Interview by Sean McDonald
The graffiti documentary Infamy covered San Francisco’s scene in detail and Jase (Burning America) in particular. I decided 99% of writers have probably seen it (if not scroll your ass back up, click on graffiti shop and order that shit!), so I followed up on what we already know. One thing we could all count on… Jase is still killing freights and slangin’ Montana!
Bombing Science: What’s been inspiring you lately? (music, movies)
Jase: Hmm, Well, I cant say I’ve been too inspired by either of those lately. I have every conceivable channel on satellite tv, as well as XM radio and it all just blurs together now. I listen to my man TOPR a lot. I like hardcore, metal and some hip hop.
BS: What’s the best / worst thing about being in San Francisco?
Jase: It’s a beautiful city aesthetically. It’s very diverse culturally which is good for many things including graffiti. The people know what’s up, its very liberal. You can really get away with a lot of stuff if you don’t get too carried away, everything in good taste I guess.
What’s not good, is it’s a little chilly, basically around 55-65 degrees all year with a few good days, That’s not good enough for me really I like hot weather better. Its expensive, The landlords are making a killing here and there’s no parking. There are no freights at all, you have to go to Oakland and sometimes a lot further. The city is buffed pretty quickly.
BS: Do you still travel to write and where’s been your favorite adventure lately?
Jase: I still enjoy that a lot. When you enter a city you’ve never been before and go writing it feels great, you don’t get hung up on all the chase stories you’ve heard or been in, or worry about your own police record as much. I go to Bangkok a lot now. I love that place there is a lot of stuff to write on, it hasn’t gotten such a negative rap as yet and if you do get caught payoff’s are common. But if you do go too far and are unable to get out of it you are in a lot of trouble. So there is still a rush for sure.
BS: Do you still go back to Baltimore occasionally to paint?
Jase: I’ve been doing that at least once a year for a long time now. Some of my best friends in the world are still there. I have a lot of love for Baltimore. I has its own micro culture inside of graffiti that I respect a lot.
BS: How would you describe the scene in San Francisco and how has it changed since the films Piece by Piece and Infamy covered the city three years ago?
Jase: That’s kind of a tough one. The scene here has always been kinda small, but we have a lot of writers from different cities and including the locals the combo has kept it fresh I think. Things are buffed fairly quickly here so that’s not like it used to be. You gotta be out there like every night to make a dent now. I don’t think we have had anyone really stand out since Nekst was here. I cant say things have changed since those movies came out or maybe I’m just not noticing it. I know that Montana continues to grow.
BS: In Infamy you said you wanted to be up on trains across the country, have you accomplished your goal?
Jase: I think I have. Which is good and bad for me. It feels great but I can never be on every one, so think of how much more work it would take to make another mile stone on freights, alot. I think when writers get the attention they wanted from all the painting they have done they loose a little bit of there drive. I’m putting a lot of drive into pushing montana now. Getting paint into peoples hands everywhere in North America making sure graffiti gets done, is also satisfying..
BS: Working for Montana, what’s some of the good feedback you hear from aerosol artists?
Jase: Well, I have friends that tell me that it sets a good example that you can do things your way, and paint, party hang out for awhile, lol, and still make a life for yourself. Since Montana is how I support myself. But you know theres a lot of luck involved.
BS: How do you think Montana has positively impacted graffiti culture?
Jase: Its changed graffiti for the better. The color choices, the coverage of the paint, the cap systems. People who are at the top of there game have really been able to push the limits with graffiti now. On the other hand I remember it being a lot more simple picking out a color scheme to go paint when there wasn’t than many choices. It think that is companys openly engaged in a graffiti market has taken the bad word our “graffiti” a little and help it gain a little more acceptance. Graffiti is graffiti and I love the hardcore stuff believe me but we needed to gain some ground on tolerance so it can grow more.
BS: Evade said he was the first to take you to do freights, how did he influence your style?
Jase: Well, Evade is my boy and we have painted a lot but I’m not sure where I can find his influence in my style. We have our own things. Dave influences my photographic likes and dislikes, I’m a fan.
BS: In Infamy you talk about your Dad and being proud of his service in the military, have you done pieces to memorialize or in memorial of your father?
Jase: Yeah I’ve done some smaller stuff on freights and once I did a legal wall for him. Which ended up getting gone over which then started a lot of problems between me and some people. I think I would be more careful with that in the future. When you do a memorial you want it to stay forever, but ultimately it’s still just a graffiti piece and will have its time too. You have to be prepared for that. I was In Laos, near where my dad was during Vietnam and I was out in the jungle and there was a burned out American tank. It had a stencil on it of something in the Lao language. I hit up on the tank and after I asked a Laotion guy with me what the stencil said, and he grumbles, “Its says Do not vandalize”. I got a pretty good laugh out of that one.
BS: You’ve said graffiti saved you from committing worse crimes, do you still believe this?
Jase: I do. I was a really bad kid, I’m lucky I’m not serving a life sentence like some of my friends. But you know I’ve also seen people start with graffiti and then transition into more serious crimes. The reverse of what happened to me. I hate seeing that, but that’s life I guess everyone has to find there way. There is some unique shrewdness that can be gained from being a writer.
BS: I hope this isn’t too personal but in Infamy your girlfriend worries about your safety as you go and paint at night. Does she still worry about you and your exploits as a graffiti artist?
Jase: Ha, That girl is long gone because of my antics, and some of her own as well. I’m now married to a beautiful Thai girl. She hasn’t been subjected to the nights alone much and I don’t think she would really understand. She knows I paint, she likes it but has no idea the monster It could be.
BS: You’ve said its hard for you to paint without drinking. Do you still lubricate your creativity with liquor?
Jase: I try to tell myself its not necessary but sadly everything seems to go much smoother when I drink and paint. A lot people think its quite the opposite but it just doesn’t work like that for me. You ever think you play a better game of pool after a beer or two? That’s what I’m talking about.
BS: You’ve said graffiti is like a big race and you can’t win but only stay in the lead as long as possible. Do you think you’re in the lead?
Jase: I don’t think I’m in the lead. But I can honestly say I don’t know of anyone that has done as many throw ups on trains as me and I don’t know to me many people that have sold as much paint as me in the US. With all the trains getting more covered and more people coming out, its getting a lot harder to see the trends unless that’s all you do, paint trains, watch trains, talk about trains. Me and High used to talk about moving to a small town with a lot of spots and taking king of freights in North America, but we decided that we could in fact do that, and we would succeed but in the end all we would be is the king of freights and not much else. That’s not gonna cut it. There other things important in life. Right now its all about balance.
BS: In Infamy your mom says she looks for a message from you in your art on the trains. Have you sent her that message yet?
Jase: Once in a while I hit up mom, I don’t think she see’s the trains as much as she used to in Cleveland, she moved to Las Vegas. Although there are lines there, there not right behind the house like it used to be.
BS: How would you advise those just starting out in the art of graffiti?
Jase: Don’t do it if your not having fun. Even if you just want to fuck shit up, at least enjoy it. Be smart about it but don’t take every line you spray so serious. Don’t worry about not being that good at it at first, do it a lot and it will come. The writers that are good at it from day one usually get bored of it very fast and stop. I would be prepared for getting into some trouble, everyone thinks they are gonna be the one who kills it and is never the one to get busted, Nope…