London’s graff scene has a rich history and many legends. Today The Message and Bombing Science brings you an exclusive interview with HEFS, a true veteran of the craft, and a key player of the UK capital.

In this interview, HEFS takes us back to his early days, influenced by his brother and the raw energy of the London scene in the 90s. We delve into his graff journey, exploring mentors and misfits that shaped his funky London-style with a touch of Scandinavian influence. HEFS reflects on the evolution of London’s graffiti landscape, from the buff-heavy days to the mad scene it is today. Join us as we chat crews, influences, and the importance of developing a unique voice in the world of graffiti. So take a minute and get ready to be schooled by a London legend.

Hi HEFS! Thank you very much for joining us. When and what first made you interested in graffiti and how did you end up on that track?

I got in to writing through my brother. He is a few years older than me so I was pretty young when I discovered graffiti. Him and his mates were very in to bombing and his bedroom walls were covered in tags (we had pretty liberal parents!). I was fascinated by these tags – what they said, what they meant and who was behind each one. I was already in to art and drawing so it was something that I was instantly drawn too. I would copy the tags on his walls until I got the confidence to do my own. Once I was hooked I would always be looking out for tags and pieces on my local travels and on my way to school. Names that stood out to me were IDEA, CHERISHER and DRAX who were all very up in my area with stylish tags. There was a hall of fame right next to my school so I would go there all the time to study pieces, some amazing burners I can still remember got painted there. There was a piece by STET in there which completely blew my mind. This is when pieces would stay up for months so you really had time to study them.

At the time you started to paint, we believe not many of our young readers were even born. How was the scene in your city in those days? Can you give us an overview of the UK scene back then?

When I started getting in to graff it was the mid 90s and for me that was the best time in the UK/London scene. Back then crews had their own distinctive style and people were really trying a lot of different things out. During this period graffiti paint didn’t exist so it was all car paint and home decorative paints which were usually stolen so there was a certain rawness to all the pieces and that played a big part in the styles that were being painted. The scene here has always been pretty rugged and raw, and as a result the style is often aggressive. My biggest influences were undoubtably DDS who were and still are the most notorious crew in London. Their style was very dominant in the scene here and the freshest pieces were produced by them. TEACH, DIET, STAX, SHU2 and SUB were ones that really stood out to me. I always loved the connections in their letters and the way they would fill up their backgrounds with tags and small dubs. WD and PFB were other crews that inspired me, ELK for example was really unique and different in his approach to style, so funky and out there. I was also really in to TFW and later became friends with SIEGE 52 who I’ve painted with a lot over the years, he had a massive influence on me, and to this day I still rate him as one of my all time favourites here. I’ve always been fascinated also by PETRO’s work. He creates truly imaginative pieces. He has had many developments in his style, all of which were totally fresh and unique to what others were doing.

How was your path in graffiti writing and how has your style evolved? Your letters have that funky taste that reminds us a bit of the Scandinavian tradition. What writers have inspired you?

I’m definitely inspired by the Scandinavian scene, I think that mainly comes from EGS. He had a pretty big influence on the UK in general, and when he was here I would say he inspired many UK writers. I got to become friends with him through SIEGE and that’s how I became part of WMD. I also used to collect a lot of graff mags and the Scandinavian ones always stood out to me for quality of style. I had a Magic Moments mag that had a lot of SABE pieces in which I loved. He’s got an amazing way of merging different styles in to one piece which I always thought was really interesting. Then of course the Underground Productions mag was very inspiring to see. During these times I didn’t really have money to travel and the internet wasn’t how it is now so printed magazines were my way of understanding how different countries were doing things. I guess I’m just really into style and like to study and observe how others have made their own distinctive marks. The Parisian scene has always fascinated me too as it’s quite similar to London in a lot of ways, the GT crew were particularly influential to me. And of course the classic NYC style has always been an influence. I’m like a sponge that soaks up influences from all over, and hopefully that comes across in my style. I like to switch things up a lot and to draw on different influences so I can keep things fresh and exciting for myself. I could never paint the same piece twice so I’m always trying new forms, connections and combinations as a way of challenging myself. When things work I’ll use them in the next piece and so on.

Tell us about the city you live in today, how is life and graffiti there?

There is an energy in London that is hard to describe but you know it if you live here. it’s a hectic place with lots going on and a rich history of arts and culture. At the moment the scene here is rampant! More so than ever before in my memory. For many years we suffered from a pretty effective buff and high paranoia from CCTV, but in recent years people seem to just not give a fuck, and the powers that be cannot keep up with buffing or spending money on such things (a conservative government have more important ideas of keeping themselves rich!) a lot of older heads are back out again too which is a lovely thing. So as a result the scene is healthy! More panels are running, and the streets are pretty battered! But it seems this is a similar story across the globe, graff is very popular now with many great things happening.

Can you share with us a few words about your crews? What’s their story and how did you become part of them?

The crews I rep these days are WMD and KGS, both of which have incredible writers that I’m very proud to stand amongst. I feel there is a synergy of some sort between all the members of both crews. I’ve had great times painting with all the different members. Shout out to all the dons! And big up to all the crews and people I’ve painted with over the years.

How important are the study and the “dues” in the journey of a graffiti writer? What are the requirements to achieve to be defined as a proper “graffiti Writer”? What makes a writer truly ‘good’ in your eyes?

I think a good writer is someone who pushes something different and has a style that is instantly recognisable and distinctive. Technical abilities don’t particularly concern me. You can do as many cutbacks and fancy fades but if there is no energy or personality then things get a bit stale. I like pieces that are raw and not particularly polished. A bouncy style with a fuzzy outline that’s a bit wonky is far more inspiring than a perfectly composed, clean and crisp “wild style”. For me Graff is meant to be fun, take that away and it gets boring, not to say it isn’t something I take very seriously, just that it shouldn’t become too serious. That being said I really just love seeing all forms of graffiti, it still excites me!

The last question is for the young writers who are reading this interview. What advice will you give them?

Try not to be influenced by trends and what you see on instagram! Be in tune with your surroundings and the scene within your city and develop something unique within it. Look to the past and understand letter structure, but also break rules and traditions. And of course let the funk flow…

Follow HEFS @couple_outlines_still

The Message @the_message_zine

You can read the interview in Chinese here: