VP013: Chuck “Emit” Krausz — Finding true freedom as an artist through graffiti
Chuck “Emit” Krausz
Have you heard the term “street art” lately? What about “graffiti” or “tagging”? I bet you have. These terms have continued to be used in the mainstream more and more over the years as the art form and counter-culture have grown in popularity. Well, on this episode, I have a treat for you. I sit down for a rare in-person interview with my buddy, Chuck Krausz a.k.a. “Emit”, a 30-year veteran graffiti writer, as we discuss his work and hear stories all the way from the streets of New York to the walls of Denver. We talk about the history of graffiti, the scene and how it’s changed over the years since he started writing in 1989, as well as his crew, called The DF Crew, the coffee-table graffiti books that he’s produced with them as well as self published. We also talk about how more and more artists are being commissioned to do “legal” graffiti and murals for business owners, festivals, and events, as the art form becomes more popular. Now a husband and over 40, he is a designer and co-founder of a thriving business by day and graffiti writer by night, and has found a perfect marriage of a day job that allows him to create for clients and pay the bills while what started out as a hobby has turned into a 30-year passion project that allows him the opportunity to truly be free as an artist.
Emit, joined up with ex-professional snowboarder and dj/promoter Steve Blakely to co-found The Firm Graphics. An edgy design firm that has been doing work for the entertainment industry for the past 20 years. You may have seen the Firm's design work promoting events such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, Paradiso and Decadence NYE just to name a few. The Firm aided in the production of the DF crew coffee table graffiti book "Idiots on Parade". Collectively, DF artists have had work in over 100 gallery and museum shows and many have used their graffiti background to branch off into commercial design, toy design, illustration, and tattoos. Emit and The Firm Graphics have garnered international acclaim for their progressive and distinctive design work within the electronic music and entertainment industry, as well as DF crew gaining worldwide recognition for their creative and innovative graffiti styles.
Subway Art (book)
Spraycan Art (book)
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Chuck Krausz: 00:00:00 One of the beautiful things about graffiti is that almost like this graffiti writers as a whole, we're like, this is a plague or a virus. We're all, we're all, we're spreading and we're all connected to each other somehow. And we all have some similar connection, but you can't really be stopped because if you're, if you're in the mob, you know they go after the head mob boss and it shuts down everybody below him and graffiti. There is no mob boss. Everybody has their own mob boss and there's hundreds of thousands of us and just by stopping one do you don't shut down anybody else. So as a movement, it's just this growing thing that is never ending and it can't be stopped and every person is a stepping stone to the next person of how things get passed down or what's happening and you're all connected and it's really kind of cool.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:01:05 Welcome to The Vitalic Project podcast where you'll learn how to find your own voice in a world filled with noise. I'm Gabe Ratliff. I'll be your host as I sit down with fellow artists, creators and entrepreneurs to learn more about their work and how they serve others so that you can tap into your creative purpose and live a life that's drawn, not traced. All right. I'm stoked. Let's get to it.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:01:33 Hey guys, thanks so much for joining me on this episode of The Vitalic Project. I want to ask you, have you ever heard of the term "street art"? What about "graffiti" or "tagging"? Have you heard those lately? I'm pretty sure you have. I know I have. I'm a huge fan of the art form and I've definitely heard of it. Not Everybody knows the difference about it, but the interesting thing is these terms have continued to be used in the mainstream more and more over the years as the counter-culture and the art form itself have grown in popularity. Well, on this episode I have a treat for you. I sit down for a rare in-person interview with my buddy, Chuck Kraus. He's also known as "Emit". Now, Chuck is a 30 year veteran graffiti writer and we sit down to discuss his work and hear some stories all the way from the streets of New York to the walls of Denver.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:02:30 We talk about the history of graffiti, the scene and how it's changed over the years since he started writing in 1989 as well as his crew called The DF Crew, the coffee table graffiti books that he's produced with them as well as self published. We also talk about how more and more artists are being commissioned to do "legal" graffiti and murals for business owners, festivals and events as the art form becomes more popular. Now a husband and over 40, he's a designer by day and graffiti writer by night and has found a perfect marriage of a day job that allows him to create for clients and pay the bills. While what started out as a hobby has turned into a 30 year passion project that allows him the opportunity to truly be free as an artist. Now a little bit about Chuck or as we know him as "Emit", he joined up with ex-professional snowboarder and DJ/promoter, Steve Blakely to co-found The Firm Graphics in Denver, Colorado, an edgy design firm that has been doing work for the entertainment industry for the past 20 years.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:03:35 You may have seen the Firm's design work promoting events such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, Paradiso and Decadence New Year's Eve, just to name a few. The Firm aided in the production of the DF crew coffee table graffiti book, "Idiots on Parade". Collectively, DF artists have had work in over 100 gallery and museum shows and many have used their graffiti background to branch off into commercial design, toy design, illustration and tattoos. Emit and the Firm Graphics have garnered international acclaim for their progressive and distinctive design work within the electronic music and entertainment industry as well as DF crew gaining worldwide recognition for their creative and innovative graffiti styles. So with that, let's jump in because this is a fantastic conversation and I'm ready to introduce you guys to "Emit".
Gabe Ratliff: 00:04:38 Chuck, thanks so much for being here brother.
Chuck Krausz: 00:04:41 Thanks for having me.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:04:43 So I thought we'd start off with, I wanted to ask about, have you always felt the pull to create art?
Chuck Krausz: 00:04:51 Yes, I have actually. I have. I definitely have always been drawn to just pencil and paper and markers my whole life I guess. I mean I have tons of fun memories of not paying attention in grade school because I was just drawing all day. I don't think I ever had any purpose to what I was drawing. It was more just random. Like I didn't draw dicks all day or anything, but I had no, no muse I guess before graffiti. I definitely found technical drawing in high school and engineering, drawing and architectural drawing to be fascinating, which I think some of that actually led into some of my graffiti because of the precision of that type of drawing, which maybe you wouldn't think would relate to graffiti art. Uh, I guess I found a graffiti senior year of high school when I was finishing architectural drawing as an elective.
Chuck Krausz: 00:05:49 I was actually going to go to architecture school. I got accepted to Roger Williams in Rhode Island and I had designed a house that one, like a massive third place and like a statewide architecture, like an open forum for all high school kids to enter their work, which also helped me get into the college. And I ended up not going to college for architecture and I stayed home and I got a job and I started writing graffiti instead amongst skateboarding and snowboarding and going to raves in New York City. So I kinda, yeah, I kinda steered away from the college life to stay at home and the kid on evenings and weekends.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:06:38 Oh man, that's awesome. There's, yeah, that's one of the things that has come out of kind of doing this work and really, you know, having hindsight to my life as an artist and looking back and I used to think I was cursed from trying all these different things and not knowing, you know, I had friends that did, just knew what they wanted to do and I was very similar. You know, I've got into deejaying and I'm a drummer and you used to draw and then got into photography and film and then graphic design and web design and all these things and was so spread out and just wanted to try all kinds of stuff, you know, and I was even raft guiding and all these things and, and, and you would feel this, I would feel this sense from people that I was like not focused and that I should not do all try all these things, you know. And I kept feeling that pull from people, not from my parents, but just like, I just felt that pull and I'm from even other artists, they were just really awesome at certain things and I just wanted to try all kinds of stuff. Yeah. I found over the years really has added more to my story to be able to speak to all those things.
Chuck Krausz: 00:07:55 They're all creative outlets in some way. And even when I decided to stay home from going to architecture school, I still took courses that, like a local state college and I took art courses and I took an acting course and I took video production course and I definitely found the creative outlets to be more fun and I had more drive to actually go to those classes, you know, over economics and sociology and the other stuff. It's a bit, of course I was really drawn to, to graffiti, which at the time is basically a hundred. Everything's illegal and you're not seeing any career path out of it. You're not seeing it doing anything other than you're just out sneaking around and having fun. I never wanted it to be a career path. I never thought it was one. I mean I think for a very small percentage of people in the world that has become a career, even as a graffiti writer, not a street artist or a fine artist that has done stuff on the street, just straight, you know, graffiti style writing of letters and people do have a career out of it.
Chuck Krausz: 00:09:12 Since it's not many people can do it or can sustain. I think it's a lot of right place the right time and was a bit of a, of a niche to what you do. But I mean there's, at this point there's probably millions of us and only x amount are going to, achieve that, that type of career out of it. And again, I don't even think I want would want a career out of it, if it was ever offered to me, which it hasn't.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:09:44 So for people that don't know the difference, cause I think that's something that happens quite often. You know, people just kind of lump tagging and graffiti and street art and all of these things together into one lump group and just say that's graffiti or somebody tagged that building or, or that street art, street arts are really trendy name right now. How, how could you break down for people that don't know what that is and kind of clarify what each,
Chuck Krausz: 00:10:18 well, I think street art is the term street art. Like, uh, it's uh, a term that makes it all accessible to everyone. It gives someone that's doesn't really know anything about it. I'm a quick, easy way to understand it and feel a connection to it and relate it to something that they feel comfortable with. Whereas tagging, which could even can mean gang graffiti or just just graffiti in general by definition is something illegal. Scrawled on an old building or a wall or whatever. And street artist, he's taking that discomfort away from it being this illegal scary thing and people are like, oh, a street art is a girl's face and some flowers and you know, something friendly. I mean graffiti to me is even saying graffiti art. Most people that are really graffiti purist would say they're a graffiti writer, a writer of graffiti. Like I write their name and it's more about style writing of your name and getting your name up than anything else.
Chuck Krausz: 00:11:36 I mean it's foundation of of it all is. And that's what it was. It became so elaborate as people hone that craft of style writing and putting up their name. It turned into something that someone can go call, elaborate. That word is or that name that is art. And I mean I've had people say, Oh, you're an artist. And I say, no, I'm a graffiti writer. And they go, look at how you wrote your name. That's, that's creative and it's artistic, but it's not the, it's not what we're going for. Like I'm not trying to outsmart the next graffiti writer. You're trying to out style that graffiti writer you're trying to outdo, outdo them by putting your name up more than them. That's basically how in New York when I got into it, that's what you were doing. You were trying to get the most spots, your name up the most in the hardest to get to spots that had the most risk that other graffiti writers would respect what you did.
Chuck Krausz: 00:12:38 And it wasn't for, you know anyone else to go, oh that street I, it was for other graffiti writers and that's it. It wasn't ready. But I didn't matter if someone else saw it that didn't know graffiti or didn't understand graffiti, it was like for us. And I think that dates back to even, you know, 60 seventies eighties graffiti. I think that's the same mentality they had. And a lot of it to me was handed down through traditions, like people always trying to find someone that had more experienced in you that could teach you what came before you. So then you could in turn be a stepping stone to pass it on to the next generation. And some of that is lost these days because social media has kind of exploited graffiti and it's gotten so, so huge that people don't have those same personal experiences to learn the history and the craft. Um, some, some do still in some, really respected and follow those types of guidelines, but some also don't.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:13:46 Can you talk to, there was something that was actually really interested in knowing about is you know, how you came up in the scene, you know, did, did somebody take you under your wing like that or because you've been in the scene for a long time, so I was just curious, like did you get taken under like that or did you get pulled into a crew or how did that come about?
Chuck Krausz: 00:14:11 Um, a little bit of both. It was kind of over a couple of years. I started, I started writing graffiti in 1989 so this is my 30th year doing this. Um, when I first started, I was introduced to it by one friend who had lived, um, much closer to New York City where I grew up. I was about an hour outside of New York City, kind of right into Connecticut and he had lived in New York and had a, you know, a graffiti name, a tag, however you want to define it. He, you know, he had his simple styles in his bubble letters he did for his name and he never took it seriously enough where he went out in the streets and painted. But he knew what it was and had seen it enough that he put sketch and John his notebook and instead of drawing whatever he, he drew graffiti. So when we saw him doing that, you know, one rainy day stuck inside, we couldn't go out and, you know, skate or whatever, you know, he's, Hey, what are you doing? What is that? And then
Chuck Krausz: 00:15:22 I think he had a book, I think he had Subway Art and back then there was only, I know of two published books that had any graffiti in them. It was, um, Subway Art and Spraycan Art. They're kind of the, you know, the, the, the bibles, nothing else. There was no magazines, there was no videos, there was no internet, you didn't find graffiti anywhere. So once I saw those books, I was like, this is what you're doing, this is, this is really cool. Like these elaborate paintings. And immediately we, the idea of sneaking around, we're like, why don't you go out and paint, you know, he never was motivated, but immediately he was actually showing me and another friend of mine, mark and me and mark instantly being kind of troublemaker, kids were drawn to let's go run around at night and, and do this. So we dove right. I mean it was, you know, a day later we're out, you know, rummaging through our basements, trying to find whatever aerosol paint we could find to go write on a wall. Just because it sounded like the coolest thing. And I had no foundation, no creativity, no idea what I was doing, just dove in and made a mass. Um, but then I definitely went out and went to the local bookstore, had them order those books for me. Um, studied those books and also scratch my head. Like, wait, I'm not that far from the Bronx. Like this is like huge history. Like Oh, birth birthplace to, to this art form. Why don't I go there?
Chuck Krausz: 00:16:59 And we spent many, many hours and I don't even know how many rolls of film, just going into the Bronx, finding train tracks, parking the car and we're walking down the train tracks looking for bridges and tunnels and graffiti and just hunting it down. And even seeing it in person and seeing art that was big, you know, seeing something that was 10 feet high by 25 feet even made you want to do it more. Or at the time, early nineties, um, New York had tons of highway graffiti, like every highway you went on, which is lined with graffiti. And every time I pass it, I just wanted to slam on the brakes and get out and look at it and take pictures or go try and paint next to it. It's just everything was motivating to go be up like those guys that were up. Um, and then hunting down graffiti also led to a hunting down and eventually meeting other graffiti writers and guys that were more involved in a scene and finding guys that were in the Bronx that lived there that we're painting. And that's where we ended up learning about caps, about she's the details that help you get a foundation too, become your own graffiti writer. And I s I think it took me years and years and years to get to any type of point where I was established. Um, I think some, some friendly people have said like, you did that in a couple of years. Um, my mind, I don't think I did that for maybe eight to 10 years. I mean, I think I still, every time I paint I'm learning something or try something new or trying to evolve what I paint. Like, it's never, it's never one thing that you just do over and over again. It's always, even though it's the same name, it's from square one till now. Even though it's the same word, the same four letters,
Chuck Krausz: 00:19:01 it's, I think it's night and day, especially after 30 years. Maybe this year to summer of 2017 you might see similarities, but it's definitely always an evolving thing. Um, but back to your original question, yeah. Who's in that first year and a half, two years, um, and just being out there, wandering the streets, trying to um, you know, absorb as much graffiti as possible, that's just naturally led you to meet and run into other, other people and like minded people that were in the same, same thing as you. You know, I think I was fortunate that I met some really cool people that at that point also we're like, hey, come be in this crew. Or you know,
Chuck Krausz: 00:19:51 you mentioned crews. Um, like when the first crews I got into was this crew called IMOK. If Mother Only Knew. And I got on that crew by just being at a bridge in the Bronx, two, three to 38th street bridge, taking pictures and checking out graffiti and bump into a bunch of kids and they have to be from Connecticut to, and they were way more, um, prevalent I guess. And my were active painting and I'm going on, you know, missions to go into the city, paying on the west side highway, you know, paying cross Bronx wherever they could get their names up. And they kind of took us under their wing and they said, we're taking you out to do this stuff. You know, slap the 40 in your hand and a can of paint and like drag you out to some crazy stuff that we weren't really ready for as young a young suburban kids. But it was exciting and that made it even
Gabe Ratliff: 00:20:47 more enticing that it was a thrill. So you mentioned names and you know that yours has changed a lot through the years, even though you're putting up the same name, but the design has changed and the art itself has evolved. Where did, where did they come from and, and was that what you started with or did you start with something else and then it that evolved?
Chuck Krausz: 00:21:13 No, I had several names. Um, some were pretty silly. Um, I think when I was talking about, you know, rummaging through basements to try to find, you know, dad's aerosol cans from painting, lawn furniture or whatever he had in the basement. The first word I wrote as a graffiti name was Cheese. And again, I wasn't coming from some type of like a hip hop background or a street background or, um, it wasn't a tough guy. It was, it was almost going out and being humorous. Like I was even taking it that serious. He knows more about if I think it's more about the mischief of it. At first I just didn't know that, how addictive it would be. And I think I only wrote Cheese, you know, maybe that first night. And then I was like, well yeah, this is pretty cool. That's kind of stupid.
Chuck Krausz: 00:22:19 I wanted a better name. And then I think the next time I went out and painted, I wrote a RID, r-i-d and I actually painted on the side of the highway, how that ran through my town in Connecticut. And I drove past it the next day and immediately I thought it looked like shit. So that night and went back and went over it, did another one on the side of the highway, same spot and did another red and a little bit better. And I would drive by and be like, how it looks like shit and I would just dwell on the same spot instead of the actual real focus of, you know, going out and putting your name up. I still wasn't even connecting those aspects of it. I was just such a like a Newbie to the whole thing. Um, and then I think I wrote a epic, I wrote wire.
Chuck Krausz: 00:23:12 I would just pick words and go try to ride him and see what I've had a connection to it or if I'd like to, I don't think I even knew what I was doing. I was just waiting for something to stick and feel like it was the right name. Um, I know a lot of people, older history, you had a mentor, they would give you a name, they'd say, Yo, you're whatever, uh, make it with some stupid name to say, but you know what I mean, like it was someone was passed you or somebody to give you a name. Um, and there's even mentorship where someone would take you and they would make you paint their piece for them. And that's how people learnt, like does it like eighties and like subway graffiti. So we didn't obviously didn't have any of that. Um, then I started, I found the word emit, um, going through a dictionary.
Chuck Krausz: 00:24:03 I just started page one with the A's and started flipping through looking for a cool three or four letter word. Um, it was pretty standard. Five letter words start to get a little bit more tedious to try to paint, um, especially for space or time constraints when you're doing most of your stuff illegally. Uh, and then somehow when I got to emit it just, uh, actually it was always emit like the dictionary. But when once I started going to New York, graffiti writers would call me Emit and Yo, Emit, what's up? And that sounds a lot cooler than Emit. Um, but, and even at first I couldn't, I was bad at writing it. Like the letters were hard to connect and hard to fit together in an aesthetically pleasing way. So I would go write a different word and then next to edit right by emit. Cause I was really, somehow I got stuck on, Emit somehow that just resonated with me somehow that I liked that word.
Chuck Krausz: 00:25:02 That was gonna be my name, people that I told that to thought it was cool. And I mean, now you could Google search a name and be like, God damn it, there's five other guys with that name. I can't write that. Back then it was kind of start asking around, didn't even know anybody that right to this and that's the best you could do. Or there's look, um, and it just seemed like the right word. It's just kind of stuck and at some point practicing other names and other words. Eventually I started doing emit pieces and letters and simple styles and tags and it just grew from there. It definitely that, that whole process to get to just doing email was, I don't know, at least a year or more of doing this on a regular and um, and it wasn't just a, Hey, every Saturday afternoon, let's go, you know, go paint.
Chuck Krausz: 00:25:57 It was like, you're going out three, four, five nights a week. If I didn't have a job, it was like every possible night and stay out and go home. When the sun came up, like painting. I mean it's kind of even hard to put into perspective how much we painted. Um, and just with more became the issue is how do you get more paint? Cause that's what it was like, how do you get, how'd he put gas in the car and how'd you get paint? And I was like, and then like, and then third would be food, I guess. Uh, and you're living at home made it easier. And, uh, the jobs I had didn't last very long because I'd ended up sleeping at my job cause I'd be out all night painting and then you the job and then you'd be broke and he got another job and then you'd be out painting and then to be a slacker because you'd be painting so much that you'd lose your job.
Chuck Krausz: 00:26:51 Yeah. Um, but it was fun. I wouldn't have been, I don't think I'd do it any different if I could do it over. And then it was then it was like, how do we get more paint? And then it was every scheme, I mean obviously people, they called it wracking and I was like, Oh let's go rack some paint. You go into a hardware store and people would, but you know, two, three cans of paint in their front of their waistband, you know, big baggy shirt, baggy pants and you'd walk out. Um, that's obviously more risk that we depth detrimental to your already, your risk to going out painting. Obviously going out painting at night I thought was a safer risk cause it was dark. And if you were smart about it, um, and you could also run, you know, dealing with security at a store, angry hardware store owner isn't as cool, but it was how do you get, how do you get more paint cheap or free or without risking too much.
Chuck Krausz: 00:27:50 And it was like trying to find scams for paint. I think I applied for a Sears credit card 20 times because if you apply for a credit card at Sears, they gave you a $5 coupon for Sears said every time I saw a different employee, you know, doing the little stand that was for a Sears credit card or I could send more of my friends to go fill out for a car. Obviously it was use a fake name is a fake address, fake telephone number. They would hand you the $5, $5 off coupon. We'd go straight down to the paint, you know, get, you know, two $2 and 50 cent cans of Krylon and you'd have two cans for free. So it's like, how can we keep doing this where it was like legit and I could get more pain. And that was one of the, one of the ways that, you know, especially then like you, you always kids hanging out in the food court at the mall.
Chuck Krausz: 00:28:48 It's like, Hey, go fill out the credit card thing for me. I don't want to see his car. They're not gonna like, I don't, you don't, you're not going to get a card. Just make up a name, a phone number and get me the coupons. I love it. Uh, and then people were like, cool. And you know, and they, of course they thought they were being bad and people would all jump in to help and do it. Um, and then there's, I mean we used to go to another way. We'd get pain as we would go to a local lumber yard, uh, and the spots in Connecticut had the home depot, he stuffed inside and then the lumber yard out back and you'd fill up a shopping cart with paint, maybe put some tools or other supplies in there and go out back pretending you're going to build a skate ramp and paint on it or whatever.
Chuck Krausz: 00:29:39 If somebody asks, you kind of had a story in mind and you will a cart out to the back and you'd kind of go to the farthest corner where there was no one and you just start throwing paint over the fence and you know, get a bunch of cans over the fence and then kind of where your cart back into the store and you know, it puts stuff back or play it off like yeah, I changed my mind and then walk out. And then later that day you, you know, show up, go back to the back around the back of the hardware store and go in the woods and Easter egg hunt for your spray paint cans.
Chuck Krausz: 00:30:17 And there was a couple, I mean there's other ways we got paint, but those were two of the more interesting ones. Is it still that easy these days? So no paints all locked up now. I mean, is there any places like that that, I mean if I to the harbor store by my house in Denver right now, the pain is locked in the case. Yeah, you have to show an ID to get it. And it's just not, I guess, I guess the Home Depot by my house. I know people do it now. He, they put paint in a cart and just tried to walk out the front door after people doing that or you know, people go and you, you, you take something of value and then return it and you say, sorry, I don't have a receipt. Can I have a store credit? Yeah. Then you get a store credit for, you know, hopefully you, you took something that was small but kind of expensive, you know, whatever.
Chuck Krausz: 00:31:11 You stole a $50 flashlight and then you get 50 bucks and you go with your store credit and you get paint. Yeah. I'm like that type of stuff. I mean it was, and that was the general graffiti writer away. It was like the point of putting your name up, you didn't want to spend money. It was almost frowned upon in some when you really met me, graffiti guys from, from New York. That was the way I think there wasn't any other way. Yeah. Like, if you wanted, if you wanted a 40 from the corner Bodega, you never paid for it. You stole it. If you wanted to spray paint, you never like, no, you don't. You don't pay to go get paint. And then this is like, this is not how it was done. Uh, and again, a lot of these traditions of ways people did, things are gone.
Chuck Krausz: 00:31:59 Um, I mean there's somebody in Denver right now that are listening to this. It was probably like, hell yeah, I still steal paint. Uh, usually younger, younger guys. And again, it's, once you have more to lose, you know, I'm in my forties, I have a house, I have a job, I have a business, I'm not going to go steal, spray paint. Right. And even the idea of running around illegally when you have that much to lose, such to kind of lose its luster. Uh, and, and I still do some illegal graffiti, but it's usually under a bridge somewhere where you're not bothering anybody, right. Somewhere where, uh, yeah, some who are, someone's not going to just rip out their cell phone and chatting via vigilante. And, and, and, and, yeah. No Kudos to me. I must posted these, these taggers yeah. Yeah. Right. Cause people are everywhere and they're on next door. And honestly, there's, there's also at this point too, there's a, a dozens and dozens of people. I mean I've taught thousands of people that would see someone painting and go, oh, that's cool. They're painting it also transitioning to something that's awesome. More friendly. Yeah. I'm one of those people. I was, I was painting in, um, in Geneva, in Switzerland last six, six years ago, seven years ago. And
Chuck Krausz: 00:33:25 to me it felt like we were in a shady neighborhood and we were under this system of bridges and it didn't look like a friendly spot to be, I'm, I'm with like three or four other guys, you know, we're not really worried about it. Um, and this woman comes walking through there and she has a dog, she has like a three year old and she was like, Oh wow, this is really cool that you guys are painting. And am I in my head it was kind of, what aren't you worried that we're going to rob you? You know, obviously we're, we're probably smiling at her and saying hi and like trying not to cause a scene or act like we shouldn't be there or this is cool. Yeah. It was just an estimate in my, in my head picturing New York spots or places, um, in Brooklyn I painted, you just wouldn't be that woman walking there that you wouldn't be me by myself walking there. Why would this woman be there with her three year old kid? And she was just saying like, this is awesome. Cool. You guys are painting. I really like it. And we were like, oh, you should buy. Not Be here. But it was, again, I, I'm not that familiar with, um, the part in these areas in Switzerland. I was, but um, but that mentality is a way more prevalent now in Denver for example, you're in parts of like rhino in five points at some point. Yeah. You can be in a dangerous neighborhood and people are just friendly and think it's cool. It's Kinda strange. Yeah. Um, yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:35:04 Well we, let's see. Oh Man, I think it was like 20 I want to say 2017 in the fall. We went to Vienna with some friends and, and we walked down by the water that had, you know, it was like a canal and it ran through the city and we noticed it was a really pretty clean city and we got over by the canals and you all of a sudden you saw just this is just a ridiculous amount of graffiti and street art. And
Chuck Krausz: 00:35:49 now does that mean, does that mean dangerous area or does that mean cool
Gabe Ratliff: 00:35:53 green belt and that does that mean we were, it was like a day. It was like daytime and there was a crew painting on the wall and we walked by them and I was like, this is the most surreal thing ever because it was like two in the afternoon post lunch. But this crew was just hanging out, listening to music painting on the side of this wall. And it was just so surreal to see that in a broad daylight. And it was interesting because you didn't see graffiti hardly anywhere else in the city. Whereas somewhere like Paris, you know, it's everywhere. It's all over the city. Every place you look, whether it's, you know, a simple little young kid tag with just a black marker, you know, simple paint or a full on mural or you know, huge tag. And then here we are walking along this green belt and these guys are just hanging out like all their gear, just chillin, doing their thing, listening to some beets and we're like, what the hell? This is so weird. I've never seen this in any other city in my life that it's like the whole other side. It's like what you're saying like you think, oh this, you know, at nighttime cause we walked the same place at night and it definitely feels like there's probably not a lot of people hanging out here, but in broad daylight they were down there. Fascinating.
Chuck Krausz: 00:37:24 And that, I mean, and for me, the old days of graffiti and going to New York to look for graffiti and hunted down to take pictures you never saw, I mean, yes I met people on random occasion, but typically you didn't just see people painting. You saw the work that left behind and the mystery of not knowing who the different artists were. And if you're traveling around the same vicinity you such to see the same names pop up and you start to, um, really admire certain artists. And then when you come across that artist's work, just by looking, it's, it's so much cooler to walk into like, oh my God, another one of so-and-sos pieces. Ah, I never seen this one before. This is cool. And then you take a picture and back then we would mail photos to each other. And once I started knowing guys I lived in Boston, guys live in DC, you, we put together packages from our area of graffiti and mail it to those areas.
Chuck Krausz: 00:38:26 Uh, and then hopefully someone knew somebody on the west coast and they were getting pictures from oh wow. And so there's always a huge mystery to behind who everybody was, what they were doing. And you didn't see people just on the street painting. So that was a cool element of it. That has changed a lot. Um, and then during the transition to where there's a lot more illegal graffiti and things like just people post it up on the side of the street with music and painting. As that transition was happening in more and more legal graffiti or shoot, our murals were going on, people would also get over by pretending they were allowed to be there. Right. Um, where whether you're wearing a worker vest or a hard hat or something that looked like you were supposed to be there, you could now people are like, oh, that's a thing now. You know, they're, they, they should, if I just walked in and picked a wall and Rhino right now and set up a table with paint on it and started playing some music and started painting, nine out of 10 people would think I was allowed to be there even though it's, you're not. But, um, so that, that's, there was more of that happening probably the early two thousands when the, that transition of
Chuck Krausz: 00:39:43 I think ed missile, it was quite a big transition between a time wise between, you know, graffiti and was the street art phenomenon that is here present day. I think it took a, it took a while to, in some places we're weight much more ahead of the curve as far as that being an accepted thing. Yeah. That was actually one of the things I wanted to ask you about is around, you know, you've, you've been in the scene
Chuck Krausz: 00:40:17 for, you know, 30 years man. That's, that's awesome. Well that was one of your first questions was tick trying to define tagging graffiti and street art. And I think I went off on this tangent for the last 40 minutes about southern stuff. But you know, they're the most famous street art guys I think we know of is the shepherd ferry's and the bank sees of the world. Sure. Which their foundation was inspired by graffiti and about sneaking around at night and like doing these things. They just didn't have the same message. I don't know. I don't know those guys personally. I don't know if they tried to have a graffiti name and couldn't do it, didn't like it, just weren't interested. But they still adopted the same mentality of putting something up, having it be exposed. But I think there are also more interested in the general public being their audience, whereas graffiti writers were focused on other graffiti writers, uh, and that, that having that, having the world's be your audience kind of gave people that light bulb like, oh, this is, this is open forum for the world and people are starting to pay more attention and they're not just going, they're not looking at it going, oh, that's gang graffiti. Paint over it. Oh, what does that mean? What does that say? What is the purpose of this? And that I think was part of that transition.
Chuck Krausz: 00:41:50 And then that also it started inspiring other people that maybe weren't, didn't want to have a graffiti name, didn't want to follow the rules and guidelines. And these are not written, written in stone anywhere, but there were still guidelines and respect and things with graffiti that people wanted to bypass and then just go and make a sense of one, put their message out.
Chuck Krausz: 00:42:13 And I think some of that I think kind of diluted it. And some of it's kind of cheesy. I mean, I, I'm entertained by all of it, honestly. Like I, I can tell you all the things that people complain about and don't like. And to me, honestly, I don't care. Like if you, Oh, I've done one sound so in your life or you're a veteran graffiti writer of 50 years, honestly it doesn't matter to me. As long as you're enjoying it and you're in some way respectful of other artists, like it's fine. Yeah. Um, some of the things that if you, if you, if you asked me to complain about it or say something negative, I could list off things that again, like I don't do graffiti as a career. I'm not trying to be straight or dressed. I'm not trying to be a gallery artist. I'm not trying to make money off graffiti. Um, I have been fortunate enough to be booked as an artist for an event here and there, or for something like Colorado crush and know it's never an enough of payment to pay my mortgage. But yes, it's nice to get paid for your paint or some of your time. Some of the street artists, it seems like once someone else has built this foundation of, of this thing, and for some of us is 20, 30 years and you're some studio painter and all you do is paint flowers and trees and you're like, oh, but this is, this is the cool thing. Now you can do it on the street and you just happen to have an end with some building owners and they say, yeah, paint my building and now you're a street artist. Right? But you didn't pay any dues. You didn't, you know, establish yourself in any way and you're out in the street and to a graffiti writer, that's not, it's not the proper path to obtain. Right. Um, you're not legit. Yeah. Well, I mean that was the same way with the turntablism and DJ culture. Right. Which also stemmed out of the New York. Yeah. It took, it took, it took years and years to obtain the skills to, to mix and hone the craft of being a DJ. And then all of a sudden there's hundreds of kids at in mom bought them a piece of computer equipment and they're just hitting a and making the stuff in their bedroom. Yup. And they didn't learn anything or study anything or practice anything. They just did it.
Chuck Krausz: 00:44:39 Yeah. And that's kind of what's happened with the street art and graffiti saying again. I again, I could, I can tell you what's negative about it, but it doesn't, I don't think it affects me because I'm not, but if someone, if I was a street artist or a mural artist or a graffiti artist trying to make my way as a living, if you're getting paid to do this work and these people were coming out of the woodwork that were, that didn't pay any dues, that didn't pave the way, that weren't doing this, like that would, you know, I, I have grounds to be upset. Yeah. Um, well that was the thing that, I mean, I remember coming up in the DJ scene, um, for, for myself, you know, like that you didn't share back then, you didn't, you didn't share how to do it. You didn't show tricks and you didn't show, you had to learn, you had to practice if you wanted to scratch or beat juggle or it just mix music and figure out the math and the, the method for doing it. You had to do it on your own and you had to like get with your crew and practice just like going out and painting at night. You know, you had to do the work and you couldn't just, you know, hit a button and be like, yeah, it mixed. It beat matched for me and I just mixed the Spotify, you know, or whatever. Um, yeah, I mean that's, that's a crew thing too, is you get, use your crew to help you hone your techniques of painting and different tricks and things that people did. Um, again, anything. So anything that gets popular, that's what happens. I mean how many, how many hip hop artists in the 90s put their heart and soul and hundreds of hours and studio time to make a bunch of music that influenced the world and how many of those guys were broke now. And there's somebody else that just shows up and has a gimmick and makes a song in five minutes and he's making you know, millions of dollars off of downloads in ringtones. And what, I mean that's kind of the way of, of the creative world to kind of, it's just how it goes in every creative outlet. And I, it would be cool if everybody that did it after you had to pay a tax to the people that did it before you, I think then maybe the, some of the, the, the forefathers of these creative outlets would be compensated for, for their, their blood, sweat and tears when they weren't getting compensated at all being the pioneers. Yeah. And again, I, I, I guess, I guess I'm lying to myself cause there, there definitely was points in my life that I bitched about this stuff all the time and I'm sure and at this point of being an adult, you realize that again, I've, I am not going to be a career graffiti writer, street artist's mural painter. It's fun. I like doing it but it's not my bread and butter. So let it go, let whoever's in the limelight be in the limelight and appreciate it. And again, like I want people to respect my art so I respect theirs. Yeah, that's the best I can do.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:48:11 Well you're in the limelight now buddy. Thanks for being here,
Chuck Krausz: 00:48:15 Dude, you're checking your email again.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:48:16 I'm not checking my email. I'm doing an ASMR? AMSR whatever it's called.
Chuck Krausz: 00:48:22 What is that URL? pornhub.com
Gabe Ratliff: 00:48:27 That was, no, that was last week,..
