Airone: What do you write and when did you start writing?
Jean 13: My main names are Jean 13 and Flare 170, but I have also at times written other names like Zac, Koos, Dutch, Sto 56 and the very first name I started with and that was Rebel1 back in the early 70's.
Airone: What's behind that names?
Jean 13: Every other name was just me messing around, but Jean 13 and Flare 170 have a history of their own, for instance Jean 13 came about cause I used to wear jeans and nothing but jeans and I like the way it looked when I wrote it on paper, plus the 13 part of the name came about cause every one is scared of the number 13 and since I never believed in luck I wanted to show the multitude of fools out in the world that luck is a word someone made up a long time ago and if luck was real the number 13 would destroy me, so that's how that name and number came about.
The name Flare is actually a name I made up for a friend of mine and his street name was Screwball a small group of little kids (us) made a little club of writers and they were going to be the biggest names in the graffiti world and I was one of the leaders of the little club and Screwball didn't want no one to know who he was 'cause if his mother found out, him being black if she did she would have beat his ass so hard and no one would know what color it turned cause black is black and his ass was black ha ha hahhhhh.
On our first day out to the trains we wanted to go bombing and we went to the lay ups between 103 Street and 110 Street subway stations on Broadway number 1 line, and we bomb about 15 to 20 subway cars and on the way out of the tunnels we just had to hit the beams on the tracks before climbing on the platform and going to the streets for more targets like the buses and garbage trucks plus the mail trucks and vans.
So we were all tagging on the beams and someone shouted train coming and we look down towards 96 street train station and two eyes are coming from far away and the track were sparking electricity letting us know that the train is moving fast, so we started to climb back on the platform and we all got up on it and started to go towards the exit, but wait, when we look, Screwball was trying to get up at the end of the train station and couldn't get up on it and now the train was getting closer cause we could feel the rumble coming very fast so I ran as fast as I could to screwball and he said help me get up, and I grabbed his hand and tryed to pull him and I couldn't cause he was too heavy for me we were only 11 years old and skinny, and the train now started to blow its horns and blow his horns but it was not slowing down and the sound of the train with its horns blasting and the rumble kept getting bigger and bigger and I was trying so hard and I was yelling at him to try harder to help me and he was crying and the train was coming now so fast and the horns blowing so hard and I closed my eyes and pulled with all my might and just as the train came through the tunnel I pulled screwball up and he fell on top of me and the sound of the train roaring in was scary and it blew me away, and we ran like rats out of the station just in case there were police on that train, after that screwball said, thats enough for me, I quit being a writer and I'll never do it again, so I said ok then I'll take your name Flare and make it mine, and that's how that name became my own.
Airone: Where do you come from?
Jean 13: I come from Manhattan in New York City, in those days I lived in 90th street between Columbus Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, and the very best thing that could have happened to any grafitti writer on this earth was that on 89th street and Columbus Avenue there was a place called N.O.G.A. (Nation Of Grafitti Artist) a place that if it were still here today would be the biggest grafitti writer home base on the planet earth, cause I know all grafitti artist would want to come to it like if it was their home.
They would give us and anyone that came in, paper and markers to draw or do any kind of art that you wanted to do it didn't have to be grafitti or you could take dance lessons or martial arts and lots and lots of other things that was going on in this place free, and it was a very big place, and one of the best things was that when you went in the front doors a big display case with glass was in the front and it had grafitti pieces on paper and in color from all the great names of that era and I wanted to hold any one of those pieces but it was sealed so no one could touch them and in N.O.G.A. I met or heard awesome and crazy storys about the biggest names in the grafitti world at that time and let me tell you that it was the very peak of the golden age of grafitti, a time when you would go down the subway stairs and it was a world of its own and when any train would pass by you would see the most beautiful grafitti on the subways that you could ever imagine and all the classic cartoons you could see, and I know that modern writers would kill to have been there and see how a super joy it was to have graffiti fever and to be a part of such a great time in graffiti history.
In todays seen I see lots of out of this world beautiful graffiti that I only wish I could do, I know I can learn cause I can figure it out but I hear that there are too many of todays writers that don't have nice things to say about old writers, and they forget or are too blind to see the bigger picture that with out the old writers doing what they did back then, they would not be here today cause they don't see that the buttom is what holds up the top and you can't just be the top, it won't work, but I've also met some of todays writers that are very kind and want to know just how it really was in a time when their ansestors were ruling the scenes of the kraft of grafitti, and again most of today graffiti artist are beyond great, the art is a lot better now, but the time for it is not as great as the past.
