Welcome back, Bombers. Today we speak to Queens Native, JERMS, who is joining us fresh off the plane from DJing and painting in Europe.
JERMS! Nice to speak with you again and welcome home!
Thanks for having me.
No doubt, let’s get to it. When you come up in graffiti how do you become a member of a crew and which crews do you represent (and why)?
There is different ways people get into crews. For myself the crews I pushed or rolled with were simply the people I actually hung out with and wrote graff with. I grew up in Queens and the first crews I hung with were kids from College Point where I lived, and then FTR, who I hung out with from high school and on. A lot of writers are eager to get into different crews thinking it will bring them a higher status, but I’m not really into crew-jocking or pushing crews that I would not call my actual real friends. So I keep it simple and stick to one or two crews like FTR, Rock Steady Crew and most recently OTM (Organizing the Masses, On the Map et. al). I see too many writers pushing dozens of crews. They are pushing crews that have beef with each other or crews they don’t truly hang with or know that well. It’s kinda corny to me to be that guy. There was never any initiations for me, my crews are my friends I grew up with.
I like that. The acronyms are hard to remember after a while. Haha! How did you get your name?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid in the mid 80’s, and also DJing since then. I always loved letters and wildstyles. When trying to think of the perfect tag, I wanted something no one else wrote, something that was 5 letters not short, and something with letters that were funky that I liked doing. After many different attempts at coming up with the perfect tag, I stumbled upon GERMS, but decided to change the G to a J. So it’s been JERMS ever since. In the early 90’s I used to bomb the highways a lot. I did big JS’s on the highway, which was short for JERMS. So many people knew me as that, and that lead to my DJ name being DJ JS-1. Over the years I have seen one or two other people try to write JERMS or JERM. There is one or two I like, but I was doing it long before them, and have done a lot more stuff. A name is just a name, but it’s what you do with it, how you flip it, make it funky, and get it out there to the world.
Do you have issues with actual germs? Germaphobia?
Haa! No, but I’m becoming one. Hand sanitizer works.
How does social media play into your world as an artist?
Life was easier and less complicated before Social Media, and to get recognition or notoriety, one had to put in the work, physically.
AMEN! Sorry. Continue.
Your graff was seen on the actual walls or in some of the various graff magazines that were popular in the ’90s. Today, everything seems to be based off social media. The thirst for views, likes, n followers seems to have everyone doing dumb shit just to get noticed. When you let likes and views rule your life, you are letting what others think dictate your actions. There is a lot of corny stuff that goes on with social media from internet beef, to people writing in secluded dead streets and pretending they were bombing hard, to the street art craze of everyone posting animals and female portraits (ugghhh enough already), to “IG photographers” blowing up spots that we’d like to keep secret. But, this is how the world is now, so you have to adjust. I have my social media accounts and use them frequently. I try to just post my graff or my DJing and move on. To many people, if you are not posting on social media, you don’t exist. It’s sad, but true. Everyone finds out about or sees everything via social media. I do like being able to rock a wall and then immediately have my friends from around the world be able to see it. That is cool. I don’t hate social media, but I loathe what it has turned some people into. There is people who think they are famous or important because of Instagram. Lmao. Social media has made me slightly anti-social…
Why go out when you can see what you’re missing, or not missing, as it were, online. Can you go into detail about how you piece from start to finish….the idea through the execution?
I am all about letters. That’s why we are writers. We write, letters… So the first thing I am always concerned with is getting my letters to flow correctly and be funky. I have perfected my own JERMS style over the years and I try and tweak it and keep the letters looking right. I sketch a lot on paper but never bring a sketch to a wall. I never did that in all my 30 years of writing. I usually sketch right on the wall and figure it out as I go. The colors too. Sometimes we plan the colors if it is a full production, but most of the time we just go with what we have with us. After I sketch, I sometimes put some color in the background around the sketch. Then I start filling in the piece and blending the main colors. Next I add some designs. Then I tighten up the outline, do the 3D or drop shadow, add highlights, add a few last minute designs and drips on top, finalize it with a few shines, catch a tag, and I’m done. To me, making everything flow and having the colors blend and pop correctly is what is important. I want my piece to look like it is alive on the wall. Where and how the letters connect and twist is what counts. That’s style. Not focusing most of my time on the background or 3D but the letters aren’t funky. Not taking 2 or 3 days to do a graff piece. I also usually finish everything in a few hours, max. It’s about progressing but also keeping traditional elements of graff alive. Everyone has different approaches and methods. It’s interesting to watch and see how writer’s formulate their piece. But no matter what anyone says, it’s always letters first.
Where is your favorite place to piece? 
