“My name is REAL1. I am a graffiti artist originally from Tottenham, which is in northern London. I now reside in Northern Ireland. My story first began when I was about twelve years old. Well, I have loved art for so long, and that is the earliest age that I can remember was about 12. I first saw graffiti in the tunnels and the underneath roads that I used to walk through with my friends every day.
That was my first true memory of vandalism, street art, or graffiti, call it you want. It came from the tunnels that I use to walk through with my friends. Right then and there, there was an instant connection between my heart and mind. A true graffiti artist falls in love with walls, trains – anything and everything. I felt that it drew my mind into a form of addiction the first time I saw it. From there, I started practicing and drawing my own letters. This only enhanced my addiction. To truly become good at anything, you must have an addiction.
I completely ruined – or should I say improved all of my school books by filling the insides and outsides with graffiti designs as well as outlines. I really did not want to study when I was at school. Never! I always wrote in my books whenever I had a chance. Something inside of me couldn’t stop me from writing. To me it was like, either I was addicted to art, or my hand was truly possessed. No matter what happened, this is the one time I could be happy with an obsessive demon inside of me. I remember all of this like it was a memory from yesterday. It still is so clear and vivid to me even until this day. One day, I showed one of my friends one of my outline sketches and he said that we should go and spray it underneath a bridge. After that night, I could not stop. You know that you are a true graffiti artist when you get to this point. The addiction takes over and neither your Mom, Dad, nor the police can stop you!
The caffeine to my addiction was when my friend came to my house with a video that he had taken from his brother’s room. The film was called ‘Style Wars.’ It became a true foundation for our art as well as a major source of our motivation. This was a major source of inspiration for me and it was like everything to us. This was like being the Hulk or Spider man for all comic book fans. When we first started doing stuff like this, we would not stop talking about it for abouttwo weeks. It was all we really cared about. I know that video caused so much vandalism in my area. I’m proud to say that I played a major part within the movement. Maybe it hurt the image of my city, but that is what the ignorant old people say and they need to upgrade their minds.
I think the old-school vandals had to be there. Because the only thing they did was influence and inspire all of us. So this only made me want to do more and more art and become more talented. My goal was to increase my ability at all times. Honestly, my earliest influences came from artists like SEEN and DONDI, but that was only in the beginning. As time went by, I found myself developing my own style and then re-working it again and again. In the end, this is where you will find the ability to create yourself.
I started tagging with my friend who wrote DREX. We started bombing trains, buses, phone boxes, train stations, and pretty much everything we could see. My possessed hand did this all the time, all day every day, and we did it everywhere. It was more than just a bit of fun for us because at this point, we were starting to take all of this shit very seriously!
We used to plan where we would go to do our next piece. At a certain point in time, my friend moved away and I never saw him again. That didn’t stop me from writing because my heart knew what it wanted. Back in the early 90’s, I wrote the name FAZE. I was a very active writer. I would go out to the train lots on my own just to practice tagging and spraying my pieces on walls and trains. I feel that this was where I found my peace in life.
Eventually, I got caught and my name was linked to a lot of criminal damage or better known as vandalistic offenses across London. I won’t go into that too much now. Anyways, I changed my name to Real1 because of this and I carried on with my writing. If you let the authorities stop your love for art, then you need to quit graffiti because you are not a real artist.
I started a crew with some other writers that I met while I was out one night. What are the odds? Eventually you are going to bump into some cool people or a bunch of guys who want to kick your ass and take your cans. The crew I started was called the TDS Crew. There were only four of us, but it was enough. Damn, even just one is enough! We all started writing and doing pieces all over London. However, in 2004, everyone went their separate ways due to changes in our lifestyle. Most of the members stopped writing while I carried on. Over time, I started to take part in many events and exhibitions. I was starting to be recognized for what I loved doing and all of this helped me to make progress.
I think this was one of the most important things in the beginning. I learned how to handle the negative things in life. I mean, think about it! Even Jesus was crucified. You will never be perfect and not everyone is going to like you, so just be real. Learn how to peacefully handle the negative things and absorb all the positive things in this world, while living in your own world. You will have to use your brain forever so use it for good and fuck the negative bullshit.
In 2008 I left London and moved to Namibia where I held one of the first graffiti exhibitions. I started a company called RealUrbanArt.com. The company specialized in graffiti murals and designs and did advertising for large companies, events, etc. The company started to get some major clients such as the Namibian music awards in 2009. We also did other things, such as build TV sets for major broadcasting stations like NBC.
My life followed its natural course. So as things go, it changed. My family grew, so I was forced to move on and I moved to Norway. But just because my home changed, didn’t mean I stopped painting. I guess it just made it more exciting. Doing graffiti in another place did not disappoint this young writer. My only wish was that our friends would still be there with me. But no matter the good times or the bad, always carry on with your work.
I have sprayed in many different countries like Italy, Germany, and in the Netherlands I sprayed in Amsterdam. In 2012 I moved to Northern Ireland with my family to settle down. Now I continue to work from my studio as an artist. Occasionally I take part in various events and I am starting my own streetwear brand called ‘Thick as Thieves UK’.”
What kind of materials do you use?
“I use anything I can get my hands on. When it comes to spray paint, I really like the Spanish Montana and their Alien Art brand as well as Ironlack almost equally. This is a world of fine science, so if it is not the same then it is very different. At first, I used Ironlack when I was living in Norway. Honestly, this shit was a drug. And if you say paint is a drug, then I will run away from rehab because that is something I can’t quit.
When I first saw trains, I felt like there was an instant link between me and them. They were an ugly mess unless I could hit em. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t help but notice how fucking great the colors and the coverage was. But as far as doing pieces, it is not all about the can. I sometimes use stencils, but not that often. I prefer just too freehand it. I feel like I have achieved more when I don’t do stenciled work.
I really like mixed media work at the moment and like to use whatever I can to produce street pieces. I was in Berlin a while back and I was using Krink Ink over there to tag. That shit is so sick. I love the drips it produces, but getting it out of your hands is a fucking nightmare, haha!”
This next question is one of my favorites. Give me a story about the cops!
“I have had my fair share of run-ins with the pigs… I mean the police. When I still wrote the name FAZE, I got caught painting inside a train station. I was then detained in a cell. In the beginning I was not that worried, until a police officer started to tell me that they have linked my name to countless criminal vandalism all over London. Then I truly started to freak out. But, take some good advice from me, always keep calm and use a pokerface. Just repeat these words: ‘I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!’
That’s the perfect teaching for dealing with the cops, you should always remain cool and calm with them. Never give them a bad attitude. Unfortunately, you have no power when they’ve got you, and even though they are a bunch of bitches, you must seem innocent, humble, and polite. Don’t get an attitude or you will fuck yourself over. I know it sucks but it is the God’s honest truth.
Now, the place where I grew up was quite rough. I can’t tell you how much shit I saw by the time I was in high school. I lived in a place that was full of crime, and was infested with gangs and drugs. Many of my friends, including me, sold drugs back in the day. Of course we did it to make extra money. Now, remember you might be surprised to truly understand who you will meet and the customers you will have. Pay attention to this magic trick.
One night, I found myself in a cell. This very kind police officer – cough, cough – he asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee or tea. Of course I said yes, I want a coffee. Now the pig – cough – I mean bitch, I mean officer brought my coffee into my cell. And the motherfucker threw it into my face. I was so pissed off and ready to fight that another officer came into my cell to drag the first cop out of my cell. I started to demand to see the sergeant, and they told me that he was not on duty, but that they would tell me when he was in.
Eventually the cell door opened up and they told me the sergeant would see me. I walked into the room and sat down. The sergeant came in. When he saw me, his face dropped. He recognized me. Like I said, when you sell drugs, you will be surprised who you will meet. We immediately recognized each other. My customer released me within an hour. They let me off with a warning! Just could not believe my luck that day.”
What advice would you give to future artists?
“Don’t watch others or compare yourself to them. Do your own damn thing. It’s fine to be inspired by others and like their work, but stay true to your own thing. That is what makes you an artist. Also, experiment. Don’t be afraid to try anything and everything to make your art.
Don’t ever give up. There are many things that can hinder your inspiration, so just remember how much you love your art and use it as therapy during the worst times and always continue to develop your talent. If you have a vision of what you want to do, where you want to be, or who you want to become, then start living that now like you have already achieved it. Aim high and you will never fall low.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I am busy at the moment starting my street wear and art brand so I hope it really kicks off well and grows into something big. I will be doing some art with OHANA so check it out in the future.”
This is your free space to say whatever you want!
“I would like to just say thanks to my family, especially my wife, for putting up with all my graffiti madness. And to my kids, especially my son Zeke who is an absolute star and I am always there for him when he needs help with his events.
I would also like to give a shout out to the following: My boy B aka Tony Banani, Ozzi and the rest of the crew from back in the days, Drex – where you at man?, Raz, Money, Torn. To all my graffiti heads in Namibia still keeping it real and everyone else who knows me or what a nutcase I am, haha. Thanks! Peace!”