Airone: How is it your family background? Which way your "being a writer" conditionated your family living?
Jean 13: My family background is very simple, my mother had 8 children and I was the very last one, my brothers called me the tail.
I had 4 brothers and 4 sisters and it went like this boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl, like that. When my brothers and sisters got to the ages of 14 or 15, they went out on their own and had familys of their own very young. Only me and the youngest girl stayed with my mother till we were 19 years old.
Me being a writer changed my whole life cause after so many experiences that happened on my way in life as a writer, I learned a lot of things along the way, one of the very best things I've learned was to put art in everything I do, no matter what you are going to do, do it with a passion and try to love as much as possible all things you do and always look for the positive in all matters, and never give in to sadness or jealousy or gilt or anger.
Airone: You just said that you consider the moment you started as the gold years of Writing in NY. What was the feeling between writers about what was happening in the subway system? Do you felt it was something that could go on forever?
Jean 13: The feeling between writers was, if you knew some one that was famous in the trains and he was your friend you had some juice in a way even if you were a super toy, but most writers had one thing that was like the skin on their bodys and that was that they didnt want anyone to bite their stuff, and if you got some one mad biting their style you were looking for a beat down from the person you were biting or their boys who would protect the guy with the bigger name and more ups.
No one was paying attention to things like will this last for ever cause that's something that wouldnt come up, all of us were just looking at life one day at a time and the future was something you would think about when you were not doing graffiti, and frankly the way we used to look at the future was in the way of spaceships and things of that nature.
Airone: If cops are what writers expect to be their main "problem" since when Writing was born, back in the days a lot of writers had also to survive to many type of gangs looking for troubles, and some of them were just made of other writers. From the stories I heard, Grand Concourse could have been really dangerous too.
What's the true behind these stories?
Jean 13: A very strong feeling that was out there, was that we would not make it pass a certain age, I myself never thought I would live pass 25 years old and if I were to think of being 30 years old, I most surely would think that I would be dead, cause you were not supposed to make it to that age in the savage world we used to live in and the funny thing about it was that this kind of thinking was fine with us, we wanted to die young, dieying old was for fools and we thought we could do anything including dieying gloriously in battle in the streets, and that came from the crime and punishment books we used to read and love so much, Al Capone was our hero and we used to make wars on gangs in the street in a fashion that was not used for thousands of years, when we would arrange a fight with a gang we would set it up so some weapons were allowed, no guns, but everything else, so since I used to love the wars of the ancient world, I would use their tactics and we used to win every battle this way and never lost a fight no matter how much bigger the other guys were, and the roman empire taught me a lot of lessons, the bats with the nails coming out in every direction and the metal garbage can lids for protection and the broom sticks with the sharpened end like the macedonians were all used with the greatest skill in a time that these war tactics were gone, and before engaging we would bang on the garbage can lids and make as much noise as possible.
Yes gangs were out ther in a way that it was dangerous to go to the store and get something for your mother, there were gangs in some parts of the city that were 5 blocks apart and every avenue had them and it was just a nightmare to some one that wasnt a part of that seen cause it was impossible to walk anyplace with out someone checking you out, and if you respected someones turf, you would turn your colors inside out and pass through that way and no one would bother you, and you knew these guys anyway, some you hated and some were cool, but every once in a while you joined forces to battle some one that had joined forces with other groups to do battle with you or some of your friends, and some of those gangs were writers that were out to get anyone that was a target or if you did them or a friend wrong, and it was dangerous cause a lot of times you would be alone in very dark places and if some one was looking for you and they found you, you better had planed an escape, some how if this happened to you and most writers had an escape hole some place that they either made that day or a common one cause not all gangs member were familiar with every hole around.
The Grand Concourse was not dangerous 'cause that was a neutral place and every body knew that if you were going to start something there, no one would want to be around you, but of course some gangs couldnt help themselves and if they saw someone that they were looking for they would give chase and every one there would leave cause the cops would be on their way soon and they would love to give you a hard time, so the Concourse was neutral cause you didnt want to bring heat from the police to a place were it was the number one hang out for all writers and you got to see the living legends of the times just sitting there next to you and all most toys did was drool and ask for a tag in their books, and some toys would go the next day and tell every one that they knew a famous graffiti writer and since most toys didnt know any better they would buy it and treat them like heros.
Airone: Could you tell us about your crew and the other crews you hang out with? Which crews were the most respected when you just started painting and you were looking at them like masters crews?
Jean 13: The crews I was part of were crews that not too many people write about cause every one writes about the same old crews and they dont get off and see that there were more crews out there that did just as much as the same old ones that every one talks about. I see how most books are centered on the same people all the time.
The crews I'm going to list, were crews that were out there in the thick of things and with 4 times the members as any of the talked about crews:
BYB (the Bad Yard Boys), The Crew, The Mob, The Avengers, The Spanish Five, 3YB (the 3 Yard Boys), 6yb (the 6 Yard Boys), the Ink Spots, CYA (Crazy Young Artist), Challenge To Be Free, The Death Squad, and one of the crews I loved the most was POG (Prisners Of Grafitti).
I'm going to tell you that in the history of graffiti only one crew has the title as the most tagged and with the most members, and that is BYB, simply put, it got around more than any crew and it was the only crew that was tagged in every subway car in new york city in all the time graffiti lived in the new york subway system, and you will get some people that are going to say no way, but if you werent there shut up and accept it 'cause I've never quit graffiti and I started in 1973 and I've seen the change in all the ages of this craft and I was there an able to tell you a different story than the same old ones you've heard over and over again, and some crews were hard to get into cause if you didnt have killer style or were just not good enough, you could kiss your chances of gitting in goodbye, I respect that some guys wanted to be in a class by themselves, but the way I see it now, the getting around as much as possible was better by far than only having a small group of guys that could burn and single themselves out and not let others in their circle and teach them how to burn, I mean most of these guys had it down packed and they could have passed on their skills but like most writers they didnt want anyone to use their style, and some took some seriously beautiful skills to their grave and thats a shame 'cause we could show the next generations what was out there, in a way like the way history is taught at school, they teach you the past and if you would like to you can apply it to your present and make something new, imagine that, one of the classes in any school would be a grafitti course and you would be graded on it.
Airone: In your opinion, what have been the Writing "top inventions" in the gold age, the ones that you believe have pushed the art to a next level? Is it there something introduced by yourself that you are proud of?
Jean 13: As far as inventions, I've havent seen many, but the ones I've noticed were the window down and the whole cars were things that moved graffiti to the street level, cause before top to buttoms came out no one did handball courts or school yards cause all this was born on the subway and of course someone saw a handball court and said hey that looks just the page I was practicing on got some paint together and just started hitting the school yards, some other writers passing by said oh man look at that and they in turn did their own school yard and so on, and I'm talking about the earlyer parts of the beginning of grafitti 1970-71-72.
Graffiti had no level change for a long time cause it was basicly the same as it started all the way to the end (the buff) and the silver bullits, graffiti was done the same way all the time weather in the subway or the streets, it just involved a sketch-some paint-and you, and that was the beauty of it, that it didnt require a great deal of preparation just basic things and imagination.
I personally just added to graffiti by just being a member of a great times in art history and I did my part in this moment in time, I just hope that it doesnt just disappear in a future time like I know that there must have been great artist in times pass, that in their time they may have been doing something that caught on and every one that was into art was doing it for a while, but as time went by and they dyed off, so did their craft and in time it was forgotten, its important to see things that way that it could happen cause in reality graffiti is not that old and for a time it looked like it was going to die when the buff came cause it stopped for a while, but the street seen took up the slack and the next level was put into action in full force and that was that from that point on, the streets were to dominate the grafitti world, its next level was lanched for good and now it's seen more than ever before, so much so that after a while the paint companys caught on and said this is a way of making money if we sell to these artist, and now writers of this age have benefits that we never enjoyed I hope the next level is far better than any of the old timers would have imagined.
Airone: Stealing cans, racking markers and ink was everyday job when you were painting subways. Nowadays most of the writers worldwide buy their cans: security in shops has totally changed from the 70's and writers who start painting now are older and richer. Some color companies even sponsor bunch of writers. Producing spray cans has become a great business.
Probably, Writing would not exist if back in the days writers couldn't steal colors…
Jean 13: Stealing cans and markers was indeed a job and the way it went for me and my friends was like this: on monday and every chance that came around, in the morning we wouldnt go to school and go down town to the village or to small mom and pop stores and try every store in the city just to test the waters in that store, this took all week long to acomplish.
Art stores and hardware stores were the favorites, in some stores it was the same thing all the time no one would pay attention to you and you could just rack all the paint you could with out looking like you got something under your coat, some stores they would follow you aroud and not give you a break, so in stores like that all you had to do was get a friend that didnt look like he was a theif or would do anything like that and while the store personel was following you this kid was racking up for you, but I had a friend named Set11 that was the best thief in the world when it came to racking, I mean this guy looked like a crook and they would follow him all the time in every store no matter were it was, and for some damm reason I havent figuered out to this day, when we would come out of the store and no one had a prayer of getting anything from these stores, Set11 would go under his jacket and pull out 4 or 5 cans, and he did this every place and never got caught, he was the ace of aces when it came to stealing, and if you let him loose in a mom and pop store he would come out with enough markers and paint and ink for the year.
The idea was to have as much paint stored up in the week so on the weekend we would load up our suitcases that we found in the garbage and fixed up with paint and go to the tunnels/yards/lay ups, and when we would go to the tunnels and lay up on 145th Street on the number 1 line, we would stay for the whole weekend from friday night to sunday night, and we took the same suitcases that we brang the paint in empty it out and go the super market above in the street, we would go in with empty suitcases and in the supermarket we would fill it up with food and just walk out and have a feast in the subway cars and no one in the supermarket ever bothered us and never saw us taking food, and by the time sunday night would come around we would be dead tired and dirty like dirt bombs with paint all over our faces and nose hairs and our hands were black with dirty colors, the one thing I remember was leaving a black ring in the bath tub after I took a bath.
Those were the good old days. So yes Writing would not have been the same if we had to buy our paint or markers cause we were super poor and 10 or even 20 dollars was beyond our ability at that time and if that was the case we wouldnt be having this interview.
Airone: Ok, I want to go back to the people you painted with, 'cause you told me other times that back in the days there used to be a lot of girls involved in Writing, and I believe this is a really untold story. So what can you tell us about those writers, and what happened to them?
Jean 13: Back in 1975 some girl writers were on the seen and it was awesome to see that they too loved to piece as much as the male writers ‘cause you could see that they were down and they wanted to get up as much as the males did,the ones that used to get up were: Sharon, Betty Boop, Gloria 1, Debbie, Millie and those names were just plain names but they were out there and they were done by girls,and back then like today it was so rare that we used to see how they wanted to be writers and bomb everything in sight, so when ever possible we used to put them up with our names and they used to do the same for us,they were older then the little bunch of dirt bombs we were and they loved us cause we were in the same frame of mind, we wanted to get up.
We used to make markers together from erasers stolen from school and they had the same ink stains in their clothes like we had I mean everything was like if there were no gender just people hanging out,all we and they knew was writing,nothing else was bigger in life and I still remeber the first time we met these girls,it was on the A line in the 81 Street station and Sharon was making a colored piece on the track walls and at first we went down to just throw some tags and we stopped and we smelled spray paint and then we heard the hissing sound and shaking of cans and we came close to the sound and there was nobody there,and we stood there just looking at a piece freshly made and no one there,and then from under the platform a head sticks out and it was a girl and we said whoooaaahhh,and she smiled and went back to pieceing and sked us to keep an eye out for cops and we stood gaurd from one end of the station to the other end and remember that this was 2 am in the morning so there wasnt too much traffic from people or trains,and when she finished we got closer to the finished piece and told her she was awesome and she was smiling and she put her cans back in her back pack and asked us what we write,and we told her and she gave us one of her cans and told us to get down next to her piece and we did and then she grabbed the can and tagged next to us,and after this we all sat in the bench on the platform and talked about grafitti and other writers, some we knew and some she knew, but it was a bunch of dirt bomb just talking about the subject that dominated their lives and that was grafitti.
She told us of places to rack cans that was real easy and that she was going to be doing some pieces in 145 Street tunnels on friday about 1am and if we wanted to come and join her there, and we didnt even said yeah before we started thinking that we were going to go to the tunnels that night and wait for her, we were very excited and I couldnt sleep for the rest of that week.
