Sex Sells Magazine

July 01, 1997

Issue Number 2 July 1997- February 1999
Intro: Shepard Fairey has gotten up well over a million vinyl stickers all over the world in the name of his “obey giant Has a Posse” campaign. (All the early stickers were hand screened, too) . This doesn’t include the posters that he’s pasted up (thousands) or the countless stencils he’s sprayed, or the Coca- Cola campaign that he sabotaged, all in the name of the same cause. Think about how many stickers a million is…Why has he put so much effort into promoting a professional wrestler that he was never a fan of? Interview with Shepard Fairey. December 18, 1997 at Dojo restaurant, w. 4th NY, NY.Dinnertime

Alright, Shepard, what’s your full name, where were you born, and when?
Shepard: Frank Shepard Fairey, born in Charleston, South Carolina, February 15, 1970.

B: What was the first thing in your life that you remember being really, really passionate and excited about?
Shepard: Skateboarding and punk rock. Before that I was moderately excited about drawing, but it wasn’t cool to be passionate about that, so I just sort of did it when I was on restriction in my room. Locked up.

B: When was it skateboarding and punk rock?
Shepard: That was when I was like, fourteen. I was into Agent Orange, the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, all that stuff…Then I got into making my own shirts, cause they didn’t sell punk rock shirts anywhere. That’s when I first even started screen printing.

B: Did you teach yourself?
Shepard: There was a screen in my art class and this one kid knew how to use it. He showed me how to do it. That was tenth grade. Then I just started making myself bootleg shirts with Misfits and Husker Du and junk like that [on them] .

B: Was it really empowering? To fell like you could make that sort of thing?
Shepard: Yeah, it was, because I wanted to have something that no one else could have. And I also was into to showing my identity through what I was into, which at the time was punk rock and skateboarding and stuff. I made bootleg Thunder [skateboard trucks] t-shirts, Indy [skateboard trucks] shirts, you know, junk like that.

B: would you come up with your own designs or would you just take their designs?
Shepard: I would take their designs and rework the composition sometimes. Like, say the Thunder logo, if I liked the type from one ad but the image from another, I’d just mix them up. And I sort of re-hand drew the Minor Threat “Bottled Hate” logo, because it wouldn’t have translated to screen printing that well. But that’s like…

B: B: Was any of the stuff half-tone or was it just high contrast black and white?
Shepard: It was all just high contrast, and…they were all paper cut stencils. All the [early] screen prints were paper cut stencils.

B: B: Would they come out pretty real?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: B: That’s awesome.
Shepard: You’d get like maybe two shirts out of it, and that’s it. But I didn’t care.

B: As long as you had it.
Shepard: Yeah, I mean. The only other thing I would have been doing with my time was my homework, so….

B: So you didn’t get all into drugs and stuff?
Shepard: No, not at all.

B: What was your school situation like? What’s your school history?
Shepard: I went to a really gnarly private school through my freshman year.

B: Was it uptight?
Shepard: Yeah, super uptight. Coat and tie everyday. They hated skateboarding there.

B: Did you have a crew?
Shepard: I had my group of friends. The guy I’m staying with here was one of my good friends then. But they all sort of turned their backs on me because they didn’t think skateboarding was cool. So then I left and went to public school. And in public school I was cool, because skateboarding was cool at the public school. …So, I was into that.

B: I bet. So then did you go straight to college?
Shepard: Yeah, I went to a year of art school in high school, in California. And that’s when I worked on my portfolio to get into the Rhode Island School of Design [RISD] .

B: When did you move to California? You just went to the school there?
Shepard: For one year, my senior year of high school. It was called the Idlewylde School of Music and the Arts, in Idlewylde, California.

B: It was a high school?
Shepard: uhm hmm. I had always done really badly in school but I got straight A’s that year and I did well on my SAT’s, put my portfolio together, learned a lot about photography…

B: What kind of stuff was in the portfolio?
Shepard: Drawings, graphic design pieces and photographs.

B: So you were already doing a lot of different mediums then?

Shepard: Yes.

B: So you’ve always been interested in multi-media kind of stuff?
Shepard: Yeah. …And then when I got to college, I decided that drawing was a waste of time, because I wanted my art to be more about subject matter than the artist, so -A drawing, people always look at it like that’s the artist’s interpretation of that subject matter- so then I started getting really into photography and Xerox art, because it cuts out the artist as the middleman in terms of how most people view it. Like, “oh that’s just reality.” Even though you can manipulate a photograph or a Xerox just as much. It’s not the way people perceive it. So I got really into that.

B: Did you graduate from RISD?
Shepard: yeah I graduated from RISD. I started Alternate Graphics, which was my silk screen business-

B: Do you still do Alternate Graphics?
Shepard: No. That was just my silk screen company, but I ran all the Giant designs through that.

B: I remember the catalog and stuff.
Shepard: I started that in 1990.

B: -At RISD. What year did you graduate?
Shepard: ’92. Alternate Graphics was going for a year and a half before I graduated. …So, I was already printing stickers and t-shirts and everything at my own studio while I was going to school.

B: So is that mainly what you studied, printing kinds of stuff?
Shepard: No, I started illustration, but my passion was screen printing. At first I did screen printing from my own photographs. And then I got into doing designs for t-shirts and stuff like that.

B: With the illustration studies, did that mean that you had to do a lot of drawings and stuff like that?
Shepard: Yeah, but mostly what I did was draw on top of xeroxes to manipulate them and make them look kind of half real, half drawn. And I just felt like it was a waste of time to redraw something realistically, that’s just an exercise in draftsmanship. I don’t need to prove myself with that, I know I can do that.

B: What did your parents do?
Shepard: My dad’s a doctor, and my mom ran a bed and breakfast business.

B: Were they real supportive of you doing art stuff?
Shepard: No, not at all. But they realized after a certain point that I wasn’t going to do anything else, so they decided to support it.

B: So they were okay with you going to art school?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Were they proud you got into RISD?
Shepard: Yeah, they were definitely proud. -If you’re going chronologically, though, I made the first Andre sticker in 1989. I was in Providence; it was the first summer after my freshman year. I was working at a skate shop. I was making all sorts of bootleg t-shirts with paper cut stencils to sell in the store. And I was making stickers for the shop on the Xerox and then I came across-

B: Were you making shorts for the store?
Shepard: Shirts of my own design to sell in the store. And then stickers for the store, but just xeroxed onto crack-and-peel [sticker paper] . And I went to…-My friend Eric was staying over one night and I was working on a paper-cut stencil, I didn’t have a TV or anything so he was really bored, and I looked through the paper to find a picture for him to learn how to do it, to practice cutting a stencil, and I found this ad for wrestling which was the Andre picture. I was like “Oh my God, this is so hilarious. We’ve got to do something like that.”

B: How old was it [the wrestling ad] ? Was it current at the time?
Shepard: Yeah, it was current at the time.

B: So Andre died after you started doing it?
Shepard: Yeah, he died in ’93. We started doing it in ’89.

B: And you were going into your sophomore year at RISD?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Wow, and so what happened, you saw it and just flipped out?
Shepard: Oh, I thought it was really funny, and I thought I should do something with it…

B: B: Were you a fan of professional wrestling?
Shepard: No, not at all. The main reason that we, Eric and I, liked that image so much was because Andre was just so ugly and funny looking, and wanted to make our little skate clique called the Andre Posse because it would sort of make fun of all the other posses who thought they were so cool, the other skate cliques around town-

B: B: Did they all have stickers?
Shepard: They would write at the spots with paint pens and stuff like that, like, “North Adelbourough Crew!” and so the idea was that it was participating, but poking fun at the whole idea of a skate crew.

B: Did you come up with the first design that night?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: And that was that? [points to the original “obey giant has a posse design]
Shepard: That was the O.G. [“Original Giant”] Andre sticker: “obey giant has a posse.”

B: Who did it, you or him?
Shepard: I did.

B: And that was that?
Shepard: Yes.

B: And that design has remained unchanged for the last…
Shepard: Eight years.

B: …Do you still have the master? The original one?
Shepard: Somewhere in South Carolina, I think it’s at this- I think my friend has it.

B: The piece of paper or whatever?
Shepard: Yeah, I laminated it. It’s got a note written on the back because I left the original sitting out on my desk at home and my roommate wrote on the back of it: “Shep, I swiped two enchiladas from work. Feel free to heat them up. They’re in the fridge.” …I mean, how perfect is that? [laughs]

B: [laughs] That’s so rad. How big is it?
Shepard: It’s about [shows about six by six inches] this big.

B: And was it a black and white picture to begin with?
Shepard: Yeah. It’s from the newspaper.

B: What was it? It was just an ad for wrestling?
Shepard: Yeah, an ad for wrestling at the civic center in Providence.

B: Do you remember who was wrestling that night?
Shepard: I said “with Bobby the Brain Heenan.”

B: Right, that was his manager’s name. Do you know who he was wrestling against?
Shepard: No, I don’t. I have no idea.

B: It was probably like a loser guy.
Shepard: Yeah.

B: So, you’d never really dome anything like that really before- well you sort of had. Had you- Well, what happened after that, I guess, is the question?
Shepard: Well, this what happened: I made the stickers and I just made a stack of them at Kinko’s for my friends.

B: How big were they?
Shepard: That size [ points to “O.G.” sticker] – two by two inches. And I gave them to them and we put them on our boards. We stenciled on our board
Shepard: “obey giant had a posse.” We put the stickers on stop signs around town. And what was just an inside joke between basically Eric and I and our five other skater friends became just a point of curiosity for a lot of people around town. While we just thought that it was funny to put those around cause we thought it was so stupid, other people were like, “What is it?” And some people would say “Oh, it’s cool. I think it’s a band.” And other people would say “I hate that. That’s so dumb. What is it?” “Some dumb cult or something?” And then I realized, I just saw the power of taking an absurd image, something that’s funny, and just repeating it. I was just so fascinated by people’s reactions and the power of propaganda. So amused by it.

B: That was your first taste of it?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Completely by accident?
Shepard: Pretty much.

B: That’s so great. …so [laughs] …Well, what happened then? As of that moment you decided to make it a big deal?
Shepard: No. I didn’t have any plans to make shirts or posters or anything like that.

B: Or even other designs?
Shepard: No. It was just the black and white Andre sticker. But I would take them to Boston, and I would bring them here. John, that guy I’m staying with in Hoboken, he and I came here and put stickers up.

B: Were they still photocopy?
Shepard: Yeah. I would go to a party and someone would have one stuck on the front of their baseball hat as, like, “this thing’s got power.” And then I started to fantasize about the possibilities of just how big it could get, how absurd it could get if you just kept doing it and made more and more and more stickers. And trying to sneak them into backgrounds of photos. We would go to the mall at Christmas and put them on the Santa’s sleigh so that every family would have one in their snapshot when they took photos of their kids. So, years later they’d be looking through their scrapbook- Cause it takes a little while, there’s a certain kind of osmosis usually before people are just like “You know, now that you mention it, I have seen that thing around. What is that thing?” you know? -Just as many different fun and creative ways to get it spread around with no budget at all, whatsoever [just] my time and ingenuity as a college student.

B: Did it ever start seeping into your studies?
Shepard: Oh, yeah. [Ordering more food]
Shepard: So, what was the last question?

B: Did it start creeping into your school stuff?
Shepard: Oh, yeah. Well, when I was a junior I had a project for an illustration class which was to illustrate the insert of a fortune cookie. My fortune cookie said “To affect the quality of the day is no small achievement.” So, I had wanted to put a huge Andre head over this billboard of this guy running for mayor.

B: Did you know the guy or did you know about him?
Shepard: I didn’t know the guy.

B: Was he kind of a jerk or something?
Shepard: Yeah, and it was just a good billboard. It was right at the bottom of the hill. Everybody in Providence would see I; it was like the prime location in the whole city. And when they first made it, it was a huge billboard, but they had his picture small and he was waving and it said “Vote for Cianci, he never stopped caring about Providence.” So I went out there and put a four foot Andre head over his head and changed it to “Andre never stopped caring about Providence.”

B: It was cut out to shape and everything, right?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: That was in the video you made, right?
Shepard: Yeah. But then- my class was on Friday and I did that on a Monday. And on Wednesday they changed the whole billboard. They cleaned it and they made Cianci twice as big. His hand was going off the top of the billboard. It was huge. So I was like, “No way. I’ve got to show my class this thing because it’s so funny.” So I went up and I measured it. And I had to make a tiled Andre face that was 64 and 11″x17″ copies. When I did it, I put that up and I put a huge sign in his hand made out of cardboard that said “Join the Posse” and I put “7’4″ 520 lbs” on his lapel. And it stayed up for a week. It was on the news, it was on the TV, it was on the radio. It was in the newspaper. Everything.

B: How long did it take you to put that up?
Shepard: It took about 15 minutes.

B: That’s it?
Shepard: I had to put it all together. I had glue and rollers in a backpack.

B: Did you go by yourself?
Shepard: No I had two friends helping me. One looking out and the other one helping me assemble it. Went up and put the glue down, unrolled it, put the glue on the top…

B: What time of day did you do it?
Shepard: Three o’clock in the morning. And that just- the hubbub that created, which- all I was really doing was trying to make people laugh and give more significance to the small stickers by doing something on a larger scale. But people read so many different things into it. Because Cianci had a reputation of being an asshole. People thought, “this guy, it must be a comment about how he’s a brute or he’s an asshole.” And supposedly he had mob connections, and people thought maybe it was a comment about that. And I just thought: people’s curiosity is so powerful, it gets this dialogue going that you can’t even get going with a traditional debate, you know? And so I thought there’s actually a lot more power in this absurd image as a Rorschach test then there is in some really direct political commentary. ….So I was just obsessed from then on. The whole town was in an uproar, and I just thought “that was so easy.” It’s so easy to manipulate people. And, you know, imagine if you have the money and power of a corporation behind you, geez…

B: It’s totally advertising.
Shepard: Yeah, advertising. People will ask me “Oh what’s the deal with your new work, cause it’s like fascist propaganda?” and I say “Well, I’m using the vehicle of fascist propaganda to parody commercial propaganda.” Cause all my thing is is making fun of advertising. And people usually consider fascist propaganda as somewhat insidious, but they don’t even question advertising, when they’re being completely manipulated by advertising. The politics of our culture are about consumption. No one cares about real politics. It’s all about who’s got the money and who’s consuming what.

B: Were you ever into graffiti before this?
Shepard: I just thought that graffiti was cool, but I never did it. I never wrote with spray cans or anything.

B: Have you still never gotten into it like that?
Shepard: No. I’m into Kaws, I’m into Twist, I’m into Phil Frost, people that are pushing the boundaries of graffiti in a sort of non- traditional way. I mean, I love Zephyr, Futura, all the old school guys-

B: I mean, you’re down with graffiti, but you’ve never really done it.
Shepard: Yeah.

B: It’s really rad, though, the way you fit into that culture. It seems like the niche that you fit into is respected there.
Shepard: I do stuff on the street, that’s the main thing. I use stencils, and I do posters and stickers, a lot of the same things that graffiti guys do. A lot of graffiti guys do posters now. You spend all this time on a piece and it gets buffed in like one day. But then, if you do a really good graffiti piece on canvas and shoot it, and make a poster of it, you can plaster LA with it or whatever, then more people see it. People realize that- You know, you need both; the original art’s got to be good, but getting up is important too, so…

B: So, that the thing with the mayor guy was the first…
Shepard: Big installation.

B: What did the school people think of it?
Shepard: I almost got kicked out of school for it. This is how small Providence wa
Shepard: a girl that was friend’s with Cianci’s daughter told her boyfriend….

B: Wait, you didn’t use it for the project?
Shepard: I used it for my project and my teacher loved it. But he didn’t tell the main school higher ups. But, what happened was I got caught because a friend of Cianci’s daughter knew who I was, and she said “Oh, I know who that is,” and then they went to school. The school started snooping around and asking people. And then the word was out: “Yeah, that’s the guy that makes the stickers.”

B: What year were you?
Shepard: I was a junior. It was the very beginning of my junior year, I almost got kicked out of RISD. And then, just last year they did a retrospective of all my work, in the school gallery. [laughs proudly]

B: [laughs] That’s so perfect.
Shepard: It’s pretty ironic.

B: Did you do it for any other school things? Cause I’ve heard that the whole thing was that senior project?
Shepard: Oh, no, that’s total bullshit.

B: I’ve heard so many dumb theories about it. The best one someone told me was that it was a bunch of hippies from Maine who were totally bummed out that Andre died, and they did it as a memorial.
Shepard: I’ve put up stickers in Maine before. I went up there to go to some raves and skate park stuff, so all along the way I used to keep really big Andre face stickers in my car and stop at road signs on the highway and stick them up. All along 95.

B: Have you always pretty much felt like that was your support group? Like the skateboarders or punkers or whatever?
Shepard: Yeah. That’s the culture that I’m coming from. That’s the culture that sort of understands it. But…I’ve found skateboarding has changed. Skateboarders aren’t so down wit h the do-it-yourself upstart companies anymore. Now they’re more into the hip-hop companies, sport companies, and-I hate that. But it could just be that I’m getting older. Skateboarding definitely isn’t as punk rock as it used to be.

B: Not at all. You still skate though, don’t you?
Shepard: Oh, yeah, all the time.

B: You had a ramp in your old warehouse, right?
Shepard: Yeah, I had a ramp in my warehouse. I still skate almost everyday, at least a little bit.

B: That’s really, really good. Okay, so by that point [at the time of the billboard event] it was completely a mission.
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Did you feel like that was your focus in life at that point, or what?
Shepard: I decided that in order to have it be my focus in life, I needed to build a business around it. So, starting the silk screening business, my theory was-

B: Did you do that-
Shepard: yeah, I had that summer after my junior year. That was when I started that silk screen company [Alternate Graphics] .- [my theory was that] I would make money printing shirts and stickers for people, and then I would have the facilities to make my own stuff at my fingertip
Shepard: my art, my Andre stuff that I would sell. I wanted to do my own t-shirt line and then just contract for other people. So…

B: It worked pretty okay?
Shepard: It worked all right. I never made a lot of money. I was always struggling with money, but it did allow me to proliferate my stuff. And it was a really cool space, it was a creative hub in Providence. I had a 3000 square foot space with a ramp in it, three t-shirt presses, two tables for printing posters and stickers. And everybody that wanted to do something would come by; I got to work wit ha lot of great people.

B: It seems like you had a pretty big work force.
Shepard: Yeah, I had three people working for me full time.

B: And you were able to pay them?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: From the screen printing business?
Shepard: Yeah, from the money the company generated. Of course, I got into debt. I just kept putting more stuff on my credit cards and never paying them off.

B: Do you still owe those bills?
Shepard: Yeah. I’m gaining ground now, but… That’s why I had to move to California. Because that company, what I ended up doing was managing a silkscreen business and not producing art as much as I wanted. So my friend Andy [Howell] offered me distribution of the Giant line out there, I mean, out in California, so I wanted to go there, focus on Giant through him and just do design all the time.

B: At that time you felt like you could really make a go of it? Just doing design all of the time?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Were you doing graphic design projects when you were doing screen printing?
Shepard: Yeah, a little bit here and there but I didn’t have any computer skills. I didn’t even know how to use a computer at all.

