Interview by Matthew J (@IamJamesMatthew)
Bombing Science: Who is Mike Rich? Where are you from? What makes you tick?? What crew(s) are you with? Introduce yourself.
Mike Rich: Mike Rich is a father of two boys (Joseph and Che), a carpenter, and freelance artist in Maine. My heart/my crew is www.mikerichdesign.com.
BSCI: How did you get your initial start in graff? Was there a particular person/artist that got you caught up in the lifestyle? And what makes graffiti special, in your eyes?
Mike Rich: I used to break in grade school heavily and I started drawing at age 3 and I loved to get into trouble so it was always [some thing] on my mind. After seeing Beat Street, I picked up Subway Art, from the library, and started stealing paint at 11 because they wouldn’t sell it to me if and when I had the money and I haven’t stopped painting since. Doing massive DIY murals with like minds in the area and trying to get freelance work is what I’m about now. I also build homes in the winter and spring. I’m trying to paint more canvases and draw more but I don’t mind the cold winters here, I’m a hard worker and I love the outdoors, so I spray paint outside year round. And I enjoy it.
I used to draw Godzilla and Kung-Fu characters on paper, watching USA Network, around age 5. When I got older graffiti just seemed like a logical step as to what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to do my art outside where everyone could see it and write my name so I began this with a multitude of ugly tags. hahaha
BSCI: How would you describe your art and style? In your opinion, what makes MIKE RICH stand out from all the other writers?
Mike Rich: I’ve always loved letters and graffiti first and I had the suspicion that I would never stop using spray paint. The spray allows me to complete murals faster in a variety of disciplines and overall themes as well. Today that’s a viable commodity. I love to freestyle with the paint. Most of my pieces are done without sketches. As well as murals. Spray is the brush you don’t have to dip or clean or wait for it to dry and I like the immediacy of it. I like when people say “damn! You JUST painted that when I went to get a coffee?” but I also like to take my time and take in the surroundings and have a frosty beverage when I paint.
BSCI: Beyond anything dealing with music or the actual art itself, what does graffiti (the lifestyle) mean to you and how would your life differ without graffiti? How has the culture impacted your life?
Mike Rich: Always having an eye for spots on the street and being aware of the mind fuck of capitalism is a necessary way to look at the World today. At least for me. If the only people to get messages out and communicate to the masses are the privately owned companies then its all about the dollar. I like art that I know was hand made and not permitted, so Graffiti afforded me a unique way of looking at people, importance of ownership and property and most importantly how we are all controlled by fads, trends and advertising.
BSCI: 28 years is a definitely a long time to be active and relevant in graffiti. Longevity is something everybody desires but few actually achieve. What has kept you going for all of this time and where does the commitment to the art come from?
Mike Rich: My commitment to this [art] comes from meeting forward thinkers and talented artists along the way that appreciate the battle for public space like I do. I’m focusing a lot on getting murals now and they keep my lights on in the warm months while my Boss fishes for stripers all summer. I like the adventure of painting outside and I’ll never stop.
BSCI: Despite being a presence all over the planet, graffiti is still vilified by much of mainstream society. You’ve spoken at colleges and university about art, If you were talk to somebody who is not a fan of the culture, how would you try to educate them about culture? How would you justify graffiti’s existence, in both the world of art and in society, a whole?
Mike Rich: I have that faith in graffiti and I’ve argued the validity of the act to many a nay sayer at these classroom talks at the colleges. If I take the stance of graffiti as the antithesis of advertising and marketing and people reclaiming space I usually enjoy a debate. I’m a supporter of artwork and lettering done where it isn’t expected and that freshness amongst everything programmed and regimented is what inspires me to keep spraying and rolling paint.
BSCI: Tell me about your connection to (Hip Hop artist) Killer Mike?
Mike Rich : I met Killer Mike when I was in Atlanta painting a few walls at Emma Hutchins Elementary School. I do art for Dunk The Junk, a non-profit organization that fights childhood obesity through the ethos of graffiti art, Basketball and Hip Hop, as well as educating people about proper nutrition. Killer Mike was there to talk to the kids and award the best hip hop song against sugary foods. Three 4th and 5th grade boys called The Shortyz won and they got awards from Killer Mike. I was painting his portrait in the cafeteria saying “Junkfood is Wack” and Mike came to the cafeteria and was buggin’ out, he loved it and asked if I could paint the same thing at his Barber shop Graffitis SWAG the next day. I said “fuck yeah Mike!! I’d rather do that on my last day in Atlanta than chill at the W pool. I look up to Killer Mike, not only is he intelligent but he is a stand up guy as well.
