Monthly Archives: September 2012

Insects Interview by Brother Grether

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Three mulit-talented, multi faceted, producers of culture combine together to form one dynamic force. The Insects launched  back in 2007 with “Free the Hard Way” a disk printed and released for free. They attacked mainstream consumer culture with tracks like “No Rules”, “Devils are Scared,” and “Silence is Gold” and pay tribute to everyday people and grassroots activism through tracks like “The People” and the title track, “Free the Hard Way.” Since then they have toured the states and Europe numerous times, released a more experimental double album, “Gone” and are about to release another, “Black Rose.”

Insects_carbis

Insects Live. photo by J.Carbis

so why insects? where did the name come from?

B: i was recording all this shit at jonas’ house and we were on the back patio…and we were sitting out there smoking and all these insects were crawling all over are legs and shit…we were trying to come up with a name and i was just like how bout the insects…? and then i was just thinking about how they were here first and they’re gonna be here after and then about how they work together…and how from up above we all look like insects…

how is it different from your solo music or drunken immortals?

B: the last solo album i did was drifter and that was like 7 yers ago…and then things change…instead of me getting all the credit as brad b, we wanted to do something that highlights jonas too cause he does all the beats and production and plays a major role in the music and we wanted to do a group name rather than just me.

Whats up with 1090 Records?

insects_gone

insects_gone

J: Well on the business side of thing MATTX and myself have been giving all our attention to building relationships with agents and agencies as well as business people that sponsor creatively driven companies like ours specially since we have or first tour as a company on the horizon almost our whole roster will be touring on the way to SXSW music convention in Austin TX. On the creative side we have so many things in the works right now like we just released The Insects new EP entitled “WILD RIDE” which has remixes from the first single off the up coming “BLACK ROSE” full length studio album and a full live recording done in Switzerland on our 4th European tour. Myself and Brad b have been putting major work in on the new Insects record I have been mixing and mastering Very G’s album called “Saint & Sinner”  produced by Saint Louis and just got the ball back rolling on recording the MURS album “Yumiko – The Curse of The Merch Girl” which is a sound track to a full color graphic novel. 1090 will be releasing a box set of 7” vinyl with the album and a complete audio book version. On top of all that we have been throwing as many events as we can with out burning out our audience to fund all these projects and it has been going okay thus far.

How did you link up with MURS?

J: One day I was going to lunch by my self at cafe Istanbul, I had just parked the car when my cell phone rang, I didn’t recognize the # but I new it was from Cali so I answered it and this dude with kind of a deep sleepy kind of voice was like whats up this is Murs. I looked back at the phone in half disbelief and said “whats up dude” he proceeded to tell me how his then girlfriend lived in PHX and didn’t have Internet access so he had been spending afternoons at a coffee shop down the street called Conspire. He said he was looking around the spot and saw a CD cover done by a comic book artist named Jim Mahfood it was volume 1 of my instrumental series called “M.C. FOOD”. He bought it and gave it a listen and liked the beats so he called the # on the back of the album. He asked me if any of the beats were available and i said “know but I got stacks so I could hook him up with whatever he needed” which was a bold face lie. I asked him if he was in town and he said he would be here in 4 days and wanted to come by the studio so i said cool and hung up shovelled some food in my mouth and ran my ass to the record store and dug for about 4 hours. When he came through we hit it off famously and he proceeded to tell me about the “Merch Girl” project and I proceed to tell him that I wanted to go on the road with him. he already had a DJ for the past 7 yrs. at the time but as luck would have it his DJ got an offer to do some movie stuff on location and had to quit a few months later. since that day we have played over 200 shows together and are halfway done with recording our album which we are very proud of and it is all because of Joey G and Jim Mahfood.

how long have you guys been making music?

Insects Wild Ride EP

Insects Wild Ride EP

B: when i was 16 i met jonas and i had always been into hiphop and classic rock. just had always been a huge fan of music. jonas was killing the drums when he was 16. in jonas moms basement…this is like 8th grade and he had a bass there and i just picked it up and started playing. i would also just write raps in a journal and then kinda just built from there.

what inspires you to do music?

B: too be honest its kind of a trip. it just comes to me. i just constantly think about lines in my head, but thats just me. sometimes i dont even know what im saying it just pops in my head and ill listen to it after and be like damn thats what i was saying. and then just listening to beats. i’m inspired by music. i just try to be more rhythmic and creative in my life.

why did you come and live in phoenix?

B: i came here in 97. I came out here cause my boy Steve Evans moved out here and a few other friends… and my girl was going to asu. i ended up going to the conservatory or recordingh arts and then doing an internship for a year in la for a year. with Jim Wert and it was cool because his best from was a AandR from interscope.
and its cool how we all hooked up over at Sub Society…thats how i met mike (cause) and so many other cool people. looking back its a trip how we got from that point to this…

So you guys have toured europe 5 times what are some of the venues like?

B: man they do things alot differently out there. we only played a few bars most of the venues were squats ran by anarchist / activists. One of my favorite spots was in Zurich Switzerland. they had their shit together. so they were squatting this building, stealing power from power chords plugged into the lampost from the street through the window. they had a screenprint shop in there, a room with a bunch of computers, a dope ass kitchen set up. these cats were freegans so they went and found food people threw away, and cooked us these dope meals. last time we were there they let griffin do a mural in the spot. sick shit.

are you for or against the apocalypse? you know it being 2012 and all…

B: i’m for it because…maybe what all that means is that things are gonna change in a positive way. i like to think that way.

i was bugging out on famine the other day, researching it for this calendar project and was in tears about it…

B: yeah, its fucked up how much money we spend on wars and whatever we spend money on when shit like that is happening…

so you’re still silkcreening by day…how long do you plan on doing that?

