Art Primo catches up with graffiti artist turned filmmaker Roger Gastman. He talks to us about caps, pizza, and his upcoming film about the birth of modern graffiti, Wall Writers…
1. For the people that don’t know, who are you?
I don’t have a clue anymore who I am. Good question. I make books, films, dig up historical subculture things – mostly in graffiti and punk rock. I've done projects like Art in The Streets at Moca, the History of American Graffiti book, Swindle Magazine, a bunch of other crap and most recently the book and documentary film Wall Writers. Plus I'm a huge fan of pizza, Bethesda, MD and labradors.
CORNBREAD declares he has retired. 1971.
2. It looks like you and ArtPrimo have something common…You distributed graffiti supplies out of your bedroom when you were 16, can you tell us more about your days as the graff supply plug?
I started selling caps in the mid 90s because you could not get them anywhere and when you could they were so so much money. Sometimes all most a $1 each. I wont get into the details of how I got the caps – but I did. Once I started getting them out there the price was reduced by all most half. For over ten years – before the Euro paint was everywhere – I was the biggest cap distributor in the world. That’s a weird title now that I write it out.
Jon Naar being interviewed for Wall Writers
3. I’m hella stoked to see your new film Wall Writers, as a writer, the era of the first writers is fascinating to me, they had no precedents and were just discovering everything for themselves. How did you get started on this project?
I always have wanted to know who was first. Everyone likes to claim it but most people can't back it up or they are not bing totally truthful about when they really started. I was lucky enough while working on the History of American Graffiti book with Caleb Neelon to start to get in touch with some of the true firsts. I started filming them just for historical purposes with no real film in mind. Seven plus years here we are. Its a story that needs to be told.
LEWIS in the military. 1973.
4. Was it hard to find all the old school heads for the film?
Finding the people was not easy! I was lucky enough to get in touch with a few people and they kept turning me on to someone else and so on. Taki and Snake were two great helps that dug up a lot of people or pointed us in the right direction. Most of the people in the film had not thought about graffiti or that past part of their life in over 30 or more years. Since the filming many of them have reconnected with old friends and picked up where they left off so many years ago. Finding the photos and the footage was even harder then finding the people . But that is a whole different story.
BAMA poses in front of his piece ‘Orange Juice’ at the Razor Gallery. 1973.
5. Legendary filmmaker John Waters narrates the film. How did he get involved with the project?
Through mutual friends I heard John was a fan of graffiti and street art. I respect everything he does and I am a fan of his. He is very respected in the art world and figured why the hell not ask him? And he said yes. Super straight foreword.
6. Thank you so much for your time, any Last words?
I am just excited to be able to keep putting out important history to the masses and getting the story straight! #streetpizza.
If your lucky enough to live in or around one of the cities Wall Writers is screening in this month, you better go check it out. More information on the Wall Writers site
Washington, DC- Feb 17
Silver Spring, MD Feb 19
San Francisco, CA Feb 26 & 27
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