What do you write?
Norms One

Tell us a little about yourself… How long you’ve been painting and who you’re down with etc.
Got in the mix right at the very end of the 1980s, noticing local highway and train line graffiti in NY. By 1991 it had really caught up to me and my friends, and a friend of mine was family with Mite MPC, a hardcore Bronx bomber who’s since passed (RIP). Through Mite and his influence, we learned a lot and it just so happened that several other influences came together for me, as well as it being a huge time in that area for graff and particularly highway graffiti. This was the pre-cell phone era and not long after the end of trains, and I was then seeing when local NYC-area highways, trainlines, and chill wall spots were destroyed and beautiful. I have been in the mix with lots of crews since then, many of which faded while I decided to keep on going.  These days I mainly push my man KA’s crew 3F (Funds For Felonies), AAP (All American Paint), UTS (Ultimately The Sketch) and out of respect for the heyday that I came out of I proudly rock TVT (The Voodoo Tribe).

^Classic Piece Breakdown: Fill: Rust-Oleum American Accents ‘Canyon Black’, Rust-Oleum ‘Post Purple’ (custom). Fill detail: Rust-Oleum American Accents ‘Indian Spice’ & Krylon ‘Avocado’. Outline: Rust-Oleum American Accents ‘Green Apple’. Background outline: Krylon ‘Mahogany’.

So what brands of paint did you use most frequently in the early years?
Primarily Krylon, also Rust-Oleum and if worse came to worse Rollakote. I remember when American Accents hit the shelves but they were only at the more expensive store (the now-defunct Pergament) we’d get paint at, and generally deferred to Krylon (from the now-defunct Caldor chain). I had a few cans of the first American Accents I’d ever bought that I’d kept for about 10 years before finishing them. Of course AA was and is great paint but Krylon got the job done perfectly, and in those days NY thin caps were better quality and worked better with the paint. This was the era that Red Devil also was still carried by Caldor, but in those days the brand was being passed from one owner to another and they were fan-spray Danvern valves, which we avoided. Rollakote was a bargain brand that I’d like to find again, but they were the bottom-shelf 99-cent cans from Pergament that came in black and white only. I remember that there was almost NO way to avoid that paint dripping, but I’ve heard that it was good on raw concrete.

^Classic Piece Breakdown -‘Avocado Always Pleases’ Fill: Rust-Oleum ‘Avocado’, American Accents ‘Autumn Gold’, Krylon ‘Pacific Blue’, Krylon ‘Harvest Gold’. Outline: Krylon ‘Ultra-Flat Black’ & Rust-Oleum ‘Satin White’. Background outline: Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch ‘Teal’.

Are you a can collector?
Yes, but I tend to like to separate that from graffiti if possible. I don’t think writers NEED or should be collectors (no matter how trendy it is) and I think there’s enough art and value in paint collecting that I don’t want it to be merely writers that do it.  The preservation of collecting and archiving seems to clash with the destruction and carelessness of graffiti in my mind, and makes me wish for more non-writer collectors.

Can you still find old paint stock in your area?
Of course. Old paint is a cyclical thing. New products always get introduced and once you see the cycle with closeout/wholesale, you understand how older stock product gets shuffled around. I have of course seen quality spots that I got much older collectible material go out of business, in dozens of instances, in the past 10 or so years. Of course it’s harder to find a lot of that stuff now, but the majority of what I use is non-current stock, and I don’t buy paint at chain stores that aren’t closeout spots. I don’t trawl haz-mat collections or dumps, but the stock is out there and probably will be for a good while. I will miss independent hardware and paint stores when they’re totally gone, but I try to give them my money as much as I can. I can go and buy cans of stripe-bottom 1994 flatball Krylon Coral and Salmon about 15 minutes from home, but time marches on.

Any good racking stories?
Nope. I’m an adult.

^Classic Piece Breakdown -‘The Night Spanish Brown Saved My Life’ Fill: Bell Telephone ‘Gray-Green’ (custom), Rust-oleum Tree Marking Orange, Rust-Oleum ‘Post Purple’ (custom), Plasti-kote ‘Avocado’, Rust-Oleum ‘Safety Green’. Outline: Rust-Oleum ‘Burgundy’. Background outline: Krylon ‘Spanish Brown.

Any favorite old paint stores?
Is it all right to give out secrets? Roadtrips for paint took us to over a dozen states and so many crazy spots, such as a places that was called “the Chinese hardware store” in the most offensive way possible. I’ve been to a bunch of hardware stores in gas stations over the years too. The best paint spots are the ones where you click with the store owners, who are paint geeks in many cases just like we are. One of my favorites was a store just on Lake Ontario, where the staff was super nice and I still go to visit if I’m in the area even though I’d emptied their stock over 6 years back. They sold me among hundreds of other cans, three 12-count cases of ‘Jungle Green’ ingredient labels that they had opened just a few weeks earlier. There’s also a place in Pennsylvania that still has some stock left in it, though they had their 60-something year old stockman taking handtruck loads out to our vehicle.  We got like 80 cases of paint loaded before the aged proprietor asked us, while stuttering, if we were going to huff the paint. There was a spot in NYC that I actually had to make a hand-made sign for the paint rack in order to get their old Red Devil sign, and the owner chided me for not doing highlights or 3D on the letters.  And an ancient spot near me that I spent 3 years trying to get into that I nearly wrote an essay on old paint to show them that I was serious. The place was 4 floors, 3 of which were storage, but it burned down before I could convince them to let me in. Or then there was the spot in Wisconsin where the guy was clocking us hardcore and really resisted our queries about any paint in the back of the store, then my man walked out the door calling him an asshole and telling him we’re looking forward to post what we did get on Ebay.

Best discontinued paint, and why?
There’s so many. Krylon ‘Pacific Blue’ was incredibly smooth and thick, and a great color. A friend used to refer to it as Rusto paint with a Krylon valve, referring to the sensitivity and smoothness of Krylon. I have a soft spot for Krylon ‘Baby Blue’ and Krylon ‘Hot Pink’, the former of which I used to travel across the entire region I grew up in via train and bus to buy at the one store which carried it. Krylon ‘Ultra-Flat Black’ up until about 2000 was a sentimental favorite, for quality and of course its classic, chemical, cinnamon smell. People from back then will remember that stuff.  Krylon ‘True Blue’ was a traditional outline color in the early 90s and one that I still like to use today, thick and just the right shade– good punch and just dark enough. Krylon ‘Teal Blue’ was also a favorite, as it was seriously thick and covered well, in a great shade with a dash of green, yet another outstanding blue from Krylon. Rust-Oleum Woodsaver ‘Country Cream’ was insanely good, for its literally creamy thickness and coverage, and the slight yellow tinge it has. It was also great that since Woodsaver sold so poorly and Rusto bailed on it, people were dying to get rid of the stuff and in some cases gave it to us for free in stores. Rust-Oleum Hard Hat ‘Safety Purple’ and ‘Safety Green were both a pain in the ass and very toxic paint, but the colors and coverage were outstanding. That ‘Safety Purple was the same shade as the old Rusto “Scottie” ‘Safety Purple’ and that alone was enough to endure those cans clogging Rusto fats and being hard to get all the paint out of. Original American Accents ‘Indian Spice’ and ‘Autumn Gold’ were both vivid and beautiful satin oranges that were for a time available in massive closeout quantity. Thick and easy to work with and very tidily dressed in the classic AA can. Nice chunky 70s/early 80s oranges like Rusto ‘Mandarin Orange’ or Broma ‘International Orange’, because they are so perfectly thick and bold and those shades just don’t seem to exist anymore.

^’Lo Pressure Lunatic!’ Krylon ‘Hot Pink’.

Any good racked cap/can combos?
Ice-blue center Rusto-style caps off of stainless steel cleaner mated lovely with Krylon cans, delivering a rather solid almost softball size dot with just a whisper of noise. Back when you could get all those oddball Aussie caps from Da Hub, those were great for the extra-narrow valve stems of old Derusto and the like. Rusto orange center caps from the Elmer’s Spray Glue was a classic until very recently, and you could find some orange centers in some interesting spots also.

Worst paint ever award goes to?
Zynolite (the 90s and late 80s at least) was horrifically bad. They even had a thin and watery ‘Avocado’, and that’s such an easy paint to make thick.  Have not tried their newer stuff.  Anything that clogs caps over and over is sure to piss me off.  The key is still to make the crappy stuff useful for something, a skill which I know is dwindling.

What are some of your best painting experiences?
Some of the worst become quickly some of the best afterwards, when the stories become richer. Painting a reefer in -30 windchill winter winds, only to have the reefer start up on us because it was too warm inside the car. A last minute two man silver wholecar that came off without having an outline. Painting on the banks of the Hudson River on a bright summer night. Getting a car stuck in snow next to tracks while out to paint freights and having the engineer stop the train and ask if we wanted help. Finding naked people sunbathing in the middle of filthy trainyards. Getting a crackhead to stand in the center of town and play lookout for me while doing a rooftop. Chasing toys out of yards by pretending to be a cop, jangling my keys and kicking ballast while waving a Maglite and shouting in a bass-heavy voice. Just plain old getting over with no drama is what really makes me happy now, a nice tight mission where you can get the job done. The adrenaline is still there and I can handle some hotter spots, but I gotta be responsible these days.

^Classic Piece Breakdown -‘True East’. Fill: Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch ‘Berry Pink’, Tremclad ‘Lime Green’ (custom), Laura Ashley ‘Burgundy’, Krylon ‘Terracotta’, Pactra ‘Nifty Pink’. Outline: Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch ‘Sun Yellow’. Background outline: Plasti-kote Polyurethane ‘Wedgewood’.

How do you feel about the brands of Euro paint and their impact on the scene?
It’s not really for me. I was always happy with local US paints and although there are seemingly increasing quality and valve issues, I feel better with Krylon, Rust-Oleum, Plasti-kote, Valspar, Red Devil, Derusto, etc. than I do with paint that is marketed to writers and named after writers. In a way, it’s made graffiti very routine. I am not looking forward the day that I might be forced to use Euro paint, but surely some brands are better than others. I don’t say this purely based on nostalgia. On the other hand, I think that some of these companies have built up a good profile in the battlefield binary of of the US paint industry. RPM/Rusto and Sherwin-Williams/Krylon are so locked into competition that these brands moved in seemingly easily for a fringe market and became hugely popular. It’s an old lament I know, and whining writers are worse than cats in heat, but I feel better with shittier paint that makes you a better writer rather than super-deluxe paint which pampers artists. In addition, I personally don’t like how many people use Euro paint and the colors themselves stand out more than the work. It seems that with that kind of paint a lot of people are looking for a very “perfect” and synthetic feel which is unappealing to me.

If you could choose a few cans to keep on your shelf, what would they be?
For only a handful, probably 1991 Krylon flatball ‘Hot Pink’, 1968 Rusto ‘Avocado’ Green, 70s Red Devil Polyurethane ‘Empire Blue’, and 1991 Krylon flatball ‘Ultra-Flat Black’.

Any other comments?
I feel at times like an old man, and I stick to what I know and what I appreciated from the influences that I had around me. Sometimes I think that maintaining a tradition of graff in line with what was important during those early years is the highest goal for me. If I could keep growing, pushing myself, and learning without following modern trends that don’t speak to me, that’s what I want. Paint collecting is an art and one that needs to expand. A writer may have associations with certain paint that makes it seem like certain things aren’t worth collecting; fluorescents, metallics, clears, white and black being ignored in lieu of only bright colors is taking graffiti too deeply into can collecting. It’s antithetical to the practice and it’s what keeps the lames at the periphery only interested in ‘Jungle Green’. We should be looking at obscure local off-brands as the real gold, and digging up history on those brands. In the same way that freight writers cross over to become railfans, we can take this subculture to a deeper level and one of more substantial appreciation. Reversing the trend of disposability and elevating something to a new level is what any collecting is about and we as collectors need to own this hobby and better promote it to future collectors. Respect to Lil, KA, Syms, Glue, Arsn, Eagr, Ouija, Monoe FDA, Ridl, Crow, Meal, Bone TVT, and those who know me as a person, a writer, and a collector/archivist, and even a mix of all three. Oh yeah, and keep on diggin’.

^Classic Piece Breakdown – ‘Hard Krylon Lines Like Old Times’. Fill: Sherwin Williams Industrial ‘Light Green’, Krylon ‘Pacific Blue’. Fill detail: Hanna’s ‘Swamp Hollow Orange’, DupliColor ‘Grabber Green’. Outline: Rust-Oleum ‘Burgundy’. Background outline: Rust-Oleum ‘Post Purple’.