“I had a dream about you. You’re going to make a movie about me.”
These were Tachowa Covington’s opening words to Hal Samples. Hal, a photographer who ended up being an inspiration for Gorilla Perfumes Volume IV, was on vacation with his friend when these words were spoken to him. Having just suffered a long period of grieving for the deaths of not one, but many of his close friends, the idea for this getaway was that Hal would be taking a break from – well, anything and everything.
Hal was intrigued; it’s not often that someone’s opening words to you are a description of a dream of theirs that you appeared in.
Tachowa, also known as Rollerball, led Hal to his home, an abandoned water tank on the outskirts of Los Angeles. From the outside, a water tank is exactly what it was, but on the inside, Tachowa’s personality, creativity and perseverance sang from the walls. It was a beautiful demonstration of making something from nothing—every piece of furniture, every piece of art, every item had been found or created by Rollerball and upcycled or renovated to make that tank into a home.
“Not many people would willingly go into someone’s water tank and then stick around after the guy starts brandishing a sword,” (true story, folks!) said Simon Constantine, head perfumer, of Hal’s story, but Hal knew, whatever happened, that he had to make Tachowa’s dream a reality: making a movie about him.
Get an inside look at Tachowa’s water tank
He had no idea what kind of rollercoaster journey (or rollerblading journey, as was Rollerball’s preferred method of transport) this would take him on, but they certainly had a lot of fun along the way. He, Tachowa and their friends would often play music in the tank, engaging in all kinds of conversation, and all the while Hal continued to document everything that went on to ensure that film became tangible. A twist to the tale arose when in 2011 the renowned artist Banksy decided to tag the uninspiring exterior of Tachowa’s tank. ‘This looks a bit like an elephant,’ he wrote (maybe it does, if you look really hard).
When he first laid eyes on the tank, Banksy could never have guessed what kind of world existed inside that 'elephant', but his addition to it changed Tachowa’s life completely. 60 days before the tagging, our friend had been served an eviction notice, and Bansky’s work drew the public eye well and truly towards him and his Tank Battle. “I put more work into that tank than anything else in my life,” Tachowa said. “It’s an art piece, it’s not just a tank. It’s a way of teaching people.” But no matter what kind of attention the situation was being given—Banksy or no Banksy—Tachowa was still forced to move and leave his home.
At this point in the story, we’re now not only following the life and times of Tachowa, but questioning the meaning of art. Banksy, a renowned artist, turned the water tank into a publicly desirable piece. “It was already a piece of art, long before it was called a piece of art by people who saw what Banksy did,” said Dylan Hollingsworth, a friend of Hal’s who was involved in Tachowa’s journey. “We hoped that others would see the beauty or magic in it—sustainable living, urban survival, beautiful painting…”
And there was more art yet to make of Tachowa’s life. Having heard about the extraordinary turn of events, some producers at the Edinburgh Fringe had his story turned into a play. Hal had a hard time convincing Tachowa to make the trip to Scotland to see his own life acted out before his eyes, but when he did it was an emotional day, although he commented that he could probably play himself better than the actor. Cue the 2013 Gorilla Perfumes Pop-Up in Edinburgh, where Tachowa got the chance to act out his own character in front of mesmerized Lush employees.
This was when Simon became acquainted with Tachowa, before going out to stay at the apartment where Rollerball now lives in L.A. in 2015. “He was really hospitable; he wouldn’t let us stay in a hotel,” says Simon. “His apartment was beautiful—he still collects everything himself. He knew how to make a home for himself; he could find somewhere, furnish it, he could create something from nothing. He was a really inspirational character.”
There was one thing that Tachowa said during that stay that really stood out to Simon: “I've never been a homeless man. I’ve only ever been a rentless man.”
Tachowa Covington, the man who lived rentless, is an inspiration. An inspiration to show that no matter who we are or what situation we’ve been dealt with, we can all make something from nothing.