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Some more flicks sent in email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have anything you want to send in
Cheers to Drax for putting so much effort into this interview and trying to make it something better than your usual graffiti writer interview.
1. Who are you and where are you from?
By blood I am the son of Irish & Scottish immigrants who’d made their way to the gold paved streets of London in the late 1950s.
By birth I am a Cockney. A proud product of the multi-cultural experiment/melting pot that calls itself London/England.
By Nationality: It says on my passport that I’m British. But I believe in a world without borders, a world where you can go & live wherever you fucking want to.
I was baptised in a different name but today & every day for the last 26 years I have been known as Drax. . . Sometimes I write it on walls.
The first time I ever wrote a ‘made-up’ name on a wall with a spray can was 1980. I did it just after I’d watched a film called The Warriors. Well it was either that or paint my face half black & half white & bowl around the manor smacking the shit out of people with a baseball bat. Fortunately I chose the spray painting. Though I did something that resembles ‘getting up’ I wont claim to have written since then (1980) coz I had no idea what writing was. I didn’t know what it was but the antics of Rembrandt (he was the Warriors’graffiti guy) had certainly caught my attention.
At the time I was in essence your typical lost teenager. A clueless child floating adrift aimlessly on the sea of life without a clue. Like many youngsters I was looking for something that I could latch on to. Something that would give me some identity. A means of getting myself noticed. I was shy & lacking in confidence so the desire to be noticed was tempered by the fear of being pointed at or highlighted. For some time I had been curious as to the identity of the authors of names I had seen written on my local streets dating back to the early 1980’s. But then one day it occurred to me that these people had achieved the status of being ‘noticed’ without actually being known. I no longer wanted to find out who wrote the names. . I wanted to be ‘one of them’.
For a few years I stalked in the shadows dreaming of being one of these people. I imagined my name up there with theirs but I never had the bottle to actually do anything. Then one evening in 1984 I watched a documentary that was part of a series called ‘Another America’. I was at once captivated, enthralled & mesmerised. Watching this documentary for me was a life changing moment, tantamount to an epiphany. A moment in which I had seen my future life mapped out before me. I did not hesitate to embrace it’s every sentiment & desire. I submitted wholeheartedly to it’s every will & testament. I was reborn.
Within a few weeks I had chosen a name & now armed with the encyclopaedia of information I had gleaned from this documentary I set about becoming ‘a writer’.
I had been curious of the concept of ‘names written on walls’ since approximately 1980.
I had been actively trying to understand the culture associated with this concept since maybe 1982 or 3.
I had been lucky enough to learn all the information I needed when I watched the documentary ‘Style Wars’ in 1984.
By mid 1985 I was a fully paid up member of the world of graffiti writing
3. Who are your inspirations?
Throughout the early 80’s I started seeing some names on the streets of North London. The 3 prominent names I saw were Invader (sometimes written Vader), Rolo & Wilko2 (often the 2 was in roman numerals) These names intrigued me & inspired me to become a graffiti writer. I later found out that they were Skinheads from the Camden Town area. Until today (June 2011) I’ve still never met any of these people & I don’t ever want to meet them. They remain as mythical to me now as when I first saw their names in 1981/2 & I’d like it to stay that way ‘forever’.
The names I’ve just mentioned are the ones that inspired me to start writing but I’ve also been inspired to keep writing by numerous people I’ve met along the way. Sometimes the graff twinkle in my eye can fade & I’m ashamed to say I have found myself wavering from the path & not thinking about writing for weeks or months. Then something/someone will catch my eye & the fire burns bright again. It might be a stylish piece, who’s curves & angles excite me. It might be a name that I start to see often & I think ‘this guy’s getting up’. Or it might just be a solitary tag that catches my eye with it’s brilliance & who’s presence reminds me that ‘my work aint done yet’. Other times I’m simply inspired by individuals & I’m driven to be just like them. Some of these people are/were . . . . .
Demo from Ladbroke Grove/West London: Seeing his saturation coverage of that area in the mid 80’s inspired me to take no prisoners & bomb hard.
