Rob Fenton: Whatchu write?
RF: Nice, named after the Albanian dictator ‘Enver Hoxha’ yeah?
E: Yeah that’s me Mr Hoxha?
RF: What crews are you affiliated to?
E: MJ and NSP
RF: Any particular meanings?
E: Mainly ‘Midlands Jungle’ – a mixture of writers from the midlands, and ‘North Staffs Painters’ – the Stokie lads. These are my favourites anyway. Other people like to use some more comical/political ones!
RF: Ha ha, I can only imagine what’s been made up. So tell us more about your introduction to the graffiti scene? How did things kick start for you?
E: My introduction to graffiti really came through being into art first. I started seeing graffiti in my school when I was around 10 in the form of sketches on older pupils rough books and a wall the school had had done professionally. This really sparked my interest and I started sketching obsessively trying to understand how to make good graffiti letters and pieces.
RF: Nice, I never knew that. What happened next? How did you act on things?
E: I started utilising my ICT lessons at school to research ‘graffiti’ on google, this was all new as I didn’t yet have internet access at home and my mind was blown by the images I saw. I started expressing my interest to my family and then someone bought me some spray paint and graffiti books for a Christmas present.
At first I copied other writers’ pieces on paper but knew I couldn’t yet execute them on a wall so started doing just tags around my local area knowing that I had to start at the foundation and work my way up. It was mostly American/European stuff that inspired me at first until I ventured into my local city a couple of years later and discovered the local/UK scene.
RF: That’s interesting, I never knew that. How old were you at the time? Who’s pieces were you copying? US writers?
E: I was copying people like Revok, Rime, Risk, Tyke/Witness, Askew and Also Aroe so more of an MSK theme than US but alot of US.
RF: Can you remember what graffiti books you had in the beginning?
E: I had Graffiti Planet 2 by Ket, and then I watched a doc called ‘Getting up’ I think, which was also by Ket I believe. This got me interested in tagging more and landed me with a knock at the door and a sit down with the local plod – I was 12 yrs old at this point.
Next book was Graffiti 365 I believe. After my telling off from the police & my Mum It was probably a year of sketching and reading the books/ watching docs, until I went back out and tried again.
RF: Was the documentary ‘Getting up’ the San Fran one, I can’t remember?
E: It was a NYC one with Skuf and Chino, the San Fran one also became a big one for me though discovering people like Mike Giant and Dream. Think that was called Piece by Piece.
RF: I don’t make any bones about it, other than the seminal stuff like Style Wars I don’t often enjoy many documentaries but this one, the San Fran one which tells the story of TIEs death, that was quality. I really enjoyed it but saw it late on, so watching it as a 12 year old must have been pretty special to absorb that information?
E: Yeh man, it was heavy stuff but very inspiring too.
RF: That’s the one, Piece by Piece! I’m certain it took a lot of cues from Roger Gastmans ‘Infamy’ too? You’re right though, real inspiring and I loved that despite them (San Fran) not having a metro or rail system they could smash, and being relatively inferior in comparison to other orbiting cities they made the most of their infrastructure and made it work for them. Buses, city blocks, courts etc, they have one of the most progressive scenes in the States historically to me. Although I read that it’s changed a lot in the past few years there.
E: Infamy was a really good one too yeah. Both that and Piece by Piece were a good example showing us the best use of the city landscape and yeah not focusing on railway at all really just about spots and being up everywhere, that really inspired me to start looking at things differently and pushed me to be as up as I could with all types of spots and levels of graffiti.
RF: How did getting up in your local area work out for you?
E: Seeing more of the real graffiti in the City Centre and discovering the graff shop at age 14 put together with my practice on paper I was ready to have a better shot at it, plus I now had somewhere to go for advice and to get paint!
RF: Highlighting what you mentioned above, how long after your knock did you find the Graff shop in your area? Had you been head down grafting at home for over a year? How did you parents react to the knock and did it fuck with your confidence at this young an age?
E: Must have been 2 years, in this first year was all sketching and research, In the second year the year before the graff shop discovery I had gone out and done a couple of throwers/simple pieces & tags in an abandoned place near my home but once going into the graff shop in 2014 I started going out and about in the city down onto the canals etc and finding all the graffiti and learning the local names, then the following year, 2015 I started adding my own little bits in where I could.
But most of my time was spent at the HoF (legal spot) practising piecing and just perfecting my can control.
RF: So would you say that your connections to the shop changed your processes in any way? What effects did it have on you? Is the shop still there?
E: I would say it changed my outlook on graffiti massively, opening my eyes to the UK scene, local scene and its history, railway interest and yeah my process too, I was taught to practice practice practice the paintings then hit some well thought out spots once good enough. This really saved me from a shit start out that we see a lot where people will pop up and tag for 3 months, attempt a throwie or piece and then drop off. The knowledge I gained from the older writers in and around the shop was invaluable.
Unfortunately it’s no longer there but I believe that period in time made a lot of people connected and made the Graffiti careers of people who are still going now.