Chuck Krausz: 00:48:28 One year they want to sponsor (laughing)
Gabe Ratliff: 00:48:32 This episode is sponsored by porn hub (laughing)
Chuck Krausz: 00:48:36 and I'm, and I'm sorry that I keep referencing hip hop because again, that's another subject with, with music crossovers between art and music. Graffiti isn't necessarily hip hop somewhere in somebody's marketing plan. Someone grouped turntablism breakdancing, emceeing graffiti in to this thing to make it like a marketing package somewhere. I don't, and it's kind of cool and I've never minded it. But when I got into graffiti, yes it was the late eighties in, yes, I listened to some hip hop, but I was also listening to tons of punk rock, right. And tons of hardcore and even starting to listen to house and techno and breaks and I spent more time probably at underground DJ parties, rave type electronic stuff than I did. Hip Hop shows. Same. But again, that's kind of been adopted and some people think that's like some has to be that way, but it's not necessarily, yeah,
Gabe Ratliff: 00:49:47 yeah, I'm the same. I was all over the place of listen to all kinds of stuff and just whatever it was. I mean it's the same with the way you do your name right and how it's evolved. You're just constantly evolving your interests. And I think that's part of what's beautiful about it is it, it's you're telling the story and as Emmett or emit evolves, so does the way that you write your name, like I think that's, that's what's really cool about it. You know, and if you are putting it up, it's like this constant evolution of you that's being shown as an artist. And it's, it's fascinating to me in that, you know, when you look at, uh,
Gabe Ratliff: 00:50:28 a museum artist, you know, like a renaissance type artists or painters say you, you know, there's certain artists that, you know, would paint the same scene over and over and over and over and over. And they had, you know, hundreds of versions and they're always similar but different and unique and continuing to evolve. And I think that's, that's, I, I liken that to the same thing, right? Like you're just continuing to evolve, but you, it all comes from this really, really fascinating tradition as a graffiti writer, you know, to like do this work and whether you're given the name or you worked to come up with it like you did or however it comes along and then you go through the process at the same time of developing how you showcase your name to other graffiti writers. I mean that's, that's super cool man. One of the things I wanted to ask you
Chuck Krausz: 00:51:25 Yes, I've been arrested, sorry. Wait, what was that? That wasn't the question
Gabe Ratliff: 00:51:30 you knew that was coming. Well, one of the things I wanted to ask you was, you know, similar to what we've been talking about with like mentors and, and you'll coming up in the scene and, and crews and everything. Have you ever taken artists under your wing or Duh, Duh, you know, done that since that's what you did? Um,
Chuck Krausz: 00:51:55 yes. I mean for me, and I think because this is the seventies and eighties in the subway era of graffiti were even more risky and you had to really have a set plan to go panis subway and sneak into afraid of praying, pay uh sorry, subway yard and yeah,
Chuck Krausz: 00:52:20 I think the exposure in those neighborhoods be young kids saw the older kids doing it and you kind of had to have this mentorship where the older kid took the younger kid and showed them how to be safe and showed them how to not fuck himself up and you know, go do this for my generation. It wasn't the same type of thing. But you, you, you kind of have mentorships without even establishing that. It was a mentorship. Like I never told someone to come fill in my piece for me and I would then exchange, tell them how to paint their own name. It was more you just found like minded people to paint with and
Chuck Krausz: 00:53:05 maybe one person would have more experience than the other and then that would just in turn help the lesser experienced guy. And I don't know. You weren't really in it trying to, I was never in it trying to, I mean I was definitely drawn to people that were better than me and I want it to paint with them or hang out with them or look at their black book and see what they were drawing or you weren't really asking them for advice or telling you what to do. You were just kind of absorbing by watching and looking and then hence passing that on to someone else. That may be, it was doing the same to you and that's where the crew came in. You. No one was really actively teaching each other or anything, but we just are always bouncing ideas off each other and absorbing from other people.
Chuck Krausz: 00:53:52 It's just a different, it's a different time I think. Well, it's just like a creative collective. Yeah, and you weren't dude. Yeah. You weren't consciously thinking of those things. It was just, it was just for me, it was just happening. Yeah. And I'm also, I think I'm fortunate that some of the guys that I got in my crew are guys that I met and peanut with. I think I was just, I was drawn to people that were creative with their graffiti. Uh, and a lot of those guys now, you know, 25, 30 years later have creative jobs and it kind of shows and that kind of made sense that, you know, they, they're not, I mean their career graffiti are just that they're going to keep painting graffiti, but that evolved into something else, whether it's fine art or illustration or cartoon stuff or toy design or tattoos or ever create a field that could take you to everybody for the most part went there. Yeah. Well, I know a lot of graffiti writers that aren't, um, doesn't, they're not bartenders or right here, they're not a manager at a Costco or something. Right. They have creative jobs and they,
Chuck Krausz: 00:55:14 I mean, I just say graffiti can, can, I think inspire people and can be uplifting. And again, I mean for me, I was, I said I was in a suburban kid, but if you're in a poor neighborhood or something and you find a graffiti, like I would never want to tell someone, hey, you know, don't go paint graffiti because you're gonna go to jail. It's a creative outlet that actually can, can grow into other things and help you express creativity and go somewhere and maybe assigning graffiti, maybe it's music or something else. Like even said, we talked about skateboarding and snowboarding and, and, and I, I, I rode bikes for a while to even, and there's so many creative elements in that, that have expanded those sports to be multimillion dollar industries. And it came from creativity. It didn't come from just masses of high school kids all playing that sport. It doesn't, it doesn't go like that. It was someone being so creative and unique with these, these sports, it opened doors to be something else.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:56:27 So speaking of which, perfect segue, uh, let me just close my ears. I've been arrested. You heard it here folks. That's twice. So speaking of which you're follow that same path, you're a 100% multitalented artist. And I wanted to ask, you know, as a cause you've, you went on to cofound the from graphics with Steve Blakely and, um, and I know you focus more towards the, the design and website. Um, what is it that speaks to you about the medium of graffiti versus the work that you do as a web designer and, and, and what is it that feel it fulfills you for each?
Chuck Krausz: 00:57:26 there's a lot, a lot of things I can just say here that their feet, the graffiti that my graffiti and what a lot of people will comment on microphilia is that they'll say that it's, it's technical and they'll say that it's painted clean and painting clean is more of a, of a precise way of, of outlining or painting your details or your fill into the three d. And that I think is probably one of the only things that translates from graphic design or web design or even the architecture that I talked about earlier is it's a really technical, straight, um, like perfectionist craft.
Chuck Krausz: 00:58:11 Uh, maybe color theory kind of crosses over, but nothing else. You know, you sit around a design agency or marketing agency or whatever and you're dealing with clients all day and, and nowadays you're dealing with their marketing team and they're telling you what to do or what they think is the best way to do stuff. And of course you work with them and you, you do your best and you, and you try to give you your creative input and, and make it a successful project. But when I walk out of there, I like graffiti because I leave that behind and I do whatever I want to do. Yeah. And you don't have anybody telling you how something should be laid out, how big the logo needs to be, what find needs to be someone telling you no to align these things together. That looks totally awful. But you have to do it because the client has to do it. You know, if I want to pick my three d pink and you know, and paint Polka dots, Tom Blue in the face, I can do whatever the fuck I want. Yeah. So I, that's the only reason why I don't like, I wouldn't, I don't think I'd want mural work, graffiti work straight out as a job because that would ruin the freedom of all these years of painting whatever I wanted to pay.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:59:31 Yeah.
Chuck Krausz: 00:59:32 And It's, it's, it's, it's an, it's an art form in itself I think to be able to deal with clients, hone in their ideas, pick their brain to what they want and then create something that's creative and nice that you feel, um, has value, but it makes them happy at the same time and is such a, it's kind of draining. And
Chuck Krausz: 00:59:59 15 years ago doing graphic design and stuff for the music industry, we did a lot of electronic music industry related stuff. There was even more creativity and freedom then. Then there is now
Gabe Ratliff: 01:00:10 I imagine. Yeah. It's just continued to get refined and
Chuck Krausz: 01:00:14 Everything is done
Gabe Ratliff: 01:00:14 Commoditized?
Chuck Krausz: 01:00:15 yeah. It's gotten more simplistic and a formula. Yeah. Web stuff is, everybody wants the same layout in the same and it used to be how can we do it different? Yeah. Like every web(site) when flash hit and everyone was doing flash websites every week there is some new crazy and flash site that someone did that was like breaking molds of interactive design and, and how'd you presented information and Menus of how to, you know, click and be, you know, interact with this data. It was weird. Sometimes it didn't make any sense. Like you got to search to find how to click to get to the next page. And people did it because it was cool and new and now people's attention spans on the web or throw a website or mere seconds that he can kind of make it easy and quick and right and mobile. So it's always, it's, it's, it's cool that's always changing. And the same thing as, I guess you can relate it to art that ways. I always want my art to be changing and evolving and not be stagnant with web and the design world. You kind of have to always be progressing with the technology and with what the next device is and what's popular. And you know, 20 years ago when I started doing web, obviously nobody cared about a phone. Now, especially with Edm and if your audiences, you know, 16 to 30 year olds, 75% of them are looking at this website on a phone that no one's got a computer. So you just, you kind of always trying to stay with the times and evolve with what's happening. Otherwise you kind of get left behind. Yeah. I guess that happens in art too. So don't if you don't kinda stay fresh or about saying you want to, I guess an industry you're trying to also stay with industry standards, but graffiti here almost trying to help you want to be setting the standards.
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Gabe Ratliff: 01:02:40 I was just thinking about how it's been the same for me with photography and video that you know with, you know, changing from film to SD cards has made a huge impact. And then the DSLR movement, the mirrorless movement, the drone movement. I mean all of these changes, the iPhone, I mean all of the, I mean you can shoot a feature film now with your iPhone and put it out there. Yeah. And be successful.
Chuck Krausz: 01:03:16 Everything today you have to certainly be paying attention and, and never have to always be looking outside of here, your bubble to see what else is happening. Otherwise you miss so much. You have to be, where do you say absorbing stuff. Where do you do that? Like where do you get out of side of your bubble and kind of stay on whether that's with design or with your, and I do it a lot, a lot less now because, this is just, it's overwhelming. It's essentially give you anxiety when there's so much data and so much visual. Everything just is so much everywhere. Distraction coming in to do that. I don't, I don't spend as much time just casually looking as much as I used to. I used to spend a lot more time on various design blogs or various, you know, portals that did, you know, website of the day. Uh, things like that. It's the Adobe one that features all types of art and you can even sort by architecture or photography or, yeah, sorry, Beba ce. No, that's the one. That's one of them too. I mean, yeah, that does have the sites I would spend hours and hours. Is it dribble? Just going through that stuff and you know, absorbing. Yeah. And those are actually great if you can even use those too. I used to like using those things to find influence to something totally outside of that realm when I was looking at some type of 3D design for some movie or whatever project was on there. But then looking at color theory that they used and how that can relate to a graffiti wall. Yeah. Yeah. Fit, not, not, don't look at it, go, oh, this is cool. Three d design, I'm gonna go do this three d design. Right, right. Like how do I take a small element from something that I find cool that I appreciate that. I don't know how the hell they did it and take that and somehow let that evolve your, they run wild in a different whole different environment with it.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:05:33 Well that brings up another question for me around just that evolution of your, uh, writing. How do you, where do you get inspiration for that? You know, I mean, you just spoke to that, but I mean, do you, as you're evolving your work, do you just go out and test it or do you know, like if you say go look at a piece like that, really dig what they're doing with the Palette, do you then just go, you know, get the paint and go out and test it and do a new piece? Or how do you kind of evolve your work?
Chuck Krausz: 01:06:09 I mean, it's, it's always changed. There was a time in the 90s that, I mean, any graffiti, any paint on a wall would make me jump out of my seat and look like I, you know, drank three cups of coffee. You were just like, oh, I gotta go paint. Yeah. And that we're off over years, but I don't know how to stop. Yeah. And I don't even know at this point. I didn't know why I do it. It just becomes a regular thing that you just want to do. I mean, some weekends I just want to go play golf. I don't know why I want to go play golf. I just, I enjoy it. I just got to go do it. And um, same thing with, sometimes I just have to go paint and like, I'm not on a mission to outdo somebody or achieve something. I just want to go stand there and paint something. Yeah. And Tivoli, it's more about, oh, we'll wait to hang out with your friends. Some guys sit in the couch and drink beer and watch football. Like I'd rather talk shit with couple of my friends painting a wall. Yeah. And it's just, that's just what it's turned into. I think I just did. What was your question?
Gabe Ratliff: 01:07:24 No, that's, that's awesome man. It means this, this, that comradery that comes with that. And I love it. I was just, I was just in the process of it.
Chuck Krausz: 01:07:36 And to, it's like I, I have a whole shelf of paint at my house. I probably have a hundred cans of paint, all different colors and sometimes you fly by the seat of your pants and just, you know, grab a bunch of stuff and throw it in a bag and show up at a wall and no sketch, no, I concept no anything and just do whatever comes out. Yeah. And after you've done something repetitively for 30 years, you should be able to get from a to B and finish it in that afternoon and not be scratching your head like, what do I do next? Right. I mean, you've done it so many times and I think that's the great things about some of the things that are lost is really knowing a craft so well that it, it, it comes out naturally. Yeah. And how many people do you know that I can write a song like that or that. And I watched that, um, uh, Quincy Jones documentary on Netflix and there's a point where he's just sitting there just writing notes on a piece of paper. And that boggles my mind, how the hell's he even know what he's putting on a piece of paper. But he knows it so well and he's done it so many thousands of times that he knows exactly what those notes sound like and how they are going to sequence together and he could just write it down. Yeah. And how many people can say that they can write music like that now? I don't know anyone that can do that and it's just seems so next level of how well you know something or understand it. And I've painted emit at this point thousands and thousands of times. So that's, it's at this point it's,
Chuck Krausz: 01:09:15 I don't want to say it's mindless, but you know what I mean. You can just, yeah, you just mastered your craft. It's just, that's what's fun about it. She could just go and do it. And it's fun and you don't have to and you're not, you're not. Yeah. You're not getting frustrated going, what do I do now? Or what, what is this? And you've, you've solved so many problems with two colors not going together. Right. Or you know, like I know now to bring it, you know, an extra backpack with, you know, totally opposite color spectrum just in case I need a one can to like fix a problem. You know, we got every like you, you know, you know what, what could go wrong and what fixes it and some days turn out great and some days they're like, yeah, that's all right, but it's you, it's always fun and it's always feels good to to paint something and finish it and take a picture of it.
Chuck Krausz: 01:10:06 And I don't, I wonder what happened if Instagram was gone and I didn't have a place to post it. I think I would still be emailing it to all of my crew and my friends and I think they would be painting and they would be sending me stuff that they painted. And we still actually do that. Like we'll send each other stuff before anyone else sees it or we'll send each other stuff that maybe is in progress or to Joe, like I know guys that are maybe doing a job and they'll just start sending me pictures of what they're doing just because it's not for the general public or it's something that maybe shouldn't be, but you know, we share with each other and that more important to me then if somebody across the world is looking at, it's cool that they're looking at it, but right. It's not the most important thing. Yeah. Well that's another great segue. Well done. Yes. I guess I've had a damn it. Oh, I was arrest... A couple of times I was arrested. God. It had nothing to do with porn hub. No, it didn't. It was cause the graffiti.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:11:15 Um, so I was going to ask you about the DF crew and you know, how did you guys come together and what's that story?
Chuck Krausz: 01:11:24 Um, like minded individuals that just met in prison, did not, did not meet in prison. (laughing) I think one of the things that we all bonded over was humor, taking graffiti really serious, but at the same time not taking it serious. And we would get together and paint these walls that maybe were a street art, maybe we're a mural, they still have graffiti letters, but had other elements that gave it a theme. But we would just show up and throw all these random ideas off each other and make some funny theme that we thought was entertaining and we just laughed the whole time and paint it and maybe somebody got it and thought it was hilarious. Maybe someone thought it was stupid, like it wasn't. It was just about us screwing around. I'm trying to think of an example. We did a, we did this one wall, it was called idiots on parade and we actually named a coffee table book off of that wall. And the idiots on parade wall was all these graffiti names and all these different types of care characters and they were all walking in one direction and they were walking off a cliff.
Chuck Krausz: 01:12:48 And the very first guy, I was like, this dragon, he's got a beer in his hand, he's throwing the horns and he's just like, ah, off the cliff. And then there's ogres that have balloons, you know, coming off these is big ogre. It looks like he's going to destroy the world, but he's got like this handful of helium balloons and then you know, there's a whale in the sky and the whale is trailing a streamer that says df crew and says that's all any random stuff that we could compile into this mess of a wall. Um, and we thought it was great. We thought we were hilarious and that was again, it didn't, it was fun. Yeah, I get, what was your question? I just feel like I just went off
Gabe Ratliff: 01:13:33 total like that. Ain't know what I'm saying. Oh, you just made me think of there's a, I'm going to go on this trail with you for a minute because there's this really great shot in a decaying future that I was looking at that I love. It's a shot of the inside of this like refinery and
Chuck Krausz: 01:13:55 MMM.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:13:57 One of the artists did like a pac man scene with these like huge, oh, that's, I don't even think that's in Longmont. Oh, is it? So I don't even know what those are, but they are so perfect to do the ghosts. I could not believe how perfect they were to then just add touches of color to do like pinky and blinky and all the different goals and then have in the foreground, you know, painted the PAC man shape. But the other, this thought, the thought that went into, you could see the, the humor, but also that like the design like intelligence that you guys have with the work. Like, so we jumped to this real quick. So you asked him about DF, crew. Crew came from being inspired by a bunch of guys just being silly and painting these walls together. Yeah. Um, the second book that I self published, the first that first book was published by a record label in Cincinnati that did that, that coffee table book, the second book Decaying Future, I self published that and that was more about abandoned buildings and it was more about,
Chuck Krausz: 01:15:17 it wasn't the first book is more focused on the wall and what was on the wall and what the mural was and what the painting was. Decaying future was more about the spot where the graffiti was. So it was equally as important to see the environment around the graffiti as it was to see the actual graffiti. So that's why it was all these decay buildings and a missile silo and whatever's in the book, that spot that you're talking about. Um, it's, we didn't paint the thing you're talking about that just happened. That just happened to be there. And I know the guy that painted it and he's actually the guy that took us to that building.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:15:55 Oh, okay.
Chuck Krausz: 01:15:56 Um, that, yeah. He, the guy that took us that lived in the area and he knew where this guy had a couple of trip set up and where the guy was patrolling to tons of people to go to this building and it was getting really dangerous. And I mean like life threatening dangerous how this building was decaying that one step and you're done. Mm. Um, not to mention the remnants of the asbestos and things that were in there. It's just not a safe place. Yeah. So this guy was like, I've, you know, I've lived near there, I've been there a few times. Let me take you just to make sure we don't have, you know, this guy called the cops on us, right. And that just happened to be, and this guy actually painted that. And that's another element of street art that you see that has become popular as you see something in an environment and you go, oh my God, that that tree is this perfectly placed on that wall. That if I paint a face, that tree is going to be the hair, right? Or I'm going to make this fire hydrant look like a guy smoking a cigarette, it's going to be so funny. Yeah. And that's just, I think people just being inspired by the whole movement and then looking for another way to do it. Yeah. And then you start getting
Chuck Krausz: 01:17:14 the creativity starts going off the charts because there's so, there's so much influx, everyone doing it. It's like, what can I, someone's going always do the same thing someone else did, but there's always someone that's going to have another idea. Yeah. Right. And some are bad, some are good. And you know, that idea of taking environmental things and mixing them with art and making them something is a cool idea. Yeah. And somebody might hate it, but I, I mean, I think it's cool. I mean it's, it's, it's fun. I enjoy seeing that type of stuff and I'm like, I wish I thought of that. That's, yeah. That's really cool. I know I've seen so much of that one. I've been traveling. Uh, and you know, there's a lot of really talented guys over in Europe that we'll do that exact thing where they just take found public yeah.
Chuck Krausz: 01:17:57 Uh, landmarks or whatever and like, you know, like posts or, I'm just seeing some really, really clever stuff I've seen it was like, are you mentioned earlier Otis? Otis? Yeah. And that's not the exact same thing, but he definitely found like a cool niche where he paints into a corner of a wall. It looks like the pieces floating between the two surfaces and he paints the shadows and the lighting and, yeah. Yeah. It's pretty neat. I love his work, man. It's actually shot some of his work. Um, I want to say, I think it was in Portugal when I finally got to see some in person and him has not like, I don't know his backstory or, but it's interesting that he's taking elements of a graffiti writer and writing mostly just his name over and over again. Yeah. But he's also found this artistic creativity to present it in a way that no one else.
Chuck Krausz: 01:18:56 Yes. There are other guys maybe that do that now. And I don't know if he's the first guy, but he's definitely, it's a smaller niche of how to present your name and he's really famous for any pipe. Just paid to do it cause it's, it's really good. Yeah. Um, but yeah, so it's cool that he's, he is a graffiti writer that found a new way to do it differently as a modern, you have 2005, 2014, 15 he probably started getting wrecking. So yeah. Um, that was abs around when I started seeing his work and I don't know if he ever paid his dues in the streets. I don't know how legitimate is if you went out tagging or you know, if he, if he did that stuff. But I like to think so. It doesn't, again, work word again to me, if I met him I'd be like, Hey man, I love your work. It's really cool. Yeah. Whereas to somebody else, he's kind of, yeah, you see he might be culture vulturing where he took, took all this stuff that graffiti writers have built, the foundation of and took it and went and made money off it, but at the same time to do just so talented and he's such a good artist. I, I don't care. Like we need him out there like he makes all of us look better because he's so talented. Yeah, well he's doing the same thing. You are right that he's out there refining the way he does his graffiti writing and so it's really on him. Like if I met him and he was like, Hey man, I was nice to meet you whether I was emit or I was a 16 year old kid that wrote my name for the very first time. It's really on him. If he's going to come to me and be respectful to me and be like, oh cool, you're a graffiti writer. Oh maybe I know who you are. Maybe I don't know who you are, but still treat me as a peer. And same with the 16 year old kid. Like, he hasn't, maybe that kid is going to be the next him. Yeah. You know, so it's really, and I've had those experiences too, like you meet someone that
Chuck Krausz: 01:20:51 honestly I I think maybe don't even deserve any respect and they act like everybody should be like kissing their ass and you meet other guys that or you know, supreme supreme status, like just really deserve the utmost praise and they're humble. And that made me so much more to be humble. And then the other guy it's, and I think it's for any art. Yeah. It took me a while to realize that to myself. I mean again the, if you grew up in a city painting graffiti eighties or 90s yeah. I don't know if anybody was humble or if they were, this wasn't just not how it was. No. Cause you had to earn it like you are trying to like, yeah. You had to earn the respect and kind of fight for it. Yeah. I mean, it was tough and yet, and you didn't have, I couldn't just paid the back of my garage and posted on Facebook and be like, Hey, I'm a graffiti artist. You had to be up on the streets illegally for people to see you. And when you're talking about some places big as New York, it's not, you can't just, you're not just going to go out for a weekend and offside friends going to know who you are. You had to go out and put in a ton of time and a ton of effort and it's on a risk and paid stuff.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:22:18 Yeah, I mean, I remember one of my first friends in the scene, um, when I was starting to Dj, he was also Dj in our crew and he, he played drum and bass, but he was also a writer and he had his book with them all the time. And he showed me his work from the bubble letters all the way up through and you know, wild style, all of it. I mean he was like showing me all the different types that he was working on. And he talked about exactly what you're talking about today. You know, he just, it was all about earning it and continuing to work on your name and how, you know, going through the motions and understanding the foundations of the art and the lettering and the styles and how they differ. And like you talked about what the books, you know, with like spray can art and subway art, you know, and going through those foundational, it's the same thing.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:23:18 You know, I would have these conversations with, um, cause I used to work with Chris Karns, uh, who used to be known as Dj Vajra. He's like, you know, DMC champion and Red Bull Turnstyle champion and artists with, um, uh, Pretty Lights. And we would, I would, I worked with him and we were both music buyers in the same shop and he would be practicing and we'd be talking about, you know, this was kind of when remixing and you know, pulling samples was still very controversial and you know, people were starting to really bite on the new samples, not the original records, like the Roberta flack record that had that one little sound in it or whoever that people would go, true turntablists would go and actually hunt for to get the original record. That old funk record that had that one little sound that you would use to scratch with.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:24:15 And he was that guy. He is that guy. And we would talk about that. And I'm just, that's one of the things I love about having conversations with people like you and him, is that there's this, there's this foundational education that is just understood and respected and appreciated, but it's also the work that was put in to get to where you are now. And then there's tons of years that, so you've got the humility that's come out of it. You've got the mastering of the craft, the stories, the fun, you know, all of the things that have happened that the danger, I mean all the things that come together, but it's all this really beautiful story that makes you emit and makes you who you are as an artist out there inspiring other people that want to either just enjoy it like myself or that want to do it. And I think that's just, it's just super commendable man. Because I think it is this art that seems to be getting diluted, uh, with, with, you know, like you're talking about like social media and just like with deejaying and being able to just hit a button and mix, uh, it's, it's changing the game.