When the time came and it was midnight friday night we were there waiting in the tunnels keeping it very quite and having our ears on to see if we would hear anyone coming in the tunnels,and about 1:15am we see someone coming in the tunnels and we counted three people coming in so we hid and waited till they got closer and as these people got closer we saw Sharon with two other girls but we didnt know they were girls cause the had hoods on and as soon as Sharon saw us she waved and the other girls took off their hoods and we said look-more chicks, Sharon got so happy that we were there and she said you little rats are cool, we asked the other girls if they wrote and they said no that they were there just to come with Sharon, it was a really cool time and we also met the other girl writers but just once and never saw the other girl writers again but we would see new pieces they would throw up now and then, and as for Sharon we saw her get up more and more but after that day on the 145 st tunnels we never saw her again and we were looking for her all the time and going back to see if she would show up again on the 81 st A line station but never caught up to her,but she was older than us and had more of a grown up life and in time we went about our own writing and just forgot all about her and the others cause now and then you would meet girl writers, but they wouldnt amount to much ‘cause you really had to have the fever about writing and it took over your life and nothing was more important than writing graffiti. In 1984 I met the last girl writer I would meet in a long time and her name was Jigs, a german girl real sweet and knew her stuff and she had the passion for our kraft, we hung out a few times but lost touch, I miss that girl.
Airone: I believe that you are telling a great truth when you say that "every one writes about the same old crews and they don't get off and see that there were more crews out there that did just as much as the same old ones that every one talks about".
So what happened back in the days in the graffiti writers culture? I mean, it seems that you oldschool writers have been very bad in documenting your own story and giving them to the new generations.
It seems that something started changing just after the publishing of Subway Art but the problem is, please correct me if I'm wrong, that after this book just some of the artists that were in it, and later in Spraycan Art, have been passed on to the future generations and still get fame for that…
Jean 13: Documenting what we were doing back then was something that in many ways was not in our heads to do, in the sense that we werent looking at what we were doing as something that was going to become what it did, ‘cause as far as I’m concerned all I wanted to do was paint and take pictures of my stuff just because of the way the MTA used to buff out our stuff, sometimes the very next day, I wanted to see how it came out from a platform cause when you are doing the piece and you are up close to it you cant really get the whole picture and it was very important to see it from a distance.
Its a good thing that many pictures were taken by the artists themselves and by others interested in grafitti art cause if not, lots of art that was done in the subways would have been lost to history and never again would they have been seen and would only live in the memorys of the writers of the times and you know that in time they start to die off and lost they would be for sure, cause I wish I had some kind of time machine that I could go back in time and get all the grafitti that no one has pictures of that slipped through the cracks of the camera lenses and will never be seen by anyone that was not there, and as I said, we the ones that were there are dieing off one by one.
In a way its a very good thing to have those books on grafitti cause even if some one is not into grafitti they can ask questions about what was this form of art that was going on and how was it that they did it??? And those people that were in these books are very fortunate to have been recorded, and in history they will go down as art heros of a time that is fast becoming the far away past, plus remember that in 20 years from now we might all be gone, the ones from that far away past, and I bet grafitti would still be around in its new form what ever that might be, and then is when I think grafitti will be studied more like something of a mistery, and lots more effort will be made maybe even on the part of the goverment to study and see what made grafitti tick and how did it really get started and how has it survived all that time and exactly where is it heading to, cause the ones that originally made it come to be, didnt document it enough so it wouldnt need a real effort to find out just how it started, but it would be in the libraries so anyone can just go to the art section and dig it up.
Airone: Another question linked to the one above. Is it out there an artist that you think nobody ever talk or wrote about and you would like at least to bring the lights on his job?
Jean 13: I dont know about any one else but in my opinion the very best graffiti writer that I ever met was Noc 167, he by far was the sickest burner I ever saw and I’ve seen some stuff on paper that he made back in the mid late 70s that to this day I’ve not seen anyone come close to it, the man was on an angel dust trip all the time and he used to come out with the wicked burners, I tryed this drug and it worked but the price is way too high, and what I mean with that is that you can bring out your deepest talents, but, if you are not strong enough to mess with this crazy insane mans drug… dont go near it cause instead of getting the talent out, you might let loose a hidden monster that you never knew you had and it can mess up your future and erase any chance of you having a life and thats just too a high price cause you can do it without it, but some people need more help than others, in my case I did it for two weeks straight and went places in my head I still remember, and I still see how dark it was every place I went, it was just not a good place to be or the feeling was not that great but I just had to experiment and see for myself so I could have some insight on how it works and use it to my advantage but after those two weeks I found myself coming out of a place that I didnt want to go back to cause it was a down and dark place where you really didnt get much but a little outlook on what you thought would be a big pay off in the way of art and how to let a more creative mind let loose its art friutage, and I was wrong about trying this cause it was after I found out this was in a way, a self inflicked nightmare, that I came to understand that I could find an ever better ways of letting loose my imagination without anything like serious drugs and I saw how at the same time my friends couldnt handle it and went berzerk and wanted to attack his mother that before he took this drug love her more than anything in the world.
