His old school style gives off a nostalgic feeling, yet Zeus 40, himself, is not an “oldy”. Since he started painting in 2000, he goes relentlessly from Jam to Jam worldwide alongside two crews, who are no longer in need of an introduction : the Wild Boys and VMD, sharing his walls with the big boys of graffiti like Opium, Pencil, and Reso from Toulouse. Originally from Naples, a city run down by the mafia where graffiti remains one of the last concerns of the police force, he’s able to produce art works and exhibitions one after the other. Well, leaving clichés aside, Zeus 40 has found a place for himself amongst those who really count in the international graffiti scene, and after seeing his graffiti art flooding over my Facebook wall, I just had to set up an interview with him.
Jacker / Hey Zeus, can you present yourself ?
Zeus 40 / Hello everybody, my name’s “Zeus 40” and my crews are VMD and WildBoys. I’m from Naples, I am 35 years old and I started making graffiti 15 years ago.
J / Tell us more about Napoli, is it like everybody think it is ?
Z / I was born and raised here. Napoli is a hard city, beautiful and absurd at the same time, wonderful and mean, but believe me when I say it’s not the way everybody pictures it. I have many friends from different places in the world who fell in love with it and every year they come back here, so I believe that is one of those hate-it-or-love-it kind of places.
J / Is mafia still as present as back in the day ?
Z / Camorra is still active but in years it learned to melt in society layers, maybe nowadays they dress smart and they live in the Power buildings.
J / How is the graffiti scene ?
Z / Graffiti scene is in good health. There are many active crews, old and new and I think there is a nice age turnover.
J / Are the police, more or less, repressive against graffiti than other cities ?
Z / I believe the Police are less aggressive to the writers than in other italian towns, there is not a real “vandal squad”. Maybe this is because of the high crime rate, let’s say our police are involved in more important operations.
J / Tell us how you started your career in graffiti.
Z / I started painting graffiti in 2000, much later than the other writers, I was already 20. I always loved to draw and I was attracted to these colorful things that I used to see on my hood walls (soon after they told me it was graffiti), but they were absolutely puzzling to me since I didn’t know what they were. Then I met a writer while they were painting in a hall of fame and I started asking questions and following them when they were creating big walls. Slowly I began to sketch a little and to read books on the subject and to buy magazines; I earned a lot of information on graffiti writing and Hip-Hop world at the time, I was literally a sponge, and from there it was easy to start painting on the wall. Since then I never stopped.
J / Which vandal session marked you the most in your life ?
Z / In my career I didn’t do so many vandal actions, I just painted illegally in my first years. Sometimes police stopped me but always without big aftermaths. Everytime they thought I wanted to break in to some house, school or whatever and when they realized I was just painting they let me go. I can tell you a story that could picture my city in an appropriate way : one night I found myself painting a huge illegal Block style for an Ultras group (Napoli football club supporters/hooligans). About 20 people, we were on the main street of my neighbourhood, a police car pulled out flashing lights, but when policemen saw 20 supporters coming by they just went away without stopping. It was very funny.
J / You belong to the wild boys crew, could you tell us how it started and who belongs to it ?
Z / Everything started in 2009. Some of us were part of a crew that in the early 2000’s marked the history of my city, TCK crew. In 2007 this crew ended so some of them found theirselves painting without being part of any group. Then a day coming back from a jam we decided to start a new crew and while we were looking for a nice name stereo played Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys”. This is how our crew was born. Today it counts me, Rota Opium, Pencil, Reso, Druid and Dizer.
J / You also belong to the VMD.
Z / I travelled a lot in last years and this allowed me to meet and to paint with big artists as Dizer, Reso, Wire, and many others old members from VMD. Within time, we became good friends and we shared lots of nice things. Then one day while I was in France for a graffiti event together with Reso, Aroe (who I consider my mentors) and other friends, I was proposed to join this big family.
J / Nowadays can you live of graffiti or is it just a hobby ?
Z / Overtime graffiti as a passion became a full time job, and I think I am a very lucky person because this allows me to travel and meet up with incredible people, simply doing what I love to do.
J / Which place that you’ve painted marked you the most ?
Z / I believe there’s two places in particular marked a style and mind turn in my writing career: first one was Brighton, where I painted with Aroe ; second was Toulouse, where I painted with Reso.
J / Which wall would you love to paint ?
Z / Maybe a Bronx wall in New York.