Nowadays his sketchbook is never far away, whether he's travelling to Indonesia, South America or any of the many places which have inspired him. Though his work often reflects the harder parts of life, it's always with a hopeful edge, an aesthetic readily apparent in the covers he's completed for Crime City Disco, the Berlin-based label owned by his childhood friend Tobias Gullberg. RA's Nick Connellan caught up with Kid Kroft to talk about his ultra-detailed creations, which have given the fledgling label a distinct visual identity.
A lot of things inspire me. My life, my friends; anything that makes me happy. Music, of course; a lot of music. I've always listened to a lot of techno. And my friend, Tobias, he's been mixing and doing stuff like that since we were young. We grew up in Lund, it's outside of Malmö. Nobody in our town back then understood the music, or understood what we were doing.
When Tobias started to release records, he was like, "Yeah, but you have to do the artwork." So I guess that inspires me a lot, when I see my friends doing what they like. I always listen to the record before I do the cover, because I get in a mood. Some of the songs have this deep house thing in them, but still you can feel some hope under all the deepness. Sometimes if I've been in a bad mood, my sketches and my stuff and my art, there can be a lot of hate in them. But when I listen to music like this, it gets me really happy, and I feel like there are a lot of good things in this world worth fighting for. A lot of my friends, they've been in really rough times in their life, but always when I listen to that music, it's like, "Yeah, I've got some hope inside myself."
I've always been painting graffiti, since I was a kid. Without graffiti, I never would have started with anything that I'm doing right now. It was like my gateway into the things I'm doing now, so I think it's really important.
Often, homeless people come up to me when I'm out in the streets and painting. The orange guy on the wall is just like a random bum, and he always hangs out with me on the streets, so I try to paint him sometimes. It's funny also, because I've done some homeless guys and characters like that, and I actually talk a lot with the homeless guys that walk by and they're like, "Oh, and what are you doing there?" and I try to say, "Yeah, I try to represent you in the walls as well," and they get really happy and try to give me drugs or beers or something like that.
I don't know where my messy style came from. I really like to make details. Even if it takes a long time, then I think it pops out so well when I'm done. It's so fucked, because you can do it for hours. Sometimes I don't know when to stop. I really don't. When it's completely black, then I stop. [laughs] No, but sometimes I maybe do too much detail.
You could say I grew up in quite a hard environment. I had friends start to die when I was an 18-year-old. Some people, they don't have anywhere where they belong in society. Outcasts, rejects, stuff like that. All of my friends—we've been like that for our entire lives. I don't say that we've been homeless, but I have friends that have been living in the streets. I guess it's hard being in Sweden, but if I compare it to the things I saw while travelling in South America, then I have a really good life. My work is like my life on paper. But then I try to make it a little bit more funny and a little bit more like painting, because if I just drew my life then everyone would get depressed.
All of my work is done by hand and then scanned. I used to do stuff on Photoshop, but then I got so fed up with computers. I want to hang out with people instead.
The jungle thing came from like an old, old guy in my town, and he was always on drugs and stuff like that. He always talked to us like, "Yeah, you have to be careful outside, it's a jungle out there." So, it's a quote from him and I made a jungle painting for it. And you can also see, the monkey face, it's an "0," and the banana it's "1," and the snake, it's a "3." So it's 013, the name of my crew in Malmö. You can also see DKE tags in some of my work, that's my crew from when I was a kid; my friends I grew up with. They mean a lot to me.