He soon quit and saw it as the biggest danger on earth to sane people.
Noc 167 could handle this drug and was very good at doing things while stoned on it (more power to him)
Also a guy named Volcan impressed me in the early 80s, he was very good and no one has ever heard of him, I still think about him a lot, 2Mad CYA prez, Daze, Dez, Steam, Chain 3, Part 1, Reveolt, Zephir, Set 11, Mac 1, Ram 7, So 3, Dj, Bt3 and one of my favorite writers of all time is king Kase, known as one arm Kase, this dude is awesome as an artist.
And the Elvis Presly of the graffiti world was Dean BYB king and legend. He had more tags than anyone in the history of graffiti and at one point he had one piece on every train in the system at the same time. In was a early 70s favorite, Moses 147 was a guy that was looked up to cause at the time he did some pretty big pieces in place that it took balls to get away with. Team and Fuse, Wasp and Schick, Trex, Paid 3, Anthony, Coke, super early 70s his real name was Herbie and he was a close friend, we used to go piecing together and that was when I was 12 and he was 20 years old and already I was better than him and he used to say I can just imagine when you get older if you are still doing this you will be one of the greatest writers around and funny he should say that cause in 1985 when I did the Flare piece that you saw, that was in the school yard on 83St between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues he was there telling me about how a long time ago he saw me as the greatest writer on earth and I said I’m far from being anything that a regular writer cause some guys were doing walls on the street that were some serious stuff and he would laugh and say you’ll see someday you’ll see.
Airone: You told me that the "Sting Ray" piece was the first piece in the really first graffiti hall of fame on earth. That's very interesting, this story has to be told!
Jean 13: The story on the first graffiti hall of fame has been mentioned but not been told too many times to make anyone talk about it, and of course you will find all kinds of writers telling anyone that would listen that anyone making it look like they were part of the first gafitti hall of fame is not telling it right, but the reality of the real story is that no one wants the real story about that to come out, cause they in fact don’t really know, and most but not all, most graffiti writers in general are a bunch of jealous people that if they don’t see themselves in the front of it, they don’t want anyone to be ahead of them in anything that has to do with grafitti.
You are going to read right now the real story about how the first graffiti hall of fame came about, on 105th Street between 3rd Avenue and 2nd Avenue a guy named Ray Rodriguez had an office, and from that office I got a call inviting me to come over and talk about grafitti and if I would like I could do a little something on the walls and just have fun, and i said hell yeahhh, so I went there and met a couple of writers that were there piecing and one of them was Vulcan and another writer was Dez,and I saw that in this office there were many pieces all around and this office was pretty long like from the front of the building to the back of the building and all along the walls I saw big giant bumbles bees and butter flys in awesome colors and some jazzy stuff on ground level.
Soon one of the guys that came in was king Kase himself and I was there with my black book and it had lots of nice pieces in it that I wanted to show to Ray Rodriguez ‘cause he said that he heard about my black books as being one of the best around and that he wanted to pick something out of one to put on the wall of his office, fine Ray saw it and pick one of the cartoons and I did it on the wall and he loved it, and then he told me that he was putting together some paint to do the school yard on 106st and park avenue and if I was interested in doing something for him there and I said like what do you want?? And he said I want you to do my name, and I said fine so I did a fast sketch on the spot and he said ok that’s what we will do, at the same time we are talking king Kase starts making fun of some writers that are there and Kase is known for mocking anyone and every one cause this guy is super tough and his one arm is made out of steel and no one can beat him in a fight, and like I said he makes it look like no one is good enough and that he is one of the best of the best, and he was at that time very very good, and no one would mess with him, he had nothing good to say about noe in the graffiti world, and for some strange reason he started to look at my book and everyone was looking at him cause he was saying things like heyy this is good^*$#@+ all faces were like what????? and he went on and said this is damm good ***, and he blew all away when he said to me hey kid you are beginning to scare me with these bubble gum colors, and he asked me to sit next to him and we started talking and he asked me to go piecing with him something that was not heard of unless you were an elite writer, I didnt think much of it like the other guys took it ‘cause this wasnt the first time something like that happened to me, it used to happen a lot.
Ray Rodriguez took all of us to the school yard to discuss how we were going to do it and how much paint it would take to fill up that massive wall, cause the wall had some pieces on it from the earlyest days of grafitti to some kids just throwing up all over each other, it was messy cause it was all at shoulder level and only one piece above was clear, way up in the center of the wall was one piece and that was Cliff 147 and he was the guy that always did his piece upside down the rest of the wall was in it natural cement color with just tags here and there. It was messy.
Now came the day when we were back in Rays Rodriguez office and he had about 1000 cans in every color that Krylon made at that time and dig this I don’t know how but Ray Rodriguez had connections with city goverment cause it was the city of New York that paid for the paint that would paint the very first graffiti hall of fame, wow if I only had a picture of that, looking at my book Ray Rodriguez asked me why was it that on every piece in the corner I put in a little box and write bubbles hall of fame?? and I told him that I put that in all my drawings and pieces ‘cause that’s my trade mark and that’s how anyone that sees my stuff knows it’s mine cause I had trouble with someone else saying that they were Jean 13 out in Brooklyn and believe it or not it was a friend of mine from my old neighborhood that was riding off my fame and getting girls to do anything he wanted cause back then I was really known and lots of girls would hear about me and want to me me.
So Ray Rodriguez said this time I dont want you to put up bubbles hall of fame, i want you to put up graffiti hall of fame, and I said fine so on the sketch I changed it to graffiti hall of fame, and when the piece was made, for the first time those words were writen on a mural that size cause for the first time on that wall the concrete could not be seen and from that time foward the wall on 106St and Park was known as the very first graffiti hall of fame and the pieces were Dez-Vulcan-and Sting Ray, that’s the real story behind the first graffiti hall of fame, cause 3 or 4 years later other hall of fames started coming out and we used to think to ourselves that we were first and no one really knew how it really happened, in the graffiti world back then news would travel fast and if a thing known as the graffiti hall of fame was around before ours, we would have heard about it cause we were part of the cutting edge of the graffiti world and everything in the way of news would come our way.
Airone: Outside the USA, you are probably worldwide known for your Flare piece (1985) featured in Spraycan Art. Althogh the wrong printed title on the book, that piece break out from that pages like something different from the rest of the pieces shown in the book, I love that piece it seems that the wildstyle opens the black clouds to a different dimension… it also seems very clean, shiny and big, even if from that photo there's nothing around to understand how big it was. Could you please tell us what's the story behind that nice production?
Jean13: The Flare piece you see on that book was never finished ‘cause the school gave me and a writer name Cad One that paint so we could do this mural,and we needed more paint but the principal of the school at the time (Mrs Obrian) was on vacation and we had to share the paint we had and it just wasn’t enough so I stopped at the point I thought it would be ok to leave it till i got more paint but as time went by we started doing other things and didn’t have time to finish them, we started getting lots of money from drug dealers who would pay big dollars to have rooms in their homes decorated in graffiti or in my case they wanted outer space scenery and I was and still am very good at that.
Airone: How you would describe your style?
Jean 13: The one thing about my style every one has always told me, is that it is not like anyone elses, and that's something I always was giving thought to, not to be like anyone else.
Airone: How old are you, are you still painting nowadays?
Jean 13: I'm 44 years old and yes I'm still painting these days, and soon I'm going to get some canvasas and some paint together I'm going to be painting some 36×48 canvasas along with so walls that I'm planning on painting , on the canvas some is grafitti and some are things like a giant rose and im going to paint and old style cho cho train in outer space and it's going to look as if it's going really fast and you know the part of the train that the steam comes out of at the wheels I'm going to have flames like a rocket ship coming out and this old train is going to be pulling subway cars with grafitti on them and to me it's going to be one of my greatest masterpieces cause I've been planning this one canvas for 4 years now and I think it's time to bring it to life.
