E R I K O
Introducing my very good childhood friend, accomplice, and crewmate ERIKO.
From the very get-go (indeed we started getting into more “serious” graffiti right around the same time in Strasbourg) I was astonished at the high motivation, perseverance, and originality Eric demonstrated through his sketches and concepts/ideas. He never stopped growing and developing his style further over the years. I am ever amazed to this day of the strength, diversity and flow of his works, be it on paper, wall or canvas. He has been the one strongest and most influential inspiration for me over the years and I am proud to call him one of my very best friends!
The size of this interview / brainstorm might be daunting but it’s very interesting reading, so dig in!
– What do you write, crews?
ERIKO; TWA – MSK – KCW.
– When and why did you start writing?
I started tagging in 1988 when i was skateboarding in topeka kansas but i didn’t know it was graffiti.
Twelve years old and bored with the kansas mentality; hated baseball and football; not popular at school.
Gifted program… IQ tests; high results…
Into heavy metal; Metallica logo, Iron Maiden album covers, Megadeth gwar and skidrow. Big black and black flag. Hearts of space on national public radio. Skateboards meant dope designs; Zorlac’s pushead artworks. All the Powell decks, the h-street logo; stenciling…
Know what i mean? I still didn’t know it was graffiti until 1991 when i moved back to France and some dude explained that the baddest thing to do to be a rudeboy was to scribble your name on a trash can in pink gouache paint with a hand writing that was illegible to the average human being; as much as possible and everywhere possible.
Going to the International School meant lots of different people from lots of different places. It also meant a different way of dealing with students. Our principal was one of those… (I wasn’t the only one in this school to be into the art of writing words on a wall…) We had a “study hall” where we could actually get together to sketch and once a month we would even get to paint the wall in the school. An older writer of the school misterE stepped forward to teach the younger generation the pros and cons of graff writing in the modern world… A bunch of kids.
Hey man we formed a crew; and we started tagging up the city (it’s actually just a big village) between lunch break and recess. To and from school was also a great time to hit the public buses. I actually got up earlier to go to school by foot to catch tags but always got there late and missed out on the first hour. And since I didn’t use my time correctly I most often ended up missing out on the rest because of wandering in the streets around my school just waiting for the ideal moment when no car, no pedestrian, and no one at the window, would allow me to put up my made up name on some ones door or that trash can or that post box or whatever was available. Just to see it erased or smeared off the next day. Shit man how rude. There i am taking a risk to make things better and they just buff it off. Like i don’t exist or I’m not worth mentioning… Whatever. I’ll just keep on doing it.
– You have travelled a bunch; where; best experiences, good memories…
Strasbourg is about ten minutes away from Germany. Okay man I’m off to Germany.
So there we are folks; going from a french tagging mentality to the german “illegal full color pieces on the tracks” state of mind.
By the way im about sixteen at this time…
Seeing things and people from a different point of view. Germany had it going on. You could go into hardware stores and just rack about anything you wanted; we would walk out with all the necessaries for a good nights work and even more… Paint, ink, markers, kingsize Marabu cans… I’m not into stealing shit from people but paying for train tickets was already hard enough on my wallet; and the word was out that if you didn’t rack your paint you weren’t a writer; so I did that a few times (I have never been poor or in need, lets get it straight. My parents have always put it together to keep my brother and sister and me fed, clothed and educated. I will always respect them for that. I love them both and feel the love they have for me)
I painted my first wholecar in Germany; I learned to speak german in Germany; I met lots of nice people in Germany, especially my friends from Stuttgart and Heidelberg.
– Your style; define it; how did you come about it? Process of invention; re-inventing your style…?
German and swiss graffiti was obviously an influence on us in Strasbourg, as much as american styles. Beat street, Wildstyle, Spraycan Art , Aerosol Art, and the famous french book ParisTonkar were available to us at first, followed by the magazines xplicit grafx , overkill, backjumps, and graphotism. All a major source of influence. I was really digging into it all and trying real hard to not steal shit from the people pictured in these mags. It was all so good and different. I started to not look at magazines anymore because i wanted to develop something personal and unique. It was all about having your own style; your own connections, your own arrows, your own flavor, your own three dees…
Freestyling. Damn. I can’t really define my style; it seems to me that it’s often different from one season to the next. It depends on the weather and the time. Painting a train in a hot spot on a sleating winter night is not the same as painting a wall next to the barbeque and lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But I’ll probably have a fonder memory of the winter night, and the outcome will most probably reflect a rawer energ , which is what attracts me most in piecing.
