Bus166 and The Machine Studio

Bus166 and The Machine Studio

February 05, 2020

What is your name and where did it come from?

I write Bus166. It came from the Volkswagen bus I was driving back in 1993; Gkae came up with the name since I was writing something that was already taken at the time.

Going back to the beginning, how did you original get into creating graffiti art?

It was just something that started showing up around me in high school. At first I was making fun of the kids tagging on shit, but it eventually sucked me in. I don’t really have a super interesting story as to how I got started. My first name was Cheese; I guess that’s a bit funny.

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Who were your first influences? When you started……

When I very first started, I was influenced by some local taggers kids, but a year or so into it, my biggest influences were Fate, Gank, Havok, Eklipse, Gin & Duce, Oiler & Dcline, Krush, Tyke, Myte, Pale, Tolse, I could go on for quite a while.

Have you studied Art in any way, or did you pick it all up in the streets?

I’ve done art my whole life. Drawing cartoon characters as a kid, then lost interest in that when I started doing graffiti in 1991. From 1998 to 2002, I studied graphic design at CalArts then jumped back into Graff a few years after that.

Have you travelled much for Graffiti? If so where have you been and where is your favorite place to spraycation?

I haven’t really traveled for graff. I did play in some hardcore bands in the 90s and went on a few tours/out of state shows; I managed to sneak out to hit some spots/trains on a couple of those.

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Does music play a role in your art? What’s in your headphones these days?

Not really. I don’t listen to music when I paint. When I’m working, I play old punk, rock, metal, etc., or listen to educational podcasts or audio books.

How important is the legibility of letters?

It’s important to me, but I think people should paint whatever makes them happy. I personally have always liked the idea that you can read my shit at first glance. 

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Are you a part of any art collectives,  crews, or teams? How did you join them? 

I’m part of MSK and CUTS Crew. In 1993, I was doing a lot of bombing with Gkae and he brought me into the crew. It was a monumental moment in my graff career even though MSK was a relatively unknown crew at the time; getting the opportunity to join was a huge honor. I was a co-founder of CUTS crew and it was started as a graffiti crew that focused on community service. We do graffiti style murals that often read Clean up the Streets and we’ve done some cleanup jobs in underserved communities

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What do you think you are best known for, and how would you describe your style?

It’s hard for me to say, but it seems like a good amount of people know me for trains back in the day. Some LA writers tend to remember some of the street/freeway bombing I did back in the 90s. I was also a regular at Motor Yard, Venice Pavillon and some of the other yards of LA’s past. I think people are starting to know me for the work I do @machinestudio these days.

I’ve always been into simple styles. I have a few things I like doing these days; mostly 3D block letters or beveled letters with some grungy textures. I just do what is the most fun for me at the time.

Do you get involved with any other kind of art besides graffiti?

I do motion graphics and video work for a living, but for artwork, it’s pretty much just graff.

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What’s your favorite brand of spray paint to paint with and why?

I still fuck with Rusto, but have been using some of the fancy brands to get to know them better. I like them all just fine to be honest. I think I’m most satisfied with Rusto stock tip pieces and plan to get back into that once we restock it at the shop.

What are your favorite colors or are there colors you find yourself using often?

I really like painting with pink a lot. Pink and green together looks really cool to me. I also like straight black and white a whole lot and sometimes doing the warm cool thing.

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What kind of nozzles do you tend to use?

Rusto stock tips are my favorite. With the fancy brands, I like the MTN Pro Caps and NY Fat Caps.

Do you have a favorite marker? And why?

I’m a bit biased, but my favorite marker at the moment is the Drip Machine.

any decent chase stories?

The mid 90s wer challenging in LA with the green light on writers; we got chased out of neighborhoods by gangs quite a bit back then. I’m grateful that I didn’t get killed, shot or jumped. There were definitely some close calls, but I’ve heard a lot worse stories than anything that happened to me.

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Favorite surface to put your paint on and why?

Still fond of the steel.

How important is the “outline” in your process?

I guess it’s pretty important, but I think I spend more time on other things like texture and other details.

Say You're leaving the house for a night mission, what are you bringing?

Lots of black and white and one color for a border.

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If someone asked you why you write graffiti, what would your answer be?

It’s really the only art that I enjoy doing. There are lots of things that I love about it and lots of behavior that I hate about it, but it’s the only art that keeps me interested. 

What motivates you to keep getting up day after day?

I don’t really get up day after day much these days, so not sure how to answer that. Building some businesses and doing community work is keeping me motivated, but I have times where I’ll paint a lot. It tends to come in waves.

You have enough paint for one Burner or several throwies, how do you use the paint?

Depends on my mood, but most often it’ll be the burner. I have been itching to do a lot of bubbles/throwies lately though, so might be some of that in my near future.

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What kind of project gets you most excited (i.e. Legal walls, crew productions, wholecars, freight bombing)

Also depends on the mood I’m in, but freights are always exciting. 

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In an age of social media, with cameras everywhere, and police using technology to crack down on graffiti artists, how do you feel about the importance of protecting your personal identity?

