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written by: kate willaimas

The Life and Livings of Dmote in L.A.

PORTRAIT: MIKE O’MEALLY


Eight months into his stint as a working man in the good ole U.S. of A, Dmote has embraced some aspects of American culture but finds himself thoroughly flummoxed by others. In Orange County, home of Disneyland, he drives a classic 1969 Dodge Dart to work, but is for the most part appalled with

a culture that spawned The O.C. “Sixteen-year-old girls are getting breast implants for their birthdays!” he says, incredulously. “And for Christmas! It’s common and

it’s totally accepted.” But aside from the prevalence of plastic surgery, he actually has few complaints about transitioning to the States from Sydney. “I miss the beach, and rain would be nice every now and again,” he muses, “But the opportunities here far outweigh that.”

An accomplished graffiti writer and well- Dmote says. “I don’t generally leave before nine asked for instructions, they told him not to worry T-shirts for them to all keep their jobs. He’s still and there was graffiti in the background. After known artist who’d collaborated with staple o’clock at night, and it’s not uncommon to find about that, just do whatever he wanted. figuring things out as he goes along, but doing a that, the Rock Steady Crew came out with Aussie brands such as Insight, Something, me there at midnight.” And while these generally Whatever he wanted turned out to be something bang-up job of it. “Dmote and I had mutual “Uprock” and the whole album cover was graffiti and Tsubi, Dmote cut his artistic teeth in subway aren’t words you look forward to hearing out of that they liked. “Pat was always jokingly like, friends, and I always admired his work,” RVCA art. My whole interest in doing it started because stations and abandoned buildings, and such a an artist’s mouth, RVCA is far from an average ‘Why don’t you come and work for us?’ but at founder Tenore explains. “He’s very talented and no one else around me really did it and I hadn’t scene, no surprise, doesn’t exist in Orange company, and Dmote sees it as a progression, the time, I wasn’t really in a position to leave can go from street art to fashion to fine art to really seen it.” At 15, he moved from rural County. While graffiti was never his only rather than abandonment, of the things— Australia,” he says. “But then at the beginning of paper and ink to computer seamlessly and Australia to Sydney and in an urban environment, endeavor, it was, for years, his primary one, but painting, fashion, misconduct—that he loves. “I the year, that situation changed. So when I without compromising design integrity. It sounds his interest flourished. “I guess I was a kind of a things as of late have changed. “If you ask other was in New York on holiday and Pat [Rvca called him up to ask if he was still serious about easy, but it’s a rare trait amongst art directors,” bad kid to start with, and an artist,” he says, “so artists if I still do graffiti, they’d probably tell you founder Pat Tenore] said ‘Why don’t you fly out that job, he said to come over and start working. he continues. “He’s paid his dues on and off the illegal art was pretty exciting.” In the city, Dmote I’m retired,” he says. “I just don’t have the time. I here and talk about it?’” he recalls. “And I got Then when I got there, they were just like, ‘Aw, streets and it shows in his style and work ethic.” lived with his dad, a single, 35-year-old guy who tag when I travel, but I don’t have the time to do there, and the guy’s just crazy. I mean, not crazy, start working.’ And I was like, ‘Ok, on what?’ so I Dmote paid his dues on the streets with spray disappeared most nights and left him to roam as a piece, because that takes like 10 hours, and I but just super-generous, like a kid who collects just did some in store murals and installations cans, not paste and paper, and though only 36, he wished through drains and train yards. “His could be painting or I could be doing my job.” His art who also runs this clothing company. So and slowly transitioned.” And as unusual a his roots in graffiti trace back to the eighties and philosophy was that when you’re that age, you job as an art director at RVCA is his greatest there were no meetings, no talk about jobs or formula as RVCA is, it’s also highly successful a preference for cement over sand. “The first could do what you wanted. Which is probably current opportunity, and also what lured him to work, we just hung out and went to dinner and and growing quickly. As an art director, it falls on thing I ever remember seeing about graffiti was not the best philosophy, but it made me who I the Northern hemisphere. It’s his first full-time went to lunch, and I did some painting and then Dmote’s shoulders to keep RVCA’s artists, such in a story on 60 Minutes about breaking,” he am today.” Sometimes people open up during office job in years, but he’s loving it. “It’s such a I went home.” A couple of month’s later, RVCA as Ed Templeton and Barry McGee, happy while recalls. “It was about this group called the Floor interviews: They’re busy or stressed, and haven’t challenge that I’m kind of just living the job,” asked him to do some prints, and when Dmote still making sure the company sells enough Lords from the Lower East Side [in New York] gotten a chance to just sit and talk in a long time.