The developement of such styles is usually post production. Most of my sketch/work is done after the actual painting. I’ll take a good long look at my piece or picture and then reproduce the essential on paper. Sometimes i get stuck on an idea, and keep working it over and over again, and then forget it completely for a few years. It’ll eventually pop out again one day in the middle of a piece. It takes time to grow into something that has been acquired. Sketching is important but its just a part of the development.
I also paint canvases; brush work, paint pens and other tools; stencils spatulas, rollers, just whatever happens to be around me at that moment. I’m very fond of accidental color combinations, and have been painting in that direction for years; painting the same brush stroke over and over again with whatever color mixes are up in the palette. It’s funny to see that although colors are infinitely different we will always be slaves to our color spectrum.
– Where do u see yourself in the next 5 years; personally and in your graffiti?
My futur? I’m looking forward to the day somebody invents a really NEW color. It’ll be like time travel or perpetual motion; those things that’ll change a little bit of mankind. Maybe we should have a talk about it with montana or belton, “hey, I want a spraycan of a color that doesn’t exist in the spectrum. Between ultra violet and infra red with a touch of beyond please”. And then run off in no particular direction laughing haha, gutting chickens and falling down every seven steps… But I’ll most probably have fallen to my doom while rigging a chain hoist in some dreary french venue on some tour in France. I love my job though. It keeps me fed and pays my rent. I meet different people every day and wake up in another city every other day.
– Your feelings about graffiti business? Pros and cons?
Graff business? We all need to make a living. I wish somebody would pay me to paint all my life; I’d do a piece for me and a piece for them. Right now its Eric paying Eric to paint Eric pieces. I do the odd graff job every now and then, but opportunities just don’t show up for me as they do for others, and I’m no businessman. People change though, so I won’t put anything aside. With graffiti becoming a business there are more graff products readily available; it’s easier to get out with good colors although it never was quite a problem. Give me some good stock caps and some mat black and it’ll be the same to me though.
Okay, okay, I will timidly venture forth the old “kids nowadays have got it easy, with all them new fandangled caps and markers and inks and internet and this and that technical thingamjigs…” Now that that is said, I’d like to forward the mention that there are some really wicked newcomers out there that may not have the years but still can hold their chins up high. Im not saying any names though. That would make it easy. Nobody cares what I think anyway. I’m still learning new stuff everyday.
– Graffiti clothing you have made? Feelings about that?
If you stumble across a shirt with one of my illustrations on it, BUY IT! The money won’t go in my direction but I don’t draw shirts for people who aren’t worth it.
– Why do you paint? What is your motivation? Thought about stopping?
I actually once believed I would never write again but that only lasted a few weeks. Wrong place wrong time. A bad turn for me. It set me on new tracks though, and who knows what’s in store for me next ?
– The MSK: your relationship to your LA based crew?
I always get this question and I always answer the same thing. I got into the Mad Society Kings in 1996 when SABER and HAZEN dropped by strasbourg one summer during a european excursion. Cool guys, needing a place to stay, and good mentality. There was a hiphop festival going on in my town so we hooked them up with some space on the walls. They asked me to be a part in this crew and I said ok. Ask anybody you know and they’ll tell you I lack in social skills (even my best friend has to threaten me and insult me to get me to write this), so contact over the years has been rather thin with this crew. But I have lots of respect for what they have done for graffiti these past years and am very proud to put up this name next to my pieces. I am also very proud to be part of the french oldschool crew TWA , one of the first in France. Being accepted into this crew has meant alot to me from day one and these guys are a big influence on me in all aspects. I have also recently joined the KCW team and am looking forward to future colllabos with my brother TARE who seems to be always on the other side of the planet and then just pops up as if he had never left.
Internet has made communication much easier for me. Anybody who wants to see what im up to can catch a glimpse on my meager myspace page: www.myspace.com/ericllo. It’s mostly just the yearly production I want to share with anybody and it goes blank every new year. Nothing fabulous.
– Last words? Extra thoughts? Shoutouts? Coup de geule?
To end this long boring interview (damn, you’ve read it to the end??) I would really like to say peace and respect to ALL THE GRAFFITI WRITERS. We are all different in many aspects and we don’t all share the same dreams, but we are all graffiti writers. That should be enough to keep it going. Oh yeah, and fuck the police and the government trying to keep us down; the meek shall inherit the earth. Fuck your grey walls, fuck your total control, fuck every aspect of censorship.
I quote a famous stencil “LAUGH NOW BUT ONE DAY WE’LL BE IN CHARGE”