It’s definitely important if you’re in the streets. Although I’m not super protective of my identity, I’m not in a big rush to jump in any group photos or pose with people, but it happens from time to time. I’m not really doing anything to serious these days, but there’s still some of that desire anonymity left over from when I was more active.

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Where do you think an artist should be able to paint in terms of street art or graffiti? What spaces are “off limits” to you?

I don’t like saying what other people should or shouldn’t do, but I personally wouldn’t paint on murals. I also stay away from personal property like houses and cars. Burning the spot is also something I try not to do, so painting outside of yards or graff shops is something I feel people should avoid.

Can you speak on the importance of letters and can control in an era of hipster graff and street art?

Can control has always been important; I don’t really care one way or the other about ‘hipster’ graff or street art. It’s not something I’m into, but also don’t have any issues with it. While I control a can just fine, I do enjoy painting dirty. Back in the day, I had the privilege of painting with a guy named SE1 and he had a really great style that embraced some dirty looking techniques that I thought looked really cool. In recent years, I've been applying a Japanese world view called Wabi Sabi into my work. It’s basically about embracing roughness, asymmetry and things of that nature. A quote that summarizes it is ’nothing lasts, nothing is perfect, nothing is finished’. It really makes painting more fun for me.

All that said, I do like seeing people that have a strong handle on letters. I get a bit disappointed when I really look deep into a wild piece and fine under all the details, the letters look like shit.

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What do you think of instagram and what impact has it had on you as a graffiti artist?

I think it’s great. I’m more focused on building my studio’s account @machinestudio, but I post all my graff on @bus166. There are some negatives to it, but I try to focus on the positive things we get from social media like having access to so much work in realtime that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. I do kind of miss the flick trading we used to do back before the internet though.

We’re doing a lot of things at Machine Studio in San Pedro, so that would be a good place to keep an eye on.

The Machine Studio is a special place, what motivated you to open it – what inspires you to make it so unique?

Thanks for the good words about the studio. The inspiration to open in came from my time volunteering at the Venice Art Walls. If you’re not familiar, they are a couple walls left over from the old Venice Pavilion in California. During the time I spent there, I came to the realization that even though I was an older person, there was common ground between me and very young people. Graffiti gave us something that a person in their 40s could talk to a teen age writer about. To me, there is something very unique about this; when I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine having much to talk about with someone that much older than me. The more I thought about that, the more it fueled me to try to make positive contributions to the culture. When opening the studio, I wanted the focus to be about bringing value to the culture over everything else.

More than just another graffiti store, you make a lot of space available for the community, not just for art shows, but also simple things like black book jams and other community events. How important is community in this culture, and what inspires you to continually work with those participating in the culture?

The space was never really about being a graffiti store and it still isn’t the motivating factor. To be totally honest, running a graffiti shop isn’t all that interesting to me. The studio has always been about providing a space for graffiti writers and that evolved into a few different things and will hopefully continue to evolve as long as it exists. In the beginning the space was used as a gallery and a space where writers and artists could use to create art. That is still the foundation for the studio. We added graff/art supplies and sticker printing later to help pay the bills and provide a place where writers could get their tools at a reasonable price; the further we take this, the more expensive it gets, so we have been putting some energy into that area. All of our events, black book sessions, etc. are provided at no charge, so it can be difficult on my personal finances to cover the costs that the shop falls short on. What inspires me to do this is that I find it fulfilling to provide something for the culture and doing my best to make positive contributions to the community.

Machine Studio has been able to work with some amazing artists – who are some of your favorite artists that you have showcased at your events?

For the most part, I enjoy working with most of the artists we have been fortunate enough to show at the space. It is really great to have shows that feature some of the biggest names in graffiti on the same wall as very young artists just starting out. More than anything, the somewhat even playing field is my favorite part. I do feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to work with a lot of the artists that have show work on our walls.

Somehow your art and The Machine Studio don’t keep you busy enough, you also have a mobile yard! Can you tell us a little about that?

 One of the things I’ve always wanted is to have a legal Graff yard as part of our organization. This is a difficult task to accomplish, so I decided to design a modular wall system that can function as a mobile yard while we figure out how to make a traditional yard fit into our roster of projects. The wall currently 40 feet wide by 8 feet tall made of 10 4x8 foot steel framed panels. The whole thing breaks down to fit into a cargo van, so we can bring it just about anywhere that has a relatively flat surface. We’ve been using a lot at events for live painting and letting the public paint on it. I have to give a huge shoutout to Gail Phinney and the Palos Verdes Art Center for getting the project funded. Another huge shoutout to Kim Karukoh for taking the initiative to help run the project; she has really been an invaluable asset in keeping the wall active.

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Do you have any of your art for sale?

I have a couple prints available on machineartshop.com

Any advice for those out there getting started in the culture?

Being respectful will go a long way. 

If someone wants to follow you or learn more about you, where should they look?

You can find me on Instagram @bus166, or follow the studio on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter @machinestudio and on YouTube.com/machinestudio

Bus166 msk graffiti street artist murals spray paint culture interview infamy art ironlak mtn94

Bus166 msk graffiti street artist murals spray paint culture interview infamy art ironlak mtn94Bus166 msk graffiti street artist murals spray paint culture interview infamy art ironlak mtn94



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