What’s going on Hater? How have things been?
Not a whole lot. Feels like I spend a lot of time with a lot of life’s issues. Things have been up and down. Lost some friends and family but, I’m still standing and trying to be productive.
My condolences for your losses. Very glad to hear you’re still keeping busy. You’ve been writing, for a while now, when did your graffiti career begin?
Thanks. That’s very kind of you.
I’ve been writing for like 21 or 22 years now which is weird because I still feel like a toy in many respects. I grew up on Long Island and had a lot of family up in Yonkers so when I was a kid I would see a lot of classic highway spots on my way to my relative’s house(s). I was always fascinated by it and wondered how they did it. A cousin had a blackbook and I remember tracing some of the outlines in it and taking them home to copy. I still had no concept of having a tag or anything. I just thought it looked really cool.
Then, when I was probably 15/16, I started trying to do stuff with spray paint. I was riding bikes and we’d hop on the LIRR to go spend the day riding the Brooklyn Banks and I’d do dumb little tags and stuff. Then I started trying to figure out piecing and other stuff once I got my hands on a copy of “The Art of Getting Over” and “Subway Art”. I guess I really started putting effort into trying to go out and paint when I was 17 and got a car. I was still a complete idiot toy but, that was probably around the time I really started to try.
Who were some of the writers you saw up that started to influence your style?
It was a weird time because the internet was around but, this was the very early days of “internet graffiti”. Artcrimes and Tagpage were around. 12ozprophet was brand new. I was also going to Scrap Yard and buying euro mags so, that made for a really eclectic mix. In terms of stuff that I saw around the island that really made an impression on me, I’d have to say CELF and NEKS. They were doing highway signs, parkway spots, trackside pieces, and they were doing some streets in the boroughs so, I guess I’d say those were my first “hometown hero’s” that I saw up on a daily basis. CES/YES 2/SEEN and those guys were doing big silver burners on highways and I loved seeing that. I think SENTO was really impressive because everything he does/did is great and his work speaks for him which I think is great. I feel like I’m forgetting people but, it was an exciting/frenetic time and I think my head was spinning over graffiti in general.
Very cool. European graffiti is wild, and definitely a good style to have in your belt! What was the the LIRR trackside scene like when you started getting up back then?
You didn’t have many people doing pieces. Lots of fillins. Some simples. BECK and DUNER really had a lot of the lines locked down with fillins. NEKS/CELF had a good amount of pieces. This is around the time ODESK was putting in work as well. I think finding spots was a lot more fun. You didn’t have Google Maps to help. I would spend pretty much every available moment during the day just driving parallel to the lines and trying to hunt down spots. I’d ride the train into the city with a notebook and make notes of what two stops had spots in between them (ex: Hicksville to Bethpage) and then drive around on another day trying to hunt down the spots, gather intel, see what the ins/outs were, and sometimes stash paint or cut fences and come back that night. Just trying to figure it out was almost as fun as painting.
How often would you rock out solo? Did you prefer to paint with another person or just enjoy the peacefulness of painting with yourself?
Always preferred to have a partner. Sometimes I’d rock by myself but, it was usually when I was extremely depressed and/or angry and just wanted to be left alone. That being said, I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of really good painting-wingmen and mentors. ODESK, CELF, and CECSTER. CELF has been a great painting-wingman and has definitely saved us from getting arrested on more than one occasion.
What can you recall from a time some missions didn’t go as planned? (Ex: Freights leaving on you/ MTA patrol showing up/ frozen paint etc…)
Here’s two of my personal favorites (which I’m sure nobody will find very amusing)
Cecs and I wanted to do this spot along the Van Wyck right by Roosevelt Ave next to Shea. The spot was essentially a platform surrounded by water (Flushing Creek/Flushing Bay). I’ve heard JA did it but, I’ve never seen anyone else do it, though. We figured that the best way to do it was via boat. So we got a small inflatable boat meant for pools, stopped at a gas station on Queens Blvd. aired it up, and then threw it over the fence next to the Bay. So, long story short, it’s a good thing I brought a rope. We tied it off on the shore and found a snow-shovel to use as a paddle. We tried both getting in the boat and that almost sank it right away. We still figured we could go one at a time and the person on shore would pull the boat back with the rope and head out to the platform. Nothing was working. The current kept trying to pull us out into the Bay. We tried clawing our way along a little bit of wall that was sticking out of the bridge and that wasn’t happening either. We tried for a few hours and it was exhausting. It was a total failure. We should’ve brought a bigger boat.
This one time we were doing some freights. It was CELF, STAE2, ACNE, and myself. CELF and STAE finished their pieces and headed back to the car to wait for us. I finished up and was waiting on ACNE. I was getting bored so I prank called CELF in his car and told him we’d been chased by a feral dog, ACNE had been bitten pretty bad, that we had climbed up a tree, and were hiding from the dog. CELF wasn’t really amused and I chalked it up to a prank phone call fail. Just as ACNE is putting the final touches on his piece and packing his bag up, we hear barking in the distance. In what seemed like slow motion, we looked at each other in shock and then saw a huge German Shepard running down the train line at us. We grabbed our bags and started hauling ass towards the exit. I’m laughing like a maniac because I couldn’t believe this was happening. ACNE was running and yelling at me like “What the fuck did you do dude?!” As if I conjured this dog into existence. We managed to make it out before the dog caught up with us but, CELF didn’t believe our story when we got back to the car. Lesson learned: don’t cry wolf (literally.)
How do you think the internet has impacted the graffiti? What do you think it’s given to the culture, but also taken away?
Honestly? It fucking sucks.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some old school train-era dude or even someone who was making noise in Giuliani Era NYC. I’m just a dude who has been fortunate enough to meet some good people and paint a piece or three. At least when I was starting to really try to figure this stuff out, you had to work for it. I learned what products to rack my caps from, how to boost paint, the best ways to actually go about painting spots, etc… A big part of what made that fun was the mystery. The trial and error until you got something right. All of that stuff was so fun and nowadays you can go into any Blick store and they have an actual section for graffiti supplies. It’s corny as fuck. You’d think that having a tool like the internet at your disposal would make things easier. You could find out if someone is already writing the tag you think you’re going to start using, you have access to a fuck-ton of dope pieces to learn from, but, no. All we have is a bunch of toys whose posts get “sponsored” by Instagram while sitting around in a circle jerk telling one another that they’re fresh.
I’m pretty sure it’s one of the rules in “The Art of Getting Over”: you suck until further notice.
Kids need to learn that isn’t meant to be mean. It means you keep trying to learn until you start getting better. A lot of the people who took me under their wing clowned me for years until they saw I was still here, still sticking around, and still *trying* to get better. Then they blessed me with knowledge. Everything should be earned. Everything is paid for, in one way or another.
What’s the biggest piece you’ve painted to date, and where is it?
Shit, I honestly don’t even know. I’ve done exactly one whole car (freight) and some bigger roller filled things. In 2007 I did a big and ugly roller filled thing that said “I fucking hate you all” which was probably 200 ft long. Maybe less. I don’t remember. I also did another big roller filled piece on the LIRR that said “The games we play” around 2006 and I guess that was maybe 75 feet? Maybe more. I’ve never really felt compelled to do something big just for the sake of doing something big. It’s more about the semiotics of the piece in relation to the spot/target audience.
For example: I’d rather go to a trackside and do a fairly large sized silver simple and make it bold so that folks on a train can read it while speeding by.
I have a photo of a great example of that behind that retail center at the bridge you did.
Oh yeah. That was a fun one. When doing large-ish pieces, that’s pretty much what I was talking about.
Where has your graffiti given you the opportunity to travel, whether it was cross country or out of state?
I’ve gone to some other cities and places in the middle of nowhere and done a little something in almost all of them. My personal favorite is probably Atlanta. Great city. Very chill. Tons of abandoned spots.
What’s your biggest motivation?
Making my friends, mentors, and crewmates proud. I could really give a fuck what anybody else thinks. I want to get to improve and learn. I want to be left alone, for the most part. I don’t even really care about my fake-name/tag anymore. It’s mostly about devoting myself to a life of letters. If I was born in another time, I’d probably have ended up as a monk writing books by hand. Words are powerful things and graffiti is just a good delivery system.
Before we wrap it up, is there anyone you want to shout out or give a mention too?
I was going to do a long list but, truth is, I’m just some dude who writes on stuff sometimes. Besides, my mentors and friends know who they are. That being said, thank you all of the people who took the time to show me the ropes, looked out for me, schooled me, etc… Especially my brethren in SIH and NSF. Thanks to my wife for being incredibly supportive.
Final shoutout to my brother ACNE. ACNE forever. I miss you every day and I will always find time to paint stuff for you. Truly one of the most genuine and funniest dudes I could have ever hoped to meet.