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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