Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic the Outlaw

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

My Chat with Septic the Outlaw

If you live in the Philadelphia area than you might have had the privilege of seeing some of Septic the Outlaw’s (STO) work. Whether you’ve seen his signature style tagged across the tops of a building or some of his work featured at shows it is always a pleasure to see what Septic has to offer.

I initially saw Septic’s work at the Ruck Gallery headshop in Philadelphia. His unique aesthetic instantly caught my eye. After talking with the people who worked at that gallery and learning who was behind the gnarly creations of art, I hit up STO to see if he was down to talk. As this article goes to show he was up for the interview and was able to provide some great insight behind his work.

Septic offers some in-depth answers accompanied by a great sense of humor. The interview features talks of early influences on his art, collaborations, and dealing with critical fans. There are also some bonus questions discussing how the coronavirus has effected his life and work.

(Check out this previous Hypefresh exclusive with the local artist Distortedd)

You have a unique and distinct style. What are some places that you draw inspiration from/ do you have any insight on how you come up with the ideas for the art that you create?

Thanks, bub. Starting early on, I had the goal of developing a style that was no one else’s. Nobody I owed anything to besides these early inspirations that were already present in my mind. Two of these early inspirations, when I was starting out, were Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Robert Crumb. I saw Rat Fink for the first time on the side of one of my Dad’s model cars and it wedged itself into my brain permanently when I was younger than 6 or so. Later, I’d see all these rad comics and iconic illustrations by R. Crumb and that really got me gassed. It wasn’t until years later in 2007 that I’d actually utilize these two aesthetics in the work that I’d start making.

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

These two style icons would then combine in my mind with tv shows like Unsolved Mysteries, Tales from the Crypt, Ren and Stimpy, and Beavis and Butthead which created an amorphous, puking, bleeding, mutated, mutilated flesh pile of early inspiration. In addition to this visual experience based aesthetic, I had begun to melt together, I was also extremely accident-prone and broke more than 25 bones in my body and had a ton of surgery. Seeing my body stitched up, broken, bent and bloody combined with extreme pain I believe warped my sensibilities in just the right way along with a bunch of straight forward head trauma and getting a lot of teeth ripped out of my head. That sort of thing. I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

Are there any graffiti artists or artists in general that have inspired your work? And if so how or why have you been inspired by them?

I feel like I should just organize this in some kinda way. This question is a hard one to answer fully. So, when I was coming up and looking around my neighborhood Fonse, Ichabod, Syms, Epik, Maple, Smells, Alone, Mes, Media, Kesh, Auks, Sloe, Gyer, Seazer, Spek, Evoker and Horn were some of my favorites. Each person I mentioned has their own flavor. Some of them have a whole kitchen of flavors. This was an extremely inspiring environment for a young weirdo like myself.

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

Once I knew what I was looking for and dove into history and started looking in other parts of the country, a bunch of other writers and artists would really blow my mind with their message and means like Fuckin’ Revs and Cost, Rammell Zee, Kaws, Barry McGee, Neckface, Baer, Augor, Picasso, Dali, Peter Saul, Kenny Sharfe, Keith Harring, Frank Miller, and many others I can’t recall due to bong brain. These folks would help inspire interests in deeper concepts and composition.

Then I started making work and collaborating with this rad dude Adam O’Day. Watching this dude paint is like watching a drum solo and the drummer is a murderer. Soon after I began to chill with that Viking, I met a bunch of people who would be the first writers to show me the ropes and would become my first crew. That’s the long n short of it.

You’ve done several collaborations with other artists, whether that is graffiti on the street or paintings for galleries. Are there any specific criteria you look for in another artist when it comes to collaborations?

Nope. There’s no looking either. It just kinda happens. Like I know you, your friends cool, does cool shit, but are they cool? If they’re cool, then it’s cool. If not, not cool. No, go. Not gonna go out and wander and do sketchy shit with a person I don’t know, like, or can’t trust. And as far as collaborating with other studio artists, it has been known to happen but seems to happen less these days.

What are the benefits of collaborating with another artist?

Sometimes there are only problems. That’s why it’s crazy to me that people can have functioning bands. 2-6 people all agreeing on so many different seconds of each song. It’s a fucking miracle. But yeah, sometimes making work with someone is this rad exchange of ideas that all click and it turns into this thing you didn’t expect and it’s cooler than you thought and it adds something new to your work going forward. Sometimes it’s just a few people getting drunk and shitting paint onto something and wasting each other’s time. At least ya got drunk n had some fun.

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

A piece of yours that stuck out to me was the graffiti depicting Donald Trump holding the American flag with the union facing down, along with the accompanying caption, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property”. Do you believe it is important for art to make social commentaries? And what are the benefits of using art to deliver a message?

Mushette told me something they heard once about art and politics. The quote was ‘The act of making art is a political act in and of itself’. It’s always been helpful for me to use painting as a crutch when I’m stressed out or furious about shit that’s out of my control. So in this instance when that fuckhead moron Donald Trump was elected president and his trashy shit mouth became the official trashy shit mouth of America, I needed to vent.

Painting that big old ‘fuck you’ and things like it are the proverbial cigarette I need every once in a while for different reasons. The culmination of this expression is if someone can cruise past it and get a rise out of it or be comforted by its existence or maybe even feel emboldened by it or become extremely angry because of it. Any way you slice it, it’s all gravy. I’ll take anything but indifference.

Your work has a gritter aesthetic to it. This includes wild-looking limbs, eyes, and even nudity. When checking out your Instagram, I came across a post that mentioned a lady not having the best reaction to your display at Ruckus Gallery. She did not necessarily have the kindest words, saying that one should not post these pornographic images. How do you feel when you see people reacting to your art like this?