B: Now it’s a big part for you, isn’t it?
Shepard: Yeah, now I use a computer all of the time. But it’s just a tool. It doesn’t make your design better. It’s just a tool. I can just work faster now. Being a good designer is about your editing choices, your own aesthetic, your observational skills. People think “Oh, I can jump on a computer, I learn a few tricks here and there and…” Yeah, you can turn out stuff that is relatively competent, but it’s still no good. It takes more than computer skills to be a good designer… But what happened wa
Shepard: Sophisto (Andy’s [clothing] company) was, I though, was doing well, but they were out of business. Andy didn’t really want to do it anymore. [Then] I couldn’t do Giant through Sophisto anymore, so I decided: “it’s either do it myself, which I don’t want to do, because I want to be able to design; or design and license it.” So I licensed to these guys Crux from San Francisco. And now I do design all day and print posters at night.

B: But the poster thing and the Giant business is separate, right?
Shepard: Right.

B: Do you still do posters for other people?
Shepard: No, mostly, I do it just for myself. I do a few posters for other people, but mostly it’s just my art work. I have a small studio and print Giant posters all the time.

B: Do you work a pretty regular schedule at Black Market [the deign firm in San Diego that he works now] , with that at night.
Shepard: Yeah, usually what I do is I work at the office from nine to five or six, and then I’ll go over to my studio. It takes me two and a half hours to print one color on 100 posters. So, what I do is if I’m not making the steps, making the art for the posters, then I’m printing. And I print usually a color every night. I’ll print posters from seven to nine thirty and then go play pool for a little while and then go home. Or work on art, just actually making the separations. But I’ve been averaging about a poster a week. So about four new posters a month.

B: All runs of 100.
Shepard: Yeah, it’s too grueling to do longer runs. I’ll usually do 100 good ones and maybe 20 [for] wheat paste ones of every run, on thinner paper, shittier paper. I also had about 4000 offset wheat-paste posters printed, those are all of the “exclamation” logo. And those are really, if you saw the stack, it’s this high [holds hand about five feet in the air] , that’s how many 4000 is. It’s a lot of posters. It’s enough to cover…lots of places. There are certain spots that I just keep hitting in San Diego, and they always peel them down. But I just keep hitting them. And it doesn’t matter because the posters are so disposable when you have that many. …But, the other ones, the hand screened ones, I’m a little bit more precious about those. But I do put them up. I put lots of posters up.

B: Those ones sell for more.
Shepard: The hand screen ones cost twenty dollars.

B: I have one of the older ones, the one with the two kids holding the Andre bags or whatever.
Shepard: The jackets?

B: Are they jackets?
Shepard: Yeah, they’re gang jackets.

B: I thought they were potato sacks.
Shepard: No, they’re gang jackets.

B: That’s rad, I have it in a tube. I was going to get it framed and I haven’t had it framed yet.
Shepard: You know, I just have one more of those left. That was a run of like 65. That was one of the earliest Andre posters. [check comes, paying]

B: How long were you running the business in Providence after graduating?
Shepard: I was there for four more years after I graduated, just plugging away: doing the clothing, doing the trade shows, making lots of stickers. Sending stickers out to people all over the place. I was hoping that the clothing company would do well enough so that I could afford to produce more posters. I had lots of ideas for posters all the time, and I was getting more into the propaganda- style stuff, which- that was really sparked by wanting to make lots of wheat- paste posters on a Xerox machine, 11″x17″, using black and red as the spot toner color. So my budget became my aesthetic. Red, Black and white was like everything.

B: Did you have your own copy machine?
Shepard: No, but I knew how to rig the ones at Kinko’s by my house to give out free copies using a paper clip.

B: So you had a studio for, like, four years-
Shepard: Right.

B: …and then you moved to San Diego-
Shepard: Right.

B: …which is where you are now?
Shepard: Right.

B: You’ve been there for like two years?
Shepard: A year and a half.

B: So people just started to respond to your bombing and putting stuff up-
Shepard: Exactly.

B: When did the media start to notice?
Shepard: The media started kicking in about 1995. I started getting some press.

B: And that was skateboarding and graffiti magazines and stuff like that?
Shepard: Well, Warp did a little piece and Project X and Juxtapose did little things and since then it’s just gotten out of hand how many magazines have done stuff. The New York Times did a little thing. I’ve been interviewed by Newsweek and Details, neither one of them ran the articles but they interviewed me. The Museum of Modern Art screened the documentary [about me, by Helen Stickler] , the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco screened the documentary. The Cooper Hewitt which is a division of the Smithsonian, bought four prints from me. I got a check and it’s from the Smithsonian, that’s so crazy. And the new Museum of Contemporary Art here [ New York] had me do an installation on their whole front window.

B: What was that about?
Shepard: Just posters, and we pasted them on both sides- inside and outside. So if people ripped the ones off the outside, you could still see them coming through the inside.

B: What happened when the show was over?
Shepard: They just cleaned it off with a razor blade and water… But the magazines, soon I’ve got a thing out in Strength, a thing in Fridge, a thing in Transworld Skateboarding, another thing in Warp, a new thing in Warp. And what else…just another magazine from San Diego. A thing called Low Down from Germany. I’ve got a lot of art shows going right now. I’ve got a thing in Australia in the Extra Large gallery over there.

B: The same Extra Large [Beastie Boys, etc.] as over here?
Shepard: Yeah, they’ve got a gallery over there and they’re doing a thing in Sidney.

B: Is it kind of like Alleged Gallery here?
Shepard: Yeah. Aaron [Rose, the man behind Alleged gallery] did a thing through them. And the show over there is actually with Misha [Who puts up “Perks”] . It’s going to say “Giant versus Perks,” that’s the name of the show. It’s going to have his Mexican wrestler and Andre on the card.

B: Is he really big over there? Is kind of like over there what you’re over here?
Shepard: Kinda, yeah. He’s coming up. He’s definitely getting to be well known. And then I did a show in New York over the summer. I just did a show in San Diego. I had stuff in a show in Baltimore. I’ve got something coming up in Pittsburgh. [editor’s note: Shepard has since had shows at CBGB’s and BOB bar in New York, and stuff in a few more magazines, including While You Were Sleeping and Slap. Wait, no, the Slap thing was before this conversation…]

B: When was your first show?
Shepard: One of my first art shows with the Andre stuff in it was at Bard College. And then that show ended up traveling to the Alleged gallery. And that’s how I met Aaron.

B: When was that?
Shepard: This was ’95.

