INTERVIEWED BY :: ZUZU
Tony Diaz was born in January 1980 in San Antonio, Texas. He grew up in love with music and fed his obsession with lessons, playing in bands, and listening to records. As he grew older he started to participate in the punk rock scene, enjoying the D.I.Y. aesthetic and the attitude. This new perspective fueled his creative drive leading to his move to Austin, TX, and forming a record label that he would ultimately use to begin his visual art career. The label required design work, and Tony drew on his past making cut and photocopied punk-rock flyers to create a new and interesting persona known as “ANTI”. Further development led to making wheat-pasted social commentary on the streets of Austin, as well as a burgeoning clothing line.
As the clothing line began, Tony used his passion to teach himself to screen print. This bore his newest creative obsession: the silkscreen print. And with that, Industry Print Shop was born, providing a sustainable way to continue to be creative, and a myriad of new ways for “ANTI” to make new work. This printed and deconstructive process was in harmony with his previous attitude and aesthetic, and so the evolution of his current body of work began.
SprATX :: When did you start creating art and what got you into it?
Diaz :: I started creating art when I was six-years-old. I started looking at my comic books, replicating what I saw. I didn’t really think I was going to be an artist; that wasn’t what I was going for. I was curious and it was fun. I guess now that I think about it that is when it all started. As of recently though I have asked myself, “Ok, When did I really start creating art?” I think the answer would be in high school, when I was designing flyers for my punk band. It was very cut and paste, collage, kind of like Winston Smith, very punk rock type stuff. If I were to pinpoint where my art now is derived from from, it would probably when I was playing in punk bands in my high school years. Back then I didn’t even know I was doing it, I was just doing it. I had a friend who was a graphic designer and he showed me the ropes in 2000 and that was when I really started to develop an art career. It wasn’t intentional, I just kind of fell into it.
SprATX :: When did Industry first start and how did that happen?
Diaz :: The way Industry started is a very fun story I have been telling a lot lately. It never ceases to amaze me how we got to where we are. I was playing in bands, and a lot of my friends that were in bands were getting signed and going on tours. That was around the time I was getting into graphic designs… I was designing shirts for my band and my friends’ band. One month into being married (at a very young age) one of my best friends bands got signed and they were like, “We want to hire you to come on the road with us.” I remember thinking, “Wow, I just got married.” So, I went to Jennifer and told her what was up, and she responded, “Just get it out of your system and go. I knew going into this that you wanted that so go do your thing.” I thought that was awesome. It was always my dream to be in a band, play on tour, and make records. But to be in a band as a part of the crew? Awesome.
Later on, one of my really good friends needed an additional guitar player for this new record he cut. They asked if I wanted to play and I said yes. I played in the band and toured with them for about a year. I felt like I was living my dream. I will never forget the band’s name, Near Miss, and the drummer from Canada. While on the Warped Tour we played on side stages, but when we got to Canada they placed us on the Main Stage because of the drummer. I remember playing and seeing thousands of kids, a memory I hold on to in my pocket.
It just hit me, and I realized that this is it, this is my dream, I am living it, this is the moment, savor it.
The next day though I was done, I was so over it. I wanted to get home and be with my wife. I wasn’t with her for almost three years while on the road. Maybe even four. I was done, and at that time my designs were getting better and being turned into art.
After returning home, I was working at a screen printing shop that I built out of my garage, running it full time. I just wanted to do my own thing. What I felt Industry could be was not where we were going.
I’m too much of a hustler, too much grind. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and I’m going to go after it.
The other people at the shop were just kind of happy. They were content while I was always wanting more. So we broke off, and I started Industry. Nine years later, Industry is this living, breathing organism. It’s like another child. Screen printing in Austin is competitive, so I knew that we needed to have something different and be something different. That’s when I focused on working with artists and what I am comfortable doing, what I think is fun. At the time that was a tough market because artist are usually struggling financially. I think with keeping at it as the shop grew, the clients grew, the artist grew, everyone progressed together. Now I had all these resources in my hand to make work (turning me into quite the workaholic, before I had kids because otherwise you would’ve had to tear me away from that place).
The first two guys I brought on were screen printing posters and putting them up on the streets. I was bored at the shop and kind of lonely so I reached out to these guys Failure and SMUT at the time. I was making work and admired what they were doing. They were the ones who said my work was legit, and asked me to come out with them. With 50 posters and glue we went out that night, and I fell in love with it. I was hooked. That’s when things really started to happen. Industry was the priority after that. If I hadn’t have reached out to them, Industry wouldn’t be where it is today. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today, either. I am very grateful for those two guys, and honored that they are friends as well. They were the ones that pulled me out and showed me to the world.
SprATX :: If you could describe your art in three words, what would they be?
Diaz :: Deconstruct, Reconstruct and Print.
SprATX :: Tell me about your style as an artist and how it has evolved over time?
Diaz :: My art has evolved completely. Just recently I had to find the origins of when I started making work and what that was. I spent a lot of late nights at Kinko’s collaging, cutting and pasting, stuff like that. Now that is what I am doing but with my screen prints or illustrations, almost like a DJ record where I am playing from this imagery I made or collected. Essentially, I re-purposed it for something new. I kind of went from graphic design to getting my hands dirty. I was searching on how to perfect this certain aesthetic I developed. So I wanted my visions to actually be showcased the way I envisioned them. I tweaked all the things I needed to learn and needed to do in order to get there. A lot of it was printing to perfect the process. I feel like my art is a process. I go in with a loose vision, one that is not calculated. When it comes to the print shop and the clients, everything has to be perfect. So for me making work is kind of like therapy, because it doesn’t have to be perfect. There is a lot of beauty in screen printing, especially with the textures… You can make some pretty cool stuff with just two tools.
SprATX :: What is the difference in your opinion between street art and graffiti?
Diaz :: I have a huge amount of respect for graffiti and graffiti writers. Coming from what I do, it is like pasting and considered street art. I’m not looking for beef. I feel though that there are some purists. I completely see their side. But it doesn’t matter as long as you have respect for one another. Lets face it: there are some shitty graffiti writers and there are some shitty street artist. There are a lot of artists in general that are killing it though. I don’t try to get into the politics of it. I’m not one to go to a party with a bunch of graffiti artist and talk about graffiti. When people tell me to call them what they write, that annoys me. I just want to be real and call them by their actual name. Let’s be real people. I know that there are some people that are very passionate one way or the other. I kind of have respect for both and stay out of it. Haters are going to hate.
SprATX :: What would you like to say to the street artist and graffiti writers of today?
Diaz :: I would say to the young bloods that are coming up – Put in work, do your research, learn your history, and be patient. Put quality work up, don’t put things up just because you can. Respect the game, respect the elders.
SprATX :: Who do you think should be credited in the street art scene in Austin?
Diaz :: Sloke! Hands down, I believe that Sloke is the one who should be credited. He is world wide. He has the skills to pay all the bills. He is living his dream, he is education, and he cares passionately about the education. I even signed up for a graffiti class that he had in Austin when I was first coming up. We bonded because game recognized game. We caught that vibe. We are all about the grind, very similar in that aspect. I knew going into the game it was about respect. Nate has also given me a lot of opportunities, including me in a lot of his art shows. For that I am grateful, because I was the only street artist in this show of painters. Being invited to represent street art in those shows made me feel honored. Anytime Nate would ask for anything the answer was always yes.
The king of Austin graffiti is Nathan Nordstrom aka Sloke One.
SprATX :: What is your spirit animal?
Diaz :: My spirit animal is the buffalo.
SprATX :: Anything else?
Diaz :: Can’t stop, won’t stop, blood sweat and tears, create and hustle.