MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE I'M A LONDONER |
Taken from issue 3 of Graphotism (1993) and written by Drax WD PFB
In the last issue of Graphotism there appeared an article entitled "The London Scene". I personally found the article mis-informed, factually incorrect, and to be honest, far too wide a generalization of what is a large, complex and varied scene with many sub-scenes loosely connected to it by an ever decreasing grape-vine of information - A circumstance which I feel the writer of the article had fallen victim to resulting in the subsequent vague, inaccurate reportage. Personally I was initially of the opinion that he was just discrediting the London scene and putting it down, but I too was misinformed. It would have been more appropriate to say that the article portrayed the London scene as he saw it, it wasn't right, it wasn't wrong, it was his opinion, and this is mine...
Unfortunately, it would be true to say that `92 was probably London's worst year yet. Since the days when Kosh, Haze, Krash 151, Robbo, and the others like them first started bombing the streets of Europe's biggest city and artists like Shades, Rom, Snake, and The Trailblazers started developing styles which were to inspire and influence the rest of Europe, there hasn't been a year with such a level of police created paranoia, such a breaking down of our channels of information, such a lack of promise and disappointingly, such grayness on the underground system. The daily practice of riding the lines it seemed had been replaced by the new pastime of impressing each other with how secretive you have become - a clever tactic for most as it succeeded in covering up the fact that they had done `f**k all'. It became the year when to be a writer all you had to do was call yourself one. Actually doing anything was quite pointless in these circles as you might as well stay at home and let people think you were one of the currently active mystery men claiming the fame silently earned by those that just simply got on with it... And it is to these mystery men and some more obvious individuals, that this capital owes a great debt to, for it was they that put colour where there was ever increasing greyness; kept those that would destroy us on their feet; and offered at least some small inspiration to those that view cautiously whilst awaiting their return. Names like... Sub One, Shuto, Staks, Faum, Barge, Teach, Fiza, Diet, Rate, Meab, Sham 59, Noize, Prime, Fuel, Elk, Keen, The Supernaturals Crew, If, Eine, Abel, Mean, DDS, various PFB and more should be remembered for keeping it alive in `92... from here we shall grow.
Indeed it is true that London saw an Art as well as a financial recession during `92. Although there were take over bids from such companies as Sell Out L.T.D., Extreme paranoia L.T.D., London is shit L.T.D. (A foreign based company), The British Transport Police, secrecy un-L.T.D. (maybe), lack of press exposure (very limited), oh, and of course the London Underground L.T.D, we have managed to maintain our independence without being engulfed by the flim-flam which surrounds us, and are consolidating our assets, liquidating our gains, revitalizing our gameplans and, if we stay on course, looking toward a great and successful future. Success I feel that the artists / writers of this city (and its surroundings) have deserved for too long now, as hard work, dedication and sacrifice have gone unrewarded. Taking into consideration that European Graff (for lack of a better word) all but started here, and that this, Europe's biggest city has been the inspiration to most British Artists since day one, it is amazing that we don't have one internationally renowned or respected artist - not even one. Why is that?...It isn't I feel the fault of the individuals but more the fault of us all collectively. While Germans, Danes, Swedes, and countless other Europeans were producing magazines, sending out photos, showing a pride in their particular scene, (not dissing everyone around them to try and get to the top) and organizing events to show off and promote their artists and inviting foreigners to come and associate, participate, view, or whatever (not get them down Ladbroke Grove and rob them.) What were we doing? Fighting amongst each other or so intensely engrossed in ourselves that we never gave a second thought to how the world perceived us or whether they new we even still existed - most I fear thought we died after the Chrome Angels, but this was just one chapter in a huge and varied history; a history we were too busy to document for anyone else. Cocooned in our own little world, our only interests became "The Giants" v's "The All Star Kings" battle; the Hall Of Fame in Ladbroke Grove; Rio, Ice 3, Demo, Rush, Foam and Co. on the little met; what lines were Chane, Robbo or Set 3 bombing this week; who king of the buses down south - Was it Reck 1, Spraze, Ceaze from TA, Hasterok, North One or Pest? Who was up most on North London's streets? Robbo, PIC, Excel, Ceep 108, Shuto, Fume, Carl-ST, Hell-TU, or whoever. This and a million more (to the outsider, irrelevance's) became our only fixations as weekly pilgrimages were made to the Hall of Fame in search of inspiration and the seemingly eternal quest for information, new pieces or just gossip, blinkering us from what might be happening in Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin or even New York (which hardly was given a second thought since the showing of `Style Wars'.) Blinkered too became the opinion of many outsiders who on losing contact with what was happening, chose to conclude that the answer was nothing and began to make comments like "London is shit and nothing is happening here". Meanwhile the so- called London scene had grown to be a thriving and intense one. Writers from all over Britain came to view and participate, hopefully going home with the ultimate prize, a photo of a tube piece in motion (one for the old photo album) and a story to tell back in their hometowns. Notable visitors have been Goldie from Wolverhampton, Popz from Nottingham, 3D from Bristol, TRC from Kent, and in more recent years, Part 2 from York, Mist from Sheffield, Psyche and his crew from Newcastle, DFM from Brighton, Pulse and Alert from Notts, the SNC from Ascot, Shock One, Pebble, and countless others - even the occasional European visitor - Rhyme and some of the GVB crew from Amsterdam, Zebster and some of the RTA members from Germany, HIV from Finland, Ash2, Kister, Crazy JM, The UK crew and many from Paris; even non- Europeans like Seth, Metro and PHS from Austrailia; or Web, Reas and selected AOK, Keylo, Brim and others from New York passed through, and to some extent participated.
Daily the newspapers were full of headlines, "stop this graffiti menace", "Child dies in graffiti accident", "Bigger sentences for vandals", together with similar TV reports. The British Transport Police had to form a permanent full-time graffiti squad, such was the size and depth of this, the true London scene - a scene totally self-contained and self- influenced, initially inspired by New York of course, but now isolated in its own identity, unlike some European cities who even to this day try and emulate the styles of New York during the 80's, with references to places such as the `New Bronx' and the reminders that the art comes from a Ghetto(what ghetto?) If anywhere in Europe has a ghetto, it's in England - Toxteth, Mosside, Handsworth, Tottenham, Hackney, Stonebridge, or parts of Leeds, Newcastle or Bristol, are just a few; and okay maybe parts of Paris and Berlin fit that description too - but that's it. So why do so many Europeans still try to pretend they are living in the South Bronx or Brooklyn. Some even travel there to seemingly compete with the New York writers, not learn from them or paint with them, and yet it is this here mentioned lack of respect which is so often aimed at London and indeed England. They talk of our styles being old fashioned whilst some of their artists copy the oldest styles of all the New York ones. That's not to say there is anything wrong with looking to New York for inspiration. It's just that respect should also be given to older styles which have been developed in circumstances and environments these people know nothing about - Basically what I'm saying is, don't criticize what you don't understand.
Within London, many styles have developed and at different points come of age. It happened with the Chrome Angels, then the Giants, Nonstop, the writers of the little Met Lines `87 to `89, the "Three Corners (Snatch, Hatch, Don, Check, Stet, CWS, etc.) Crowd" from `89/'90 and then again with the likes of Elk, Tera, Fame, Era, Cherish, Shoom, IBS and others on the trains in 1990. Only the Chrome Angels period was in any way documented, all the other styles and stories became private London issues not really known by those who didn't venture here. No magazines or videos have shown or will show CD, Set 3, Tilt, D'sia, Kis 42, Steam (The Real One), TU, Kasa, Ran, Coma and Mise to name a few on the Big Met; Reez, Fume, Merc2, ACR and AWC on the Piccadilly stage; the Bush Bomber on the Jubilee, Cane, Insane, Time and Co. on the Bakerloo; Sham 59, Prime, Caos, Rev, Cade, Can, So Tuff, Crash 151, Dev 666, Envy, Kez, Cem 1, TCM, etc. on the Northern; the likes of Fuel, Ganja, Check, Grand, Rozer, Shun, Don One, Coad, Rome, or whoever on the District; everybody on the Little Met, plus Chane and Robbo on almost everything. Oh and you will never see `We Rock Hard's' annihilation of the Central Line in any magazines either.
Each week interests within the London scene would change - one week everyone would be on the platform at Harrow, then Moorgate, Tuffnell Park, Edgeware Road or outside Golders Green; then it would be all down to the cage at Westbourne Park or the Hall of Fame. Every district had its day - the South with Hell Raisers, Custom Boys, Giants, Tuff Arts and Crime, and Masters of Destruction like Event, Rate, Sham, Pest, Haste, Reck, Razor, Skip and many more. The West with State of Art, Cane, Foam, Hate, Ink 27, Ice 3, Cazbee, No Limits, Infoe and bombers like Demo, Bush and Time. The North with crews like "We Rok Hard", TKS, Worldomination, Newave, So Tuff and names like Excel, Sub, Cemi, Kez, Diet, Tube, PIC, Elk, Doze, Echo 89, Reez, Fume, Car 138, Choci, etc.; and then finally the East with writers like Urge, Check, Chase, Race, Seize, Chrome 307, Funbox, Stop One, Side, Sure, Skool, Pusher, Ellis, Hopa, Abel and numerous others.
All over London there was a constantly flowing grapevine of information each area had its heroes and villains and of course the stories were plentiful - like the time Envy, Macs and Co. went to Loughton and were chased out by the police with dogs as a police helicopter hovered above; only Envy escaped. He hid up a tree, who knows if it is true, who cares? This and a million other tales, Rev with his tape deck in Parsons; ITC on a station burning mission in the late 80's; Grand going to the Lillie Road workers depot in full workers outfit - apparently he was there so often, he could nip into the canteen for a quick cup of tea with the lads, find out where they were working that night and then head off in the other direction; WRH going to the yards with baseball bats, balaclavas and bag full of beers and check with his Christmas welcomes for the cleaning staff at Upminster. More stories than a decade of Jackanory viewing, infact I'm sure that is where some got the stories from. Then there were moments of pure fact, The Hammersmith Shed, full of burners, Christmas `88. A whole train in Moorgate, Christmas `89. Another at Fulham, Christmas `91, the deaths of Rase, Evil, Bliss and Zone, the disappearance of Cast and the WD Tube parties of 87-88 on the circle line with as many as 250 people jamming on a tube train and then going on mass bombing rampages never since seen ("Graffiti gang in $10,000 orgy of vandalism" was one headline) 100 or so writers bombing the same few carriages or the same station cheered on by 100 to 150 assorted clubbers, girls, opportunists, hangers on or bystanders who had been swept along by the party traveling rapidly beneath the city, think about the sheer power of it. The power to shock, to disgust, to excite, to destroy, all in the same instance, then think about those that say London is shit, trains are finished, London styles are old fashioned. Think about how in a city with the oldest subway system in the world, and the biggest and best in Europe, where 10,000 maybe 20,000 or 50,000 pieces have been done since `84 or maybe even earlier; a city that helped inspire a continent and city with nearly 10 million witnesses, some will still manage to criticize and say nothing is happening in London. History, that's what is happening in London and will continue to, a vast history, and culture revolving for such an amount of time around one city and just one subway system. A history only surpassable by New York itself. There too the art grew on and around the subway system and a million so called "old fashioned" or "shit pieces" must have been as well as all those whole cars and burners from `Subway Art' that we all love to marvel over. The same ones scattered about the photo albums of writers from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and beyond. And there amongst them those photos are the so called shit pieces, throw ups, tags, bombed insides, outsides, streets, crossed out stuff and other oddities. Why? Ask the ignorant and unknowing (the ones that use expressions like `old fashioned'). History, that's the answer, it may look shit or meaningless to you but it means something to someone so don't disrespect it or to put it another way I'll use a Bob Marley quote Popz from Nottingham likes: "How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and watch" or worse still join in and increase the verbal attack on something and somewhere that is a big part of our history. By "our" I mean any British writer because like it or not London is a big part of the British scene and its history and within London the tube system is almost everything.I'm not saying if its not on a London tube its nothing (not at all) many fine works have been executed on the walls of Britain and the British rail system in and out of London, but within the capital most of them since `87 anyway have been either done by the respected tube artists or inspired by them. Look even as recently as the `Unity' event in Fulham last year. Only Snatch and Saker PFB or Carl from Manchester could claim to be not directly influenced by London tube styles and they all, I know, have a healthy respect for them. Most it seems within London or from beyond who are genuinely down with the true London scene have a respect for what is happening here on trains or walls. They may not like some or all of the styles but hey at least they understand where they are coming from and to where at least think they're going. It seems that the only individuals who choose to knock, discredit or belittle what happens here are those that stand to gain from our downfall or those that wish to cast they eye of interest in their direction. Frauds who encourage wholesale selling out of all that we hold in esteem, criticizing the painting of trains when they cannot even begin to understand what it is to do them, seething at their supposed alienation from seemingly closed society.
Commercial success - that is the way forward, that is what they advocate "the time is right to capitalize on our exposure and use our talents to put money in our pockets" - product ranges, events, t-shirts, tops, hats, canvases, bags, etc. theres and exhibition in `a' somebody in `b' is producing a range of t- shirts, somebody in `c' has a 20 page catalogue an in `d' they are flying in 3 French artists to show off photos of boots they have painted, bobble hats, coats, trainers, - what is this a f**king jumble sale? But now we can see the reason for the anti- train stance the dislike of bombing tags etc. or even racking - we're now advised to write off and companies will give it to us (what a result). All these things and others you see have no financial potential and are infact an obstacle between us and the powers that be (or should I say between the sell-out gang and the powers that be). But what if we gain acceptance from these `powers' from the `man in the street', then what will happen, they will turn it like everything else good, into a sick charade of Sun newspaper like headlines "Graffiti is in" etc. "This week we talk to the artists from the street who have made good", "win a trip to New York" and of course the art will have not depth, soul or meaning then as Mr. Buyrite or Marks and Spencers sell of their last stocks of wildstyle slippers or aerosol art knickers and decide not to re-stock the powers that be will be back with the "Graffiti is out", "boy died after inhaling paint", "Stop this craze now", "Graffiti promotes drugs and violence" etc., etc. and then it will be good-bye to this whole scene, good-bye to any respect from anyone, anywhere, good-bye to our discredited history and good-bye to those that encouraged the sell out, as they'll be living it up on a yacht somewhere, laughing and then what will we have left? Nothing.
With all the sacrifices of those imprisoned, fined, or thrown out of their homes be forgotten, will it all be stuck in a big book title `That was aerosol art'. Will we have to look under, VOP, SBS, DDS, SA, DVS, CMS, CCD, Fuel, Prime, Robbo, If, Mint, Vogue, Furra, Jinx, Arian, Shaze, Dest, Cast, Skore, Mes, Doze, Sed, Drop One, Cate, Fugi, Beejay, Spaz, Glory, Rich, Rage, Rase, Cen One, Fued, Cop, Juvenile, or whoever to read of their doings and exploits? Will we have to look under the section titled "trains" to see how "strange warped individuals" used to go into yards and spray on the trains and will the final edit of the book be done by the British transport police? Is that how it will be? Now, I'm not saying there is not a place for commercial success within our scene, of course there is for those that deserve it. But it can only really be (to me anyway) a part of it, not where the scene is heading, this isn't the stock market and the time will never be right to "sell out" because without roots this tree will die. At this point I feel some may be saying what the heel is this guy going on about such distractions such supposed irrelevancies, such strange self indulgences, why doesn't he get to the point, okay, the point is if by now you have become sick of the London scene, tired of the points I am making and annoyed by my repetitions and sloganisms then good, now you'll have realized that you were never down with the so called London scene, anyway, you have no respect for its styles, history, culture or indeed anything, infact you probably envy it or would like to think you don't care about it, its possible you read this article with a preconceived idea of what is and what was happening in London or worse still just to see if your name was in it. Nothing I'm sure was going to change that opinion and I doubt if you give a damn who bombed this or that, maybe you've seen the trains looking clean and the Hall of Fame looking dated and decided that there is nothing happening in London, well look at New York's clean trains and it's sometimes dated `Hall of Fame' would you say New York is shit, nothing is happening I think not, so why say it here? Unless of course that's all you want to see.
To really see what is happening here things are now so simple as ride a line or two, see the Hall of Fame and ask someone (who knows less than you) you've met at Covent Garden what's up in London? You've just got to look deeper and harder, harder than doing the things I've just mentioned, harder than looking in magazines, harder than coming for a week or so and thinking you've got the feel for what's happening here or indeed what isn't and harder than listening to the opinions of those that don't know all the facts (myself included),then, and only possibly then you will see (if you want to) that `Things are happening in London'. Crews like DPS, TRC, PFB, VOP, TKS, WD, CCD, WRH, SBS, NEWAVE, BNB, ITC, DSS, Nonstop, Giants, Hell Raisers, IBS, CWS, Criminal Damage, Hit `N' Run, NHS, TCM, KTC, No Limits, SNC, ACR, CMS, TU, Yardies, DVA, Mighty Ethnics, So Tuff, ASK, AWE, TA, MGM, WS, MTS2.11's, SOH, CBK, APN, CBS, FON, SAS, South Side Mob and countless more have been, and some still are bringing life to what is undoubtedly an ever increasing atmosphere of apathy, depression, wasted dreams and frustration. Only a complete deaf, dumb and blind fool from outer space could honestly say `nothing is happening in London', look and you shall find. You'd expect somebody to do the same in your city.
This has been Drax, WD, PFB annoyed and fed up with the condemnations of those that choose to criticize what they don't understand and don't want to, those that feel our downfall will lead to their success, those that are ignorant to the facts, choose to use expressions as ill informed as `old fashioned' and worst of all those that would sell ours and even their own artistic souls for even a taste of what they perceive to be fame.
Maybe all my points haven't been that clear, certainly I haven't mentioned all those I should have, unfortunately some may still not understand, and no I don't think I am the outright authority on the `London Scene' but I was there, I still am and I love every minute of it.... Daniel Tuffrey (he's out there), Gary Baxter, and others, (who died when we were all so innocent), its for you and always will be.
Standing on the verge of getting it on...these are the nineties.