Do you know Kung Fu?

As you probably see in our artworks, we’ve been inspired a lot by anything related to martial arts. Spive and I have always been big fans of martial arts. I remember, when I was young (7-8 years old) and just arrived in Canada, my uncles used to bring me to theatre in Chinatown to watch some Shaw Brothers movies…. At home, they always rented martial arts movies or series in Vietnamese. I was already submerged by that culture!!!!

Later on I started to do traditional Chinese Kung Fu…… It’s actually there that I met Spive for the first time!!!! We did Hung Gar together for about 2 years. In the mean time, I was always passionate by Contemporary Wushu and then discovered that there was a place in Montreal that teach Wushu!!!! It was a dream that is coming true for me since I always wanted to do all these jump kicks in the air and do all these acrobatic aerials!!!!

I then convince Spive to come with me and we then switch for Contemporary Wushu!!! To me, it’s the most complete form of martial arts that someone can practice…. We then stuck with Wushu after that. So we’ve been in Chinese martial arts for now 7-8 years!!!! Spive and I did some competitions in Wushu and have a whole collection of medals but now we’re kind of “old” (especially Spive being only 26 years old… hehehehehe!!!!) so I’m concentrating to pass by my knowledge to my son. I recently start to train my 4 years old kid!!!!

Now that you know our background, I think that you can easily understand our love for martial arts and we even show our passion thru our custom artworks.

If you had unlimited money and freedom; How would you go about creating the perfect vinyl toy?

First if Spive and I would had unlimited money, we would open a designer vinyl toy store…. We would make a kind of gallery / toy store. Since I’m painting too and know a lot of urban street artists, it would be easy for us to have some really cool stuff at our place. We would make more than just selling toys…… we would probably give some “how to custom toys” class to kids too or do some jam sessions with other artists. We would make other people benefit of our experience as toy customizers and promote what we consider as a form of art.

I would like to have our studio in the back of the store too….. so people that come to the store can visit of working studio too. We would then probably try to produce our self by moulding our own figures and do a limited run of them and all this in our studio…Of course; we would produce our friends or other artists too.

How much do you refine your designs before creating the figures?

Well Spive and I work quite weird!!!!! I have to tell you that we’re freestyling for most of our custom works!!!! What we usually do is we take some time to discuss and brainstorming on an idea or concept that we want to work on…. For us, this process is very important because the success of the project usually relies on how well we develop our concept…. For us there’s no custom if there’s no concept behind it.

We then choose the best toy platform that we can use to realize the project…. But because it’s quite hard to find some vinyl toy in Montreal, we have to work with what we can find in our local toy store… That’s it; we’re ready to start the custom!!! As you can see, we don’t do any sketch before we start to create our figures…… It’s just like we already know how it will look like in our head just by brainstorming and discussing.

Of course, when we’re reproducing a character that already exist, we have to use pictures to help us but that’s almost the only time that we will have to rely on a sketch or pictures.

When I was a writer, I always do a sketch before I was going on the walls!!!!! Once I have my outline, I then freestyle for the fillings!!! So I guess it’s almost the same thing when I do customs….. The toy platform is like my outline and once that I have the toy…I freestyle!!!!

How much did the Shaolin vs Wu Tang project cost you?

Ohhhh….. I have to start by mentioning that this project is not finished yet…. It’s the beginning of a huge project for us. We released the 2 first figures because we wanted to be the first in the designer toy industry to do a project on that theme. And because it will be a long project for us, we just can’t wait to finish everything before showing it and taking the risk that someone has the same idea as us and release it before us!

It’s a project that will cost us a lot of money because it will involve a lot of things…… I just can’t say more on it right now because we want it to be a big surprise for everyone once we will finish the project.

I think the person who will buy and own the whole final project will be the most happy person on this earth since it’s gonna be a very unique piece of art!!!! Our dream would be that someone like RZA from the Wu Tang Clan would buy this project!!!

Apart from Art, illustration, Custom toy design and graffiti what other things are you into?

If you ask this question to Spive, he would answer to you that I’m doing too many things!!!!! Well like I said earlier, I’m just passionate for Wushu. Other than that, I do some magic too…

Actually, I started to do magic when I was 10-11 years old…. I remember a magic store that we had just on the road that went to my school…… and everyday, I went there and tried to learn something from these guys!!!

I’m more into manipulation and more technical magic….. I’m more someone that will do magic to participate to competitions rather than to perform and do commercial magic….. I still go to magic conventions and hanging with a few.

What I really like and have a certain affinity for is interior design…. I’m a freak of vintage and modern art furniture…. actually, I just enjoyed decorating my dental clinic to bring some new look and freshness to the place!!!

And….. hey….. of course I do dentistry… it’s my daytime job!!!

