What do you write?
I am known as Cruel 103, but I write a few other names as well–for various reasons I won’t list them.
Tell us a little about yourself… How long you’ve been painting and who you’re down with etc.
I am a first generation English writer from the city of Nottingham, and unlike a lot of people today who claim they was there in the beginning, I actually was. I knew I was a writer by 1985 but got caught writing my name in north Nottingham a few years earlier. It was on a main road with cars passing, one stopped, and turned out it was police car. Later I began to meet other local writers and became serious about getting up. I did my first Cruel piece, a one letter C and it’s still there… faded to a long dead ghost, but you can still see it!
I first wrote seriously with ICKE109 and HUNTY273. It was a great time, we had no fear and we was innocent to the game, still, a few years later, me and ICKE got sent down H.M. Prison Lincoln and H.M.Y.O. in Glen Parva for smashing buses and streets. The game had become serious…
My main crew is AMP. KEEP, DOSEA, DILK, BREF, WICCA, SHADY, KSUD, RIPE129 and KURST are the most active, I’m not gonna name them all – there’s too many. AMP have become more than just a writing crew, we are family. We’ve been down for over 20 years now. AMP syndicate has been active since early 89 but we all knew each other way before AMP was formed. We’re psychos – we live for this shit.
I’m down with other out-of-town crews, some of them are pretty legendary NYC crews from the early days of writing, well before most of us where born and it’s truly a honour to rep these crews. BYB, (Bad Yard Boys), is one of them, formed in Brandeis school yard Manhattan, NYC by the legendary writer, (who was later shot dead in a gambling game), DEAN R.I.P. I was put down in BYB by JEAN13 who is another great artist I have a lot of respect for. You would of seen his work in Subway Art. That amazing FLARE170 wall with the beautiful perspective is still heavy today. BYB is one of NYC’s most loved crews by writers and it’s members read like a who’s who of writing history.
I’m also in MAFIA, (Master Administration For Incredible Artists) Do I really need to say anything about this crew? The original president of MAFIA crew was DON1 in the mid 70s, and ater KING NOC167 became a recruiter for Mafia and recruited the next wave of masters including the legendary CHAIN 3 and DONDI (R.I.P.). Among many many other greats, this crew has known some real legends including the great KING KASE master of styles.
I also rep; IRT, POG, TB, BTB, CYA and NOGA, (Nation Of Graffiti Artists), out of NYC. I was put down in IRT and BTB by KR ONE, who, along with JEAN13 schooled me on the incredible history of these crews. Huge respect to them! BH One, the old school bomber put me down with TB, (The Boys), another legendary crew with MS161 and HATE168 – need I say any more.
Then there’s CBM out of London! Big up my bro MET1 London massive and London letter style keeper! I also rep RAW out of Syndney, Australia. Big up Kalis and the rest of the boyz! Big respect.
AM I MY BROTHERS KEEPER? …DAM RIGHT!
I paint mostly now-a-days with KEEP, DOSEA & BREF from AMP, Nottingham and ONEK, NM from Manchester. All great writers with nearly 100 years of writing combined between them. I also love to paint with DILK, AD, AMP, FHJ when we can because we both just love the game and buzz of it all. Dilk puts a lot of thought into his work and I’m the same, so it just seems natural when our pieces are together. I like that relaxed look to a wall when two different styles just work together… it can be hard to find that feel on a two man wall with two strong ideas.
So what brands of UK paint did you use most frequently in the early years?
Smoothrite and Spectra Chrome were the cans I’d rack up first in any shop we hit, but I also racked up Car Plan, Dupli Color, Plasti-Kote Home Charm and Home Style, anything I could rack really. There was the little modeling cans too… they had great colors but not much in them. Buntlack too, but I never really used much of that. It was pretty rare in Nottingham. There was only one shop that stocked it and it wasn’t easy to rack as you need to pull a distraction mission to get behind the counter.
What specifics do you remember about some of these early brands? ie. coverage, color range, availability.
My favorite back then were Smoothrite and Spectra. My favorite colors were the undercoat colors: Rust and Gray, they were a lot thicker than the rest of the colors and covered like a dream! Peppermint Green, Signal Red, Petrol Blue! All the yellows were shit. Anything I could rack up. I really loved the Chrome in the blue cans, just can’t remember what brand it was, but it was real hard to cover and outline over. My memory is pretty shot from years of enjoying life.
Thoughts on Plasti-Kote Homestyle?
Racked so much of both of them it’s unreal! It don’t touch today’s paint tho’. Home Style had some really nice colors, like pink and stuff that the car paint didn’t do, and the coverage was pretty good, kind of like MTN 94 is today but not as reliable.
Ever use Cycle Style?
It rings a bell, but like I say, by the 90s I was pretty smashed every day, so my memory is fucked.
How about Buntlack?
Like I said… not much around, you had to pull a distraction rack to get behind the counter!
Any favorite old independent paint stores?
No, they was all fair game to me I smashed ’em all.
Any good racking stories you can share?
I used to rack everything. I made a good living out of it for years. I’ve always been crooked as fuck, and I still am. Stories I don’t remember, but I can tell you a few things. I once racked an electric organ that was so long it was down my trousers so far I couldn’t bend one of my legs when I walked out the shop. I’ve also had paint fall down my trousers as I’m leaving shops. We had a few tricks, mainly distraction tricks really though. I have been known to do a few smash n grabs and rushed a few stores for paint too. We used to befriend girls who worked in the stores! Man, I racked so much paint and whisky its unreal.
Do you still have any old cans saved?
Not really, I used it all. I have a few cans I keep and don’t use now that I’ve been given and collected.
Best discontinued UK paint, and why?
Smoothrite was the dogs bollox. It stained hard and didn’t fade for a long time, plus the cans was thinner so you could easily get 5 down ya pants!
Ever found some racked caps work good with certain paints? eg. Deodorant, fixative caps, etc.
Yeah but I don’t remember what.
Did you ever mix much of your own colors?
Not really, but Keep used to mix quite a bit as I remember I had some cool white Smoothrites that he turned into pinks if I remember right. My memory really is shit.
Worst paint ever award goes to?
All the metalic colors back in the day, and I don’t mean chrome and gold. The metalic blues and reds n shit.
When did you first discover brands like Sparvar, Belton, etc?
What are some of your best painting experiences to date?
Any of the times I’ve painted steel. For me it’s a spiritual experience to paint steel and I love the whole vibe of the missions and watching the spots and travelling to them. Then to watch them roll is special to me… if i lived in mainland Europe I’d never paint walls again.
What are some of your best painting experiences to date?
Any of the times I’ve painted steel. For me it’s a spiritual experience to paint steel with my friends. At this stage of life it’s never an easy action, but I still try, the heart is willing yet sometimes the flesh says no. I love the whole vibe of the missions and watching the spots and travelling to them. The slow cleaners and the crazy train writers from all over the world that you meet and the look on their face when they realise that I am older than their dads… ha ha! To watch the pieces roll is special to me. If you know, then you know. All the trips abroad are always special. I’m lucky to have good travelling companions, and I’m happiest when abroad with paint in my hand and friends by my side. I have no interest in being the greatest, most hardcore, or in collecting models and countrys and the such. I do what I can and I’m just happy to be able to paint with my friends, and after all that, if we see them running that makes it a good day. Failing that any brick, concrete, glass or plastic surface will do, we are not fussy we will literally paint anything, I think to be a great writer you must do it all, HOF’s, burners, street work, steel, night actions, anything!
Recently Bucharest was amazing! Meeting the writers there I re-learned some truths about writing I had misplaced along the road, to meet so many subway writers from one city at one time was golden and it really gave me a good feeling for the future of writing to know that the pure vibes, the spiritual parts of writing are still growing and have a strong root. For me, the Bucharest subway system could be the last link we have to the origins of the writing culture back in 1970s in New York City. I can ride that beautiful system all day long and I’m in heaven, it really is so special, I just wish I had visited years ago when I am told it was in its real hay day! Yeah, we had a great time and felt really at home in Bucharest.
Now I think a lot of the writers in Europe are spoilt rich kids with no truth in them about writing and no reall grasp of what it means on a fundermental level to write, and because of this their work means very little.
On the other hand, writers like; MSER, SERM and plenty of others are true Kings of the subway in their own city. That shit you can compare to the kings from the glory days of NYC, when the trains ran with new pieces every day. That is a very rare thing these days, this idea of pureness is dismissed by writers who take no risk and invest very little (but the easy money they spend on their paint) in the work they do, so this is why I fell for Bucharest. So heavy, so many great writers who live it and love it. Don’t get me wrong, I paint at HOF’s, I’ll paint anything, but some things to me mean a lot more at my age, and I have come to understand the game on a more mature level, so even when I see other people’s steel running it lifts the hairs on my arms. These great train writers, many of them very young, still do this for the love and they risk heavy consequences for their passion. These are the writers that keep the true flame alight and as I have always said, when there is no more train writing, the writing culture will be dead and graffiti art will be all that’s left. I know there will be loads of people who will hate me for this interview but I’m not fussed. I can only speak my own truth, how I feel, and because I feel it heavy I wont lie.
How do recent painting experiences compare with those from way back? Equal highs?
I think today’s vibes are better, the past is history, I enjoyed it but its gone now. Put it this way, I still paint with the same people that I painted with back in the day, and sometimes find myself in the cells with the same people too. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. All my life I’ve been fighting to not conform to what society deems to be the correct path, this is why being a writer caught me in the first place, because I truly believe that a man must choose his own destiny, and that we make our own chains, we build our own bridges and WE destroy them too. All is relative to us as individuals and this is what in MY veiw on a fundamental level being a writer is all about, being the god of our own worlds, and trying to get up and get one over on a society that hates on anyone who trys to live there own way. We make and place our ART, that is beautiful to us, when and whereever we like, we need and seek no permission or justification for what we do, you could say we live by heart not by head.
We need to get back to how writing started, the whole culture is in danger of loosing itself in a world of consumerism and media driven cheap fame. The ART of writing has nothing to do with consumption. True art has no price, it is a must for the artist and writer to create and destroy his own worlds, not a luxury, and it’s sad that most young writers these days only ever paint in small concrete boxs put aside for childish scribbles by the powers that wish to squash us and trivialise our struggle. I’m not a child no more, so I understand how important being a writer is to me. I had to make a complete break from the scene to realise this… it was not an easy journey for me. So you see my idea of what we do has matured. I understand the need we have to write and what it means to get up in a world of uniformity. Simply put, they dont compare… the past and present. They never could compare. It has taken me a long time to realise what I now know is my definition of self. I WRITE THEREFORE I AM.
These days I’m more sober. I was drunk and high every time I painted back in the day, so now I stay sober as much as possible because writing has enough meaning and enough intoxication in its own right for me. Writing is my high these days, like it was in the beginning when I wrote my name on my street sign. These days I also have a better understanding of my art and what it means to me as a survival tool.
I’m English with Irish and Polish grandparents so drinking is still in my nature. I do try and keep them separate these days, ha ha… but don’t tell Bref I said that!
There is no comparison between past and present. I am now.
If you could choose a few old cans to have on your shelf, what would they be?
I only recently, (in the last 2 years), caught the can collecting bug when I saw my bro’ PULSE1’s vintage cans. A lot of what I know comes from him really, the guys like an encyclopaedia of writing. Also my other bro’ Dilk has a great collection, and his enthusiasm for all things related to the game is contagious to me.
I would love some 13oz Rusto, Red Devils or Wet Look and any of the old welfare brands from the States I love. I have a few dozen cans, but I can never get enough. I’d kill for some Smoothrite Black or Red from the 80s in them elegant, slim cans. Spectra chrome… I also love the old American Dupli-Colors.
If I could choose one can today it would be a RED DEVIL 13oz 70s can signed by SUPER KOOL 223. It will never happen, alas my dream is destined to be unfulfilled and that prime spot on my self shall forever be empty with only dust to fill the void! It’s a cruel world where dreams are broken, that said I recently got given a 13 oz Rusto can signed by PJAY so I’m pretty happy at the minute. Huge respect to the man for that!
Any current/future projects?
My Aim never changes – to get up in as many cities across the world as possible and do it just for kicks! To paint with my friends as much as I can while I am still able too. My project is to not get caught doing what I live to do. Writing is my whole life. I’ve tried the real so called world and it don’t agree with me. Mmy ego is too fragile… ha ha !
I also plan to travel as much as I can, and paint burners, as always I plan to visit America but never seem to have the money to do it. There are alot of old skool 70s writers that I would love to paint with and speak to about the old days, I feel really strongly that we need to document this living knowledge before it’s too late, but that’s not my mission. I would just love to be in the company of these greats I’ve known about for virtually all my life.
Style is always my project, and to be individual in that style, to do it my way and not water it down so it becomes like most of the shit you see on the internet today.
What do you think of CMC documenting paint history?
Yeah, it’s great. We need to document as much as we can if we want the writing culture to survive and still be relevant in years to come. CMC is a great way to document the tools of our trade, so respect to everyone involved – keep it up! There is so much knowledge I crave from you about all them beautiful old cans.
Any other comments/shouts?
Shouts to my girl CSKYJ, for putting up with the way I live and driving all over the place to find the grimiest spots going, told you I would take you to all the nicest places baby… Also big up MEAL doing it for the love……. Big shouts to: KEEP, DOSEA for keeping the dream alive when most people say we are mad. BREF, ONEK, WICCA, DILK, KEHOE, SHADY, KSUD, KING PULSE1, PJAY, JEAN13, BH ONE, KR ONE, PRIZ, CAIB, RIPE129, MET, KALIS, NICKOS, CAL, AMORE, MIDAS, NOE1, PZEE, MSER, SERM, MIST, MIST1, CES, BENO, RECHIS, ALERT, DAPS, DASH, DAK, MEZ, TEZ, REKA, STEAM, POPZ, CRAZE, KREK, BETA, GILTI104, SWORNE and LAYZIE all the way out there in Nicaragua respect fam! All the crews: AMP, BYB, MAFIA, CBM, IRT, TB, BTB, POG, KIA, CYA, RAW, Nation Of Graffiti Artists (NOGA) We are one nation under mass transit and concrete.
My last words would be to all the writers in the whole fuckin world… We need to get back to how it should be, we need to close ranks and stand strong, writers are still going to jail, and yet there are some who would embrace the powers that be, the court, the media to try and big themselves up. The media are the ENEMY they will sell this thing we love to the highest bidders, stand strong and let them know some things are worth more than money and their cheap fame, street fame is all we need. FREE TOX, 10FOOT and all the rest of the writers in jail right now across the world.
My prayers are with KING KASE2.