That’s was rad. She was super corny but watching her chase her boyfriend out of the show was a wonderful moment. I have many fond memories of people not being able to handle how vulgar some of the work tends to be. I think good art moves people to an emotion and whether they are pissed off or turned on, I’m psyched because I made you feel something. I got in there. That shit tickles me.

There are many different types of places where one can see your graffiti. This includes trains, high up on buildings, and even billboards. Is there any specific location that stands out as your favorite or one that was particularly frightening to create (due to things such as being in hard to reach places)?

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

For sure. Many of them still riding. Those stories are stories that would take a fucking really long time to tell and truthfully many of those stories are just for me. But anyone that’s been around the block for more than a few years has comparable nightmare climbs, hectic locations, and undesirable run-ins. The wilder the chase, the grander the victory lap.  If you are gonna do something hectic though, don’t get drunk before you do it.

Are there any differences in how you go about creating your art on the streets versus for galleries? Are there any benefits of creating work for the streets as compared to off them and vice versa?

Depending on the spot, how fast you paint and how well you can concentrate on painting while making sure you aren’t getting snuck up on are crucial. Because of this, the work outside tends to be less meticulous than my studio work. Bigger, faster, uglier. That’ll be my next show title. Probably not though. My memory is horrible.

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

What I come up with while painting outside informs my work in the studio. Without graff, I feel like my studio work would wither in some kinda way or begin to lose part of its meaning.

It is quite enjoyable to see your work on a large scale, like the mural at Pilots Projects. Do you plan on or hope to commission any murals such as this for a gallery or store in the near future? Along with this, I was wondering if your work would be showcased at any upcoming galleries or events?

Working large scale is my favorite shit to do. That one at Pilot Projects took 11 hours, it was 105 degrees that day and all I ingested was beer that day. The next morning I truthfully almost died. With that being said, if you have an enormous room or wall you’d like rendered totally brutal, I might know a guy…

Interview with Philadelphia Graffiti Artist Septic

As of this moment, there are several plans for some really rad shows but everything is on hold because of this fucking virus. Here’s to hoping this outbreak business is settled quicker than predicted.

I noticed that you post items available for purchase on your Instagram as well as galleries that have your work for sale. Are these the only ways to purchase your work, or do you have a website set up?

Yes, I do. Just farted this thing out pretty recently with the ever needed assistance of Mushette the Beast Babe. This glory hole of an art site can be found by typing www.trashpalace.bigcartel.com into your internet box.

Holler at the kid for great prices on bad art. Thanks for looking, y’all.

Questions Regarding the Virus

The coronavirus is not the focus of this interview, but it is a hard thing to ignore. The virus has affected several aspects of life these past few weeks. Although a safe call, social distancing has unfortunately forced several people to stay at home and out of work. You mentioned shows being postponed, but are there any other ways that this virus has impacted your work as well as life in general?

Not dissimilarly to anyone else’s experience, I imagine. Been pretty freaked out considering how abruptly the world stopped, how we have been humbled once again by something we can’t see or truly understand. It’s also kinda like that show The Walking Dead. It’s a show about zombies, but what the show is really about is how people scramble to maintain in hectic scenarios when society crumbles. Dumb people scare me more than anything. If I can say anything about all of that is, ‘listen to doctors regarding the field of medicine, don’t listen to some fuckhead political mascot whose priorities lie just outside of the concern for your quality of life’.

It’s a wild world right now. As far as my life and work, I’ve been avoiding normal life as we know it and decided to stay in the studio and get a long list of commissions done as well as go out to isolated zones and paint with one other person once the quarantine has me feeling too pent up. Drinking too much beer, smoking a healthy amount of weed and watching Tiger King has really punctuated my outbreak experience.

Your website features some art for sale, do you plan on adding more content on there during this time?

I’ve been painting my ass off and building some pretty bent sculptures during this time away from the world. I’m sure I will.

One of your recent Instagram post’s featured a custom sweater for sale? Was this just a one-time thing, or do you hope to make other clothing? If so, is there the possibility of other forms of attire besides a sweater?

I’ve been making clothes and shit for just about as long as I’ve been painting. I started with sneakers in the early 2000s and then was making bleach drawings on shirts inspired by my crew member Lazy’s bleach shirts, and now I’ve been spraying shirts, bleaching them, painting on them again. All sorts of shit.

Just as with most artists, it would seem that the experiences in your life and things you’ve witnessed have gone to influence your aesthetic. You spoke of creating art as a reaction to the world around you. Do you expect this event to influence your work at all, or do you see yourself making any work as a reaction to what has gone on?

I’m working on a huge 6ft tall response to the viral outbreak at the moment. It’s the biggest sculpture I’ve made yet. Pretty stoked. Awesome way to put a bunch of nervous energy into something tangible and positive. Stay safe y’all.

Final Thoughts

Septic the Outlaw has crafted a distinct aesthetic in a world full of far too many copies and repeats. He is able to offer an original style that features influences from experiences in his youth as well as the diverse range of artists that he looked up to.

Septic is not afraid to create the type of art that he likes. If that offends a few people along the way then so be it. If anything that just goes to show that STO was able to create a provoking piece of art.

What are your guy’s thoughts though?

Are you a fan of STO’s grittier style and looking to purchase some of his work? Then stay tuned for his piece in response to the virus and check out his new website. Have you seen his work around the city? And who are some other local artists that you would want to see Hypefresh interview?

1 COMMENT

  1. Septic is dope and his work has energized me to thinking I want more. And more I have. A few custom pieces and all are head turners

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