Interview with TAZROC: The Graffiti Artist Who Loves Low Riders
A well-known symbol in Chicanx culture is a low rider customized from an old vehicle so that the chassis is lowered that it barely grazes the road, with paint all over the exterior. Between the late 80s and 90s, different aspects of street culture such as hip-hop and hardcore, graffiti, skateboarding and streetwear paved its way on the west coast, and many creative minds were put in the spotlight. This time, we conducted an interview with Chicano graffiti artist TAZROC, one of the creatives who is known for painting low riders. He currently resides in Bali, and he talks about his career and explains the significance behind his artwork.
―First of all, could you tell us a little about yourself?
“I’m Tazroc, a 46 year old (at the time of this interview) Chicano (Mexican American) graffiti and airbrush artist. Spray paint on walls and airbrush on cars. I’ve been doing graffiti art for 30 years now. I do some pin striping, candy paint and graphics (automotive art) acrylic painting, digital illustrations and dabble in tattoos. I’m an ex-BMX flatlander (bicycle freestyler) and ex-b-boy (break-dancer).”
―Where are you from and where do you live now?
“I started my life in the northwest (Oregon) and moved to persue my art career in Los Angeles. I grew up around street culture and custom cars. Low riding was part of family and culture. I started traveling abroad 4 years ago and decided to leave Los Angeles to live in Bali, Indonesia and explore Southeast Asia.”
―What kind of struggles did you face as a Chicano graffiti artist in LA?
“I have many stories growing up as a Chicano and a graffiti artist… from LA and all over the US. Since I was young I was automatically label (profiled) as a gang member or thief by police. Looking too Mexican and driving Impalas (low riders) with chain steering wheels. And always having a knife or bat and spray paint on me. Always pulled over in my low low or strolling.. reason… DWM (driving while Mexican). It was common getting pulled over or stopped for no reason and put in jail for almost nothing.”
―Between LA and Bali, and also other countries in Asia, what are the differences in environment when it comes to your painting and materials?
“In LA I’m spoiled with the paint, I use Montana-Cans Gold, Molotow (both quality German paint) and Montana 94 (quality Spanish paint). I love the flow and number of colors they provide. LA has many places to find the paint I need and can usually get the colors I’m looking for. In Bali is more difficult, I use some local brands that work well but not a big color selection so I have to mix often. Occasionally I’ll get some Montana gold and Montana 94 to add to my arsenal. Other places like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur will have both Montana paints but not always full stock. So Southeast Asia is challenging when it comes to finding what I want.”
―What is your favorite kind of painting material?
“I would say the Montana Gold paint is my favorite, the pressure is a bit higher than I like but it gives me room to regulate it for different techniques. There’s a shit load of awesome colors to choose from, also I like the way it works with my (spray bottle) caps. And I usually don’t have a problem finding it major cities in the US. Molotow is another favorite but harder to find so I’m not use to it as much.”
―Is there an artist you are most influenced by?
―You’ve mastered techniques when painting low riders such as pinstriping and candy painting. What kind of people have you worked with thus far?
“I grew up around low riding and owed low riders all my life. At a young age my family members and friends saw my graffiti and would ask me to paint art on their cars. That lead me to painting murals on cars all over the west coast for top show cars and celebrities like Snoop Dogg and others I can’t really remember right now haha!”
―You’ve done design work for CONART, one of the leading brands in LA streetwear. Could you tell us more about this?
“I did do designs for the legendary Conart. I am honored to be on the elite roster of artists that have designed and still do for Conart. I meant a lot to me to work with Conart, because I’ve been a fan since the 90’s when my brother Jesse Puente brought me to the warehouse on 6th street downtown LA… I saw all the dopest artists doing designs, I thought it was the illest gear around and sick branding. He was putting out some original shit then and was way ahead of his time… but the owner Ash didn’t recognize me. I wasn’t cool enough then.”
―What kind of car do you drive in LA?
“My daily driver in LA (when I’m there) is a 1954 Chevy pick up chopped rat rod low rider and my other cruiser is a 1965 convertible candy apple red Chevy Impala low rider on 13 inch wires (wheels). Fully show and featured on the front cover of Lowrider Mag, on several music videos, The Game, YG and more.”
―You’re currently residing in Bali – do you have a favorite artist in Asia?
“One of my favorite Asian artists would probably be Katun from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As far as the rest of the world I like Insane51, he’s was pretty up and coming but killing the game now. Nobody else specifically I can think comes to mine at the moment. There’s a Japanese artist work that used to inspire me.. Hajime Sorayama.”
―Can you tell us a little about your commercial work, such as the billboard you did for “Sons of Anarchy?”
“When I started doing work for Snoop Dogg painting murals on his cars in 2003, after he saw the first one he wanted me to do all his cars. I’ve probably painted about 7 different car murals for him, then he recommended me for a couple walls in his music video “From tha Chuuuch to da Palace”. I did some graffiti for his videos and some at his home. After that I worked painting on JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s video and continued with the biggest music artists for the next decade including movies, commercials and TV shows. I’d say Snoop was the coolest celebrity I’ve worked and hung out with. Easy going and easy to please.”
*An American TV series with record-breaking ratings about a biker gang that sells illegal weapons.
―If there is any one piece of artwork you’ve created that is memorable to you, could you please tell us?
“One of the most memorable pieces I did was in 1999 in a rough neighborhood, I painted images depicting the negativity around children and the corrupt infrastructure the we are trapped in. It was titled “Manufractured”. Showing a system that manufactures victims and mans fractured visions. I felt this really impacted the community and still is brought up till this day.”
―Is there anything you would like to say to artists who wish to be successful in their careers?
“For me as an artist I pursued it as a career because I love it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, even if I’m just painting a small tag to a full production. It’s fun to me and I feel I’ll never get sick of doing it. If you’re out there to pursue art as a career you have to love it… and success will come. Success for me is not the money… it that I was able to change, impact and inspire other people’s lives. If making a good living comes with it then that’s a bonus. Push yourself to the highest limits and produce work and expose it to as many people you can.”
―What is your motto as an artist?
“I have a motto to push myself to higher levels with everything I take on or create.”
―What genre of art is your strong point?
“I think the photorealistic genre I’m best at and painting clean and smooth would be my style of painting.”
―Do you still do tattoos?
“I do tattoos still, I love the craft. Sometimes I get too occupied with murals that it’s hard to find the time to ink. I admire Japanese tattoos and the style. I’ve always been a fan of samurais since a kid and love the art and full body ink.”
―Please tell us your website and Instagram account if you have one.
“I use Instagram and Facebook to expose my artwork and a bite of my lifestyle. I feel it’s easier for more people to engage. My website will be active soon. As of now Instagram; @tazroc and Facebook.”
―And finally, a message for your fans!
“I’m blessed to be able to continue in my quest traveling the world, expressing my art and exposing it to people from all cultures and walks of life, and will continue as long as I’m here. Peace!”
【Information of TAZROC】
writer： Atsuko Matsuda