Over the years I have done pieces in several places. Each place has something really cool that I like about it, but a few stand out that I always loved. Early on, there was a place right by my house called the “College Point Pit” or “The Flushing Pit.” It was a large space under the highway with several walls. It was dim and dirty, but awesome. Stane TMR found the spot in the ’80s. As kids we used to sneak in there and that is where I got to practice and learn to piece. So many people had visited that place over the years. But that was just the beginning. Eventually I did pieces in all the major pits and halls of fame. I loved going to 238rd street in the Bronx. That was an incredible spot. Several walls, the trains would run through, tons of legendary pieces. I also loved doing stuff at the Hall of Fame in Harlem because of the history there. I snuck in and did a piece there in 1992. I was amped. Now most places to do pieces are legal spots, so I enjoy doing lots of track spots. The freight train lines have tons of good tunnels to do pieces, and although it’s easy, it’s still illegal which makes it a ‘lil more fun. So they are my favorite spots to do now.
Pick one favorite.
ONE place of all time, it would be Franklin K. Lane High School on the Queens, Brooklyn Border.
Ah, that’s right- RISE mentionedthat he attend that school in his interview with us. Built in 1923, FKL schooled the likes of John Gotti to Richie Havens (except they both dropped out).
It was a tremendous school yard with high high walls that stretched for so long. Back in the day, everyone rocked pieces there. We did a ton of stuff at that spot. So many classic pieces there from the TATS CRU Halloween wall to POEM and LOOMIT’s Flashbacks walls. I witnessed a lot of pieces being done there and also some crazy fights. I was there once getting ready to do a piece and these dudes came walking in. They were blasting Black Sabbath on the boombox and had a bunch of paint. It was IZ THE WIZ with SACH and SAR. IZ told me to paint next to them and incorporated my piece into their wall. He caught a huge TMB tag above my piece. WOW… I loved and miss Franklin K. Lane. It was all graff too. No such thing as street art, so it was only funky letters and styles, no chicks stenciling flowers and rabbits.


Great memories. You can still go there, though it is was voted the “most hated” school in NYC.  Shame, too. Maybe they need some revitalization. By the way, I just finished my latest canvas. Flowers, rabbits and hearts. I guess I know who I am giving it to now.
Looking forward to it.

Franklin K. Lane

Are you ever commissioned to do pieces and where have you done work?
Yes, people commission myself and my partner TOPAZ all the time for stuff. Some of it is small stuff, some of it is big. It’s not really my thing, I didn’t start painting to make $ or to do it as a job, but if it’s something respectable and not too corny, we’ll take the $ and do the work. We have done the typical auto shops, or rest in peace murals for people, kids bedrooms, music studios, etc.. But there is also bigger jobs like doing the entire inside of a gym or the time CNBC’s tv show ‘The Profit’ hired us to curate and paint a huge space inside a warehouse/store for their show. We just painted for the Panorama Festival in NY. It’s cool when people want to pay you to paint, but personally I still rather have the freedom to paint what I want, when and where I want. I never except a gig unless I am able to get some type of lettering and traditional graffiti included. We can’t let that part be lost in the mix. That’s what graff is always all about. Letters. Not silly characters to “brand” yourself. GTFOH. With my DJing and Graff I have learned to make some $ but always maintain my integrity and respect for the craft / culture.
Word. Respect on your name for that. Tell us some stories about bombing that could have gone really wrong or did…
Thankfully, recently I have not had to run from the police often. However, back in the early 90’s when I was bombing highways there was a bunch of times when we had encounters with the cops. Two come to mind in particular. One time we were doing a highway in the Bronx along the Bronx River. We had just finished doing fill-ins on the highway and were walking up the exit ramp. A cop car pulled up in front of us and cut us off. They told us to stop and to put our hands up. I’m not quite sure what the fuck I was thinking, but I threw the can at the cop car that I had in my sleeve. Not the smartest move.
No, definitely not. I don’t know what the fuck you were thinking either!
Ha! We turned and ran back down toward the highway. They followed going the wrong way onto the highway. We hopped the divider and began a cat n mouse chase on the highway with the police. Eventually we snuck down along the highway where the river was, but one of our friends went a different way. The cops were all over the place looking for us. Several cars. We had to do our best ninja impersonations and stay hidden. We crawled under cars to try and get back to where my car was parked. I couldn’t believe how many cop cars were searching for us. I guess throwing the can at them made them angry. There was a ton of chases like that and nothing serious ever happened, we always got away. However, there was one time that things ended differently and I felt bad. We were doing fill-ins on a highway along a curve. A car stopped slightly passed us. They were yelling out the window at us and then started coming back in reverse. We ran back toward the curve and as they were going in reverse chasing us, another car came around the curve and they crashed. It was so loud. We ran and didn’t look back. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance. We had to jump down off the highway from really high up. We hid in the car and were scared that someone died in that car accident and they would try to blame us. We heard so many sirens. Eventually we snuck outta there but it was a close call. I feel bad for whoever was in that accident. We heard about it on the news, but to this day I don’t know what actually happened. I don’t dislike the police, they are just doing their job. I understand. Today, as I am older and wiser, I know that being polite and respectful gets me a lot further than being a loud-mouth asshole. Shout out to the cops who treat others with respect, and fuck all the ones who think their badge gives them power to disrespect people. Be careful and mindful of what you are doing when you are out writing.
There is a definite distinction between the good, the bad and the misunderstood cops. A tough topic for another time. What is the difference if any between NYC writers vs. the rest of the world (to the best of your knowledge).
To me, most good writers have the same goals, no matter where in the world they are. That is to get your name up and out there and to do it with style, whether that be with tags, throw-ups, fill-ins, or pieces. There is some difference in styles around the world, but I think it’s more of an era-thing not a location-based thing. Many writers from NY have been around for a long time so our influences are older NY writers and we tend to have a classic style, usually. Some over-seas writers also have classic styles, like Bates from Denmark, but many of the younger ones have been influenced by newer writers. You will see the Sofles’ style of painting using flares overseas much more than in NY. It’s progressive, different, and very dope. You have some incredible 3D style writers in other countries but not as many in NY. I like watching their process and how each of them do their work from start to finish. I look to my NY writers for that traditional classic letter styles and characters, and I look to over-seas writers for some new styles and different ways to paint and blend colors. Also, just like in Hip Hop, many NY writers spend too much time beefing with each other and worrying about who did what first, while many other writers from around the world are collaborating together and pushing the culture forward. Overall though, like I stated, most of us, no matter where you are from, just want to get up and do it in style.
True. The beef is endless in NY. It should be about the art. Do you have a preference between markers and spray paint?
Not really, I like writing with anything I can write with, but there are some that stand out above the rest. I mainly use Montana Black Line, Belton, and MTN 94’s, but I like others as well. Kobra and Loop Paint are really dope. I like both. I’ve used Evolve once at Art Basel and that was ok too. Most new paints are good to me. All the Montana, Belton, Kobra, and Loop paint cover well and spray fine. I don’t use Ironlak too often. Most of the NY stores don’t sell it. We are all spoiled now with these new paint companies. The low pressure and the amount of colors are awesome. We used to rock pieces with a handful of Krylon colors with stock caps. It’s come a long way. With markers, I do like the Montana paint markers, they work very well. My favorite thing besides spray paint is simply a thin-tipped black Papermate marker. I love sketching with those.
Yep. Now there are entire stores and websites dedicated to graff supplies (Ahem, Bombing Science). How do you perfect your can control?
Like every craft, it comes with time. You need to learn how to hold the can and get your finger pressure-sensitive. Holding the can at the right angle and distance from the wall is one aspect, and then being able to press the cap without always pressing all the way down is also important. You need to have a steady hand, and it helps if you have long flowing lines in your piece that you can do in one take. If you have to stop several times while making one line, it will probably look a ‘lil messed up. There is also tricks and things you learn. Knowing how to cut back is important if you want intricate lines and details. Cutting back is going back over a line to make it sharper or more thin by using the color next to it. It all comes with practice and time. Learning which caps work best on which brands of paint is also key. The right cap can work wonders. Overall, practice and a steady hand helps.
Like a surgeon. You just dont know ’til you pick up that can! Do you have a preferred color scheme?
I don’t have a preferred color scheme, but I certainly have favorite colors or blends of colors that go well. For instance, I love “Slimer” in the Montana Black Line. It’s a bright green that stands out really well. It always goes great as a “force-field” or “outter-glow” when I use a lot of purple in my piece. I like “Illusion”, “Surgery”, “Smashed Potatoes”, “Waltrout”,
“Masala”, “Clockwork Orange”, etc…
They should sponsor you just for memorizing the color names. Just a thought.
It’s fun switching up colors and trying to make new color patterns blend together. Most of the time we don’t really pre-plan our color schemes. We go with what we have and try to make it work. I do find that making sure there is a lot of contrast in the colors is key. Always having some black or white is important. It’s always all about the letters and the style, but the colors are what brings it to life. I usually try to keep a uniform pattern or symmetrical color scheme, while some others just go sick and use tons of colors. Everyone has their own way to approach it, which makes it cool.
Respect. Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to end by giving a few shout-outs… Of course the whole FTR crew outta Queens, NY. My Rock Steady Crew family from NY and around the globe. The OTM crew around the planet. Rahzel, my touring partner and one of the most talented dudes on the planet. All the record stores that are still open and all the paint shops around NYC like Lowbrow, Scrapyard, All the Right and Tuff City. And finally a sincere thank you to Bombing Science and Bowery Boogie. Ultimate Respect. VE Lives! peace…
Hear! Hear! Follow Jerms @DJJS1!
Thank you, Jerms. See you ya’ll next time.
-Rebel Know