“Enjoy it for all it is and do some mad shit when the time is right and chill when it’s not…”
RF: Tell us a little about the scene around that time? What did it look like? Who was about it?
E: It looked quite healthy 2014/2015 there was still NTR stuff everywhere from the recently folded historic crew, and there was a new lease of life which was made of young writers who I believe found their way into the scene through the shop. People were making the most of what abandoned pottery factories were left and new stuff was popping up all around. The names that were the most up at the time and stood out to me were ‘Anal’, ‘Bear’, ‘Skor’, ‘3N’, ‘Know one’ ‘Wakz’ and ‘Onit’ to name a handful, there were more though..
RF: You mention spending most of your time at the HoF , How often would you be painting?
E: I would make my way from my town to the HoF via bus & a half hour walk down the canal every weekend pretty much. This went on for 2 or 3 years probably and I was getting out to do other bits as well in the later years.
I still use the HoF now as well from time to time.
RF: I don’t know how you managed to paint at the same spot for so long, I’m sure age had its effect on your options naturally but did you not get bored shitless of the same place?
E: Don’t get me wrong I got bored and I did some abandoned spots and other legal walls in that time too but yeah I was young and obsessed I guess. And yeah It wasn’t until I could drive that the other side really took off.
I suppose the boredom did get me and I got much more of a sense of adventure when I was done with the practising.
RF: How long into painting did you notice your style developing? There are distinct periods in my life where I’ve felt the penny drop, usually from painting with others. Were there any key points in time where you literally felt a change happen?
E: I think the first real shift in my approach to style was painting with 3N for the first time along with some others. He explained to me to make all your letters flow the same way and have a consistency through the whole piece and then he suggested that I perhaps exaggerate some of the kicks and the top of the E or R leg for example. This totally changed my mindset whilst sketching & I definitely approached everything differently and progressed a lot more from that point because of that advice.
RF: I recall witnessing the change in your approach back then, I never knew this was one of the reasons why. You had a few elders chatting to you back then though right, what was the name of the guy from the south coast?
E: Yeah all of the elders I met gave me words of praise and encouragement and of course there was Sao One from outside of the UK scene. He was actually from France living on a little island off our south coast and I met up with him a few summers in a row when I was quite young. Him being more focused on piecing and doing crazy productions. That experience really gave me some knowledge on letters and overall wall layout too. He was leading a small scene over there and his boy Kumo encouraged me a lot too.
RF: It sounds like you’ve had some good backing in your time. Has this had any effect on your perceptions of the scene do you think? What’s your take on the culture, I guess, locally and nationally?
E: Yeah I’ve had some great mentoring and met some great people over the years. This gave me a really positive outlook on the whole scene and enriched my life and I feel genuinely helped me grow as a person through my teens. I originally got into graffiti for the art, the art of designing letters and pieces, as I was already hooked on art. That’s what I got for the first few years just concentrating on painting pieces and getting encouraged to do so. Later I discovered the whole other side of the culture which excited me just as much and continues to push me to meet new people and have new experiences within graffiti.
I have a much wider understanding of the scene these days and have experienced all corners of it. So the things that I once thought were impossible as a kid have become possible now and I still love the art side of it just as much, but there’s so much you can do within the culture, it’s never ending.
RF: I feel that all really comes across man for sure. I get the impression you’re not the ‘posturing, aggy graff yute’ that’s perpetuated by the media? Do you subscribe to that stereotypical persona? Have you met many of these types?
E: Ha ha nah not at all mate, I don’t really see the longevity in that and that doesn’t at all express to me that those types are real writers. But yeah I have met my fair share and some of them are real writers in it for the illegality and lifestyle, which is fair. Others are just phonies in a race for quick fame with no time for the work that has to be put in.
RF: Refreshing to hear that! There’s nothing worse than a plastic gangster. You just said an interesting term to me just now, that of writers ‘being in it’. What would you say you’re in it for? What’re your objectives? Why do you get up as much as you do?
E: It is a bit of a habit that I feel shit if I haven’t done it in a while. I guess it’s from years of using it to feel good and get peer respect. But it is a fun act to do and does satisfy me within myself, the thought that I did something outside the box. Whether that be painting a piece that I’m proud of and feel is good, or doing a spot that’s good and will get seen or respected by other writers. It’s all just another part of my creative practice and also inspires a lot of my travelling which is great.
RF: If you had to pick one, if you could, what would you say is more appealing to you, the fame, respect, the adrenaline rush, perfecting your skills, advancing your styles, hanging with mates?
E: It’s really difficult to pick one, it’s such a mixture of all of those that make it worthwhile to me. I think I’d have to say the adrenaline rush though. Everything else I sort of get out of my life anyway outside of graffiti but I have to come back to graffiti when I’m feeling in need of an adrenaline rush, and when you come down from that the sense of achievement and fulfilment is like no other.
RF: Would you say you’re addicted to Graff?
E: Sometimes I have really thought yes others I’ve realised are not as addictive as I once thought. But life is definitely better with it, most of the time. It would be very hard to put it down. And I can’t imagine ever wanting to. You can always take it at your own pace anyway, no need to quit fully. It’s been a part of me for too long now and helped me out a lot.
