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Estevan Oriol and I getting the interview done in the basement of the store.

Where were you born, and were do you reside?

I was born in Santa Monica, CA and I live in the San Fernando Valley

What types of hobbies do you do besides photography/music video directing as a profession.

As a hobbie, I still take pictures and film, I like to look at art, go to art shows, photo exhibitions, ride my motorcycle, lowride, hangout with the family, bbq and hangout with the kids. I also used to skateboard when I was a youngster up and around the city of Marina del Rey, play volleyball, chess, surf, whatever. That’s pretty much it besides working

How many kids do you have?

4, one boy, 3 girls.

You mentioned going to art shows and photo exhibitions, who are your favorite artists or photographers?

Araki, Saber, REVOK, Risky, a lot of The Seventh Letter Crew, Retna, Chaz Bojorquez, and lots more.

I know you did that wall piece with Retna and El Mac, as a collaboration, that was really sick.

Yeah, it’s up on Pico and Fairfax. We are going to do a couple more coming up soon. Going back to some of my favorite artists, I like OG Abel, and Mister Cartoon, of course. Then there are tattoo artists that I like Jack Rudy, Mark Mahoney , and Jose Lopez.

I know you started taking pictures of Cypress Hill during the mid ‘90s. Give me a history of how you go into photography.

My dad and my step-mom gave me a camera in the early ‘90s and then I started taking pictures here and there and then during the mid ‘90s people started noticing my photos, and then I started getting professional work around ’97. Around that time I started doing videos and directing them, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve just been trying to stay ahead of the pack.

You’re a big guy around 6ft, right? Any crazy stories while shooting flicks of say like 18th or just the general gang street life? Shit like that as far as being in danger?

Yeah, 6’2. I’ve been in the middle of shoot-outs before, and I definitely try not to take pictures of that cause I don’t like to have photos that incriminate anybody, so I just would put the camera down.

Nothing has ever been directed at you of course? You are well respected, and everyone pretty much knows you.

Yeah, I got love in the hood! Yeah, so nothing was directed at me ever. But I was photographing in the middle of a neighborhood and a guy from another neighborhood came by and they ended up shooting eachother, but I didn’t take any pictures, and they were wondering why, because the clients I was taking the pictures for sort of had a gangster element, and I just told them that I didn’t want to be the guy holding onto photos that incriminate nobody.

I know you could hold your own if you had to, but what’s the craziest shit you’ve seen. Was that it?

As far as being on a photoshoot, yeah…

When was your first photography lesson or class, or did you just basically have your father teach you?

My dad gave me a camera and just said ‘all you have to do it make sure the two black needles line-up and inside the view finder.

Give me a little history about your father Eriberto Oriol. How influential was he to you, and what equipment did you start off with?

He gave me a Minolta which was a 35mm camera that he wasn’t using anymore, and then something happened to that camera where I had to buy my own camera, but I didn’t know anything about cameras. So with a Minolta, when the lighting and everything is correct, there are these two pins or like 2 needles inside the range finder that line up, so my class in photography just taught me to line-up those two needles. So that’s what I used until that camera broke, and then I pretty much bought a Canon A1, and that also has a function in the ranger finder that tells you what f-stop to put it at. When the needle is at an f-stop, that’s what f-stop you put it at according to what speed you have the camera at.

How old were you when you first started taking pictures?

I was about 28 years old, so it was about 1994.

Basically where you grew up, was it a rough neighborhood in your specific area of Santa Monica?

Yeah there are plenty of rough parts in Santa Monica.

So what basically kept you out of gang life?

My dad, my cousin, and my uncle, they pretty much told me that gang life leads to two places; prison and/or death, and I wasn’t ready to go to either one. Prison for me is just being surrounded by a bunch of men, and all of them have been doing scandalous things, and that’s why they ended up there, so my choice was, do I want to be around a bunch of scandalous people, all men, or do I want to be dead? Neither of those were appealing to me. So basically, I liked being out on the streets, and I like women! Prison and death weren’t for me.

Well put. So what did you do before taking flicks of Cypress Hill? You were their manager right?

Tour manager.

What did you do before that, and what was your first major gig to put you where you are now?

I was managing the Cypress Hill tours, before that I was in construction, security at clubs. No gig has put me anywhere, it’s just like the first one leads to the next one, because it doesn’t matter how big of a gig you think you’ve done; how good was your last one? You can work for a magazine and do a hundred gigs, a hundred jobs, if you fuck up on the last one, even if you’ve done 99 great ones, clients are going to be like ‘your last one wasn’t so good.’ You always have to come with the hot shit, it don’t matter if you’ve done 1,000 jobs and 999 of them are great, it’s all about how good was my last picture?

How did you get hooked up with a lot of groups that are my, and pretty much the majority of people reading this’ favorite groups such as Rise Againstand Blink182, I know you did videos for them. Besides video, you’ve done a ton of press pictures and album photos and CD inlays for Cypress Hill, Transplants, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, DJ Quick, Psycho Realm, Son Doobie, KRS-ONE, Expensive Taste, Westside Connection, and then portraits of some of my favorite actors like Forest Whitaker, Scott Caan, Dennis Hopper, Juliette Lewis, Tim Roth, Kat Von D., Michael Madsen, Daz, and then gang members such as my homie Trouble from Little Watts, Danny Trejo, members of 18th St. and the Rolling 20’s, and solo shots of band members such as Mike Ness from Social Distortion, Skinhead Rob, DJ Muggs, Travis Barker, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eminem, The Game, and a ton more?

Basically just from being a tour manager and knowing the business, networking with the photos. Then I started directing videos, and networking with those, and then one things leads to another and you meet another person here and there. It’s kind of fucked up but your constantly trying to pitch yourself, or sell yourself.

…but these groups come to you right?


I am guessing Travis came to you, rather than the other guys in the band.

No, I met Travis through Skinhead Rob, who I in turn met from a guy who worked for Cypress Hill named Roy Lazono, and he used to play for an L.A. punk-rock group called Downset, and then he ended up working with DJ Muggs, and doing shit for Cypress Hill and putting out Cypress Hill Records. He’s a cool dude so we hit it off real good and he introduced me to Skinhead Rob who used to work for Rancid, and AFI, and then Rob started doing his thing with Tim Armstrong for Transplants, and then I was brought into that, and then that’s how I met Travis, so I then worked with Transplants, and then was brought into work with Blink182.

Well, personally I figured Travis had more of your style rather than the rest of the guys.

Well yeah, out of the Blink182 guys yeah, but out of Transplants it would be Rob. Roy brought me to Rob, Rob brought me to Travis, Travis brought me to Blink182, you know? It just keeps going like that.

I love your music videos as well, but I have to say I like your photography most, but I certainly see the correlation. So with that being said, what was the first music video you directed? Rise Against?

No, Psycho Realm in 1997 for a song called Psycho City Blocks, and my second video was Stone Garden by Psycho Realm as well. From there I did DJ Muggs’ videos, which was the one with GZA, and DJ Muggs, and then Kool G Rap, and DJ Mugs, and then I did two videos for Cypress Hill, then it was for Sen Dog’s band SX-10, and then I had all of those videos under my belt, from there I went out into the video world, which was outside of my own crew. I did a video for D12 for the song called ‘Shit On You.’ I also did some stuff for Paul Wall. The ball just started rolling from there. From Blink182 to Rise Against to Paul Wall to Alchemist to C-Murder, and then a few groups from Japan like Screaming Soul Hill, Big Red out of Paris. It just took off from there. There was also Tech N9ne, and from there my first girl was Adassa, she’s a Latina girl and she does does Reggaeton, she’s bad. I haven’t done any videos since Tech N9ne because the budgets are so low it’s fucking ridiculous. It’s not cool to do videos anymore. It’s like the youngsters and kids that are trying to get into the game fucked it up so bad that it’s not even worth it to do videos anymore.

What about the economy being in shambles right now, has that effected you?

Well, yeah because of these new guys getting into the game. When I started doing videos, video budgets ranged from $100,000 to like $1.5 million! My first video, the budget was $20,000, and that was unheard of because nobody did videos for that low. You can’t do videos for $20,000! Because it was my first time they didn’t trust me with more money. So basically it was $20,000 on the first one, $30,000 on the second, and then it just kept going up. It got all the way up to $200,000 and then the video business started slowing down. I had a producer I was working with a lot, doing videos together, and he overdosed on heroin. From there I sort of dropped out of doing videos, cause that was like my team partner. So I was like fuck this! I started getting hit up by the homies, and then started to do videos for them. It came to the point where there was all of this digital shit, and no one wanted to spend the money, record labels started crashing, the economy crashed, therefore the video budgets crashed. So it went from like $100,000 to $100,000,000 videos to $1,000 to $10,000 videos. It just got stupid. It got to the point where there were all of these youngsters out there that were shooting videos for $1,500. Shooting, editing, delivering them, finished; for $1,500! So it’s like, how much money can you make with a $1,500 video. It takes about 6 to 7 days to make a video. You shoot it in one day, but you give it to the artist, they make corrections, edit it some more, get a location scout before that, and then get all of the shit together, so it’s like all of this work for $1,500, after I paid my dues and built my name up; how much of that money do I get? The answer is nothing.

Beyond that, I am guessing photography is what you like most, right?

I like both of them you know? I think I’ve been in the game long enough, and paid my dues long enough to where I deserve to get paid for what I do. So I don’t want to do shit for free. You know? I love art, and it’s cool to do art for the artwork sake of it, but I turned it into my way of making my living too, so it’s like I’ll do some stuff for the love of the art, but fuck, I need to get paid. I’m not asking nobody for nothing. There’s rappers that want me to do photo shoots and videos for free, and it’s like, I don’t ask them for nothing for free. I don’t go to their job at Home Depot and say I need some paint for my house, and some wood, and throw in some light bulbs. I don’t go to a restaurant and ask for free food because I know that isn’t cool, you have to respect that. Everything I get or go to, I pay for, so it’s kind of fucked up what people ask. People don’t have no problem beating me down for a price, like they don’t have no problem asking me to do it for nothing. Anywhere else you go, you don’t go to a restaurant and say ‘this filet mignon is a little expensive, can you cut me a deal? Can I get it for $20 instead of $30?’ You don’t tell the plumber or the dude at the gas station ‘the gas is high, can you cut me a break today?’ Nowhere in the world do they do that shit except in photography and video. It’s like all day, everyday.

Well, that’s where on my end, when I said I want to help you out with the Soul Assassins, and promote and shit like that, I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t doing it for the money or free shit, you know?

Yeah, but it’s like I don’t want you to do it for free. So that’s why you get flow, and that shit ain’t free. I had to make it, I had to buy the clothes, I had to print it, I had to pay these guys to bring it down here, put it on the shelves, I have to pay for the utilities. Even people hit me up for shirts and shit, and it’s like, what can I get of yours?

I just wanted you to know that it’s for the love and that you are a major influence for me. I just wanted it to be said. I was asked by someone awhile back to street team for you guys, and the guy never came through, but in end it’s like I work for a few different clothing companies, I doing my own clothing company and blog, I help promote a couple clothing stores, and a gang of other things. So I thought fuck it, I don’t have time to do this for free, so I understand where you are coming from. Like I said you are a big, big influence to me.

Thank you!

Anyways, moving on. Speaking about my homie Trouble, I’ve seen him in Mobb Deep videos, Good Charlotte videos, the lead character in Blink182’s video for Down, and I think I remember seeing him in the movie Training Day. How did that come to be. Wasn’t there an agency for ex-gang members to utilize them as actors and actresses?

There was. It was called Suspect Entertainment. There was my friend Manny who was trying to get gang members and people who were trying to turn their lives around to give them work in the studios because all of the other places give you background checks, and in the enterainment industry they don’t give you one. Other places will ask you if you’re a felon, and this or that, but Hollywood don’t give a fuck! You have a felony and you’re cooler! So he was trying to give all the homies from the streets work in videos or small parts in movies, then people started acting shady. They were starting to wonder why that person was getting this much, and I was only getting this much, but they didn’t understand that in the end, it’s a business. They wouldn’t understand that if you were shown for 1 second, your rate was this much, if you were the main character, your rate was higher. They couldn’t see past themselves being on the set for the whole 12 hours of the day or whatever, and it was only natural being new to the industry to wonder ‘how come he is getting paid more?’ So before you know it they are set talking and after awhile they don’t trust nobody because of where they come from. So they were thinking people were out to burn them, but it wasn’t like that. Your part paid this much, and his part paid that much. So Suspect Entertainment sort of fell apart. They have about 3 or 4 serious guys as of right now.

I seen a lot of them in your photos.

Well, what I was doing for that was I was taking their headshots for the price of the film, because they didn’t have no money, they didn’t have no job, no nothing. So I was like, ‘hey I’ll give you headshots.’ That’s how I was giving back to them, so it was like, ‘when you do get money from some parts, come back and spread the love!’

I see a lot of photographers that I am personally a fan of, not anymore than you of course, and I am not going to name any names, but I also have to note that they bite on your Black and White street life style. How do you feel about this? I don’t mean to put you on the spot by the way.

Some of them are dope. A lot of these kids they aren’t doing their own shit. I don’t mind them biting or jocking my shit in the beginning just to get their flow going, but once they get their flow going they need to stay in their own lane. I didn’t grow up thinking I need to do my shit this way or none of that shit.

Give me a history of how Soul Assassins came to be. I know it ties into Mister Cartoon and your friendship with him, but give us some details.

It stated with DJ Muggs. Muggs started Soul Assassins, and it was a music thing, and then me and Cartoon became part of the Cypress Hill family, and then it started growing to where it became sort of an art thing. It included every form of art, whether it was music, photo, fashion, or film. I like to compare it to the way The Factory was with Andy Warhol. All those dudes carried their own weight, and they were good at what they did, and they all did different shit. For example Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente, Basquiat, and a couple other people from that crew. They always did their own thing, stayed in their own lane, and represented their crew. That’s kind of like what we do. We have artists, air-brushers, tattoo-artists, rappers, people into flim, photography, and fashion.

How long have you known Mister Cartoon for?

I met him at a record release party in 1992. I had just started working for House of Pain. I had just got back from Japan, and he was just about to go, so I was just telling him check this place out, check that place out. We just hooked-up from there. So we just started kicking it, we would go lowriding, and then we just decided to start a design agency.

Give me a history behind your store The Last Laugh. Do just you and Mister Cartoon own it?

It’s just a store Mister Cartoon and I own, we did it because we wanted to show people how we thought our shit should be presented. Stores would always try to put our brand, Joker Brand in the back of the fucking store, or always try to play it down by putting it in a whack spot. We felt our shit should be in a high-end type of store, so we built this store. In Europe, they always understood it and hooked us up. Here for some reason, they always try to keep us down, so we got sick of it.

When can we expect Ink The Movie?

We aren’t quite sure yet.

Basically it’s going to be a documentary between you and Mister Cartoon, correct?

Both a documentary and a feature film.

Brian Grazer from 8 Mile is going to be involved in it, correct?


How did he get involved in it? How did that all come about?

He came to one of our shows and pretty much just really liked what he saw.

He’s just into that street life kind of style?

Yeah, just different cultures. Different cultures such as hip-hop and the Japanese culture. He just likes stuff on the edge. Grittier stuff.

He’s going to direct it or produce it?

Produce. He came to the Nike, Blue House Show in Venice when Mister Cartoon’s first AF1s came out years and years back.

Without being too personal, what kinds of jobs did you do before becoming a household name? You mentioned construction, but what else if you don’t mind me asking?

Construction like I said, security at various clubs, I was DJ Scandalous, I worked at restaurants as a manager, a busboy, a cook, a waiter, and even did deliveries for liquor stores.

Of all the bands, groups, clothing labels, and so on, who was your favorite to work with?

The coolest thing I did was with Vans and the exhibition I did with them, also Dickies because I grew up wearing them and still do, and Famous Stars and Straps, because I got to shoot Kim Kardashian!

What’s your best selling item at The Last Laugh?

The L.A. Hands T-Shirt. Blew that out. I have to reorder and reorder it. Some stuff I do, I just do it and once and if it sells out, it’s over. But stuff I have to reorder because it went too fast, and it isn’t fair to people. But then again, some of the other stuff I won’t reprint just to make it special.

Estevan, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with me. You’ve been a big, big inspiration, especially since I am a photographer as well among other things that we have in common. I really also appreciate how down to earth you are, hooking me up with tons of clothes, getting me into events, and sort of taking me under your wing. Someone of your stature and talent, it amazes me how down to earth and straight-up you are with everyone. I’ve seen plenty of people who don’t do nearly half the shit you do, or nothing at all that come off as dickheads and assholes. You have every right to be cocky, so how do you stay grounded?

There’s no reason to be a dick to nobody. What do you get out of that? There’s no reason to shit on nobody, no reason at all. Why be a dick to people? I just don’t think I am better than nobody. Everyone has a position and a purpose. Like, my kids think they know a lot more than I do, but I’ve been to 46 countries multiple times, and somehow they think they have more answers than me!

That’s kids for ya! Thanks Estevan…
This interview created, edited, and transcribed by M@TT.

13 Comments so far
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[…] Be sure to check it out in our Debriefings Section, or directly here. […]


really interesting read!

Comment by felux


Comment by Michael

[…] Anyhow, I guess now is as good of a time as any to remind those who still have not yet read it, to go ahead and check it out here. […]


[…] Check out the interview here. […]

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[…] out the interview here. Subscribe to comments Both comments and pings are currently closed. | Post […]

Pingback by joker brand » Blog Archive » Estevan Oriol Interview

DAMN, that was a Sick interview. I’m not really a reader-type of dude but this one had me glue’d the whole time. Oriol,Estevan is the TRUTH. More heads need to CHECK THIS!!!

Comment by EDSKIONE

[…] Even people hit me up for shirts and shit, and it’s like, what can I get of yours?” Estevan Oriol talks about his career so far, and the ever dwindling budgets in these trying economic times. (via where […]

Pingback by Tierra Amarilla (Mi gente) 6/15/09 « To Fear It Is To Know It

[…] Even people hit me up for shirts and shit, and it’s like, what can I get of yours?” Estevan Oriol talks about his career so far, and the ever dwindling budgets in these trying economic times. (via where […]

Pingback by Mi Gente digest 6/15/09 « Desmadre Arte

[…] Read the full interview on xWhereEaglesDarex. […]

Pingback by Estevan Oriol Interview | Upper Playground News

[…] for quite awhile now but very few people know, unless you read the interview I conducted with him here that his father, Eriberto Oriol was an accomplished photographer and still gets at […]


[…] OFFICIAL XWHREAGL$DAREX TWITTER ACCOUNT ESTEVAN ORIOL FOR THE VADER PROJECT July 3, 2010, 10:49 pm Filed under: COLLABORATIONS,COMPANY SPOTLIGHT,FRIENDS,GET EDUCATED!,INTERVIEWS,LEGENDS,LIMITED EDITION,SHOUT-OUTS,SHOWCASE The Vader Project has been around for awhile and each time around they pick-up bigger and better artists. A little while back we posted more detailed shots of Estevan Oriol’s version but here it is again in all of its glory and also included is a shot of the man himself signing autographs. Be sure to learn more about The Vader Project by clicking the link above. Addtionally, to learn more about Estevan, please read our most in-depth and first person-to-person interview here. […]


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