Londoner Jeba is a big presence on the streets of Barcelona. Barely a week goes by without seeing his name and/or characters adorning a wall somewhere. It’s pretty amazing Jeba finds the time to get out and paint really cos boy can he talk! This has got to be one of my favourite interviews to date, check out what Jeba has to say below!
Hi Jeba how are you? Tell us a little about yourself…
Hello, I’m am great thanks. Currently we’re in the quarantine period, so I’ve seized the opportunity and doing exactly what I want to do with less responsibilities to worry about. I’ve just been drawing, listening to music, watching cartoons and playing Zelda… it’s been like uni days again, I really can’t complain!
I’m from London, and currently living in Barcelona. I’ve been painting for pretty much 19 years now and it’s been a great journey. I paint letters and characters, with an equal love for both. Aswel as painting I do illustration and design, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and still enjoy it just as much, if not even more.
Where did your name come from?
It came from a book about an old samurai who’s name was Jebou, I changed the letters/ vowels and thought ye I’ll have a go at that. To be honest painting a B after an E I find a bit of a pain in the ass, I don’t really know what I was thinking at the time.
When did you first start spraying on walls?
Properly I’d say 2001 when I started college. I had been dabbling in bombing since 1997 but it was definitely 2001 when I hooked up with more friends and just got into it. It was a great time; sketching in college, hitting bars, skating, bombing, meeting more writers from local colleges and around neighbouring boroughs. It was an amazing time for London Graff as well; writers were really active, new writers were establishing their name with so much energy. Not to take away from any period of time after that, but those years were golden for me, and I think for many others.
I did a lot of bombing, not a lot of pieces, a few dubs. But I really liked getting reaches with wide markers and stinky ink.
What was the original inspiration for grabbing a spray can for the first time?
I guess my inspiration was just seeing Graff around London from a kid. You’d see it on shutters, trackside, motorways and it just stood out for me. If I were to rack my brain the people I can remember seeing up [before I really acknowledged the scene] was AKT, SHU2, BOSH, SUB, Zelda, Zomby and SPIE. As I mentioned I was always into drawing and I guess I just thought it cool that people would go around and do some kind of dope imagery on streets. It was an unorthodox style too so it wasn’t something you’d see in any reading material or other general books about art. I also used to buy some hip hop magazines and in the back pages you’d see productions by writers like CES or TOTEM, so I saw a wider spectrum of what could be achieved with a spray can [productions].
I didn’t even realise it was illegal as a kid, my parents never said anything and I just assumed it was cool because it was everywhere.
Do you remember your first piece?
I remember my first dub, and it was crap! It was a chrome in my area. It was under a different name. But I remember my 1st JEBA dub, and actually was a letter structure I revisited a couple years ago and built back onto.
Do you like to work with a sketch or just freestyle?
For general walls I like a sketch. I’m not one of those people who can just easily go and freestyle a character, I don’t ever walk away feeling content with it if I do. Some form will be off like a finger or an eye not level with the other, I’ll just start pissing myself off. So with characters I like to be prepped for that. I’ve usually got a sketch from the night before or something that I hadn’t painted yet.
Regarding my letters, I like to have a sketch but I don’t necessarily completely follow it. I have a few letter formulas in my head that work and I can piece parts together and make them balance.
What’s the inspiration behind your work? A never ending list of things right?!
Direct influences are comics, hip hop culture, animation, and graffiti.
Music inspires my work a lot, the sounds I listen to I think influence apart of the energy in my work. But Hip Hop as a culture has been a big influence and continues to. Wether it’s the fashion, the music, the illustrations that have accompanied the scene at a certain period… there’s so many aspects of the culture to discuss!
I grew up reading comics [like Marvel and Image] and they’ve really influenced me regarding linework, colouring and styles. I still follow comic artists today and amazed by the work they do. Artists like Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, J Scott Campbell, and Michael Turner. Right now there’s an artist called Henry I.Am that really dope.
Animation is like comics and you can discover so many styles and the sequences can be really inspiring for pieces. I probably watch more cartoons and anime than I do general live action TV series.
I follow a lot of concept art for games and movies, these can give you great inspiration for backgrounds, compositions, lighting and characters.
