By Melissa Brand
Let’s start by you telling us how you came up with your name and how you started doing graffiti?
We were all about style wars and get a name from your mentor. Sacred said I think you should write sense like common sense. I thought it was wack to do SE twice in the same word. If I’m gonna do five letters, they’re all going to be different. That’s also why I wanted to do the number at the front. There will never be another 6 Cents. I hated my name sometimes and I thought I would change it eventually. The reason I never changed it, was I never saw anyone doing it. I didn’t think the N was a very good letter. If you bend it even a little bit, it doesn’t work anymore – and the T has all this space under it.
I’ve been painting graffiti since 1997. Met my homeboy Sacred in art class in high school. I was a junior he was a senior. We were completely different. We never would have known each other if it wasn’t for this class. He had already been to Scribble Jam and Paint Louis. He was showing the teacher pictures and teaching a couple of other writers in class and would bring in the black books and magazines. I was enamored. This was so much cooler than drawing. He was into all this shit that was dope. His crew IWS and he said we need someone that does characters like you.
I think a big part of what attracted me to it was the fact that these IWS guys party. They get together and draw, drink, smoke and go paint something. I like this idea of a crew that did all my favorite things and did everything together. In the early days, I painted mainly with my crew. Somewhere around 5 or 6 years, Sacred and I got serious about big walls and didn’t paint very much with people that weren’t on the same page we were. Once I started traveling, I really liked the feeling that I was part of a much larger community. I went to art school, spent 10 years working as a commercial artist, and all that time we are spending our nights and weekends painting and traveling.
Can you tell us about your crew and any other crews you’ve been a part of?
RTD, IWS, and CISA
RTD speaks for itself. One of the most active and longest-standing crews in the states. Some of the members happen to be my heroes since the days of magazines.
IWS is the local crew. It was a bombing crew way back, but we have established ourselves as being serious about walls. Most of the really ambitious production walls I’ve done were with these guys and we’ve traveled all over the country together.
CISA is the oldest graffiti crew out of Indiana. We met them at the first SubSurface, a graffiti jam we hosted in Indianapolis for 15 years. They’ve been a major inspiration not only as artists but as professionals. We celebrated the 30th anniversary at the Indiana State Museum.
Where are you from and what the scene like there? Did you grow up there.. how does the scene compare to when you were growing up?
Born and raised in Indianapolis.
We have the legal wall scene but here it’s very small. Most people write on trains, some people do really nice work on walls. There’s always been a scene here as long as I can remember, but you don’t notice it when you first enter Indianapolis, it’s not that kind of volume.
There are people here that have gotten up and put in a crazy amount of work on the streets, but as a scene, it’s not like “oh Indianapolis has it all.” You’re not really hit in the face with graffiti here, but I would bet people paint freights just about every night of the week here though.
The biggest difference now is that I think more people are writing and multiple generations of people have grown up and stayed here. I think a lot of people here today are much more in touch with the national scene than I was. It took me a long time, many trips and a lot of face-to-face meetings to develop the network I now have around the country. Young writers today are so much more connected and not as isolated as some of us used to be. Overall, I think there’s more graffiti and better graffiti here now than there has ever been. It really makes me want to keep going.
Tell us about your style and how do you feel your style has evolved over the years?
In the beginning, I was really trying to do wild style, but my letters were still kind of weak. By focusing so much on pieces and a lot of legal walls, I hadn’t had a lot of interest in simple letters. After several years, I made the shift back to really thinking about letter structure and flow. I’ve always had the background of highly technical art, and that has stayed with me as a trademark of my graffiti style. I began to see letters only as shapes. Now when I paint, I’m always thinking about the letters the most, so I don’t have the same amount of wildness and detail, it’s more focused. The color is still a big part of it though. Since I was always the art director and main character artist on my projects, I’ve designed many, many murals and productions.
Who or what has influenced your style the most?
It’s hard to say who has influenced my style the most. Being in a pretty isolated city with a small scene, we tended to influence each other. The style that influenced me the most, in the beginning, was Tokeo MUL. He came from Atlanta and his style was so much more evolved than ours. He had burners, throws, tags and freights that were flawless. Magazines were my connection to the broader culture and I really studied them. In the early days, there’s really only a couple sites; the most thorough at that time being ArtCrimes. I was among the first generation of writers in my city to have the Internet and magazines just show us what was going on around the world. I think Smash 137 has the most refreshing style out. It’s the perfect combination of traditional graffiti with contemporary concepts. Although my style is nothing like that, that’s really a big inspiration for me.
How do you feel about permission vs illegal graffiti?
Illegal graff can be expensive. The worst thing about jail is, it sucks a dick. It’s shitty, smelly, ignorant and wack as fuck and… a night in jail is free, but the legal proceedings are expensive! I had to pay to have the wall cleaned and pay the lawyer to not be convicted.
Graff is at its best when it’s illegal. I don’t think that part ever goes away for most writers. I just prefer a place where I can be comfortable and get creative, legal or illegal.
How does graffiti play into your personal life and “day job”?
I make my living mainly as a muralist. Generally, my clients are not hiring me for funky letters and characters, but as graff artists, we still have the use of color. I think having that graffiti background and experience has had a huge influence on my career, but specifically, graffiti was my hobby throughout most of my professional life. Although I was always focused on murals and doing small jobs, it was probably a good 15 years before the graffiti productions as a hobby became a full-time living as a muralist.
Me and my dude Sacred have been doing this over 20 years. Now we paint murals full-time. Graffiti is still a hobby, but most of my time is now spent on commission projects.
How much time do you put into your craft on a weekly basis?
More of my time is spent now drawing mural concepts, having meetings and working as a freelance illustrator. I have to balance all that with the actual mural work. I basically work Monday through Friday like most people. The difference is that I might work at night or for multiple days straight. There are also those weeks where I don’t have any days off and I’m doing a mural job in the daytime, then coming home to work on illustrations or concepts at night. I guess you could say I spend 40 hours a week, but sometimes it’s less and sometimes it’s much more.
Was there ever any piece of advice you received when you first started out that has stuck with you?
The only advice that really hit me was from my art teacher. Words of another person that really changed my life. He could tell I wasn’t serious about art and didn’t even realize my talent. He said, “do what you love and the money will come”. I never would have studied art without him telling me this. It seemed impossible to me, but I have done what I love and eventually, the money did come.
I studied fine art and illustration in school
What have been the biggest sacrifices you’ve had to make for your craft?
When I was young I had a relationship that I thought I was going to be long-term and was playing seriously with a band. The band planned to spend the summer working on music, but that same summer Sacred and I got our first huge mural job so I had to choose. I didn’t think opportunities were waiting for me with this band, although I really liked the guys. I chose to leave the band, but that really meant leaving music behind for a long time. I only stayed with the girl a little while longer. She kept asking when I would outgrow graffiti and I just didn’t see that happening. Painting was all I really cared about.
Besides “know your history,” if you could teach something or tell the new generation of graffiti writers anything, what would it be?
I think it’s always important to know and honor the history of graffiti. Most of the evolution has taken place in my lifetime and I doubt there’s a more thoroughly documented movement anywhere in art history. That said, the whole point of this is to develop your own style. I see so much graffiti emulating other styles; To the point of really just knocking it off completely. I love old-school graffiti, but I don’t think we need 1,000 people writing the same style just because it’s so highly respected. Above all, draw and really dig deep to find a style of your own. It’s the most rewarding part.
How do you feel the internet and technology has affected the scene?
The obvious positive benefit of the Internet has been a connection. Now writers from all over the world can meet each other and all kinds of new opportunities are opening up because of it. The Internet has made everything so available to everyone, that you don’t have writers struggling in the dark for years building on their local or regional style. If you’re a young writer today, it doesn’t matter who you like, you can study everything they’ve done and model yourself after them. This means you can no longer see the influences people carry into their work, and that is a bit of a downside for me.
What really drives you and keeps you painting?
I still believe I can become way better. I’m very proud of my style and I’ve worked hard to make it my own. I still think my best work is yet to come. The longer I keep at it, the more I recognize my own talent; The more inspired I am by the tools. More than ever, I’m driven now by a desire to establish myself as an individual. I’ve been a collaborator practically all my life and now is the time to pursue whatever I am capable of on my own.
What is the dream for you or the big goal with graffiti and your art?
My creative goals are just to continue growing and defining my personal voice, whatever that is. Professionally, I really want to grow my work to create multiple streams of income. The dream is to make a living doing only the things you imagine. That’s where I’m headed.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve visited.. for graff or in general?
The craziest experience I’ve had was being invited to Get Upstate in Ithaca New York. It was an event that took place on the Cornell University campus and featured some of the most iconic legends in the graffiti world. The event was organized by Cap Matches Color, who knew about me, Sacred and Detour from a production we did at 5 Pointz. Even that experience was crazy because anybody who went to 5 Pointz knows you could see legends there any day. Our production was detailed and had a theme, so Meres let it ride for a year, an eternity for that world-famous spot. That piece is the reason we got invited to paint in Ithaca with Skeme, Part, Chain3, FC, DF, Bates… the list goes on. The mayor gave a speech and Buddhist monks blessed our work. We went into the Cornell archives to see crazy hip-hop artifacts like Afrika Bambatta’s high school notebooks. They even have a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. I’m not sure what I could do in graffiti that would top that. It was a true honor.
From year one, we wanted to do big productions. People took us seriously early on because we took the work seriously. I think it’s very different when you’ve got fruits for your labor. It doesn’t seem like a waste of time..
Got any crazy bombing stories?
Not really. Bombing was only a small part of my history. I’ve hidden under trains from helicopters and talked my way out of a few situations with police, but I think a lot of writers have those stories. I was banned for life from a local bar for tagging up the area with a bunch of local and national dudes, but I’ve been back there since.
I got stopped at the Canadian border. I’ve heard of other writers being denied entry into Canada but I have a pretty short rap sheet so I didn’t expect any trouble. They don’t tell you exactly what they’re concerned about. We just had to sit at the border patrol for over an hour, answering questions periodically. Eventually, we got in and out of the country no problem.
Who are your favorite artists and writers that you follow today?
Smash 137, Cove DC5, Just No One from France, Jher451. Honestly, there are way too many to list, but those guys come to mind first. Still a huge fan of Scribe, Sub and the whole DF crew, my role models from day one. I’m sure most of us are following the same people.
Do you have any upcoming projects or anything else you are working on that we should know about?
My goal, for now, is to make illustration a much bigger part of my work. I’m planning murals in a few new cities this year as well as some pretty exciting commercial projects. Can’t tell you what to look out for exactly, but definitely lookout.
Where can people follow you and do you have any shoutouts?
You can follow me on Instagram at @invisible_hometown
Have to shout out my guy Sacred317. He’s been my main partner through most of my work.
RIP Heist, RIP Tead, RIP Rapes, RIP Cue TCB.