time I was 16. And I did the whole car club thing.
I was one of the first members from Groupe Car Club in San Diego. I showed
my ride, did the party thing and went to school. But I still did well
in school. I had to; my Dad put that fear/discipline in me.
Tell me a little more about your graffiti background.
I get asked a lot about my graffiti background. Most
people think I have none because I don't do 'hip hop' style graf. But I have
been doing gangster and neighborhood styles from the West Coast since the
mid-seventies. Strictly letters and blocks. I still mess with hand styles.
I didn't see any hip hop style graf in San Diego until the early eighties
when I was already in college. I think those who say that they do 'old school'
graffiti on the West Coast should be able to do or know about the varrio or
gang styles because its been around longer than most people think.
Obviously the West Coast, and more specifically, Southern California,
are some of your biggest influences.
I'm a product of the Southern California lifestyle,
I was down for whatever; I didn't care if I was the cholo, homeboy lowrider
who skated and liked to rock out on occasion. I usually just did whatever
I thought might be fun or cool. But lowriders and the homies were mostly my
You talked about the music from back in the days too...
We would listen to more than just soul, latin and funk
back then. Since it was the eighties we would also listen to a lot of punk,
ska and rock bands. That's what was happening. My first hip hop music experiences
were from like the Sugar Hill Gang, Solsonic Force and the old Def Jam stuff;
Slick Rick, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys to name a few. I'd say that it was
'Raising Hell' and 'License to Ill' t
hat really got me into hip hop. Then when N.W.A. and Cypress Hill dropped,
I felt that...I could relate.
Explain in more detail the relationship between you and your partner Carl,
why things have been gone so successfully for you.
My brother Joey [who is still a large part of the business]
and I started Tribal in 89.' And I hooked up with Carl while I was looking
for sponsors for a graffiti art/benefit show I was curating at the San Diego
Food Bank in 91.' He had a silk screening business and he was down to sponsor
the show. It was at that point when we became friends and started to talk
about him getting involved with Tribal. Joey was going through some substance
problems and I wanted to keep Tribal going. I had a concept with artwork and
one thing just kinda lead to the next. We'd work hard, late hours, two jobs
each. We had bills to pay. Nobody put a recipe in our hands and showed us
how to do it. We made alot of mistakes, had financial problems, kinda trial
and error but pulled through it all without bringing anyone in from the outside.
We call all our own shots to this day.
To me Tribal is unique in that you guys keep things fresh and try to transcend
all of the biting, hating, whatever, that goes on within the industry.
To what do you attribute Tribal's ability to stay down and respected in
the so-called underground?
With us it's a conscious effort to transcend boundaries
and stay at least two steps ahead of the biters. People we work with recognize
this and aspire to make that transition to the next level... always to
the next level. As the evolution of art and music grow and merge; we're
right there with it and have been there with it. Some people get it, others
don't. Those that hate are ignorant to what we represent, have represented
and who we are collectively. Haters aren't worth the time or attention
they yearn for. Not to sound cocky, but we represent some of the worlds
biggest and best in graffiti art, music, b-boying, lowriding, etc...don't
trip...don't hate...that's real.
We've got history since before Tribal even began. As individuals whose
accomplishments and talents have brought us together.
Grafically, we've worked with artists from Japan, Germany, Italy, France,
Holland, Denmark, England, Switzerland, Canada and all over the United
Musically, we get support from rock to hip hop..(see press gallery).
We've got a crossover appeal that I don't think any other clothing line
truly has. The reality is that b-boys and graf writers don't just listen
to hip hop and that skaters don't just get into rock...I think part of
our underground appeal stems from the inability to find the entire line
in any one place other than our warehouse. It's not easy to get Tribal
and I think this is what makes it even more desirable. We won't sell into
certain stores and we don't operate with a 'sell, sell' mentality. We
feel like we have a certain responsibility to those that contribute and
represent. They don't want to see their graphics or what they wear in
Target, Millers Outpost or JC Penney's or some other whack store.
So during this past decade, you've probably personally accumulated some
Yup, we have accumulated a substantial collection of
pieces from around the world. We plan on showing at least part of it within
the next couple of years. It consists of canvases, boards, panels, paper,
photos, t-shirts, digital graphics and old cars. We archive everything and
we buy artwork too. We own pieces by Doze, Chaz, Mode 2, Erni, Delta, Cartoon,
Zodak, Daim, Stohead, Daddy Cool, Toast, Giant, Kinsey, Shepherd, Saber, OS
Gemeos and on...
What are some of your favorites?
The collection is a collection of our favorites.
I think it's kind of dope that people on the outside look to you and Carl
as examples. Like, 'If these can achieve something like this, I might
be able to something like that too.' How does that make you feel?
I never really look at it that way, but if people
do then that's cool and I appreciate it as I'm sure Carl does too. But
its true, if we can be successful then so can others. They just need to
find whatever makes them happy and pays the bills. Be original.
I don't measure success with money. Money is cool and you need it to survive
and be comfortable, but I know a lot of people who have a lot of it and
still can't find their happiness. I think to be happy within yourself
is being successful. Having free time, family, friends and being able
to do as you wish is also a part of success.
So its about the family when you're not at Tribal...
I have 3 kids and a great wife. I like to spend time with them, cruise the
59' and just hang out with the family. I work around the house and enjoy being
at home. I love to take naps. Being at Tribal is like my second home, my life
never really gets outside of Tribal, I live it. I'm blessed homie.
Does anything besides the business take up your personal interest? You've
mentioned that you've done a lot of traveling as well as some public speaking...
Yeah, I've traveled quite a bit and I have a few
trips planned as we speak. I've been all over the world. I do public speaking
at some local universities, junior colleges and high schools. I've also
done a few things with native American and Chicano youth organizations.
Do you see yourself running Tribal forever; or do you see yourself getting
into other things like teaching, speaking, whatever...
I think I will be a part of tribal for as long as
Tribal is around and I'm alive. I plan on teaching it to my children.
Hopefully, they will get into it. But yeah, I might like to teach, curate
art shows, direct film or video and travel with my family in the future,
Oh man, that's hard. All I can say is MAD respect
and thanks to all of those who have represented, continue to represent,
contribute and support what we do. Big ups to the homie Duke. Mom, Dad.
As far as the future of Tribal is concerned, I've seen some of the new
stuff you guys have put together and its really tight. Some new styles,
the latest video (dvd), "Beyond the Four," etc. What are your
thoughts behind your new designs as well as the video's release?
All that will speak for itself.
So what direction is Tribal going in from here?
Moving ahead, transcending, evolving...
I'm just happy doing this and I feel fortunate to have
had the opportunity to work with and get to know so many dope people. Like
I said, I'm blessed.
by jesse shamshoian