RF: Do you have a favourite piece?
E: I think every proper piece I do then becomes my new favourite, I just have to keep up with the standards in my head. I don’t really think about past pieces too much. There’s favourite illegal things that felt like they were real achievements to pull off. Like my first UK panel and a huge Tside roller done with an elder.
RF: What would you say the maddest spot you’ve painted was? And why? (Daytime and Nighttime)
E: Daytime was probably just doing blasé panels abroad in the middle of a park just volting the fence 6 of us and going for it whilst dog walkers and joggers walked past and kids played in the park.
Night time probably doing a back-jump in a certain station and kids on the train realising your there and gazing out at you whilst painting going “Whooahh what’re they doing?!” ha ha
RF: Picking back up on those adrenaline vibes, without giving too much away, any close calls? Tell us about a time things went belly up…
E: There’s been a few spooks and times when I haven’t got much done before Having to dart which is belly up in a way but never really had scary close calls with the authorities apart from getting pulled over and looking bait but just being let go. I’ve been lucky so far.
RF: The amount you’re up, that surprises me. That’s some stealthy approach you’ve got down man, great work. What’s your secret?
E: I’ve always been very conscious of what i’m doing and been careful thanks to good mentors again, I’ve never been one to take the piss. I don’t think I’m up anywhere near as much as people I know either and I have heard of people getting away with a lot more. But the trick is don’t take the piss!
RF: Agreed, complacency kills!
Who inspires you the most? Any particular names? Or is it more so an approach?
E: Just having the unique experiences with mates and creating things I wanna create inspires me to go on above all I think. But seeing people who I rate do good stuff defo makes me wanna up my game. Whether that be artists or writers.
RF: What’s your weapon of choice? Pens, mops? spray paint wise do you rate a certain brand? 400 milli or do you opt for high pressure shit, 750s?
E: Spray Paint & rollers, anything to make bigger and better Graffiti. I Used to do a lot of markers stuff first starting out but I just feel like it doesn’t count for as much these days. I rate loop seems to work well in all weathers and all circumstances from quick actions to detailed pieces and characters. Mostly just use 400mls one in each hand if needs be! Ha ha. Either astro’s, pink dots and down to the stocks for details.
RF: So you’ve got no interest in mixing colours in the freezer or boiling your own black oil buff proof ink on your mum’s stove then? Ha ha
E: nah thanks!
RF: I hear that, I’ve always enjoyed when others do it as it saves me making the mess but I just cannot be arsed with the rigmarole of it all. It certainly is a few clicks above my passion that’s got to be said.
E: Ha ha yeah I feel ya, that bug sprayer shit is something I will fill with watery mulsh and get messy though.. they are fun!
RF: We’re in a brand new year now, what’s the motive for 2022?
E: In 2022 I would like to churn out more unique pieces and mix mediums more. Travel abroad more hopefully!! Continue to meet new people and experience different cities in this country. just keep enjoying what I’m doing, ensuring not to get too stagnant.
RF: Excellent, any cities/countries you’ve wanted to hit in particular and why?
E: All of Europe intrigues me and of course the US with the big freight scene and classic NY subways. But I would like to get to Italy, it looks fun and loads of different stuff to paint plus the weather’s ace!
I Still haven’t got to London either, that would be cool.
RF: Yeah man, Italy is the shit, it’s a writers paradise out there for sure! London is good too, the rolling stock situation currently is on fire, I’ve never seen the culture go as crazy in the UK as it is atm. I think the UK is in such disarray that anything goes. I love it! However the penalties are bullshit here right.
E: Yeah man this country is on fire its ace to see but yeah fuck these penalties.
RF: Are there any countries you’ve seen that given the invite, you’d just point blank refuse to go, like an instant. Nahh fuck that! Not just for the trains…
E: Not really mate, no matter how corrupt or crazy the country seems still worth a visit in my eyes, besides you don’t HAVE to paint it if it’s super hot shit once you’re there.
RF: Absolutely, I totally agree with you there. In my eyes, these are the places with the most allure. You should watch YouTube vids of former Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins early stand up work, he would get his PA to book him holidays to war zones, literally places in the middle of conflict just to get close to the action, madness, thoroughly enjoyable to hear him talk about it.
E: Ha ha ha crazy guy
RF: Name a thing you love the most about Graff…
E: The Adventure
RF: Pet peeves about Graff
E: The jealousy
RF: Something you wanna shake up in the future about your work?
E: Scrap traditional graffiti and go weird and unique, always tryna get my head around this.. hard one to crack
RF: Something you love about your work?
E: The speed I can create nice things at
RF: Something you’ve learned along the way?
E: It’s not a competition or a sprint!
RF: Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
E: Do your thing and don’t take the piss
RF: Any shout outs?
E: All the Stoke lads, elders and youngers keeping the scene going, and my crew they know who they are! And to anyone I paint with or have painted with in the past – respect.
RF: Share some wise last words
E: Graff is not real life!
Enjoy it for all it is and do some mad shit when the time is right and chill when it’s not.