Interview with Astoria’s Finest – The Original KR One / New York Urban Art
Saster: It’s been a while since I’ve caught up with you. Last time I saw you, you were breaking into SUV’s. Has art recently replaced your car stealing hobby?
KR ONE: Lol, Thats’ funny. Yes, I gave up robbing cars, got chased a minute ago. I was in a DeLorean with Ace Frehley and almost crashed into the divider doing 110. Got away though. Ace got busted but he didn’t rat on me.
Saster: I know one of your biggest influences is Don One. Can you explain a little on his history and how he influenced you?
KR ONE: Man, DON 1 was a huge influence and inspiration to me. His pieces were the first that I’d ever seen that had characters replacing letters and using burner hot colors. His tag style was just so nasty and tight. He was an enigmatic writer that my friends and I would wonder about. President of the coolest sounding clique ever! MAFIA: Masters Administration For Incredible Artists. It turned out he was from the same Astoria, Queens hood as I am from. I started writing in 1977, the same year he quit. Some of his whole cars ran into the 80’s, untouched. That’s respect. He influenced my tag style a lot and his pieces were ahead of their time. So, he stood out so much on the BMT’s. The BMT’s at the time were mainly being killed with throw ups. This cat influenced DONDI, so that weighs pounds!
I just penned a book about him titled “DON 1: The King From Queens” It’s available now to pre-order on Amazon.com
It drops in January 2014.
The book will definitely turn many heads. His life is a compelling rise and fall that ends with hope, and his photos are truly amazing. Its all the lines that were never documented in any of the other Graff related books that have come out. DON 1 puts the BMT’s on the map in a big way. It took about 9 years to happen, but here it is!
Saster: Who else has influenced you?
KR ONE: As far as Graff, I got to see lot of really great writers works and the ones that stick in my mind as far as the impact they had on me are: Don 1, Tracy 168, Blade, IZ TMB, Lee, Seen, Zephyr, Rasta, (early RTW) Hate 168, SIKO, AS2, T59. Son1, Pro1, Roto 1, Lee, KB TSS, Rca, Mace, SN, Rob 78.
I always have said that I had a great vantage point to see Graff in my favorite era of the mid 70’s till the early 80’s. I consider myself a practitioner, a student and a big fan of that era. Its influence can be seen in my tag style and my pieces that are soft styled as opposed to the long thin lettering that came later. I try to keep that “funk” in my lettering.
Speaking of lettering though, I was and still am influenced by who I considered to be lettering masters outside of graffiti. I found and studied album cover artists Roger Dean (artist of Progresive rock band YES ) and Rodney Matthews (among many) and underground comic artist giant Rick Griffin.
Man, if you look at their lettering, its mind blowing. I love that stuff. I also dig a bunch of Philippino art cats from the 70’s like Alex Nino, Esteban Moroto, Nestor Redundo and of course the master blaster himself, Mr.Frank Frazetta!
Saster: You consider yourself a graffiti writer or artist?
KR ONE: Both. Although I no longer “write” graffiti illegally, I still “write” in a total graffiti style.
Much of my art (on canvas, paper, etc.) is graffiti styled art. I say graffiti “styled” because many attribute the act of writing graffiti to be illegal, making what I do not graffiti but graffiti art. Even though I do consider graffiti in whatever medium to be pure art. As a matter of fact I think it may be one of the most original forms in all of art history.
It’s amazing really, taking into consideration its style evolution (from “single hit” tags) to the full-scale mega productions that are being done all over the world. And to think, this all hatched by a few people in Philly and NYC in the late 60’s-early 70’s. A phenomenon is the word.
Saster: Do you like cupcakes? You call people this a lot!
KR ONE: I do like a quick cupcake here and there. Lol…yes, Its also a quick icebreaker among friends. Like… “Hey, what’s up cupcake!? Funny. I got that from this old school bartender back in the day. Big Al. Cheers Big Al! Ya’ cupcake! lol.
Saster: You’re a big fan of metal and have been in a few bands. Does metal influence your style, or does it help with your stability?
KR ONE: Funny again.. Yes, I’ve been a huge fan of rock n roll, hard rock, progressive, jazz-fusion, heavy metal etc., ever since I was a child. I come from a big family and 4 out of my 6 brothers were musicians. 2 of them being drummers, like myself. I began playing and performing when I was 16 in 1982. My sisters (all 5 of them!) were always dancing to Motown and disco in the 70’s. But the imagery of the classic rock album covers and the song titles still show up in my drawings and pieces. I incorporate the combinations of cats I mentioned earlier like Roger Dean and Rick Griffin’s ultra letter bending and I quote lyrics within my pieces. Sometimes I’ll draw song titles as the piece itself. For instance I had a burner on the RR’s called “KASHMIR” that’s obviously a Led Zeppelin song, but if you notice it starts with the letter K and ends with an R, so things like that I still do. I think they go hand in hand, I use titles for my art shows such as “Bringer Of The Kolorstrom” “A Fistful Of Stars” and my upcoming art/music combo show is titled, “Servants Of The Crown, Keepers Of The Sign”. Those titles could easily be titles for songs and/or albums.
That all comes from my musical influences. The combo of music and art for me is very natural free spiritual thing that I feel from deep within myself.
Many people attach graffiti and hip hop calling graffiti the 5th element of hip hop. Although I fully understand why that is, having known many break dancers from the “Dynamic Rockers” crew in the late 70’s. I saw that when DJ’s started having “jams” that they needed flyers and images to advertise those events. Many of the break dancers and DJ’s themselves were Graff writers so the art of Graff met the music of rap and the two were historically fused. That being said, I did always find it curious that Graff was considered an element of Hip Hop. I always thought that for something to be an element of something. That something had to exist first. So, to me, it’s almost like Hip Hop is an element of Graffiti art. Rock music and its imagery have influenced graffiti in my eyes as well and I’m sure to the eyes of many more. Think of this. Two of the most iconic pieces ever to painted on NYC subways are
Seen UA’s ” Hand Of Doom” and Dondi’s “Children of The Grave Pts. 1, 2 and 3.
Both of those pieces are song titles by the English Heavy Metal group, Black Sabbath.
So, one might ask me, “ Is Ozzy Osborne an element of Graffiti?” In my book, maybe yes. An influence, for sure.
Saster: You have many an upcoming show. Want to explain what we should expect next?
KR ONE: The next show I’m having will be a combination of shows featuring a full selection of new works on canvas, paper and other assorted surfaces and it will also feature a full musical performance of Rock N Roll with yours truly on the drums!
It’s kind of a unique event being that I am showing my art and then I am performing later on in the evening. I’m bringing together my two great passions. Art and music, the uniqueness lies in fact that I personally I have never gone to an art show and that featured an artists work and then watch that artists perform in the same evening in a rock band.
I’m very excited to bring these elements together in one event, especially at my age. It shows that the two things many, many people were discouraged to do, I still do them both. And have the same zeal for them as I did when I was 16 years old. The inner child soars that night!
Saster: Does music influence your art?
KR ONE: In one crazy word… Mostdeforsurepostively…YES!
Saster: Any advice for the youth?
Get passionate about something. Be in awe of things. Don’t get discouraged. Do things. Create!
- Street art wall is welcomed in Shanghai/ Street Art Asia (streetsaresayingthings.com)
- Vandalism back in vogue / Middle East Graffiti (streetsaresayingthings.com)