Vapors Magazine


Good Morning America
interview by Curtis Kulig (unabridged)

We’ve seen Skullphone on the streets for what seems like ages, but really it all began in 1999 – Wheatpasted on the streets, up high on the back of billboards, or staring back at you from a gas pump or a restroom mirror. It’s not in every corner, but just when you think Skullphone’s gone into hibernation he hits you again. It’s a steady signal that, at a somewhat low base frequency, keeps thumping. I touched base with skullphone to see the world through his eyes.

They say in London you are photographed over 300 times per day. Do you think Los Angeles will ever get to this point?
Hell yes. Anyone who lives here knows how extremely different it is here than London. We’re somewhat backward. It’s a hick town with horses, only set in the year 2008. We’ve heard it all before – LA’s more spread out, urban sprawl, the city population’s gonna double in the next 10 years, yada yada.. yes, this city will catch up to where London is on surveillance because all the land is getting re-zoned for stacking as many people on top of eachother. and I’m sure when we catch up, London will be beyond local cameras and simply have one huge telescope satellite camera pointing down, recording in real-time video with zooming capabilities down to your identification number.

Ok, so you’re digging right into the grit aren’t you
Why hold back? It’s all about Wireless technology – the wave of the future. I think Apple for example has 40 something patents on what the iphone will eventually become. For starters it’ll be your remote control for your t.v, which is great for America because we’re addicted to media. And we know all about that first hand since media is Los Angeles’ biggest export. The next apple phenomenon is obviously iTouch. But with touch technology, do you really want your fingerprint recorded every fucking place you go? It’s simply crazy to me that people get off on this shit. You know, you can go for a jog and get a water at 7-11 without ever having to carry your wallet! Out with the printed cash, or even debit cards for that matter. You must wave your hand to function in America. But I’m not deep thinking this shit. Where’s my beer?

Skullphone was allover the new electronics billboards in LA not too long ago. Is that where it’s going?
I’ve always had my hands in new technology, only I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. If there are any brainiacs out there, please call me. These electronic billboards went up in Los Angeles literally overnight. There were the video jumbotrons before, on the sunset strip for example, but then bam, these electronic billboards went up that are omnipresent even on the brightest day. And what a nightmare to live near one at nighttime. Its like a strobe light in your periferal 24 hours a day.

Ya you had hacked into the Sunset Jumbotron before hadn’t you?
Hahaha, no, Curtis, that is your imagination working overtime.

Why digital billboards?
I’m walking this tightrope. I’m so set on this tightrope that I actually decided to start learning to literally walk a tight rope. I’m not kidding, at some circus. It’s a scene straight out of a felini movie. Of course im learning to walk the rope above only 6 inches of grass, but the rope gets raised higher every couple weeks. Dylan went electric, so does skullphone.

Well obviously getting up on billboards is nothing new for you. How did you first start climbing high and pasting bangers?
I dove in, and for the record it’s not that monumental. I’m not in a secluded back lot figuring it out. It goes up with flikr right behind you. Some of my first 10 foot posters went up in SF. One of the first spots was a rooftop when Neckface was in town and, man, did he suffer. First he skated around a small parking lot for hours while I cut and pieced art together into pieces way too large, then he had to fill in the eyes and mouth when it went up since the the poster turned to soup on the wall from falling off and going back up again and again. From the street we looked up and I said “that’s….embarassing.” He said, “no, that’s punk rock.” If you don’t live this way I can give you a book that says “this book’s got more spine than you do.”

You are labeled as a “street artist.” How do you feel about straight up graffiti?
It’s like I always say “People look at an oil painting and admire the use of brushstrokes to convey meaning. People look at a graffiti painting and admire the use of a drainpipe to gain access.” Oh wait, that’s banksy.

Wow, you’re really name dropping aren’t you?
Hey its hard to do a pre-tape recorded interview.

Why not hack the internet or phone services? Why not go REALLY BIG man?
Shit. I do have dreams to make some crazy shit, or “bring down” some crazy shit I should say. Like, CNN reporting “the internet was temporary put on hold by skullphone today”. But in reality I am an artist, not an art terrorist. We are pushing the boundaries of what artists can do and get away with. It’s all a bit of luck, but I choose my battles with tons of thought. I choose my spots as wise as possible on the street. Im not down for fucking up private property in reality. The gallery owners are real supportive, but its really funny to see the “don’t tag on this premises” signs at openings – ya know? I’m not into adding another woe to the struggling shop owner. They’ve got enough problems. But if what I do can squeek by without getting noticed by them, or even better if its bold and looks dope and they leave it, that’s the jam.

You seem to have been really busy over the last 6 months. what the hell have you been doing?
I’ve been moving around a lot. As you may notice, couch surfing, not really having a place to live. My studio was taken over with glitter literally for months because of “the project” which was overseen by a plastic santa and 12 reindeer.

Ya, what the hell is up with Greetings from Finland posters
Uh, I don’t really want to go into that. Those waters are so fucking deep in my head and filled with boring rhetoric, someone will have to throw me a blanket and a pacifier after my brain hurts for hours talking about the city with the highest per capita cell phone use and all the artsharks out there.