B: I would love to just live off of music, but i would still be doing something like this…ideally its just more of our own shit….

what do think about file sharing?

B: im down with it cause thats just the way it is now…as far as people not getting paid or consider it stealing…what are you gonna do, cry about…? if your musics out there, people are sharing it…you go on tour and make money selling it and merch and such…
for instance…if we didnt do “free the hard Way” we woulnd be known nearly as much.  i feel like sharing and giing shit away for free has done nothing but help us.

you got a god concept?

B: no, not really. i just feel people get so caught up in that shit that it just bothers me.

how do you feel about politics and the political climate?

B: these politicians are such a joke to me. i cant stand their smart ass faces when they smile and argue with each other. all of the trillions of dollars spent on war every year when we are so far fucked in debt, all these young men and women coming home with their legs blown off and shit? all for what? i dont mean that to disrespect the people that go risk their lives. i just dont think its right. it trips me out to think about everything in this world happening at the same time. its all fucked up. the immigration laws, the racial profiling, the sheriff and his goons, the religious freaks, paying taxes and shit. i did my taxes lat year, and i ended up owing the state and federal. i was sick to my stomach. were out here living paycheck to paycheck, pay sales tax on everything we buy, and still owe in the end? fuck that.

How do you feel about getting two albums in New Times 100  Arizona albums?

B: It felt good to be recognized. we’ve been out here doing it for a minute. it felt good especially since the new times barely ever gave us props, and they just love to stir up drama in the hip hop community. motherfuckers. yeah but it felt good so peace to whoever wrote that article. speaking of Drifter we had that Drifter show at the tempe tavern a couple weeks back. it was so dope. it brought back alot of memories… going back and re learning those songs. thanx to everyone that came out to the show and made it so live.

what can we expect from the future?

J: The future shows no sign of slowing probably the exact opposite. Hopefully I’ll start being able to pay some of these people that help me on a daily basis to juggle my work load. My plan is to continue to push the people around me as hard as I can even if sometimes the hate me for it and support and help them to create their art and dreams and sustain their lives through it because that is my dream and it always has been.

B: were dropping a new album called black rose on 10 90 records, im really exited about it. then we will tour the us and europe. we also have a new mix tape in the works. you can check out some new cuts at reverbnation.com/theinsects. im also gonna be on scarab from living legends new album which I’m super hyped about. we’re hitting the road in a couple weeks for sxsw. we made a little tour around it with the homie Mouse, and Afro Classics. were gonna hit Santa Fe , Albuquerque, a few in Texas and then back in Phx. also. drunken immortals are working on a new ep. much more shit to come this year. so keep an eye out for us.

Tuscons Ethnic Studies Debates Lives On

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The issue, it seems, refuses to drown underneath the onslaught of information, of fear-based news, marketing techniques and mass deception. In a nutshell, it perpetually fights off our beloved American amnesia. This fact should be appreciated, especially considering that the Mexican American and Ethnic Studies courses were first turned into a “controversy” back in May of 2010, the same time that protestors were hitting the streets demanding SB1070 be vetoed, an image that already seems quite unfamiliar.
Whereas SB1070 settled into our collective unconscious, due to its hiatus, the Ethnic Studies debate and HB2281 (the bill-cum-law that justifies it), lives on. It intermittently emerges from the static just when we deem it a lost cause. In April of 2011, students chained themselves to the chairs of school board members, shutting down the meeting and delaying plans to dismantle the embattled curriculum. Later that summer, and against the findings of an independent audit (conducted by a firm hired by his own office), Superintendent Huppenthal concluded that the Ethnic Studies curriculum violated HB2281, a law clearly drafted with the Ethnic Studies in mind. Though it has a specific target, it broadly challenges any curriculum that takes abstractions, such race and class, economic exploitationand social oppression, seriously.This, of course, overlooks that these “radical” notions are but the basic foundation of genuine social science, as Karl Marx himself is deemed one of three “fathers” of US sociology and Paulo Friere a key figurein schools of education.

After a series of failed appeals against Huppenthal’s ruling, and under threat of massive funding cuts ($14 million), this past January the Tucson Unified School District capitulated, “suspending” Ethnic Studies courses from the curriculum and placing an estimated 700 students in other, more “traditional” (read: whitewashed) courses.Dismayed students, in turn, walked out of classes in protest. And now, finally, proponents of the curriculum claim that the illegalization of the Ethnic Studies courses reneges on a desegregation court order from the 1970s – a ruling which found that Tucson School District was neglecting (discriminating against) its Latino student body.

The intense irony of the situation seems lost on Huppenthal, as well as many media reports. But, we should diverge, take a minute, and let this quirk of fate wash over us. Here we have Huppenthal and his reactionary supporters, legionnaires of cultural jingoism, demanding the expulsion of certain truths, embodied in a set of theorists and now banned books, which highlight the historical import of racism, of colonialism and systematic (socially and juridical) exploitation. These histories, they judge, are inaccurate. They are an oversimplification; these courses look too closely at cultural and legal oppression of Latinos, workers, and activists.

The irony is, of course, apparent: opponents of the curriculum are denying the history of ethnic oppression and class exploitation endured by Latinos (and others) throughrepressing ethnic courses, reaffirming a narrow white and bourgeois history as the only true American history. Having failed to notice the irony of their ideas, Huppenthal and company respond with narratives of subtle or not-so-subtle racism. They draft laws to explicitly repress Latinos, workers, and activistsin the school (i.e., students and their teachers). This is all done, moreover, with economic blackmail – “Do as we say or your impoverished schools and communities will fall deeper into economic depression, your children’s education will get that much worse.”Thus, the history of the systemic exploitation of Latino communities, which Huppenthal denies a sociohistorical importance, is now used by Huppenthal to force the Tucson School District to cancel classes.

All this talk of history brings us back to the topic of American amnesia, our reactionary numbness to historical significance. A recent article in the The Arizona Republic, for instance, discusses the desegregation lawsuit from the 1970s without pause, without a moment of realizing the relevance of this anachronistic reemergence.The 1970s, we know, was a decade of massive social strife and, perhaps most relevantly, home to unprecedented Latino, Chicano, and American Indian activism. Chicano activists founded MEChA 1969 and were active throughout the following decade. In 1973, the American Indian Movementliberated Wounded Knee, only to be met with militarized police action, several deaths, and mass arrests. These and many other events were not happenstance, organic outgrowths, but rather calculated responses to the same legal and cultural tendenciesoccurring in Arizona and across the nation over the last several years. And, now, here we are, forty years later, relying upon these movements’ judicial victories to uphold the possibility that racial minorities can be treated under the law as anything but second-class citizens.

With this history in mind, the perpetuity of the Ethnic Studies issue is seen as something far less outstanding. It is, rather, but an instantiation of larger processes. The issue or “controversy” is larger in temporal and geographic scales, clearly, but it is also larger than our typical political conceptions, or at least larger than what our legal framework allows.We are often surprised by such acts of legal and social discrimination, as if they are occurring for the first time.  We are, moreover, seemingly relegated to particularized responses (i.e., “you challenge Ethnic Studies, we demand that it stays, you racist!” and that is it). It seems that our inability to fully appreciate the totality within which these debates and issues arise relegates us to piecemeal and reactionary responses. Such replies but forestall a cyclical (but not identical) return to these issues – the perpetuity and recurring relevance of racial oppression and economic exploitation that Huppenthal and the like deny. Thus, we come back to the legal debates of the 1970s, but now void of the larger ideological battles that were raging at that time, such as the racism of the State and the exploitative logic of global capitalism.

Now the issue is divided solely between liberal multiculturalists and cultural conservatives (each reactionary in their own way) and is to find a compromise through government administrators and technocratic execution. These characteristics typify a “post-political” debate of policy formation. Ethnic Studies, for instance, is not openly supported because it encourages critical/radical thinking. It is, rather, lauded as a vital tool in the management of liberal pluralism. More than anything, though, Ethnic Studies is supported for its educational efficacy (If we are going to teach youths real history, it had better withstand a cost-benefit analysis!).

Of course, this should not be misread as belittling the liberal struggles that be, because they are, and always have been, crucially important. Even so, such struggles must be accompanied with the articulation of radically divergent future social trajectories; they must reintegrate the radical, broad ideologies around particular claims for social justice. “The political act (intervention) proper,” Zizek writes,“is not simply something that works well within the framework of existing relations, but something that changes the very framework that determines how things work.” If this cannot be accomplished, we will continually be surprised by the perpetuity of injustice, and washed away by the irony of our political existence.

Dumperfoo Interview by Phil Freedom

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The visual design arm and live artist of the Insects, Drunken Immortals, and Crusher Sound System, the chief organizer of the Blunt Club, and all around move maker in the underground scene, is Adam Dumper. He has helped create and evolve the role of artist at live shows, while honing in on his own skills, and minimizing his production time to partial hip hop sets. Dumperfoo is a heavy weight of the culture in Arizona and plans to keep pace while surpassing all endeavors and benchmarks of yesteryear. Since we are featuring the Insects, its only natural to have this productive machine be the featured artist. I tracked him down in his studio where he gave me a few minutes between his monstrous agenda to cover canvas.

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dumpslive2


So whats happening now?

I got a show on Fri at the Alta space lofts. me and Jeremy Arviso…we are releasing his clothing company, Noble Savage.

did you say you had 15 Canvases for the show…

yeah but ill probably end up with half that due to my schedule and time…

and then a dozen more for the sxsw trip?
yeah we’ll be gone for 2 week and ill’ have to do 1 or two a day. on the friday we are there in austin i’ve got like four shows?
with insects? yeah and few other shows

so since we did this last (hidden agenda 5) you were doing mostly skulls but since then you’ve really expanded and been doing so much more…? how do you advance your styles?

i am just trying to keep it more versatile…i’m trying to get these girls faces, the hard shadows and the lighting down and different looks…people like em so i been doing a lot more…  how do you train yourself to do the shadows and lights…just singling out where you want the shadow and figure out where the light is coming from. you know, i’ve never been taught that, i’m just figuring it out on my own.
still trying to keep it versatile and do a lot of different stuff…dumpsgirl2

this show thats coming up this month is called Oji San which means old man or uncle…the calligraphy from the flyer is done by a famous Japanese calligraphist…(Aoi Yamaguchi)

how do you feel that painting live has helped you progress..?

when painting live i have to make sure that everything is on point and less sloppy…i got like 20 mins to an hour to paint this shit live and i have to make sure its clean and presentable as a final product…its all part of the show.

not much time to think about it then…?

nah, gotta have it mapped out in advance in my head, we only got like 20 mins to set up and i gotta get up there and handle it. sometimes i dont have the right colors and i just gotta improvise and make the colors that i have work, by mixing them or adding white or black tints to them…by adding black or white tints to get different shades…

do you use an image reference?

Yeah, definitely, i use images of models faces or girl with distinguishing features. i can also do it off the top of my head now…by doing them so often i can just do my own style without reference.

have you switched to mostly paint now from markers?

yeah try to keep it all brush work, specially for my gallery stuff.dumpsgirl3

do you have a photo of every piece?

no…i try to and sometimes i sell them before i get to snap a pic…been kinda slippin on that…but thats ok…some people snap pics and tag me on them or show me later…
lately i have John Carbis or AWALL travelling around with me and taking pics documenting them…so i’m blessed to have great photographers
documenting what i do…purpleface

so blunt clubs been running for 10 years now…

yeah may 19th is the anniversary party…
what ares some of the issues u face when running a weekly?
staying up with the calendar…with my busy schedule and trying to do that…getting fresh acts to play and finding a formula that works…but aftr ten years it almost runs itself…much easier now…Pickster and element have partnerred up and help handle booking and such…

why do you do it?

i love my thursday nights…my friends that are there…i do it for them and me…I’ve always been a fan of hiphop and graffiti…we built it from the ground up and it just fresher every week. and i just cant see myself not doing it…i cant even keep up with the new ideas that w haven’t even touched on…

we been trying to do it in other cities now too…just one offs with other nites that are similar.

like in LA?
dumpscharacter
yeah LA, San Diego, we got some people asking about doing it in Denver.

how do feel that the art scene and the hiphop scene relate to the overall economy and society?

i think since the economy has gone down…the performance acts guarantees have gone down…and i think its just tough on people touring..cause they are not getting what they used to get…and thats why we went to a no cover kinda thing…people dont wanna pay a ten dollar cover anymore…

when it was at club red we were trying to do national acts weekly…and then we were trying to do two rooms and both sides and it just cost quite a bit of money and then w had payed some acts that didnt come thru but kept the money, and it jusdumperskullt put us thousands of dollars in the hole. and then it didnt seem people were feelin the big room…so we moved it to yucca tap room and were able clear the debts and get out of the hole…

how do you think the arts scenes can help motivate society?

there’s a strong support for benefit shows for people in binds financially…people coming together..i love that about arizona…theres lots of love in the community out here…

what about 2012? big plans?dumpsbluntskull

just trying to get my stuff super clean and tight. just trying to do art full time.
..i’m pretty much three…and then just hyped about the new insects album…just doing some tours with that too…

are you afraid of the apocalypse?

nah. bring it. I’ve had a good life.

Cool Ass Mofos

typo canvas1Har Simrit Singh a.k.a. Typo9eR. I’m a graphic designer/painter living in Toledo, Ohio. Born in Chicago & raised in Toledo, I started painting graffiti in 1994 before studying Graphic Design in Pittsburgh & then in Phoenix from 1999 – 2003. I lived in Phoenix for 7 years before returning home to Toledo in 2007 where I currently live, work, & create. Most recent works consist of a blend of spray paint & acrylics to create a graffiti influenced style with heavy graphic design overtones.

Currently I have been keeping busy with mural projects mostly. This last year I linked up with the Higher Level Art team which is a regional collective of graff based mural painters, designers, sign painters, & craftsmen & have been in & out of town working on mural projects that

canvas 2

canvas 2

range from skateparks to music venues to galleries to classrooms & so on. In town I just finished up a mural at the local art based high school here with some of the students from a graffiti techniques class I taught there this past Winter. I am now working on a mural/installation for a local organization that works to ensure fair housing opportunities for folks & to combat discrimination in the housing market. Next is a  smoke shop. After that a historical building that needs a facelift here in downtown Toledo. Plans to open a small gallery space & autonomous learning center next to my studio are in the works for later in 2012. This place is ready for some change. I made the conscious decision this past year to focus primarily on murals, feeling that this is the platform from which my work will reach the broadest audience. I hope to train some people through my classes & put ‘em to work on different projects here in the near future. People here in the Mid-West seem to finally be opening up to the idea that graffiti is a viable artform with the power to reach many. With the support of the larger community now, I hope to see new works come to light all over the area. For a struggling city full of blue collar folks that’s built on industry….I’d have to say….we still got soul.

