12 Questions with The Infamous Magazine

By - Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

For the latest 12 Questions segment, I got to sit down with Shaun Baron, the creator Art Director of The Infamous Magazine. Shaun and I met up at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in northeast Philadelphia, where we discussed the magazine over a soda and some iced coffee. Baron, dressed in a pair of cargo shorts and a Polo cap, is a respected cool cat who has been in the graffiti game for years. He has a mild accent and a slightly raspy, mellow tone, with specks of enthusiasm and passion. Even though Baron has had some personal setbacks, which delayed this issue for over a year, he has conquered adversity and remained devoted and passionate to the release this 7th Issue, but we’ll let ya know the scoop on that when the time is right. What I find unique about this interview is how Baron was able to twist his passion and talent for graffiti with his professional training in graphic design and publications into what will, hopefully, be his livelihood and full time focus in the future. And finally… we present the 12ozProphet exclusive interview: 12 Questions with The Infamous Magazine!… 1. What inspired you to create The Infamous Magazine? “With me being a graphic and publications designer and into graffiti, all my friends were like, ‘yo, you should make a graffiti magazine.’ And I said, no way – there’s no money in it. But after my friends kept pushing me, I decided to check it out. After that, I saw that there was no relevant graffiti magazines in the States that are really doing anything big – or what I thought should be done with graffiti magazines to represent the culture. I feel like The Infamous Magazine has no comparable competition. I looked at some past graffiti magazines, such as, Life Sucks Die or While You Were Sleeping and noticed they basically had ‘what’s your favorite’ non-graffiti questions and that was cool to get to know the different side of graffiti artists. But when I compared their layouts to other magazines, I felt like there was something lacking- you know, the humorous, non-graffiti talk. And graffiti is just growing. For example, you have Banksy, with Mr. Brainwash in the Exit Through The Gift Shop documentary and it’s all over advertising. Graffiti artists are now going from painting subway cars in NY to selling their graffiti on canvases. And from canvases, they’re going to coffee mugs, t-shirts. I mean, you name it- graffiti is being sold everywhere. And there’s nothing out there to give the story, besides old videos or YouTube. So, I thought, let’s do something now; let’s do something relevant. Let’s actually be a more serious graffiti magazine. I wanted The Infamous to have a really good structure, sort of like the GQ of graffiti – something formatted and serious. I wanted it to be to-the-point and very informative. I wanted to do something new. So when I was brainstorming for the cover/s of the magazine, I wanted to have a different twist and take it away from ‘here’s KOMA’ on the cover or ‘here’s RIME’ on the cover, like GQ or Fast Company, who always feature celebrities on the cover. I wanted The Infamous to be more like Bloomberg Businessweek and The New Yorker. We wanted the cover to capture what’s going on in the graffiti world today. And instead of giving one writer the spotlight, I thought, let’s try to come up with a creative feature story for the cover – something really good, thick and informative. Maybe it’s a whole crew or the history of the neighborhood crew- that’s what we did for the wicked feature. It was an early concept that we wanted to have in Issue #2, but we weren’t ready for it yet, so we put it in Issue #3. It’s not just about one writer either; it’s about the whole wicked culture and history behind it – that’s what we’re there to do.” 2. What kind of professional training do you have with publications? “I graduated from The Art Institute of Philadelphia with a Bachelor’s in Science and Graphic Design. And I worked with a lot of publications, from start-ups to working in Brooklyn for months. This is where I worked with a lot of ‘in-flight’ magazines, like GO, MAMi, West, and VIVA. I also worked with different publishers with a wide array of subjects, such as, boxing, running, bilingual and fashion.” 3. Is this your full time career? “It’s a side thing, right now, but my dream and vision is, definitely, to get this to where it is my full time job, because it’s where my passion lies. If this could be my full time job and feed my family- that’s all I want. That’d be great if this is what I would work on for the rest of my life.” Please, continue reading on Page 2{pagebreak} 4. What roll did you play in the production of the magazine and how did you go about your content and title choices? “I created the magazine and got the gears going; I took The Infamous to the next level into publication. Instead of having ‘study or research groups’ that big companies would have, I started out by having a bunch of little ‘get together’ parties at his house with graffiti artists from all sides of Philly. If I was talking to graffiti artists outside of Philly, I would use Gchat. We would talk about what kind of departments, pages and flow we would want for the magazine. We also discussed what name we can come up with that isn’t already taken. We wanted a name that fit the culture and fits into a brand and a lot of different