Skateboarding and art have had the most complimentary relationship for nearly 40 years, with many of our artists having a love skate relationship with both. One of the first artists we invited to the project was Dave the Chimp, and two years on we've finally grabbed a few words with this vibrant artist, proud father, multi disciplined creative and avid skateboarder.
Hi Dave….This is a recurring question we ask people. Look out of the window and what do you see?
The green of a tree turning yellow, and the last few tomatoes on my tomato plants on the balcony.
Could you take a picture of your desk/studio (See below) Tell us the your 3 favourite things about this space?
1) Having a space to work in.
2) Having space to move around (I like to dance here when no one else is around)
3) Other people being around (it's a shared space with photographers, a cartoonist, writers, etc)"
Let’s start with a few generic questions….
What is your earliest artistic memory?
Hmmm, maybe getting a comic strip about E.T. published in my Primary School Newspaper. Which, format wise, was like a fanzine! This was probably 1980.
Are you a self-taught creator or did you attend art school to hone your skills? What was the catalyst that kicked off your journey as an artist?
I wanted to be an inventor, and later a cartoonist. Skateboarding opened me up to a lot of different artistic ways of self-expression. I drew a lot of cartoons as a teenager, a few got published; and at 16 I started working as a freelance illustrator, being paid to draw. I left school, studied a few years of Graphic Design, left home, studied life and illustration. I moved to London, worked my ass off, started a magazine, started painting in the street, started working for the skateboard industry, got a job in advertising, started a punk band, quit the job, moved to Berlin. I think there has been many catalysts, constant chemical reactions, explosions, implosions. Everything begins some new path or possibility.
Your work is present in many of the early Street Art publications; Art of Rebellion springs to mind. Was London an ideal canvas for an artist, at a time when the Street Art scene was beginning to evolve? Before it had become so easily accessible.
I moved to London in 1995; I had a huge basement studio with friends in Clerkenwell, and a flat in Bethnal Green. Shoreditch was a kind of wasteland, I would pass through as I traveled between studio and flat. Quiet at night, an ideal place to paint outside. It was also an ideal place to make parties, have a cheap (or free) work space, meet new people, and ride skateboards drunk. It was a place to live a little outside the stress of the system. It was a place with the "space" (physically, mentally, financially) for things to happen. I guess this was how New York was in the 70's, Berlin in the 90's/early 2000's. Then something did happen; and now that area has been absorbed into the fully developed body of London. I see it happening, thankfully much more slowly, in Berlin.
Speaking of Berlin, what was the reason to move to this city in particular?
Why not? I had a grand in the bank from designing a shoe for Vans, I had my first solo shows coming up, and I was offered a room for 200 euros a month by the bass player of a band I was a dancer for. I knew a few people here, like Nomad and Joska, Adrian Nabi. I live with a lot of fear, and I deal with that by doing things I am scared of. Being on a stage, revealing the contents of my soul/mind to detailed inspection in a gallery. Riding skateboards fast, raising a child, leaving the comfort of my room to travel places. It sometimes terrifies me that I live in Germany, but if you're not living on the edge, in whatever way that means for you, you're taking up too much space!
What is your favourite place in Berlin?
Anywhere that I'm at, if my son is with me.
Describe Berlin in one word?
You’re a man who has many talents in his creative arsenal, illustration, graphic design and video direction being a few. You have a passion for discovering new ways of expressing your craft. How do you manage your time? What past projects are you most proud of? And what elements of being an artist give you the most satisfaction?
Oh heck, that's difficult! I guess I see all the different things as one thing, so it's not really like I have lots of different jobs. Making a pop video, for me, is about telling a story. All stories have characters and locations, so the story tells you how these look. A story is a movement through time, it's the same when making a comic strip, or a skateboard graphic. Often, it's just one scene from a story that you portray (like a stoned zombie passing you a joint in the woods) but it will suggest a larger story. So maybe I'm just telling stories. Or suggesting stories and letting the person interacting with the story create the rest.
I think the things I'm most proud of are those that involved other people. Whether in the creation, like with a pop video, or in the constant evolution and creativity in the use of the piece, like when I build a skateable sculpture or work with kids and masks. I like to make stuff that inspires others to create."
I remember when we spoke very early on about getting involved in the project, you told me to “Hassle artist's, else they’ll just go out to the park and skate!” How do you stay motivated?
Sometimes I don't! Having the time constraints of fatherhood really help me get shit done; but I'm not someone who finds it hard to have ideas. I think ideas are constantly around, every new thing that comes into existence suggests a whole plethora of new ideas, and a lot of these things pass through my brain. Maybe I have a very effective 'idea antenna' or maybe I'm less distracted by pop culture, so I pick up on the ideas easier. Who knows. What I do know is that I have sketchbooks full of ideas, folders of projects started, and there's always new projects I'm getting invited to take part in. So the motivation probably comes from never getting to the end of the "To do" list or the "Want to do" list!"
It’s in your blood, when did you first get into skating?
What was the first trick you pulled off?
Convincing my mother to let me buy the crappy board with the awesome skull and sword graphic.
Where is the best place you’ve skated?
London concrete. But I haven't travelled to skate much. So many amazing parks being built around the world, and many DIY spots. It's a positive thing for the world.
Who was/is your skating idol and why?
Mark Gonzales. Constantly creative and quite possibly mentally damaged. Most importantly he seems to be having fun!
You were head designer for Hessen Metal Skateboards (MOB Skateboards) it must be a dream come true to combine your art and skating? Tell us about your work on the Solid Skateboards and the importance to get kids skating?
