Kings Way: The Interview

Due for release July 1st 2009, “Kings Way: The Beginnings of Australian Graffiti” is the product of 9 years of work by Duro Cubrilo, Karl Stamer & Martin Harvey.
The book focuses on the beginnings of graffiti in Melbourne between 83 -93.

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The book has been 9 years in the making. What took it so long?
Duro Cubrilo: Being so close to the scene our collective knowledge was huge and we knew it had to be comprehensive. I did however have no idea of the enourmity the task would become.  It was a part time project for a long time so I wouldn’t say it really took nine years. I quit my job a year and half ago and it has been full steam since then to get it over the line.

Karl Stamer: It began as one of those on and off projects. The original idea came about approximately 9 years ago but we have been working on it full steam for the last two years.

Martin Harvey: A host of reasons. The subsequent research of both the Melbourne scene and associated local historical information. Amassing images and interviews from over 50 people from all over Melbourne and locating these people that had not been seen or heard from for years. A definitive commitment to get the project finished between 3 people with full time jobs and personal commitments.

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How did you all first get into Graffiti at that time?
Duro: Through the New York hip hop wave that was being broadcast throughout the world and inspiration from the older generation of local neighborhood graffiti pioneers.

Karl: I fell into it progressively from 1984 when I was interested in the early breakdance music. Soon after an old mate and me started to dabble in it, then we met others in the scene and things just unfolded from there on.

Martin: Through imported American media. Films, records and video clips.

In such a comprehensive book, who was responsible for what?
Duro: I am the creative director, designer and co-author. I had a clear vision of how I knew it had to be for multiple reasons, mainly to represent a balanced account on the evolution of local styles and which writers were responsible for what, when and where.

Karl: That’s an easy one… Duro took care of the layout and design, Marty was responsible for the text and I undertook all the imaging and restoration of all the old photos. Obviously we consulted each other and bounced ideas back and forth, it was a collaborative effort.

Martin: The three authors all contributed key historical and subject information through collective decision making throughout the project. I was responsible for decoding and formalising the facts through textual information into a dynamic, emotive and factual account of people, pieces and places. A lot of our primary roles merged throughout the project.

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How is the Australian/Melbourne graffiti scene different from what is going on in the rest of the world?
Duro: It’s important to note that this book focuses on the decade of 1983 to 1993 and solely in Melbourne. During this period the standard and originality of pieces were well on par with other movements throughout the world. There were certain individuals, featured in the book, that made epic contributions to the development of local city styles and global graffiti originality.

Karl: A tricky one to answer. I am completely removed from the scene and have been since about 93’.  I’m pleased to see that it continues to evolve both here in Melbourne and internationally.

Martin: I’m not involved with the current Melbourne graffiti scene, so I don’t know. There is some quality work around, but I do however, see a larger majority of mediocre work appearing around town which I find lacks originality, follows cliche composition models, global style trends and is not pushing the parameters of the artform into new dimensions or directions. Too many writers are easily influenced by ‘whos trendy’, like Revok, Sento and diposable style that is dated before it even goes on the wall. Graffiti Art has always been about getting out there and experimenting, having fun and getting your name out there, but, like any discipline, there has to be discipline. The easiest and hardest thing in the world is to be original. The most important aspect of graffiti art is understanding what style is. Not painting huge multi coloured walls with 100 pieces on it, characters, landscapes and shit that have pieces with no style. If there is no style, there’s no point, that to me is one of the most fundamental things that have been overlooked in the current climate. Writers like Tame and Paris have endured over generations and still continue to produce astonishing, wholly original work and develop ‘fresh’ style. Hopefully new writers will see the innovations and enormous reputation Melbourne carved out for itself over the formative years, be inspired and take things to a new level of letter construction supremacy and innovation.

How has the scene and attitudes developed since 1983?
Duro: In the early days it was new. Never seen before, a new movement inspired directly from New York City. With this came accumulated knowledge, the handing down of traditions, local folklore, painting techniques etc. It was all about mentoring, learning, competing and being inspired by each other.

Karl: The scene back then was extremely raw and gritty, we didn’t have the internet to depend on for personal research and you had to rely on limited resources such as Subway art and movies like Beat Street and Style Wars to gain an idea on what was happening overseas. The hype was spread through word of mouth.
The current Graff scene is increasingly gaining more public acceptance and appears to be fashionable. There seems to be just as much competition now between current artists and crews which will continue to keep the art form fresh and stimulating.

Martin: Due to the nature of the original generation, I think the ethos was harder, more uncompromising and people worked under much more scene and peer pressure to produce before unseen styles and innovation, rather than merely jumping on the bandwagon and producing what is trendy today. I also think that writers were completely motivated by the romance of New York and what was created on the subways by the true masters of this art and architects of the culture. The 83 – 93 kings way timeframe reflects 3 generations of writers that were all intrinsically connected, taught one another, knew the history and followed the same models and rules. As with any golden age, there was a vibe, a feeling and a unity that enveloped the entire scene and influenced the way people painted and lived. Its one of those visceral entities that doesn’t have a literal description or palpable explanation. It just was and is still felt through the memories of those that experienced it. You can see the magic in the artwork and tag styles that inhabit the book.

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Was there ever a golden age of Australian graffiti, or has each generation brought its own flavour?
Duro: Once again I can only talk about Melbourne. I consider the height of the scene 1988 to 1990 when the evolution of letter styles reached a more sophisticated nature making a complete evolutionary transition from naïve and abstract styles into a more technical and considered approach. Every generation since graffiti’s inception has brought its own flavour, Melbourne, Australia or wherever.

Karl: In 1986 USA crew formed. They were at the forefront of original and unique styles, crew members were prolific and they were leaders of the pack so to say. Their pieces were so memorable and inspiring. I was in awe of Prime Style and Astro Gaza. Later in 1988-89 this was also an unforgettable time for panels. Richmond station hosted Melbourne’s writers bench. On any given Saturday you could view up to 15 panels running.

Martin: The golden age of Melbourne was without doubt for me from 84 – 89. The originality and incredible quality of work produced in these times was encased in gold, locked in a vault of time and until now has only been accessible through private photographs. The book itself, now provides everyone an opportunity to share this history and interpret lost treasure through their own eyes. Every generation without a doubt brings their own flavour. The artform inevitably changes through a myriad of influences and generational mutations.

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The book covers quite a broad time frame in the history of Aussie graffiti. Where do you see it headed and who in your opinion are the current stand outs in bringing this artform forward?
Duro: There are too many current writers to name, Melbourne and Australia wide, that have enourmous talent and skill. What I hope people take away from this book is the understanding and acknowledgement that this is a 25 year old Melbourne and Australian subculture that still to this day plays host to generation after generation. Surely this is testament to the power and importance of writing.

Karl: We had to start somewhere; obviously we were compelled to highlight things as they were from the beginning. 83 to 93’ was a decade of decadence for Melbourne graffiti. The book celebrates this unforgettable era. Some of the artists currently involved in the scene are doing amazing stuff but I can’t really name names, but I’m constantly amazed by some of the stuff I see.

Where can we find more about the book?
kingswaybook.blogspot.com

comments

  1. Martin’s answer to : “How is the Australian/Melbourne graffiti scene different from what is going on in the rest of the world?” was the hi light for me.

    Great interview seriously can’t wait for the book.

    -_-;, June 28th, 2009 at 4:23 am
  2. Amen.

    Quackadopoulos, July 8th, 2009 at 6:39 pm
  3. Hey guys
    Great book Really enjoyed the stroll down memory lane and I congratulate you all on a job well done-
    However I feel there were some omissions and some mis-information presented,but nothing too too bad..
    Next time some new skool dude tries to tell me what time it is
    I can refer them to this mostly accurate manuscript-That alone gives me great joy-word!

    Snareasaurus, July 9th, 2009 at 3:47 am
  4. omg wat an awesome interview!!!!!!!!!1

    monty, August 4th, 2009 at 2:21 am
  5. Hey snare This is PISAUROUS just wanted to make a comment about your views on the book and voice some of mine also> Firstly congrats on a effort well done to the boys on the Book KINGSWAY. I was at the book launch myself and what a awesome reunion it was , so mad to catch up with all the old faces although I have to agree on your comments that there were some ommissions. I would of liked to have seen some more STR CW old skool burners on the pagers as there was some def panelsand pieces that could of been included., but over all great job on this book!!!! Where's number 2!!!

    Adam Carter C/O, April 22nd, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  6. Just stopping by to say what's up to Duro great job!

    DURO CIA TOP, May 26th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
  7. I used to think graffiti was cool until I lived in Los Angeles. I don't think it's cool any more. Graffiti is about gangs and associated activities and down~line in Australia it is viewed as cool and underground. Not cool not underground not art.

    Karls, October 10th, 2010 at 1:42 pm
  8. TO MY SECOND HALF WRITER, GOOD TO SEE YOUR KEEPING IT REAL GOOD JOB PEACE AND GOD BLESS!

    Duro Cia Top, December 12th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

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