(Interview by Sean McDonald)
Now this is a guy you should know about. He’s holding it down in the Crossroads of America, and helping Indianapolis become known as the crossroads of a graffiti nation. His wildstyle color schemes are sick. His characters always have off the wall personality. 6Cents has serious stature in the Indy street art story.
Bombing Science: Where did you grow up?
6Cents: East Side of Indianapolis
BS: What is your first memory of graffiti?
6Cents: Haha, my first memory of graffiti is of the guys in my apartment complex as a teenager. My friends were the rave kids and skaters emulating cities where there was a real street culture. They used to do these giant drawings of their chosen names on the ground with chalk. They called it tagging, but I never knew any of them to do so with spraypaint. The drawings were huge though with bubble letters and characters, not really tagging. I don’t think they got up either, not in the graff world so I didn’t catch on to it then.
BS: How did you start writing?
6Cents: Sacred was in my art class in High School. I transferred across town and didn’t really know anybody but he had all these graff magazines and showed me a ton of writers; I didn’t even know about that world until then. Mags were really important for us. We had local kings but there was so much was done in other cities and we could only see it in magazines. He kind of sparked my interest with the mags but when he saw that I could draw characters I think he wanted me to be the IWS character guy and that’s what made him teach me to paint. He gave me the name ‘SENSE’ but I flipped it to be a little more unique.
BS: How does the IWS fit into the local history?
6Cents: At this point, IWS is the main piecing/production crew in Indianapolis. Founded in 1995 by Dose (whose mentor was Slope MUL) and Creep, it’s one of the original Indy crews. At one time or another we had members from NUA, KA, HFX and S2L, all crews that put in work in Indy at one time or another. Now we have members in MFK, which has had a big influence on tagging and streets in Indy and kills freights. Dose went into the galleries and started TUA Project, coordinating community involvement in the first SubSurface in 2002. Without leadership, everyone dropped IWS. We have since reorganized and refocused our goal of being kings of productions and pieces and we have no leader, just a bunch of guys that all want to raise the bar as much as possible. MUL is another crew from that era that still holds it down but they are more known for their work in Chicago and abroad. The greatest contribution the crew has made to Indy history is that we try to flex on walls. TCB is king of streets along with MUL; NUA and MFK are all about the freights. IWS is the only crew in town to pursue credibility as a production and style crew for years in a row. We have great writers here, but local fame is not what we’re after now; all the writers here know us. IWS has seen good times, bad times, battles and beef but the crew is strong now and we never forget that history.
BS: Describe your style…
6Cents: Letter-based Hip-Hop wildstyles with lots of colors. I like funky, legible letters with a lot of personality and energy. Beyond that, it’s all about the wildness, rendering is not that high on my list. Characters are a different story, I just like my characters to be clever and well-painted. That’s the style with productions in general, just be smart and dope whenever possible.
BS: Is vandalism ok if its art?
6Cents: No. But graffiti doesn’t really try to pass itself off as art. I think being acceptable makes a thing mundane and easy to overlook. What’s great about illegal art is that it might only last 5 minutes but it will affect someone. Graffiti, though, has no intention to be beautiful or pleasant to the average person and that’s why it works. If it were acceptable we would see less of it. Vandalism is wack, but most writers are not purely out to destroy. Nonetheless, the true essence of graffiti is in the vandalism. There is no writer out there that got good without tagging or bombing or illegally piecing something somewhere.
BS: How did Subsurface come about / How have you been involved?
6Cents: There used to be a jam in St. Louis. It was called Paint Louis and it was a huge deal. I-dub guys had gone in 97 and we went back in 98. It blew my mind; hundreds of writers, every US crew you could think of and some international writers. The Mississippi River flows through downtown St. Louis and is lined on the city’s side with 3-story flood walls. For well over a mile, crews were piecing, tagging, bombing, doing characters and HUGE productions. The vibe was amazing; like a barbecue where everyone you wanted to come showed up with their whole crew and blew up some nasty styles for a whole weekend. Anyway, we all said we wanted to do that in Indy. Dose was the one who really saw it through; he wanted it to be legit like Paint Louis with permits and vendors and all that. We just wanted to have a graff party. He got tied in with a popular neighborhood and got their village association on board. My role has always been first to create art for any materials we have on a given year like shirt and card designs; and to coordinate the artists’ walls or whatever they need. The first year it was only crews that operate in Indiana (KA, NUA, MUL, TCB and CISA crew from East chicago, Indiana) because we didn’t really have connects in other states then. The neighborhood let us do it again in 2004 and that time we had friends; DF, TAC, IO and a lot of other writers from far away. That’s when we first met Scribe, Denz, Mines, Enemy, Arize and lots of others. After the vandalism the walls attracted, Dose walked away and we lost those walls…well Dose Still has them actually but they don’t get painted. Then in 2005 I designed and cut flyers by hand and passed them out at Scribble Jam, also at a jam in Hammond, Indiana and other places. We took the best spot in the city which was American Tent & Awning who gave us their entire building. Since then, we just fill up our south side walls with whoever comes. Each year I make and receive calls to new and old friends to try and fill the walls with the kind of work we want to see. I also do a lot of planning on the IWS wall each year and paint characters and scenery. This year our boy Nemesis handled the walls. It has become something that the whole crew supports: pulling weeds, talking to owners, hosting writers, donating paint…everyone has to get involved to make it work.
