CAYPE Interview

[6 Dec 2013]

-Intro: Lino Gonzalez
-Questions: Anonymous Contributors
-Photos: K.C. Russell

Upon working with Caype for a second time we thought it would be fitting to ask him some questions to give a background on his work. You might ask “what does graffiti and BMX (specifically street riding) have in common?”. They both exist in different but parallel worlds. Both carry extreme risks. They both require a level of obsession that will not be understood by the average person. They both ultimately hold no reward and do not offer anything of value to normal society except when it is regulated by their terms. They both have people that are just passing through who will not leave an impact. They also have people who’s work is respected and remembered such as Caype’s…


-What drew you into writing graffiti? Were you immediately obsessed or did it take time to get interested?

What first drew me to graffiti was my elementary school art teacher, Mr P. In 1986, he showed me the books, Subway Art and Spraycan Art.  Those books blew my mind.  I skated with the older kids from my neighborhood.  They had beautiful tags.  The first writers I noticed were Fate, Jester, Soap, Mass, Detect, Mach, Jayroc, Sly, Sick, Kon, Remote, Tale, Knoe, Prank, Secret, Deseat/Deceit, Blame, Fame, Haze, Demise/Dem and Sez. The main crews I saw were DCA (Def City Artists), and AMPM.  Then in 1990, OD crew took over the graffiti scene.

-What does Boston graffiti look like to you from the throne. After over 20 years of activity what does it look like from that perspective?

I don’t sit on a throne. I’m lucky to find a seat on the train. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the graffiti rainbow. Just an 8 X 10 cell.

-We know you’re sober now, but could you explain the ball and chain relationship between drugs and graffiti? Why do many of the best writers OD?

For me, graffiti like alcohol and drugs are an addiction.  I could never do enough.  I always wanted more.

-Top 5 pieces of graff in Boston?

To name any specific 5 pieces would be misleading.  Graffiti is a subculture.  My favorite tags, Pieces, and throwups are those done by Boston’s first generation writers.  They are and always will be the originators of the Boston style.  Their graffiti was the foundation for whatever Boston graffiti has been and will be.  In every era there have been a handful of innovators producing quality work and a majority of followers playing it safe.



-What was it like being one of the first victims of the internet vandal squad?

It was bugged out.  When I started writing, the internet didn’t exist.  In the mid to late 80’s, the only exposure I had to graffiti was what I saw in the books I mentioned, and what I encountered locally.  My relationship to graffiti was personal.  The knowledge I gained about graffiti came first hand.  There were no graffiti magazines, no digital cameras, no cell phones, and no beepers.  I had a rotary telephone in my house.

I maintain that without the pioneers writing tough in the mid 80’s that laid the foundation, Boston graffiti wouldn’t be what it is today.  I sought out knowledge of the art form by leaving my house, taking the train to random destinations and exploring the city.  From a young age I was borrowing my mom’s camera to take pictures of what I found.  They were sacred gems.  I hunted it down and only shared my pictures with a select few.  Graffiti was underground at that time.  Every image anyone had was a hard copy.  My family had a typewriter. Information wasn’t available at the click of a button.  Nobody had computer. I put in miles of footwork patrolling the city and train tracks.  In the early 90’s, Boston started to have its own style.  OD crew broke free of the traditional bar letter structure with the no-negative space style of piecing.

To see the effect the internet has had on the subculture of graffiti over time is sad.  The internet destroyed graffiti.  Graffiti was a rite of passage when I was growing up.  It was street and artistic.  There were unspoken rules to learn.  The rules weren’t told they were experienced.  There was actual risk and danger involved.  It was a way of walking through fears.  Now, cops and writers hide behind the computer.  A lot is lost.  What is a cop without a robber? Nothing. Writers used to rob walls, trains, busses, and streets.  If they got away then they got away.  Now writers post pictures of what they see or do as if it’s not a crime.
The internet broke down the infrastructure of the subculture and pimps it out.  The internet is used to pimp writers out like hoes and when writers post, they’re the tricks putting money in the pockets of the same system they’re revolting against.  If nobody ever posted anything ever again, graffiti could stand a chance of going back to its roots.  The game is to be sold not told.  To look at a picture of graffiti is a privilege.  They’re priceless. Evidence that what can seem impossible is possible.  Pictures represent proof of historical truth.

Pictures are also what the DA uses in court to prosecute you and confine you to a cage.  And lawyer fees are pricy so if you’re going to whore yourself out on instamyspaceafacebookafriendstergram, think long term in terms of money. Make a book and be professional about it.  At least you’ll stand a chance at breaking even on the lawyer cost of doing the graffiti you’ve done and have a record of how your addiction manifests itself aesthetically for historical purposes. Scientists studying ego or art history professors may want to refer to them in the future.



-You have schooled so many writers in generations after you; including kings from the ground up. Who are some of your favorites?

My favorites… They know who they are.

-Most graffiti you have done in one night?

No matter how much I wrote, it wasn’t enough.

-Has there ever been a time where you actively decided to distance yourself from graffiti? If so what pushed you to do so?

For certain.  I tried to stop writing graffiti countless times.  I swore to myself I’d never do it again.  I’ve prayed to God that I’d never write again.  I could stop for a period of time but never quit for good.  I wrote graffiti just as prolific as ever right after finishing a year sentence in prison for graffiti.  I thought I had a graffiti problem. I never had a graffiti problem.  I had a graffiti solution.  The problems were still there.  Graffiti wasn’t the problem.  I was.  I can relate to those people who consider themselves addicted to graffiti.  I tried to fill my internal void by writing graffiti for decades and it never worked.  At times I thought it was working but I’d always end up back in a cage wondering how it all happened.  I thought… Man, I must have the worst luck.  No matter how many times I tried to stop, I always went back to it.  It provided me with a temporary solution to the problems in my life but it always kept me trapped in a vicious cycle of my own demise.  I’m so grateful I found the way out.


-What is your favorite instrument to write with?

I like them all, but my favorite was ultra flat black KRYLON spraypaint with a New York fat cap.

-Why is it important to sketch with a pen instead of a pencil?

Hahahahaha!  Silly rabbit, pencils are for triers and I’m a doer.Art is a competition. The clock is always ticking and I have no time to worry about the past.  Erasers don’t make sense.  I’ll make sense of what I’m doing in the now. As long as I focus on the present, I know the end result will be off the hook.

-How do you feel about older heads posting a lot of flicks and/or personal stashes online? Do you feel like it can cheapen a respected writers name if they self promote online?

I think I’ve said my peace with that one.

-What are the best and worst things graffiti has given you?

I loved graffiti but it never loved me back.  That’s the best and worst thing I’ve realized.  My new solution has given me perspective.  I don’t have to dwell on the past or worry about the future.  Today, I have a solution that offers me the choice to be truly free.    -CAYPE

Caype for 90East Winter 2013 Tee now available at…