The waiting is finally over, Madrid has returned; the material in this video is the proof that it remains alive. Despite the added security measures, these writers do whatever they have to, to put their names on the metro. This time, it’s the VTR & TNS Crews that give a new face to the city; this is real; this is Madrid, like it or not.
There’s no place like home, which is something we know well. That’s why we want to dedicate 40 minutes exclusively to ‘Madrid’, a video made by, and for, the writers, using images from some of the best missions; this really shows us what happens in the city. This is graffiti; there’s nothing more to say.
Madrid 24/7 is ready, and will be on the street soon. Right now, we’ll leave you with an exclusive trailer from MTN-WORLD.COM
I write MAZE UNL. My first piece was made in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, where I am originally from. Here is a young graffiti culture. In 2003 we started writing UNL (Unlimited). Now we are 5 members: Pyckos, Felon, Undo, Pfu and me, Maze. We are trying to get busy with styles. I have too much influences, but New York and Copenhagen is where I find my inspiration. My style is versatile, always changing. I don’t like staying at one place. I love cartoony characters. Most of these pieces are 2009/ 2010. Now we are working on our website. Soon to come…
You recently came to Barcelona because you won a all inclusive vacation to our city through a graffiti contest organized by our distributor in Bulgaria. How was it? Was there much rivalry or competition?
Right. Every year since 2003 the contest takes place in front of the NDK (National Palace of Culture) and it’s the only national bulgarian graffiti fest, that’s why we like it and support it. There was kind of competition. Unit did a great piece and won the first place on concept painting and Wion, who was your guest last year, was just 0.2 points behind us (note: scoring consists sketching and concept painting). His piece is also very cool!
Can you tell us about your experience and what you liked most about the city? You painted with a local writer, correct?
I really enjoyed my stay in Barcelona. It’s my first visit and the positive things I have heard about the city were absolutely true. Beautiful places, very strong artistic spirit and so much cool people are the things, which will make me come back. I painted a wall in the factory with Hamsk and in the evening I had the chance to visit the Montana Cafe & Restaurant. The All City Writers book release took place there, so I was very lucky to get a signed copy of this amazing book. The next day I painted with Yesk and his boys near the airport, but I was such in a hurry for the plane, that I didn’t finnish my piece. They are really talented for sure. My time was full of graff, so what better than that.
From what we’ve been able to see of your culture and background as a graffiti writer, you work just as much on murals as trains, and your pieces almost never go without a character as a complement. Do you think this is the perfect balance for any wall or train production?
I think It’s a banging combo. The murals need characters to be remembered. Characters can give your message and expression not just to the ‘graff educated’, but to the ordinary people and kids especially, who are the next after you. When I started I was obsessed by the look of the characters by NTN (Nast To Ndoe), so they are one of the reasons to make me write. When it comes to trains it talks about your skills, concentration, managing to be at the right place and time and taking the risk. It talks about you and ya crew, so nothing can’t beat burners and characters in a row and dat’s for sure!
UNL (Unlimited) is your crew. At the moment you guys have 5 members: Pyckos, Felon, Undo, Pfu, and yourself. What can you tell us about the history of the group? How did you guys come together?
Me, my brother Felon and Snare, a friend who doesn’t write anymore, are the founders of the crew. We created it in 2003, when we were around 13 yrs old. In 2007 my homie Pyckos gave the idea about integration and it sounded very good.Since then we are this strength. Most crews here consist of 2-3 people, so we keep it strong.
Apart from painting together, do you guys travel abroad? What are some of your best memories and where have you guys had the most success.
The cash is always not enough for everything, so we travel in our country mostly. We plan a big trip around the Scandinavia area soon. All of us want to see Stockholm a lot. Last year all of us went to the ‘Agregatu de 4 Elemente’ festival in Bucharest and we enjoyed a lot, because we were all together and painting.
Can you describe the scene in Bulgaria for us? How, when and where did the first graffiti arrive there? Can you describe how it got introduced and worked to the city and your life?
There’s a little controversy about the beginning of everything. It’s about 1994 for sure.Late, huh?Around this year Mad bombed Sofia already and some of the best bulgarian writers started writing in Targovishte, so no one can say who is the first. Without almost any information from the west and no spraypaint these guys struggled hard, living in a post-socialistic country looking at graffiti like a murder. You have to give credit, where it’s due. Props to Naste (Nasimo), Ndoe, Scum, Funne, SZC, SirGo, Mad and all the old heads. Naste’s work is beautiful. I saw it and I started writing.
Which cities in your opinion are hitting the hardest?
Every city has it’s own crew, smashing it. Sofia is the most bombed.It has always been like that. And graff is rare cleaned. In Ruse, Varna, Dobrich, Plovdiv and Veliko Turnovo there is also activity.
How are the authorities treating everyone? Is everything on lock down?
There’s a lot of other things they have to deal first with. You know about the monster corruption and etc,so graff is still no last in list. Most times you get fined and it’s not big money.If you’re not lucky you can get sued and that’s shitty. Maybe Ruse hates graffiti most,because it’s a cultural center and it is smashed with tags and rooftops.I’ve heard stories about police brutality against writers. Wack!
And how is it going between graffiti writers at the moment? Is there much rivalry between crews?
Yep. Writers don’t communicate the way they should. No support.No respect, even in this small country. The events happening here decreased. I hope things will change soon. At all everyone is interested in his own shit and that’s all. Thing I hate most is that style and quality are not in first plan, but surrounding unimportant things around the graffiti. This doesn’t mean,that there are no talented guys here. It’s full. Xpres from the EAK is the god of trains here. I’ve seen compositions with personal pieces on every car. Really amazing. For a couple of years he made maybe over 300. Painting trains is not the easiest thing here and his style is cool.
Regarding the trains… do they usually let them circulate through the city or do they pull them off when they see they’ve been painted?
Hahah. I do not recommend painting with chrome,because after the first year your fills are gone.Soon I saw a rolling window down, saying ‘The UNL Crew’, done in 2007. They usually repaint trains and it happens in 1-2 years. Of course there are pieces pulled out and cleaned up immediately, but it is in extra situations – like this camouflaged burner. We ran from the cops. We saw it running only the day we took the photo. So sad.
What sticks out for you most about graffiti in the USA. In Europe?
I still can’t figure out what made the NY kids go so crazy to invent such a genious form of art.It’s a natural competition of artists in the real world. If you suck, you get crossed. Their weapon became their style and respect. All that exploded and won’t never die.For me the clean essence is there. Good style can smash every effect. I love the oldschool!I love TC5, Seen, Ces and many others. Though I have to say today graffiti is Europe. Next level: Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm (everfresh) and Barcelona, of course, with it’s amazing artists. Hands down.
We see that you usually paint with Montana Colors. What model of can do you use the most? What do you like most about the paint?… and the colors? How would you improve it if you could?
Hardcore is my favourite. It was incomplete without the 94 (especially for outlines). Now they are like brother and sister and I won’t never divide them . The Hardcore gives you so much power. The paint is thick, shiny, covers perfectly. I would maybe improve the magentas, they fade quickly.
Colors you must have in your pieces: Black, White and two in contrast (Red-Blue) (Red-Green)
One cartoon you are a fan of… Cheech Wiz
Best plan for a week day is… Sketch all day
Best plan for a week end is… Paint a train with the boys
Brand of beer… Tuborg
A typical dish from you country… Banica (Pastry with eggs n cheese)
Rap or Thrash metal? MADLIBerator
Long distance trains or short distance? Short ones (EMV32)
To beat the cold… Rakia or a good graffiti mission? Good graff mission, seperated from Rakia
Reunion is a little tropical gem, and I was lucky enough to be invited there by Urban Konnection Festival, the local annual Hip-Hop festival. Most of you probably don’t know this French island lost in the Indian Ocean, but I can summarize it for you: beautiful Creole women, rum, vanilla, beaches, graffiti, and a freaking hug active volcano which emulates Mordor from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It’s definitely worth the 18 hour flight.
From tropical beaches… to above the clouds, entering Mordor.
If you tire of drinking Ti-punches (local rum cocktail) and chasing tropical fish or women, Reunion Island has a pretty decent graffiti scene for its 800,000 inhabitants. It has the French influence, but its own distinct flavor, and the local writers are super chilled-out and welcoming. Maybe it’s the year-round 30 degree temperature, the warm water, or the rum, but the pace of life here is slower, as is the pace of graffiti painting, which we like. It’s a change from the stress and beef of the inner-city. You just grab a Dodo (local beer), and a can of MTN, and let yourself go. Colorful pieces can be seen all over the place, chromes on the highways; and, of course, the island’s superstar is Jace, which his famous characters.
The Urban Konnection Festival principally focuses on rap and breakdance. They managed to bring the top b-boys and girls from all around the world to this small island, impressive…
This year they created a graffiti section; the first day was a local graffiti battle.
Yes, they have MTN there…
The day after, me, Mystery (Australia), Meo, Nayh, and Jace from Reunion, all got together for the main wall. Unfortunately, rain stopped us after a few hours. We all painted characters, with our very different styles. This is what we managed to do.
A few days after, I was introduced to the best hall of fame ever. I painted with old school heads, to the sound of giant waves crashing, with our bare feet in black sand, next to a beautiful beach…if you don’t believe me, check out the video!
MTN-WORLD wants to give xtra special thanks to ASTRO for this article!
We’ve been awaiting excitedly… and now finally we have the first chapter of the CONCRETE WALLS PROJECTS series, with ARYZ, sponsored by the independent clothing brand HEROKID, in collaboration with MONTANA COLORS.
Painted walls always caught my attention, ever since I was small. I remember every time I’d go to school, with my brother and mother, we had to pass by this wall that was behind the building. I have it saved in my memory as the most interesting and entertaining part of the whole journey. Whenever they had painted something new, it felt incredible for me to see it, and if they were in the middle of painting, I would happily wait and watch to see the whole process; watch how they gave form to it, how they introduced those colors, and how impressive it was to see them create those lines which were so straight.
When I went to high school, later on, I got together with people who had the same interests as me, and who also breakdanced and rapped, and basically everything involved in hip hop. One day we decided to paint a wall properly. We went to that same wall that I had always liked, which was behind the building, and when we began, I saw that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Even though I’d studied all of the gestures, movements and colors, actually picking up the can of spray is a different story altogether. I remember that it was a total disaster. I went back the next day to try and fix it, but I just ended up making it worse.
After a while, I got together with more experienced people on the graffiti scene. I was in charge of doing the backgrounds and characters for the pieces, but after a while I felt that doing that wasn’t my reality, nor did it express my feelings. Whether or not I was enjoying myself, I wasn’t expressing what I wanted to say.
So, now I try to capture my ideas in one way or another. I struggle with the paper I use, in trying to give form to the ideas that I have, in trying to express them on the wall. But that’s the battle.
A lot of the time, once I’ve finished doing a wall, I have that same sensation of failure which I had after I painted that very first wall. In a way, that feeling helps me to continue trying to improve, to find new forms and content. Aryz, 2010
Tell us how and when your graffiti started getting support in a city that is so separated (or isolated) by tradition, like St. Petersburg.
Hello! I started to paint graffiti in 2000. Back then, I didn’t see or hear almost anything about it. I lived in Gatchina, which is a small town 45 km from Saint-Petersburg. I only saw 1 or 2 pieces, and a few tags, there. The first time I saw graffiti on TV was in some music video; it interested me, and later I went to some youth shop where I found the “FX” video cassette.
Which magazines or videos were the first to grab your attention?
The first graffiti video which I saw was the “FX crew” video cassette. I was delighted with it. The scale, quality and their approach inspired me. Later I found the way to the shop. It was the first graffiti shop in Spb. There I saw the magazine “Spray it” – also the first magazine in Spb and Russia. So, this video and magazine were my first acquaintance with graffiti. I saw a lot of different styles, technique skill, etc… In 2004 the video “Gop Stop” guys was published, from Moscow ЗАЧЕМ. This video was really hardcore. Guys from this crew still amaze me. Simply letters and ideas made them world famous.
Can you tell us the difference between the St. Petersburg and Moscow scenes? And what can you tell us about Finland?
To my mind the difference between Spb and Moscow is first of all mentality. Secondly, Moscow writers were under the influence of fashion. This tendency absorbed a lot of writers. Curiously enough, guys from Moscow didn’t aspire to do qualitative pieces. In Spb graffiti was really different. It didn’t follow the fashion. But I don’t like to criticize Moscow and I don’t see any sense in it. They’re two different cities with their own attitude towards graffiti. Nevertheless there are a lot of talented artists in Moscow and Spb. As for Finland: I don’t know much about graffiti there; what it’s like or how it develops. But I know that there are very few places where you can paint.
To try and understand a little more about the history, can you please tell us about a few key moments or important figures in the Russian graffiti scene?
The most famous writers in Russia for me were the SPP crew from Saint-Petersburg. This crew amazed me, I was their fan. These guys were the ones who first opened the graffiti shop in Spb and who first put on sale the magazine. Guy Worm, based in Moscow, opened up to me another side of the graffiti world. Later, A-24 (now Akue) appeared, who painted amazing backgrounds. Also, there’s the DS crew from Saint-Petersburg who painted great pieces. But guys from this crew began to wage war against a lot of artists; their politics weren’t clear. Today from the Russian scene I single out few people who show worthy level and success.
How did you guys get your hands on graffiti materials in the past?
It was hard to get good cans when I started to paint. I painted with cheap automobile spray paint and I thought it was good paint for graffiti. When I got the good paint I changed my mind. Now young writers don’t have such a problem, there are a lot of shops, and products which they can buy easily. But I was never sorry that I started graffiti at that time. It was very romantic and interesting to go through this time.
What scenes are you most interested in at the moment? Cities, writers, crews, etc…?
Now it is interesting for me to observe graffiti in Spain, Italy, New Zealand, LA and the UK. Daim, Roid, Askew, Rime, EL Mac, Smash and Aryz are the most talented and interesting writers for me from all over the world. There are many artists in the world who show original, ideological, innovative work.
Do you consider them to have an influence on your style?
I don’t think they exactly influence me. It is really interesting for me to examine famous artists not relating to graffiti; people who did things which now we can’t do without computers; such things which seem to be impossible to do without computers. They influence me. That’s the thing about skills and loops – at first, graffiti writers from Europe and Australia had some influence on me. But they were influenced by classics too. Nowadays I’m absolutely abstract from this graffiti world.
How do you describe your style?
I like to experiment. I was really interested in 3D when I started to paint. I only did 3D pieces. Then I started to paint photorealism. But I didn’t find any sense in it. A few years ago I started to learn flat letters and went deeply into it. I’m still experimenting. Knowledge and learning of 3D and photorealism, and giving myself up to letters, forms my style. I love 3D, love shadows, love everything where there’s atmosphere. I work a lot on letters, effects and backgrounds. I like graphics very much. OK, let’s rock the next question.
How do you guys do your graffiti in such extreme climate conditions? And because of that do you spend a lot of time in the studio or on paper, or on the computer…?
Saint-Petersburg is not really a favorable city for graffiti. Summers that aren’t very hot and very cold winters don’t allow you to give yourself up to graffiti fully. In winter we paint in the buildings which doesn’t make me happy. Fortunately my fanatical attitude to graffiti allows me to forget about any problems with the weather, to get into what I’m doing, to get to this portal. Also, in winter I do a lot of canvases and work on my projects with girls.
What do you think about other forms of art?
I welcome any areas: cinema, music, fashion, architecture, adverts; all of them are very interesting and marvelous sometimes.
Does a circuit of art galleries exist in St. Petersburg which supports graffiti?
There are few galleries where graffiti is welcomed. Maybe it’s because of a small quantity of people who want to exhibit their graffiti. There are too many lazy writers who do not aspire to do something.
How is the relationship between the local authorities and graffiti writers? Are there rough penalties? Is there a task force or big funding by the city to enforce anti-graffiti programs or is it that they don’t care about it so much?
What can I say about struggle with graffiti in Spb? I can say that the city doesn’t care generally. Tags in the center of the city are never buffed. When the police catch the writers they do nothing. There are a lot of places in the center where you can paint calmly. And writers in Spb are rather attentive and sly.
How far do you want to go with your graffiti?
Most of all I want to travel, meet different artists, not only writers, to communicate,to take part in festivals and organize them, to invite famous artists to my projects, to show myself, to realize my plans, to organize my exhibitions, to kill all my stereotypes…To discuss graffiti culture with old school artists, with young writers, to make them self confident, to direct them straight ahead to their aims; to bring my graffiti into showbiz, to earn money by selling my art; to immortalize myself and to leave my museum, to amaze people for ages.
Above, Wais with Kreal and Truba. Below this line a photo gallery at our warehouse in Barcelona.
A few months have already passed since BLADE paid us a visit in Madrid to open our official shop in the capital of Spain, but we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to rescue some remnants of photos and offer you all this mini-interview.
Produced by Frame TV.
What can you tell us about KING OF KINGS?
My name is Blade from the original ¨Crazy 5¨crew. Born back in 1957… started doing graf in New York in 1972, and now here I am chillin´ in Madrid, Spain!! Just Being me at 53! They put out the Blade King of Kings book, uhhh it´s put out by Henk Pijnenburg and he puts it out June 28th 2009, so people can actually see the history of when I came along doing graf from 1972 to all the paintings I do in 2009, and June 3rd 2010 I go to Beijing (China) to do the first solo show with Zhang Dali.
How do you see the art scene in Spain?
The art scene in Spain is actually really cool because I get to go to all different places in the world and get to see people being very hospitable here, very nice to my wife, Portia, and I, and it´s really nice to see the artwork from The Twins (Os Gemeos), from Mind and all the different people of Spain. They have taken an artform that began in 1970 in New York on the subways, and to see it 40 years later, for me thats absolutely phenomenal, to see the incredible evolution of the art-form. I´m hoping to meet the people from Barcelona next year so that I can spread the message of the way the art-form was in New York because it´s an art-form created by young people, for young people when it originated.
Have you tried Montana Colors sprays?
Well nah, I tried them once before from the Montana in Amsterdam… this is the first time I was lucky enough to come to Madrid, and it was nice when I got to the Montana shop, I got to see the actual Montana paint, MTN 94, and I actually get to use it today for the first time, and the fuckin´ stuff comes out like butter… real creamy, thick paint, thick coating paint and its really great. ¨its a take!¨
Can you tell us a little story about the Old School?
Every story I have of the Old School is Bad! Ha ha… Well, one story I can tell about the Old School is when me and Common were painting the Esplanade tunnel in 1976-´77 and there was these two cops: Freddie and Arnie that were assigned just to get us because we were doing like 4000 – 5000 trains each by the end of the seventies from when we started in the beginning… and they came into the Esplanade tunnel, the only underground painting place in the north east Bronx, and Common is on top of the train and the cops actually shoot off their gun, and in the seventies you never heard a cop shoot off his gun, they said “STOP! FREEZE!”, and it was like “yeah, yeah, right…” and then you run. They shot off the gun, Common is running along the top of the train and at the end of the train, where there were no more train cars left, you could see his shadow just going like this… leaping through the air, all the way down to the ground.
We actually get away from the police and they come to a place where we shoot hoops and play basketball on a playground back in the day, and they come over to us… and this big muscle cop grabs us and they take us down to the precinct and they start beating me up and they start beating Common up so that we tell them who we are… There are no rules in graff, but you never rat, ya know, cuz when the cops are beating me into the ground , the whole time I´m acting like “I´m not Blade, I don´t know what you´re talking about” and that´s it “I don´t know the guy, I wen´t into the park to play, and he just started playing with us”… while they keep saying “that´s fuckin´ Common, that´s the guy!”
I don´t know him, it´s just some guy, shootin´ hoops, guna go and have a beer… In1977 me and Common were 20 years old, so that´s what you did.
It´s an important thing for anyone out there using the Montana paint, that it is a great paint, but you should always wear gloves, and a mask, and NEVER do drugs, never, drugs are for suckers. That´s the most important thing for me… is it off???? ya know so the kids…
I want to thank everyone is Spain, and the most important thing is I want to send a special thank you to the twins from Brazil, for arranging the show so I can actually go to the Montana shop in Madrid. Big Ups to the Twins... Blade – Crazy 5.
Want some more?
With Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper…
From Docmaker´s Vlog…
A big wall production with Maze83…
And some oldschool stuff by the Elevated Stations Series (Rhapsody and Street Wise Films Inc)…