Here it is guys, everything you always wanted to know about The London Police (but were afraid to ask), we ask for you. We sat down for a raw, exclusive, and wide-ranging interview with one of the world’s most talented art duos – The London Police guys Bob Gibson and Chaz Barrisson. Ahead of the new The London Police exhibition with SheOne at 2B Art Gallery in Palma de Mallorca, we took a brief moment to ask some (un)pleasant questions.
Who are they really? Why The London Police name, and what’s the deal with Barry Manilow? Get to know the guys behind some of the world’s most iconic street art pieces.
2B: Let’s skip shooting the breeze and get straight upon it. How did you guys meet?
TLP: We both grew up in Chelmsford, Essex UK. We hung about in the same group of friends and once we recognized we were both aspiring artists we decided to form a crew together. It started as photography but quickly became about drawing and painting the characters of the TLP world.
2B: You guys probably hear this a lot, but where do you find inspiration? Do you ever stop and say “Ohh wait, we already did that”?
TLP: Everything can be inspirational and you can find it everywhere. From other artists to music, nature, mathematics, etc. Especially movies like Top Gun where Maverick loses his wingman Goose but still manages to graduate, kill some baddies, finally make friends with Iceman, and then still gets Kelly McGillis at the end. There’s your inspiration right there!
2B: When you get invited to do some project, do you brainstorm a lot, or is there an instant clicking like “we know what to do”?
TLP: Bit of both really. We generally take a look at the specific project, discuss it together, and then Bob does whatever he wants anyway. Having done this for 24 years there are certainly times when we already know what to do. However, there is always room for improvement and it is important to remain flexible and open to new ideas.
2B: Are you sometimes annoyed by spectators and their suggestions?
TLP: Not really. Everyone is welcome to their opinion. We are very sure about what we do. Our barometer for success is if we like what we are doing and are happy with it. It’s always interesting to listen to what other people think but it does not necessarily affect or influence us.
2B: Obviously, you have a lot of outdoor experience. Are you a survival school kind of guys?
TLP: Not really sure what that means to be honest but Bob certainly spends a lot of time in Lycra shorts cycling around the featureless outskirts of Amsterdam if that helps answer the question.
2B: Reveal to us who is Banksy? Just kidding haha, but seriously, would you work with him?
TLP: Sure why not? We’d always consider working with any artist. Just depends on the project.
2B: Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Are you sometimes tempted to copy or steal?
TLP: Can’t say we really agree with the quote. Who is this Picasso character? Think it’s normal for people to build upon other people’s ideas over time. We like to think we have our own vocabulary with our style but of course, it’s certainly laced with similar ideas to those who have gone before us. We also like to use iconic portraits of people we admire and feature things from our favorite movies i.e Star Wars for example so we’re probably as guilty as anyone for borrowing iconic images.
2B: What is a typical day for you when you guys don’t paint? Are you an outdoorsy, get-up-at-5 am-for-a-hike kind of guys haha, or what?
TLP: (BOB) I’m a family man so any time I can spend time with my family I usually do. Outside of that, I enjoy biking, exercising, and trying not to have any fun socially. However, I have recently rejoined the Dutch band ‘Moss’ (music available on Spotify- new album HX) and enjoy playing music gigs.
(CHAZ): Because I have no kids I am much more about traveling and having as much fun as possible. I also like listening to music, watching football, playing pool, and sipping tequila. Preferably all at the same time.
2B: What do think you would be doing now if things had not taken off in the early 2000s when you started painting?
TLP: We did have a plan B. It was a restaurant called ‘WcRonalds’ which only served healthy food for minimal prices. All profit would go back into bettering the franchise and employees would be paid astonishing amounts of money. It probably would have solved world hunger and balanced out the disparity between classes in the modern era but, thankfully TLP has worked out well and ‘WcRonalds’ can take its place in the ‘what might have been’ category.
2B: Which of your early artworks are you most fond of, looking back?
TLP: We made a piece for our 2011 New York show which was our biggest canvas to date 420cm x 180cm. Just for the sheer scale of it and the momentous occasion we could say that this was one of our fondest pieces. However, we have made so many over the years if we look back there are many pieces we are very fond of and in general, we like our work. Let’s just say all of them to avoid any confusion.
2B: Clearly, you’re not getting younger. What’s still on the to-do list?
TLP: We’re still hungry and nothing changed there. We remain ambitious and enjoy going to all the places and meeting all the people on our TLP adventure. It’s lasted over two decades and has taken us all around the world. Only last week we were flown by helicopter to Monte Carlo to paint for the Prince of Monaco. It never fails to surprise us to experience all the twists and turns of being traveling world artists and we’re very grateful for that.
2B: Which artist (living or dead) do you most admire, and why?
TLP: There are too many to pick one really and we see artistry also within the fields of music, sport, film, fashion, etc. Anyone who is on top of their game is worthy of admiration. For modern-day artists take a look at who we follow on Instagram and you’ll see loads of incredible people.
2B: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
TLP: Don’t be silly. We’re both fine, upstanding members of the community.
2B: What is a trait you most deplore in others?
TLP: (Bob): People drinking too much tequila.
(Chaz): People not drinking enough tequila.
2B: Remember the movie Basquiat, who would play you guys in the film “The London Police”?
TLP: (BOB): I’d like to play myself and Clint Eastwood could play Chaz. I’ve always wanted to meet him.
(CHAZ): I’d like to be played by Will Smith and Bob by that girl who’s now a boy from the film Juno.
2B: Who is your celebrity crush? (Don’t worry, we won’t spread the word around)
TLP: (BOB): Any female celebrity riding a racing bike.
(CHAZ): Princess Leia in Star Wars when she’s all feisty and calling Chewbacca a big walking carpet.
2B: Let’s get serious now…….what do you see as the biggest challenges?
TLP: To continually grow together as a team even though we are different people and our lives have taken different paths.
2B: Any tips for the young artists out there?
TLP: If you work hard, enjoy what you do, and persevere you have a great chance of getting somewhere. Be flexible with your ambitions and have patience. If you’re enjoying the ride then it’s all good.
2B: Clearly, you have set the standards when it comes to street art, so what’s next for TLP?
TLP: Onwards and upwards. Keep working and enjoying it. Bigger scale paintings. Animation etc. At some point, we’d love to build a home for dogs. Literally have thousands of them living on a huge patch of land somewhere so they can run free and live their best lives. Like real-life dog heaven but….they still die at some point.
2B: Ok, we have to talk about the elephant in the room – Why The London Police name?
TLP: It was just a name we came up with in 1998 that had a rock n roll band feel about it. It’s memorable, original, and easy to understand in most languages. The real police in London UK are called the Metropolitan Police for some reason so they have never complained. We do get messages every week though from people tipping us off about suspects in London and various criminal activities in England’s capital.
2B: And now, the question of all questions – What’s the deal with Barry Manilow?
TLP: Probably it started off as a joke as Bazza has that feel of being a bit cheesy and someone your parents listen to. However, we generally admire his immense songwriting ability and legendary status and he became like a mascot for us. Hopefully, we can all meet one day and have a sing-song around the piano. We’d probably butcher half his songs but it would still be an epic moment in TLP history.