What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
I'm going to give you a sort of sappy answer. Hearing and befriending the band Ashes in 1992/93 really helped shape my future. I was already into punk rock, hardcore, and graffiti, but becoming friends with Brian McTernan in 9th grade took everything to another level. He played guitar in Ashes (he also sang for Battery), and he was a graffiti writer from NAA crew, who were very well known at the time. His band played shows all over the DC area and up and down the East Coast and later toured nationally. I was lucky enough to go with them to many of these shows and meet countless people in graffiti, music, and other subcultures. I experienced so much at an early age and built a vast network of friends and associates around the country that I call upon to this day. I was only 14, 15, 16 years old at the time, but more than 20 years later I still have Ashes in my iTunes.
Roger Gastman made good use of all those contacts. He started the pioneering graffiti mag While You Were Sleeping and later co-founded Swindle with Shepard Fairey. He appeared in Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop film, co-authored The History of American Graffiti, co-curated 2011's wildly popular Art in the Streets exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and curated the Corcoran's Pump Me Up show earlier this year. During the run of the Corcoran show, Gastman screened his great new documentary, The Legend of Cool Disco Dan, at AFI Silver, and those screenings sold out. A labor of love (Gastman grew up in the area), the film is ostensibly about a DC graffiti legend—whose tag pretty much covered the capitol in the 1980s—but it also documents the rise of the city's punk and go-go scenes at that time. Exhaustively researched and smartly put together, the film demonstrates how resourceful and dedicated artists can make an indelible mark on the culture with little (or no) mainstream assistance. It brings Baltimore's art scene to mind. Next Monday evening (October 21st), The Legend of Disco Dan will make its Baltimore premiere at the Creative Alliance. Tickets are $6, the screening begins at 7:30 pm, and Gastman will be there to answer questions.