Make One Interview
By Matthew J
When people speak of the L.A. scene, names such as Saber, El Mac, and Retna are quickly mentioned (and rightfully so, they are talented) but what about the people who came before them? Enter MAKE ONE, a legend and pioneer not only in Los Angeles, but Mexico, as well.
Los Angeles’ brand of graffiti has always interested me, so I felt it would be appropriate to interview Make One and get his view on such topics as [his] roots within L.A. and Mexico, the many contributions of female writers, the immigration debates in America, his evolution as a writer, and the importance of competition within the graffiti culture.
SPOILER ALERT!!: While on the topic of competition, Make One issued a challenge to NY graffiti icon, Cope2 for a graffiti battle. Legend vs. Legend?? Imagine that. Will Cope2 accept?? Keep your eyes open … in the meanwhile, absorb this Make One piece.
Starting off, I want to treat this like a job interview and simply get you to introduce yourself to the readers and educate us on the story of Make One. Who is he? When did you start? What crews are you affiliated with? Etc.
MAKE: The name is MakeOne from Los Angeles, representing the following crews: WCA (West Coast Artists), LOD (Loks on Dope) and AM7 (Angelz of Madness). I am co-founder of the legendary LA crew STN (Second To None). I started writing in 84′ and like many writers, have had different names. Names such as: Fraze, Axis, Mine, and Time (as featured in Spray Can Art). One day, while watching Style Wars, I saw Mare139, I liked his style and demeanour and so I swapped the “R” for a “K” and MAKE was born. I have been writing Make or FakeMake since and also rock my real name, Galo or LoveGalo.
I am a proud born and LA raised native who’s of Mexican/Ecuadorian descent.
According to www.makestn.com, your last documented exhibits were in 2005. What is the reason for the time off and will you be doing any new shows in 2010?
MAKE: Actually my last show/event was in June of 2009 in LA. The show was titled Fin De Semana (Weekend) and it featured LA’s very own FDS crew (From Da Streets). In 2007 I also did two large shows. One titled Karan Koron which consisted of nearly 80 artists from Japan, Mexico, LA, USA, Europe and even Canada. The theme of the entire show was all Japanese and each artist featured painted on Getas and flipped them as they wished.
The show had tremendous success and received a lot of media attention. Some of the likes that attended the show were: Robin Williams, Vincent Gallo, rock legend Steve Jones, Justine Bateman, and even Dylan and Cole Sprouse.
That same year, I organized and was the curator of another art show at Border Gallery in Mexico City www.border.com.mx. The show was called Abriendo el Border and it was tied in to the book The History Of Los Angeles Graffiti Art. It showcased writers from LA who were featured in the book and it included a live graff demonstration and the screening of a trailer to a documentary. The show was also followed by a large graff expo that was held the next day with nearly 250 artists that came from all over Mexico. We all painted a permanent mural that was approximately three miles long at a historical cultural center called El Faro De Tlahuac. In addition to the live mural installation we also had a panel discussion discussing the book and history of graffiti in both Los Angeles and Mexico.
That show also received massive media attention from, news media, newspapers, art critics and historians from Mexico.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel and see some of the different graffiti scenes. What would you say differentiates the L.A. graffiti scene from other North American scenes like New York, Toronto, or Philadelphia?
MAKE: If I had to, I’d say that aside from the hardcore life style and culture, there’s the style influence. Although many credit NY or Philly as the originators of the movement, LA or west coast style, I believe, is highly more influential globally than any other style. I personally have not lived in other cities long enough to have in-depth knowledge and opinions about the scene but I am certain it is filled with the same politics and beefs as any sub-genre, scene or culture in any other city. I’d rather be oblivious to it and just paint and enjoy the city.
Throughout the history of this culture women have played a pivotal part in sustaining graffiti and yet they still are not receiving the proper respect/coverage deserved. Despite the fact that so many articles are being written about women artists, I feel they are getting slighted.
With that being said, what is your feeling on female representation within the culture? Are they getting fair treatment?
MAKE: I am glad you ask. Unfortunately women in any culture or genre, has had either the need or felt the need to work harder at what ever it is they do, whether it is graff, skating, snowboarding, music etc. Women always seem to have to push the envelope harder in order to prove they are as good or as “down” as any other guy doing whatever it is they’re doing.
For approximately a hundred years, women have been fighting for the same rights or respect as men. There is no difference in the graff game. Women writers still get frowned upon by some male writers. Men discredit them immediately upon knowing that a dope writer or artist is a woman. You’ll hear comments such as: “oh she is good for a girl” or “wow, doesn’t even look like a girl did that” and I am like “what you mean it doesn’t look like a girl did it? How can you tell whether it is a girl or not?” (laughs) I find it funny and absurd at times. Styles of graff or any art have never been gender specific, but rather talent specific. Some graff writers/artists don’t realize that by saying the above comments, they are making our culture the same as the corporate one. In art there are such things as freedom of speech and expression and to limit our female artists or even suggest there is a difference because of gender, is like finding the least common denominator for a whole number! There is no need to further divide a culture that has worked so hard to evolve and grow with the times, with stagnant thoughts.
Ok, now going a bit further with the topic of female writers: who are some of the ladies in L.A. that truly representing this culture properly?
MAKE: There are quite of few I can mention. Some of these writers are more down or even doper than some of the male writers I have seen. Shoot, I can say, some of these ladies are even fresher and more down than me (hahaha).
But for LA, women who are dope to me, are down and put in work are: Perl-FDS, Envy-FDS, Opea-FDS, Timoi, Muck, Summer, Sherm-COI, Jeyd, SandOne has been putting in some mad work lately. I also like Jel’s work too. She is perhaps one of the most all-around woman writers I have seen. Style, flow, can control, bombs, tags, characters, legals, illegals etc…she can handle all.
Of course there are others not from LA I respect too such as: Vik from NY, EGR from Canada, MadC from Germany, News, Tiza, Natsue, SheBasic from Mexico, Volr, Shiro, & Belx from Japan…just to name a few. There is mad talent out there and they need to get the shine they deserve.
L.A. has produced some very influential graffiti artists such as El Mac, Retna, Chaz Bojorquez, and Saber. What differentiates you from those individuals? Where do you rank your significance to the culture?
MAKE: I can’t really compare myself to them or to any other writer/artist for that matter. I personally do not like comparing myself to any. I can be influenced by a writer/artist but attempting to compare myself to another writer may either be a bit pompous or a sign of insecurity. The need to feel I am better or gage myself as better or feel I am perhaps not as good or as well known as another writer may not have a positive affect on me. On the other hand, I actually compare myself to only one other writer/artist and that is me.
I see myself and rank myself as an individual and that’s it. To place my own personal value of significance in the culture is not a job for me but a job for those that know, should know and have been involved in the culture.
So how would you describe your style?
MAKE: I don’t. Attempting to describe my style is categorizing myself or boxing myself in. I actually believe my style to be more “the style of having no style”. I believe that achieving the totality of a graff writer is the ability to not being defined or recognized by one particular style. Albeit, many graff writers have awesome and maybe unique styles and are globally known for it but that is it. Often time you seen one piece and you seem them ALL.
There are those whose style is perhaps a conglomeration of many styles but still fall under limitations. Their structures may cover all the possible lines and angles but why are there some who use only straight lines, others round lines, some only do 3D and others only characters? To me a system clinging to one style is actually in bondage, trapped, limited. I consider myself free, fluid-like and adaptable. Much like Bruce Lee once said. “Be shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend”.
In this case, I see myself more as “Being Style-less” – I like to rock a wall that may spark the question “Did Galo do that?” Be unexpected.
Being that you are one of the originators in L.A. graffiti I am sure you have seen a lot changes (positive and negative) to the scene. Outside of your work and contributions, what are the most memorable moments in LA graff; both good and bad?
MAKE: LA has definitely gone through some major ups and downs. From people not caring about your social status, economical background, color of skin and only caring about one common ground — GRAFF; to people shooting you for being associated to a particular crew or for simply crossing out a name.
Another thing, many so-called new writers appear to have no true love for the art of lettering that graff is fundamentally built on. Many youngsters just go out with a can in hand and plaster their names around. OK, they are “getting up” or may be getting up but where is the sense of style? Where is the fruit of laborious sketching and practicing? Where is the flow? There is none. It’s crap and then they get all butt-hurt because they get no respect. That’s because you need to learn the fundamental structure of a letter, the rules of lettering in order to flow or manipulate a letter without compromising its integrity.
Anyways – getting in to another topic there. For me the most memorable aspect of LA was the early years. When graff was fresh and new in LA. When buses were mobbed, when writers would meet at writer’s bench. When everyone was innocent, got along and handled beef on walls. The early years of graff…not that it is bad now, but I like them years better.
Many people, within the culture, have called graffiti to be a “competitive sport” and like anything where competition levels are high there is the possibility of beefs sprouting up. How do you feel about the competitive nature of graffiti? What role does beef have in the culture?
MAKE: Awe man…I think graff battles are lacking in the scene. I mean real graff battles. Like the old days. It is definitely a component that is missing in the graff culture today. Everyone is too busy wanting to paint with X, Y, Z and have neglected the battle aspect of graff. The taking of one’s name, the burning of that one person on a wall. Any beef being settled on a wall or walls – with no the need to get physical. That, aside from the gratification of seeing one’s name up, was or is the beauty of graff.
This may seem as a contradiction of what I recently said about comparing and ranking one self but in reality the competiveness aspect of graff brings out a more pure and sort of healthy element of comparison. Much like if I want to be a basketball player, I can’t nor may not compare myself to the likes of Kobe, MJ, Carter or Garnett but I will definitely take’em on one-on-one battle…feel me? Then and there you can gage yourself…not against your opponent but yourself.
So is there anybody in this game whom you’d like to go one-on-one with and battle? In other words, do you have beef with anybody?
MAKE: Yeah man – I want to battle Cope2. I think he is over-rated and jocked waaaaay too much. I think he needs to bring it and do something different than the same piece he does over and over and over again. I ain’t trying to battle him on spots cuz he has NY on lock, or used to. But I am calling him out to a friendly battle. Old head to old head battle. LA vs NY…come on now…let’s take it back to the old school days. What ya think?
A battle against Cope2 would be great for graffiti; maybe it could help inspire artists to be more creative (people say, “steel sharpens steel”). Do you think Cope2 would accept your challenge? And if he were to accept, what kind of rules would you want for this battle?
MAKE: Well I hope he accepts my challenge. I have emailed him, myspace’d him, twittered him and have also spread the word around a bit and in addition sent messages to him through like T-Kid etc about battling. He never replies. I don’t know…is he afraid to a little? Not sure. Does he think he does not need to battle?…not sure of that either. Does he think I am not known enough or am a good opponent? Well then come out and burn me. Regardless of his reasoning, – eventually people are gonna get wind of it and sooner or later he will have to answer to the call.
What kind of rules? I’d say traditional rules – style, colors, execution, overall production, background, characters…whatever…will speed be a factor? I’d say yeah, but I too would paint hella fast if I’d did the same pieces for like 10 years.
Okay, now I’m going to play devil’s advocate and do some shit disturbing. Earlier, you mentioned not comparing yourself to others, yet we now have challenged issued, so I wonder is this challenge based on beef or bragging rights? Lets suppose that Cope2 does accept your challenge. Do you see him as a worthy opponent, stylistically? Do you feel he can legitimately compete with you?
MAKE: HA – like I said I have no beef with the dude. Just for clarity, it would be a friendly battle. Plain and simple. It ain’t like he slept with my girlfriend or anything. All it is attempting to bring that element of graff back and choosing an opponent. And he just happens to be whom I choose to battle. Bragging rights? Nah, I don’t care to brag about stuff…I never have really. The bragging, whether I win or lose, will be done by other peeps and they will talk about it.
I know what I am up against. The dude bombs, can paint, and paint fast too, has major fans and jockers who will support him and will probably be the favorite, etc but I am up for it.
Aside from graffiti what are some of the side-ventures you have going on in your life?
MAKE: I have quite a few. I speak at schools and universities about graff and art. I work with at-risk youth and also teach art or urban arts at schools and non-profit organizations. I juggle hearts…that keeps me quite busy too. Hahahaha –
A lot of my life has been surrounded and/or built around graff. It ain’t my life nor is the source of my individuality or persona but it does play a significant roll in it. I can drop my graff life and return to the “normalities” and routines of everyday life at any given time….But this is the life I chosen and have given up a lot for it. no regrets too.
I find what you just said to be very interesting because I know certain artists who have put so much of their life energy into this culture that any thought of them walking away is non-existent. Despite all if the time and energy you have poured into graffiti do you really think you could just walk away? And what anchors you to make that decision, if needed?
MAKE: Well, I think I can but I choose not to. I can usually walk away from anything simply because I do not attach myself to anything. I have mad love for the art form and as mentioned above, have sacrificed a lot to be an artist and although I have anchored myself to the art and lifestyle I can cut loose at any given moment. I have, although, invested a lot of myself and may yet to see any long term profit but I’d rather move on attempting and not giving up then given up too early.
The reason I continue is because as an artist I believe I have made an impact, have influenced, have changed or saved a life perhaps and that alone brings gratification and assures me of my purpose and decision to remain.
What can we expect from you 2010?
MAKE: More graff I hope. I am also looking into coordinating some shows this year. One of them is with the crew EYOS (Evolve Your Own Style) from Mexico. Hopefully mid-year or near end of this year. I am also considering doing a show about my self – but we will see. I still have to work out the gist of that show. But I am one who usually does not talk about what I be doing or am gonna go until I do it and it is like BAM. That has usually been my MO.
Before we end this interview, I want to take an opportunity to stray from graffiti and discuss politics. Currently, in America one of the big political issues is the whole debate concerning the immigration and arrival of people from South of the US border. The mainstream media has aggressively presenting Mexicans, especially, in a negative light. Being that you’re of Mexican descent, what are your thoughts on the media’s portrayal of Mexicans and other Latinos trying to enter America in search of a better life?
MAKE: Well no matter what, the media, “intentional” or “not”, will always perpetuate stereotypes. Although we may have seen a declination of negative depictions of Mexicans over the years, stereotypes are still being nourished and reinforced. Unfortunately many, who are naïve and ignorant, will always be susceptible to these type of portrayals and lies.
Let’s look at some of the wording choices used to define immigrants. “Illegal aliens” – that alone already has a negative connotation. This country has always had this so-called “patriotism” that I believe has only truly bred hate and division. Isn’t this supposed to be the country of opportunities? The land of the free? Many immigrants, not only those of Mexican decent, have built this country, have contributed to this country more so than perhaps those so called patriots.
These “immigrants”, whom many have come to this country to make something of themselves, sacrificed themselves to seek a better life for themselves and/or their families has every right to do so as any human being living here.
To continually be portrayed as dissidents, leaches, indolent, savages etc by mainstream media is a complete lie rooted in hate that we, as the “minority” ourselves need to help change too.
Anyways – this can lead to a long winded answer. But I leave you with this quote: “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” – Hitler; Mein Kampf.
Graffiti: these days everybody seems to have their own definition of what it is (crime or art). How do you define graffiti?
I don’t. I get tired of getting asked that too. (laughs) I am fed up with the same rhetoric of 20 years. What is graffiti? Or is graffiti art really art? Even amongst practitioners of the art form it is a topic of debate. I am over graffiti writers or graff artists trying to define what real graffiti is or who a real graffiti artist is and who is not. You can’t define it man. It is so ambiguous. Graffiti has a life of it’s own. It is a quagmire, an oxymoron…graffiti art is abstract. How one defines it ten minutes later another or even that same person will define it differently. Why not ask about the corporate ads and billboards? Is that graffiti? Most certainly? Specially those erected illegally. That is graffiti street tactics being applied by corporate America. Why are they not being questioned? Punished? Criminalized?
Anyhow – my answer to how do I define graffiti is “How do you define it?
You have called yourself a “pioneer” of graffiti in LA and Mexico. Do you feel people recognize the contributions you’ve made to both scenes? Are you getting the respect you feel is deserved?
MAKE: Hmmm…perhaps not as much as say others do or could but I think that is purely my fault. I didn’t maintain myself relevant to the scene for many years. And upon retuning to the scene, I used to expect that recognition or respect. I felt merited, deserving of that recognition, almost demanding it. But I would only set myself up for disappointment, resentment, even bitterness. I‘d blame fellow crewmates too for not keeping me alive or supposedly telling the truth. Blah blah blah -
As I began on my own spiritual journeys, I realized that stuff like that just comes naturally. I just had to paint and do my thing wholeheartedly without the need or approval of anyone. As I began to come around more and more, people began to show me love. It gave me a different perspective and I let go of clinging on to a history of my “glory days” or becoming a “has been” and just be doer.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get the “who are you again?” when I introduce myself but then like it when they find out who I am after and approach me or email me to let me know they were glad to meet me. It’s a good feeling…much better than having me shove my history down their throat and attempt to convince them of what I did and who I am. I get much more love from peeps now than before.
People who are aware of my contributions in Mexico, specially in Guadalajara city, always give me mad love and respect.
Basically, I deserve the respect or recognition I give to others as individuals – that is it.
Last question, when all is said and done, what sort of legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you hope people will say when they mention Make One?
Just that I had love for the art. That is mainly it. That I influenced one or two writers. That I inspired a kid to pursue art. That I changed one person’s life, as cliché as it sounds. But I know that one person’s life whom I may have changed will always keep me alive…and that my friend, is being immortalized.