I met James Reka a couple days before our ‘formal’ interview. He seemed tired, and I didn’t blame him. After finishing two huge murals,  James or known more by his artist name, ‘Reka’ or Reka One, plops down in a folding chair amongst a circle of graffiti writers and looks for drink to quench his thirst. Despite his exhaustion and having already spent a week camping with four other men, James is collected and friendly. I was familiar to the Berlin-based, Aussie’s work for a couple of years and was pleasantly surprised by how approachable the artist was. We shared some stories about relocating to Europe, challenges learning a new language, and art. Agreeing to meet later in the week, I found James freehanding more of his notable characters on some box-like sculpture that he would later call ‘totems’.

Photography: Tue Blichfeldt

Is this your first time at Roskilde?

It’s my second time, I came back in 2013. It was slightly different. Every year it gets better organized and with better facilities. And it’s nice to come back and see familiar faces.


Is it nice to come back as a guest? Or do you have to pick a crew to hold it down with?

It’s not like that really. It’s not like artists reserve their spaces at all. But it is pretty heavy graffiti orientated and I am more of a visual artist or street artist. I like graffiti, but I came out here to do my artwork. There are a lot of graffiti writers that don’t like this street art thing, and that’s fine.

But you have done graffiti too…

Ya, people can tell that I used to write back in the day because I can actually use spray paint well. I have been getting a lot of good feedback and response. In the end, it’s all very positive. Everyone’s here to have a good time. There is no turf blah blah blah.


How many pieces do you have left to paint?

I’m over it already. I’ve been painting for 10 days already. I got 3 big things and a couple of signage jobs to help out.  There are two here (Graffiti Zone) and I did one way out in Mogadishu, before the motherfuckers (campers) came in.


What’s the best part of coming out for something like this?

Apart of painting a couple of walls, the main thing I get out of it is meeting a bunch of different people. You end up building friendships and networking. Whether it’s a potential business in the future or a couch to stay on in a different city.


Ya you’ve been out to the states too. I’ve seen your stuff for Art Basel and you know Greg Mike?

Greg’s a good dude. I got to Miami from time to time but I am really excited about this upcoming festival in Switzerland and Northern Italy. It’s more of the mountainous region that I am intrigued by.

And you just had a show just had a show in Milan.

That is more of where I see my self going as an artist. I have a lot more time in a studio and I feel like I can craft something that’s less temporary. I can develop my style more and not feel as rushed.


For something like this, do you work off a sketch?

To create what I am doing now, time is of the essence. Like, I have to get this done today.  If I start free styling it will eventually work out. I don’t have to check my sketch constantly to try to get accurate. I just need to go off my head and if I make a mistake, work off it. I call it ‘visual problem solving’, so you fuck up, and the next thing is how can a fix this or use the mistake and make it better. It’s exciting, I never know what these things are going to look like at the end.

It must be nice to have all that access to a shipping container filled with paint.

It’s amazing. Back in the day you would never been able to have access to this kind of paint. In Australia, that shit is expensive as well so we would mix our own colors or use really shitty paint. By having the option to use whatever, it’s really cool. It’s a rare opportunity, so when you have this opportunity, it is special. When you see the guys go in there and choose their colors, it’s like a kid in a candy shop.

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When do you know when you’re finished with a piece?

There is some point that I cut it off, or I have a friend to pull you back and tell you not to kill it. It’s always good to have someone be like ‘it’s done, you’re done’. The hardest thing is to know when your piece is done.


Do you have a favorite festival moment?

Rihanna was headlining the last time I was here. The whole Graffiti Camp went and all these real tough hardcore train bombers were just dancing real stupid to Rihanna.