B: Were you blown away when they approached you, or thrilled about it?
Shepard: Yeah, I just sent some posters in and it ended up happening and then there was this thing in Paper magazine, and I see two of my graphics in Paper and I say “Whoa.” Paper did a story on me. And it’s all because of putting the stuff around. You get people curious about it and it’s like free advertising, you know, the hype. It’s a hype machine. And a lot of people look at it and say like “Oh, you just want to get famous.” No, it’s not about me getting famous, it’s about me taking this thing as absurdly far as it can possibly get. And the sad truth is that people don’t want to just know about the Giant concept, they want to know about the personality behind it. So, a tiny way for me to get all this free publicity for it is to be that person, be the spokesperson for it.

B: So would you rather be nameless and faceless?
Shepard: In a way, yeah. If they just said “I’ll give you two pages in the magazine just to do something crazy and it won’t even talk about you,” that would be awesome, but they would never do that because that wouldn’t sell magazines.

B: Do you remember when the first time a magazine did something about you?
Shepard: Well, a thing called the Nice Paper in Providence was doing little things about me for a long time. They ran a contest back in 1990 that said “Anyone who knows what the obey giant thing is that sends in a letter wins two free tickets to the show of their choice at the Living Room (this venue there that had punk rock shows and stuff) .” And so I just realized: people want to know, this thing has got power behind it. So then I just wrote a note to them that said ‘I can’t tell you because that would spoil it, but here’s some stickers if it’s any consolation.’ And then they Xeroxed the letter and put that in there wit ha few of the stickers and said ” we still don’t know who it is but we’re doing a handwriting analysis from this letter.”

B: That’s so rad. …So, you started doing the shirts first. Or posters and then shirts? And you had like socks and skateboards and things like that; was that just about being ridiculous?
Shepard: Oh, yeah, yeah. Just being ridiculous as possible. Polo shirts, all the stuff that didn’t even really….you know, you wouldn’t expect.

B: But you didn’t feel like people were silly for buying it, did you?
Shepard: No.

B: Because, sometimes people sell stuff like that and you think maybe the person is making fun of the consumers.
Shepard: Well, in a way, because my whole deal is I never even buy clothes because I get free clothes from all of my friends who make clothes anyway. I started making clothes, making t-shirts to set myself aside as having my own thing. And I would never pay $20 for a t-shirt from a store. So, in a way, yes, I’m alienated from my audience. But I can’t expect everybody to be as resourceful or as motivated as I am. Not like I’m trying to give myself credit, it’s [this culture] just been something I’ve been into for so long. So in a way, no I don’t relate to it, but I do relate to the sentiment of wanting to be associated with something you think is cool. And there’s different reasons for thinking it’s cool. There’s “I’ve seen it all around and my friend’s got one on their car and so I want to be in on it because I want to be part of the crowd.” And that’s whatever, that’s dorky, but I’m not going to put someone down because that’s human nature. But maybe if they realize it after a while, and they feel silly, fine. But I’m not going to blatantly tell them they’re an idiot. Then there’s other people that are like, “Yeah, I’m into the submersive aspect of this, and getting a shirt gets mote of it out there, I’m like a billboard for the cause.” So that’s cool. And a lot of people just think the graphics are cool.

B: And that’s totally fine.
Shepard: As an artist, I want to make graphics that are cool. I’m satisfying a few different things. I’m satisfying my desire to pursue the aesthetic that I enjoy as well as the concept behind the whole thing, so, you know, whatever. Sometimes all those elements can’t be perfectly seamless. There’s contradictions in everything. Just that I even sell clothes is a bit of a contradiction since I’m making fun of conspicuous consumption. But this isn’t a vacuum, it’s not perfect, you know?

B: That’s true. With the skateboards, did you decide to design skateboards cause you’re a skater and you just thought it would be?
Shepard: Yeah, exactly. Just another canvas.

B: The skateboards are nice. The one that I had rode well.
Shepard: Which one did you have?

B: It was the rip off of the old Gator design [by Vision Skateboards, circa 1986] , which, the original Gator, was the first skateboard that I ever had, back like ten years ago. I was totally amped on your spoof.
Shepard: Watching Gator [aka Mark Rogowski] in Skate Visions [a skateboard video from that era] was the pivotal moment in my decision to just be into skateboarding and punk rock. Because watching him, he was… he was so charismatic and had such good style that listening to that music and watching him skate made my arm hair stand up. I would be in my bed at night and I couldn’t sleep thinking about that video. I would just be wanting to spazz and go outside and skateboard.

B: Were you bummed when you found out that he killed that girl?
Shepard: Yeah, I was. And… it was just like a fallen idol. But when I made that board, it was really a tribute to the influence that graphic and his skateboard had upon me. And the amazing thing is that when Helen [Stickler] did the documentary about me, she saw that graphic and she asked me the story behind it; and when I told her she was so fascinated by the story that she’s been pursuing a film about Gator ever since. And she even came to San Diego and visited him in jail and everything. The influence in my life became an influence in her life, and it’s back full circle because she’s been showing him the documentary about me and all my graphics and stickers.

B: He’s seen it?
Shepard: He’s seen all of that now… in jail…

B: That’s crazy.
Shepard: …Yeah… …My second skateboard ever was a John Griggly Old Ghosts and I remember being at the trade show a few years ago and the cover of John Griggly’s [clothing] catalog was a knock off of the Andre sticker. Burton’s done a knock off on the Andre sticker. It says ” Jake has a posse” and it has a picture of Jake Burton, printed on vinyl and everything. And I just think, this is a multi-million dollar company, doing a knock off a company that’s in the $100,000 range in sales. One percent of the sales. And that just shows me the power of propaganda. Insane.

B: What about that video you did? Was that just another medium?
Shepard: Yeah, it was just another medium. It was cool to provide a context for a lot of the concepts that allowed people to understand it who hadn’t maybe experienced walking around New York City (or someplace) and seen the stickers. [side one of the tape ends and a little bit is cut off] [In the video] I was making an analogy of Malcolm Mclaren’s different strategies for making the Sex Pistols famous with mine for generating hype for Andre. I almost called the video “The Giant Rock and Roll Swindle”; you know that Sex Pistols album, “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle”. But then we decided to call it “Attention Deficiency Disorder.” I was totally influenced by [the movie] Natural Born Killers because that made fun of the media’s perpetuating the violence in those people by them being excited about it, and the whole crazy circus behind people’s fascination with murder. I think that film had a lot of flaws but I also think it was an amazing black comedy, you know? …And then there’s just the funny stuff [taken] from that movie Beat Street in it. -And then They Live; have you seen They Live before?!?! The part [in Attention Deficiency Disorder] where he puts the sunglasses on and realizes all the signs say Giant?

