Another Drago project, or perhaps another “a la Drago” project, one that is visionary, multimedia, unexpected and far-sighted: All You Can Eat – A Traptattoo Story. Soon it will be Christmas and we will be alltogether, gathered in a room, embracing and shaking hands. Before this happens, we are delighted to announce the realease of this book, diary, testimony… whatever you want to call it, that will allow us to peek a little into the life of Federico Ceruso, better known as Pepemaniak, and the reality that surrounds him, made up of music, dripping, fashion, dissing and much more… Meanwhile, read a little of what the boy has to say, interviewed during these long days by the Drago quills that never surrender!
What inspired you to put together a book? And how did you relationship with Drago begin?
I wanted to make a book because, in this media world where everything comes and goes in record time, I wanted to make something that would last, something to show to my son when he grows up. Or maybe for myself, to look at it and realise how quickly time has gone and goes by, so quick it does not even leave a trace. Not even a song stays around long enough for it to bring back memories. Songs last maybe a year and then they fall into oblivion. The book will represent a clear memory of a period that, thanks to Instagram, Facebook and all the other social media, will otherwise disappear, forgotten forever…
I do not remember precisely how the relationship with Drago started, but the important thing is that it began! Actually, thinking about, I remember being at a market, I do not recall which one, and seeing various Drago books with different artists. I immediately thought that if I had the opportunity to realise one, it would be such an interesting project, and it would be a really successful one! So I made a proposal and pitched it to them, again and again, until I secured an interview… and I finally convinced them! Thanks to the input of a great friend of mine, Giordano, it has slowly grown from an idea to a piece of artwork.
Tell me more about the title “All You Can Eat”; what is its meaning and what do you mean by that?
All You Can Eat is the title of the book. It represents me in the same way that it represents this period in time. All You Can Eat is a type of restaurant where you can go and eat as much as you like, no limits; you pay for what you get, which is shit, but in large quantities and in different shapes and forms. Of all types. A bit like this period we live in. A bit like us. We want everything now, only to become saturated and ill. I thought of the name for my exhibition in Rome, planned for this year. The concept was simple: once in, you can “eat” everything you want, small and big items alike, make them yours, even for a small fee, only to then throw up, saturated, when you leave. Once I started the book it became clear that it would be made according this principle, which is a bit like me telling all kind of stories. Apples and oranges all mixed in together.
What do you do, and what does it mean to be an artist in 2020?
I do a lot of things… I have been a tattoo artist for over 10 years, a profession that has taught me a lot amongst which dedication, an excessive study of symbols, rules of aesthetics and tattoos; rather than about sacrifice. I am a creative person, primarily. I make various types of clothing, I had my own brand and its own collection, and I also work for other brands – which is less time consuming and allows me to have a better balance. I am an artist, and I make my own paintings and other artworks, such as the toy sculptures and other bits and pieces. All these things really define me, especially when I describe a tattoo or some item of clothing as a piece of artwork 🙂
In 2020 being a creative person means first of all to pursue something you believe to be the only person to have sensed it. Then to obsessively go after some detail you retain to be significant. Then finally, when you get close to the final concept, it gets meanly stolen by some fashion house or designer, or someone who uses it for themselves, without giving you any credit. In this world of Instagram, all your ideas are exposed to the whole world who is not able to use them properly.
(Or you can just be described as a creative: you snoop around Instagram, find something you like, steal it from some poor creative, and then you might even become famous. And so you go on, preying on other people’s ideas, without any pain or endurance required).
You are very close to the Italian trap music scene; can you tell us more about your role in today’s music scene?
Yes, for some time, I have been very close to the Italian trap scene. Most likely because since it first came out, I felt very akin to its mood. And possibly also because I lived in Miami for four years before this movement arrived in Italy… The tattoos I made four or five years ago were trap-tattoos, as I like to define them. I came from the canonical world of tattoos, with its own set of rules, and I started to ignore them. Other tattoo artists used to make fun of me, saying that I made unfinished tattoos… But I knew that in time they would go back on their words. My approach to life has also been rather representative of trap lifestyle. I used to expose myself without giving too much thought over what others would think about me, like going around with socks and slippers, aware I was way past the old posers. I professed my own brand, represented by an enormous vagina on a t-shirt that said: “my brand is for those who can”. It reflected an awareness of a shift in the new wealthy class from doctors and lawyers, to rappers and bikers, or in any case to entrepreneurs, escaped from the trap. This is trap music. Your direction is not chosen for you, you are the director, and you can choose, with more freedom. I started getting into the scene, making connections. The first connection was with the Dark Polo Gang, who were a real powerhouse, in the sense of energy. They did not care about anyone or anything, and they believed in themselves. Then came others like DrefGold and Capoplaza, they’re my brothers, and then came many others…
Can you give us a tip on which singer, beatmaker or producer we should know about?
Of course! Aside from the known artists, which you probably already know about, I think Yamaba, J Lord and Christian Revo are really valid acts.
Do you use social media? How addicted are you?
In general, my use of social media is quite limited. However in my world and in my line of work, the more you use it the more opportunities you have. I have not logged into Facebook for five or six years… In fact, it is not a good platform for me – I am only connected to real friends. I use Instagram instead and it is a critical channel for people in my type of work. Even though I am not particularly gifted in using it, I do all right. This means that if I knew how to use it well, I would reach lots more people, and my business would undoubtedly benefit from it 🙂 For sure my inability is linked to the fact that less I use it, the less I depend on it; and the last thing I want is to be anxious about where to post something or not.
Tell us a bit about your book. What is the story you want to tell and who is your ideal audience?
My book does not necessarily want to narrate something or send a particular message on purpose. However, everybody can find in it an important message for themselves. I think my audience is this new generation that like me is initially scared to choose one path over another. Ideally, I will help them overcome these fears. Or maybe just prompt them to take action. Because a lot of people, like me, are afraid of looking like fools and take no action. My artist and gallery owner friends always used to tell me that I was good… now a lot of them are no longer artists or have closed their galleries, and they are doing normal jobs… and I am still here, making a living out of it.
Where do you see yourself in twenty years? And where do you think the world will be in 2040?
Good question. I always used to say it was the year 2038, as if to demonstrate that I was 20 years ahead of the game. But I see the world heading in a bad direction. I am scared of technology. My parents are already cut out of a lot of things, so I cannot imagine what it will be like for me in 20 years, given I barely understand more than them when it comes to technology. I won’t even be able to open a fridge! Just to give you an idea: I am the kind of person who has bought bitcoins, but I am not sure where or how and I certainly no longer have the passwords to access them. I hope we will go back to the utopia of a simpler life, but I know this is not the case. People will be selling their souls because they have already sold all the land! People already have no rights to the photos they upload on the internet, imagine in a future where everything is recorded and then the data are analysed and sold. We will be just numbers.
How are you living this Covid-19 related isolation? Any advice for people who are self-isolating like you?
The self-isolation does not bother me. I am used to spending a lot of time at home on my own. I found it very hard when I went to Miami for the first time, being alone far away from my family for a long time was difficult. It was a forced self-isolation because I did not speak any English, and I could not even begin to recognise the world outside. But it allowed me to get to know myself better, and now I also appreciate spending time alone. When you are comfortable with who you are, you are more comfortable with other people, the world. My advice would be to cultivate awareness and work on your mindset. Organise yourself, practice meditation. Do all the things that are normally hard to do in this hectic world. Value the time with your family or on your own. Read, research, study and learn. Awareness of life and death, of what we had and took for granted, of what can be taken away from us, at any moment in time. My advice would be to cultivate your passions, to learn new things every day; otherwise our brains become stagnant, like the place we live in.
Can you tell us a funny anecdote from the book, so as to leave us with an entertaining thought during these long days…?
Well, I could tell you about that pink drug we took at a party of artists and company… or about that luxury toilet covered in shit and vomit :] but I think every word could take something away, because the images say something to everybody, and that something will be the essence of the book.