Design_Mural1

Design_Mural1

 

Garden1

Garden1

‘Sweet potatoes aint shit’

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“That doesn’t make any sense.  They’re not the same thing.”  Tho Erastus was right, he always popped retorts in as jabs. This time was no different.
The fuck you mean, they aint the same?” Hedgebeard was ticked anytime someone questioned him, but especially after finishing a joke. He felt that even if you didn’t like the joke; just shut the fuck up so others could laugh.
The sun was steady, standing, staring from just over the rooftops, a bit to the north, after a long, hot, dry as dirt, afternoon. It was late June but felt like July.  The group of jobless gents were stationed in the back, each in shorts and shades, by the shed, casually passing a spliff.  The economy had freed up everyones days, yet many of them still preoccupied their time with thinking about and even looking for jobs that were just not there.
Erastus was aware of Hedgebeards stark defensive ways, but given the content and context, he was game for an argument.
“They’re not. Look it up.”
“Yo, I live by the Yam. My moms cooks a bang-up Turkey stuffed dinner every year, peoples all over this country do too and we call sweet potatoes, yams.” He was already tired of the discussion but wasn’t gonna let Erastus ruin his joke.
“Dude, let it go. Everyones wrong. Your joke is cute but it only works because people are culturally naïve and insensitive.” Erastus was letting his arrogance shine through.
Hedge and the other guys standing around listening busted up into laughter. “Ok mr. college dropout, lay it on me…”
“Sweet potatoes aint shit, and yams are a giant part of some African cultures.”
The laughter erupted once again. “You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Hedgebeard was speaking for everyone at this point.
Erastus decides to yuck it up. “Sweet potatoes are the size of your fist; Yams are the size of your leg. Yams are an important part of African culture and history. Yam means ‘to eat’ and is celebrated in numerous places.  People even speak of a ‘Yam civilization’ and it’s used in magic rites. In Tonga, the calendar months names are derived from the yam. So, yeah, theres’ a fucking difference and you’re turkey basting joke only makes sense because people don’t know. “
“Jesus-fucking-pedia…you just finish watching a documentary?” Even if his joke was ruined, Hedgebeard could always keep em laughing. “Pass that shit here…I need to kill off a brain cell or two.”
Even funny people have the random blahzay moments. Hedgebeard nodded to Jase, “you buying any of this shit…?”
The sun finally gave out, scaling back slowly to reflect off of a few dwindling surfaces. Warm gusts of air swept through like stale ghost whispers, encouraging each person to wonder if it felt good.
Jase had a much more collected demeanor and could usually be counted on as a point of reference with any given situation. Typically quite, with a chilled smile and crescent eyes shielded behind female locs,’ his smile stretched and he cracked open, chuckling, “I don’t know man, yams, sweet potatoes, who fucking knows..?”
Erastus had lost his patience like he often did.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me, I do! and I’m telling you guys… if you would like to be in the fucking know, listen up, Yams are not sweet potatoes!” At times he felt cursed to know and care about things. Such a tragedy, he thought. Shaking his head as he over-exaggerated rolling his eyes, he dramatically turns, and walks away.
“You’re a fucking turkey!” Hedgebeard had em laughing again as he clowned Erastus from a reference to his original joke.
He called back, participating, “I am what I Yam!”

Alex Empty Interview by Phil Freedom

Alex Empty

Alex Empty is a tattoo artist ‘subsessed with symbols, shapes, and forms, a cyclist, ice coffee brewer, machinist, and  father of twins. Though I caught him daily on 5th street for a few months, I had to pop in to the  studio to get more than a minute of dialog. He has recently left Golden Rule Tattoo to develop a space with Taylor Ryan, just inside the Coronado.
Are you from phoenix?

Nosense
Nosense

nope. I’m from washington dc. i moved to phoenix in 95 to go to MMI.

MMI?

motorcycle mechanics institute. its the tech school that no one purses a career in field after graduation.

do u have a motorcycle?

i have a 74 150 vespa scooter. i’ve had many motorcycles and scooters over the years, i like clunky old steel stuff.
and you learned to work on them?
hm hmm. yes. that was the last job i did before tattooing…

alright then, how did it transition into you being a tattooer?

well i was going to that school and had been getting tattooed by the same dude for a while at Ace tattoo, Jim. He moved to Tucson and opened a new shop, and while he was building it he gave me the chance to commute to Tucson to be his apprentice. it was a long commute, though i was not there everyday. i would drive down in the afternoons or sleep at the shop and get up early, also i slept there on the weekends. i was finishing mmi while i was finishing my apprenticeship. that was 2002.
i worked around the valley for the first few years and in 2005 i moved to San Francisco.

What was living in sf like?

It was great, that city will always be my other home. it pushed me to really grow and develop as a tattooer. theres a lot of incredible talent there, its not for the timid or unskilled. i got to work in a few great shops with a lot of great artists, their influence was huge. i moved back in the summer of 2009

is the rose mural on the storage bin (arts market/food truck lot 400 block of roosevelt north side) the only public art you have done?

mostly. I’m not a graffiti guy, i messed around in high school and did a bunch of garbage and punk rock tagging, but its not my medium. when i got the can, i realized that i needed to learn a little bit about aerosol if i was going to get the painted parts the way i wanted them. i practiced behind my apartment to get those big black fades we like so much in tattoos. that shit is hard, Graffiti dudes make it look easy but its not. i have plenty of respect for the spray can.

