Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper on His B-Boy Days, Working at Wet Paint, and the Thrill of Live Art
Dumperfoo doing what he does best: Covering a canvas with paint.
It's a wonder that Adam Dumper ever finds time to sleep, especially since the Tempe urban artist, live painting guru, and hip-hop impresario keeps a pretty hectic schedule. When he isn't turning canvases into stunning-looking creations, the artist known as Dumperfoo is busy creating flyers and doing design work in front of his computer or overseeing The Blunt Club at Yucca Tap Room each week.
Dumper's been plenty busy and heavily involved in the urban and hip-hop scenes for years now - ranging from his longtime job at now-defunct and highly-influential Wet Paint Artist Supply (which shuttered back in November) to doing the live painting thing at countless club nights. Despite celebrating his 40th birthday starting tonight at Yucca Tap, the dude's got no plans to slow down, which he gladly informed Jackalope Ranch during a recent interview.
See also: - 100 Creatives: Adam Dumper ("Dumperfoo") - Dumperfoo and Sol.Exposure's The Next Movement Previews Thursday at Yucca Tap Room - Freshly Painted: Live-art mogul hits the walls of a Valley bar - Dumperfoo Quietly Galvanizes the Phoenix Hip-Hop Scene
You started out as a breakdancer during childhood, correct? Yup. Probably in grade school, as a breakdancer who used to b-boy all the time. Back when I was a little kid. I was hella cute. That was when grade school, so like 12 years old. It was the early 80s when everybody was breakdancing. Everywhere you went, like the mall at Los Arcos or something, there'd be 100 kids breakdancing. That was a wild time during that era. You either breakdanced or you rode BMX bikes or freestyled and shit.
Did you bust out the cardboard and everything? I had tile [flooring]. My dad was a construction dude so he broke out the tile for me. Then I used to go to downtown Glendale where I danced at a church over there and I got in this little crew and we did this Phoenix festival at the Civic Plaza. So we went down there and battled people and the announcer was like, "Today we're gonna see a breakdance battle....isn't that fun?"
What was the name of your crew? I don't remember the name of the breakdancing crew. Shit that was back in the day, like 1986 or '87. My mind has kind of slipped on that. I just knew we practiced at this church in Glendale. It was crazy.
Rate yourself as a dancer. I was pretty dope back then. I wasn't much into power move stuff, I was kinda more of like a popper and shit. I used to dance like every day. And then I got into the 90s in high school and then I danced hip-hop and b-boy stuff with my friend Tyrone Robinson and a couple other dudes. Me and Tyrone used to dance everywhere, like [now-defunct nightspot] Sergeant Peppers and all the clubs. I'd be the only white dude at all of the clubs.
When did you first get into art? I worked at [now-defunct Phoenix music venue] The Grind and I was DJing the after-hours. And I started making did art at that time, murals and stuff, and also bartended and cleaned the club. I was doing art, graffiti and doing my little thing then, not on the streets too much, but doing graffiti art and hanging out with hip-hop dudes and being a shithead, being a homeless kid.
Why were you a shithead? Didn't get along with my parents too well at that time and era. Had problems with my dad, I was being a dick and just being a shit and a drug addict. That was from when I was like 16 until about twentysomething.How did you get the nickname Dumperfoo?
For that, you've got to skip forward to '98. Disgo, another promoter in town, started calling me "Dumperfoo." Don't know why he added in the "foo" part. Probably as in "fool." He was my partner, we used to throw shows. We did DJ stuff at the old Boston's in Tempe and started the live art thing over there with Move '98.
What was Move '98? I worked at the Headquarers then and I wanted to have an art night. They had all those wood panels around the back part [of Boston's]. Jim Mahfood and me and a couple other guys, we would paint the walls inside there. And I would just buy a crate with all my money from the Headquarters and we'd have live grafitti and DJs doing hip-hop. We kinda mixed it up, some punk and reggae bands in there as well.
Was Move '98 a forerunner of sorts to the mix of live art and hip-hop you have at The Blunt Club each week? At the time I would've never thought it was any bit similar, but yeah, definitely. The same shit I was doing in '98 was what I ended up doing down the way at Blunt Club and other places.
When did you get involved with Wet Paint? I was living in San Diego for a couple years right when 9/11 happened. The next day, [Wet Paint owner] Jessica Jordan called me, "I heard you lost your job. You wanna come help run an art store/gallery in Phoenix?" I said, "Fuck yeah. I'll be there in two days."
You and Jessica put on many influential urban art events at Wet Paint. What inspired 'em? It came from me and Jess throwing ideas back and forth. I had connections, she had connections. The B-Side Gallery shows were super dope. Those were a mix of art and hip-hop, and all that. And graffiti too.
Why did Wet Paint become an epicenter for urban art and hip-hop culture? We were one of the first shops to stock Montana spray paint, me and Jess, before people in most stores on the whole west coast had it because I was dealing with my boy in Philly who was an old school graffiti writer. So I was getting it first before anyone had that shit. So that was a good thing to because we had all the graf artists were coming through Wet Paint. Now its in every store like Michael's and you can get it everywhere. It's like Martha Stewart spray paint and shit. She's over there doing spray paint displays. We always had local art and local t-shirts and stuff. It was a good hub all the way around.
How many live paintings would estimate you've ever created? Woah...I don't even know. I do thousands and thousands a year, usually four or five a week. And then graphic design and everything else. I'm busy all the time.
Where did you get all your canvases? Back in the day I got it at Wet Paint, I got a discount. Then we weren't doing so well, so the discount got smaller, so I had to go to other places to get the canvas.
Do you do much planning for each painting? Yeah. I just draw it up that day and figure out what I'm gonna do. Sometimes I just do it right there, draw it on the fly before I start painting, and that's fun. I could do that all day.
Does hip-hop and other music help inspire your art? Definitely. And when I'm playing with Drunken [Immortals], It's like the whole vibe inspires me. I'm a fan of them anyways, so when I hear it the hair stands up on my arm. I listen to them on CD too. It's good shit. You feel it. And it's different with people watching you, because you don't have a chance to fuck up. They're looking at your ass.
What's it like creating live art? Do you feel a lot of pressure? I've done concerts theaters where there's 5,000 people there watching me paint and that energy is insane, its a way different feeling. So when I'm at home, trying to paint, I can't really get into it that well because there's no energy, there's no band or these guys to pump me up on stage. And they introduce me, "Give it up for Dumper." I need that to keep me going through my shit.
Any plans to slow down now that you're turning 40? Not at all. I'm busier than ever with doing art and graphic design work. It never slows down for me.
Dumperfoo's 40th birthday celebrations take place tonight at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe and on Friday night Club Red in Tempe. Both events start at 9 p.m. Admission prices vary.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.