In June 2012, Mode2, Esow, Faith47, Revok, Trd, Askew, Demes, Jasm came together in Valais, Switzerland to paint canvases composed of 84 wine cases. Organized by the vineyard’s owner and art lover Yvo Mathier with creative assistance from Lausanne-based writer Jasm, each artist’s work is a representation of wine from the new myFINBEC collection. Please go to www.finbec.ch for more information. We managed to catch up with Revok in June while he was working on a commission in Switzerland. The perfect opportunity to have a laid-back chat with him about graffiti, the Swiss Alps and his long list of projects. While flicking through the last issue of Amateur, he pauses at the Toast interview and immediately starts the ball rolling… (AMATEUR MAGAZINE)
“In the early 90s the European graffiti scene was still very focused on New York. L.A. wasn’t getting a whole lot of attention. So there weren’t many international writers coming to L.A. at that time. I think Toast was one of the first guys to come over. And he did some really amazing stuff. I remember that I was really impressed by what he did and I paid close attention to him for a long time after that. He is a really talented guy.” (REVOK)
Good to hear.
Who did the illustration on this cover? (AMATEUR #10)
DXTR. A German guy – he is also part of The Weird collective.
He’s dope. The Weird – that’s Nychos as well?!
Yeah, right. And Low Bros and some other really talented guys.
Ah yeah, Low Bros from Berlin.Really good.
Yeah. The collective is spread all over Germany and Austria.
I think they’re great. And I also like the Jukebox Cowboys. Hey, this is a cool magazine!
Thank you. You know, when we started out we never thought we would reach the tenth issue. We just started without thinking too much about it.
That’s the best way to do anything. Just go for it. Speaking of magazines, I just got a mail from the guy from Bomber magazine. They are finished: they’re making their very last issue and then that’s it.
What a shame.
It’s the oldest running graffiti magazine. 25 years I think.
Crazy. That’s a long time! But we are not a graffiti magazine, obviously.
Yeah, I can see that. But you know, I think there is no real justification for pure graffiti magazines anymore. I think that limiting yourself to just graffiti is boring. But with the internet you know everybody sees the photos online – unless you are lucky enough to get someone to share photos with you that they haven’t yet published. But what makes a magazine valuable is the content; content that you can’t just Google and find. I think creating original content is the future….Ah, this guy is really good. Oh, you guys have got good content. Good stuff.
Los Awesome / Revok / Rime / revok1.com
Thank you. Is this your first time in Switzerland?
What impresses you the most?
It’s the mountains, man. These mountains are amazing. This is such a beautiful place. Just this little valley here, in the middle of these giant mountains is fucking incredible. They have us in these two little chalets up on the very top and you wake up in the morning surrounded by these massive mountains. You guys are very lucky. You have a very beautiful country.
Thank you. But honestly, this is like picture-perfect Switzerland, the one you find on postcards. Where we live it ain’t all mountains everywhere!
Yeah, but they aren’t far away, you know.
I really could stay here for a while.
When do you have to leave?
I think my girlfriend and I are going back on Monday.I have had to turn down a lot of trips this year. Making my art has much more of a priority now. That’s part of the reason why I moved to Detroit. To get away from L.A. – not just because of all my legal problems there – but you know L.A. is a very expensive lifestyle and I found myself spending a lot of time working on commercial projects that I don’t enjoy and it’s not the type of work that I want to do. I felt that I didn’t have time for the work that I really love, which is my art. So part of my motivation for leaving L.A. is to be away from all the distractions but also, Detroit is so cheap and it is so quiet which means it’s easy for me to focus on what I really want to do. Right now, I’m preparing for two shows. I have a show in L.A. next month at our gallery, Known. And then I have another show in October in Paris. So I have a lot of work on right now; and for the last four months, that’s all I’ve been doing. I’ve had opportunities to do a lot of travelling but I’ve had to turn them all down.
So what made you accept this trip to Switzerland?
I’ve just been in the studio, working so much and I felt that I needed a little break. And it was also a great chance to take my girlfriend to Switzerland. She is pregnant right now. We are going to be having our first child so there won’t be many opportunities for us to travel soon. And Ivo is such a nice guy. It’s fun. You know, my good friend Askew is involved in the project too. Mode2 is another artist I really respect. I grew up really looking up to this guy. Spray can art was like my bible and the Chrome Angels were some of the stars of spray can art and really inspirational to me when I first started doing graffiti. So to do anything that he is involved in is a big honour. And all these Swiss guys are really nice. Esow and Faith are also really cool. You know, it’s cool to hang out with artists from all over the world and drink wine in the fucking Swiss Alps. That’s kind of awesome.
So, would you say that it turned out to be even better than you expected? I can imagine that your first reaction to this invi- tation was not that positive.
Like I mentioned before, I purposely try to avoid this type of stuff. I don’t want to do commercial stuff; in fact I don’t want to do anything with any company. I’ve really made an effort to get away from that type of work and it’s not what I’m interested in doing. But I was talking to my friend Askew who was visiting me in Detroit, because he was part of this ‘Beautification’ thing that I’ve put together, and he told me “Oh I’m going to Switzerland,” and I was like “Are you really?” So when he told me that he was doing it and his girlfriend was coming as well, I thought wow, this is the perfect opportunity to hang out in the Swiss Alps with our girlfriends. Let’s go do this. But, this is probably the last time you will ever see me do anything like this.
I see. But if the conditions and the timeframe were right….?
Perhaps. And Ivo is such a nice guy. You know, I was a bit sceptical at the beginning, but once I met him I realised that he is so cool. He even took us up in the helicopters and was very hospitable the whole time.
Ordinary Things / revok1.com
Yeah, that’s what we thought too. Hey, you just mentioned the ‘Detroit Beautification Project’. Was it your idea?
It was kind of my idea – all the artists are my friends. I kind of put together all the guys, but you know, I’m so busy with other stuff, so I didn’t really have the time or the patience to work out all the logistical aspects and organise everything. So together with my friend Matt Eaton, a really good guy, who is the brother of another artist, Tristan Eaton (who have both been living in Detroit for some time), I got some other people involved, like the folk from 1XRUN, Jesse and Dan, they do prints and also come from Detroit, and they are really good at organising things and making things happen. So I put it in their hands and they made it all happen. I just called on my friends and said “Hey, let’s do this”.
We also got good support from the American distributors of German Montana cans. They were very supportive and paid a lot of money and contributed a lot of paint to enable this project to happen. And of course also our clothing company The Seventh Letter put up a lot of money.
I’ve been doing this for almost 22 years and made good relationships and met some good people over time. It’s nice to have a network of really good friends and also very talented ones. I had all the pieces of the puzzle right there so why not take advantage of it and put them together and make cool stuff like that happen? And in that city. You know, in any other big city, where there is a lot of stuff happening and there is a lot of business and a lot of creative people, you know spaces – even if you are able to appropriate space and use it, be it illegally painting graffiti or trying to do legal mural projects, it gets a bit difficult. Space is a high-value commodity, you are competing with advertisers who want to buy the wall, or business owners who have been burnt a couple times. Yeah you know what I mean. Whereas in Detroit you don’t have any of that shit.
I think sixty percent of all buildings in Detroit are abandoned. And the ones that aren’t abandoned, these businesses they are struggling to hold on, they are struggling to stay in business. There just aren’t a lot of people out there who are motivated to do something, just for the sake of doing it. Like painting a wall just for the sake of it. You know, everybody is trying to survive there. So, when you approach people and say, hey, I’ve got these very talented guys from Europe, they are great muralists, let us paint your wall for free, they are fucking thrilled, you know what I mean. And they are not trying to hold out because such and such outdoor advertising wants to pay them ten thousand dollars, because no one is advertising in Detroit. There is nobody to advertise to. So, it’s like a perfect place.
And the ‘Beautification’ project is an ongoing project. It’s not going to end. We had 17 artists out there for the first, kind of official round and I’m about to bring a bunch more people. I also got some local business guys who are kind of risk takers and who really believe in the city and are all about do-it-yourself and making it happen. They have been really excited and supportive about the project and now it’s gaining more men and money, so it’s just going to keep on growing.