people gave us their ideas and we took from that what we felt was the best. We wanted to break away from just Q & A’s and articles. That’s why we have a ‘Flow Chart’ in the magazine – it’s a little visual chart to break it all up. We want to have more visuals, flow charts, info graphics and cool stats and we’re willing to collect data, like we are now, to create those graphics. There’s still a lot of things we wants to do, but they are put aside until they have the resources to do them. We want to push the limit as much as we can, with the little team we have. The Infamous is definitely going to continue to grow.” 5. What do you love most about The Infamous? “It’s crazy, but I love every aspect of it, from putting it together to conceiving the stories for the next issue; I love the whole process. That’s why I continue to work with magazines. Right now, we’re trying to work on how we’re going to do the app. I know that there are some quick, easy and cheap ways to put out a digital magazine online, but we’re not trying into rush it, because we have already brought to print, what we consider, a magazine at a high level of quality and standard. So if we do a digital magazine, we would want it to look and feel the same way as the print magazine, but with extra content and extra buttons. We just want to make sure that we put out the same quality. We want to work with some of the software that GQ or The New Yorker uses; it will be the more expensive route we would want to go, but that’s what we want to happen.” 6. What did you want to be when you were younger? “I was always into art; ever since I was little, I would draw crazy stuff. When I was younger, some kids magazine, like Nickelodeon or some other kids magazine like that, they were asking for art submissions, so I sent mine in. And boom! in the next issue, they had my monster drawing in there. I thought, whoa, it had my name and everything. I thought, wow, that was awesome! That kind of pushed me to get my art seen by other people. I started thinking, how do I get all my artwork seen by other people? I thought by advertising; I thought graffiti. Pretty much, if you want your artwork seen by other people, you do graffiti. So then, I got into graffiti a little bit. But when I was considering what I wanted to do for a career, I thought of my dad. He was always on the computer networking and that fit pretty well. I thought, maybe, I’ll follow his footsteps by getting into computer stuff, since it pays pretty well. But then, since some of my friends were going to school for art and I like typography, letters, monsters- all that good stuff. I thought, hmmm, art plus computers equals graphic design.” Please, continue reading on Page 3{pagebreak} 7. So, when’s the next release of The Infamous Magazine and how do we get it? “It releases this weekend. And how you get it depends on where you’re located. A couple places that carry the magazine are: Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, graffiti boutiques, or distributors like DKE. Or you can buy it directly on the website, TheInfamousMag.com, where the most recent issue sells for $8.50 and they ship for free; it comes delivered in nice packaging and free stickers. [Oh, we like free stickers..] As of right now, these stores are waiting for the next issue to be released to hit the shelves. Because they have a shelf limit, which is usually 3 months, they aren’t going to have any past issues. If you wanted any of those, you can find them directly on the site.” Including, The Infamous Magazine‘s Past issues range from $9.50 to the First Issue at $100. 8. What can we expect from the release of the Seventh Issue? Baron informed me that The Infamous Magazine has split covers, which are different covers for the same magazine issue. So, for the covers of this coming 7th issue, “we have MQ and on the other we have Fuel and Fire. And, as always, we have three feature articles. The featured articles for this issue are: the LTV squad, MQ and Fuel and Fire.” The breakdown: “LTV is a crew who explore abandon buildings, subway stations and take pictures of old graffiti and they’re telling a story about some of their journeys, how they’re perceived and what they run into. MQ talks about his latest happenings about how he’s trying to brand a lot of things. And Fuel and Fire, who are a semi-new, all-female power group talk about how they collaborate and do big murals every year and do stuff in their own cities, as well. In the 7th Issue, we have Steel Wheels, PALMER, from out West, KOMA, DMS crew and MQ. We also have CLASH, new breed APEAL and JADE, BTM from San Fran with his handstyles. BAGER from Cali and KING 157, who’s an old freight head who is well-respected and RAPES from the Midwest with his ill style. We also have Mr. Penfold, from London, who we recently got action shots of him in Brooklyn. We’re also going to have cap matches going on the vintage paint page and talks about old Krylon cans. Lush Sucks, who also did our Flow Chart, with some crazy scenarios – it’s pretty cool. ECLIPSE, from LA, with his new Reebok design and LEARN on the ‘Chase’ page, with a crazy chase story.” To sum it all up, Baron notes, “it’s going to be pretty big and the photo gallery is going to be pretty awesome.” 9. What new doors did the magazine open up for you? Baron explained, “the magazine opened up travel doors for me. I’ve never been further than St. Louis, but I’ve been to Canada and up and down the East Coast, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Even though it’s not my top priority, this magazine has pushed me to get out to Cali. I met new people and some of those people were mutual friend of the friends that I already have – it was cool to meet everyone. And it feels like a small world, when you travel and meet someone and you find out, like oh, you’re friends with ‘this person.’ And I’m like, ‘aw, yeah, that’s my man!’ It’s pretty awesome having that feeling. If you’re travelling to graffiti in different places be careful, because different places you go to do graffiti are totally different. In your mind, you’re nervous about running into the cops for the wrong reason. In Puerto Rico, all my friends told me that ones who shoot at you are the cops. They don’t care, they’ll just shoot at you. So, who cares about getting arrested, you don’t want to get shot at. The same thing happens in the Dominican Republic, if you try to go paint the subway, unless if you tip the cops off, like $50 or $100 bucks – American money, you may get shot.” He concluded with some advice for people who are considering travelling to graffiti, by making it aware that “it’s an entirely different culture and you have to look out for different things, than where you do where you’re from. My advice would be to try to get up with some local riders to see how the justice system is.” Please, continue reading on Page 4{pagebreak} 10. Does this magazine define success for you or you do you have other ambitions? “Well, I want to give this all I got, but I hope that it doesn’t just stay a magazine. I want to brand it so it can become a lot of other things in the future. What I really want is to get into videos. It’s easy to put out a five minute video up on YouTube, with different segments and submissions, but I remain hesitant. Until, I have the resources, power and money to have the quality from like Exit Through the Gift Shop or The Infamy documentaries, which is what we sets as our high quality and standard. If we come out with videos, we want to make sure it’s that type of quality. I think that it’s all going to come together and branch off to more than the magazine.” 11. Where do you see The Infamous in 5-10 years from now? “At the top of the Empire State building..” [Very funny, Baron; he’s got some wits about him.] “First let me say, what I don’t want for the magazine is to change our content. For some other magazines, they started out as a graffiti magazine, but they eventually changed to a fine arts magazine and that’s what I don’t want. I want to represent the graffiti culture and that’s how it is always going to be; either hate us or love us, because I know we aren’t going anywhere. Right now, The Infamous is a quarterly magazine. And hopefully, we grow by getting a bigger team and get some decent sponsors, advertisers or some big brand to help push our magazine to help pay for itself, so we can do more. We’d want to push the production to five times a year. And definitely in five years, we want to be bimonthly, but if I had all the money in the world and all the resources, six to eight times a year would be perfect. Also, I would want to do the digital thing, videos and shoots. Or even something like Art Basel has down in Miami, where he hosts this huge, yearly graffiti event that attracts graffiti artists from all over the world. I want to bring together graffiti artists of all different cultures to meet and exchange. And hopefully, we could do that and we would have a ‘playground’/meet space for that to happen.” 12. If you could give any advice to someone who wants to ‘branch out’ and do their own [Entrepreneurial] thing, what would be your advice to them? “First off, try not to borrow money from friends or family, because you’ll ruin relationships – real quick. It’s really hard to break even, too. We’re at a point that we’re happy with, because we’re just about breaking even and we’re not coming [a couple thousand] short. I would say really do your research and check out the competition. Make sure that whatever you’re doing is not over saturated. Or, if it is, find a different city or place where it isn’t. Also, it’s important to have a good plan and some key members who are really passionate about the product working with you. It’s easy to have people who are really excited, but then it goes away after month or so. And then after that, they aren’t able to help you out anymore, because they have lost interest. When it comes down to it, I’d say be driven, motivated, don’t be lazy and grind; don’t have that mentality like ‘aw, man, I’m great with whatever’ and think that it’s going to be easy. No. You’re going to have to learn business stuff. You’re going to have to do jobs that you didn’t think you’d have to do and you’re going to have to learn multiple roles and be on top of them all. Unless if you have rich parents or a shit load of savings, it’s definitely going to be a long road and you just wait it out the best you can. For me, I think I’m doing pretty good. I feel like I’ve gotten hit by Hurricane Sandy time and time again, but you just have to pull through. I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know this is going to be successful. I know it’s going to happen, because I’m driven to make that happen and nothing’s going to stop me.” text: IAintChaGranma photos: TheInfamousMagazine website

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