Chuck Krausz: 01:25:27 One of the beautiful things about graffiti is that almost like this graffiti writers as a whole, we're like, this is a plague or a virus. We're, we're all, we're spreading and we're all connected to each other somehow. And we all have some similar connection, but you can't really be stopped because if you're, if you're in the mob, you know, they go after the head mob boss and it shuts down everybody below him and graffiti. There is no mob boss. Everybody has their own mob boss and there's hundreds of thousands of us. And just by stopping one do you don't shut down anybody else. So as a movement, it's just this growing thing that
Chuck Krausz: 01:26:15 is never ending and it can't be stopped and every person is a stepping stone to the next person of how things get passed down or what's happening. And you're all connected. It's, it's really kinda cool. Yeah. Um, but I have had younger kids say, hey, how can I get into your crew? And I tend to tell them something like what you said about the stories that I tell them, hey, you know, I'm 20 years older than you. The beauty of this thing is making your own stories with your friends that are on the same page you are, you know, you're, you're 21 go hang out with graffiti writers that are around 21 and live those 21 year-old graffiti experiences. Right. And you'll appreciate it more than tooling around with some 40 year old dudes painting graffiti. I mean does different, yeah. I mean maybe you'd learn something but you're going to learn it anyway. Like you just need to think. That's the fun part is like go experience those things with, you know, your friends that are at the same spot, same page as you.
Chuck Krausz: 01:27:22 That's awesome man. I don't know why I had the mob boss store. I just thought that was, that's a great analogy though, right? I mean that's a, that's a really great analogy cause it's like the whole concept of like a, you know, if you take down the top dog, everything else crumbles. There's, there's a lot more power there than I think the graffiti scene knows. Like when, um, that's sort of the beauty of it. Who revoke is and how the name, oh, I can't think of it. That corporate company that took his art and he painted in some alley and they put it in their commercial. Why can't I think of the name of it? It's, I can't remember. And I'm, I'm totally brain dead. It's to paint fumes, killed my brain cells. Um, it's, you know, some multimillion dollar corporate clothing company that has stores and you know, La, New York, Melrose, every, every big fashion center and they have millions of dollars and they did this cool hip commercial and everyone's all hip and you know, they show his art and they, yeah, tried to sneak it in there. And not pay them too, like is people know it's revoked and people in this art scene know who he is and once he put that on social media,
Chuck Krausz: 01:28:42 thousands of people responded to back him up and their graffiti writers. So the, the, the backlash to that company, it wasn't just people being pissed, it was every storefront across the country get tagged on and it's like, hey, fuck off. Right. You're stealing from our culture and trying to make money off of pay the dude and just having that network. And there are people that don't know him. They don't know him personally. They don't, you don't know, don't know. But they have a connection to him because there are graffiti writers and they know what he's doing, the work he's put in and the amount of time he's put in painting. Yes. Now he's older and yeah, he's going on different tangents with art and creating things whether you like it or not. Yeah. Maybe he's a case still has that history. People respect that. He was this graffiti writer that influenced thousands of other graffiti writers. So that support system, it was, that was the coolest part. Or I see everybody like attack for him. Yeah. And then, you know what I mean? He obviously he had lawyers and a professional thing handling this business and it got settled and he got paid. But seeing the real like underground backlash of it was kind of cool. Yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:29:55 Well, yeah, that's the thing. I agree with, um, Jack Conte from who started Patreon because his whole belief is around, you know, before, before we were able to you know, record things like on vinyl and whatnot, um, artists were commissioned to do their work. They were paid to do their art and you know, back in the day somebody would just roll up with a big bag of coins and drop it down and be like, I love your work. Keep doing your work. I want to pay you so that you can keep doing your work. You know, the Sistine Chapel, all these things were commissioned by these people who were devout to their craft and people would just pay them and say, hey, you're amazing. I want you to do this. And I totally agree with that concept at like over the last, you know, a hundred plus years, that's changed for us as creatives where we've become commoditized and abused in those ways. That was something I thought was really, I actually really respected about Banksy with that recent incident. You know, where the, the, the peat that really famous piece was sold and it's like shredded itself. And I was just like, that's what I'm talking about. That's awesome. Yeah.
Chuck Krausz: 01:31:17 So for anyone listening to this new my revoke story and they said h and m, then you get props for knowing what I was talking about. H and M and my babbling.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:31:27 That's actually who I thought it was, um,
Chuck Krausz: 01:31:29 so if you, if you knew that then hey, that's um, anyway,
Gabe Ratliff: 01:31:34 then you win a free copy of one of your books. I don't know if I had a copy. I would tell you that that'd be a cool thing to do. I was gonna say, I was actually on looking that up and I saw Decaying Future is sold out
Chuck Krausz: 01:31:49 and I said there was self published. I printed three, 300 of them. Yeah. Um, the amount of money it costs. I didn't want, I didn't, You can print books really cheaply in China. Yeah. You have to print 2000 of them and it makes the books $8 a book and then you sell them for 20 or 30, you make some money, but you have to sell 2000 of them. Yep. I wasn't about to try and sell 2000 books, so I printed them. I printed them here in the states. And
Gabe Ratliff: 01:32:23 that's still a lot. 300 is a lot. I mean every book ended up being like 30 bucks a book to print. Yeah.
Chuck Krausz: 01:32:29 And then I think the very last batch, I sold it for 40 bucks. Um, and the shipping was five. So it was like I made five bucks a book. Yeah. And then when you hand out 40 of them to like your crew mates and friends and people that help take pictures for the book or are in the book. Yeah. You, you make nothing. Yeah. But I didn't want to make money. I, it was fun. It was really fun to take the pictures, have a concept, put the book together, laid out in design, publish it and get that physical, I mean just like painting a piece, it was like you'd love to finish it, paint it, stand back, look at this thing. I made the same thing. Make a song, do any kind of art,
Gabe Ratliff: 01:33:09 like a sculpture or whatever. Just finishing. It is satisfying. It's a beautiful book too. I think of it. That's, I mean, cause I actually own several books. I actually made my own coffee table book as well. I did a, uh, series on, it's called La Tabacalera, which is the tobacco factory. I always have a hard time saying that. Um, but it's uh, the tobacco factories, what it stands for, it's in Madrid and I absolutely love this place. Every time I go back I shoot it. I've shot it three times now and I absolutely fucking love this place. It is a tobacco factory that was run down and the city of Madrid gave it to the artists of, of that, of the city. And they run it and they have their studios there. They do their work there. They're all in one space. There's work everywhere. There's groups thinking open. It's been, yep. You can just walk in and gallery kind of thing. It's an open gallery. They do film festivals there. They do free workshops for kids and people in the city. It's about that. It's awesome.
Chuck Krausz: 01:34:12 Um, a few summers ago, me and my wife and two other couples, uh, went to Spain, flew into Madrid but immediately hopped on a bus and went south. And then spent a week, um, is it Sevilla? Sevilla and Granada. Yeah. And then we hopped Orion Air and flew to Barcelona and spent a few days in Barcelona. That's a great and great city of trying to, you know, looking at travel blog, trying to figure out where to go. I think Madrid was probably fourth on the list of interesting places that we wanted to see. I mean, there's probably 30 places we wanted to go see, but we didn't have enough time. Yeah. Um, but if I had
Gabe Ratliff: 01:34:57 known that was in Madrid, I maybe would have tried to get a few up more hours in that city just to go check out that. I actually, that was the last thing we did. We just went back there because we, we went up north to um, uh, the Basque region and a studious up in the northern region of Spain. And um, uh, we flew in and out of Barajas in Madrid. And the last thing I did, I was like, I have to go, I have to go, I have to go the law if there's nothing else I do while I'm here. Cause we, I, we have friends that live there and we caught up with them on the front end, on the backend as like a half to get in here. And so, um, I actually left everybody, they were getting some, some kindness, which are beers over there.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:35:44 And I left them and just went in. I didn't want to go do my usual thing. And I, the thing I love is that the art continually changes. The whole place is a gallery. Every time you go every time. And that was the same bridge. It bridges in New York, you know, two 38th street bridge in the Bronx had these series of, it was, it was a spot where many train lines came together before they went and they kind of grouped and went to Harlem and then went into grand central. So you had all these train lines kind of merging together. So this bridge was huge and there's just rows and rows of walls separating all the different train lines. And then it went down to earth, this river and there was more walls back there. So it was a, it was a gallery. It was a, was an art gallery of graffiti that every time you went there was new work.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:36:34 I love it. Uh, it was just same type of thing. Yeah. I love it. Did not as cool as Madrid. You know, the other place that I would say is as, as it's pretty much equal as far as the love and supportive of graffiti writers is, um, uh, Amsterdam. That place there was an another area they're called. The other thing, it's the, um, BDSM is this area across the, uh, the Amstel. There was a reggae band playing at this like indoor outdoor rec brew, like a bar or restaurant. And then across the way it was like this dry dock. It was a dry dock for ships off the Amstel. And across the way was another like bar restaurant that was super cool and like a coffee shop and it was just everybody was hanging out and just enjoying the sun. And so you got these cool beats playing, everybody's just hanging out and there's again, broad day light, a crew chillin over on, it was like really low walls because of the, of the way this dry dock was built that this was an area where it was like really low walls and all cross was just different sections people had done their pieces on and just exuding creativity, that whole area.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:38:02 I mean there was like, uh, uh, the I film institute there, that's like the film place, um, Kinda like, it's Kinda like sie film center here or the Mayan or something, but it's an actual like film institute. So you can go watch films there, but it's like this whole place you get, it's got galleries and all this stuff in it and all this stuff with film. Um, but yeah, the whole place was just exuding an everywhere around Amsterdam was covered.
Chuck Krausz: 01:38:31 Europe, it's always been kind of ahead of, ahead of the curve on public. Yeah. Art. That was what I fell in love with paint basically. Yeah. Well I like the riot doors. Right. That was one of the things I noticed immediately use. There were constant riot doors that had pieces on him. I mean I spent most of my life
Chuck Krausz: 01:38:55 when it was legal graffiti, it was in a back alley somewhere. It was usually a place that people care less about. Um, I think that's even how RiNo district got to be a spot for Colorado Crush. Cause it was like, I don't want to say like, people just were like, oh well that's there. That wasn't even RiNo. He has a bunch of abandoned buildings there and it doesn't look that great. Yeah, fine paint there. I, you know, whatever bs. And then all of a sudden people were like, oh, but wait, they're painting cool stuff and people want to see it. Let's make a nice restaurant and a bar there and let's build a new hotel. And then all of a sudden it's, now it's the opposite.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:39:36 Yeah. I, that was actually my next line of questioning was around
Chuck Krausz: 01:39:40 That, that that's like, I mean, that's a unique example for RiNo, but like I said, my 25 years of graffiti career was you were always in some back alley or some weird hidden place.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:39:53 Yeah. How do you feel about that now? Like with it being, having such a spotlight on it and now, you know, artists are being commissioned to do murals. How do you feel about it?
Chuck Krausz: 01:40:00 I don't know if I care.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:40:01 Yeah. I mean, you said that, you mentioned something around that earlier, but
Chuck Krausz: 01:40:06 I mean there's, there's a, there's a wall in Denver that, um, I've, I kind of, I guess I sort of manage it, you know, I curate it and I am one of the go-tos for people to hit me up and say, Hey, can we paint this wall? And I try to let people paying it every couple of weeks and just let it rotate out with different artists. If people are guests in town, that's yours, the spot I let him paint. Also, people from all over the country have painted this spot and it's in some weird little alley the whole time you're painting. Cars are coming through the alley and you got to move all the time and it's not the best place to paint, but people know it's there. And if you're a photographer that likes graffiti or you're a graffiti writer, when you're in Capitol Hill and that area, you probably drive down the alley to see what's new on that wall. And it's not the most, you know, spectacular public forum that everyone's going to see this thing. But the people that should see it, that would appreciate seeing it are going to see it, if that makes any sense.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:41:13 Yeah.