B: Yeah, I remember your video.
Shepard: That was manipulated from the movie called They Live. And that’s where I got the whole “OBEY” concept. In that movie they, [They Live] when he puts the sunglasses on he realizes that all the authoritarians in the world are aliens; the whole world is run by aliens, and everyone is just living in society and nit really thinking about it, that’s all part of the alien scheme to keep people corralled. And all the ads, like one looks like a bathing suit ad, but when you have the glasses on, it says “WATCH TV” “Consume.” And I just thought that was amazing, because I feel like people do just subconsciously obey by not questioning. So the whole “OBEY” thing for me with Giant was just total reverse psychology, just like all fascist propaganda is reverse psychology. I’m anti-to much government control. I’m anti-obeying without thinking. So I’m trying to provoke a reaction where you take something that’s so absurd that there is no way that I could be serious about trying to actually have people obey Andre. There is nothing left but the process of my propaganda for them to pick part. So maybe, maybe, maybe they’ll think about it. It ends up just making a lot of people mad because they have such a knee-jerk reaction to it. But some people do get it, and it’s somewhat enlightening for them, they have an epiphany over it; which, that’s not my goal. My goal is that and also to make people realize that one person can do a lot. Those aren’t my main goals. And hopefully I can make a living with it, too, cause I’m tired of being poor. But that’s it. I mean, if I could sum it all up, that’s it.

B: That seems like the summation right there. Oh wait, can I ask you a question about- In that video there is a scene of you putting things into a subway advertisement thing.
Shepard: “What are the images?”

B: What was it taken from?
Shepard: Yeah, it was a knock off- Alright, Coca Cola in 1995 test marketed a product called “OK.”

B: I thought it looked like that.
Shepard: And they did Ok in seven cities and – [Shepard gets really excited] This is an amazing story; there’s no way you can print all this, we’re just going off, but-

B: Oh no, I’m going to print it.
Shepard: [excited about history] This is amazing: When I was in South Carolina visiting my parents for a short while in the beginning of summer of 1994, my dad threw a Time Magazine article on my bed and said “I think you’d find this interesting, this looks a lot like your stuff.” And it was an article about OK soda. And it said “Coca Cola’s launching a new product called OK soda.”

B: Wait, do your parents know about all of your stuff?
Shepard: Yeah, they know about my stuff.

B: And they’re into it?
Shepard: Kind of. My dad was thinking it more like “Oh, this is an opportunity for you as a freelance designer to work with this OK Soda thing.,” because it looked like my style. He thinks in terms of money on everything. But what it said as “Coke is launching this new product targeted at Generation X. it’s using noncommercial graphics, kind of non-slick, street orientated graphics. And it’s under-promising, which is the opposite of what most products are, by calling “OK’ Sod. And this is some sort of campaign… Some of the art is done by Dan Klaus,” (who did the Eight Ball Comics, you know) . And it had some of the graphics in this Time Magazine article. So my reaction wa
Shepard: “Oh my God, they’re going to launching this thing in every city, but it’s not out yet. I’m going to make Andre stuff that makes fun of it. And I’m going to spread it around before it comes out. So people are totally confused about it.” But the thing that was amazing was they weren’t going to launch it in every city. One of the only cities where they launched it was Providence which happened to be where I was living at the time.

B: Did you know that that was one of the only cities?
Shepard: I didn’t know. So I go back to Providence, and I [print] make this stuff making fun of OK soda and then I start putting them around, and then the Ok stuff comes out, and people are just like “What the hell!?!? This is so funny!” And it was a total flop, nobody was in to OK. And I felt like, by having my stuff out first, and parodying it, that a lot of people saw that I was making fun of what it was trying to do. And I felt like maybe I had a hand in people’s not accepting it. And because…-I don’t have a problem with Coke because it’s straightforward. But that was too- I just felt like my culture was being insulted. …And so then they started doing it in Boston, too. And the way they were advertising in Boston was with these subway signs. So I decided “I’m going to make…”

B: So you did the subway signs for Boston.
Shepard: Yeah, and all the Andre stuff said “AG” instead of “OK.” But I just changed to OK Soda character to Andre, used the same colors. People would be walking on the street, and they would say, “What is that?” And I would hold it up and they’d say “”OK Soda,” When it said blatantly “AG.” But I used the same typeface, and the same format and everything. And people were just confused. So went to the subways in Boston and we changed- you know, we went in there and measured them out first, and printed the posters- and went in and changed all the OK Soda posters.

B: You never got caught doing that?
Shepard: No. it wasn’t that hard. It was easy, we just went in and slid them [the AG posters] right over them [the OK posters] and also in the empty slots.

B: Was it difficult to find the OK posters?
Shepard: No, there were tons of them around. We got on every line. And we would get on a train, do the whole train and then get out and wait for the next train, do the whole train, get out. It went on all night.

B: It only took one night?
Shepard: I did it in one night and then I did some stuff on the street a different night. I had two hundred posters and used every single one of them.

B: That’s so good. Watching the video, that subway thing has always stuck out to me as being the slickest looking thing you’ve done.
Shepard: And that was the first really well-planned and executed you total commercial sabotage I did. And Ad Busters Magazine wrote a piece about it. I felt like that was really an ambitious thing, and, I don’t know, I was disappointed that it didn’t get more publicity. Not like my only goal was publicity, but, I mean, we fully sabotaged that campaign. We probably, in just one night, took out 20 to 50 thousand dollars worth of advertising.

B: What is your favorite big project, like that, that you’ve ever done? Like that or the mayor one?
Shepard: Those two were really huge, and some those windows on Mercer Street [in SoHo New York] , when I had four windows running in that one spot. I’d just go by there and think “This is prime gallery area. This is probably some of the best advertising in the whole world that I have on these windows.” And it was free for me. …People allow someone else to dictate what’s worthwhile, how it’s going to be, how you’re going to be able to present yourself or your thing. And you just don’t have to. You don’t have to abide by those rules. Defacto discrimination against the poor is what billboards are. If you don’t have money, you can’t rent a billboard. You can’t get your thing out. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. …It’s just like saying commercialism is the most important thing in our society. And that’s true, that’s known. But a lot of people don’t want to openly talk about it. The way of stifling any other expression is by just making it illegal.

B: You know what. I have more questions but I’m thinking maybe we should stop for now. And then do the rest over the phone. Are you into that.
Shepard: Yeah. [Brendan Fowler (in Baltimore, Md.) talking to Shepard Fairey (in San Diego, Ca.) over the phone. Conversation #2. March 20, 1998.]

B: What was the first design you did after the original Andre design?
Shepard: I’m trying to remember what the next design was…. I think the Hendrix Andre was the next one. For a while I did a lot of psychedelic variations on the original using different backgrounds and stuff.

B: On the O.G. sticker?
Shepard: Yeah, and then there was, of course, after the original Andre I did one where I just isolated his head. The first one that actually integrated it into another image was the Hendrix.

B: Where those stickers or posters?
Shepard: I did a shirt and a poster at the same time. I used the same screens for both. I also did some commemorative designs when he died….

B: When Andre died?
Shepard: Yeah, that were a little bit different from the original. On one had a crown of thorns on and the other one was with a little tomb stone on the front with “7’4″ 520lbs” and butterflies flying above it- totally cheesy stuff.

B: Where those stickers or what?
Shepard: Shirts. And then the other was called the Chicken of Turin, which was like, you know the Shroud of Turin was the cloth that Jesus was supposedly buried in, that has the impression of his body. So I had this chicken where the pattern in the feathers of the chicken looked Andre’s face.

B: And what was that on? A shirt or poster?
Shepard: Shirt. I sold those right when Andre died. And then I just started branching off into a lot more shirt designs and I started doing some other sticker designs.

B: But the stickers, the other stickers, they were mainly just the different backgrounds and stuff?
Shepard: Right, mostly different backgrounds on the obey giant has a posse” and I had some die cut stickers of just his head.

B: Yeah, I remember those. With the backgrounds, there was the wood grain ones and-
Shepard: Wood grains, psychedelic, metallic, leopard skin, fire- just tons of different ones.

B: The fire ones were kind of later, weren’t they, were they the last backgrounds you did?
Shepard: No, I started doing the fire ones in ’93.

B: But you did those for a while, didn’t you?
Shepard: Yeah and I still do those sometimes. I would just keep the screens and the films and when I wanted to do a background again, I would just do it again. It wasn’t like they were all limited edition, even though some of them were.

B: It just worked out that way?
Shepard: Right.

B: You just came out with those Andre faces that were more minimalist or whatever, when did that happen?
Shepard: 1995.

B: And since then you’ve been using mostly that kind, haven’t you?
Shepard: Yeah, I have, except for the original stickers. Because, with the more propaganda-ish style images, it makes more sense to have something that’s a little bit more of an icon., it’s more ominous that way. Andre’s face is kind of goofy, so it looks a little more sinister as an icon. It’s just been going with the kind of imagery I’ve been using. But I don’t always use it. The “New York City” poster has it the old way, over the sky, there’s the version of the “OBEY” that has the old style head with just the head blown up [really big] . But, yeah, for the most part I’ve been using the other one- also because it gets further away from the copyright infringement, too.

B: Are you worried about that at all?
Shepard: A little bit, yeah.

B: Has anyone ever approached you?
Shepard: I’ve gotten nasty emails from people that were fans of the WWF that claimed they were going to try to get me in trouble and stuff. But nothing official.

B: Have you ever gotten into an altercation with anyone?
Shepard: No. [editor’s note: since this talk, Shepard’s old website has changed to due to threats from the estate of obey giant]

B: Do you think that the two different [styles of Andre] faces are closely recognizable enough that people associate the two with the same thing?
Shepard: Yeah, it’s amazing. They do. They do completely. Almost everyone- I’ve put up stencils of the simplified face, which, first of all, is extremely simplified; and second, it’s stenciled, it’s pretty far removed from any other Andre imagery, much less the real Andre; and people that don’t even know who I am or what I do or anything about Giant, my Giant, say “Oh, obey giant.” They recognize it from that thing. That’s what amazes.

B: So you know that it’s working for you.
Shepard: I know that it works. It’s amazing. It totally works.

B: Do you think that you’re ever going to come up with a third type of design?
Shepard: It’s possible but I have….

B: Right now the two are doing you fine.
Shepard: Yeah. There’s a lot to be said for familiarity. A lot of people are really familiar with the obey giant Has a Posse sticker. And there’s 30 websites, I just did a websearch, and there’s like 30 different websites who use it, just have it there and it’s not even with permission or anything.

B: But that’s fine with you isn’t it?
Shepard: Yeah, or course, it’s totally cool. It’s good, it means they get out there. And people want to put it even more out here on their own, by having it on their page. That’s really good.

B: What about numbers, like as of now, March 20? Do you know about how many stickers have gotten up, or out there?
Shepard: I don’t know. Over a million is all I know.

B: Is it over a million now?
Shepard: Yeah, I stopped counting at 900 thousand.

B: But you couldn’t even keep that close a track I guess.
Shepard: Right, I kept a general track.

B: Because you would print, when you would do a sticker run, like, say in Providence or something like that, how many would you do at a time?
Shepard: About 10,000 at least.

B: Really! How many would you get on a sheet?
Shepard: Twenty on a sheet. And I would have Andrew printing 500 sheets at a time.

B: Was Andrew an employee?
Shepard: Yeah, he worked for me.

B: And then you’d have people cutting them? Weren’t they all cut by hand?
Shepard: Yeah he would cut them all. Andrew has cut a lot of stickers in his day. I’ve also sent a lot of sheets out uncut to people who would just cut them themselves.

B: And now you’re getting a printer to print them for you?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: So how many do you get printed at a time with those? Like that little bag, the little shrink wrap thing that you sent me, they would have 100 in there?
Shepard: There’s 100 in those. I usually get about 5000 at a time

B: So I can see how the numbers would get pretty big, pretty quick. Do have any ideas about posters?
Shepard: Posters, about 5000 posters I’ve printed by hand. And then I had 3000 offset printed.

B: And just crazy numbers of stencils. You’ve never gotten arrested for it have you? For putting any of this stuff up?
Shepard: Never?

B: Have you?
Shepard: You’re kidding, right? [laughing] Five times.

B: Yeah, but you’ve never gotten processed through the system, have you?
Shepard: No, I’ve been through the system. I was in jail for two days in New York, two days in Philadelphia, one day in Charleston, one day in Long Beach and one day in Providence.

B: Did you say New York and Philadelphia?
Shepard: Yeah.

B: Were you just there visiting and then you got arrested?
Shepard: Yeah. In New York I got caught by the Vandal Squad that were really actually looking for me.

B: The Vandal Squad.
Shepard: That’s the undercover people that look for graffiti and other sorts of mischief like that.

B: How did- were they all disguised and tagger looking or something?
Shepard: No, they were in an unmarked car just driving around SoHo and they saw me put the posters up.