before i did the storage can, i spent a couple months doing small pastes. funny little tattoo-like line drawing with phrases, some with the letters jumbled. its a fun way to make the same kind of expression that is in a tattoo, the same basic concept. like a skull and a small rose with “memento mori” or the like, phrased around it like a tattoo. i hate the verbiage of “tattooing buildings”, but the effect to me is not too dissimilar. finding a spot to not just place the piece, but also to push the narrative in some way. you have to find interesting use of space, it seems good street artists don’t just throw up shit anywhere. just like a tattoo, placement can really hurt the composition. im proud of the street artists here in phoenix, we don’t have that many, but that keeps the copycat bullshit down. i do want to see more though, ill do some too, but i want us to think more about composition and use of space than name or size.
Alex Empty
with the box, the sub-story is on these simple drawings and narratives under the grander one…
a rose… a banner…they tell you what they are…this is a dragon, or panther with a dagger in its head. its whats so great to me about the american tattoo. its self contained and extremely efficient at carrying its message, whatever that may be. with the storage box…all the imagery on there, the actual line drawings wheat pasted on there, theres hundreds of them…there some random shit…a lot is very obviously symbols of impermanence…theres lots of simple skulls and hearts, repeating and using them collectively to create larger narratives. i think this is where stepping away from the medium of a tattoo allows for really interesting compositions.

What other mediums do you work in?

Painting and drawing are my primary. i like to paint with watercolor and liquid acrylic, full body acrylic, i like to use various types of dyes…Taylor introduced me to a lot of different materials.

like at interdependent? yup.

everything we did in that show was a broad chomp. we tried all sorts of wacky shit. like sacrificing animals…we reenacted some illuminati orgy shit…Interdependent was largely an opportunity for the two of us to try different ideas regarding process and production. a majority of the show is collaborative work and in that process we tried a lot of techniques and materials.
I am also a machinist. i build tattoo machines for other professional tattooers. they are hand built and have a very classic aesthetic.

how long have you been painting?

i’ve been painting…the earliest painting i have, my mom has it, its a painting of a little cabin in the woods with pine trees and frozen pond…im pretty sure i was 8 or so.

(he’s digging through a stack of black and white celebrity portraits contemplating being able to do them on this girl that had moved away…) my dad liked to paint landscapes and we would go to this park in DC and set up our easels.

Ship Tattoo
Ship Tattoo

so you feel like you are mostly into classical and traditional artwork and tattooing…?

sure, thats i use the term traditional only because it best describes my tattooing, which has typically bold lines, heavy black shading, classical arrangements. most of the time i  paint the way i draw and i pretty much learned how to draw based on tattooing…but i definitely don’t…i think of it more as like a language than as a style… like strong images…their visual presence, regardless of their message… you can tell what it is from across the street. that being said i draw influence from japanese art and zen buddhism, not in the way talyor does(big japanese flowing tattoos) but in the concepts of composition: efficiency, intention, negative space..these things i see in everything from the silk painting to flower arranging. i just try to understand and borrow from the purposefulness of those moves. and it also has to look like a fucking tattoo. Tattooing isn’t so much about “styles”, its a medium with rules and limitations. it doesn’t take an artist to see when a tattoo isn’t working.

i’m obsessed with impermanence. its quirky, ironic,. its almost comic to me, you know…it mocks us…time, fate. the very certain end of all things that we know…everything is born and dies…
I’m really obsessed with the interplay between the human psyche and it’s imminent demise and how we negotiate the specifics of life in art. the nature of impermanence, is that it allows us to more freely live. its zen. life is only as beautiful as it is because of these factors, because of this constant negotiation with inevitability. we don’t get to keep the blossom.

our show was themed around the concept is that nothing exists without having a cause and effect relationship to everything else, interdependence. nothing truly exists alone. so in putting that into art practice…we started these things within the art process…collaborating, influencing and cross influencing, biting, straight up jacking each other’s work. we really got to see how our two processes worked and worked together. that relationship is the seed for this place (the Bookhouse). in the end we showed 43 pieces of art, most of them directly collaborative.

back tattoo alex empty
back tattoo alex empty

so what the Bookhouse all about?

Well when we open this fall, it will be Taylor Ryan and I’s tattoo studio, art space, machine/work shop and total art compound. we are making a place that best suits our needs and that of our clients. Our space will give us the ability to follow all of our art disciplines under one roof and really cultivate and harness the creative power that exists around us. being able to streamline my creative process is kinda my objective here. i feel like we are building the foundation for our own artistic growth and we want to share and network with people who feel the same.
we will want to participate and maybe even host some art events, not just tattoo stuff and tattoo people, but phoenix and surrounding artists of various media. drawing nights and group projects, critique sessions, fuck man let your imagination run…more art community. basically we wanted to build a repository of creative means where we can thrive as artists and give our clientele 100% of our selves.

so you into the apocalypse?
nope. don’t believe in the apocalypse.

you think any serious changes are on the way?
i love to see people that are thinking .knowing we could grow and adapt their skill set, be it creatively , artistically,….i think thats the answer, being ready. not like militias. but like arming the mind, arming the creative mind. its problem solving. and for me u know its all essentially meaningless and impermanent. my career, my drive as an artist is to make really justified work. it comes from tattooing, i  feel like I’m using this persons skin, putting them in pain, its got to be justified.

do you ride a bike everywhere?

i try to , i have a car too, i use more then i like to. i have twin girls, toddlers..so i have to drive a lot.

do you think automobiles accelerate the inevitable doom we face?

Action Reason
Action Reason

yup. they have an accelerator pedal, no?

doesn’t that make bikes and bike culture revolutionary?
i thoughts bike were vehicles

any parting thoughts?

you can’t be mad at natural selection, i love the city.

send all tattoo and art inquires to
a.empty@gmail.com

Travis James Interview by Jay Funk

travisjamesfeaturedpic

His name is typically accompanied by a curious smile or a partially resisted scowl, his antics and convictions are challenged and critiqued liberally outside of his presence. He seems omnipresent on fb, celebrating ironic graphic memes, small crimes, and black blocs, quickly retorting on threads, playfully taunting friends and arguing semantics. He organizes underground folk punk shows in unusual spaces, as well as band projects, and plays on his own as Travis James. His lyrics are well organized incendiary pieces with catchy, encouraged, sing-a-longs. He has recently released a new album “Not Sorry” that’s available with lyrics as well as explanations to the content. He has also organized urban capture the flags and is now doing Inconsiderate Audio, an Anti-Social Anarchist Radio Show. Since we both share phoenix underground clearance, I snuck out of my routine and tracked him down at his cave.

So why are you so contentious?

Ah, oh geez… A lot of the time with the available information and society its been difficult for me to distinguish between where my contention begins and the naturally occurring aspects of contention in general end… I refuse a lot of the time to distinguish favorably for sources of contention for particular things, and that alone seems to be contentious with the world at large or people in general.

Travis James Album Cover

Travis James Not Sorry

Are you saying that you hate everybody equally?

Contention is a useful moniker for identifying phenomenon that is relative at best…so it’s not that I “hate everything equally,” but that I acknowledge contention as largely attributable to bias rather than an objective source.

So it’s just your attitude?

Yes, or perspective. So I think society at large and people in it give themselves too much credit in how they identify contention.

So whats up with all the wordplay in your songs?

I turn a phrase until, in turn, the phrase is turning you.

Explain that.

I think it’s important to play with words in a way to challenge their definitions for people, but that still preserve and utilize their actual definitions. It illustrates something fundamental to how I think about things, the simultaneously fleeting yet distinguishable nature of phenomena in existence, in as much as it is communicable through language. I think its interesting using words literally in a way that people identify as “wordplay” when essentially by many definitions, words themselves are essentially a form of play.

U think this is funny, huh?

Yupp.

Travis singin with friends

Travis James and the Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists

Travis James- Let’s Debt Free

So why kill the FBI?

The song is mostly emotionally driven, and expressing my personal experience of dealing with a Joint Terrorism Task Force FBI investigation for a number of years.

That the youtube video?

That video barely scratches the surface, and it’s surprising how many people I know approach me having taken it at face value, as if we suddenly all trust the mainstream media for substantive accounts. As for “killing the FBI,” two phrases come to mind when thinking about this song… Radicals often suggest we “kill the cop in our head,” but also proclaim “ideas are bulletproof.” So it seems to come down to that I would prefer to simply “kill the badge” or the idea of authority and power, but the pesky old cop-person is standing in the way.

So its not another 187 song?

Thats actually what it boils down to, yeah.

I’ve seen you speak and write about promoting violent confrontation with authorities, do you think there’s much success in that?

Inconsiderate Audio

Inconsiderate Audio

I think the mistake there is seeing a literal promotion as opposed to exhibiting a reaction to very real circumstances. Calling it promotion is a mistake, I’m trying to acknowledge and outline that violent confrontation with authority is at our door.

In what way?

The us represents %5 of the world’s population but about ¼ of the world’s prisoners, which is the highest prison population per capita in the world. Also, all samples of statistical data on police violence is overwhelmingly indicative of an epidemic of the systematic monopolization of violence. Police kill 5x as often as they are killed. The reason its seems promotional when I talk about it is that I’m attempting to be a part of war of ideas that sees police so favorably that most people don’t even know that police work doesn’t even make to top 10 list for dangerous occupations. That’s just police… let’s not forget about the role of the U.S. and the direct exploitation and violence necessary to facilitate first-world lifestyle.

Can there be Industrial society on a mass scale without a state?

Industrial society is destined for collapse with or without a state.

U got a n ideal number of residents?

No. I think the managerial attitude that would seek to solve those issue strategically is the same attitude from which these modern conditions arose. I see only a superficial difference in trying to save industrial society from its inevitable end and thinking that a human, humanity, or and the universe itself are salvageable in a similar way.

travis in bus

Travis James and the Terror Bus on Tour

 
So, humanity is doomed, lets rejoice?

Yes, but I’d prefer to be clever. It’s difficult for others to see “doomed” with less negative connotations.

Were you raised christian? with any kind of religios upbringing?

I was very fortunate to be raised without any influence in any one direction or another.

So would you say you are anti-religious?

I’ve come to be so, yes.

What about jesus?

What about jesus.

Dead, not dead, crosses n shit, u know, christmas?

Myths.

So whats everybody waiting for?

Salvation.

How do we give them salvation?

Convince them that its impossible. Salvation lies in understanding that it is impossible. What’s left is a full embrace of the entirety of existence where the term “salvation” is essentially meaningless.

So why don’t you play in bars, and venues?

Sometimes I do, but think it reinforces dynamics of mainstream society that can and should be challenged or avoided. I see many similarities between artist and performer dynamics and the government and the governed. I’d like to see every moment more readily perceived as an “event,” and less political podiums and stages alike. Smash the state, smash the stage. As for bars, I prefer all-ages environments.

What the hell happened to Wizard Teeth? That shit was epic.