I guess there’s not really so much I need to say about graffiti, I mean its the culture we live in, it’s great to see new concepts and styles.
But again if I refer back to my earlier exposure to graff, artist and writers who merged characters/ scenes and letters have left a very big impression on me. I really liked productions and complete walls. Around London CRYMIEN and ZOMBY I think really personified the kind of graff/ hip hop character styles which was really dope to see. They had rhythm and flair yet 2 styles that had developed in somewhat different directions. Then there was the classic MODE 2 and SNUG pieces in West London. There’s not much I can really say about MODE2 that hasn’t been said before, but SNUG was and amazing artist who’s concepts and execution is phenomenal. I haven’t seen any walls from him in years, but he really brought themes and scenes into graff and definitely left an impression on me. I’d also see walls by CanTwo in publications, and they were also full scenes. Overall graff isn’t just letters to me, or just getting up. It’s a very wide culture and for me personally it’s how far I can push a can of paint as well as my name. I consider the afore mentioned writers and many more to be people on an elevated level, and when I think back about seeing there work, or look at their work today, it reminds me that there is much more I can achieve.
Do you have a preference — legal wall or illegal spot?
Generally I guess legal. I really enjoy having the option of painting a piece, having a drink and not being bothered. I do like illegals, I do like, I love getting busy, but I’m no longer in the place where the number of illegals I like to do is higher than the legals. I want to paint dope stuff and of themes part that requires time. There are times however when an opportunity arises for a dope illegal and you can’t pass it up, it’s just in you to say “That’s dope, I want that spot.”
Is a piece ever finished in your eyes?
I’m not a person who get’s frustrated with fine details, so when I’m finished with a piece I’m happy to walk away and any imperfections I can see in it I’ll just consider that for the next piece. I’ve only left a few pieces unfinished when I really had to, and one time when the conditions were just completely crap and I was just wasting paint.
Do you have any crazy ideas/projects that you’d love to do one day?
To be honest no, I don’t think any of them are crazy! I still have goals from when I was younger that I would like to hit, wether it be work with brands or do artwork for a certain record label/ music artist. These are goals rooted into my original influences and why I do what I do.
Right now I just want to paint walls around the world, that’s always been a long time goal, something engrained in the culture.
If an opportunity arises to execute a really cool and crazy project, I’m not one to pass it up.
What do you like to do with your non-painting time?
I honestly just draw! Most of my life revolves around painting, drawing and listening to music. I could never really pass up the opportunity for a good rave or party. I’ve also been skating since I was a kid, I’m not as good as I used to be or skate as much but I still enjoy it.
Other than that it’s general things like drinking, chilling at the beach, watching cartoons.
What’s the ideal soundtrack to a day’s painting?
I love this question and I can go on for hours. Each each day is different: definitely hip hop, sometimes drum n bass, sometimes dubstep [the original stuff with bass, not the other cacophony of sound that emerged when the U.S got their hands on it, no offence], sometimes it’s disco, funk and house.
If I were to throw the main players into a mix:
A Tribe Called Quest, Big L, Black Moon, MF Doom, Doppelgangaz, Keith Murray, Redman, Dillinger, DJ Hype, Ed Rush, Friction, Calibre, Digital Mystikz, RSD, Pinch, Skream, Joker, Sukh Knight, and slide some Motor City Drum Ensemble and Masters at Work in on a side plate.
If you could have one super power for the day what would you choose?!
Another brilliant question! OK if it’s for the day, it would have to be teleportation, allowing me to travel any distance without problem. The amount of places you could visit in a day would be amazing. Say hi to my brother in UK, get to France for breakfast, paint a wall in Belgium, get to Thailand for lunch and the beach,East coast U.S to say hi to some people, paint a wall in LA, get to China for a snack, lounge in Jamaica, and then I’m assuming it’s night time back in Thailand so you can do a little party… after that you’d probably have enough time to paint a rooftop and 2 panels in different countries.
But if I’m also able to travel through time does that mean I can elongate the 24hours that I have this power for?
Overall though in general, for anyone that read comics I think the larger part of Jean Grae’s power Telekenesis is the best. The power to make anything levitate even yourself, don’t even put a speed limit on it. If I could just have that I’d be happy.