whitehot | October 2007, Chris Osburn Interviews Tek33
Among East London's more prolific graffiti artists, Tek33 stands out for his seemingly omnipresent chunky, spray painted pitchforks. Asked what motivates the artist to "throw-up", the artist explains that he does it for the buzz, that he has a passion for spraying up walls and trying not to get caught, and that he has a deep love of graffiti art circa 1980's New York. Here's an interview with Tek33, parts of which originally appeared at Londonist.com on September 4, 2007 ( http://londonist.com/2007/09/londonist_inter_23.php).
When did you first start making graffiti and how did you get into it?
I was a breaker in 85 (aged 11) and discovered graff through that, spraying "Break" and "Hip Hop" on my local fences. For my 12th Birthday on a Friday in 1986, I got a second edition press of Subway Art (by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant), and that was it: addicted for 21 years since.
"Tek33" mean anything?
My first tag was Jester. At the start of 1987, I chose Tech One. Then, I started one of my first crews, MWW (Mad Wild-Style Writers) consisting of Sketch (Mark Cheeseman RIP, I will never forget him) Idea, Shox and Scream. I used to visit the writers bench at Covent Garden in 1987 and got really inspired after meeting Robbo, Fura and Doze of WRH, also Set3.
In 1991, I started to spell Tek with the "K". In 1995, I quit writing suddenly and unexpectedly until the autumn of 1999, when I thought 'Why deny this urge and passion? Life's too short. I am going to return to do one of the things I have always loved most in life - illegal writing.' When I came back strong on the Northeast London streets for the year 2000, I wrote the number "33" and became known as Tek33.
What's up with those pitchfork/trident things that you paint?
Regarding the Trident/pitch forks, Eine had his Saba "S" throw-ups all over the West End/Soho in '89 and I was obsessed with them. I used to sit at home doodling replica Eine throw-ups. When I came back in 2000, I was looking at an old Cliff NYC subway panel and it had pitch forks like the trident but with a floaty Philip Guston feel flowing. I developed my Trident symbol from that. Then I hit them up all over North East London, a touch of south but not west really.
Did you ever get caught or have any close encounters that you'd like to share?
Never been caught. But in 1993, a police officer grabbed me at Royal Oak, jumping out an unmarked car after spotting me tagging. He said 'too late lad' holding me, but I grabbed the road side rail, jumped up, ripping off my pocket as he fell over. I bolted fast down the canal and came out safe at Queens Park, minus my pocket on my parker.
What's your response to people that say things such as "you're too old to be doing graffiti" or that you should be spending your time in "more constructive" ways?
It depends on the company you keep. These days, it seems to be more accepted by people in general around my age (I'm 33), older and younger. In fact, often I get very positive responses about my illegal work and I have fans from 14 to 60 years old. It's the authorities who take it all so seriously and do forensic tests on spray paint, and give graffiti writers two years behind bars whilst the car thief's and knife carriers walk free.
When I was around 16, even then people my age sometimes said I should grow up which was annoying, but that never stops you doing something you really have a passion for.
I spend all day making art indoors on canvas to go on show in galleries around the world, so that's all good and positive but on the way home from drinking or for a fun adventure when I'm sober my passion is to paint graffiti in traditional New York subway based styles. It's not for sale, just pure passion.
Have you seen a change in graffiti over the years? Are the young guys coming up very different than when you had started out?
Over the years there have been some gradual changes. It started to change in the mid 90s after people in the UK got hold of magazines and photos of what Cost and Revs were up to in New York. Like their huge high up roller tags and their fly posting campaigns and Revs groundbreaking street sculptures.
Now there is the whole Banksy craze influence of stencils which have been around for years but Banksy has made stencilling famous and popular. Just as Taki 183 wasn't the first but spawned his pen pals of which I am one, Banksy has spawned his stencil pals around the world.
Some of the new generation in London have done a great job in different ways, what Tox did on the London Tube system between 2002/2003 was incredible, also over the last 5 years Panik has done an amazing job on the roof tops. These guys are now in their early 20s. Writers like Panik remind me of myself when I was 19, except I didn't have hundreds of roof tops.
What's the future hold for Tek33?
As for the future of Tek33, I plan to keep on doing illegal graffiti here and there whenever I can. You get less time as you get older, but I still enjoy painting as much as ever after 21 years since my first attempt at a piece. I think I will be tagging in my fifties if I live that long, maybe even until I die.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief