Let me begin by saying this: I sort of fell into graffiti and my name.
What I mean is, I started writing graffiti as a joke and it was something I didn’t take seriously. I was attracted to graffiti because it was something that separated me from the rest of the high school kids. I slowly got more and more into the graffiti culture. I even went as far as researching it by reading all the famous books, buying magazines and watching whatever videos I could.
As far as my name goes, I tried a few different ones, but KASM sort of stuck—around ‘96. I liked the letters and I thought it sounded pretty bad ass (ha ha ha) I had an old friend tell me that it must’ve been short for “sarcasm” due to my attitude. Who’d figure? I used to spell it with a “C,” but I stopped that shit because C’s are whack. So, basically, I’ve been rockin’ KASM since I started taking graffiti seriously.
Who or what do you feel influences your art?
I guess I can say that a lot of different things inspire me. One of the greatest influences for me is music. I love to listen to music while sketching and painting.
I’ll admit I’m heavily influenced by my peers—especially my crews. I have a lot of respect for my We Kill Toys (WKT) and what they’re doing in Cali. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without my Infamy Gets Made (IGM) family and my Wall Burners crew. I guess I’m in a good mixture of destructive vs. creationism when it comes to my crews. My Dubs are heavy into bombing and taking over the streets while IGM is more about the walls. Wall Burning Spray Monsters (WBSM) is just about having a connection between five of us guys that grew up in the Central Valley of California.
I’d be remised if I didn’t name a few of my influences by name, so here it goes: Dleys, Rektaal, Pout, Fyerbom, Sant, Vogey, Herok, and Censor just to name a few. All of these guys influence me in some crazy way to make me push my work to the next level. I believe it’s alright to be influenced and inspired by everyone and everything around you and I hope that reflects through my art.
Speaking of your art, how long have you been into art of any form?
It’s pretty cliché, but I’ve been drawing and creating art as far as my earliest memories. I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t doodling. I’ve been consumed with creating things since I was a wee lad. ;)
Any early memories or things that have stuck with you?
I will say that movement and structure are something that I’ve always felt is important to my work. I’ve grown to believe that letter structure is the basis of graffiti. If you can’t break down the piece and discover nice, clean letters then you don’t have true style.
Now having been an artist since you were a “wee lad”, what are some of your proudest artistic moments? Anything that you would consider the saddest for you?
That’s a good question. I can’t really say I’ve ever had a saddest artistic moment.
I was really elated when Deom asked me to be a part of IGM. Dleys and I had already been painting partners for a couple years by that point, but he wanted Deom to ask me.
I’d like to think that whenever I walk away from a burner or finish an outline it’s a proud moment—it’s a sense of accomplishment. The proudest moments are when I can walk away knowing I flexed hard and smashed the wall—that feeling of satisfaction can’t really be beat and never can be bought. Every piece of art is a learning process and should be a step forward. Finishing a canvas, drawing or wall is always a proud moment though. They all take time, commitment and perseverance.
What would you say your artwork is doing? How do you see it represented in the world?
If anything, I would hope that my work would inspire. There’s such an overwhelming amount of negative things going on in the world today, it’s comforting to know that some people find my work inspirational.
What message do you want your audience to take away from your work?
I want the younger generations to see my burners and take the tricks, flares, and breaks and to use them in a way that’s more intriguing than what I’ve done. I don’t know…I guess that’s how I feel our culture should be.
But for those younger cats out there, if you do use it, then give credit where credit is due and make sure you give whatever it is that you used your own tweaks—otherwise, you’re just biting and being completely, intentionally a Biter. And that is a “no-no”.
Where do you see your art going?
I’m not sure where I see my art going. I guess I’ll take it wherever it needs to go whether it is shows, larger walls, or exhibitions. I would def like to see my work in more art shows. I have a couple of people that I’d like to collaborate with on some character stuff later on. The thing is, I’m not out to make myself some big-time graff writer but I do enjoy producing work and getting it out there. It’s like I tell people, if you break down my pieces there isn’t anything magical about them (I think). They’re simple letters with exact details. My characters are the same way—simple with a lot of stupid details.
Where do you see graffiti arts place in the grander scheme of things?
I’ve been waiting for this question. ;) I think that graffiti has definitely opened the doors for other art forms and has made graffiti a little more accepted.
What do you mean “a little more accepted”? Can you elaborate on that for us?
After having lived in Europe for a few years, I believe that graffiti is way less accepted in the United States compared to other countries. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how open-minded people in America think they are, they’re still the very opposite. In Germany, there are walls –or halls— in all the major cities. It’s hard to get walls in the U.S because our government has put so much emphasis on the negative aspects of legal walls. It’s sad. For being the Land of the Free, our government sure does a great job at oppressing freedom of speech and free thinking. I normally don’t discuss political aspects of graffiti, but this is fitting.
How are things viewed from behind the can?
It’s funny, because if I tell a person I’m a graffiti writer or artist, I’m automatically a bad person. If I say I’m a street artist, people become intrigued. I hate that shit. I’m a graffiti writer and learned my craft from the bottom up, from my peers and through a lot of mistakes. I believe that the term “street art” is less threatening to the public; so, a street artist is more likely to be accepted by the public rather than if I openly admit that I’m a graffiti writer/artist. I don’t believe that street art has the same learning process as graffiti. It takes time to cut out a stencil, but the reality is that it doesn’t take long to make a final product. It takes time and knowhow to create something from first lines to outlines (force fields). I’m not discrediting street art; it’s just not for me.
Of course, if it makes it easier and more understandable for the non-graff writers to refer to my work as “street art” I won’t take offense. I’ve become more easy-going over the years.
Are there stigmas that still surround the medium?
I guess, in my opinion, the greatest stigma in graffiti is the term itself. Being a graffiti writer already puts you at a disadvantage against the public. You’re already the bad guy and you’ve already got guns pointed in your direction.
I think that today’s youth use the medium in the same fashion as we do. The only difference is that I think that the new generation of graff writers/artists (or whatever you want to call them) understands less about the history of graffiti and is less inclined to follow the rules of graffiti.
Graffiti is a sub-culture and it’s important that the new generations keep in line with the common rules. Our culture doesn’t have a lot of rules, so they should be coveted and followed. Otherwise, we’re all just working against ourselves. When it comes to the rules, I’d advise the younger cats to get to know some of the older writers. Learn from them. You’ll find it easier to make moves and get ahead when you do.
I learned and was mentored by some of San Jose’s greatest writers—and I’m not from SJ. I still have mad respect for those that took the time to educate me.
What can we do to promote or change what is going on?
In some ways, it’s our damn duty to educate the next generation and to pass on that knowledge; otherwise, you’re shit’ll fade away with the paint. If writers like Pashe and Bisr68, Rest in Paradise, hadn’t taken the time to teach me the rules of the game, I’d been lost. I’ll always have a deep respect for these guys.
What can be done from a personal or city level? Is there anything?
If there’s a way to keep our culture alive and moving positively, then it all starts with the individual.
If cities want to contribute to a more positive vibe with graffiti, then the cities need to offer more legal walls and back off the building owners who are down to support the art form.
What’s crazy is that my kids are already interested in graffiti. My daughter, who’s my oldest, is already learning how to draw spray cans and characters. I think that something like that is natural. It’s natural for children to want to emulate their parents.
The advice I try to constantly teach them is to stay humble and to remember how they started. Of course, they’re a little young to understand this concept completely, but I fig by the time they’re old enough they’ll already be humble people. Gone are the days where you could be an asshole and writers would still dig your work. I think personalities make a huge portion of how people perceive and accept your work. Writers are no longer impressed with egos.
Leading off that, I know family is important to you. What do you value most about being a parent and having a family?
What I value most about being a parent is the responsibility. Being a parent in all aspects is one of the most important gifts a person can be given. I have no respect for dead-beat parents. And if this irritates or offends anyone that’s reading this, then maybe it means something. If you have children that you don’t respect, nourish and provide for—then hop off a cliff. If you’re trying, but times are rough that’s not the same. At least you’re trying. For me, it’s family first always. It’s my duty and raising my children has been probably the most exciting thing in my life. I’m not perfect by any means, but I love my family. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a human being just through how I raise and educate my children.
Any brag moments? Here’s the spotlight…
Recently, they both have made “Honor Role.” That’s a pretty good feeling and it shows that you’re doing something right. They don’t always have to strive to get there, but it shows that they are learning and retaining. I don’t know, that’s my bragging moment. LOL.
How has being a parent changed who you are as a person, as opposed to the young and reckless selves we are when we only have us to worry about?
When you have people who rely on you to provide those things necessary to live, it changes your perspective on what’s most important so I decided to keep it legal. I love all aspects of graffiti, but I choose to keep safe. My circle understands where I’m coming from and respect how I’ve decided to live my life. Deciding not to paint illegally doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it or can’t be inspired by it. I’m a graff writer so I’m sure that I’ll return to my roots someday… or maybe not. We’ll see. ;)
How has this changed your approach to graffiti art if at all?
In some ways, keeping it legal has really pushed me to explore my work more deeply.
It does suck when you’re homies are going to paint trains and you have to think about getting up for work the next morning (as an example). I still will throw up the occasional slap or handstyle, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Like I said earlier, I love graffiti, but I just can’t be doing it anymore.
Let’s talk about the collab with AGNTS. How did it come about? What is your history, if any, with AGNTS?
I’ve been working with AGNTS since November of last year, but we had been following each other on Instagram for a while. I sent them a pack of labels for a sticker swap they were doing. One day they asked me if I would be interested in making some designs.
How has the experience been? What did you think initially and what, if different or the same, is your reaction after seeing the product?
Not being a graphic designer or anything like that, AGNTS is really easy to work with.
At first, I didn’t think that a company could be interested in my art—especially enough to print it. I’m always skeptical when I’m approached by people about my artwork, but Steve is really receptive and easy to work with. It was pretty much stress free. So far, I’m very happy with the work that AGNTS has come out with. I’m super excited and amped to see what they’re going to come out with as well. I hope that the company takes off!
Being the first of the handstyle collaborations is a good feeling. First of all, I was and still am excited that AGNTS contacted me about collaborating with them on the designs. It was fun to do.
As far as the “bar” goes, I’m not sure how high I set it. I know that my handstyles aren’t half as good as most. This is probably why I was so excited about being asked to figure out a couple different designs.
Pressure? There’s always pressure, but it’s a good pressure. LOL.
Right now, I’m working with TBIS: The Business Is Serious on a shirt design. The company belongs to a longtime friend and WKT member. I’m also expecting big things from East 2 West Connect. We’ll see, I’m sure there’s a lot of exciting things out there. I’m also excited to see what AGNTS does next.
Before parting, is there one question you wished we asked that you’d like to speak on here?
I can’t think of any. These were not your ordinary graffiti questions, so it’s a refreshing interview. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.