“I grew up on Hip Hop since the early 90′s. As much as things have evolved, I personally am a fan of what’s been coming out lately. I feel like so many variations of hip hop are starting to blend and people are, giving a fuck, less about the whole indie/mainstream thing…” – FREE THE ROBOTS
Behind the moniker Free The Robots we find the Santa Ana based producer and DJ, Chris Alfaro. He released his debut album “Prototype” in 2005 and caught international attention with his 2010 “LP Ctrl Alt Delete” on Alpha Pup Records.
We once had the pleasure of witnessing your live show in Copenhagen, Denmark. You had so many styles of music involved in your set. How did you first get into music?
I first started as a hip hop DJ, rocking house parties, local clubs and entering battles during the mid 90′s turntablist era. I was always collecting records. Actively digging for samples pulled me deeper into the world of Jazz, Psych, Blues and obscure stuff I wouldn’t ever know about if it hadn’t been for my hours spent in record stores.
How much energy do you put into your live performance and what’s your idea of the perfect live performance?
Pretty much all of my energy. A perfect live performance is an honest one, where the artist can get the crowd on their level; in turn, share that mutual energy.
Are you a vinyl fiend or a digital saver?
Vinyl is what I hold close to me. Digital´s are just for convenience.
Did you ever look back and think, “wow why didn’t I fuck with that some more (speaking of music)”?
I fell in love with the idea of making music at an early age and always knew I was going to get into making beats. I made a habit of collecting records even before I had turntables. Having an MPC back then was a dream, but not an option with a lunch money salary. As much as I wanted to experiment with sounds, I had to wait till something was more accessible. Programs like Fruity Loops, Cool Edit, and Reason became available, and I jumped right on it as soon as I could find PC bootlegs and tuanpoker.
Who’s been the most vital inspiration source(s) for you throughout your music career?
Among so many others, it was mainly DJ Shadow who really tipped the scale for me. Endtroducing literally introduced me into the world of instrumental based electronic music that wasn’t in the realm of “dance”.
How do you reflect yourself in those cats?
I naturally tend to move more towards an analogue sound. Dirty drums, vintage instruments, Jazz/Psych/obscure samples have always been part of my arsenal. With the exception of certain digital electronic based songs, creating the dirty sound of the 60′s, with new ideas is what i tend to gravitate towards.
From what we can understand, you’re from Orange County. How’s the beat scene down there, compared to the famous L.A. Scene and the one in Europe?
Pretty much non existent in comparison to the neighbouring L.A. area. I grew up making the trek to L.A. every week because it has generally been a more interesting place; musically and culturally. We literally had to build our own thing in O.C. At the moment, theirs a new movement going on of interesting things in the local area. But for now, you can really only get this type of music at my spot (The Crosby).
Can you tell us more about The Crosby and how it got started?
The Crosby is family in the form of a restaurant, bar, venue. A place were anyone could enjoy quality food and listen to good music. At the same time it’s a creative outlet for musicians, DJ´s, chefs, and visual artists. The team behind this are all my actual best friends, who individually have their own different talents and ambitions. The whole thing formed like Voltron, and we turned all of our collective ideas into our dream home base. Due to the lack of inspiration growing up in our local area, and the fact that we are a rare breed of like-minded folks, we figured it was time to do something fresh the way we wanted to do it, on a legitimate level. The Crosby was born. 5 years strong this April!
Flying Lotus, Ras G and Samiyam at The Crosby
I’m not opposed to any musician doing what he has to do to get his music out there, weather it be with a brand or not. As long as the artist feels its something that represents them well, and they generally support what they do. If done honestly and tastefully, I see any type of collaboration as an opportunity to build and spread the music. Although it can be negative, if its for the wrong reasons.On a local tip, who’s the artists, we in the whole wide world ought to know of?
As far as beats/hip-hop go: Jon Wayne who no longer needs introduction, Co.fee (MHD) has always been impressive, MatthewDavid (Leaving Records), the entire Soulection label, the entire Timetable Records label, Team Supreme and more. Other stuff I’ve been on lately is Feeding People; the band fronted by Jessie Jones whom I have been collaborating with on FTR music. And all the bands on Burger Records.
Top: Co.fee, bottom: Jon Wayne, right: MatthewDavid.
Are there any cats from Europe you definitely think “WOW THEY ARE DOPE!”?
Yes, artists from Europe are always impressing me, and always mad cool. I come back home inspired every time. Dimlite has always been a favorite of mine, Mr. Oizo, of course the Luckyme guys, Musique Large etc…
What’s your thoughts on today´s Hip-Hop scene? And where you a part of Hip-Hop when growing up?
I grew up on Hip Hop in the early 90′s. As much as things have evolved, I personally am a fan of what’s been coming out lately. I feel like so many variations of hip hop are starting to blend and people are, giving a fuck, less about the whole indie/ mainstream thing. Which has always been a dividing factor in hip hop community. To me; mainstream, indie, ignorant or smart… If its good “music” that makes you move, I’m all about it.
