A short interview with DR.Z for Shelflife Store providing some background to the recent “ARTIST SERIES COLAB T-SHIRT PROJECT”
FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
SL: Where did your love for illustration and art in general begin?
Like most kids I was heavily into cartoons, comics, toys, sci-fi movies but I’m going to mention Lego mainly because it’s also most relevant here. Lego was always extremely captivating to me. Then like most teens from my generation early skateboarding & surf graphics, brands like Powell-Peralta, Stussy, Hook-Ups, Zoo York and others that were consistently pushing fresh graphics made the biggest impression. Earlier hip-hop and rock album covers too: Beastie Boys, Tribe, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin. Although I didn’t realize when I was younger but I was definitely drawn to some of the most iconic, which looking back, is a pretty solid visual foundation to have.
SL: Who are some of your biggest influences?
Artistically, I have to mention two New York artists: Futura (OG graffiti writer turned branding genius) and The Rammellzee (Infamous multidisciplinary artist/ MC who appeared on some of Basquiats work and on Beat Bop, he was also the first ever artist to collab with Supreme.
Both were instrumental in sparking off my career, but it was Ramm that took me under his wing as his art student in 2010 just before his death and taught me more of the history and intricacies of the “graffiti” movement as it relates to the evolution of the alphabet and symbology.
SL: What have been some of your highlights as an artist so far?
DR.Z: Since about 2004 I have been actively involved in global street culture. I could mention a pretty diverse range of highlights, from touring the U.S. with Sneaker Pimps and working with Japanese companies like KiksTYO to my 13+ year working relationship with Shelflife, designing global release collabs for many of the major footwear companies like New Balance and Puma etc. Then finally getting my art published and exhibiting internationally along side some of worlds most recognised artists.
SL: If you could collaborate with one artist or brand, who would it be and why?
DR.Z: Although I have already checked off some major bucket list collaborations, I should delve further into my work with with Rammellzee. It’s important for context as it relates to this Artist Series with Shelflife and also the next question about how I interpreted the letter “S”.
The Letter Racers form part of an elaborate theory called “Gothic Futurism” (as Ramm originally stated in the ‘80s), that the structure and function of alphabetical letters has evolved through time from basic carvings up through medieval illuminated manuscripts then though wildstyle graffiti and now finally, into actual 3 Dimensional, weaponised flying tank sculptures or “Ikonoklast Panzerism”. With his written consent and instruction, I am simply continuing the trajectory and evolution of the alphabet in my own way through the medium and mechanisms available by combining a variety of Lego Technic sets, the medium of Lego reinforces the metaphor of “building-blocks” as synonymous with how individual letters build words and then language.
SL: How did you interpret the concept of the Shelflife “S” into your artwork?
DR.Z: The “S” is a technical “style stroke” that forms the basis of style for all the other letters or in other words a template for the rest of the alphabet. First, I should maybe give further background…(I hope this isn’t too higher grade)
The dictionary definition of “graffiti” literally means to “scribble on a wall” and it incorrectly describes the act & culture of the style competition that was actually occurring. Basic letter forms evolved from block shapes into aerodynamic shapes though motion of the train into “Wildstyle”. The letters then became armed when writers added arrows to their design - this was symbolic of bombing missiles. Then through interpretation, Gothic Futurism as a function and art movement opposes or “fights” against standardisation of the alphabet. It replaces the word “graffiti” with “Ikonoklast Panzerism” and thereby frees the alphabet from constraints in order to allow letters and the culture to continue to evolve independently.
SL: What would an average day for Dr Z look like?
DR.Z: All days begin with coffee haha, then I would normally go through some emails and news off the internet before getting to some client work or pitch in the form of various graphics/illustrations or proposals. But on the days where I am building sculptures, it’s pretty intense focused work and I often forget to eat. The whole process from sketching out and drafting the geometry to final build and then packing and shipping takes about a month per letter. Also just for fun, I try to keep my Instagram looking fresh with something I do called #WallpaperWednesdays, so watch for that every Wednesday.
SL: Any advice to those wanting to get started in the industry and stand out?
DR.Z: It’s probably going to sound Cliché but I would definitely recommend anyone to simply follow their passion and work towards their own authenticity. Try not to focus only on money…easier said than done I know, especially when rent is due and the temptation is there to just hit the bank and run! Ultimately and in the long term, that would be the best way forward.