Travelling sideways is the only way forwards. Skateboarding is getting hurt, being scared and failing. There's no avoiding these things. So if you can put yourself through all this at a young age you'll be a much stronger, free-er human being. Pain, fear, and failure are parts of life; if you can get through these things, learn not to fear them, while still having fun, you're going to have a much more open, loving, fearless, creative life. If you want to be an artist you need to not be scared of pain or failure. If you want to be a fully self-expressed human being you need to not be scared of pain or failure.
When did you create you first zine and do you still have a copy? (See above)
My first zine "Check My Chops" was published in 1994. I have a copy of every zine I ever made.
Are you a natural storyteller?
It would seem so.
What’s the most influential zine you’ve ever read?
The Human Beans….
How did your Human Bean characters come about?
I was new in Berlin, I had to make a bunch of pieces for the Papergirl project. I found some orange paint in my flatmates room, some strips of paper in a friends screen-print studio, and painted the first ones. Or maybe I painted them in the street first, little friends to remind me of an full English breakfast in an East London cafe. I don't remember? But they were fun to make, so I kept making them.
They have a simple structure, but each is so different, much like the human being. How do you go about developing their characteristics and the way they interact with the landscape you place them in?
I don't consciously develop, I just react. In the streets, I just wander around looking for opportunities to interact with. In the studio I paint bodies and then let them tell me by their shape what they are doing, how they are feeling. It's kind of like a game that only I can play, the Human Beans are not one character doing different things. Each one is an individual, living their life, but their almost identical-ness shows that we are all part of the whole. Human beings are part of the biological system we call Planet Earth. We're all in this together folks!
Are they a visual voice to your opinions politically/environmentally/socially?
Sometimes. The 'Protesters' are; and in the streets they are also a platform for others to have their say.
Have you ever thought about bringing your characters to life? Possibly animating the Beans?
To me they already ARE alive!
You’ve worked with so many great artists, one that comes to mind instantly is Flying Förtress (Visual Rockstars collective). Is working with other artists a crucial part of expanding and developing your own style, rather than forging a path on your own? Who would you like to work with in the future?
It's fun; you learn stuff, you grow. Collaboration is important in all aspects of life. I'm happy to work with anyone that's at peace with putting their ego aside long enough to create something new.
Is music a big part of your life?
Not really at this stage of my life; but it has been.
What bands or artists are in your daily playlist?
I don't have a daily playlist. I don't understand why anyone would want to have the same experience every day.
Is music something that helps your mental state when you’re working?
Sometimes; right now, not really. I listen to a lot of podcasts. It's a good way to learn new ideas and perspectives. Duncan Trussell, Joe Rogan, and Chris Ryan Phd have taught me so much mind-blowing stuff over the last few years. Thanks Dscreet for introducing me to Rogan through the scientist Rupert Sheldrake!
Before we’d contacted you back in 2014, had you had any idea as to what Crohn’s disease was? Did you have to do any research prior to creating you stickers?
I didn't know what it was. I'm happy to give some of my time to helping other people. Seems to make life work better when you give to the world.
All the artists involved have welcomed our vision of using art to create awareness, and you for one have been very helpful in making us aware of articles relevant to the projects work.
What has been the biggest and most rewarding project you’ve worked on?
The biggest was a mural in London for #EducationIsNotACrime. The one I like best is the board graphic I made for Inpeddo to raise funds for the Pigeon Plan, a project to bring skateboarding to immigrant kids in Berlin. I've already expressed how I feel skateboarding can help you in life, so if we can use this tool to help kids fleeing war zones have a better life, brilliant!
You are very passionate about the world and human beings, if you could create something that could make a difference to the world, what would it be?
I've come to realise, over time, and much interaction with people that have a connection with my work, that I am creating things that make a difference to the world. We can't all create Tesla motor cars or discover a cure for cancer, but we can all help others learn and grow and smile, through the things we choose to do with our time.
Ok time for the quick fire round! (Fastest fingers!)
Your favourite food?
Are you superstitious?
Your least favourite colour?
I used to have problems with green and purple, but now the only colour I'm tired of is the boring beige of Berlin buildings. Gentrification - FICK DICH!
The best book you’ve read?
Your preferred tool, brush? Pen? Or can?
Concrete? Hoarding? Paper?
Your worst habit?
Right now, smoking tobacco. The most stupid thing I ever did was let nicotine into my body. Don't do it kids! It's a mental cage that is hard to stay free of.
Your Hospital Radio 'Dessert Island' disc?
My son talks almost constantly, so I'll take that as a radio station so that I'm not lonely on the island.
What is your biggest fear?
Not getting back up!!
If you hadn’t become an artist what would you be doing?
Honestly, I think I would be in the ground feeding micro-organisms.
If you could smash something into a million piece what would it be?
The prejudice that keeps us all apart.
Thanks so much for taking time to answer our random/generic/tedious questions; what can we expect to see from Dave the Chimp in the next year?
Future currently looks like this:
•Showing with ATM Gallery at Blooom Art Fair in Munich in October.
•Solo show (or maybe I invite some friends) at Affenfaust Galerie, Hamburg in November.
•Group show at the Vans indoor park place (House Of Vans) in London early 2017. Everyone will be building shrines to something.
•I have a new graphic out now with Inpeddo, and maybe we make more for 2017. Maybe another with Radio Skateboards next year.
Who knows? New things are popping up all the time. Trying to get better at "business" right now, I've had a tough time emotionally the last few years, and my 'career' has suffered. Working on trying to get to a place where I'm not worrying about how to pay the rent each month. That is my personal idea of heaven right now, a place where I don't worry about whether I have money for rent!
Being free of fear, that's something to aim for.
Thanks to Dave for his support, if you'd like to keep up to date with what he is up to, be it art releases and day to day antics, be sure to check out his website and give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram.