dr. Sex, GIANT and GREY are all like really really big dudes and they are all from Albuquerque.
CB: Have you done any Meeting of Styles festivals before?
CB: Did you prepare for this one in any particular way?
P: I always if I am doing a production I have like an illustration and design background so I tend to get a photo of the wall and then like lay out concepts for it. In this case I just had dimensions roughly and I just laid out some concepts for that.
CB: I saw that you had a digital image do you usually do your designs digitally?
P: Well I print, and I print from reference material and that’s almost always digital.
CB: Is that different from most graff writers who might do their sketches by hand?
P: Well it just depends, I do most of my lettering by hand. And if I’m doing like my own backgrounds then it’s probably just off of my own sketches but if I am doing something like Akira or some theme or like Empire Strikes Back, which I’ll be doing when I go back to Denver then I go get legit reference from the internet so that its accurate.
CB: What might you do for Meeting of Styles in the future?
P: I want to bring EAST is an old school dude from here, I mentioned him already, he’s in Colorado and he’s with that DF Crew, and he’s a complete badass and then everyone here basically everyone here, one of the first questions I got was “who do you know from here?” and like it was even kind of weird it was like “who are you” kind of sizing me up but then as soon as I was like “Look the only dude I know from here is EAST” everyone was kind of like “Oh, Cool.” And you know suddenly everyone was like totally friendly. So I want to bring him back. I guess s to his birthplace.
CB: How would you feel if there was no more Meeting of Styles?
P: Obviously that would be a bummer, but um I mean this is my first one, it’s not like I followed it super close or something.
CB: How did you find out about it? How did you get drawn in?
P: I’ve heard of it but you always hear about, you know we used to have Scribble Jam, and in Albuquerque we have Bomb the Campus and there’s events all the time. So I didn’t really think about it much until I was coming out here to visit friends and uh it all just sort of fell in from there. My friend Stef knew NERD and her desktop is like on of my older productions and he saw that and she was like yeah this dudes coming out soon and he was like ‘tell him to come THIS weekend’ so it was just like random. And then from there I was like, alright let’s figure out what MOS is all about. So from there I looked up more and came out and rocked it. I definitely would like to come next year.
CB: What were some of the better experiences you had this year?
P: Actually, what I’d like to do next year is come out like two days early and start earlier, because I feel like when you are doing a full scale production it takes longer so unfortunately I didn’t get to talk to many people because I was working, like ‘work work work’. And I still barely finished. And the best part is talking to other people, hearing their weird like Chicago slang, like and, everyone’s like “Yeah we’re going to snap! That shit snaps!” and I’m like “OK cool, I guess it does.” So my favorite part I didn’t get to do much of.
CB: What was the most difficult or frustrating part of it?
P: Um, I guess, just being uncomfortable at first because it can be kind of like a rugged scene, so you don’t know how people are going to react to you.
CB: Because you are an outsider?
P: Yeah and, also just finding my way around. You know, how am I going to get there, it’s so far, this place is huge, but now it’s like all of that is behind me so.
CB: Yeah I heard there was a fight or something?
P: I heard about that too I wasn’t there that day.
CB: Is that common?
P: Yeah I wouldn’t say its common but it’s more common than like normal people.
CB: What’s your reaction when your work is gone over, aside from MOS?
P: Um, if it’s had time to run, that’s just the way of the art form, so, its whatever. But if it’s like diss. Actually it’s rare, very rare that that happens. But the few times it has I’ve just been straight up irate. I am livid. I’ve straight fought on that, and I never get in fights, but it’s just so you put so much time into something and someone in a few seconds just ruins it. It’s…its infuriating.
CB: I went back and saw the Red Rum piece and that was gone over, maybe by Latin Kings-
P: They just dissed it?
CB: It was buffed over in black and then there was a lion…
P: Well that might’ve been – that’s on the corner right—so apparently that spots reserved for OGs, old school badasses that have just been there forever, and they always do that corner so they might’ve just buffed it and wrote it as a reserve. I don’t know what you saw. But I find it hard to believe that it was just buffed—if you are going to diss something you don’t buff it, you put a line through it. So my guess was it was buffed and then that was written there...
CB: Yeah I saw some pieces around the corner from yours with lines through them-
P: There was one around the corner that was … and that was straight dissed for sure, but then again it’s just a line. Part of the thing with that is that if you are gonna buff it, that’s a lot of work to just –you might as well make a line—if you are going to buff it then someone else can paint it it’s you probably want to paint it.
CB: So it’s fair game for other people?
CB: How do you document your work?
CB: Any sort of graffiti network or platform you prefer?
P: I used to post on Art Crimes but it’s just so, that site, the internet sites kind of suck for that, because the Denver threads been torn down over and over because so many people just talk shit. And the reason they talk shit is because no one can know who you are, they just have some weird screen name that doesn’t apply to anything. Like “floormats.”
CB: People don’t use their graffiti names?
P: Well I do. Mine is just PathOne. And my signature on that site is my real name. that equals accountability, because I don’t just talk shit to anyone. I don’t say what I wouldn’t say without someone knowing who said it. So the amount of people just being bitch on the internet is ridiculous. So I don’t even fuck with it anymore.
CB: Then how do you network with other writers, or do you try to network at all or is it just sort of organic?
P: I mean not a lot, most of them just come around and I meet most of them in person. Like facebook, too, I get a lot of friend requests from random writers from all over the place and then some like NERD are like “Why don’t you come paint with us?” so sometimes the internet connections—its more for people who aren’t in your own city or where you’re at. That’s how you meet people from across the land.
CB: What do you think the importance is of working with artists from other cities or international artists- do you think it matters?
P: I think as long as you are doing art you are probably fine but you can probably get exposed to different techniques and styles or stuff, and it’s also just fun to go to other places. Keeps it interesting.
CB: Do you have any concerns about commercialization of Meeting of Styles—commercialization in general?
P: I don’t. I used to. But, no I don’t. I remember when hip hop in general kind of got out of hand and just blew up, but it seems like graffiti is still fairly undiscovered. You’ll see it in a burger king commercial here and there but for the most part it’s pretty slept on. And I think it’s because it doesn’t really make money, it’s not legal, at least not real graffiti, so like I just don’t know if it ever will sell out.
CB: Do you think it has to have an illegal element to it to, you know?
P: I think a good writer does both. I’ve said this a lot, and this is key. A lot of the illegal writers that hate on the permission wall dudes don’t have the skills to do a permission wall and a lot of the permission wall dudes that hate on the illegal guys don’t have the balls to do like a billboard or a rooftop so it’s always just one clan being jealous of the other. But if you can hold it down in both arenas, then no one can really say shit to you.
CB: Do you think Meeting of Styles, and Scribble Jam and other legal events, do you feel like they are more for graffiti artists or are there other audiences being communicated with?
P: It’s like 90% graff writers. We just had Bomb the Campus in Albuquerque and tons of art, nothing sold because it’s only other broke-assed graff writers that show up. But it’s cool because you still get lots of props. There was probably 1000 people at that show and I guess the people who come in that aren’t graffiti they still know someone who was or they wouldn’t be there.
CB: Would you be pissed off or happy if events like that or Meeting of the Styles got more mainstreamed?
P: Well it’s weird because if the art side of it if you are doing cool canvases, that’s already mainstreamed largely in part to Banksy and “Exit through the Giftshop.” Like suddenly, I’ve noticed in the past few years like so many girls, everyone is like ‘what do you you do?’ everyone is like paying attention and not like kind of pretending I didn’t do it. They are more like “oh he’s cool because he does that” so I guess that part is cool I guess. I feel like those are two separate things. Banks, he is an illegal guy but he does art that appeals to the masses. Whereas as graffiti will always be just still, etchbath and scribes, and things that people can’t stand so I can’t see if ever really blowing up, so the half that’s gonna blow up, I’m cool with that blowing up because maybe it should but the half that will always stay underground, and it'll be cool that it doesn’t blow up.
CB: What do you think that the social purpose of graffiti is? Why do you do it? Is it just for yourself?
P: I do it, it goes back to the fact that it’s outside. Its fun to do art and to talk to people that pass by. It’s like art with some socialness and the weird culture that surrounds it, outside of the culture I guess some people like it, some don’t some people don’t care that much. If anything straight up bombing is kind of an eyesore and people don’t like it so.
CB: Do you have any concerns about the future of graffiti?
P: I mean whatever happens with it is what’s supposed to happen so, I don’t have any- I have no hopes and no concerns, I am just looking forward to whatever it does.
CB: Cool thanks so much.