B: What did they do? Did they pull guns on you?
Shepard: No, they just got out and came up and were like “What are you doing?” And I didn’t run or anything because they seemed pretty mellow at first, but when they talked to their supervisor, they were like “We’ve got to get that guy. We’ve been trying to get that guy for a year.”

B: So do they know who you are now?
Shepard: Yeah, but the thing is, there was a definite communications breakdown between the time I got caught and the time I went to court. So when I went to court they didn’t have any file against me or anything. So I just walked out the back door then the court was over.

B: But you did jail?
Shepard: I was in jail for two days.

B: Before the court thing?
Shepard: That’s just how long it takes to even get t court. No matter what you did, even if you didn’t so anything, once you’re in there, you’re going to be in there for two days.

B: So you’ve paid those dues.
Shepard: [laughs] Yeah, and it’s rough. It’s no fun. I’m diabetic. They take your insulin away. I got sick in Philadelphia and New York.

B: What if you have some insane situation where you needed some heavy duty medication?
Shepard: People die in there.

B: They’re really harsh about it?
Shepard: Yeah, they ignore you. You could easily die in there.

B: Did that part freak you out when you realized that you were going to jail?
Shepard: No, it freaked me out when they wouldn’t give me my insulin, though. I didn’t eat anything for two days because it would draw my blood sugar up. Didn’t eat one thing. Didn’t drink anything either because all they bring you is sweetened ice tea.

B: That’s no good. Did you ever get fucked with for putting up stickers or was it only stenciling and wheatpasting?
Shepard: No, only stenciling and wheatpasting. But Kaws got arrested for putting a sticker up.

B: Yeah, he said he was standing there at the phone with his girlfriend and he put up a sticker and they just took him away all of a sudden. It seems like they would be pretty scary about it, New York’s getting more police state or whatever.
Shepard: It’s getting worse.

B: Anyway, there’s been lots and lots of parodies, like people parodying the Andre thing. Are there any in particular that you thought were real…
Shepard: Were real cool?

B: Or you were impressed that the people were parodying you?
Shepard: Well Ride Snowboards had an Andre sticker just as a half toned back image in their catalog, which was pretty weird. Old Ghosts did the cover of one of their catalogs as an Andre parody that had one of their distributor’s face instead of Andre. The second skateboard I ever got was a John Griggley, he owns Old Ghost, so that was a cool convergence of my youthhood and my adulthood. Anyway….

B: Did you do those New Kingdom [the hiphop group] ones yourself?
Shepard: Yeah, I printed those for them. I’m friends wit hthose guys. They just came to me with a concept and asked me if they could pay me to rip myself off. So I said ” Sure.” Yeah there’s been too many to name. Lots of them.

B: And you’ve been pretty hooked up with doing music design and stuff like that for different people, right?
Shepard: Right.

B: Like what are some of the….
Shepard: The latest things… well I’ve done posters for Bad Religion, Slayer, the Unsane, the Cows, just did the new packaging for the Specials album that’s coming out, and the new Suicide Machines album.

B: Didn’t you do Sonic Youth stickers?
Shepard: Yeah, I did stickers for Sonic Youth and Boss Hogg, Sun Volt, Blood Loss…

B: I asked Kaws the same question
Shepard: Do you feel like there’s a scene? Do you feel like you’re a part of a certain cultural community right now?
Shepard: Kind of, but it’s weird because the graffiti people have their own, their whole little code of ethics that if you don’t do spray paint art, you’re not totally down. But that’s sort of dumb. So there’s a few people in that community that are like- Twist is really advanced, he pushes the boundaries of that. So you get respect from people like Twist but not from a lot of the other ones. I guess the street artist scene is what I’m part of. But it don’t really, I’m not doing it to be a part of that scene. It’s just that we all happen to enjoy the same thing. I’ve been into what I do just for the culture jamming aspect of it for a long time. And just for fun. It’s just the most logical way to achieve what I want to achieve is by putting that stuff out there on the street. Some people put a virus into all of Microsoft or whatever, you know what I mean? They try to screw with the system some other way. But I think humor is a real important aspect of it for me. And I enjoy the adrenaline rush. I like getting out there and doing stuff on the streets.

B: Do you think that a gallery is an extension of that? Do you think it’s just more people seeing it?
Shepard: Galleries, yeah, there’s a few aspects to that. It’s like I legitimizes what you can do with people that can afford to buy art. So, unless you’ve got some trust fund, you just can’t go out there and put stuff up all the time and not ever make any money from it. Some people say that if you go to a gallery, “you ain’t keeping it real!” But that’s ignorant. My thing is I want as many different people to reflect on it as possible. Graffiti is elite: it’s like ‘oh yeah, you’ve gotta be down for years… back in the day, this and that, whatever, you know.’ That’s totally moronic. And, you know, I don’t have anything against the concept of paying your dues and not biting other people’s style and all those little phrases. But, at the same time, if you’re really good you could come up fast… Kaws is a “new jack,” relatively speaking.

B: Yeah, and he’s really in.
Shepard: He’s getting respect because what he does in innovative…. Yeah, so I look at galleries as… you know, that’s cool, but I’m making my art more for the people who just walk by it than the gallery crowd.

B: The gallery crowd is almost like a tool or something.
Shepard: I’m not really into anyone who has to have a gallery tell them that art is good or not because they can’t make up their own minds. I’m not down with that. The value of things gets totally inflated sometimes by what’s trendy and what’s not. If that worked to my advantage, fine, but I still, I want people to get it. And sometimes I think I’m at an opening and people are there just because of the scene, which I’m not really into that.

B: We touched earlier on the media thing, like the coverage you’ve gotten, it seems like mostly this neat underground thing.
Shepard: Well, the media is the same thing, sometimes I want there to be more mystery to it, but it makes my work more “valuable.” It’s just perceived value, which doesn’t really mean anything.

B: Right but it’s also promotions, to an extent, don’t you think?
Shepard: Yeah. But promotion is- see I wan- it’s not always good if people read an interview before they see a sticker on the street. If they’ve already seen stickers around before and then read an interview, then it’s cool. But I think having your curiosity piques already before you find out what it’s really about is better. Cause that’s more like s Rohrshark test. It’s not like presenting the blot and telling you what it is at the same time… But my parents are actually here so I should go. They’re visiting me from South Carolina.

B: Oh, ok, that was actually the last question.
Shepard: that’s cool. I’ll get the stuff out to you and I’ve got new stickers and stuff too, and… Yeah, just-

B: I’ll keep you posted. And if there’s any problems with the stuff I’ll keep you posted.