The art of letter bending known as graffiti has been around for quite some time now, and there’s so many writers that it’s getting harder and harder to be completely original and do stuff to stand out. One artist has managed to create a trademark, almost totally symmetrical style of typography. Xaust takes different letters and twists them in ways that makes them mirror each other and look identical, while still maintaining the properties needed to be recognized as the letters they are. He took a moment with us to reflect on his graffiti career, influences and what keeps him pushing the art-form further. What first drew you to graffiti and how many years have you been writing?
I have been writing since 2000. I was always into sports but once I got into high school I lost interest in the competitive part of it. I couldn’t take it seriously anymore. Once I met the homie “Self” he introduced me to graffiti, the culture, and the act that is.
Can you tell us a little bit about the crews you push, how you got in them and what they mean to you?
I rep WAR crew out of Chicago which I’ve been down with since high school. I started my crew CT “Contra Todos” shortly after. It consisted of a few close homies I would frequently paint with and now added on a few close friends from Texas. Once I got the travel bug after 2005 I started linking up with Wruk41 and Berlin from Indianapolis and after the consistent back and forth for a while Wruk41 put me down with MFK “Metal Fingers Krew.” The crew wasn’t as big as it is now but it always motivated me to paint more trains and develop styles that weren’t so structured. Last but not least I push CBS “Can’t Be Stopped” crew based out of Los angeles California. I met Haste, Sloke, and Quake out in Texas at a jam and at the time I wanted to invite a few people to Chicago to paint at “The
Meeting of Styles.” After a fun productive weekend of painting and chit-chatting in Chicago the bond was made stronger by Haste, Sloke, Quake and Mers giving me the honor to represent the crew.
Can you tell me a little bit about what the scene was like where you first came up and how it might be different from other places?
It was full of critics, harsh critics at that. Chicago writers at the time held the
quality of work and the people producing it to a standard that only that generation would appreciate now. You really had to work for your props. What makes Chicago different is the way we would “Beef.” We were unique in the sense that in no other city I’ve traveled to would one use their own paint to reverse the spelling of ones alias as an insult. Oh and we have subways.
X is typically a pretty hard letter to write. What motivated you to choose your name and is there any deeper meaning to it?
My name was passed onto me from “Self” according to him, I’m long winded. I sound out of breath or “exhausted” after explaining myself. After sketching each letter on their own for a while i noticed how the structure of my letters could be bent in a way where they can mimic each other.
Where outside of graffiti do you look for inspiration?
I don’t look too far, my graffiti is based on emotion I would say, i’m generally excited to paint. My painting partners usually dictate what style I do. I don’t care to have the sickest piece on the wall or train I just don’t want to have the shittiest piece on it. I wanna hang and pull my weight.
What first motivated you to create a super symmetrical style?
It’s become somewhat of a trademark. As opposed to doing a typical collection of letters with arrows and bits, it allows me to think deeper and consider a pattern that might add more character to my style. The letters allow me to (as explained in an earlier answer).
Who did you look up to when starting out and did anyone mentor you/show you the ropes?
I’ll always be grateful to Self for introducing me to graffiti and gifting me my name. Over time I’ve had quite a few consistent painting partners that till this day I still have a big amount of respect for. “Likeone” for his wisdom and creative uniqueness, “Beon” for his friendship and motivation, and “Nyke” for the strong work ethic. As far as who I looked up to I’d have to say “Raven”. Ever since I can remember he was the undisputed king of style in my eyes and such a humble dude. What a well rounded writer looks like.
Do you think the OG’s and older generation of writers has a responsibility to
teach the next generation the secrets and “code” of our culture?
There’s no obligation to, but I honestly think that if we want our work to last we have to take interest in the next generation, if not our names or our work will be rewritten and we will be forgotten. Paint fades.
What is your opinion on the inherent narcissism in graffiti and do you think it’s healthy to be involved in something that is so egocentric?
I think it’s cool if you want people to know of you, just don’t expect people to worship you. If I do graffiti for myself and leave it somewhere someone might appreciate it, I consider it a gift. No one owes me anything for it not even a compliment.
Do you ever find it hard to maintain a sense of humility?
Not really, I’m such a small fish in a huge pond. My two cents aren’t meant to influence anyone but I can contribute if needed.
Have you ever struggled to find a balance between real life and graff life? Please explain your experiences.
All the time, I’ve been very selfish in that I think about graffiti and travel more than societal responsibilities or expectations. Had I not become so passionate about graffiti I’d probably have a wife, kids, and the normal stresses of life.
What lessons has being a writer taught you over the years?
Its not that serious. I’ve stressed over so many trivial situations and relationships that it took the fun out of it…
In recent years it seems like a lot of writers are dying due to addiction, drugs and whatever else. How do you feel about the drug culture that sort of goes hand in hand with graffiti?
It sucks. We can only help what we can control. Everyones allowed to have their vice but I don’t approve of the harm some drugs do to people or how they effect their personalities.
How have your methods of operation changed and evolved over the years you’ve been painting?
Being from Chicago I’ve learned that if I want to be able to paint year round I have to travel, the cold ain’t no joke! Whether it’s painting trains or walls sometimes your paint prefers warmer weather.
Outside of putting in quality work in large amounts, what do you think it takes to be a well-rounded, well respected writer who will stand the test of time?
Be consistent and be productive. Have a healthy interest in evolving from what you once did and not live in the past.
Can you tell us your best painting story?
One of my favorite memories was when I first traveled outside of Chicago to paint at an actual event. In 2006 I went to the “B-Boy BBQ” in Philadelphia with my cousin who sold Montana at the time and a few other friends from Chicago. This was my introduction to the rest of the world. Not only was Philly a dope city to see but the amount of talent at the jam was crazy! the first day was a smaller jam with a few walls for select people such as the “Wallnuts” “FUA” “ACB”(RIP) to name a few. There wasn’t too much time to socialize with everyone dealing with crowds and all but the next day was the highlight of the trip. “Pose2” who organized the event later invited us to a invite only jam the next day. once we got to the wall where everyone was painting I stood in awe of some of the sickest writers I was becoming aware of at the time and a few I had already known of from the net or mags like Kem5, Esteme, Part1, Mad c, Clark, and more. Humbling, to say the least.
Who out there that’s painting today do you think is doing it properly and really deserves some shine?
Clown (tits), Tizer (ID), Demos (NWK), Jaber, Afek (TK), Motick (TOM), War (LC), Porfas (RIPset), Snack (MFK), Sauter (KOG), Vogey (Creatures).
Can you tell us anything about the CBS documentary that’s coming out (if not already out)?
I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone but we’re looking to host it in as many cities as possible…
Any last shout outs?
To those at Bombing Science and everyone in WAR, CT, MFK, and CBS.
By Paul Lukes