BSCI: Aside from graffiti, what other forms of art (books/film/music) matter to you? Are they any particular albums or movies or shows that you feel strongly about???
Mike Rich: I like a lot of different music and movies. I particularly like documentaries and independent films. I also like to paint portraits and landscapes with brush. I will always love woodworking, as well; it’s another great creative avenue.
BSCI: Who are some of the people in your area, that are representing the culture properly and really pushing the artistic boundaries???
Mike Rich: The YME crew is really representing well, the Walls 2 Life crew is lining up some big walls as well.
BSCI: Continuing with the notion of “boundaries”: Do you feel it’s possible for a graffiti writer to stay true to the culture’s underground mores while, at the same time, making a profit from their work? If so, how would/do you balance the two sides?
Mike Rich: Yes, I’m living proof. But the two-sides are extremely different, and it’s a fine line separating them. I make a living off of my art half of the year (mostly spray jobs) and I prefer to use aerosol as my art medium. I also love graffiti all year round. Because of my geography and my home building and quiet life, I’ve mastered “pissing in my own back yard” so to speak. I do this very carefully and I’m getting out there little by little. I’m coming off a real good year of traveling and painting for sure. I paint a bit at night as well. Most times by myself but I have a few friends that are great to paint with.
BSCI: What’s next for you in 2013? Are there any particular projects or events you’re working on, at the moment, which you’d like to talk about?
Mike Rich: 2013 is looking good. I’m going to be featured in Maine Home + Design magazine for my art next month. I have a return trip to Killer Mike’s barbershop in Atlanta in late spring and another possible Dunk the Junk event in Brooklyn in late summer. I also have a basketball court, food truck, and a recording studio to paint once the snow melts. Then I will build homes and do art after work until the summer when I just do art commissions and fish and have bonfires and drink beer in the summer sun. Maybe a spray caption here or there as well.
BSCI: Where can people find you? Do you have any websites online???
BSCI: Being that you’ve been involved in this culture for nearly three decades, I am sure you have seen a lot of changes- good and bad- in terms of graffiti’s growth, crossover to the mainstream, and its worldwide popularity. Over that course of time, what moments, for yourself, have been some of the most memorable moments in relation to graffiti?
Mike Rich: Life in general was different when I was a kid. Back then, we’d spend most of our time outside. Today, it seems as if that nature of exploring and being outside is dying (too much technology?). In the late 80’s and early 90’s you had to go to a spot during the day to even see a good piece that you maybe “heard” about or saw in someones shoe box. That constant clandestine and exploratory aspect of graffiti has given way to uploading your blog and seeing what else is being done around the whole World. I’m not one to live in the past I prefer the now but back in the day everything was lovely. 🙂
BSCI: Shout-outs? Who are some people you’d like to thank and acknowledge in your life?
Mike Rich: I’d like to thank my Mom and family for putting up with my nonsense for so long. I’d also like to thank… HBTK, YME, RB, XMEN, SFL, WUT, LEARN, BERN, ASEND, BASTE (RIP), KEO, ICH, PECK, JURNE, THE SOLO ARTIST, LACK, LERK, PAST, SEPT, ALKE, HEBE, GERV, TED, OWL, POLOK, SUBONE, CEMEK, UNTOLD, NIEK, NASTE, REONE, EMBER, VAULT, MES, AVES, SPEK, ARSN, BACKS, NOAH, EPIK, ONIKS, THE DIRT COALITION, MISL, TURDL, ESKO, VANE, KOI, THOT, RAKET, CEVS, MONE, REPS, SNOEMAN, IKUE, KOPH, JAERO, ZURK, LINK, EAST COAST WALKER, ASEND, DJ PROJECTS, DJ BOONDOCKS, SLOP, RECER, MORLE, NYST AND THE COUNTLESS OTHERS I’VE FORGOT. I’d also like to thank my sons Joseph and Che, for being my strength in this struggle.