The actual ending is a boring story…Wizard Teeth was a 7 song saga intended to illustrate revolutionary social and political parallels by utilizing ficticious renditions of the bandmates’ immediate lives. King Morgan moved away from Austania to Flagstaff.

It’s too bad. That shit was fucking incredible. Was it all recorded?

No, there were 5 room recordings and they’re not good.

Not Sorry for anything, huh?

Not sorry for anything, but at the very most, infrequently apologetic.

Yeah, not as catchy. I was taught to throw everything away, too.

There s reason for that. The very human tendency to disregard things in general has only recently come to be facilitated in a way that contributes rapidly to our own large-scale end.

So your not down to go live on the plastic island?

It’s not really an island. If it was I would set up camp there, maybe throw a Wizard Teeth show.

Is “Calling You Out” is about police?

It’s about police in radical circles, and I don’t mean infiltrators. I mean people in the anarchist and radical scenes that have not killed the cops in their head. A lot of well intentioned radicals are less mindful of the similarities between how they want to change their immediate relationships and the very aspects of society that make them want to make change. I’m calling out the “call out” sub-culture.

Do you think art is pointless?

Obviously.

I feel like on your album, you say art and/or life is pointless, but that everything is pointless.

Lately, I bully the concept of “art” itself, which to me even gives it more credit than it deserves. But you’re correct, I don’t intend to admonish art in a particular way that legitimizes its role as something “special” any more than anything else. In most cases, I find myself having a vendetta against what is called “art” and the reverence for it. A woman was recently arrested for entering an art gallery and attempting to urinate an “expressionist” painting worth 3 million dollars. Apparently, “expressionist paintings” are worthy of protection and stupid amounts of money, but actual expressions, like that woman’s, are arrestable offenses.

So punk shows, house shows what role do they play in society?

The reason I involve myself in them is explicity for the aspects that have less of a role in society. Any roles that it might have for society in general, I feel, are the unfortunate aspects. I literally do mean society itself conceptually, and not just this particular society, to clarify.

Whats up with inconsiderate audio?

It’s an anti-social themed internet audio show with anarchist leanings. A friend of mine used the words “crippled by sensitivity” to describe some of the more unfortunate aspects of radical culture, and my intention with the show is to bring people’s contentions out and make a safe-space for fucked up people to hopefully experience some catharsis through expression.

What kind of education do you have?

High school drop out. I eventually got a GED in my early 20s to look better in court for my federal felony charges of depredation of government property. I recently took a couple of easy online college philosophy courses to first pay off the fines for those charges with the grants, and then later used grants to go on a national tour.

What happened with the tour? That bus is sick and you had a whole crew?

We ran into a few snags that reflect on what was mentioned in the “Calling You Out” song. Mostly it was a fucking rad time with 10 crazy kidz. We played in a Walmart parking lot out of the back of our bus and had a show in the bus, we were forcefully stopped by a citizen vigilante that thought we were terrorists because of the big red bomb painted on our bus…(full story online), we did workshops on Anarchist Against The Wall, violent retaliation in response to federal infiltration and not working with liberal groups or NGOs.

Yeah man, the berlin wall was fucked up.

Tear them all down, but we were definitely talking about the Israel/Palestine wall. Hell, I don’t even get a long with walls in general, as Conspire learned when those kidz waltzed through the window during my album release show.

Yeah, after we talked about it…

So what should we cling to when society starts unraveling?

Nothing.

You guys got a garden?

No.
You gonna live and die in phoenix?

How the fuck should I know? I don’t fucking know. I don’t have any plans.

Who’s doing it right?

I address that on my album in “Freedom & Futility.” I say, “What’s right doesn’t work, and what works isn’t right. So nothing works, and nothing’s right. That’s the way that it works, am I right?”

 

You feelin the Greece autonom

 

ous region, or

 

CrimethInc.?

I don’t find value a particular place or event for its specific qualities more than I find value in the specific successes or qualities of an individual or single occurrence. To illustrate, a black bloc that pushes out police and authority from an area is awesome, but no more than individual instances of authority being resisted in any case.

So everywhere, always, but nowhere specific?
Anywhere resistance happens, not a particular movement that does it.

You got any advice?
There’s a lot more people that should be told to fuck off, and that includes yourself.

You mean me?

Pretty sure I’ve told you to fuck off, and I was probably right.

Did you come up with urban capture the flag?
No.

But you helped develop it your hometown and here?

yes.

What did you get out of it?

In a way that people usually only speculate about, I saw collaboration between diverse age groups, classes, subcultures, and whatever, in a way that challenged conventional norms. I saw yuppies finding ways to climb buildings and rooftops, and goth kids running around with a team of jocks regardless of traffic to chase punks in the middle of the street at midnight. I’ve seen people of all kinds busting each other out of the figurative jail, and saying things they’d seldom say otherwise, like “we’ve got to bust them out of jail if we’re going to win!” Urban Capture The Flag has been one of my favorite projects because it encourages people to reinvent their relationships with their city, a

nd to challenge the streets being mere paths to and from work and school. In both cities I’ve facilitated Urban Capture The Flag in, people pick it up and keep it going if I start to back out. It’s amazing.

Whats next for mister travis james?

The project that I’m currently working on is doing as little as possible, and im really interested in seeing where it takes me and how people interpret it. So far, it’s some of my best work.

You’re fucking deluded, huh?

Isn’t everything?