Echo 89 from Edmonton/North London: He inspired me to take pride in what I do as a writer. He taught me the basics of piecing & educated me on tag handstyles at a time when it’s fair to say my output was ‘to say the least’ shabby. In 1987 he changed his name to Furra & we started the crew WorlDomination together. I’m still inspired to write by that crew name. Because it’s something that can never be achieved so I’ll never have an excuse stop trying.
Robbo & Doze WRH from North London: Going to paint trains with these guys in the late 80’s inspired me to ‘do it properly’. Many writers run into a yard but are so scared that within 10/15mins they’re running back out again, having achieved nothing. They tell themselves that ‘next time it will be different’, But it won’t. Going to yards with WRH taught me the lesson that ‘If you ain’t gonna do it properly, don’t bother’. There is no shame in being scared but if you allow that fear to control your ‘yard experience’ then the results will be poor. These guys inspired me to ‘take a deep breath & never let the moment pass you by’.
Reas AOK from NYC: Meeting Reas & his pals in London during 1987 inspired me to want to be ‘a real writer’. I’m still not sure exactly what that means but I knew Reas was it & I’m still inspired to attain that level of excellence.
Coz, Fume, Tox, Cut & a selection of writers that have gone ‘All City’ in London during the last 10/15 years.. Seeing these guys getting up gives me a buzz. It reminds me of something I used to do every night of my life for approximately 5/6 years. It inspires me to never relinquish the desire to be ‘up’ because it still excites & thrills me.
JA One XTC from Outer Space: This is the only guy that has the ability to inspire me to do it ‘all over again’.
4. How did you come up with your tag?
I stole it from the James Bond film Moonraker. He was the arch villain in this film but that’s not why I chose the name. I just liked the way it sounded. I wanted a name that sounded sharp & dramatic. I thought this name fitted the criteria. Some writers choose a name because the letters are easy to paint. Some choose a name that’s like a nickname, a name that offers a clue to it’s authorship, for example: Skinny, Big1, Reds or Fats. Graffiti for me was about escapism, I had no desire to have a name that described me or encapsulated whatever it was I ‘represented’ at that time. I didn’t want a name that was just another version of the irrelevance that I then deemed myself. I wanted a name that went beyond that. I sought re-invention not re-labelling. I wanted a dynamic name. A name that might possibly have belonged to a super-hero or for that matter a super-villain. I wanted a name with an X
5. Who do you write with and what crews do you rep.
I write with people that I like & I rep crews that mean something to me.
In the UK:
WD: I started it with Furra in 1987. He Thought up the name ‘WorlDomination’ (we write it as one word) WD is a crew with members in 4 continents. We embrace all creeds, religions & outlooks on the graff game. We are: Toys, kings, art fags, street villains, train bombers, legends, irrelevances, the well-travelled & fuckers that have never been anywhere. Our motto is ‘Cultured to fuck’.
PFB: I co-founded it with Robbo & Elk in 1991. It stands for ‘whatever you want it to stand for’. Some examples are: Punishment For Bumpkins. Prophets From Bethlehem. Patriots From Blighty. Ploughing Fur Burgers. Pussy/Football/Beer. Paddies Fighting Back (Mint R.I.P liked to write this so whenever any of us put it up it’s for him) & Paranoid Free Basers.
PFB does not have World-wide eyes. It’s a London ting. In essence it isn’t really a graffiti crew at all, some members don’t even write. Infact it isn’t actually even ‘a crew’, it’s more of a drinkers clique, a rabble or a mob hell bent on mischief.
PFB is as much about drinking, football, debauchery, brassing, casual violence & raving than it is about graff. On May28th we plan to celebrate our 20th anniversary in Amsterdam. Many of our vices no doubt will be indulged as we serenade the dawn of our 3rd decade of existence. Damn! We might even write on a few walls.
I do not write any other UK based crew letters after my name. But that’s not to say I don’t have immense respect for many of the great crews that come from these shores.
In a foreign:
When you travel around the graffiti world meeting people it’s very easy to invite people to join your crew & very often ‘over a few beers etc’ you find yourself the recipient of many offers to join other crews. Soon, all the individuality of these crews is lost & they become no more than hollow letters that people place after their names like crass accolades, meaningless qualifications awarded by the University of Drunken Graff-talk bollocks.