He’s paid his dues on and off the streets and it shows in his style and work ethic - PAT TENORE


He’s a very straight-forward and honest person. He says what’s on his mind, whether good or bad. - nosm

In other interviews, people avoid the questions as if they were pee-tainted water balloons, and verbally scramble to get out of the way. Dmote doesn’t dodge, but he’s not going to use this as a therapy session either

He says that Dictaphones make him nervous, They hired a car to drive across the border, and subway in New York, just the adrenaline and the worldwide fame, and gained great respect, and he your art career—I wanted to keep something but refuses an offer to hide it under a napkin, once in Sarajevo, slept on the street amidst the smell of the subway system and just being in still is active in that way, even though he went on to consistent going so people can kind of recognize and when asked, halfway through, what his land mines and peacekeeping troops, and in there, it just completely takes over your body take it to different levels as a designer and artist.”

that. “I’m kind of settling in to what I want to do

real name his, he considers for a few moments their waking hours, painted. “We ended up and you’re totally consumed by it. To walk out of “Graffiti is what connected us initially, but his now, which is abstract and realistic painting, so whether or not he wants it in the story, then painting on Sniper Alley,” he says, referring to a a downtown underground subway station and personality is what’s kept us in touch,” adds Tats I’m just working it out,” he says.

It’s clear that,

writes out Shannon Peel in block letters. He main boulevard that was notorious for being disappear into a sea of peak hour people after Cru’s Nosm. “He’s a very straight-forward and when he talks about his personal work, this is tells me that he was chastised by his friends in lined with Serbian guns. “We painted trains on painting trains is something I’ll never forget.” It’s honest person. He says what’s on his mind, still what excites him the most, even amidst the New York, the legendary graffiti writers The Tats the main central station in Sarajevo, and all of a no accident that Dmote has aligned himself with whether good or bad, and that’s why I respect him challenges of his job. As he’s made a career out Cru, for always introducing himself as Shannon. sudden, a dude comes along herding goats. It old school traditionalists such as the Tats Cru and consider him one of my best friends.” “We are of being a commercial artist, he seems justly “They were like ‘Who’s Shannon? Introduce was just the most bizarre experience.”

And over the current proliferation of street artists. “I not easy people, or surrounded by many friends,” determined to now set aside bits of his work for

yourself as Dmote. No one knows who Shannon while Dmote’s day to day involvement in graffiti don’t think the person who does graffiti is the How explains. “But the ones we have around us, himself. “The other day, someone asked me is.’” But quickly humble about being humble, he may be waning, his love for it, and respect for same person who does street art, ie pasting up we can rely on and trust. Dmote is one of those about my skull paintings on the book covers, adds “But I have an ego as well, don’t get me the lifestyle that surrounds it, isn’t, and he seems a poster,” he says. “I see that as a real college art who we appreciate as a friend. In New York,” How and said, ‘Oh, they’d make a great swingtag,’” he wrong about that.” Shannon Peel began to really awed at the experiences it has offered him “You thing, where a graffiti artist tends to be more of a finishes, “we call that being real.” build Dmote’s name shortly after he finished art go to places at night and you go to places where hardened character and more in touch with what

recalls, “But that’s not really how I want to see

As of late, Dmote is navigating a transition into that stuff. We can work out another swingtag.”

school, and out of frustration with working, left tourists don’t usually go. You go to the bad areas is actually going on in the streets. I’m not a huge fine art, and still working out where Shannon When I ask Dmote if he thinks he’ll head back to Australia to spend a few months traveling. with the right people,” he says, “That’s the fan of street art anymore. I have done it, but that Peel ends, Dmote begins, and vice-versa. It’s a Australia once his gig with RVCA has run its Through loose connections in the graffiti world, benefit. When I go to New York, I stay with the was before it became the stencil revolution or question that is likely to pop up more and more course, he says mysteriously “That’s what he and Kasino, another artist from Australia Tats Cru in the South Bronx, and it just blows my was coined street art. Then it just kind of as his career in the States progresses. He’s immigration wants to think. I don’t know. I came found free places to stay and eventually also mind. Bio [one of Tats Cru’s most prominent annoyed me.” The respect that he exhibits for a taken to painting on antique book covers, a here to enhance my career, because I was kind found themselves in post-war Bosnia. “We met a members] is from the Bronx River Projects where rougher, more authentic expression isn’t one- project that evolved, he explains with an eye-roll, of running out of companies to work for in famous train writer from Dortmund named Afrika Bambaataa grew up, and he was at those sided, and, when speaking of him, Tats Cru are out of never having a studio and having to paint Sydney. And there are so many amazing artists Shark, and it was his idea to go to Munich and parties when he was 10 years old. And we’ve enthusiastic and prolific. “Being one of the small. They’ve been well-received though, so here in California, that every day I’m like ‘wow, I catch an illegal workers bus to Croatia, and then just kind of become family, and everything I’ve earliest writers from Sydney/Australia, Dmote he’s going with it. “It just kind of came out of want to do better.’ But,” he continues, “in Sydney go down along the coast to Bosnia,” he recalls. ever wanted to achieve in terms of graffiti, has left a great piece of Aussie history within the people wanting to buy them, and I’d always it’s amazing how much people accept you once “I was like, ‘You must be out of your mind.’ Then meeting the people that I’ve met and painting mural scene, as well in the train scene,” How found it kind of hard to sell art before, especially you come here and then go back. I’m looking I got to think that if I don’t go I’m going to miss the subways in New York, has been possible from the Tats Cru says. “He’s one of the few in Australia. And because I always change— forward to that day. And now that I’ve had one most amazing experience of my life, live or die.” because of them. Every time that I’ve painted a outstanding Aussie writers who also made it to which is great in graphic design but doesn’t help full time job, I might be able to have another.” www.dmote.com


Dmote