Friday, 5 December 2008


Last night Front Row finally ran the interview that I recorded a while ago. You can hear it on the BBC iPlayer now. If you don't want to listen to the pieces on Leslie Garrett and the forthcoming 2008 Grammy's that precede the feature, then skip forward approximately 22 minutes. 
The piece also features Inkie and the tiresome Denise James from Bristol City Council's 'Clean and Green' graffiti removal service, making a hash of things and sending mixed messages as usual.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Feek gets his point across
Three generations of writers: Awkward, Deed TCP, and Soker ASK
2Keen finally gets his hands on the goods
The legend that is John Nation leaves his mark. Great shirt/hat combo John. Proper dipping out.
Fresh back from New York, Paris drops a Philly-handstyle 

It was never going to be a traditional book signing. Last week most of the artists featured in Children Of The Can got together in a top secret location (okay, The Bell, off Jamaica Street) and signed each other's copies of the book. It was like the last day of school, or as someone put it "Like everybody's birthdays all on the same day."
I don't think I've ever witnessed so many people so quiet whilst drinking...for the first hour, at least. It was all smiles and silent perusing of pages. All the months of hard slog felt worthwhile, just to get such a good response from the people who made COTC such a visually-engaging book. 
Then the paint pens came out and all hell broke loose as folks attempted to get everyone to sign their copies like hungry autograph hunters. 
A brilliant night all round. I left, drunkenly thinking to myself 
"If they're happy, I'm happy."

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


If you're in Bristol this weekend (29/30th November) be sure to check out the official Children Of The Can paint-jam on the harbourside, which will feature some of the artists who are in the book painting side-by-side. Theoretically the pieces will be presented in some kind of time-line, starting with the OAP writers like Inkie and me, and moving up through the years...but we'll have to see! The logistics of organising this are hurting my brain a bit, but one thing is for sure, there will be plenty of quality pieces being dropped by some of the city's finest, past and present.
The whole thing kicks off on Saturday morning on the hoardings around the site of the old Industrial Museum (behind the cranes across the bridge from the Arnoflini) and will be running until sundown on Sunday, weather permitting. There will also be an opportunity for some budding young writers to pick the brains of their elder peers and perhaps even add their own contributions to the weekend's proceedings.

Friday, 21 November 2008


Apparently they're running an extra-long interview with David Tennant tonight. How can I compete with Doctor Who?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


As the official launch of the book draws nearer and the pre-ordered copies start to be sent out, it's time to step the promotion up a gear. So yesterday, thanks to effective PR by Tangent, I recorded an interview for the BBC, with Kirsty Lang for Radio 4's Front Row arts magazine programme. Talk about in at the deep end! It actually went really well, I think, although the 'B' word kept coming up (think about it for a second!) which did slightly eclipse some of the points I was trying to make, but I guess it's inevitable really. I was just grateful for the opportunity to talk about the book and my take on the Bristol graffiti scene (Radio.4: "But what is it about Bristol that makes the graffiti scene there so special compared to other places?" Me: "Errrmmm...ummm...") on a national prime-time, high-brow arts programme. I initially suggested it to Tangent as kind of a joke: like the BBC are ever going to run a story on Front Row about graff! Poetry, serious literature and fine art are normally more their bag. Just goes to show, like my mum used to say: 

"If you don't ask you don't get."

John Nation and Inkie also got in on the action, and hopefully they're going to interview 3D as well, so it should make for an interesting feature. It should be going out this Friday at 7.15pm (although it may be delayed for a week) so if you're near a radio, tune in. 

Saturday, 15 November 2008


After what seems like forever the book is back from the printers in all its glory. Printed in Italy by specialist art book printers, it really does look (and feel) the business. The foil blocking and pink fifth colour on the cover are just the start. The pages feel nice and thick and the colour throughout is deep and rich. And its heavy, physically speaking. I wouldn't want to get one in the side of the head. All in all well worth the wait. Full consignment should be in Blighty next week, ready to start fulfilling those pre-orders. 
NB: to all you Bristol graffiti writers who have been on my case every day for the last month desperate to get their copies, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait a little bit longer. I've only got two copies myself and they're not leaving the house! Sorry. Soon come.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008


Keeping things really old school for this second post of exclusive book content, this piece was on Station Road, Montpelier, in about 1984, maybe even earlier. A certified contender for 3D's crown at the time, none of us knew anything about Tarzan. Apparently he's still around Bristol today, but he must have stopped painting pretty early on as I only ever remember seeing two pieces by him. The other was on the side of the Beaufort public house, on York Road (again in Montpelier). The influence of the Zoro character from Wild Style is there for all to see, but it doesn't matter, we all thought this was so fresh at the time, and we were all biters back then anyway. 

Big shouts to Mr.Frank Drake for this flick. Like Beezer, he was another early photographer to recognise the beauty of what was appearing on the streets in the early '80s. 


OK, I've been holding back on the real gems, but with the book expected back from the printers this Friday and the official launch less than a month away, it's time to start pouring out the juice, methinks. 3D was the first graffiti writer in Bristol, before going on to become an MC with the legendary Wild Bunch, and subsequently vocalist with Massive Attack. He still paints and masterminds the band's visual identity to this day.

3D is also the subject of the first chapter of Children Of The Can. He spoke to me candidly and at length about his experiences, covering everything from painting his first piece right up to gaining global recognition as part of Massive Attack.

This nugget comes courtesy of Beezer, who, along with one or two others, religiously documented the growth of hip hop in Bristol in the early '80s. Beezer is also responsible for his own brilliant book on this era, Wild Dayz, which includes loads of flicks of Wild Bunch parties and everything else that was happening at the time.

HIP HOP CONNECTION ARTICLE 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Monday, 10 November 2008

HIP HOP CONNECTION ARTICLE (click on image to enlarge)

This month's Hip Hop Connection Magazine features a whopping four pages on Children Of The Can. Here's the first two, which include an extract from the chapter on John Nation, youth leader at the Barton Hill Youth Club in the late 80s and early 90s. Big shouts to Ziml and Kid Acne for the hook-up.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

CLEAN SLATE EDITORIAL (click on image to enlarge)

Barton Hill youth centre's own magazine gives its views on the rash of busts that took place as part of Operation Anderson in 1989. Some things never change. 
An extended extract from the chapter that features one-time Barton Hill youth leader John Nation appears in this month's Hip Hop Connection magazine (oddly dated December, with Eminem on the cover) and features a bunch of photos from the book that I've not yet posted.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


It was a warm July evening before they invented mobile phones, the Internet, or skunk, and Gallery 1 at the Arnolfini looked like the set of a New York cable TV hip hop show. The pieces on the walls were huge, train-scale, and painted in the mighty German 'art spray' Buntlack: all candy-pinks and oranges, and the deepest reds, electric blues and greens, the likes of which had rarely been seen in Bristol at the time. Enlargements of Henry Chalfant's New York subway graffiti photos hung in the foyer and the man himself was in town taking photos for his second book, Spraycan Art, and giving credence to whole event. In the far corner by the stairs the Wild Bunch were holding court, dropping seminal classics such as T La Rock's It's Yours, and Run DMC's Sucker MCs; whilst poppers, lockers and b-boys worked up a quick sweat in a large circle in the opposite corner, flanked by BSD's Wizard piece and the Z-Boys' comeback comment on the whole issue of 'selling out,' Traitor. Documentary filmmaker Dick Fontaine was also in the house, working on his Channel.4 documentary Bombin'. Something was definitely happening, it was real, large and as fresh as a pair of red Puma States with matching fat laces. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Okay, FINALLY,  here's some sample spreads from the book to have a look at. They've popped up in a couple of places already (Facebook and so I thought I'd better post them here, too. Hopefully this gives you an idea of the variety of writers that are featured: Demz CM is a straight-up bomber, and talks about the police, punch-ups and junkies shooting up in abandoned buildings while you're painting; John Nation gives the inside scoop on the late '80s scene in Bristol, including being accused by the police of being the 'Pied Piper' of graffiti; Ziml TCF gets into the mechanics of style and making it your own; Kato covers everything from bombing buses to painting on kids TV; and Nick Walker reveals the truth about the portal on the outskirts of Bristol that leads directly to New York.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


The impact of Charlie Ahearn's seminal hip hop film Wild Style cannot be overstated. Zephyr's animated title sequence was the portal through which countless imaginations were transported to the South Bronx of the early '80s, to a place & time where hip hop gave a creative voice to the youth of this criminally neglected & run-down borough. Graffiti became its visual manifestation, and in Wild Style real-life graffiti writer Lee played the fictional hero in black, Zoro.

“Here’s a little story that must be told...”*

July 1983:

My friends and me sit goggle-eyed in the 
ancient wooden seats of the Arts Centre 
Cinema on King Square in Bristol, as 
Charlie Ahearn’s film Wild Style
plays to a noisy, half-full auditorium. We
react loudly with the rest of the young
audience at the sight of the Rocksteady
Crew B-boying (or break-dancing) in a circle
while the Cold Crush Brothers speak the
new rap language over a new kind of beat:

My goal is the same
I aim for fame
I don’t pop no game
I don’t have no chain.

For us, though, it is the opening scene
of Lee Quinones’ character, Zoro, breaking
into the yards to paint the side of a subway
train that really mesmerises. None of us
dares to blink as Zoro slides down a rope
into the darkness, looking like an urban
ninja on a mission of creative destruction.
The painted letters on the wall behind
him come to life, and introduce the film’s
animated title sequence; the words ‘Wild
Style’ writhe and contort in time with the
off-key funky soundtrack, growing ever
more complex and eventually exploding.

I sit gob-smacked, unable to wipe the
demented grin off my face and savouring
every moment. We are hungry teenagers,
always hunting for the next thing – and this
is exactly what we need.

The urge to emulate, to be involved,
is instant, intoxicating and powerful. My
friends, my brother and me talk about
nothing else for months; we doodle
incessantly in school, trying to recreate
styles that are gradually fading from the
backs of our retinas. The addiction has
taken hold and it feels incredible. In our
hearts and minds we are already graffiti
artists. Or, more correctly, ‘writers’, because
that’s what it’s all about: writing your
name, letting the world know that you

I write therefore I am.

(Extract from the Introduction to Children Of The Can)

[* Stoop Rap by Double Trouble]

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


When seeking a publisher for this book the single most important consideration from my point-of-view was what degree of autonomy I was going to be granted? Sure, a big London-based publishing house might have the muscle to guarantee ten of thousands of sales in the first few months, but that was never my main concern. What would be the point if the final product bore no resemblance to my original vision?

I make no bones about the fact that creatively-speaking I am a total and utter control freak, so when Tangent Books offered to help me realise this thing 100% as I pitched it to them, it was an offer too good to pass up (albeit a frankly foolhardy one, considering I've never written a book before). Plus they're local, they publish books by Big Issue vendors and infamous anarchist agitators, and despite being a Bristol Rovers fan, big cheese Richard Jones is one of the most easy going and eternally optimistic people I've ever met. 

Admittedly concessions have been made, but only one or two. Some artists had to be left out, because we ran out of pages, and a blinding concept for the cover was abandoned simply because we ran out of time. Apart from that everything from the fonts and illustrations, to the amount of swear-words and jokes at the police's expense that made it in to the final version of the text are as I originally intended. So if it's a load of rubbish blame me, not the publishers.

Monday, 20 October 2008


The brainchild of Turo (who is also featured in the book) and friend Matt, this new documentary covers some of the same ground as Children Of The Can, but with moving images and film of people talking, so you don't have to make the effort to read or turn pages. Here's a taster of the section that covers graff, with Big Daddy Turock getting all bleary-eyed outside the Barton Hill youth club (aka the 'other' Dug Out) and some rarely-seen footage of Inkie painting, taken from the 1990 BBC doc 'Drawing The Line.'
(Link for the film in the Links list)


Here's some low-res shots of the high-res proofs. The book's 
designer Cheba has done an amazing job of making the images 
look healthy and balanced. The layouts are also spot-on: no fussy, 
artsy nonsense here, just pure, simple graphics which really let the 
photos speak for themselves. Big up Cheba for doing a great job, and 
for not freaking out when I was looking over his shoulder or sending 
him my 5,000th e-mail suggesting changes and tweaks. 

Friday, 17 October 2008


The front cover also includes 
this illustration by Feek. He 
was the only person who sprang 
to my mind to do something like 
this, and it's actually based on an 
old TCF logo that was in the folder
of images he gave me for his chapter. 
Fair play to him, he was very 
patient while I fussed over what I 
thought was the correct positioning 
of each element. 
He's a top lad and an amazing artist.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

"Why call it CHILDREN of the CAN?"

The two posts below explain where the name for the book came from and why it is more than just another tedious bit of moronic post-modern wordplay...(psych!)


In 1980 New York style-master Dondi White painted his legendary top-to-bottom whole car 'Children Of The Grave (Again)'
and had the whole process documented by photographer Martha Cooper. The pictures subsequently appeared in graffiti Bible Subway Art. 
We all saw Dondi painting long before we knew who he was, in the video for Malcolm Maclaren's Buffalo Gals and as Lee Quinones' 'stunt double' in Wild Style. For many fledgling UK writers this was the first glimpse of how it was done in New York, and how smooth you could look putting the outline on your piece...if you had the skills, of course.


Made in 1984, Children Of The Corn was based on the Stephen King novella of the same name. The film tells the story of a strange demonic force that possesses the children in a fictional Nebraska town, causing them to murder the town's adult population. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


A quick peak at the typestyle for the title and
subtitle – designed by Paris and Soker respectively –
is at the top of this page. Cover print is going to be
silver foil-blocked with the pink done as a fifth colour.

Monday, 13 October 2008


I haven't painted a proper illegal piece since 1988. I remember seeing our less-than-helpful 'lookouts' tearing past us seconds before a police car pulled up and put a stop to the '3 Kings' piece that Inkie and me were painting. I don't think it was the brutality with which they halted our attempts to escape, however, that put me off bombing (or at least, painting full-colour burners on main roads). It was more the fact that the arresting officers seemed unable to see what we were painting, even when we  pointed it out to them, that I found so disheartening.

In the intervening years, far from winning the 'war on graffiti,' police attempts to halt its growth have had about as much success as the 'war on drugs' (or the 'war on terror' for that matter). And therein lies the irony: the more people the police arrest for painting graffiti, and the more they publicise the fact in the media, the more popular it becomes. When Tony Blair announced his country-wide campaign to put a halt to graffiti he provided enough ammunition to keep illegal writing going for years. And it is, after all, the militant arm of graffiti that keeps it exciting in the popular collective psyche. It is also what sets it apart from every other art movement in history.

If, however, people ignored graffiti in all its myriad forms – like the police who arrested me and Inkie some twenty years ago – I'm sure it would eventually dwindle and die out. But that is never going to happen because a visible crime is an accountable crime, and is therefore always going to be harnessed by politicians and the forces of law and order to score quick, easy popularity points with the fear-afflicted majority.

(This was going to be the Afterword for the book, but I ran out of pages and time; so you could call it an "exclusive, unpublished extract" if you were the kind of person who thought such cynical recycling of unused content would actually help to sell any books). PHOTO: 'STOP REAL CRIME' BY PARIS. PIC COURTESY OF IYERS


Finally the book is in the bag! Much to the relief of my girlfriend, cats, extended family, and everyone at the publishers, for that matter. 'Tis done. After the best part of a year and hundreds of hours of interviewing, transcribing, writing, scanning and designing, the project that started off as a dare is at the printers being turned from gigabytes of noughts and ones into paper with words and pictures on it.

I don't think I need to explain what this project is about, since the clue is very much in the title, but I guess some background information is probably the order of the day since this is my first post.

What you might know already:

Children Of The Can tells the story of Bristol graffiti through the words of the artists themselves, and includes 40-odd interviews, either presented as Q&As or in the form of what Richard at Tangent Books described to me as 'think pieces,' or essays with quotes, basically. 

A lot of the photos came from the artists themselves. Unlike most people who write graffiti books I don't have a huge collection of flicks. I'm a graffiti writer, not a photographer, although I do take a passable snap. Some of the pictures also came from amateur and professional photographers who love graff and live in Bristol. Big up to them, and all the writers. 

Bristol has a fairly small but very active graffiti scene and it's always been that way. I started painting in 1984 and have seen styles and writers come and go. Three of the four members of my original crew, Crime Inc, still paint: Inkie is a world-renowned wildstyle letter master and more recently purveyor of the 'Ink Nouveau' style; Nick Walker is an extremely successful stencil artist who has exhibited work all over the world, and kicked down a few doors for British artists without ever really being acknowledged for doing so; and I'm...well, I paint and teach. Let's leave it at that for now. My brother was the fourth member and these days is a graphic designer and one of the most opinionated critics of the modern scene that I know. Apart from myself, of course.

What you probably don't know already:

The majority of the interviews in the book were done face-to-face in some of Bristol's best (and or cheapest) public houses. At an average of 2.5 hours per interview and around two pints of Guinness per hour, during forty interviews I probably consumed something in the region of 200 pints of the black stuff. I don't even want to think about what that translates to in money. Add to that all the rounds I bought and that's a figure worth going to the pub to try and forget.

To my knowledge this is the first book of its kind. There are other UK graffiti books, and even one that specifically focuses on the scene in a particular city (Brighton Graffiti by Stuart Bagshaw and David Oates) but this is the first to include in-depth interviews as well as pictures. Bristol deserves it and I was worried that if I didn't do it someone else would do it badly. In fact they already have (see below).

The project came about when I sat down with some friends to look in horror at a little book called Bristol Graffiti that came out in 2006. It was so bad that my response was "Oh my God, I could do better than that" To which came the collective reply "Go on then!"

Paris (TCF/WSSK) lent me a copy of Overground 2 (by Tobias Barenthin Linblad and Malcolm Jacobson) to read, and that was my starting-point, in terms of style and 'finding a voice' for my own book; I bit their style. A book about Scandinavian graffiti, it gets right under the skin of eight writers by spending long periods of time with them and interviewing them. I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Children of the Can is published at the end of November and the best place to get a copy is from Tangent Books' website: It will also be available from Amazon and all the rest of the usual crooks, but they take such a big slice that I strongly advise you to buy direct from Tangent if you'd like to support a struggling artist (me) and a small local publishers (them). There's a link to their site top right. 

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