Well you always seem to have a trick or two up your sleeve. What’s on the DL that you can leak out, something we can watch out for?
Ah really? I sortof live day to day at the moment. Get up, wrestle with my addictions, press on through the day, get on with it. You know I am human.

What do you think of other street artists?
Shit, there are so many out there now I can’t keep up. I’m talking all around the world, Daniel Johnston style. My mind is immediately splintered into fragments. You’ve jogged me. Uh, aren’t there soccer moms now who put an aerosol can in their kid’s hands and drive them to back allys? Don’t ask me who told me that one. And what about these advertisers who now get inspiration from street artists for their campaigns? And with their budgets going beyond, all in the name of making sure we know to watch the season premiere on channel 1 Monday night at 8. And just because we go to the same haircutter does that mean we’re bro’s? I like artists on and off the street, and dislike artists on and off the street. I guess I have questions too.

So you don’t have anything to say about street art then?
Intent is everything. Please don’t forget the intel inside logo at the bottom of this interview (laughter)…You could have the exact same person in front of you and you cringe inside for what they’re doing. I could shave a Mohawk because of watching taxi driver and then have some dude with a Mohawk from watching jack osbourne. We’d be coming form two different places. I don’t have a Mohawk tho, im too uncool for that.

You’ve been putting skullphone up for over 8 years now. Are you slowing down, changing it up? What? What’s the deal?
I put it down all the time, and then it rings true again. Who’d have thought we’d still have cell phones 8 years later? I thought it would be an 8-track 3 years ago. It’s currently a static game of what your hand can hold. Ergonomics. We did the zoolander phone and it was too small. Now they’re big again to have a nice big screen and nice keypads for zinging your friends all day on IM. The next step Is no phone at all – literally skullphone,

I know you are called skullphone, but you do have different images out there . You have the Pegasus on gas stations. And, of course, you have skullphone incarnations. It’s really clean and simple, yet just when I think I’ve pinned down what you’re about, it all rotates. Why is that?
Skullphone is a catalyst. You have to bring the resin. Or on the other hand, it’s the cheese and you bring the heat. Or it’s vice versa. It’s sometimes a bit cryptic, and hopefully sometimes so subtle that it goes right by the common viewer. Shepard once told me something like “people are driving down the street thinking about their laundry they have to wash and then what they are cooking for dinner and they drive right past a poster only noticing it subconsciously.” If I can do that while they are standing at the gas pump I am a happy man. But then there are times you want to hit people over the head. I’m trying to do both. But not so successfully at times because I too have laundry and dinner to make.

Um, name dropping again?
(laughter) Ya, lets call this the name dropping issue. After all, I may not ever get interviewed again. Lets put it on the record I actually lived and breathed in this era because god knows, I’ve never been asked to be in any group show that was fitting… wait that entirely isn’t true because the BAST and FAILE “rediculousnessofitallshow” at New Image was dope, and I was the rookie in the lineup. Hahaha, can I fit in Saber, Revok, ESPO, Twist, who else, hhaha, anyone else in this 1000 word count? Let’s pack in one big list of heads so skullphone will actually come up on a google search. .. But I’m not going to edit. and I have respect and give respect where respect is due. Respect yo. That’s in reference to the question.

But back to your work though, do you mean to make it minimal and, uh?
Boring? Well, I like it minimal. But Sometimes it’s a broken cell phone message. Sortof like telling someone you made something in Poland and they understood it as finland. So it’s still clean. It’s mixed up in my head, and clean on paper. It’s all personal preference too. If I was to really push the mirror on advertising I would adopt more one liners. But I’d prefer to take all the verbage out and let the viewer make up the text. The “ads” I do normally have tons of text that equates to nothing so you are left at ground zero again.

But You actually make products too, so your “subvertisements”, as you call them, really are “ads”, right?
Ya, I make products as a way to open a larger dialogue about the product. You know, Skullphone Beef Jerky.

I’ve rolled out with you so many times before when random, hectic, or funny stuff has gone down. That one time in Silverlake that homeless guy walked up and got all into holding the posters up for you, started rubbing down corners, and started to tell you spots up and down Sunset that he’d like to see you get up on. What’s been the most memorable situations you can think of?
Downtown LA I’ve had a handful of fucked up things happen. You can always tell troubles coming by the way someone walks. And if you see someone walking with a regular stagger at 4am instead of someone fumbling or pushing a shopping cart, get it together. And watchout for Robocop now too. But a funny story is I once climbed this 20 ft steel baracade to get into an alley to then get onto a fire escape. But halfway up the fire escape I realized that directly across from me was what seemed to be a homicide and it was sketchy. I laid flat for hours while dudes entered and exited different rooms on several floors. And then got all the way up to find out I was on the wrong building altogether.

Well, overall I can see how one might have to read between lines on what you’re doing. Isn’t that what art is supposed to be about though?
Ya, I’m kicking it into high gear and have attached a side buggy for mans best friend to come along.

You know, you really are the all-american kid.
Thank you.