In today’s art scene graffiti has risen up from the streets of old –where tagging and bombing were looked at as stains on society and those behind the markers and cans were stereotyped and tagged themselves—to now, where we see a new acceptance and appreciation for the form and what it can contribute to the individual, the community and the world as a whole.
One of the games long time contributors, Switzerland based graffiti artist and European graffiti scene pioneer, BOOGIE, stopped by the AGNTS studio in Burbank, California where we had a chance to sit down with him and hear his thoughts……
Never like a real competition. It’s more like, “Hey, let’s meet up, let’s have a good time, let’s have some beers and let’s paint something. Yeah, let’s do something and maybe at the end anybody gets some money, that’s okay. But let’s have a good time there”.
What is the scene in Tahiti like?
Tahiti at the moment is graffiti paradise ‘cause people there like graffiti. You can go there during the day, go there in the middle of the city and you take one wall and you ask the guy who’s standing besides there, “Hey, can I paint that wall?”.
And he says, “Oh, would you paint that wall? It would be so nice”.
And they love it, ya know? They don’t tag around there. Only color productions. Everybody wants to leave his name there. It’s so so nice that people, they come there bring you cool beer when you paint in the middle of the city…’cause they love it. There are not much places all over the world where it is like it is in Tahiti.
From the pics on your social media sites it seems the kids were loving you; having you sign skateboard decks and anything they could get your name on, and you looked happy too. Do you get to work with kids quite a bit?
A lot of schools ask me sometimes if I can do some workshops with the kids maybe paint some canvases or paint walls in the school and to teach the kids a little bit of that graffiti stuff. ‘Cause I think that’s the main thing, that we have to give something. Each one has to teach one.
I would be so happy when I was a young boy and I had the chance that anybody learned me that kind of art ‘cause you can also bring the kids on a better way. To do something really cool, something creative and bring them away from violence stuff and I think that’s really important, that story… (That it is) not only for vandalism, but more for art.
In thinking about the young Boogie and his early art endeavors, where and when did it start for you?
I was like sixteen or something like this. I started quite late. I did not have the typical graffiti career. I was not growing up in a big city. I came from a small village with five thousand inhabitants and nearby there were some cities with around, I don’t know, fifteen thousand or twenty thousand inhabitants. And there we started graffiti. That was hard because nobody else did it and we were the first. We did our own story, we made our own experiences. We started different and we also tried to paint the trains there and stuff like this. Then you saw the guys in the bigger cities, how they do that; so it growed up. It’s interesting when I think about that.
It (was) on an old train station (in my home town).
On a Sunday afternoon with some friends we picked up some two or three cans from a gas station. We bought it there, the yellow and black and something dark, different, and I painted the “Freestyle”; with the “e’s” were like reflected..or, no…mirrored, yeah. And it still exists. I think it’s quite good paint ‘cause it’s twenty-two years ago.
If you knew it then you could say, “Hey, this must be something like graffiti?”
It’s quite cool when I pass it and see it.
How often do you get out and paint now?
It depends on how much time I have. Earlier I tried to do it as often as I can, you know, and I’m still hot. I try to go out as often as I can, but yeah, we don’t get younger, let’s say it like this: I think for me the hottest bombing times are over. But I think if you want to earn all the money maybe with that stuff and become a little bit better, get involved with some events, and stuff like this, you have to earn your street credits. You have to do some stuff.
Even though the hottest times are over, do you still get the itch?
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. That’s normal. I still feel the tiger in me. If the tiger is dead, you should quit. That’s why I am, sometimes my fingers are springling.
Does doing legal work satisfy that urge?
It’s completely different, for sure. If you can spray and get money for that, why not? But only to do legal stuff, I don’t know if that’s so cool? Only doing graff for the money or only start to doing graff for earning money, I think that’s kind of the wrong way. It’s not true. That’s why I told you before you have to earn your street credits before you start getting money for it.
If we may ask, what kind of “stuff” do you still get into?
I follow the guys who are still painting the trains and I really love it. The ONE UPS from Berlin and MOSES and TAPS from Germany. A lot of people tell that, “Hey, it’s impossible to paint trains, it’s getting hotter and hotter”. The next day, you see full color, whole cars, ya know? I’m following it, but I don’t want to tell to the interview what I do. Nobody knows.
We are all between, I don’t know, thirty and fifty years old, and with such age you don’t go out every night bombing and hide in the bushes. You wanna sit down with your lady on the sofa and chill a little bit; normal business.
So you’re saying that there isn’t a senior citizen graff crew out there creeping, huh?
I don’t need that dead end stuff. That’s why we try to do it maybe one or two or three times a year. Maybe make some trips traveling around, paint some walls together…and have some fun and celebrate the old times.
Over the years it becomes more and more that friendship stuff. I think that’s also the main thing. It’s not more that competition thing.
Speaking of competition and seeing your work everywhere, what are the rules as you know them to going over somebody’s work?
It’s like the old school rules: When you want to go over it you have to be better; normal business.
If I paint a full color piece and anybody comes with a chrome can and puts a chrome and black piece over it…(long pause)…if SEEN would do it, I would say, “Hey, homie…it’s okay” (laughing out loud). No, just kidding. But I think, yeah, it’s just graffiti. It’s not meant for eternity. I’ve painted so much in the last twenty years, I don’t know if my piece ten years ago, fifteen years ago, still exist. It’s only for the photo at the end.”
Having captured plenty of pics yourself and having a unique perspective being from Germany, residing in Switzerland and travelling the world, are there any spots across the pond that are a must see?
“When you go to the track sides in Basel by train, I don’t know if anywhere in the world there’s so huge an area of graffiti, illegal graffiti, with so much full color productions like there. You might see no chrome pieces there. Almost on three levels on three kilometers in front of the train station you only have full color productions and there is no more left space. If you want to paint there you have to go over other pieces. Since around, I don’t know, ten or fifteen years, it’s like politics now. You have to know the spaces, you have to know the guys…”
I think there are still a big respect for the U.S writers from the European writers, especially for the guys from New York City because that’s the Mother City, and nearly everybody I know wants to paint once in their life in New York City. Especially if they want to paint the subway there and the trains. If it’s running or not, it don’t depends. They just want to paint it, they want to take a picture of it and hang it in the living room.
Maybe at the moment, the quality in Europe over the last fifteen years, it it took huge steps, ya know? I won’t say that the New York quality stays on the same level; it also grows. But if you see what the guys from Europe, especially yeah, take whoever you want of those photo realistic stuff, or those character guys, or those sign painters or the train graffiti. In Europe it’s growing like a disease over the years and it’s getting more and more and more and more and they are painting so much there. I don’t know if you can, it’s completely different at the moment, ya know? I don’t know if you can make a vergleich (comparison).
What do you think about L.A and what we have here?
I really really like that city. Also I love to be here and also for the graff. That’s why everytime when we are here I try to paint at minimum one piece here. Last time I did it in downtown, it’s called the Container Yard. It’s quite cool there.
Any places you plan to leave your name this trip?
Tomorrow we will see what we are gonna do in the city. I think I am, tomorrow or Friday, I’m trying to paint a wall anywhere. I will meet tomorrow with a friend and he’s got some quite good connections. And uh yeah, maybe we do something ‘cause I want to leave my name here. Always important. Always.
(Also) one of the dreams (is to paint) Compton. I’m a big NWA fan and stuff…(and) I want to leave my name there. I want to paint it Boogie style there. Maybe not in red and blue…we will see. A friend of mine wanted to check if he can check a wall there. Otherwise we have to take a wall there. Really, I don’t want to paint at night in Compton.
You seem to know enough people and are a likeable guy, somebody should be able to hook you with a wall in Compton?
I think so. I hope.
So before you head off to paint the town, could you sum up in one sentence what you think your shirt design brings to AGNTS that it hasn't had before?
It should put some funk in it.
Thanks for sitting down with us, thank you for the fresh design and thanks for letting us inside the world of Boogie.