D*Face is a street artist turned fine artist, a creator of monumental-scale pop art all over the world, an in-demand collaborator with pop culture's elite. He's also bike-mad, the founder of Rebels Alliance, and designer of some of our favourite street trackers and scramblers of recent years. D is a huge supporter of the UK bike scene, and an advocate for various charities, too. This all-round good bloke should be too busy for the likes of Sideburn, but he made time to create a T-shirt design for us, and to mark the launch we interviewed, D*Face, aka Dean Stockton.
Hi D, how's life treating you?
Life is good thanks, no complaints and if I did complain I’d sound like a right whinge. I'm feeling very lucky to be healthy, with my friends and family the same.
Can you list some of the countries you've painted huge murals in, and tell us how the lack of travel has affected you in the last year? I’m super lucky to have literally traveled the world painting, from Las Vegas to Vietnam, to the Arctic Circle to Iceland. There was a time when at least once every three weeks I was on a plane heading to a country to paint, exhibit and party, often linking those trips back to back. We did London > LA > NYC > Cartagena > Valledupar > Bogota, Colombia in one trip. Thinking back on that amount of travel now, it seems like a vivid but fading dream, I remember my (now ex) wife once pointing out how many months of the year I’d been away from home and I was shocked, because when you’re in it, you’re just on this conveyor belt of self indulgence. Traveling like that has a fall out, it’s not sustainable, hence the ex in the previous statement.
I’d always promised myself I’d slow it down, take some time out for my kids, but how many of us have said the same and not done it… so Covid and lockdown really enforced that. It's strange because while it's been a global disaster and I had Covid back in March, so I’m fully aware of how ruthless and evil it is, there has been an element of it forcing us all to hunker down, reset and appreciate the simpler things, family, friends, what surrounds us, and what’s important to us.
Of course I have missed traveling, more importantly the people I’ve met and made friends with around the world, I have pangs for certain bars in NYC, hotels in LA, that feeling of waking up having packed and getting to the airport… but I guess all through this I’ve felt sure that those times would come back, it’s just a case of whether I want to go back down that same path.
What was the process of creating this artwork for the D*Face x Sideburn shirt?
The idea for the tee shirt is kind of based on the old statement of a ’race widow’ as in the partner that comes to support the racer, but is left standing watching, more often than not freezing, in the middle of nowhere, more often than not alone. I wanted to put a flip on that, is the girl weeping, head in hands, because she rides flat track and her boyfriend doesn’t or because she's in love with the guys and girls that race flat track… that was the thought, so from there it's composing and drawing up.
Do you have any major works or exhibitions coming up?
I’m currently working on a few projects, the first is a pop-up show at my gallery StolenSpace London which combines the release of my HRH Queen Elizabeth Bust with Medicom, and an idea I’ve been working on; to make paintable ceramics, much like your local pottery shop, except they’re things you’ll want to own, maybe. Then I'm working on a three artist group show called ‘Unity’ with my good friends Kai & Sunny and Shepard Fairey, thats in September in London and then full steam ahead on two major solo shows, the first in Beijing in 2022 and then LA 2022.
A selection of D*Face murals from around the world. See more at Dface.co.uk
We've seen you've got on the NFT (non-fungible token) train, can you explain to the layman what one is and why you think they're catching on. It seems like it's simply owning a digital graphic, and I'm not sure I see the attraction, but I'm an idiot/philistine/old man.
Arhhh NFTs. It's a complicated one to explain, to put it in context, I was hit up by Tyler Winklevoss about a 18 months ago with an invite to a new platform. A year later I'm finally getting a moment to catch up and start thinking over the idea of NFTs, which given we were in lockdown, felt incredibly relevant. Six months of research and digging into that world and three months of development I’m ready to drop my first NFT with Nifty Gateway, this is all at the same time as the Beeple wave hit, so it was really exciting to witness and be a tiny part of this moment.
To best understand NFT’s you have to rethink or throw out the idea of physical ownership, so for example if you buy prints, how many prints could you or will you frame and hang? What happens to the ones you don’t frame? You keep them in storage? Under your bed? How safe or damage free are they going to be? If you like collecting, surely a digital collection is a more convenient, safer way of collecting? Add in the component of block chain, this makes the element of ‘authenticity’ absolutely solid and secure, wrap all this together and what do you have; NFTs. Digital art that comes with an unprecedented level of authenticity, making those pieces ‘editions’ or 'one of ones’ impossible to forge or duplicate. You get a digital file to display (or not) and its place on the blockchain, making it an NFT and thus securing the piece as ‘authentic’. Imagine owing an incredibly good reproduction of a painting, it looks like the painting, to all intent and purpose it fulfils the same roll as the original painting, yet without the gallery and artist's ‘authentication’ that piece is worthless. The same can be applied to NFTs, I could give you the file, you can display it digitally, it looks the same, but without the block chain component making it an NFT, it's worthless. This has given artists that work digitally a real way of validating and authenticating their work, a way of attributing value and collectability to their work, for that alone it's enabled digital artists to sell and live as artists from the sale of their work.
The power of NFTs is only just being explored, it's so much more, for example all of the recordings and interviews of Holocaust survivors have been turned into NFT’s, this secures those recordings for the future. Voice manipulation and the ability to compose deep fakes has given real rise to the ability to fake and manipulate the past and present. Making these recordings NFTs secures them for future generations and ensures that history can’t be rewritten. It's the most excited I’ve been by any art movement in some years, maybe because it doesn’t apply to any of the old art world constrictions. I did say it wasn't an easy one to explain!
What are you riding at the moment?
Currently I'm riding a 2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro and my 1978 Yamaha SR500/620 street tracker.
Do you have any bike projects on the go?
The current bike projects, nothing being built from scratch, but the current agenda is to ensure they all run and ride, then i'm thinning the pack. On the bench right now is Tropical Fever (above), Rough Diamond (Sideburn 35 cover bike) and Vorticist, making sure they stand the best chance of making it to and from the 101 Run! [D*Face/Rebels Alliance is one of Sideburn's invitees for this summer's 101 Run show].
Has the last year changed your relationship with bikes, or your plans for the future with bikes?
Other than the reality that I have too many bikes, my relationship actually got rekindled. The reason I love bikes is the ability to get on one and get the hell out, no phones, no emails, just me, the bike and the surroundings. It's that freedom and escape that bikes bring that I love riding bikes for. The few moments of ‘unlock’ down when I was able to get on a bike and get out, the roads were quiet, it was bliss. Due to travel restrictions and no flights, I managed to ride to Belgium to paint a mural and also ride around France as a get away, it really felt like an escape vehicle. I hate to say it, but I’d really became jaded about the bike scene, I needed to rekindle my love of bikes and get back to what I enjoyed them for.
One big recent change was Rebels Alliance closing its doors. Do you miss it or is a bricks and mortar store too much hassle for you?
Closing Rebels was gutting, but it was one of those moments where all the signs were pointing in that direction and I couldn’t ignore the reality. It had been pulling a lot of my time, to the point of where I’d started to get frustrated with what was always meant to have been a love and passion project, a lot of time was going into just the running of the place, keeping on top of stock, the staff, finding reliable baristas to make and run the coffee side of the business, not to mention designing, planning and managing the bike builds. The bricks and mortar building itself, while super cool, made an awful workshop, a terrible coffee shop and crap place to stock clothes as it was constantly damp and leaking. Long story short, I was sub-letting the shop, my landlord wasn’t prepared to spend any money on it because the actual reality of it was, he was renting it off of Network Rail. Network Rail had been trying to get planning permission for a monstrosity of a shopping centre and tower block of apartments in Shoreditch, with the footprint of that incorporating Rebels Alliance. This planning application kept being opposed by the local community, but of course during lockdown they used this opportunity to push the application through without opposition. Anyways, they literally knocked on the door, told us the building was unsafe and we had two weeks to leave. I’d love to reopen Rebels V0.2 but it would have to be the right premises, with the right people involved. I do miss the physical store, the crew and community… so it's not done and dusted!
Motorcycling really isn't cool any more, but we still love it - discuss.
Has it ever been cool? Sure, cool people have ridden bikes, but it can also be the epitome of uncool… Especially in the socially conscious, environmentally aware society we live in, it can easily be seen as an obnoxious, polluting form of transport, but I still get the biggest of buzzes riding bikes and seeing someone braaap past me on a dirt bike on its back wheel, that's COOL AS FUCK in my book.
Finally, thanks for designing a D*Face x Sideburn T-shirt. We love it. A pleasure, I’m stoked to make it happen and support you and Sideburn. More power!
Buy your D*Face x Sideburn T-shirt while stocks last.
D*Face and right-hand man Boots survey their work