Hi CANTWO, let’s get started. How did you come up with your name?
In 1986 I came up with the name COOL CANDY. I soon shortened it to CANDY and then CAN. The 2 came because we were living in house No. 2. After a while I wanted to change my name again but it was too late. I had done a few pieces with it already and people started to recognize me by that name so I kept it until today.
Did you have other names before?
I had so many names in the beginning like RATTY FRESH, RASTEY 177, VIVID LEGS, just to name a few.
Where do you come from?
I was born and raised in Mainz/Germany but now I live in Wuppertal.
How long have you been in the game?
I did my first graffiti piece in 1983. Before I got into graffiti I was breakdancing. I saw some Music Videos on TV where kids were breakdancing so I started dancing too. Graffiti was mostly shown in the backgrounds of the videos.
Can you share with us how you got started?
One night, a day before Christmas in 1983, me, ZEBSTER and WEBO went out and I did my first Graffiti saying “Windmill”. I got the cans from the garage of my father and it was silver with anthracite outlines. The other two guys were just on the lookout. That was the only outdoor action so far and as soon as ZEBSTER showed me his first sketch (also in 1983) I started sketching too. We had like a little battle going on, who’s gonna do the dopest sketch and who got the best colors and the best fineliner for the white highlights etc. In 1986, I got my first airbrush so that gave the sketches another quality. Also, in 1986 I got the opportunity through my art teacher to do a big wall at my school. Since that time I only wanted to paint on walls.
Did you ever draw before then?
At the tender age of 7 I had a driving need to artistically improve the desk at my school as well as my school books with my own comic style illustrations so I was always into comic drawings and sketches.
Did you go to an art school?
I was studying illustration and graphic design in Hamburg.
You are one of the few writers to master both letters and characters, do you think this mastery of the figurative improve your lettering?
I don’t think that my letters are really influenced by my characters. It took many years to develop my own letter style as well as my own character style. My early influences on characters were the ones by SKID from Giessen/Germany. Not so many people know him, but he had some of the dopest characters back then. But also drawings by DEVIOUS DOZE, GAWKI and MODE2 had some influence. I always wanted to keep them in that B-Boy Style as I was a B-Boy myself.
What are you looking for when you paint?
First of all it’s the letter style that is most important. It got to have swing. It has to catch your eye. It should not be too wild, still readable. If it’s not readable it makes no sense in my eyes. You want to become famous with your name…but if you camouflage your name, nobody will be able to give you props. Secondary will be the colors. You have to come up with some dope color combinations. Sometimes less is more when it comes to coloring the piece. After that comes the background, not that important but still part of a good wall. It gives the whole piece its frame. Last but not least, a funky character could probably enhance the piece. So to break it down in a few words: I try to paint a fresh style with dope colors, mad background and funky characters 🙂
Your letters have a lot of energy, very dynamic and you are a very great colorist also, how do you explain that?
I always tried to orientate my style at the Bronx-style from the ‘80s. I think this was the apex of real letter style. I love the Semi-Wildstyle from this period. It is wild but still readable and that’s very important to me. I want people to realize and comprehend what swing I gave the letters. Each single letter has to communicate with the neighbor letter or some other letters in the piece. I do connections, arrows, bits and pieces to connect them. I want the people to see my letters, to feel my style and to know my name. I don’t want them to guess my name. So I studied the letters, colors and swing and transformed it slowly into my own style. It is a great honor for me to hear from people in the Bronx that they like my style and that they get remembered of the old times when they see my stuff. And that’s probably the reason that I’m down in so many crews from New York like UA, TDS, TNB, MTA…
What are your inspirations?
From the very beginning, it was several unknown artists and pieces (just rare stuff that seeks through the media). But as soon as I have seen Style Wars it was SEEN’s style who influenced me the most. But also DONDI, DERO and ARAB/DOC TC5 had quite some influence. Nowadays I get so many inspirations from so many writers all around the globe.
In your opinion, how do you define if the letters are good or not?
A good style has to catch your eye immediately. Of course everybody has a different taste, but the swing of the letters, the connections, the colors, everything has to work together. The purest form of style is still a silver piece!
I’m always surprised to see that there are so many excellent writers in Germany, can you explain why? Is it because the influences come from writers like ODEM, PHOS, and research is really oriented towards the swing, is it in connection with a way of structuring the language which shapes the way of thinking?
Maybe it’s because we have the driving need to perfect everything we do. Germans in general are known for precision and high quality. So therefore it might be logical that we aspire perfection in every aspect of writing. But still, I see a lot of good writers in France and other countries.
You need to make photography to keep one trace of your painting, what is the relationship you have with the photography? One writer must be little bit photographer also?
I was always very eager to get good daytime pics of my pieces from day one. A photograph of your artwork is the only thing that remains if you paint a wall in public. And sometimes it’s the only proof that you were there and did something. I’m so happy that I took photos from day one, that way I have a perfect documentation of my progress in style writing and it’s also a documentation of my lifetime passion.
You are sponsored by Montana Cans, it is the dream of almost all writers, can you tell us how it was done?
I’ve been in the Montana Writer Team since 2001. In the first years we were a sponsored team of artists who do big wall productions about twice a year in different countries to promote the brand plus we got free cans for our own projects and walls. That deal really gave me a lot of freedom to enhance me as a Graffiti artist. We had several team members come and go over the years but I stayed in the team since the beginning. In the end it was just ATOM, SMASH 137, KENT and me… and I still get mad support from Montana.
Do you have paint obligations in relation to that?
No, I have all the freedom I want.
You make a living on your paintings and artwork?
Yes, I live from commission jobs. I work and have worked for many different companies and clients, such as Adidas, Foot Locker, Audi, Mercedes, Coca-Cola, etc.. but also for a lot of smaller companies.
Do you do canvases?
Yes, I paint canvas. I do them more now than before. People seem to be very interested. I think people know me for my style and my characters so that’s what I love to paint on canvases. Somehow I have to stay true to myself but on the other hand I also don’t want to wear blinders. So I use other techniques on the canvases too. I also go back to the color sketches and do some sketches with markers on it. I always try to convert my style onto the canvas but also try to do more abstract versions of it and use other colors and techniques too. I already took part in several group shows in many different countries as well as several solo shows.
Do you want to do things in 3D, to experiment sculpture, if it is not already done?
I don’t do 3D sculpturing but it’s something I always thought about.
Do you have some anecdotes to tell?
There are too many good memories and experiences in the past. I did my first travels in 1986 to Dortmund to the first Hip Hop Jam in Germany, then travels in 1987 to Hamburg and Munich. I met so many cool people through my traveling and still until today I think that traveling and meeting people is one of the keys to success in Graffiti. People get to know you, people talk about you and people hang with you. Some of the best experiences I had in the last years were in New Zealand. I had the most fun painting there. It’s just the whole vibe and the people there which motivate you to paint and to be creative. Also, painting in New York was an adrenaline rush to me. I felt the energy of the city and it is no wonder that graffiti originated from there. Traveling with the Montana Team was always a highlight too. It’s like going on a trip with your best friends and do the thing you love most. I always like to remember the most impressive and biggest production that we’ve done in Dubai with the Montana Writer Team. It was 12m high and 60m long. We painted the upper 10m and the whole length within 10 days. Actually any Writer Team Action wall was dope, the one in Berlin with the Egyptian Tombs, the Superheroes wall in the Bronx, the Blackbook Desktop Wall in Germany. But also the cover for the Album “ALL CITY Style Wars” by Zeb Roc Ski that I have done with SEEN in the Bronx was a highlight. So there are quite a few good stories, memories and walls that I really like.
Do you have a word for the end?
First of all much love to my wifey, the love of my life! And love to all writers who keep the spirit alive, love to my STICK UP KIDS worldwide, to all crews and people I’m down with! And to all the Haters: Don’t hate the player, hate the game!
Follow CANTWO on Instagram Interview by LADY K
interview was first published in the Paris Tonkar magazine.