Teebs & Dion Banks

by flaunt

A Gradient Tint, A Sine Wave, A Tree House
Who better to dig deep into your brain than a homie? In an ode to the old skateboard mags of yore, we paired artist/musician Mtendere "Teebs" Mandowa with his artist buddy Dion Banks, and supplied some questions for Banks to wield. In the end: a dialogue between two individuals on the concept of creativity, the notion of expression, and the plight of Jason Voorhees.

Dion Banks: As an artist, what is expression to you? Teebs: For anyone who wants to make art, expression is the…is not thinking—the emotion that is triggered when something happens. A cause and effect. If some shit goes down and you do something about it, that is expression.

It’s cool that you can turn something like that into a creative outlet instead of going down some other route that could possibly be negative. Yeah, like going on a killing spree.

Exactly. That’s expression, too, you know. It’s just not a good look when you’re sitting in jail for a long time.

[Laughs] It’s cool; it’s true that if you get too mad, sad, or happy and don’t have a creative outlet things can get messed up for you. [Laughs] Especially when you are seriously too happy.

You’re a music man and an art man; which for you is more expressive? Which one do you think has more of an impact on people or more of an impact on you? The little success that [has] come from painting means more to me. A good song, I never really know if it’s good or not during the process. Music is a faster medium, so whenever a nice painting comes around it just feels so damn good.

I hear you. And say if you have no particular direction with a piece—it must feel nice to have something finished and have that patina to it. I’ll say music touches more people in general though. It spreads a lot faster and physically changes chemical balances in people the second they hear and feel it. It’s a much more accessible medium, unless you see art in everything.

What process do you like more as far as [the act of] creating? They’re both amazing. It’s like having a whole baked bran [branzino]…or no…it’s like having a steak and a pancake. You love ’em both, but you can’t compare them unless you bring in all the other factors.

Are there certain things that trigger the want to create one or the other? It just depends on where I’m at with my life up to that second my brain decides to put my distraction down and work on something, and what’s more accessible to me at that moment.

What is failure to you? Not doing anything.

Right. Name two failures…just put two people on blast.

Failures, man. Ahhh. I’m not sure.

How about Lance Armstrong? Wow.

That’s the first thing that came to my head; you know, you promise all these people that you didn’t do this or that, and you’re winning a lot and say you’re not cheating, and all of the sudden you’re a cheater, man, and you lied and you lost your nut for it. You can’t cut too many corners.

Right. You can cut some corners though. Cheating is a part of life.

It is, absolutely. Let’s get back to the failure stuff…who else failed?

Jason Voorhees failed—he’s always getting thrown back into that fucking lake. They always get his ass in the end and put him back in the lake. He never just gets to walk away. OH! Keanu Reeves. Point Break.

He let his homies down! Real traitor. I feel like he blew it. He let the homie surf off and die alone.

Yep. At least surf out with him.

Take that wave, man. I mean, you could tell he wanted to but he chose the easy way out.

Alright, let’s move on. Do you think emotions have color? Hell yeah!

That’s a scientific proven fact I think. Look at McDonald’s.

Red and yellow. Right. That wasn’t an accident. Emotions are seriously some colorful shit.

You ever try to avoid using certain colors? Like nasty ones? Or do you throw it all out there like ‘fuck it’? I sometimes restrict myself to colors I don’t often use just to see how I can make it work.

If one of your paintings were a song, what would it sound like? I mean that’s already out there. Whenever I listen to your music I see your art and vice versa. I like that; that’s my answer then.

They go hand in hand and I think that’s just fully you—no one else. I get that a lot which is pretty incredible…I mean if you didn’t say that I was just gonna say each painting would be represented by a really raw sine wave in different pitches.

If you had to choose a gradient to represent your work what would it be? It would start somewhere above the sun and end somewhere below Atlantis, or just the deepest darkest place in the ocean, under the water and into the heavens.

Has there ever been a point where you felt like ‘maybe I should try to do something else?’ All the time.

I would never think that of you, man. I just never found anything that could distract me as much as my [art and music] work could. I mean, that’s why skateboarding became my third favorite activity. Art and music just started distracting me.

I hear you. It’s about doing something I want to do and at the same time doing as much as I can for anybody else who needs my help. I feel as though through my work people can get relief from having to live with just being people every day and night, living and dealing in the now; and I don’t want to be too selfish about it and just start climbing trees for the rest of my life.

[DB laughs] I wouldn’t help anyone.