Chuck Krausz: 01:41:13 Yes, it would be cool to have a piece on the side of the Empire State Building that millions of people saw a day. But I don't, I don't think that mattered. I never thought of that as a thing that mattered to me. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, I've painted things that I painted it, took a picture of it and just kissed it goodbye. And you're assuming you're never gonna see it again. Especially if you're painting illegally or under a bridge or behind a building or in a tunnel. It gets gone over. It gets scribbled on by homeless guy, city paints over it. You don't, you don't know. I mean it's kind of, I think I, maybe that's when the quotes in the book, something about it. It's not permanent. I think it's ever permanent. You don't plan for it to be permanent. That was intended to be permanent. And I don't live my life worrying about if it's still there, if I have to go fix it or something. It's like you paint it and get a picture of it is many people see it, they see it. That's cool. And Yeah. For me it used to be that fun experience of coming up to something that I didn't even know it was there and turn the corner and go, well look at this. Yeah. And I kinda, I, I always deep down hope that people rolling into a parking lot somewhere and they go, oh well I didn't know that mural was there, that wall, that graffiti or that whatever. And then they see it for the first time and walk up to and just get some type of enjoyment out of it or feeling from it or like whether it's or they get pissed or are they love it. I mean it's, it's cool that it's going to make somebody feel something and yeah. Yeah. That's actually for me, for me it's, it's the, the, I'm gonna use the term public art here because that's actually for me, my museum, you know, like I, I'm always looking out for that work. I mean, one really fun little game that my wife and I have when we travel is we look for invader and she has, it's like punched bug for us and she has completely obliterated me for the last like 10 years because she is so good at finding invader. The, that the wall I was telling you about on, on, on Capitol Hill, he stuck one of those on the side of that wall. Love it. And someone stole it of course.
Chuck Krausz: 01:43:37 Well I mean like, and it was kind of in the early days of no one knew who he was. I mean I just, because I'm in that scene. Yeah. And was even early, early, early social media. Like he was just getting going, but I knew who he was and he stuck it on the side of the wall and I was like, oh wait, that's that. That's that one guy. Like I've been hearing about him, like he's coming out in the scene and I was like, cool. And I left it didn't even take a picture of it. Didn't, I just appreciate that it was there. Yeah. And it didn't even think anybody else would even know what it was. And then I think it took months but eventually someone was like, Oh shit, that's the invader invader. And they chiseled it off though. I mean we've seen his stuff in the most random, I love it cause it will have even like a really small tile low, like not a pie.
Chuck Krausz: 01:44:27 It just, when he's low, this one was like on the step. Yeah. Steps going to this said. Yeah, that's all. It's like, it's like the alley of ninth and ninth and grant. It's uh, the Institute of art had a building there, which they've since moved, but that's where that Wall came from, like in the 90s. Oh Man. And it's still, the wall is going to collapse soon. I think. It looks like it's kind of leaning. Oh Wow. But people still paying it. I remember I got one of his, um, we visited Rome and went to the Vatican and of all places he had a tile on the Vatican. And I was like, yes. But yeah, my, my point was just that,
Gabe Ratliff: 01:45:10 you know, for me, that's what I love about this art form is that you can go around a corner and see something magnificent, you know? And it really has evolved over the years, since the eighties and the seventies, um, when it started. But I mean it's just the thing that I do appreciate myself about the, the attention that it's gotten is that, and this is, um, I want to ask you that's leading up to the question is, you know, with this attention, it seems like some of the pressure has gone off of you as an artist regarding like city officials and, and things like that. You know, because more you were saying like, now, you know, you can post up and just look like you're supposed to be there and people think, oh, they've just been commissioned to do this piece. And so is that sort of the, the flip side to this attention that it has taken some of that pressure off of you guys when you're out doing your work or is there still stuff that you have to deal with?
Chuck Krausz: 01:46:19 Um, it has been quite awhile since police rolled up and questioned us while we were painting. That happens much less off often now. And I'm, I guess I'm talking about having a spot that's legal to paint. And I was actually thinking how you said the museum, I was picturing, um, you know, anywhere around the Santa Fe area or around RiNo. It's like that you can walk everywhere and this, all this art and it's cool. And it's also attracting a lot of other graffiti, like the bombing and the illegal tag and like, which I don't mind and it's cool to see people doing that. But I'm a, I'm afraid that that is going to affect the city and the people that have the power to make these things cease and desist. And now that you mentioned that, here it is, it's gotten so big that everybody is like wanting people to paint their walls and everybody's doing art and there's all kinds of different styles and types of things around Denver look at. But now all of a sudden, here we are, 2019 and the city wants every single wall to be painted, to submit paperwork, pay for a fee and get it approved. Every single wall anywhere, no matter what it is, that's what they want to do. I don't know how strict that's going to be. I don't know if they're going to pull it. I mean, they're basically saying that if it's not on the approved list from the city, that the city is going to go around paint over everything unless it's approved.
Chuck Krausz: 01:48:05 And I don't know if this is going to be, if they do that, there's just going to be a huge backlash if they do that. Yeah. And there are people that are really supportive of any type of, you know, street art movement that are trying to help and make sure this doesn't turn into a cluster fuck. Yeah. But it has the potential of going really bad. I just don't, I don't know what's gonna happen. Hmm. We'll see. But if everybody has to like, I mean that's the beauty of yes. If you're getting commissioned, if someone's like, Hey, I mean I've seen people that have 2030 50 a hundred thousand dollars to do a mural and it's some marketing project and there's this huge process behind it and you're doing all these sketches and getting it approved, and then you're renting scaffolding and a team and you know you're spending all this time, you're doing this mural. But then there's also the, the freestyle side of it, there's what 75% of these walls are seeing or just people that are not getting paid or if they're getting paid, they're getting a tab at the bar in there and they're just doing it for fun and hell, no, I'm not going to go do a sketch and turn it into the city and they pay money and then have you tell me, I mean, it's this, any walls anywhere that are offensive,
Chuck Krausz: 01:49:34 right? Who does, I mean some people do political stuff, but I've never seen anything that was offensive or rude or racist or discriminatory. I've never seen any of that. I'd never seen art like that. I think as our community, people are aware of that and if anything, they're trying to make people aware of the hate and bad in the world and not trying to spread the hate. And then if you're graffiti, you're not doing either, you're just writing your name. Right. Again, how do you tell the city while I'm just going to go pay some graffiti words of this alley wall that no one cares about that. You know the neighbors like it because it's colorful and it's just to have somebody tell you what is acceptable art. Yeah. And it's not even there while it's someone else's wall that wants it. Right. It's like if you had a wall here on the side of your house and do you want it some artists and painted like what'd you want the city to tell you what?
Chuck Krausz: 01:50:30 Oh sorry. You can't use purple. Right? Well, it defeats the whole point of the freedom that the art form itself allows. And I mean, yeah, agreed. I mean that's, that's again, what, like I was saying about this art being out for the public to appreciate, I mean it's stemmed from originally being done for graffiti art or graffiti writers, but I'm one of the people who was moved by it because I, I love that. It's like the art of the people. That's what I think of it as. It's the art of the people. It's the art of The Times. It's the art of the culture and the society that we live in. It's speaking to where you are as an artist at the time that you do that piece, whether it's you putting up Mitt or owed with doing a three dimensional panther with his name or whatever it is, you know, the or Banksy with, you know, a girl with balloons.
Chuck Krausz: 01:51:32 I mean, it, it doesn't matter. Do you know Banksy is, we can't talk about that in public forums seem, know who he is. I know who people think it is, which I think would be amazing. And I think, I think it is him really. Yeah. No Shit. I think it, yeah, I think, I mean I think I'm, I'm assuming says you're into music you pipe and there's other people in music that have slipped and said his name no shit. And that's, I think that's maybe where it came from. But people, if people don't know the original other than musician that slipped and said his name. Oh Wow. And it's, again, you have to be kind of more an underground music scene to make those connections, but I didn't. Yeah, it makes sense. Like how do you, how do you travel the world and have money and connections and all these different cities to go do art if you're some average Joe that right. That you know, works on the assembly line down, like you don't, right. I mean you that, that's my favorite band ever. That was also the first date that my wife and I went on was there when they were here. And I was like, when I've heard that, I was like, oh my God. Well, we've, we've, we've met just a ton of things we mentioned in this discussion that
Chuck Krausz: 01:52:55 I've almost said like, oh this place or this thing or I, and I've kind of neglected to name dropper, right? We've, we've had a couple of names, but I wonder like if I was listening to this, I beg, well who the fucking tell me? Nope, you can't. Nope. You don't get to know cause you're not in the know. And is there like, is there like an email link that's whom I can contact you email and ask flood is email with questions. The fuck is it? I want to know a man. Yeah, look it up. You can pay for you. I bet you would look at Google search or you're probably fine. I saw the article but he knew already I saw an article about it and I was just trying to be respectful. Yeah. I wouldn't, yeah, I wouldn't ever say it just because I love him.
Chuck Krausz: 01:53:40 So, and honest and honestly in my world of graffiti writers, people fucking hate them. Some people totally fucking hate him and some people love him. Oh, I'm at, I love the word him. Well you love his music. I love, I actually love both. I'm going to be clear. I'm going to be clean and clear as far as I go. I actually love both. Um, because I, I appreciated the whole concept of what he was trying to do about, because it speaks to exactly what I was saying about art being out in the public forum and not being in the museum and like the Ho are fucked up way that we want to monetize everything and like commoditize it and like put it in a box. And you know how this piece by Andy Warhol is $2 million, but this piece by somebody who was not as extravagant as him but still amazing artist is worth 200 bucks, you know? And so I, I appreciated the, the message and the meaning behind it, but then of course it got distorted and twisted in the interim. And then similarly I was talking about when I, when I made the comment, I was actually talking about the musician and the, the art and that side that I am, well that's absolutely huge thinks about Banksy is he's already successful and has money so he doesn't give a fuck. Right. And he can go do all this art and he's not a starving artist that's trying to get paid. He doesn't get like, it's not about that. He didn't give a shit. He's doing it probably he enjoys fucking with people. Well, yeah. And there's an aspect of like how I talk about graffiti addiction and wanting to just go out and paint. Right. And just want him to go do it and just, there's no, there's not getting something out of it. I'm not trying to go get a paycheck. I'm not trying to sell it. It's just more at this point about doing it. And I think once he got it to going out and doing this, he just loved to do it. Right. And just to step back and see people walk down the street and see this thing he did and react to it. Like that's in itself is us all the reward you need. Yeah. And again to be, did you know who Blek le Rat is? It's a French artist. He he, yeah. Yeah. Honestly he's, he's Banksy before Banksy, but he did it first. He really only stencils rats and the rats are all political and Yep. He put them all over and made the statement. But he probably didn't have the money in the freedom to travel outside of London or wherever he was doing these rats. Yeah, Banksy did. So banks, he was like right place right time. I'm not going to say he stole the guy's idea, but it was relatively the same idea. He just took it farther and had the means to do it better and bigger and broader.
Chuck Krausz: 01:56:35 so I mean I don't know if it's interesting if you, if you appreciate one, you should check out. The other guys weren't just to see it. Yeah. Cause they Kinda, I mean he was, he was a witty political artist and he did cool stuff too. Yeah. He just, he pies mad that he's not written. Well, I was going to ask,
Gabe Ratliff: 01:56:53 do you, and we're, we're getting to, we're wrapping up here in just a minute, but, um, do you, speaking of traveling outside of your local area, we've been speaking a whole lot about the Denver scene and I'm curious, you know, do you, do you ever do work, like, do you go back to New York? Do you, do you know, do work when you're traveling? Or do you ever meet up with homies, you know, in other states or countries?
Chuck Krausz: 01:57:21 I have, I mean, like we, we, we talked about our chips to Spain and I even had plans to paint when I was there. I was just to cop and being a tourist, right. And that was more important to me, right. At any time with my friends that weren't, I mean, obviously my wife and that people have is with weren't other graffiti writers. And again, we're all, we're all connected in a couple emails and whatever. And immediately I had contacts there and I could have painted there. And there were people that were like, oh yeah, you know, out get you on a wall or I'll help you get to a spot. And when people travel, they'll come to Denver. And the same thing happens, whether they're from a different country or they're from the next state over. It just, everybody tends to help each other out for the most part. Yeah. And put you on to let you paint in their city. But I didn't paint in Spain. Um, but I've taken trips to Europe just to paint and spent most of the time, you know, you'd spent seven out of eight days just painting and one day was tourism.