Airone: What's about that crazy motorcycles you work on, is it your job? How much does it cost one?
Jean 13: Those bikes you saw are some minibikes I build from scatch with a pipe bender and a welding machine and the engines I use to make them go are snowblower engines that I modify to go really fast and I incoporate gokart parts and transmissions to have even higher speeds, I make all different kinds and I take the ones that are made in China like the pocket bikes and scooters and take the engines that came with them off and put in engines 4 times the size and they go so fast that your eyes tear up as you go down the streets, I sell these bikes on Ebay and the prices are from 500.00 to 1800.00 dollars.
Airone: Do you have any message you would like to give out to the writers that are outside painting right now?
Jean 13: I would like to tell all the writers out there that have the graffiti fever to remember that it is very important to keep graffiti alive for as long as possible and with that in mind try to remember that one way of keeping it alive is to teach those that might not know as much as you, and as much as possible if you can try to teach them everything you know and might have seen that someone else might be doing or did cause in the past even though is was denied by mostly all every one that was a graffiti writer in the long ago past, learned from someone else even if a person came up with some style that wasn't there before, the idea for his beginning started by looking at some letters someplace and that might have been a soda bottle or can -the letters with the name of a store, or a childrens book, it might have come from one of a thousand places but it came from someplace, don't ever let anyone tell you that they were original and that they are so different that their stuff came from no place 'cause that's a bunch of turtle ***.
Airone: The main trait of your nature?
Jean 13: Peaceful as a dove and as wise as a serpent.
Airone: Which is it the best quality in a man? In a women?
Jean 13: The best quality in any man or woman is the ability to love.
Airone: Your worst fault?
Jean 13: My worst fault is that I have the most negative outlook imaginable on myself.
Airone: The meeting that changed your life?
Jean 13: The meeting that changed my life was when I met a man named Steven Vargas he's a Jehovahs Wittness.
Airone: The happiest/worst day in your life?
Jean 13: The happiest day or the worst day in my life can only be noticed when I'm dead cause since I haven't lived my whole life yet I can't really answer that.
Airone: The nature's gift you would like to receive?
Jean 13: I would like nature to restore to me my old outlook on life that I may see the blue sky and the puffy white clouds once again.
Airone: The best gift you received ever?
Jean 13: The best gift I've ever recieved is the ability to put art into everthing I do, with that in mind a can do anything any man ever did or ever will do.
Airone: What do you hate more?
Jean 13: The one thing in this world that I hate with a passion and some serious depth is people that hurt children.
Airone: Most hated politician?
Jean 13: I don't get into politics I dont believe in them.
Airone: Most admired historic personality?
Jean 13: The person I admire the most is the son of the living God, Jesus Christ.
Airone: Preferite book?
Jean 13: Sorry to say that I don't really read books to the point that I would have a favorite one, I've read many books and not one impressed me, I like to be read to instead.
Airone: Preferite film?
Jean 13: My favorite movie is American Graffiti, it's about fast cars in the 60s.
Airone: Preferite singer/group/music?
Jean 13: The music of Gun and Roses, my favorite groups are Van Halen and groups from the 50s, and I like rap music from the mid 80s.
Airone: Preferite food and drink?
Jean 13: My favorite food is the the steak and potatoes at the australian resturant called Outbacksteakhouse.
Airone: Preferite city?
Jean 13: There is no other place like the great empire of Metropolis (New York City).
Airone: Preferite artist?
Jean 13: My favorite artist is Angus Mckie (HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE) he paints what's in my mind.
Airone: Preferite colours?
Jean 13: My favorite color is the blue of the sky.
Airone: The very first "Writing thing" you remember.
Jean 13: The very first Writing thing I remember is getting an Elmarko magic marker and catching my first tag.
Airone: The very first piece you saw and told yourself: "wow"!
Jean 13: The very first piece I ever saw was of Dean (BYB) in an abandoned garage that was the BYB club house.
Airone: Your next step.
Jean 13: My next step is to do graffiti with computer generated graphics and see what I might come up with and then what I see with the computer, I'll duplicate in spray paint.
Airone: Any last word?
Jean 13: Last words are, to the young and not so young artist up and coming today and tomorrow, to pay close attention to the things I've said in this interview and with an open mind believe in the fever that is apon you and remember that we are all prisners of graffiti.