I met with Chaz and Bob of The London Police a few hours prior to the opening of their newest show at the Stolenspace Gallery, entitled ''10 Years On The Circle Line''. I first met Chaz in Barcelona in 2004 and the title of the show made me realize just how far they have come over the years. Clocking up more airmiles than you and I put together, Chaz has traveled the world, doing shows and live drawings everywhere. With the recent return of Bob to the team, I knew that something special had to be on the horizon for them. I had no idea that I was going to get an exclusive listen to a potentially great side project; Dog Songs as well as witnessing unbelievably clean, hand-drawn canvasses that looked like they were done in Adobe Illustrator.
- Who & what are The London Police?
Chaz: We started drawing on the streets back in 1998, so we have been going for 11 years now and our signature character is a little smiley-face guy called a Lad, which had many multiple heads that you could add onto the main character. Bob left for a couple years and has now made a return with his new style and brought that into the mix. So we are now a two-man team again and our new direction is to start off with black and white and mix the characters into Bobfs environments. We feel we have some renewed energy and different pathways we can take.
-What prompted you to return to The London Police Bob?
Bob: I came from a fine art background and the character that we were most well known for was actually an invention of Chaz. So the reason I left was because I was drawing Chazfs creation and as much as that helped me to go to a lot of places and garner a lot of interest, ultimately I wasnft satisfied creatively, so I went away and developed my architectural style of drawing. I think it has done us both some favours and it has come full circle and we are back together with two equally strong components. So I feel that there is a balance now that wasnft there before.
C: Yeah and I think thatfs why you see now in the new sets of works, you will see things going on with my characters that you would have never seen before. For example, the canvas with one of Bobfs robotic creations is building my character, painting its eyes on and making my character, in a way, look more robotic too.
B: I also think itfs important to mention that originally, The London police was meant to be a creative umbrella, where we would not only be drawing the Lad character, but it would give us an avenue for creative writing or music as well. But with the popularity of the Lad, that became what The London Police were and now, we want to be able to go back to that original idea of doing other stuff, not just the Lad.
- Why have you decided to stick with black and white? Is this a conscious decision or was it just for this particular show?
B: Rich from Stolenspace gallery mentioned to us that there was definitely some significance of ten years with the black and white character. In general, Chazfs newer canvases tended to be colourful, whereas my own work was more monotone,so he mentioned that maybe we should try and do a completely black and white show. So it was more of a concept for the show, rather than a direction we were planning.
- Ok, two technique questions coming up. Firstly, what is the secret of drawing a perfect circle?
C: Itfs down to how much practice you put in and doing it loads of times. For this show, I used a couple of stencils to get the pencil lines circled in because I wanted them to match with the perspective of the buildings perfectly. But I still had to finish all the pencil lines with a broad tip marker pen by hand. When I draw on the street, I never use a stencil; everything is always done by hand. If you want to be able to draw a decent looking circle, you need to imagine it like a clock. If it looks a little bumpy at around 3 ofclock you have to correct it. Try and draw it as smoothly as possible and use the left edge of the tip of the marker as a guide.
B: I like the idea that if Victorians could build skyscrapers, then it would look like my work. I draw my influence from old prints but want to change it in my own way, by putting things like factories inside these skyscrapers. By using a ruler and the single line, it does have that look of an old etching.
- How do you manage to travel so much? It seems like you have painted in so many different countries; it seems like the perfect lifestyle!
C: It was for a time. For the first few years, I had a couple of jobs in Amsterdam and was struggling, but I always enjoyed life because I could go out on the street and draw my Lads. Once we got a website together, then people had a way of contacting me and that was when I started to get asked to do a shop painting or show in various countries, including Japan, China and America. As The London Police reputation grew I was able to organize further trips on the back of the previous show. For example, if I was doing something in Japan, then I would email a contact in Melbourne, Australia and see if they could sort a show out for me on my way back after the Japan trip. You tend to get your expenses paid, although you might not get a fee.
One person will pay for your flights, another pays for your hotel and then the rest of the trip is spent on someone elsefs sofa. It became a sort of lifestyle. In 2007, I visited 26 countries in a year and that was when the bubble burst. I was in an airport every two weeks and it all became a bit too much. Ifm in my mid-thirties now and some of my priorities have changed. So it will be good to slow down, concentrate on doing two to three shows per year and try out other things like music.
- What kind of music are you talking about?
C: Dog songs....
B: Yeah, Chaz has written songs about dogs. I think hefs written about 20 songs!
C: They are like those advertising jingles you hear.
When you hum a song you like, you tend to only hum a small part of the entire song. So I like the idea that my Lads are relatively simple illustrations and these songs would be simple too. They are three or four lines long and are quite funny or weird and pretty dumb. They have titles like eDog In The Sun With A Massive Facef, eFat Dogf and eHairless Boysf (This isnft a pedophile thing!). The great thing is that they all came to being from something that really happened. For example, there was a guy in Amsterdam who had two Mexican Hairless dogs, that were like leathery wallets and after touching them, it gave me the idea of creating the song eHairless Boysf. Shall we sing it for UKAdapta? (This is where Chaz & Bob break out into the song) So anyways, a few months later, we see the very same dogs and so we go up to their owners and tell them we wrote a song about the dogs and so we sang it to them. They just walked away with a very worried and freaked out look!
- Do you ever feel that the Lads graphic constricts you? Do you ever want to experiment with other styles?
C: It definitely constricts you in some ways. It also builds the significance of the character, There are subtle differences in the evolution of the drawings. There are real challenges when you draw the same style of character all the time and keep the parameters for change very limited. I treat the Lad graphic like my friend. Thanks to him, it has paid for my life and would you give up on a friend like that just because you donft satisfy the whim of someone who thinks itfs always the same? Ifm not some art jukebox; this is what I do.
- Apart from the Dog Songs, do you have any other future plans?
C: We have a show coming up in Amsterdam next month at the GO Gallery and then Istanbul in June and Kosovo to do some big wall projects for the kids out there.