The most famous french book ‚ÄúParis Tonkar‚Äù will be soon reedited. I wanted to know more about this project and interview one of the author of the third worlwide graffiti book: Tarek Ben Yakhlef.
Tarek you are one of the authors of the most famous French graffiti book. How do you were connected with the graffiti and why did you choose to present this art on a book ?
Sorry for my English, but I‚Äôll try answering clearly and explaining my story. Well, I discovered graffiti art in London subway during my first travel in this country in 1986. I was living in Brixton and the subway line near my house was fully painted by writers?â I don‚Äôt remember which writers were in this area but I was very impressed by them style and it was for me the first time that I observed this kind of graffiti in subway. I was young in 1986 (15 years old) and for me graffiti wasn‚Äôt visible in subway. In Paris, after my journey in London (one week alone to discover the city and all subway‚Äôs line), I tried to do like English writers on my books and few times in my street?â At the beginning, I was alone and after a few weeks with one of my friend, we practice in the subway (only a few times) and always more in the street. Three years later, I decided to write a book about this art because I need to speak on graffiti not like a graffiti writer but like an author. I love art and I need to write to feel good. So, I start to take pictures in French subway, on RER line, in city and suburbs with Sylvain Doriath who was a writer. With him, I met a lot of writers and after that the adventure of Paris Tonkar began ! My experience and my desire to write a book became the first French book on graffiti and first one in Europe. I was 19 years old.
Could you please tell us about the graffiti scene at the beginning of the 90‚Äôs ?
In the 90‚Äôs in Paris and his suburb, you could find most of writers from the first generation like CTK (crime time kings) the Bando‚Äô crew (he‚Äôs maybe the first writer in France), NTM, 93MC (93 mafia crew) with Kea, Swen, Fame (RIP), Kay and more, BBC (bad boy crew), Force Alpha, 156 with Jonone from New-York, FBI with Darco and Gawki, Artistes Urbains, TCG with Sheek, CAS, TBK, PCP and many others?â Between 1983 and 1988, the French scene was essentially in Paris and in suburb with the first generation like San, Ash, Jay, Spirit, Blitz, Bando, Steph, Colt, Boxer, Meo, Lookiss, Mode 2, Posh, Squat, Psy, Alp, etc?â Most of them painted in downtown (Seine, Louvre, Beaubourg, Stalingrad?â) and in subway, even if the trains where washed before they ran. In suburb, writers painted all RER lines and a lot of stations like Gare du Nord or the B line in south or Cergy line. The second generation started in the late 80‚Äôs with the Hip Hop movement?â I was there in this period and I think this one was the most important because Old timers and a lot of writers of new generation where together to paint and to learn how to make it with a good style.
Where were for you the most valuable writers at that time ?
A lot of them were valuable because you have many styles at that time. I like Steph and Meo‚Äôs pieces, Mode 2 characters, San and Bando‚Äôs letters and Jonone‚Äôs freestyle?â And many others for one piece?â In Paris Tonkar, you can find a lot graffiti I regard as art.
When you brought out this book, do you can imagine that it will become a reference 20 years later ?
Frankly no ! I knew that I was writing the third book about graffiti after the two of H. Chalfant but I never imagined that my book would be one of the references in the world. I‚Äôm very happy now and proud of this part of my life.
You are making scenario for kids book now and you don‚Äôt publish any other graffiti book these last years. It seems that you are not in the scene anymore. Are you really out of scene now or are you still in touch with the new comers and the scene in general ?
During the last decade, I wrote only comic‚Äôs book for children and adult because I like this job. I sell over 70000 of Sir Arthur Benton (the two cycles) and 40000 of my children‚Äôs tales for example. My books were translated in Turkey, Sweden, etc?â For two years, I changed my understanding about my job and I decided to change my editor because I can‚Äôt work anymore with him. I work with further publisher now and I‚Äôm about to be published in the USA. So, I‚Äôve more time to write another book on graffiti and thinking on a re-edition. Concerning graffiti scene, I‚Äôm following what‚Äôs happening in France and in other countries. I‚Äôve read a lot of magazines like Graff It or Wild War, all books published after mine who spoke about spraycan art and I‚Äôve watched many documentaries. I‚Äôm often taking pictures of walls and train painted. Now, I‚Äôm not really in graffiti scene but I‚Äôm observing it like a specialist?â
In 1992 you start the bi-monthly magazine 1tox in collaboration with editions Florent Massot. You bring out 8 issues with the best of graffiti pieces of Paris . Could you please tell us about this second step in the graffiti edition ?
Few months after Paris Tonkar‚Äôs success and before Paris Graffiti (the first biggest exhibition of graffiti art in Paris in rue Chapon), Florent Massot, the editor, asked me if I could create a magazine who will speak about street art and Hip Hop culture. With Sylvain and others, we have worked on this concept and after a month we started to work on the first issue. I found the logo and Florent Massot the name, 1Tox. Concerning Paris Graffiti, I‚Äôve found the concept and the poster.
Why did you stop publishing 1tox ?
Honestly I don‚Äôt know because I‚Äôve stopped to work on this magazine after the fourth issue. That‚Äôs life !
I heard that you wanted to propose the 8 issues of the magazine via Internet ?
Yes, I‚Äôm preparing a numeric copy of this magazine and people possibly will consult on my page at Calameo website. These 8 issues will be available for free reading only.
Let‚Äô. gets back to your book Paris Tonkar. Lots of rumor told that you are in contact with the co-author of the book Sylvain Doriath and that you wanted to republish the 200 pages of Paris Tonkar. Please tell us what are the current step of the discussion ?
It‚Äôs not a rumor but reality ! We have a discussion about reediting our book and now we are in negotiation with a lot of publishers all around the world for it. I‚Äôm preparing a new edition with more pictures, more texts, more writers and a lot surprises !
You will add new content of unpublished pictures that you took at that time ? Whitout saying us too much, please give us some more info about the content ? What kind of surprise ?
Yes, I‚Äôve a lot pictures unpublished and very important for the early years of French graffiti scene. I can‚Äôt speak about the content but I can give you one important news : I‚Äôve decided for this new edition to relate the history of French scene between 1983 to 1993 in Paris and suburb. Now, I‚Äôm discussing with over 200 writers and a part of them were not present in first edition like San or Chino. Sorry, but a surprise is a surprise !
Do you will change the format ?
Indeed, with more pages, a new format will be conceivable.
Last year, Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant republished their world wide famous book Subway Art, renamed Subway Art 25th anniversary. Does this reedition of this book motivated you to start the discussion with Syvlain Doriath ?
No ! Since 2008, I‚Äôm thinking about a new edition with another texts and more pictures because two teenagers wrote Paris Tonkar first edition. So, I‚Äôm a writer for ten years now and I can‚Äôt let it without shifting. A sort of rebirth after 13 years !
For this new texts, do you collaborate with some writers present at that time ?
You planed a worldwide publishing, it takes lot of time. Do you have any idea when we can find the reedition on our favorite bookshop? Before writing all texts, I‚Äôm questioning all writers about our history and our experience. Concerning worldwide publishing of course yes, I‚Äôm discussing with publisher about it. You can find Paris Tonkar in 2011 on our bookshop in France and I hope so in rest of the world.
The Edition Florent Massot stop their activities in 1998 but they came back in 2006. will you republish the book with these company ?
No! Nowadays, Florent Massot is publishing only novels. He‚Äôs a good editor and I think that he doesn‚Äôt want to reedit my book. That‚Äôs the past for him?â
You want to reedit Paris Tonkar and you want to put 1tox on the Web. It seems that you are back to your first love ?
Yes, I‚Äôm back ! I will continue writing comic and children‚Äôs book but I want to publish graffiti‚Äôs book and I‚Äôm preparing Paris Tonkar‚Äôs magazine with a friend journalist, the editor of International Hip Hop?â First issue in June 2010 ! Sylvain is preparing the Paris Tonkar‚Äôs website.
June 2010 ? It‚Äôs tomorrow. Would it be a French magazine?
Yes, for the beginning we can‚Äôt do a bilingual version because it‚Äôs more expensive for us. Maybe after or in a webzine ?
Actually, starting a magazine it‚Äôs quite dangerous. Some respected magazine in Europe stop their publishing. How will you manage to entertained your readers ?
We‚Äôll offer a serious content to readers and many articles about street art, spraycan and subway art. Paris Tonkar‚Äôs history in European scene can help our magazine to resist at this crisis. I hope so !
What would be the content of the magazine ? Old time or recent stuffs ? Only pictures or lot of articles, interview‚Ä¶ ?
In our magazine, you will find Old time and recent actuality, pictures, lot of articles on graffiti, comic‚Äôs, art and street art and obviously interviews?â
Maybe you can let us know the topics of the first issue ?
Now, I‚Äôm working on the content and I can say nothing. In a next interview maybe ?
¬†So, You will have a busy day in the next week. I wish you lot of success for the launch of all these different projects.
Thanks a lot!
Thank you too.