Jason Dax Woodward’s name sounds like a familiar American name and his tag Kasino a regular place in Las Vegas. Kasino, however, has traveled all around the world, studied and created various works, and now has settled down in the mist of his artistic escapade. In the eyes of law enforcement he is a rebel, but to those he calls his friends who’ve spent countless hours bombing, he is a beast that cannot be tamed. In his own mind he is everything that constitutes him as an artistic genius and he has the credentials to back it up.
Like the majority of graffiti artists, Jason Dax Woodward was drawn to graffiti simply because it was fun. Graffiti for him is more than a past time or a side hobby, it’s an outlet and, in his previous years, the only way of life. Although he is Australian, his influences lie overseas on the east coast of the United States. “I have been far more influenced by NY graffiti artists like Blade, Seen and Sento than regional artists,” says Kasino. Despite this fact Kasino studied art in Australia at Queensland University of technology and received a Masters in Fine Arts.
Even though Kasino discovered his love for graff early on, it wasn’t always easy living out his spray can dreams. Strict laws in Australia prohibit graffiti and pose harsh consequences to those who paint or even so much as look like they have intentions of doing graffiti: “In Australia cops will lie and use informers to get convictions. Australia can be quite Fascist in fact. For example, in Queensland there is an offense called suspicion of willful damage where you can get two years in jail if they think you were going to do graffiti. You don’t actually have to do anything you just need to possibly be going to do it, so if you get caught carrying paint you could go to jail for two years. Nine years for painting state property.”
At the age of 15, Jason was sent to live with his grandmother in Miranda, Australia. To what seemed his advantage, Jason’s grandmother wasn’t hard on him and never laid down impossible rules enabling him to do pretty much whatever wanted to. “I was able to cut loose. I could stay out for days at a time, weeks even. I got to practice my graffiti a lot, sometimes doing three trains a week every week for months at a time until undercover cops turned up to raid her house. I flew back to Brisbane and handed myself into Brisbane police after this happened.”
Unfortunately, his antics would catch up to him and he would spend a little time behind bars. “I was both angry and creative so graffiti was a natural choice. I could fight back at the powers that be while showing my rage was not blind but creative. Graffiti frustrates the authorities and has such an aggressive reaction because the logic of destroying something with art confounds the authorities.”
Eventually Jason moved on from that stage in his life and excelled to new heights by getting his big break at the Livid Music festival where 30,000 attendees watched him paint. His influences range from various events and people. “Subway Art was the biggest influence on my career launching. I think that book has to be one of the most influential ever. I am sure the governments of the world could launch a group action against Chalfant and Martha Cooper for all the damage caused as a direct result of young people reading that book. The next biggest influence was watching StyleWars, I went out and did a top to bottom train that same afternoon I saw it. Third would be meeting Seen and seeing how a world famous artist and icon could be so cool and down to earth.”
After being given the opportunity to work with his favorite artists, Jason traveled abroad to take his talents to the next level. “Being the first Australian to paint running trains in New York City and painting a running train in NYC with SEEN in 1993 put me on the international world stage. In Europe it was when Loomit, Chintz, Shark, Rio and I painted wholecars on both sides of a three car train. The solo wholecar I did in Amsterdam in 1993-94 blew everyone away. No lookouts no help, just me and 15 cans of Flieder.”
Now the owner of Butter Beats record store Kasino is taking an alternate route to showcasing his love for art. “I have a huge love and respect for a lot of Black music and culture. I wanted to financially support these artists. Butter Beats is unique because we reinvest the money within our artistic community with art shows. We reinvest in 7inch records that we know we will never make money on, tours around Australia with artists such as BLADE TC5 from the Bronx. We are unique because we refuse to stock commercial crap for the sake of a few bucks.”
Although he has an additional dedication, he always has his past achievements to reflect on. Kasino has combined music within several of his projects in previous years so it is no surprise that he spends his past time dishing out tunes to people. He has toured with musical groups Resin Dogs and Run DMC, painted onstage along side Grandmaster Flash and participated in painting a running memorial train for the late James Brown. “I did a cool James Brown character with JB in a fat red disco shirt with a massive fro looking cool as hell; the lettering was straight blockbuster styles.” As for his current priorities, he plans to stay “two steps ahead of the cops.” His greatest achievement to date is not falling victim of the criminal justice system and returning to jail. “Once was a learning experience twice is a life style choice.”