Also you were on a tour in Denmark last year. What was your first impression when arriving,and what was your impression when leaving Denmark?
I was amazed. Denmark is a beautiful country with great people tuanpoker, and good vibes. It was instant family vibes everywhere I went. That, and you took me to Christiania, which is dope!
Since you are a part of the Restaurant “The Crosby” can you let us in on some of your favorite food experiences?
I ate scorpion in China and Horse sashimi in Tokyo. Next up: cobra heart in Saigon (thank DJ Nobody for this).
Jeremiah Jae talks a lot about eating healthy food, and often puts a spotlight on how the whole food industry works. What’s your thoughts on that?
I am about being health conscious as well. What we put in our bodies effects everything physically and mentally. This is why I enjoy eating in Europe so much; mostly everything is fresh!
Is there anybody out there you think you just HAVE to make music with, before you leave earth and why those cats?
I really just like working with friends. There is a certain dynamic you have to build in the studio environment, and it comes easy with the people I am comfortable with. As much as I respect people who have inspired me, and would be honored at the idea, I haven’t made it a goal to step in the studio with anyone in particular.
Do you have anything you want to say to all the upcoming producers in the world?
Now is the time to lead your own movement. Keep progressing!
We met up with graffiti writer “Lolek” from Zagreb, Croatia and had a chat.
Please introduce yourself and your posse!
Hello. I’m writing Lolek and I’m a member of CREW crew.
When did you start writing?
I started writing in ’98 and have been active since ’01.
What motivated you to start writing?
I have always lived next to the line. My school was just on the track side, so every day I was watching panels from GSK, B52, INF, PR and VVV crews. So I decided to start painting trains. In that time, half of the hood were writers and pretty much everything was going around skateboarding, punk rock and graffiti. So as a group of kids we founded UN13 crew and started to paint more and more serious. Now when I look at what still motivates me, it’s people who do it better and more. It gives me some kind of energy to meet and paint with some writers you’ve heard about years ago, and liked their stuff since then.
What is your primary target?
Hmm… I can’t say I have a primary target but I prefer to paint illegal graffiti. Trains or subways are special to me and these are the actions I enjoy the most because so many things can go wrong and still you are having the best time of your life. Sometimes you are scared as shit or wet to the bone, injured or all that together, and would rather be home smoking a spliff and chilling. But in the end it’s all worth it. Memories and experience is what counts.
Tags, throw ups or pieces?
TAGS, throw up’s and pieces. It’s all together that makes a complete writer, but I prefer to waste my paint on tags. There is something special about it, maybe because “normal” people hate it.
Can you tell us about the history of the graffiti scene in Zagreb?
Let’s say graffiti in Zagreb started around ’85 or a few years before and since then, there was only one big buffing campaign in ’87, so you can still find old school stuff all around the city. Guys like Teask, Carl, Gene, Bonz, Braco, Lons, Swenone, Fuk, Jen, Mag, Ofca, Ro, Mein, Extra, Gogs, Koko were guys I looked up to when I started to paint. These guys painted s-trains, did a lot of street bombing, tags and some crazy spots. Insides of trams and s-trains were totally tagged. Although it was a post-war period, and it lasted for years, that were cool times. For all our graff supplies we were going to Italy or Austria, or trying to find someone’s family who went abroad to bring some cans and especially caps. Influences on Zagreb writers were New York, Berlin, Dortmund, Prague, Budapest and later with my generation classic euro style got involved. One important thing in Zagreb was and still is to have a good-looking tag, so I can say there is some tradition in tagging here. Until 2008 there was no law on graffiti, so you would get out with a few slaps and a 30€ fine. Now Europe took things in their hands and it’s a criminal activity to paint. These days they try to put up as many cameras as possible and recruit as many cops as possible, and people want to become one for the “safety” of citizens. But in the end it doesn’t change a thing.
How is the scene in Zagreb in the moment? Are things still not getting buffed?
The scene in Zagreb is cool, small, peaceful and it get’s boring quick if you are stuck here. The system is really small and spots are getting hot. Stuff doesn’t get buffed and you get bored with all the same pieces running, sometimes for years. In one way it’s cool to live in a city where your piece runs for 3 years, but you turn lazy and still you get mad when someone goes over you. It would be nice to paint a clean train without doing a huge background to cover some 2-meter tall guy’s piece, and in a way it’s easier to blame the train company for buffing than it is to live with enemies. There is some drama involved with crossing pieces, but it is all part of the game.
So when they buff one S-Train from time to time it is actually a good thing for us.
Are you awaiting new trains on the Zagreb s-train net?
The new s-train is here and it’s a “classic” ugly dildo train, looking more like a tram. The good thing is that there are only 2 of them and more need to be produced, but the train company are some big time hustlers and I think we’ve got the old lady here for the next few years.
You travel a lot. If you were to make a list with your 5 favourite inter rail stops, what would it be?
Sure man, traveling keeps me on life. I think it’s really important to travel, to see other cultures and how people live. It‘s interesting that you can be thousands of kilometers away from home and feel more like home then ever before. Besides, it makes your approach to graffiti a bit different, and that’s a good thing for progress and moving on.
Is graffiti the most important thing in your life? How are you coping with combining graffiti with education, love, work and all that grown up people stuff?
Well it is really important thing to me, my best friends are writers and all the stuff that I’m getting interested in today I got through graffiti, like photography, video editing and art it self.
I think real recognize real, so with a real girlfriend you can have the best time ever no matter if you’re in the sunny beach or at the fucked up train station. The same is with work. You must hook up with people you can work with and things will get going, but to be a part of normal society, I find it hard. And in the end I don’t care for it.
Did graffiti ever have a political meaning to you?
I’m against this system and I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I don’t paint for that reason. Graffiti is more than just politics, you paint with emotions and there is nothing emotional about politics. Graffiti is real!
Anything you would like to add?
Seek has many years behind him as an active writer. He witnessed the bombed trains in New York and was in the first generation of writers applying the new art form to the sides of Marseilles subway cars. Besides Finland, Ireland, Macedonia and Albania, he has travelled every country in Europe and in 4 years he can celebrate his 30thanniversary with graffiti. Introducing the globetrotter from Planete Mars…
Please give us an introduction to your self and your posse!
I write Seek and my crews are 313, JAB and YCP.
Does your name have a meaning, or just nice letters?
It doesn’t have any meaning to me, it’s just a combination of letters that was quicker than my first name, which was Commando Tag.
When did you start writing?
I did my first piece in 1987.
What motivated you to start writing?
I saw a few tags in Lyon in the begining of the 80′s done by Robbie Rob. Then I was visiting some familly in NYC in 87 and I’ve seen a lot. I remember entering a subway station and seeing a train that was totally bombed, I was so afraid that I immediately ran back to the exit. When I was back home I did my first piece.
What is your primary target?
What feelings does graffiti bring to you? Always the same or does it differ from what kind you are doing?
My first feeling from writing is freedom. Besides that, it can be the whole panel of human emotions I guess.
Do you have any goals with graffiti? What do you want to achieve? If anything?
Tags, throw ups or pieces? Why?
All three of them are fun for me. As long as it’s done quick and that it give me a rush of adrenalin.
Street or trains?
I prefer trains. But then if I can’t do that, I bomb the streets.
What is your approach to staying up? Is it each man for him self or do you feel a responsibility for what you are doing?
For me its each man for itself, I trust nobody when it comes to graff. I’ve seen too many bitches in this game. People are ready to sell their mom to have one more panel or to get more fame. I don’t write to have new friends or a social relation. I don’t mind, I am a lonely guy.
Can you told us about Marseilles graffiti history?
The first piece was done in 83, then nothing happened until 1987. In 87 we were a bunch of 4 or 5 guys focusing on streets. I painted the first subway in 91, and then we got started on the trains and rail tracks. More guys started in the beginning of the 90′s, but it was no more than 15-20 people maximum. The explosion came in the late 90′s. At that moment it was unbelievable: everything was bombed. Trains, streets, railways and highways. Only the subway was never really bombed. Since the beginning, when you paint a subway it rarely runs more than one time. The 2000 years saw a big fashion around graff, like everywhere in France. It brought a lot of beef and stories, but also a high level of competition. Since a few years ago the buff is really effective and incidentally we have a vandal squad. Cameras in the street are everywhere and we have censors, guards and cams in the yard. That have discouraged many people, so now it’s really only few guys that continue to write on a regular basis.
How is the scene there in the moment?
You have been doing a lot of inter railing. Can you tell us how that got started? What are your favorite destinations? Which destinations do you still need to visit?
In Marseille there’s only a few yards, so if you want to paint regularly you need to travel. In the beginning I was just entering a train and stop where I will see a good spot, then later it was by car. After some time I needed to paint more different lines and models, I quickly got the virus of interailing. Favourite destinations are always the places where I have cool friends: Belgium, Holland, Italy and Czech republic. I was never in Finland, Ireland, Macedonia and Albania.
What are the next travelling destinations?
Italy: In the spring it’s beautiful.
Is graffiti the most important thing in your life?
No, my family is more important.
How are you coping with combining graffiti with education, love, work and all that grown up people stuff?
Seriously I don’t know.
You experience graffiti being an obstacle?
Sure. Because of writing I was not in school, and as you know if you don’t go to school, it’s more hard to find a good job. In the same time, because of that I am free of working and that’s not bad either.
Does graffiti have a political meaning to you?
It certainly has something to do with rebellion. But when I look to some people, it’s just about following a fashion. So in that case it has nothing to do with politics.
What is the worst chase/experience you had with graffiti?
Worst chase: Getting shot in a tunnel by a security guard and hiding 6 hours buried in the ground while the cops was 2 meters from me.
Worst experience: Watching this guy dying, burning on the third rail and everything that have followed that event. It still gives me some nightmares.
What is the best experience you had with graffiti?
There’s too many!
When are you finished with graffiti?
I can’t say. It’s already been 10 years, that I am saying to myself that I will quit.
Any thing you would like to add?
Don’t believe the hype!
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