Interview by C. Walker
Bombing Science: So a quick introduction- What do you write and what crew(s) do you rep?
Kem5: I see we’re jumping right into this, depending on the day and my mood Kemr, Kems, Kemz or Kem5 will work. My teams include 3A, UPS, FLY ID and PFP. I suck at remembering to put up crews and friends so I will take this opportunity to apologize. I haven’t forgotten you I’m just a little dusted from all the chrome.
BS: What was your introduction to the world of Graffiti? Did it begin with a slow realization that it interested you or was it love at first sight?
Kem5: Fuck! Not to get too deep and Metaphysical but I sort of believe that all life is predetermined. At one point in my childhood I saw my future calling. I was too young to know what it was or where it came from but I knew I liked it. For better or for worse graffiti has occupied more than half my life. I would like to think all things happen for the best.
BS: 3A first came to my attention through a segment on a videotape my buddy had years back- I can’t recall the title- but it was a segment where you were painting a freight with Ges, a cool clip, I was pretty jealous as freights Aren’t too prevalent in Ireland, and it was a couple of years later before I saw any wall productions, however to the point- was that the evolution of your graf career, first freights and then onto walls?
Kem5: LOL! That’s hilarious that you saw that episode of GTV. That footage was filmed in the mid to late 90’s during the height of the freight phenomenon. We were out there baking in the hot sun, sweating to death in these crazy disguises. At the time we never realized how important freights were, we just thought it was cool to see our shit roll out. One of the first things I ever painted was a freight, it was ugly as sin done in old Krylons that I bought at a flea market. I had no idea what I was doing or the potential that had freights had. Freights are now one of my favorite things to paint. There is a certain romance connected to freights that can’t be explained. I guess that’s why I got involved in doing all those whole cars, that shit is crazy addictive. I am still very enamored by the whole experience of freights. Theirs iInterviewInterview with ts something about the smell of pitch from the railroad ties in the summer heat, being under the night sky, seeing all that chrome and Rusto flat black get’n laid down….can I get amen! Back to your original question no it was never was a conscious thing to paint freights over all walls. We painted everything and anything that came our way. Freights just happened to be at the forefront of what we were doing at that time. The 90’s were good times…shit seemed to be less calculated and more natural. We were young and had time to kill.
BS: You guys have created a lot of opportunities as regards traveling to paint- meeting writers form other countries can be a really inspiring thing, is there anywhere that you can say you’ve enjoyed the most? Or experienced any crazy things that you can’t imagine happening in Boston?
Kem5: Hell yeah! There’s nothing better you can do for yourself than to travel. It will broaden your horizons, not to sound cliché. If you are reading this tell your boss to go fuck off and go a road trip with your friends. Life is to short and flimsy to sit around waiting for things to happen. You have old age to wallow in regret. On the real I’ve been super blessed with the opportunity to have seen the world through graff. It’s a real eye opener to see different styles and cultures. I’m always amazed that through graff you can find friends in another country even though you don’t speak the language. I’ve spent days painting with people I couldn’t even speak too but it was cool because…..what? We do graffiti…go figure? Every trip I’ve been on has been adventure too many stories tell, too many bills pay. Graffiti is the toughest job you will ever love!
BS: Do you earn a living doing graffiti?
Kem5: I’m not that clever! Sometimes I think it would be cool to paint for a living but when it all comes down to it I’m glad I don’t. I’ve always viewed graff as a creative release for myself, something to take the edge off life.
BS: What is your stance on commercial work or commissions? There seems to be a constant debate about “selling-out” etc., but surely to make some dough doing something you’ve worked hard at for years is a reward? it’d be another thing entirely if these companies were asking you to do a shirt and tie and answer phones but getting paid for your skills doesn’t seem to me to be selling out…
Kem5: Screw keep’n it real! Get paid! Make that money! Graffiti is like “unemployment” you put in, time to get paid out! I only hate on people that are artists claiming to be writers. Not that life’s fair but I much rather see that money go to someone who is putting in work. Any writer that can make a living off their graff, more power too you. I’m always happy to see another writer shine! This Bud’s for You!
BS: It’s probably not possible to choose but do you have an ideal painting experience? A chill wall with some friends and beers? Night missions? Trains?
Kem5: Damn! These are some tuff questions I’m a Gemini so you’re not making this easy on me. At my current state in time, I will go with question number one for $500 dollars! A chill wall with friends and beers! As I get older I tend to savor the good times with friends while painting. These moments seem to get less, less, all too often disrupted by the responsibilities of adult life. Night missions and Trains I tend to do by my self or with another person. It’s more about action and pushing one’s self. Self absorb moments with empty thought. This is cool too but it’s not that same a kicking with a good group of friends.
BS: You often choose to leave your fills quite simple which I love, the letters speak for themselves, there are a lot of writers who cover up the fact that their letters aren’t that strong by adding immensely detailed fill-ins.. Are there any particular things that you draw influence from in terms of colors, background etc…? I sense a kinda cosmic/ sci-fi buzz perhaps? Also, do you paint from a sketch or freestyle?
Kem5: I’ve always been about letters and letting my letters flex on their own. To be honest I would be content doing two color pieces for the rest of my life. Not that I’ve never been guilty of doing this but with the availability of so many colors it’s easy to hide bad letters with flashy color schemes. It’s all about letters and understanding their structure. This is something that I’m continually learning and never fully achieving. I pretty much hate everything I do and that’s my constant motivation, trying to get back to that first high. Even tonight I was thinking all my shit is starting to look the same. I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with different letters, fills and background. Prey’s always tell me “If you are looking for inspiration for graff don’t look at more graff because it only perpetuates the status quo”. Look for inspiration in other things and it will show in your work, wise council that I’ve always tried to follow. Lately I’ve been vibing off these old graphic design books and old album covers from the 70’s and 80’s. I love how the future and space are depicted in these images. I guess it’s shown in what I’ve been painting this past season. I always sketch, and plan out what I do. Personally, I hate poorly thought out pieces that are thrown together. It seems to me that you and Ges have been painting together forever- did you guys come up at the same time? Ges is the Mutha Fuck’n man! Truly an amazing writer with infinite talent. As fate would have it, the stars aligned, we were like-minded in our goals and we just started doing shit. I could have not asked for a better friend..Real talk…ha ha!
BS: Tough question I know but who are some of your favorite artists- graffiti and otherwise?
Kem5: I knew this question was coming and I’m never really sure how to answer it since my mind changes all the time. I guess I will rattle off the first things that come to mind that inspire me: All my crews. Dems, Sento, Jupe, Roids, Jurne, Sueme, Senk, Stare, Doves, Sye, Mode 2, Dondi, Australian Graff Scene, HSA Crew, City of Montreal, Ha Crew, Visvim, IF Bikes, Supreme, James White, Canon, Gortex, Flickr, http://jrsrules.blogspot.com, Bacon, gravy, Inner City Magazine, Monocle Magazine, HPP, Acronym, Love Roses, HYPERLINK “http://jblyth.com/blog.html” http://jblyth.com/blog.html Budget Rental Cars, Freights, Skate All Cites, Metalocalypse, Plan B: Questionable, Nordic Lodge, Galactic Funk, white out pens, the 90’s. Sorry about all the added bull shit that was a straight shot of what I was thinking before my mind stalled out.
BS: I enjoyed finding a link to a video by the Only Ones from a pic on your Flickr- great song… What’s your primary musical buzz?
Kem5: I have the most varied taste in music, which covers most major genres of music equally, except country and classical. I grew up skating so whatever I read in the back of Thrasher Magazine I would check out. I went to a lot of shows when I was younger, now I’m deaf.
BS: Are there any particular goals you’d like to achieve in your graffiti career?
Kem5: I consider myself to be very fortunate to be at the age I am and still paint on the regular. This is the most content and happy I have ever been, I am painting for myself. I’m painting for the love of painting and not all the superficial bullshit that graffiti is about. At this point in the game, graff is more about the good times and friends. When I die all that I painted will not mean shit.
BS: What is your opinion on the current state of graffiti, both locally and internationally?
Kem5: Locally where I’m at things are sort of at lull. Everything came to a breaking point over the past few years with so many clean trains and spots being done the local authorities started cracking down. It goes in cycles but traditionally our city has had a zero-tolerance for graffiti. Domestically overall the States get’s it in! Over the past year certain cities and writers have really shined. We have a great freight scene, which most other countries do not have. Internationally I think Brighton England and Australia have healthy scenes. Sorry about the bland answers.
BS: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the double-edged sword that is the internet, specifically graffiti forums, where it seems that there is a multitude of kids who feel it’s enough to post a couple of flicks of tags here and there, and then proceed to talk shit about a lot of other writers on the forum. I think the internet is an incredible thing but, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old fart, I do kinda miss the pre-internet days of discovering graff hidden in different corners of the city, the feeling of this secret underground movement unfurling every time you discover a new spot or begin to notice a new writer pop up. I sometimes can’t help but think that a lot of up and coming kids don’t need to put in that work nowadays and as a consequence their attitude is lacking the essential respect for their own cities graffiti history and elder writers. The concept of “fame” is nothing new in this game but I feel that maybe there’s been a change in that concept lately, no longer does it mean up’s but seems to constitute selling t-shirts or canvasses (both great if done right, but oftentimes not), and so after that ridculously long-winded intro, my question- Do you think that an opportunity for a “career” in graffiti (I’m thinking of gallery shows, commissions etc.) may prompt kids to get into it for the wrong reason?
Kem5: I love the Internet, I’m so glad Al Gore invented it! The Internet is the most hilarious thing that has happened to graff. You have kids going full retard on the Internet running their mouths, dry snitching and e-thug thuggery. I love heated Internet battles you know people get real heated. I must admit I’m past all that, I see people talking shit about me, FUCK’EM. In the grand scheme of things what does it matter, at a certain point in life most people realize there are bigger issues to worry about. For better or for worse the Internet is a really amazing thing and overall it has done more good for graffiti than bad. I agree with you that I miss the days of trading photos, finding magazines and the thrill of discovering something new. I guess it’s a small price to pay for what the Internet has given us. The Internet can also give off a false sense of what is going on, individuals can seem bigger than they really are. For most perception is reality! Going back to your question of people motives being adversely influenced by the Internet I would have too agree. Writers in graff for the wrong reasons get weeded out pretty quickly and if they remain their motivation is pretty transparent.
BS: Do you have any artistic outlet outside of graffiti?
Kem5: Ummm? No not really. I like to work, I’m Jamaican I have 10 jobs!
BS: Is letter structure paramount to you? Do you paint characters at all?
Kem5: For me graff is about letters! I’m always trying to improve and evolve my letter structure while retaining that signature feel to them. It’s kind of hard to think of anything past letters because you never fully master them, you just keep trying but you never get there. I must admit that of lately I’ve been messing around more with characters. It seems that these days in order to keep up with the Jones you need strong letters and full on background with characters. The bar has been raised so high it’s tough to keep up!
BS: Can you describe differing influences that you’ve had that have informed your style through particular periods in your painting career? I’m interested whether there are any particular epiphanies that have enhanced your style’s evolution… And equally is there anything in particular you’ve been buzzing off lately that you hope will weave it’s way into your graff?
Kem5: Good question! I’m constantly influenced by everything around me including other writers. I tend to take what is relevant and add it to my signature style in order to further evolve my letters. Lately I’ve been enjoying the resurgence and emphasis of old school lettering. Being a fan of letters it’s great to see writers focusing on classic letters. The key is to build off of what has been done, not try and re-live it. I also want to make my letters less ridged and softer for 2010.
BS: I once read that your favorite colors to use were chrome and black- is this still the case? Also is there a brand of paint you prefer above all others?
Kem5: Still to this day nothing beats a good black and silver piece or simple. I paint with anything and everything.
Kem5: I would like to thank Bombing Science for the opportunity to ramble. I also would like to thank all my friends and fellow writers for the good times shared over the years. Most of all I want to thank Liz for always being so supportive in all that I do.