First off thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Can you give us a brief history of you as an artist and graffiti writer? Where do you reside most of your time?
No worries – it’s an honour to be included in the interview roster that you guys have on BS! As for my history as a writer — I’m a born and raised Torontonian, but spent much of late teens and early twenties in Montreal. I started painting graffiti pretty early, I think I was about 13 or 14 when I first interacted with the culture. At that point it was mainly just fucking around with hardware paint and putting up slaps around town. But it wasn’t soon after where I tried to paint some pieces, but like any other beginner, they were absolutely horrendous. As a kid, I was heavily influenced by cartoons and comic books — particularly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember when I was super young and barely able to properly hold a pencil, but I would have my dad recreate pictures of the Ninja Turtles and then I would try my best to recreate what he did. A degenerative way of practicing their likeness, but I guess it really helped in my development as an artist. From there I went on to try to emulate more comics and illustrations such as X-Men, Spawn amongst many others. I also wanted to be a professional skateboarder when I was a teenager, which I think in a way ended up being a catalyst for getting into graffiti and subsequently more involved with the arts. I find that skateboarding holds a lot of the same characteristics of graffiti, such as the appetite for new and adventurous spots, self-destruction, but above all, the culture uses art as an aspect to its branding of companies and riders. Once I started getting more into graffiti my interests in skateboarding unfortunately died down, however, it eventually led me on my path to a fine arts degree and shortly thereafter a graphic and web design certification and now I’m here.
I saw you recently did a video piece with Vice, however it looks like its region locked to Canada. Im curious how did that come along?
That piece/interview is actually about a year old. We did that during an installation I did alongside my man BirdO at the now demolished Honest Ed’s building. Honest Ed’s is (or was) one of Toronto’s most iconic landmarks for many years and prior to its demolition, a group of producers (known as TO4EVERYONE) organized an art maze to send off the building. Myself and BirdO amongst many other artists took over the space and got a chance to do our thing. BirdO and I ended up doing a installation that encompassed the whole room who chose, which not only featured the words but the elements of both creation and destruction throughout our artistic practices. We felt conceptually this represented us in a profound way as he is a far more meticulous and vigilant practicing artist – representing creation – and I, a far more impulsive and chaotic individual – representing destruction. As for the Vice part of it, they showed up during the creating of the installation and we were approached to do a web feature. We were unsure about how we thought it’d be received, but we had fun doing it and being goofs either way.
After looking through your Instagram it looks like outside of doing your own personal stuff you also do some commercial work and even canvas stuff for galleries. I’m curious do you do this as a full-time gig? Or is this just a side hustle? A lot of creatives feel like as soon as they start making money out of it then it becomes a job and takes out all of the fun, especially when the client is trying to control your process, do you agree with this?
Well I don’t technically work as a practicing artist full-time, it’s a part of it, but not a 9-5 so to speak. I actually work in the film industry primarily, but I’ve done a great job on making both fields of creativity work for one another. Basically each craft fulfills one another – meaning I use the knowledge and finances I receive from film work to help push myself in graffiti and vice versa. I’ve always been a firm believer that having your hand in many (metaphorical) cookie jars is always a great idea. It helps me avoid getting stuck in one place or becoming stagnant in my practice. You can take various influences, inspirations or techniques from a certain field and translate that on to another. With that being said, because of the relationship I have with my “real job” and my “craft” neither necessarily feel as if they are work fully. Though in a way, I do agree in a way that if one was to be working full-time as what one may consider a hobby – it would feel like work. I mean, if your favourite thing to do was to play video games and eat Cheetos and then you were forced into doing that 10 hours a day, you would probably get sick of it eventually and look for something else to do to compensate.
One of my favourite collaboration pieces Iv’e seen you do is in Chigasaki, Japan, can you tell us a little bit about the graffiti scene in Japan and how did you and the Chiller Vibes Crew decide that this is where you wanted to paint your next piece? Do you have a favourite Japanese graffiti artist?