As for Spive, he has a lot of interest for anything related to music…. He’s very interested by the legal, business and commercialization side of the music industry. He’s also emceeing and doing a few recording sessions with some friends of our.

Who are your favourite artists/illustrators alive today?

There’s a lot of artists that I admire….But I have to admit that the one that truly catch Spive’s and my attention when I first saw her works was Elizabeth McGrath… It’s just so inspiring to see what she can do!!!! In the painters, I would say that Greg “Craola” Simkins, Jeff Soto, David Choe, Doze Green,Blaine Fontana and of course Cameron Tiede, just to name a few, are people that we admire a lot… I think that they represent well our taste in art.

In the designer toy industry….I started with Western artists but more and more I’m turning to these Eastern guys…..guys such as Michael Lau, Jason Siu, Eric So, etc……

Are you involved in any collaborative projects at the moment and is there anyone you would like to work with?

I’ve met Cameron Tiede in LA a few months ago for an exhibition in which we we’re both participated… It was the We’re All Mad There show at Gallery 1988…and we’ve talked about a possible collaboration in the future in some kind of custom project.. But because we’re both quite busy… it’s just very hard to find the time to start something. I’ve talked to Mist about some kind of collabo too…. but again he’s in France, I’m in Montreal…. so will probably have to wait for him to come in Montreal or me to go to France!!!!

But there’s a lot of artists in the toy scene that I would like to collaborate with…. guys such TweeQim, Jesse Hernadez, Jason Jacenko, Brent Nolosco, Liv3r and a few other artists from Kid Robot forum members….. I’ve been an active member on this forum, so I make some friends and some of them are just truly really good artists!!!!

I’m also looking to hook up with a few eastern artists out there…… guys such as Jason Siu, Eric So, Tim Tsui, etc…. I personally think that they bring some flavor that I just can’t find with the Western toy scene. They have that urban street flavor that is very unique to them.

What’s next in the pipeline for the NVC Crew?

Well 2007 will be a quite busy year for us. First, we’ve been already booked for shows and exhibitions until end of June… Right now, we’re concentrating on a show called Vinyl Elements in April . It’s a show organize by I think it’s gonna be one if not the best custom show ever organized. It will feature the top 40 toy customizers worldwide….. so you can understand how high the level will be. We’re working quite hard for this show because we want to come prepare and ready to show to people what we’ve got.

The other major show that we will participate in will be the 8-Bit show annually organized by Gallery 1988….. As you probably know it’s a show in which artists have to do something related to old school 8-bit games. We’re very happy to get invited for this show since we’re big fans of old school videogames…. and the theme fits very well with the cartoony style of character we’re doing too.

But after these shows, we will probably take a break of all this to concentrate on developing toys that we want to get produced by toy companies…. This is our main goal for 2007… It will keep us quite busy until 2008 since we have to design all the characters.

We’ve been in discussion too with a videogames company for a kind of partnership / collaboration of some kind of project thing that is not really define yet, since we’re really at the beginning of the discussions.

So as you can see, we’re gonna be quite busy in 2007…..

Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan?

It’s quite a hard question to answer since Spive and I are both fans of Bruce and Jackie….. I think Bruce Lee played a major role to make martial arts known to western people with his movies…. But Spive and I prefer Jackie Chan… Because of our background in Chinese martial arts, we see and understand more what kind of martial artist Jackie Chan is. This guy is simply amazing!!!!! Bruce was a super fighter and had lot of charisma…. but Jackie is more versatile…. His martial arts skill is simply amazing…. but he's got more than that….. He’s also a sick in the head stunt man!!!!! To me he’s truly an artist. What really impress us the most is to see how he blends his martial arts skills with his stunt master skills…

I remember, when Spive was doing Hung Gar, when we wanted him to train harder…. we only have to show to him some Jackie Chan movie or talk about how hard Jackie must train hard to be good as he is… and Spive can train for days after!!!! Hahhaahah!!!!

Tupac Shakur or James Brown?

James Brown 100000%!!!!!! Ohh man, what a man was James Brown….. For us, James Brown is truly the father of soul/funk music. He just did it the way he wanted his music to be and created something that was really unique to him. It’s just crazy how much he influences the hip hop industry with what he did….. Probably that hip hop and rap music would not be what it is without James Brown since he’s been sampled on lots of hip hop classic tracks…..

But I think that for the black american community, he’s much more than just a music artist….He’s like a cultural icon. You remember his “I’m Black and I’m proud”.

Thanks a lot Darren for the interview and wish you all the best for LCSV4!!!

You can see more of NVC Crew’s work at

Darren Di Lieto

Darren Di Lieto is the founder and editor of The Little Chimp Society. He created the LCS in 2005 as an illustration news portal to promote the illustrators and artists who bring joy to our everyday lives. Since then the LCS has grown into a publisher, hosting provider and events organiser.

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