You know, there’s a part of me, the graffiti guy who just wants to get over and do whatever he can do to paint walls, but I think if I were in L.A. that would be the case, but in Detroit, you really see how much of an impact it has on people. People really appreciate something as simple as painting a colourful piece on the wall because there is just nothing like that and there is no real kind of inspiration. no glimmer of hope.
Recently, after painting an illegal burner on the wall, the police stopped me and said “That’s fucking awesome, thank you for doing that,” And I was like “What? I didn’t do that, I’m just taking a picture,” and they were like “Yeah right, I’ve seen you around and that shit is cool.” Yeah, they love it. In this video that we put together POSE says it best: “Here in that city all the lines that are normally drawn between what’s legal, what’s illegal, what’s art, what’s not art you know none of it really matters there, it’s just a simple human gesture.” That really explains it perfectly. You are painting a wall and people are moved by it and really appreciate it. They don’t stop to ask if you have permission or if it is art or vandalism or graffiti. Most of the time. And that’s what I love about that place so much. It’s all about getting back to basics and I’m enjoying that very much.
Revok / Detroit (from a wall with Retna and Steel / revok1.com
Nice. Thanks for sharing. Let’s travel one year back in time to the famous show “Art in the Streets” at the MOCA in L.A. which you were invited to. As well as your arrest just after the show, what impact did the show have on you?
You know everything else that resulted from the show is really just a side note. The thing that will make the show an amazing experience for me and something I’ll always cherish and always be honoured and thrilled to be a part of was that it was a culmination of everything from my childhood that I obsessed and lusted and fantasised about. All of these people who meant the world to me. To have all these people, all these icons, all the events, the records and the paintings, that you would have seen, you know these old Dondi or Lee paintings – to have all these things together under one roof and then to be there in the middle of it as a part of it and to be hanging out with Barry McGee, Os Gemoes, Steve Powers and Reas, Mode2 and so many other guys, like RISK who was one of my idols in L.A., was just an incredible experience. Being with all those guys made me who I am. Without ever knowing it obviously, but they made me who I am. You know, I studied everything that these people did and obsessed over it and learnt from it and tried to do what they do in my own way. One thing I remember thinking during the show is if I die next week, I’ll be satisfied. I never imagined that anything like this would happen. You know, I never imagined that all these different people, aspects and elements from all over would come together in this one place and especially that it would happen in Los Angeles.
Even though graffiti will always be outside of the art world, it is an art form and an art movement. To see that this creative movement is finally earning some recognition and respect in a real art establishment was the real pleasure and joy of it all. Obviously, there are a lot of negative things associated with it, like people that should have been involved but weren’t and shit like that, but at the end of the day I think “Oh whatever! Nothing is perfect”. I ended up having some legal bullshit afterwards, but that probably would have happened anyway. You know, I have no regrets – it was just incredible.
Revok / Rime / MOCA / Art in the Streets revok1.com
Thanks for the honest answer. Even though these would be the perfect clos- ing words, we have some more standard Amateur questions for you…
What do you love?
I love life. I don’t know what there is beyond it. But I know that this is a blessing, it’s a gift. It’s very limited, you are not promised a certain amount of time and every day is an opportunity to experience and learn and feel and exist, connect with others, and discover. . . I’ve seen it to be taken away in a flash, many times. Many people I cared about. And every time I realise just how valuable it is and what a gift it is. I love being alive and I just want to get the most out of it.
If you could be one thing, what would you be?
It would be nice to be a mountain. To see time from a different perspective
What will you bring your parents from Switzerland as a souvenir
Pictures and Stories They’re always the best things you can bring.
What lessons did graffiti teach you?
Graffiti taught me how to appreciate life. It taught me to face my fears and not to hide or stay comfortable. To always be open to new experiences and not be afraid. Had I not discovered graffiti I’d probably be some ignorant loser in the suburbs of Southern California, not going anywhere in life. Graffiti has taken me all over the place. It opened my eyes to the world. And it has put me into a lot of challenging situations, where I had to see who I really am and what I’m made of. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you can learn from every experience and just move forward. You would think graffiti is such a negative, destructive, juvenile pursuit, but somehow it’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me.
AMATEUR Magazine #11 (complete Issue)