I do not aspire to attain such membership & I do not casually anoint it. Neither do the other members of WD & PFB.
The letters you put after your name should mean something. Consequently the only other crews I put up are the one’s where I respect & admire the person that has deemed me fit to ‘join his family’ These people & their crews are: Seth One & Metro/KOA crew(Australia). Rhyme/GVB crew (Amsterdam)
& from New York: Reas/AOK. Chino/BYI. JA/XTC. Skuf/YKK & Veefer/WKS.
I write all these crews with unfathomable pride & honour & I am humbled that these immensely talented/& or prolific individuals have deemed me worthy of joining them
6. What do you think of the Irish scene or do you know much about it?
I’m sorry I don’t know a lot about the scene In Ireland. But truthfully I don’t know much about any scene until I visit & paint. Though I look at the internet & graff mags I don’t pay much attention to what goes on in places until I visit them. Quite often graff mags spin an angle that is a miss-representation of a particular scene. This is certainly true in England where many of the ‘apparent’ pre-eminent writers of today are infact no more than ‘hall-of-fame painting frauds’ that have zero street credibility & are merely the lucky or deceitful recipients of graff-mag/Internet hype & contrivance. I’d prefer to learn more of Ireland’s scene when I visit, view & paint there myself.
My only trip to Ireland for graffiti reasons was in1995 when I attended an event in Drogheda. I was actually a replacement. I’ll bet the organizers were well gutted when having initially invited the masterful Skore TRC they ended up with me instead. Unfortunately something came up at the last minute & Skore had to cancel. Somebody ‘I think it was Stylo’ nominated me as a suitable replacement. Without hesitation I headed for the airport.
Me, Stylo, Mear, Shok One, Prime & Solo painted a wall together at the ‘Bridge of Piece’. It said ‘For the Craic, Not the crack’ & it had a theme where peacefulness, party vibes & good feelings gradually descended into negativity, excess & danger. I won’t claim to have done a mad burner of a piece but the wall’s concept was my idea & on the whole I think it came out ‘real nice’. At one point on this trip we took a quick sidestep down to Dublin & ‘indulged ourselves’ I’ll say no more. I met a few lads from Ireland on this trip. I apologize to anyone else but the only name I remember is Rask. It’s nice to see he’s still active.
When I say this was the only trip I’ve made to Ireland for ‘graffiti reasons’ what I mean is: As a kid I visited Ireland loads of times but this was all before I wrote. Since I started writing I’ve only been over a couple of times, once for a concert, another time with non-writing friends & a few times for family events (weddings & funerals).
As a ‘half’ Irishman I’m disappointed to have done so little writing in Ireland & consequently to know so little about the scene. I feel it is my duty to rectify this situation soon. To visit, paint & acquire some local knowledge.
Feel free to remind me I said that if I ain’t backed it up with action within a year.
7. Do you have any crazy painting stories from bombing or piecing?
I got a few. This particular one’s been on my mind lately. . .
Some time in late 1987/early 1988: Me, Robbo & Doze attempted to be the first people to paint Farringdon sidings in Central London. We failed but it was a mad night for sure. Farringdon is a strange spot. It’s a 3 train lay-up sunken into a pit. It’s open to the elements but it feels like it’s underground. Later we found many ways into ‘F’ but back then we didn’t have a clue. Back then we were literally making it up as we went along.
On the night in question I was with Robbo & Doze, 2 guys renowned for having their ‘shit tight’ but not tonight, tonight was a fucking shambles. Tonight was a night that the desire to be ‘the first’ had seen all reason thrown out the window. If you don’t already know Farringdon I won’t bore you with the entire lay out of the yard. Let’s just say we picked the worst spot on the worst side of the yard for our approach.
We got into this courtyard that overlooked the sidings & decided that climbing straight down the wall was a great idea. Either me or Doze went first. There was a thin wisp of snow on the ground & it was freezing. We waited for Robbo, who had the bag with all the paint on him, to climb down. Then torches came from out of the tunnel. We couldn’t signal to Rob as the lights were almost on us. Quickly Me & Doze laid face down in the snow, there was a step of about a foot high between us & the running tracks & we pushed ourselves up tight against it. The lights got closer. It was track workers doing maintenance on the rails that they were now banging with massive sledgehammers a mere 6 foot from our heads. We lay there face down in the snow shivering for 15/20 mins as they worked above us. I have no idea how they didn’t see us. Imagine yourself sweeping a pavement but not managing to see someone who was lying in the gutter pressed up against the kerb. That’s how ridiculous it was. I was thinking to myself ‘Christ! I thought this WRH mob were pro’s but this is a total disaster, what on earth possessed us to come in this way’.
It seemed an eternity before the track bangers moved away from us but when they did I popped my head up & sneaked a peak at where Robbo was. I presumed he’d have disappeared back up the wall but ‘no’ there he was dangling off the wall like a 6ft 8 inch Spiderman merely a few feet above where the worker’s heads had been. He still had the bag containing all our paint & the obligatory WRH baseball bat hanging off his back. Fuck knows how he’d clung on to the wires & cables, that we’d used for climbing down for so long. I’d have fallen on their heads for sure. Sensing our reprieve Me & Doze ‘our noses covered in ice’ stared at each other in shock & ran for the wall in sheer panic. Rob too had climbed back up. We scampered up after him, then we all bolted out of the courtyard upstairs like men possessed, ran down the street like startled rabbits, threw the bag in the back of the van & Rob floored it. What a disaster!
I don’t think we spoke for 20 minutes. Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was embarrassment. Maybe our gob’s were just frozen shut.
For sure that’s not the craziest graff adventure I’ve ever had but right now it holds fond & poignant memories. My fellow crew member, friend & brother Robbo WD/PFB/WRH is currently very ill in hospital. When stuff like this happens it makes your mind cast back nearly 25 years & remember a time when we lived ‘only for this shit’. A time when it walked & slept with us in our every breathing moment. That’s why this is a crazy graff tale. Because the truth is ‘you never know what’s gonna happen next . . . . . .
8. Wheres the best you have visited because of graff?
That’s like asking a muslim ‘Where’s the best place you’ve ever visited for religion?’. . . There is only one answer. My religion is writing. My holy book is Subway art or its Older Testament, the hallowed scriptures of ‘Watching my name go by’. Consequently my Mecca is New York City. I am honoured to say that I’ve been visiting this holy place since 1991. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of it’s learned scholars & of partaking in the breaking of aerosol bread with them. I’m immensely proud to say that I have bathed in the holy waters of it’s subway system & been considered worthy of leaving my humble irrelevance of an inscription deep in the valley of the Kings. Does that answer the question?
Between making pilgrimages to NYC I must add that I also love making graff trips to Amsterdam. An amphitheatre of vice & excitement. I first dirtied myself on her streets in 1989. Catching tags as I window shopped. Myself & Elk WD/PFB spent a huge part of 1990 there, criss-crossing it’s labyrinthine vortex of streets & canals ‘getting up’. We’d walk for hours, bags of paint on our backs, entranced in a frenzy of bombing like I’ve never experienced before or since. It was beautiful. We had the city to ourselves. Well ‘us & the army of Dutch writer loons that stalked it’s tram routes & streets anyway!
Then approximately 1992 everyone discovered ‘The Dam’ & it turned into a mini-London. Check out any photos of Amsterdam from that era (Mid 90’) the London names were everywhere. Around about this time too some bright spark in the mayor’s office decreed that the chemicals in the buff were poisoning the soil. So they banned it. ‘Only in Holland eh?’. FLOODGATES! The writers of Europe descended on the city & the subway system started heading into a New York-ish sphere of obliteration. From 1992 to about 1995 Amsterdam was incredible. A writers paradise. That time was magical. I still love the place & visit as often as possible. The local writers have always been a hospitable & cool bunch & the scene is still vibrant but ‘The Golden era’ circa 1993, nothing could touch that……..
Anywhere else in the world that I’ve visited, to be honest, I went there more to ‘see the place’ than to write. I don’t mean to disrespect anywhere but with most places I don’t care about their local scene, I don’t wanna meet the local ‘top writer’, I’m not enamoured of their hall’s of fame & I’d rather meet some bod who’s cool than the local ‘big selling’ Art fag. Of course, like a pissing dog’ I often ‘left my mark’ but that wasn’t my main reason for being there.
