Cover Story 64: David Labrava



David Labrava is much more than what you know from TV. He’s a multi-talented artist and writer with a hustler’s spirit who has learned at every turn of his amazing life.

If you know David Labrava, you know this to be true: If he’s awake, he’s creating something.

These days Labrava is many things, but a creator first and foremost. He’s a glass blower, an actor, a writer, a director, an author, a producer, a tattoo artist, a motorcycle expert. He’s a man with a million followers spread across social media. Fans of a very popular motorcycle show on FX will always adore him for his role as Happy. He was there from the beginning, giving the show an authentic voice, because that’s what he does. He’s real.

Labrava’s fans will love him even more once they see “Street Level,” his recent movie that will soon become a TV series. It, too, is real. Dealing with drugs and addiction and street life.

ERB sat down with Labrava to talk about his history as a glass blower, how he juggles his various talents and what’s next in his world. Talking to Labrava is an experience. His mind runs a mile in a minute. He’s animated and funny and inquisitive. His personality is magnetic. It’s true whether he’s talking about his day, talking to his dogs and or gushing about “Street Level.” These days, he’s sharpened his hustle to the point where he can slide between various worlds and show off his talents. That might actually be his greatest talent of all.

ERB: What’s your typical day like?

DAVID LABRAVA: I never stop working. A typical day starts with Cuban coffee, which I percolate myself, then praises to Buddha, stretching, training, meditating, then into my glass studio by 9 a.m. I am a creature of habit. Same thing every day. And all the while, smoking ganja all day long and dabbing in a rig I made myself of my dog. Oh yeah, I love dogs. “D.O.P.” Dogs Over People. I never met a dog I didn’t like. Or who didn’t like me. They are the most positive, loyal beings on the planet. And I love them. I stop at 1 p.m. and go to the tattoo shop I work at in Alameda, Calif. It has some of the best artists in the Bay Area, and that’s a bold statement because the Bay Area has some of the best tattoo artists in the world. Eight artists. No waiting. Walk-ins welcome.


ERB: What’s your artistic process like?

DAVID LABRAVA: I mostly try to keep busy. Idle hands, you know. I try to not watch TV for a few different reasons. I like to only watch films from directors I respect or actors I like. I watch a lot of black-and-white film. You can learn a lot about lighting and camera angles by watching the old films. The show I was previously on was exactly like hands-on film school. The only episode ever to ever win a writing award, I co-wrote it, titled “Hands,” which is Episode 10 of Season 4.

I was getting hands-on film school. I was having a blast that I didn’t see coming. I was already living my dreams. I was getting first-hand knowledge from people who were practicing a craft for over 35 years. They took me under their wing. They taught me a craft. I had been writing for years, but acting and writing are different things. But it is still art.


ERB: Which medium do you like the most: glass, writing, or tattoos?

DAVID LABRAVA: Glass is the most advanced art form, besides, of course, graffiti, which I love. I have two torch state-of-the-art glass studio with a Bethlehem glass lathe from 1967 and two GTT Delta Elite’s built behind my house. Glass has always been my escape. No matter where I was since about 1993, I always had a shop set up at my house. I learned from Arik Krunk, who always had a motorhome to work out of, so I did also.

ERB: What was that experience like?

DAVID LABRAVA: I learned glass in the early ’90s in Eugene, Oregon. This was the hand-blown glass Mecca back then. No one would talk to no one. It really was a secret society. Bob Snodgrass had just started his school. At the end of that cul-de-sac was a big house with

two Jasons and everyone hung out there. Most guys blew glass out of motorhomes so that we were mobile and could go to Dead shows and sell glass. I remember the first time I saw guys beating their one piece chicken bones against the table and they were doing a demonstration and I thought, “I could do that.” I was already a tattoo artist. It just didn’t look too hard to me.

Then I tried to find a teacher. No one would talk to no one. The Eugene Saturday Market was the only real place to get cool custom hand-blown glass. And not one piece chicken bones either. Arik never let me make a chicken bones. He had me making two piece pipes with a seal from the gate. He felt too many artists stopped as soon as they could figure out they could make some dough that quick. So I started swinging cases. I would buy assorted cases for $500 dollars from whomever would sell them to me, then fly them to Miami and double my money. Seemed like a good hustle. I would get an assorted case of sherlocks, sidecars, chubs, hammers, bubblers and like two jars. Then I ended up flying all over and swinging them everywhere all the while looking for a person willing to teach me.

ERB: How did you convince Arik to teach you?

DAVID LABRAVA: I met Arik Krunk at the Saturday market swinging pieces. I bought the whole case. He agreed to teach me but he refused to answer any of my questions. “You don’t even have a torch,” he said. Arik was living in his motorhome with his pregnant wife, Sarah, just like real hippies. Campout cooking every night, beer tied to a rope in the stream to keep cold and three cars of kids who were living out there to watch the wizard at work. It was literally watching the magician doing his tricks, and not everyone could do it.

Times were different then. I pulled over and had about nine hundred micrograms, realizing I better get as high as I can cause this is my one-time glass blowing seminar and this guy won’t ever answer my questions. So it’s up to me to get the trick. So I better make my whole brain work. I sat there 12 hours the first day and 14 hours the second day. Sarah, Arik’s wife, asked me to read some notes. High as a kite, I rattled off a page and Arik looked at his wife who smiled back. Arik looked at me and said, “You buy a torch and I will teach you how to blow glass.”

I said: “Really? For Real? Why?”

“Cause NO ONE ever sat there for two solid days like you,” he said.

“Or took notes like that,” Sarah said with a smile.

I moved with Arik and his family up to Washington state and shared a house and a

glass hop for the next three years. Proud to say I’m still very close and part of the Krunk family.

ERB: What artists are you keeping an eye on nowadays?

DAVID LABRAVA: I find inspiration from the artists of today. The levels they have taken this is

extraordinary. You just have to look on social media to get some inspiration. It has gone from a secret society to expandable knowledge. There are artists who adapt and have remained original.

Artists like Mr. Voorhees — the first person to ever show me how to use frit — Jonny Carrcass, Cowboy and Facetmana, Kaleb Folck, D-Rock, Malaquias, Rollerghoster, Niko Cray, Ishtar Glass and Jason Lord, Glasshole, Coyle Condenser, Luda Glass, I.R. Casto, Mark Lammi, Merc Minion, Dawghouse Glass, The Holmes Family, Big Z, Les Moore, J Smart, Swanny Glass, Doom Glass, Jolex, Iroczil, Laughlin Glass, Banjo, Ryno, Jason Walker.

And these artists are just the ones I can think of straight out of the top of my head. If I forgot any one of you on this list you know I respect and admire you as artists and craftsman and you know who you are. The list is actually endless. The guys from Chalice and DFO and AGE, promoting our art. This is an ancient form that has been brought once again into the forefront. And it’s cool.

ERB: What else are you working on these days?

DAVID LABRAVA: My latest project is my film, “STREET LEVEL,” of which I am the writer, producer, director and one of the 24 stars in the film. Hollywood is a great deal of timing, luck, and a lot about who you know, not about how much talent you possess, as anyone can see. I know a lot of the actors alive today are working because of who they know and they were in the right place at the right time partying with the right people. Life is full of decisions. We are all in this thing called life, and we are all in this together. We must not forget that. The sooner everyone worldwide realizes that, the better off we will all be as a planet. In the meantime, we gotta keep keepin’ on. We gotta make a difference. We bring art and culture to our planet, which so desperately need it. If we don’t, who will?



– @davidlabrava on Twitter

– @realdavidlabrava on Instagram

– Find his glass at


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