Chuck Krausz: 01:58:23 Nice. Oh, I did that in Croatia for an event. We were there for five days, but the whole thing was based around this event and painting and like, you know, as you walk from place to place, you tried to be a tourist a little bit. Right. Um, we've, our crews have always done every year where at least once a summer we're all meeting up on the east coast and everybody's painting something or have a meeting in Cincinnati or a meeting in Kansas City or meeting in Denver. Um, that was one of the cool things about my crew in the 90s is somehow we're, we started doing crews that were multi-city and I never thought about at the time, but apparently that was a newer graffiti crew concept. Uh, maybe because nineties the Internet started being late nineties, Internet started becoming a thing and there was easier to have these connections and meet other people.
Chuck Krausz: 01:59:24 But early days in the 80s, graffiti, your crew was your neighborhood. Like right now your, your crew w it wasn't spread out like that. Um, and honestly I never thought of it until someone told me that someone like actually told me, hey, you guys are one of the first crews that Chris doing the small tie city thing. And I never even thought about it. Well, but fat is also been great because yes, we've spent just weekends like that. Like, Hey, let's all go meet at so and so's house in Cincinnati and trashing his basement and paint and you know, be jackasses for a weekend and you know, uh, yeah. And then, yeah. What was the question? That's the title of this episode. Uh, yes, I wasn't arrested. Ah, one of the things I wanted to ask is could you share, is there like a funny story, like just something that sticks out of just you guys is two is too many. I bet. Um, it, I mean your watch to show jackass. Yeah. Some of the most funny stories were pre jackass type pranking each other like that type of nonsense where,
Chuck Krausz: 02:00:52 I mean I could, I just did not sit here and tell, done. Sorry. It's just like quick punchlines. Um, one of the ones that we always still reminisce about was one of my friends had a newborn baby and another friend, also different city had a newborn baby and we played this prank where we put um, baby food in a diaper, a clean diaper. And my buddy was just like, oh man, my kid took the biggest shit, check this out. And then the other dad was like kind of dad mode with him. Like, oh, we're new dads, what? And he took the diaper and just meet him in the face with it. And my buddy freaked out. I got shit on my face, I got shit on my face. And it was, it was baby food, baby food and stuff like that. Or he had a dude had a bathroom that the door didn't lock.
Chuck Krausz: 02:01:42 And again, shit related, if you're in there taking a dump, that door would fly open and the hugest bucket of ice water bees flying into your face and you weren't really doing anything because you're just sitting there. I think that type of stuff. Oh Man. I mean Air Horn, the air horn, wake up at 5:00 AM awful, I'm sure after tagging to write or writing or like just went to bed. Um, once one while we worked on for like three days and every day everybody kept going to the same, same burrito place. So it was like the local hotspot was close to where we were painting. Yeah. And every day my friend Jason put a note in my friend Tony's Burrito and the first day then no, it was really small and it was just like I Africa, I forget the note. The note said something stupid on it, like whatever.
Chuck Krausz: 02:02:34 Like you're a dumb ass. Yeah. And he ate the whole thing, didn't even know eight to note. The next day he put a bigger noted. He's like, oh, he's gonna notice this one or you know, whatever. And everyone's drawing on it and tagging on it and we put it in his breeder. It's the whole thing. Didn't even know third day, I mean half a sheet of paper. Like right now this took this thing and he ate the devry. I don't, I don't know what was in this burrito that maybe it was dissolving the paper because it was just, I don't know, whatever it, all three days he ate the whole note and we never got to even have a prank because he never found it. He fucking ate it. He found it the next day. But yeah, the list of those types of just nonsense because on and on and on. That's awesome. If you could have like one gigantic billboard or wall that you could put any kind of message on or sort of a statement, what would you, what would you say? I don't think I would necessarily say anything. My mind goes straight to, I would paint the names of graffiti writers that are no longer with us.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:03:48 Nice.
Chuck Krausz: 02:03:49 That's the first thing that comes to mind when you say, hey, here's a billboard. You could put anything you want on it. The public's going to see it with the purpose of me putting up a message or doing something. Yeah. Not writing Emit. I would go straight to, you know, um, just one of my crew mates that is no longer with us.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:04:10 Nice.
Chuck Krausz: 02:04:13 I mean, we still, you know, that's another thing in the, in the graffiti world and it's amazing thing that they feeding your world. Even people that don't even necessarily know someone personally or did they only knew slightly or were influenced by when someone passes away, people paint tributes and those peoples there, their name kind of lives on. Yeah. And some of these guys, I don't, I think forever we'll still paint their names and still dedicate things to them or paint things, try to copy how they painted their name just so it's Kinda like they're still here. Ah, that's awesome. And, and, and again, that, you know, pretty common through the graffiti, the graffiti world in general, that that when someone passes away for whatever reason there, um, you get, you know, someone's going to be keeping you keeping your name alive.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:05:15 Yeah. That's really, that's, that's really beautiful. Uh, that,
Chuck Krausz: 02:05:26 so if anything happens to me, you better go, you know, write Emit up around Denver a little bit
Gabe Ratliff: 02:05:31 On a serious note. I mean that, that's one of the things that I think I'm hearing from this conversation that really rings true is just the comradery and the community itself, whether it's in the crew or just across the world. That there, there is this community that is just so devoted to each other. Um, for the, for the most part, right. I mean we all know that there's outliers in any every scene. It hasn't been as, yeah. Has a bunch of fucking ever. Yeah. Every since we got some fucktard's in it, right. Get everyone to call him right now. And, but for the most part, for the most part, there is a really widespread spread graffiti community that is just instantly, um, hospitable to you because you're another graffiti writer. Yeah. And I mean I guess there is some, there's some elitist crap to it where if you've, if you've paid your dues and you've been painting for, you know, 15, 20 years,
Chuck Krausz: 02:06:43 this tends to be more people in that group. And maybe I'm, maybe someone is listening to this that is newer, that's like, well, no one does that for me it's more about, it's also networking has become a huge thing in graffiti, even when there wasn't social media, people were networking. Yeah. And as long as you have been always doing that and reaching out to other people and communicating and it just, it works. And I mean not, I don't want to couch surf anymore, but most graffiti writers have dozens of stories of couchsurfing. Right. And couch surfing across the country if you, if you want to do, do you know, just to go paint in other cities and, yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:07:24 Well I really appreciate that that aspect is, is a part of the scene itself. You know, and it's like part of the story, you know, the, it's this refined thing, you're just going to paint and do your art and it's not about, it's got to have this like perfection and like, you know, precision to it and like, you know, I've got my hotel booked in my flight. It's not like that. It's not like you're going to do a big photo shoot for a big client. You're not doing that. It's like you said, it's this, this art form that allows you to be free.
Chuck Krausz: 02:08:04 Yeah. A lot more of those, those trips or just Kinda. Whenever it happens. Exactly. Yeah. But at the end of the day, you're always going to go paint.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:08:13 Right? Like you said, you'd go if you traveled and went to specifically go paint and not and some of the tour it
Chuck Krausz: 02:08:21 Sometimes you end up in a wall downtown and sometimes your end up in an abandoned building. Sometimes you end up under a bridge. Sometimes you end up in a tunnel some sometimes as you ended up doing all four of those places. Yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:08:31 Where's your favorite place? What's your favorite place to paint out of all of those?
Chuck Krausz: 02:08:37 Um, abandoned buildings.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:08:39 Yeah, that's what I thought. Yeah. That's what resonated for me in the book.
Chuck Krausz: 02:08:43 I don't even know. I don't even know what it is. It the, there's just something about any abandoned space. Yeah. And the history of what it was and what has become just really appealing to me.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:09:01 Do you have a favorite place, like ever? Like out of, out of those, out of all the places you've painted is there like a favorite place?
Chuck Krausz: 02:09:07 Maybe that missile silo is really cool because I mean they all have such cool stories, backstories to how they got there and why they're there and why they were abandoned. And I don't think I could go to one without knowing like mosaic, what is it, where the who built this and why is it here and what happened to it and why didn't, you know? It's like I just want to know. Yeah. And then just to go there and they'll to freely explore it. Yeah. Without any locked doors, without any people. And then just look for cool things to paint on. Yeah. And find a cool surface and then make whatever you can.
Chuck Krausz: 02:09:46 Well I, I came in, I guess I'm, I'm not a wordsmith enough to even put it in to tell you what, what it is that I like about it is raw. I, I totally connect with it. I mean that's what, like I said, that's what resonated for me. Photographers, I mean the whole urban exploring thing, photographers love it cause there's so much, so much texture and just color weird colors and weird elements that are not day to day life because it's fucked up and old and it has story down and half molded and decayed and, and there's, yeah. So every little crack you take a picture of it has a story to it. Yeah. And then I could go there and then slap a piece of it. And that maybe is photographers are pissed that they were like, oh my God, this would be the best shot. That stupid graffiti wasn't in. It depends. But at the same time, defense, I feel like we were looking for a band to places to paint before photographers were flocking to those places to take pictures in the first place. Maybe in some cases, maybe I don't. Maybe, I don't know. Maybe I get a photographer, photographers out there cursing Miguelin you fucking,
Gabe Ratliff: 02:10:57 well that's the thing. It's still, you know, it's an artist having their doing their art in this space. You know, and like that's what I think is so interesting because as a photographer who likes those spaces but also have a person who appreciates and a photographer who appreciates graffiti and street art. I love finding pieces and seeing a place beautified. I think of it as beautification and I think like it's the public gallery,
Chuck Krausz: 02:11:31 you know, honestly, if I was a photographer and I went to most of those places, I could find all of the above to take pictures of yeah I could find non graffiti. Yup. That had, it just means you're not something that he can't admit to take a cool picture of. And I could find graffiti, take pictures of, and I could find some cool scene. That was both, I think. I think I'd find all of it, but yeah. Well it just means you're not looking, I just like to make up the scenario that there's somebody out there that's pissed at us for painting on it.
Chuck Krausz: 02:12:00 Some I've been to the abandoned spots where people show up just to smash it. Right. And destroy the place more. Yeah. And I'm like, Nah, it's not my place. I guess, you know, smash away. Just please wait to like finish this graffiti and leave. So when you checked attention it doesn't come down on me. Exactly. Yeah. Well, and that the actually the, that a mining town up to mass bail is really cool. Oh, I bet the one that's in, um, just because it's a whole town and you walk through there, it's like rows and rows of houses and a post office and a rec center and a gas station and there's, it's not just one building. It's this whole community that was there that the place is really cool. Yeah, that's definitely up there and my favorite places. Nice.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:12:54 Well, Chuck, man, thank you so much for being on the show. This has been an amazing conversation. I know you're not a huge advocate of the sharing of everything, but, um, if people did want to support you and see your work, where can they find you online?
Chuck Krausz: 02:13:11 Um, I only have an Instagram account that I share any art with a and that's @emit_df, D as in David, F as in Frank. Nice. Um, and then yeah, the web stuff is thefirmgraphics.com Oh, if you're in the music scene in Denver, maybe you know who we are just cause we've done flyers for everybody since the 90s. Yup. All the major. Yeah. All the clubs and raves and bars and side night events. And I mean obviously people don't print flyers like they used to, but
Gabe Ratliff: 02:13:51 All right, Chuck. Well thanks again brother. Love your work. Keep it up and uh, thank you again for your time.
Chuck Krausz: 02:13:58 Yeah, no problem. Thank you. Appreciate it.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:14:04 Well that's it for this episode. If this is your first time listening, thank you so much for being here. I really hope you enjoy the show. The Vitalic Project podcast comes out biweekly and is available every other Thursday for your enjoyment and all links and show notes for this episode can be found at vitalicproject.com. If you haven't yet, please subscribe to the show and leave a rating or review on iTunes. If you'd like to be a guest or know someone that would be a great fit, please go to vitalicproject.com/guest if you want to follow us, you can find us online by searching @vitalicproject, and thanks again for listening. Until next time, keep being vitalitic!