New York & Amsterdam. They’re different. ‘I was there to write’
9. What tracks are you listening to at the moment?
Fuck me! It’s a right mish mash of stuff at the moment. I spose it depends on where my heads at.
Salsa: Stuff like ‘Fruko y sus tesos’ & ‘The Latin brothers’.
Vallenato (Latin music with accordions from Colombia) I love that shit. If you think Hip Hop is the gangsters music of choice then you ain’t never walked the mean streets of Medellin.
Bachata: Twangy guitar ballads from the Dominican Republic. It can get a bit tedious after a few tracks but if you close your eyes & imagine some hot Dominican chicks with their long silky black hair & ‘graceful swagger’ dancing to it then trust me you’ll be listening until the batteries die.
Drum n bass: I can’t be bothered tracking down individual tunes & I can never remember the names of any of the tracks anyway. Luckily I’m friends with the guys at ‘Metalheadz’. They give me plenty of awesome beats to listen to so I don’t look any further. Still don’t know what the name of any of the tunes are. I just know ‘I love it’.
Hip Hop: Especially underground Brooklyn shit like Thirsten Howl, Steven King, Ill Bill, Papoose & Q Unique.
Opera: For relaxing. I like the Arias. If you want to hear a voice that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up listen to Maria Callis.
10. What are your favourite 3 works from other artists and why? (links please)*
I don’t really have particular faves but the following 3 pieces have always stood out to me. . . . .
A Reas & Ven silver Top 2 Bottom whole car done in 1988 in NYC.
The classic chrome & black pieces are great but I have to be honest & admit that my main reason for liking this piece is because Reas rocked a ‘ Worldoms 1988’ tag on it & the fact that my humble crew had it’s name running on a New York train during the final days of the New York Subway graffiti scene gives me wood.
Merda from Auz did a famous 3D-ish piece in Melbourne in the late 80’s. That piece was so ahead of it’s time. Even now it looks like somewhere that graff’s ‘heading to’ as opposed to where it’s ‘already been’.
Foam CCD & Hate from The Mighty Ethnics rocked 2 panels on the London Underground (Circle line) in 1988/89. They said Saze & Hate. In my opinion these were definitely 2 of the best pieces ever done on the London Underground.
Again I don’t really have 3 faves. But if I had to randomly mention 3 pieces that I like a lot I’d say.
A piece I did in Helsinki/Finland recently. It’s for my friend who died earlier this year. Painting it I felt under pressure (whch is something I never usually feel) but I really wanted to ‘do him proud’. It had a white outline too which is something I’d previously made a right mess of. Anyway! I like how it came out, it got some nice feedback & most importantly I don’t think I let my pal down.
The great wall of Worldom:
Painted by Me, Seize & Carl from the So Tuff Posse. This wall was painted at Tufnell pk/North London in 1991. The concept was mine but I was most certainly the least talented painter involved. To date it’s the biggest wall I’ve been part of. I don’t really go in for the whole grandiose mural thing but that description would fit this wall & 20 years later I still love it.
‘Infected by the germs of life’.
A window down whole car (& panel) I painted on my own at Farringdon sidings in 1991. It summed up a time in my life when I found myself submerged in this culture possibly beyond the point of no return. I’m not claiming that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes in life it’s good to ‘let go’. This piece encapsulates that process for me. It sums up a time in my life that was both scary & exhilarating. I was somewhere between standing on the verge of something & falling off the fucking edge. Most graffiti I do is self indulgent Drax Drax Drax narcissistic self-hype ‘getting up’ type of stuff. But this piece… This piece ‘meant something to me’. It still does.
Last words are for when ‘you’re done’ & I aint done yet.
I don’t do shout outs to those that should get off their arse, grab a pen or a can of paint & go shout themselves out. But I’d like to salute the following people . . . .
My writing buddy, fellow crew member, friend & brother: Robbo WD PFB WRH who is currently very ill in hospital. We miss you big man. Wake the fuck up.
Rest In Peace: Nipsta, Screws, Mint, Saga, Para & Tron. Never forgotten.
Thank you for reading.
Drax WD:1985 . . . to the grave.
‘Hasta la Victoria siempre’
* Drax unfortunately couldn’t provide links