New York street art luminary Futura dropped in Down Under recently to help Hennessy launch his personally-designed VS bottle. His days in Melbourne were packed with graffiti tours, interviews, cognac tastings and one raucous party in a dark cavern, where he did a live spray paint of VS boxes for attendees to take home. SF grabbed some time with the man-myth-legend on a sun-kissed afternoon at Shane Warne's 23 Club (of all places) and talked about thievin' skate punks, creating the bottle artwork and what he thinks of the sneaker game.
SF: How'd you enjoy the party last night?
Futura: It was good. When I left the bar there were no more boxes. I heard there were Hennessy pillows that went missing, glasses, all kinds of stuff, which is ultimately good.
Yeah, apparently there were a group of skaters who came in through the back entrance and stole a few bottles and then legged it and were chased by security guards.
Amazing! The thing is, yeah, that’s a good thing. Ultimately when shit like that happens it means the culture is the same as it ever was. With this promotion you have the corporate side, and that’s going to be all quite stuffy and equivalent to what we would call the wine and cheese sophisto crowd at an opening. But you have this mixing, because cognac is all about blending, with street movement heads who don’t really give a fuck. I prefer that there was that kind of diversity, I did see both elements at the party. If people are ripping shit off it’s obviously better than no one interacting with it.
For sure. I'm curious as to how creating the label actually went down, it's a tiny canvas.
Yeah, this label was quite small – that made me want to add more to the project too. I like the packaging for the cases, it was a chance to have a little bit more of my artwork present. With everything I’ve done, including a lot of sneaker related stuff, nothing has been at this level or can compete with the power of that end product for the consumer. These guys have just got crazy loot too! The money they put into these parties and the fact that they're getting me and my daughter to fly around the world – it’s like, damn, they’re reppin' it hard! They’re taking it serious so why shouldn’t I, or at least be along for the ride, because it’s a fucking dope ride. I dig the art world more and I always have though.
All of that in the book you've got there (pics featured in gallery below) is the process. That's me thinking about what I am gonna do. All of these designs were potential ideas. What I wound up doing with this one was something I’ve never done. I’ve fucked with canvases a little bit, some spray splotches and drips. But with this I just broke down my paintings through Illustrator and created vectors and regenerated a digital version of a canvas. The process was ultimately based around the colour of the cognac – I felt this label worked well with that. I didn’t want it to be very loud.
You've worked in the sneaker world before, do you understand our obsession with footwear?
Absolutely. How can it ever end? There’s such a volume and variety, and the constant releases will keep adding fuel to the fire. I don’t want to say I’m out of the game. I was grateful that the last project I did was more of a mainstream release – the Syracuse and Yankee Be True AF1s. I’ve seen them available globally. For me it was just interesting to do all that. What I never liked was the limitedness of it all (colab sneaker releases) and how that perpetuated a second market and that’s just not good. When the AF1s came out it was, 'Boom, we're gonna make a hundred K of these'. Whether they sell or they don’t doesn’t matter because people can get them, so that was dope. And now I’ve been wearing Converse for years, so I’d love to do a real Converse colab. I did a spray on some Converse for Hennessy and got criticised for that. Yeah, I randomly splattered paint on them, but this was a gift. They were originally done and, whether it’s aesthetically pleasing or not, you can say I did them. That whole shit bothered me. Motherfuckers got a dope box, they got the bottle and the sneakers for free! Of the 420,000 bottles that were made, that package was for the first 200 (numbered bottles). People are like, 'Oh, look I got number three!' That's while I’m trying to get my son Timmy number 13 and what do (Converse) do? They send me 113. I wasn’t all needy like, ‘I need the first 50’. I was appalled how they did that. It was all marketing, they sent them to their people and didn’t ask me, it was badly handled.
But you’d be interested in a colab again, if they did it right?
Oh, God yeah. They even had 'Hennessy' embroidered on the tongue, black-on-black. I saw the pairs and I didn’t even see that shit – it was so subtle! It was cleverly done and everything was dope but it didn’t go out well – but yeah I’d love to work with Converse. I’m not aggressively calling though, if heads call me then I’d be glad to do it. In the end I’m just a consumer like everyone else, I’m not trying to get free shit, if I want something I’ll buy it. Even when I was in Japan and heads were just trying to lace you with shit I wouldn’t do it, and later I’d think, ‘Yeah, I really wanted that’.