An interview with EsteGraffiti // Saturday, 17 May 2014
If you've driven around LA and pay attention to graffiti then you've probably seen something from Este. He killed Los Angeles for years and last summer decided to leave his hometown and spray his name all around the country. We recently caught up with him and talked about what he's been up to since leaving LA.
What do you write and how did you get interested in graffiti?
I'm known as “Este” or “Esteh,” which is a Spanish translation of “this one” or “that one.” My sister wrote “Esta” in the early 90’s & this is what influenced me to call myself what I am known as today. Seeing spray paint in her closet is where it all started for me as a kid. My curiosity came natural and I began my journey On The Road to Bombing Los Angeles while being Lok’d On Dope. Expressing my thoughts on walls is what saved me not only from the world, but from myself at times.
Last summer you left LA to travel and paint. What made you decide to leave LA?
Not wanting to deal with problems at home are some reasons that made me travel. I’m not going to front it's been a big part of it.. I can't act like I don't enjoy traveling though. Seeing different aspects of different life qualities are dope for one’s own self gain of knowledge. I really like to travel to discover new surroundings. It's a passion that helps me learn & adapt to new ways of life. I’ve learned to make the best out of my situations no matter where I’m at. I live my journey through a passion of vandalism. LA is a burnt city to paint plain & simple. It got hella fuckin boring for me & I felt like I had done a lot while I was in LA. I wanted to see different writers at work. LA has got to step up there work game. I’m not bringing down the aspect of LA graffiti or anybody but it's fun to have competition. Competition pushes you to the limit, to the extreme. It takes you outta ur comfort zone. I just felt like my team was at its best. A standard we should try to keep, so I left to spread our competition throughout different cities. What are levels when they aren't pushed you know what I mean!
You spent a lot of time in Detroit. How did you like it there compared to LA?
Visiting Detroit was an experience that shocked me in many ways. Man is Detroit a fuckin fun place to spray. Doing what I enjoy doing the most at anytime was such a blessing. It's just another tale to put into my book. Now that the Detroit part of the story is over it’s onto the next one! Detroit simply can't be compare to a city like LA, but it's just another war zone full zombies & corruption haha. It’s just another city I tend to see and say “I was there to leave my landmarks for all who come to Detroit domestic & foreign”…
We recently spoke on the phone and you mentioned the graff life kind of catching up with you after all these years. Would you care to talk about that?
Facing a near death experience where all you can remember is the sound of your own beating heart and waking up not being able to remember anything at all can really turn your life upside down. You can either make a choice of change or go back into what caused or is causing your downward spiral. All I can say is “Kids don't do drugs!” And if you do happen to do them do them responsibly. Yes you can do drugs responsibly. Basically I’m not saying that graffiti is out of my life completely because of this experience. Fuck that I love graffiti. I’m learning to maintain my addiction. Graffiti is what flows through my veins, it’s what I breathe, but sometimes you have to say to yourself that you can flip your life around and become something worth being proud of. I'm sure we can all agree on that! Addiction is one hell of a drug & my addiction is graffiti.
What's some advice you'd give a youngster coming into the graff game after all the stuff you've gone through and dealt with?
Push yourself to be better in terms of originality. If graffiti is something you see and want to do, be ready for what it offers to your table & its consequences. Be ready for the beef, be ready for the politics, and be ready for the cops, the raids, the jails and all that. Do it for the love of the game, not for the attention & fame it might offer. One should enjoy the best aspects of the graffiti culture. If you’re not ready, I say choose a different path. Go to school, invest in yourself. School may not be for everyone but at the end of the day neither is graffiti. Whatever it is that you want to do all I can say is if it pays your bills and puts food on your table, shit go ham. I breathe, eat and shit graffiti. I dealt with whole lot of money problems due to graffiti both good & bad. If a writer says they happy doing graffiti more power to him, because it's hard to paint the way I see things. I guess my standards are too high compared to most. That’s why my team’s expectations are high. We as a team stay on that grind, one way or another and I support it either way good or bad.
What are you focusing on these days outside of graff?
My focus are the same I’m just looking at it in a more complex way now. Life comes first then graffiti second. I always use to put graffiti first and I must say I got a lot done that way, but my path in life was spiraling out of control and I wasn't on point anymore. So I flipped things around now to show myself and my family that I can change for the better. Haha this interview sounds corny as fuck but I'm alight I did something most don't do and that’s’ change!
Favorite writers past and present and who's a writer in your opinion that doesn't get enough shine?
When it comes down to questions like this I try not to answer simply for the fact that I don’t want to offend anyone. A lot of the people I look up to are in my squad. Having generations of such good artists and bombers combined, that alone inspired me to be more as a graffiti artist. Some artists that I do enjoy are Jurne, Vizie , Roids , Chaos, Wane, Horfe, Brus, Wais, and Saber. They are all original at what they do. Originality is what I look at in an individual..
Any stories you wanna share from a night out painting (good, bad, funny, etc)
I have a lot I can share, but the one factor that sticks out to me is when I paint alone in an environment full of chaos. When you can say that you have painted alone with no one with you to watch out, this is what I call a true vandal. To adapt to all of your surroundings: Hearing the wind blow, the cars passing by or underneath you, the cold or heat penetrating your body. “The Rush” taking a hold of your soul is mesmerizing. To have all your sense turn against you at one point only to have them balance out in the end to your advantage is a feeling beyond any expectations. Like Bruce Lee said you have to become like water & mold yourself into what you want to become…
Any final thoughts or shout outs you'd like to give!
I want to give a shout out to my close friends you know who you are and my people that show support in a subculture we call vandalism. My mentor for the guidance and my squad for always being there! Bless us vandals!
Interview and Photos by Walter Yetman aka The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye