Interview: Louie "KR. ONE" Gasparro, author of Don 1, The King of QueensRecently we had the chance to chat with Louie “KR. ONE” Gasparro and I got to ask him a couple of questions about his most recent book release Don 1, The King from Queens: The Life and Photos of a NYC Transit Graffiti Master which he will be holding a signing event for in his hometown of Astoria at the aptly named Astoria Book Shop.
Around what year did you start and what really made you get started?
I started tagging around my neighborhood in 1977. I used to draw before I started writing so when I first started seeing it on walls and on trains I just started to draw and copy what I was seeing. My first attempts at writing weren’t really even pieces. They were shapes that looked liked pieces but actually spelled nothing. My first ever legible graffiti name was “TAG3” I was 11.
When did Don1 start and who else was getting up around Queens in that time?
DON 1 started in 1973. There were many writes from Queens at that time and a little later on as well.. Guys like IZ THE WIZ, DIME 139, ROGER, SON 1, PRO 1, JOEY TPA, VADE, DEMO, MICK 3, SOLO 1, KB TSS aka SAVAGE 1, TAGE, SLY 65, MACE, RCA, ROB 78, KN, SN, CHINO 174, DOC 1, ALL 1 to name a few.
Did you meet Don1 around that time or was that afterwards?
I met DON 1 in the early 2000’s. By the time I started writing DON 1 had already stopped, so we never crossed paths but a few of his whole cars and burners went untouched into the 80’s so I got to see his work growing up. He also had a lot of tags and pieces in our neighborhood (Astoria, L.I.C. Queens).
Did you live near Don1 and were you aware that you lived near each other?
Yes we both lived about one mile from each other. I was unaware when I first started because I was so young but found out soon after. He was the Graffiti hero from our hood. The best.
You mention that Don 1 greatly affected your career, in what ways did he influence you?
Well his overall style was so nasty. His tags were rippin’ and original. He had a real flair in them. His burners and letters were nasty and color choices were so dope. I absorbed it all.
How did you link back up with Don 1 again and what pressed you to decide to green light the book?
I first tried in the mid 80’s but it didn’t happen and I had given up on it. It wasn’t until I read something about him online that reignited my idea to locate him. The fact that he had such an influence on my style and was from my original stomping grounds were two big reasons. We met and he showed me what he had in his archives I knew it was something I wanted to do so the world could get a look at what he did in the 70’s. A look at what was happening in Queens and on the BMT’s back then.
Was Don 1 open to the idea of the book at first?
Totally. In fact, he mentioned it first and I agreed to do it.
What do you think is Don 1’s influence on the graffiti world overall?
Well, he did influence DONDI and DAZE as well as many others so by doing that he influenced people who never really saw his works first hand.
I always say when people speak of greats like Muhammad Ali they mention his influences like Floyd Paterson. People may have never seen Paterson fight but when you study Ali, you learn of Paterson. Same with DON 1. Now that the book is out and his work can be looked at over and over one can see in his tags and letter styles where his influence is evident.
In the press release for book it says that it includes rare photos of the most under documented train lines in NYC which I being from the same part of queens wholeheartedly agree with but why do you think that is?
I think it was a matter of the time and who the photographers were meeting. Books that came out like Subway Art stayed on the IRT’s because when they were photographing the writers they were meeting and the lines they were writing on. If they would’ve met Queens or Brooklyn writers they’re would’ve been more BMT photos out there. DON 1’s book fit Queens and the BMT’s into the overall puzzle of NYC subway era graffiti.
What projects do you or Don1 have coming up?
I have a bunch of things happening surrounding the book. One being In May 2014. There will be a book launch / panel discussion at The Museum Of The City of New York.
I’m also working on a DON 1 photo exhibition and a new KR.ONE solo show for early this Summer.
Thanks for your time and word space.
Louie “KR.ONE” Gasparro
Astoria, Queens NYC Originals
The DON book can be picked up on Amazon.com. Here: http://www.amazon.com/Don1-King-Queens-Transit-Graffiti/dp/0764345001
Further info and goods: www.krstorm.com