Thanks – that was a truly interesting one! I actually did that one alone but tried to emulate all of the styles of the other guys in Chiller Vibes to make it seem like a seamless collaboration. I went out there for a trip/spraycation because my man MEOR was living there and by chance I was offered this spot at the old Chigasaki Town Hall that was closing down, which was becoming a pilot project for a street art festival. I had a shitload of space, not all that much paint and not a whole hell of a lot of time to do it as it was one of my final days. In which case, I knew lettering was out of the question, unless I were to do one quick piece and be done with it. So I decided to channel my inner chill and get that going. It was received really well because I think CV stuff is always really fun and community oriented (in some aspects). Not sure what’s going on with the festival in the coming years, but hopefully not only what I created but what everybody else created helped propel the city of Chigasaki to move forward with the project.
Is Chiller Vibes Crew your main crew? If so when did you guys get together and who all is in your crew?
Chiller Vibes is really more of a collective. Though we’ve been sticking to the main four guys (myself, Dee Skulls, Stonr and Dethrock), we look at it as more of a collaborative art exercise. Everyone has their own respective graffiti crews, but for this we come together and expand our minds by doing different concepts and more abstract or funky “street art” sort of work. We’re going to expand further in the future for sure, but because everyone is so busy it’s been on hold for a little while itself. My graffiti crews are “Urban Nightmares Crew” and “In Kontrol” crew. The former originated in Toronto in 1997 founded by Dethrock and Mine and then included, in my opinion, some of the most innovative writers in the city. I was dropped in the crew I believe in 2008 or 2009. I was the first guy put down in almost 10 years. It was surreal actually because I was such a huge fan of their work growing up. They definitely helped influence and shape my graffiti career and if you were to ask me back when I started “what crew would be your ideal crew to rep?”, it would undoubtedly by UNC. IK is an Auckland (New Zealand) based crew formed almost around the same time. However, I obviously wasn’t included in the origins much like UNC. I became really close with 2TOES via the internet and then later in person when I started to travel and paint out there. After 2TOES introduced me to the rest of the homies like FROST and SLIPOE, I guess they agreed I’d be a good fit. I absolutely love those boys and what they do out there, I just wish I was out there crushing with them more often – ha ha!
How did you transition from doing this as a passion to making any kind of money at it, in terms of years how long did it take you? Do you consider yourself someone who considers the business and marketing side of what you do or are you only art focused?
Well I guess this is a similar question for the third one in a way and I guess but I just kept working, expanding and innovating my practice as a artist, designer and as an individual. I really only started making real money over the past few years, which if you think about it, is a pretty long time considering I started my art career over 15 years ago. I mean graffiti is a far more difficult one than other fields, but art is tough in general, however, it can be done. I hate when people say “oh you can’t do that” or “it’s so competitive” or “you’ll never make it, it’s too hard”. It’s like why? If other people have done it, then why can’t I? I think just about everything is achievable especially if you’re motivated enough to do it. Some of the other things in my life probably fizzled out because I didn’t really have my whole heart in it – but this I have. Like I said before, I’ve had many irons in the fire on a number of projects and fields, so I definitely do understand quite a bit the business and marketing side of things, but I definitely always found that to be one of my weaker characteristics – as a creative type, I really just love making work and I try not to think about the other side quite as much.
Who are the writers that inspired you when you started and who are the writers that inspire you today?
Well I have a love/hate relationship with that word in so many ways. I mean there are obviously people who have influenced me and helped shape and develop my work, but the word “inspire” always makes me feel uneasy in a way because I feel I’m always “inspired” to create work. No matter what the work is, I’m always ready and willing to create. There’s a famous Chuck Close quote which I have lived my life by for many years and it goes as follows: “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work”.
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?
That varies like crazy actually. If you saw my iTunes you would probably be confused. It’s a very eclectic mix of music from eighties to metal, hip-hop to folk. One of most extraordinary things about being involved with skateboard culture for so many years is that the videos shaped the way I listened to music. It made me find out new music and appreciate older tunes as well. With that being said, it all depends on what and where I’m painting. If I’m at a graffiti jam, I love the environment around that and bumping the hip-hop jams and feeling live, but sometimes when I’m just getting hype at a wall I’ll be blasting Maiden or Sabbath, However, most missions don’t lend themselves to listening to music , ha ha!
Any shout outs or last words? Where can people follow your work?
I think I’ve talked myself out here, so last words may not be necessary but I’d definitely like to thank you guys for letting me chat for a bit and of course shout out my crews UNC, IK, Chiller Vibes and of course my lady Naz – who is my rock and puts up with far too much of my craziness.
You can follow me on Instagram – if you’re into that sort of thing.
Interview by Wesley Edwards