I think my initial exposure to graff was from a BTN (Behind the News) special we watched in 4th grade in about 1986-7. So I would’ve been about 10 years old. Afterwards, I suggested we all draw our own pieces and the teacher agreed. Then I did something to earn a week in isolation, sitting outside the principal’s office in one of those library cubicles. I remember just drawing outlines all week. Goofy, themed pieces such as “Wizard” with a wizard character, “Grim Reaper” with a grim reaper. But that’s as far as it went.
Around this time, I saw C.R. Stecyk III painting the “Rat Bones” motif in a pool during the Bones Brigade Video Show. I’d received a cheap Big W skateboard for Christmas (a Super Brute), and after disguising it as a Powell Peralta with their dragon sticker and some white spray paint, I had about half a can left. My brother and his mate took me on a skate tour of Canberra, hitting all the 70s spots like Kambah half-pipe, Spot-X, Insano, Charnwood Bowl and Spence Drains. At Spence the first thing I did was paint a giant Rat Bones on the raw concrete with white paint. It was practically invisible.
Spending weekends at my Dad’s, I got to see the handywork of my stepbrother, Shep and his mate Johno, from the laneway near his house, through the underpass, on the back of the soccer club and all the way to Hawker shops: big, red metal band logos, each one a different band. And done properly too. I remember it being a big deal to me that logos were copied correctly. I would study the AC/DC lettering and clown people that fucked up the angle on the inside of each letter. And you better get the Iron Maiden descenders correct.
When I was about 12 my brother returned from Sydney with a copy of Subway Art. He was too old to get into graff but he’s always been into art. I stole it from him and studied it. I started writing Joker & Jester and created a fake crew comprised of myself and my late cousin, Layne Meyers. BSP – short for Bash Street Posse. The name came from the Bash Street Kids, a comic book gang from the UK’s Whizzer & Chips. Our activities amounted to me tagging BSP around Wanniassa shops with black crayon while my parents drank at the Tavern. Then in 1990, at the opening of Belconnen Skate Park, I met the Nash Twins. One of them saw my wack “Joker” tag on the fresh concrete and followed it with a shortened, Melbourne-esque “Joka” which I soon adopted. By this stage I was only tagging for fun. I hadn’t really met anyone else that wrote and never painted with the Nash’s.
Then in high school I befriended a new kid who had recently moved from Hong Kong, stood about four-foot-six and exuded more attitude and angst than anyone I’d ever encountered. He wrote “Prime” and had an elaborate hand style with lots of flourishes. After trading a few rough outlines, we bought $10 worth of garbage paint from Shop Rite for our first piece. We painted a NSI in the Spot X ditch at the base of Mt. Taylor on a weekday afternoon. NSI stood for National Street Inkers, so we had some lofty goals. The “I” was a character; a cross between a Bodé lizard and Snork. No pictures exist. I took a break for most of year 10, then started to mess around writing “Fluffy Nugs” everywhere we skated, no doubt inspired by our Grunge period. It wasn’t a serious graf thing, more of a dumb joke between friends. I was introduced to DISK in year 11 and that’s when I started to meet and participate in the greater Canberra scene. Before that I’d paid it little mind.
First real crew I was in was ASN (Akshun), followed by FSE/4SE (Four Storey Empire) and it’s offshoot, SF (I forget what it stood for). I’m in TKP (The King Pins) & UTR (Uptown Top Ranking).
My main writing partners were Ayre and Dius. When in Belco or partying in Civic, I would bomb with Pewk (SMP), Toker (SMP) and Fluke. Other mates that I would paint or bomb with include Deks, Depht, Ruben, Farowe, Para, Phats, Tron (R.I.P), Sinch, Disk, Wepon, Floer & Fank. I usually associated with my skater mates, NP (‘Nassa Posse). They dabbled in graf but didn’t really write. But they would keep look out if I was catching a tag in Civic after raving at Smile or would drive me to spots on the way home.
I think all of the early lettering, illustration and logo styles I admired have played a part in forming my design style today. One particular trait is cleanliness and attention to detail. The TKP/ASN boys can be brutal to paint with and would scrutinize your piece for mistakes. Other more traditional lettering/graf techniques, such as highlights and drop shadows have become second nature and often turn up in my work. As do common graf motifs such as clouds, stars, cracks and bricks. Practicing tags all day at my K-Mart job, using entire pads of shelftalkers as sketch pads and markers racked from the stationary department has honed my lettering and calligraphy skills.
The halftone bitmap graphics, paint drips and minimal pallet used in the 12oz. Prophet one off magazine “The Vapors” was another strong influence.
When I was studying Graphic Design, I would regularly find ways to incorporate graff into my work. Be it via dripping, abstract 3D shapes in my illustration class, or in the form of an essay extolling the influence of aerosol technology on the advancement of graffiti art.
I took inspiration from a variety of sources. For magazines it began with Thrasher, Skatin’ Life, Stuntwood (a shortlived Australian snowboard magazine with dope editorial illustrations and apparel), Hot Metal, Metal Hammer, Fangoria, Judge Dredd and 2000AD. Later it was graf mags such as Hype, 12oz Prophet, Vapors and Garage Magazine and Hip-Hop/Music mags Hip-Hop Connection, Rap Pages, Big Daddy, Grandslam, Mixmag, DJ and Grand Royal. I remember I also used to read these free comics at the Youth Centre; “Streetwise” I think. Lots of graf style lettering and characters. It was like Degrassi in comic form, dealing with teenagers issues. Canberra had an amazing art scene back then, with Youth Centres in each main suburb that played host to all ages punk and metal shows. I also started searching the Canberra libraries for graf related books and articles, amassing a small collection.
For music, early on it was the logos and artwork of AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Kreator, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I. and similar metal bands. That was followed by the local metal scene and flyers for bands like Precursor, Three, Tree Trunk, Alchemist etc. The Beastie Boys were a massive influence on everything from music and fashion, to record collecting and graphic design.