Interview with Los Angeles artist Defer K2S STN

June 3, 2013 at 3:29 am

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I would like to say that as typography becomes more and more spot lighted in the art world, I feel that Defer is one of a small handful of Los Angeles artists that changed how graffiti, tattoo artist, and now gallery owners see the Los Angeles gangster font. I remember the first piece I saw by Defer, I always liked his blockey gangster feel to his letters, and he was always super clean.  As Defer’s shine grows and more and more people like what it is that he does, I’m glad to say I think it has happened to an artist that deserves it. Read on and enjoy.

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Neighborhood Love:

Let’s start by getting a couple of the average questions out of the way, homie. Where are you from?  How did you get your start in graffiti?

Defer:

I am from Los Angeles. I started writing graffiti, when I saw the documentary “Style Wars” on television in the early 80’s. I remember trying to draw the lettering styles that I saw briefly, and soon after I started painting on the streets – I wrote Kaos 2. I did my first piece on a wall off the freeway in Boyle Heights.

Neighborhood Love: 

Tell us about the early days of LA graffiti, because to me, you were first generation LA graffiti.

Defer:

The early days of graffiti in LA were great because everything was new; it was unknown, covert and truly underground. Although LA has a rich history of gang graffiti – this new artistic style was very raw and ambitious – in terms of the time, effort and skill that it took to execute. There really wasn’t a graff scene at that time – more lone writers, doing their thing. We usually met one another on the RTD bus or in the street. All graffiti at that time was illegal, unlike today. The life of a graffiti artist at that time was very solitary. We were pretty much demonized and misunderstood. As time passed, crews came into existence naturally; they were usually very small in number and very tight-knit.

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Neighborhood Love:

I consider K2S/STN to be the first crew in LA where most of the heads were gangsters, or came from a gangster style background. How do you feel it affected your crew and your style of graffiti?

Defer:

Yes, K2S was one of the first established crews in LA, although we were descendants of the LA Bomb Squad. The concept of K2S was started in 84, but was officially unleashed in 85 – with the mantra “5 Alive in 85”, acknowledging the original 5 members. Back in those days – if you lived in a certain area – and hung out on the streets, you would naturally be affiliated with the dominant group in your neighborhood. So with that being said, we were well versed in the traditional gang graffiti styles. This in turn had a great impact on our graffiti art styles.  You saw influences of blocks, old english, placasos and such. These styles were infused naturally into what we were doing at the time. It was part of who we were, so it happened naturally. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were giving LA graffiti a distinct look and style that separated us from the world.

Neighborhood Love:

Lets talk about the round style of gangster letters that your neighborhood came up with and how it changed gang styles forever.  Did you think it was going to catch on as big as it did, the round R’s and S’s that took a turn away from the then traditional block styles?

Defer:

The letters that my neighborhood came up with – was a compliment to graffiti art. It was a hybrid form of writing that encompassed both the fluidity and circular movements of graffiti art with some of the traditional angular styles of traditional placasos. I never knew it would catch on as it did.  At the time we were just kids wreaking havok on the streets.

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Neighborhood Love:

I recently sent you a pic of a piece you did with Power in North Hollywood in 1986. I remember seeing that piece as a young kid and thinking it was so fresh and so blocky and original. To this day, it’s one of my all-time favorite pieces. It’s also when I really saw the difference emerging of West Coast Graffiti branching away from East Coast Graffiti. Did you see it that way, or feel that way at the time?

Defer:

The style of that piece was very blocky and geometrical – very different from the pieces in New York. I was one of the first writers to employ that style at the time, it looked futuristic and bulky. I remember trying to get a crisp line – which at the time was very difficult given the fact that we were using stock Krylons – racked from Chief Auto Parts. I was also trying to keep up with Power (who always had great can control and graff senses). The block style was definitely influenced from the traditional LA gangster blocks, but what really defined that piece was the use of colors and the geometric fill-ins. At the time we weren’t thinking too much about the style, or the impact it would have, in fact we weren’t even sure if anyone would actually see it.

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POWER DEFER North Hollywood 1986 or 1987

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Neighborhood Love:

How do you think your pieces today have changed from the styles you painted in the old days? And how do you feel about the paint and graffiti supplies you have to use compared to the old days?

Defer:

I think that the work that I am doing now has evolved with the natural progression of time.  Although there are many remnants of the styles I was practicing as a youth integrated into my work.  I think graffiti has really evolved as a whole. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that there would be spray paint specifically made for graffiti. I think that the new supplies that we have available to us today, definitely have had a great impact on today’s graffiti art. Although I also think that the writers that are coming up today have a lot more advantages in terms of supplies, opportunities, and social acceptance; whereas, in the old days everything was hard-fought.

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