Defer is one of the premier OG West Coast graffiti writers that is pushing unique style in both street and fine art. What I like about Defer, is when I see his art, I immediately think “Los Angeles.” His current work is flipped with a Japanese flavor, to celebrate his heritage, and it speaks to a broader audience.
Defer is one of the pioneering members of the first generation of Los Angeles graffiti crews: K2S, STN and KGB. His art and hard work inspires me to push my own art further. He’s an artist that doesn’t get enough credit for his everyday art and hustling. It is my pleasure and honor to interview him and feature him on my blog.
MB: Who are your major inﬂuences growing up? Can you tell me how your style has evolved from the graff letter to what I think is a distinct style from Los Angeles?
Defer: My major inﬂuences growing up in LA were writers such as Crime K2S, Sine, Geo, Shandu, Char DTK, Soon One, Tempt, there are many others. I remember that these guys gave me the time of day and they inﬂuenced me in a major way. I was also inﬂuenced by what I saw on the walls – the placasos (gang – writing) that plastered the walls where I grew up. I was also inﬂuenced by the murals that were painted by muralistas in LA, which contained cultural, educational, political and social messages that sparked consciousness.
Defer: The graff scene now in LA is like night and day. Back when I started, everything was illegal. There were no permission walls or any opportunities of that sort. Yards were these abandoned corridors in the city where we could paint without much hassle from the law. There was no internet either. All communication was done in person or by telephone. Now days you can do a piece and post it online and it goes viral.
Back then I rarely took pictures of my work. Now pictures are essential. I think it was more fun being a writer back then. But then again, I think about now in LA (and virtually everywhere else), grafﬁti is more widely accepted. This can create more opportunities to paint and if you are fortunate you can ﬁnd a career path with your art. I can’t really say that one time is better than the other. They were (in existant) and are just different.
Defer: In my mind, the ﬁrst thing is visualizing what you want to paint and how your gonna execute it. During the process of doing a piece, I’m thinking about what I can add or delete to make this piece as dope as possible. After I ﬁnish a piece my mind is at ease and there is a sense of accomplishment.
MB: I get very inspired by seeing your latest canvases or any of your artwork to strive for the perfect & uniform lettering style. What inspires you or gets you jazzed? Is there a list of top writers that you follow or inspire you?
Defer: I’m kind of all over the place, so I get inspired to paint randomly. I have artists who inspire me, especially those who have pushed the limits. I was always inspired by Ayer R.I.P because he pushed his artistic limits as well as the went above and beyond in the realm of danger. I was also inspired by Dream TDK because he was politically and socially conscious. Dream articulated that in his interviews and through his art. Vogue is also an inﬂuence, especially in the technical realm. Vogue and Dream did some of my favorite productions.
In Los Angeles, I am also inspired by Saber and Revok. They took grafﬁti to another level in LA. Being that I’m a letter stylist, Retna, Big Sleeps and Chaz are a constant source of inspiration. I also think that cats like Axis CBS, Tyke AWR, Koﬁe, Rime, Totem, How & Nosm, El Mac and so many others past and present, too many to name inspire me.
Defer: I haven’t had the opportunity to collab with too many people. The people that I have collaborated with in the past few years that have worked out well were Kopey K2S BAMC, Heaven, Spade, Slick, Cab, Prime and Cale. I think mainly because we have different strengths, such as Kopey does great characters which go well with the lettering that I do and vice versa.
Defer: I can relate to what today’s bombers are going through. The goals are simple and plain – to catch spots. But at my age, I’ve also been through a lot of tribulation throughout my life and I would hope many of these kids don’t go through what I have gone through. In other words, I want the best for them – to be safe and have a bright future. At the same time, I know the “rush” one gets from painting.
However I think now days, the laws against grafﬁti writers are a lot harsher. Add to that fact that technology is not helping either. There are so many pitfalls. Back in the day, the grafﬁti writer prized his anonymity, mainly because of legal and societal unacceptability. Now days everything is posted online. There can be aspects of fame and notoriety, interviews like this. You name it. Times have changed.
You can see more work on Defer’s website and also follow DEFER_K2S on Instagram to see daily updates. Keep burning Los Angeles!