What do you write and how long have you been painting?
Luze, FC. I’ve been painting, actually tagging, since ’81 but started going in with paint in ’86. I was never really that good with paint ’til I got older. When the subway graff scene trickled off. But all of my peers were prolific with it. You would think with the crew I ran with I would have mastered it by now, but nah’.
I was all about tagging. I didn’t even care about paint at the time. When I started doing graff in like ’83-’84, I was like 13-14 years old, and paint was just too much trouble for me at the time. My mother was with law enforcement, so if I’d sneak paint into the house and she heard the can rattling, she’d be like; “Get your ass over here, what is that!” Whereas if I got a bottle of ink in my coat I’d just slip it into my room and just shove it in my closet. I was always into ink bombing you know… the insides. My thing also was like when West, Zear and Jon One and those guys, my older peers, were doing the cars outside, I was basically roaming the inside of the cars… I’m catching tags, but also I’m checking the exits, looking around making sure the coast was clear so they were able to rock their cars and do their trains. If I saw something, then that’s when everyone would grab their weapons, or whatever the scenario may be.
So that was my thing… whenever I would get paint I would go up to Zear, or West and I would say listen; “I’ll give you these 3 cans for some inks you got.” and that was how I got through. So in those times when I couldn’t afford ink, I would just go and rack some paint go to Zear, or Zame or one of those guys and be like; “Yo, you give me some ink and I’ll give you some of these cans.” I would always make a point to steal some exotic color… some color they never heard of! That’s how I got by, I was 14 years old, I didn’t have a job, most places wasn’t trying to sell ink to a lil kid… so yeah, that’s how I got by.
Luze FC, West side Manhattan, NYC. 1984
What about paint brands?
By the time I really got into painting your choices were; Krylon, Rusto, Red Devil and a bunch of in-house store brands from hardware store chains. This was before the era of graff specific paints and caps were on shelves.
Have you saved any old cans from over the years?
I saved ZERO cans. After a 15 year absence from graff and trying to figure out life, the last thing on the mind was preserving supplies. I now wish I did so because I was engulfed with stuff that would be museum worthy nowadays. Funny how that happens.
Did you have favorite inks for bombin’?
YES! Without a doubt; Marsh and Flo-Master. Flo-Master became rare and really expensive, but Marsh was the way to go. The thing that was great about Marsh is that it came in quarts which was unheard of – quarts of ink – I mean what the hell? You couldn’t even use that in one weekend. That was like 2 or 3 weekends worth.
I made my own mops. I had the older guys that would give me the supplies and they’d say; “Hey Luze, would you make this mop for me… ’cause I like the way your mop works…” I was into the lettering you know, so I literally had my mops with like a calligraphy tip. It had a shape, and a sharp angle to it, so when you did your letters it was essentially like calligraphy compared to everyone else’s that was just a round blob. After looking at Skeme I was all about hand styles, and I wanted some style to it, a flow, and to be recognized when I did it, so yeah, I would make the mops and I just would bomb like crazy.
Later on, like ’87… that was when people discovered supermarket ink. That was the ink that cashiers used for the receipts you know – with the purple writing? We would buy bottles of that stuff from supermarket supply stores. They didn’t care… they were like what are these kids gonna do with this ink… So we would get like a quart of ink for around $7, whereas a quart of Marsh was like $14, and not only that, the supermarket ink was STRONG! A little too strong at times, ’cause your tag was permanent, if you got it on your clothes, that was a wrap ’cause it’s NOT comin’ out. If it got on your fingers it was there for days on end. All of the best remedies like fingernail polish remover that would work on Marsh or Flo-Master just did not work with this stuff. It was cheaper, you weren’t questioned when you purchased it, and it was permanent. The MTA hated it… the department of sanitation hated it… because no matter how much they scrubbed, buffed and painted – that purple would just pop right through. That was the thing man…
Luze FC, Santa Monica, CA. 2012
Luze FC, and SKY one DTK, in the heart of South Central LA, 2012.
Was this the infamous Garvey ink?
I don’t know what it was called. You know ketchup bottles in a restaurant? It came in a white bottle like that. It was just a pointed bottle, it had a pointed nub/tip just like ketchup, and it had a re-closeable cap, but it didn’t close that well, so you better don’t try to put it in your pocket and carry it around like you would a can of Marsh or Flo-Master ’cause Marsh had a threaded top on it that you could jog around with. So later on, people would keep the Marsh cans but fill it with the purple ink. The Marsh cans had a good seal on them, it wouldn’t leak, and it wouldn’t smell as much. So yeah… there was like a science to it, but that purple ink became main stay. It’s funny because the main spot that sold that ink is now the Barclay Center where the Nets play, and right where that place is… that’s where you used to purchase the ink. It was a wholesale supermarket supply store. We went in there one day… there was this guy who must have been a thousand years old, and he had boxes, and boxes, and boxes of this stuff. We’d go in there and buy like $20 worth and come out with a month’s worth of ink! Other guys would go in there and buy $20 worth and steal $40 on top of that ’cause he was so senile.
One time my man, I think he used to write ‘Roach’ he used to kill the trains in Queens. One day he had the supermarket ink in a supermarket bottle. He was standing there on the train and was wondering like; “What the hell is that smell?” and so he gets off the train, and he’s walking… and he turns around and there’s these three cops following him. So he’s thinking like; “What the hell do they want with me?” Well, he didn’t realize the cap had fallen off his supermarket ink and he had a BIG purple armpit! His hips, his arms and his hand were purple! He had NO clue that the cap had fallen off and half the bottle was already gone. It was like a bank robber and the backpack blows up, you know! He was like; “Yeah the cops threw me up against the wall, and as I put my hands up I look at my arm and it’s completely purple!” So of course they go in his bag and find mops, ink, a skeleton key, which is like a felony! Yeah… like the equivalent of a bank robbers dye pack going off and he didn’t even notice it!
Then the word got out… and the next thing you know the whole system was light purple!!!
So with everything that we did, FC always had a style, and were real strategic about it. So when everyone started doing purple we were like; “Alright cool…” So we started mixing the inks making colors. So now we’re gonna buy a small can of red Flo-Master which is expensive, but BE-AU-TI-FUL. So you take a small amount of red and throw it in your purple and now you’ve got some exotic burgundy! So now when everyone’s doing black and purple tags you would see burgundy Luze tags, and it stood out! So not only did I have my own tips, and my own hand-style, but it was like wardrobe, like; “Oh OK, everyone is gettin’ blue Converse?” I’m gonna flip the script and get green ones you know and try to do your shit different.
Miss any favorite old paint spots? (Mom & Pop hardware stores)
We had Janovic paints which was a chain in the NYC tri-state area. It was a great rack spot because they would have the wildest colors and shelves upon shelves of brands. They were so wrapped up in house paints, it was a long while before they got hip to graff theft.
Santa Monica, CA. 2010
How about racking stories? Can you share a few classics?
We had a taxi repair shop near by my housing projects in Manhattan that did lots of body work. They had the coldest water fountain in all of the west side, (to us), and that was a pit stop after hours on BMX bikes. I rode my bike in to get a drink one day and I notice a half dozen paint cabinets toward the back of the shop. Just out of curiosity I walk back there and opened up one cabinet that had unopened industrial Krylon cans with odd commercial colors. (engine color blues and reds, and lots of high heat chrome aluminum) I closed the cabinet and quietly walked out.
I later came back with a duffel bag and my young step-brother for assistance. We waited ’til they all went on their usual long smoke breaks and strolled in as if we were going to get a drink water like we always did every day. He stood watch as I calmly loaded up the bags with paint and brushes, (don’t ask). I then slid the bag under a parked dismantled cab and walked out as if I just finished drinking water. As soon as the coast was clear, I went back and got the bags which weighed as much as I did and waddled out.
Unfortunately my mother was not letting me bring “street junk” as she called it into the house, so I stashed it in the basement of my building. I had paint the entire summer.
Before a lot of the stores were hip to rackin’ up the paint was just there. There were no racks, there was no security or ID required, and paint was just there, you know, it was out. It was so true that it was not uncommon to walk out of the store with 20 cans. Like a little skinny teenager could walk in with an Army fatigue jacket, slide cans down their sleeve, and afterwards it would be like Arnold Schearzenegger leaving. Racking was especially more lucrative in the ‘burbs, like if you left the Bronx and went to Yonkers or Staten Island there were all those kind of mom & pop style style stores. You had these wild city kids walking into Mayberry’s and just cleaning the rack up, and they wouldn’t even know until you left the place. Then after a while you know, all of a sudden they would see a city kid walk in and they would damn near lock the door so you couldn’t run out.
Best racked caps?
Niagara ironing spray starch had the best round fat spray, it was a perfect consistent circle that never clogged. Krylon Liquitex, (now known as NY fats), is a favorite of mine and introduced in ’84-’85 If I’m correct? These became the go-to of piece heads from the Bronx to Brooklyn. All of the art supply stores in the area had tons of them for the taking, so it was common for us to have a pocket full but they eventually got hip and placed the cans in cages. The caged spray thing kicked in hard in the early 90s after memos were sent around by law enforcement. Now you need ID to cop paint.
South Central Los Angeles, CA. With View2, FBA, FC.
Martin Paint on the east coast had a line called “House N Home” that was .99 cents a can and sprayed like it. You almost had to primer the surface before using the stuff it was so watery and lame. Fill up a bag with $15 bucks but the outcome was ass to say the least. It was so bad we left cans in the yard and would see other writers who found it and thought they’d struck paint gold, only to toss them after a few lame attempts at bombing with the swill.
Martin’s home decorator paint… Their blacks, white’s and blues were good, but their colors were awful! You would have to go over it a bunch of times, unlike Rust-Oleum where you had better get it right as once it’s on – it’s on.
Best painting experiences?
The summer of ’85 was huge! The Broadway 1 line and the east side 2 & 5 lines were going hard with full cars pulling out every weekend. One weekend a bunch of FC, 156, and FBA cats had an entire train on lock. All ten cars had master pieces, characters, 3D, you name it. On the other side was Sak TNB, and a bunch of other very reputable artists just going hard. When the trains all pulled out on Monday morning and entered the station, even the civilian commuters on their way to work took notice! The cameras were blazing, and 110 MM with the toxic flash cube was the tool of choice. The brothers on the 5 lines did not take that sitting down either. TAT, TCM, TNB, KD dudes went monster and pulled out cars that were so dope. That summer was a style masters mission and a camera junky’s dream. Colors, wild style top to bottoms, characters, and themes galore. No bullshit was getting a pass that summer. Even Queens got into the fold with a vengeance.
(left) Luze, Culver City, CA. 2009. (right) Luze, 2009.
Riverside Park, NY. 1987 (mostly Krylon)
What are your thoughts on modern paint companies?
To be honest with you I have no real qualms or issues with the stuff. But some look at it as a crutch for mediocre artists – argument being it creates can control with manipulation of pressures and streams. That’s why most of the old school cats get the thumbs up for making do with less. Less colors, less caps, more aerosol and threats of bodily harm from rivals & police. Cans were not specific by any stretch of the imagination.
Cans or colors you wish you still had?
Krylon were the first to get into the designer color choices if I remember correctly. Rusto had the better, (thicker), paint but sucked in cold temps. I’d go with Kylon’s Chippewa, (flesh colored for characters), Krylon high heat chrome aluminum, (Best silver ever), and Rusto’s Flat Black & Royal blue were SO dope.
We would all rack of course, but we always found weird hook ups. One of the best ones was this wedding store in the fashion district on 38th St. We found a wedding/bridal/decorative store and god knows why… they had the CRAZIEST inventory of Krylon I’ve ever seen. We were bike messengers and stumbled on this store. It had colors like… from the front of the store you just wouldn’t know it, with wedding dresses, spools of fabric, etc. but then you went to the back and they had walls of Chippewa and Lavender’s like… We were like; “Yo what the hell…” and then we started talking to like these little Chinese, (I think they were gypsies), maybe they were Greek? So these little ladies see these teenagers walking in and they’re like; “Yeah, what the hell d’you want?” and we’re like; “Um, how much are your cans?” and they were like; “Two dollars…” Now this is back in the day when Krylon was pushing $4. And then they were like; “You buy two – we give you two!” So we would go there… and then that would start to show, ’cause now we’re doing characters and we would use Chippewa which is like the perfect Hispanic/Indian skin tone for characters. They had Aqua Turquoise and Plum Safety Purples… so at that time, not only were we pulling off productions, but we were pulling off these nutty-ass colors!
Did you have a favorite brand of paint back in the day?
Those Krylon high heat chrome aluminum’s? OH.. MY.. GOD! When we started doing that, and other guys were still running with regular Silver – they were like WTF!!?? What is that shit! When they had those engine colors – it made Rusto’ look transparent! Not to mention it was good to 1000 degrees celsius, I mean holy shit! You could have Armageddon and your piece is golden, LOL!
Black book, Summer 2011. At Keo TC5’s old spot on Church Ave, Brooklyn.
Any projects going on?
Nothing specific. Been getting into the photography side of things, doing as much documenting as possible. I am a graff writer but also a huge fan of the pioneers and anyone who genuinely puts in work. I think I can catch stuff from a true graff head perspective. And if I can give an unsung pioneer there respect and exposure they deserve – I’m in. I always consider myself a student in most respects to this day. Lots of self-proclaimed kings in the game, lots of salty, disgruntled OG’s as well who have various opinions on other’s accomplishments, but that’s life. I just try to capture and show the truth and bring positive shit to the table.
Your thoughts on CMC documenting spray paint history?
This one is a lil touchy because my history is way different from another person’s history. My history is only one fraction of a fraction of graff history in itself. I actually had a long conversation about this very topic with Chino BYI and Keo TC5 just the other day. Most people don’t even know half the rich, deep history about the IND lines. IRT lines got most of the shine in most graff books of the past. Brooklyn had just as many walls as the Bronx. Queens had it’s own powerful movement as well. So the history subject is…….WIDE!!
It was like the things that you did man. I mean you didn’t want to dress like a graffiti artist, I mean only toys did that you know? Heads would wear slacks and a blazer like they was Clark Kent! Like trying to dress up like the mob man/news reporter, and then going to the yard like a super-writer! The things that you did man… the measures that you went to – it was crazy!
I was just fortunate to come up in a good era, agolden era. I saw all of this shit unfold in front of my eyes as a kid. Iit was just a day in the life and we just did it, but now we look back in hindsight and that’s like the shit now. It was just so good to be where I was, with who I was – at that time.
Huge shouts out to: OE3, IZ the WIZ, KM, MOOSE 106, CLYDE, REVOLT, ZEPHYR, SKEME, SADE TCM, DEZ, KASE 2, BLADE for sparking a light that burns in my psyche to this very moment. Massive respect to FLITE TDS, WESTO, RISK XMEN, ZEAR, ZAME, PSYCHO TC5, JON 156, SERVE FBA, KAZE, SAK TNB for watching over and schoolin’ me on the do’s and don’ts… and who made sure I NEVER got vick’d on the trains.
First Class! Bronx W. 225th St. Bodega, Winter 1984.