BS: Has it been successful and will it continue?
6Cents: SubSurface has been a lot more successful than I think we expected. 2007 was our biggest year with 75+ writers from all over the country. Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, St. Louis, D.C., Baltimore, L.A., Portland, Denver, Loiusville, Detroit and other cities have represented every year since 2004. You have to imagine going from years when barely anybody was writing in Indianapolis to what we have now which is people flying here for the jam without even meeting us. In that way, SubSurface is our claim to fame. Not just IWS, but the city itself has become known for the jam in our circle of people. It’s also successful in that people usually show up and try to do something significant which is how we have always envisioned it. It has been very far from a financial success because we have never made money from it. It actually costs money in some ways. For example, we have made T-shirts in years past and just gave them away. We do this for fun and for personal advancement, taking money means compromising both of those so we’ll just roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves; let Scribble Jam deal with the money. SubSurface will continue for sure. At this point, I think people would show up even if we didn’t make it happen. The walls are mostly free to paint. Although we try to maintain them for the sake of the relationship to their owners, we can’t keep someone from coming out here on Labor Day every year to paint. In fact, that is a real threat to the life of the jam. The more we paint the spot, the more it attracts vandalism, just like in the Broad Ripple village which forced us to move to the grimy south side on downtown Indy where the community has been much more tolerant of graffiti. The owners end up holding us accountable for the fates of the spots and if things continue the way they have, it’s only a matter of time until we get squeezed out of those walls too. So, yes we will keep working for it no doubt.
BS: Who ARE the Fantastic Aerosol Brothers?
6Cents: 6Cents and Sacred. We dropped IWS in 98 and became a 2-man crew until about 2004 when we reconnected with Nemesis and the 3 of us started to push IWS again. We still do a lot of murals and commissions together; every writer needs a good partner and we’ve been getting down for so long we just got the same goals and tastes. It started as a funny excuse to have an old school crew name but we suspended our I-dub memberships we went with it and it’s still in effect. We actually started the crew with 5 members: me, Sacred, Dose, Skue and Nex but people have different agendas and we decided to take it where we saw fit on our own.
BS: What inspired you to want to do murals?
6Cents: Scribe and DF crew. FX crew from NYC. Stick Up Kids from Germany. Mode 2 from France. These were the guys that took piecing way beyond outlines and did huge, detailed productions. Everything they did had a graffiti edge, even in galleries. FX crew especially had a funky mural style. I didn’t even look at murals until I got into graff, but once I started, it was like art just meant more to me if it was massive and right in the city where people might actually get to live with it in their lives. The physical nature of painting murals is very fulfilling also. I still have hard time sitting down to paint a picture. I don’t think I would aspire to be a muralist if I didn’t think I could apply it to graffiti. It’s important to point out also that productions were a way to outdo a lot of local artists as well as graff writers; we stood out next to them all.
BS: What has been your favorite FAB crew production?
6Cents: My favorite for a while has been what we call the ‘sidewalk’ wall. I don’t know if it’s our best wall, but we both went off with our names and incorporated a pretty interesting background/foreground concept. It had a little of everything you want in a piece: composition, movement, details, rendering and, most importantly, some dynamic pieces that are a little different than you would see on a piecing wall.
BS: What’s the best / worst thing about being in Indianapolis?
6Cents: Best: There are not a lot of writers here which has made it easier for me to stand out. In a city like Chicago or New York, there are so many writers and kings of all kinds of different places and things. A guy like me might have a hard time getting noticed in a city like that. Also, we live in the Crossroads Of America which means wherever you are in America, there’s a highway to take right into our city. That makes it easier for some people to end up here.
Worst: At times, there has been very little activity and connectedness in terms of graff in Indy. Crews here are very divided by beef and it’s just not easy to get people on the same page. There have been some pretty lonely times here.
BS: Anything else? Mandatory shout-outs?
6Cents: HISTORY. I can’t stress enough that our culture is still young and changing all the time. From Philly handstyles to NYC trains to walls all over america and the world, a lot has happened to get graff to this point. Young writers should not only look at photos online, but read about the history of graff. Learn why graff looks the way it looks and which regions of America developed at certain times; then what influences made their way to Europe and abroad. The Faith Of Graffiti is a great book that explains the early writers of the 1960’s and 70’s who came from a world far removed from the global graffiti movement we are familiar with today. Writers now come from all over and often don’t have a local scene or writers to look up to. Writers should know who came first in their city and understand the difference between East Coast, West Coast, Chicago, Midwest and European styles. Now you have the brazilian styles and others which makes it even more important to keep up. The most important thing to know is that every writer got their style from somewhere, even the great masters that have their own style had to bite someone in the beginning. Kings get crowns from doing work…Whoever you are, there is probably someone better, harder, more productive or more famous than you. Be respectful, it might open doors for you that will otherwise stay closed. I’m from a city that has no reputation and I have had to build relationships in other cities just to get involved in a real graff community.
Ups to Sacred for getting me started and never letting me stop. Ups to Mines and Gamble for the midwest connection. Ups to Meres for putting us on in NYC. Ups to Cray One for putting us on in Oakland. Ups to IO, CT, RTD, TSC, DF, NUA, KOG, MUL, CISA and any other crew that came from far away to represent at SubSurface. Keep coming back. Ups to all the writers in my city for teaching me so much. It ain’t much, but Indianapolis is our city and I think we hold it down.