Every once in a while I go through my old stacks of magazines and find a little gem. This one from T. DEE’s Under Cover magazine from the Nineties.
Here, he interviews KAWS at the age of 21
KAWS – STRAIGHT OUTTA JERSEY
KAWS HAS FOR A FEW YEARS NOW BEEN A PERSONAL FRIEND, AND AN EFFECTIVE PARTNER. BUT THAT’S NOT THE REASON WHY I WANTED TO DO A FEATURE ON HIM. I FEEL THAT HE HAS IN A SHORT TIME DEVELOPED A VERY INFLUENTIAL STYLE, AND HAS BECOME A VERY WELL RECOGNIZED WRITER. WHAT FOLLOWS IS AND INTERVIEW KAWS GAVE UNDER COVER ON FEBRUARY 25, 1995.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Jersey City, New Jersey
WHAT’S THE SCENE LIKE THERE?
It’s very slow. There’s mostly just a bunch of kids that bomb. Not really doing that much as far as piecing. There’s not that many kids doing walls period. There’s a few kids here and there, but they come out like once a year. Besides the kids I paint with, that’s about it.
Jersey City is definitely a cool place to live. It’s kinda out of the spotlight, and rent’s cheap. (laughs)
J.C. is about 20 minutes away from Manhattan by train, and with no traffic a 5 minute car ride, and that’s pretty much where the scene is at. Most kids I paint with are there.
HOW, AND WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED?
As far as bombing, and getting up around my 3 block radius that I thought I was king of, I’ve been doing that since like 7th, and 8th grade.
There use to be a bunch of kids in grammar school that were writing, and I was like “Let me check this out” . I dabbled in it. Nothing serious. Just recently, these past couple years I started coming out.
WHAT YEAR WAS THAT AROUND?
(After about a 5 minute debate we decided it was probably around mid 1991.)
SINCE THEN HOW MANY PIECES HAVE YOU DONE?
I don’t know exactly. I know it’s over 100, because I did my 100th piece about a month ago. Not all of them being huge productions, but their there.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN GRAFF?
I was always into drawing, and I was always a smart ass kid when I was young, so I guess it was just a fun thing to incorporate my art into. Just the thought of getting up everywhere was my original goal.
WHO, OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU THEN?
Being from J.C. you really don’t have access to seeing flicks, and mags, and all the other stuff, so when I was coming out it was mostly kids that bombed. The kids that were up the most. I would say at that time WHAT 4 was doing major damage in J.C. Besides him, I guess T. DEE was definitely doing his share of destroying J.C. properly. (Laughs)
There was a fame wall around here called Newport Hall of Fame. When I first started going there the kids that were doing the nicest stuff were like T. DEE, FORCE, DEUS, that’s about it. Kids would come from here and there. Different parts of of Jersey. Not really many other kids traveled out to that spot.
WHO, OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Seeing my teacher getting paid off of illustration! (laughs)
I’m more into illustration, and I still like doing walls, so I try to incorporate the things that I would put into regular paintings into the walls. Ya know, try to make it significant compared to the number of painting’s that are done.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU PAINT?
I don’t know. It all depends on the season, if school is out, or not. I paint a lot. There definitely isn’t a month that goes by without me painting, let alone even a week.
THERE HAS BEEN A BIG INCREASE IN THE PAST FEW YEARS IN THE FREIGHT MOVEMENT, OF WHICH YOU’RE VERY WELL CONNECTED TO. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON THE WHOLE MOVEMENT?
Not talking about the kids that have been doing freights since the 80’s, which there are kids that always did freights. Even when the subways were still running. As far as for now, I guess there’s a lot of kids that came out that didn’t have the feel for the big elaborate things that people are doing.
Being illegal, it’s kinda more fun. You worry less about the technical aspect of it. Also the idea of freights traveling all over the country is pretty dope. Kids seeing your things in person where they would never unless they came to N.Y., or J.C.
WHERE ARE SOME PLACES YOUR TRAINS HAVE BEEN SPOTTED?
I don’t know. Nobody ever talks to me. No seriously, Chicago… I know ones we did in Jersey were found in L.A., and Atlanta. Another one fromL.A., was in El Paso, Texas.
It’s kinda hard to really say. I know their getting around, but I’m not exactly keeping track of them.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER THINGS YOU’RE INVOLVED IN?
Right now just school. I’m an illustration student. I still have a little time before I hit the real world.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE OVER-ALL SCENE?
As far as like around here, and N.Y., this past year was definitely kinda dope. A lot of kids came out, a lot of old writers came out to show and prove once again. Kid are doing productions all around N.Y., and still slammin’ out the freights. People painting clean trains. I really don’t think there’s a place in the world that could compare to N.Y. on the graff tip.
WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT THE SCENE?
I guess besides all the politics, or some of the politics, all the gossip that goes around. Another thing thats annoying is kids not giving respect to what’s been done. To take the time to look at what’s already been done, and not go ahead and say “Ah, those kids are sloppy”, ya know? Like not appreciating things in their time, and element. Kids are coming out who are good, but they just don’t have the respect that you need to give to people who have done it before.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF GRAFF?
We’re all going to die and go to hell!! I don’t know. Hopefully it will stay on a real tip, and not go too commercial.
DO YOU THINK IT IS TOO COMMERCIAL?
It kinda is, but then again… It just depends on the circles your running in.
ANY LAST WORDS OR GREETINGS?
Just to the crews DF, FC, TC5, and Nasa
While you’re here, check out some more Interviews from the Past