So we’ll start off with the basics for those who might not know who you are.
Where did you get your name?
My birth name is Adam. I had been a hippie kind of kid growing up in SF and had been spelling my name on my homework and classwork as ATOM since my freshmen year of high school. That was 1990. When I first started tagging I used several other names when I really started writing like COFN, SYRE and REEK. That name COFN I still want to bring back!
When did you start writing?
I site 1992 as the year I started writing because thats when I moved up to SF to begin my Junior Year of HS at School of the Arts and everyone was a writer there… Even though I had been bit by the graf bug in the mid 80’s. I was doodling bubble letters and Hip Hop looking drawings for years even as I was all hippied out. But getting to SF from the suburbs I was living in and learning how to bus hop in the city was my real start within the culture.
Why did you start writing graffiti?
To fuck shit up. I called it art to my mom, but I was angry and entitled and bold as fuck. I also didn’t know it then, but I wanted a community and graffiti provided that. Still does.
What was your first illegal painting experience like?
So much fun. I had all this Krylon. It was Winter 1992. A cold year as I recall for California. I went solo to some walls along the Caltrans tracks in Palo Alto, CA. My Mom owned a restaurant right near it so I felt super comfortable. I went on a Saturday night not too late and did a COF piece. It was pretty damn good all things considered. I need to post that pic. I was super stoked off it. I was biting my man MISK pretty hard back then and he was biting CRAYONE and SKEW just as hard. So I can attribute the look to the letters as some sort of mash up of those 3 dudes.
How long did it take for you to develop your can control?
Years really. Also that question is pretty broad. There are different levels of can control for different styles. Different applications and different circumstances. Like you can get away with a lot on a train or a corrugated metal fence that would come off wack on a smooth wall. In many ways we are always gaining more can control. I was interviewing BIO from TATS crew the other day for my Podcast My Life In Letters and we both agreed that every time we grab a can we learn something new. Its a great thing about this craft. It keeps on giving.
What’s your spot preference? Freights, ‘bandos, trackside spots?
I just like to paint. High visibility spots are a plus. When I was bombing alot, rooftops were a favorite.
That throw up with the wings looks very familiar. Where did the idea for that come from?
That throwie I started doing in the mid 90’s and at the time I would have said there wasn’t really anyone or anything that I could credit as influence except a ton of car logos like the Aston Martin and Chrysler logos. In retrospect ESPO had a throwie that he did with a wing and I would be a fool to say he didn’t influence me. Steve Powers has always been inspirational for me.
How did you develop your eccentric style?
Not sure what you mean by eccentric. But I will say that people have given me a lot of shine off always doing different outlines. I would also say that the way we came up out West you wouldn’t just do the same piece over and over. That was frowned upon. We always had to push and try new things. In contrast to what we felt we were seeing on the east coast where a guy would have a dope outline and would do that over and over. We were always doing new outlines. I know that many east coasters were the same way of course, but we really took it a step further. Also the Bay Area had so many influences that added to the culture of experimentation graf wise. Looking to guys like Joker Ba, Giant, Cycle, TWS crew, TMF crew and TDK with Dream and Spie. Those guys had a massive influence on my interest in pushing the envelope stylistically.
How often do you produce stickers?
If this is in reference to my Outside the Box 228s I do them by order. And I have several limited edition runs of 10 on my site. www.atomsfujita.bigcartel.com And if your just talking about regular old slaps I make them from time to time.
As an artist, who has inspired you over the years?
This is a rabbit hole of a question. I can name 100 fine artists, 100 musicians, 100 graffiti people, 100 designers, 100 community leaders and 100 friends and family. I will say that as of late my 2 year old daughter Paloma and my wife are the biggest inspirations for me artistically. They give me life purpose which nurtures my work. What ever product I happen to be designing.
How long was it before you were satisfied with your handstyle?
I guess never satisfied is the right answer. I came up watching guys like Twist do his thing. The Bay Area in the 90’s was a mecca for unique and super tight handstyles. Again I could go on for a long time on who all those guys and girls were. But with Twist at the top of the pile you can imagine or google who else would be in the list. But more on your question it took me many many years until I came upon a tag that I liked. From about 1993-1995 I was struggling with an ATOMS tag I loved. I started doing a mirrored image tag that people really bugged out on but it was not traditionally “cool” By about 96-97 when I was bombing a lot with TIE (RIP) I feel like I nailed the main tag that I do to this day. But I am still trying to push dope hands.
What’s the biggest illegal piece you’ve ever accomplished?
Me and Blis did some roller pieces that were about 200 feet long each. We went in the daytime to do it along the Caltrans lines around the Bayshore area of SF. We brought about 35 gallons of buff paint that we had racked and spent the better part of two days rolling it. It ran for years.
What’s your favorite style to paint? Throw ups? Pieces? Multi-colored burners?
Lately some days I want to paint a neon piece other day I feel the impulse to do a burner. Moods are funny that way. I just paint what feels appropriate in the moment. But doing a silver fill throwie is always gratifying.
What made you decide to learn the neon sign letter style?
The neon came as a response to the election results of 2016. After Trump was elected I knew that piece of shit was going to try and do a bunch of backdoor deals in the shadows of DC. My first few neon pieces were related to keeping the lights on him. Thats still the emphasis now. Although more commercial work has been coming my way and Im good with that too. The neon is really popular with people on numerous levels.
What was one of the wildest experiences you had getting up?
Wildest? I mean Ive been chased by the bull with canines in train yards with Jase, Ive been stuck up at gun point tagging buses in SF, Ive had numerous cops point guns at me. Ive been chased countless times. Ive had legends come up to me to give me a pound at walls. All of these constitute as wild from my perspective.
How many times have you had to run from the boys?
Too many times to count. Many of them were female cops too I might add.
Where have you had the opportunity to travel and paint illegally?
Ive bombed in North America, Central America. Europe, Africa and India.
Who would you like to give a shout out to?
My family, BA crew!
Thank you so much for your time ATOMS!
ATOMS’s Instagram: @Adamfu
Nathaniel Villano’s Instagram: @Waitwhatnoway