Caib KOC RCF has for some years been at the forefront of the Sydney graffiti scene, with his unique and unorthodox, yet trademark and notorious style of graffiti, no holds barred and no boundaries. We recently caught up with Caib for a rare view into the mind of this master of avante garde burning.
ILG: When did you start being a graffiti writer and what influenced you into writing graffiti?
CAIB: I started bombing trains and did my first Pieces in 88/89 after finding a copy of Subway Art in my local bookstore.
Prior to this, I used to tag and work back patches on white long sleeve collared shirts, an influence I had picked up from the band of my youth, Suicidal Tendencies. Their Albums and Videos were full of Skate and West Coast/LA Gang related markings, mostly on walls, pools and other terrain. Parts of my neighborhood looked like Venice Beach for a while there ,)
I had been involved in breaking for a short while during the global blitz of 1984, but I was more of a media puppet and hadn’t taken to tagging at this time. Racking paint was always fun too which was a major contributing factor…
ILG: What are you first memories of seeing graffiti?
CAIB: I was first exposed to Graffiti during the „Hip Hop“ media blitz of 1984/5 in music videos, TV, record & tape covers and magazine articles. There was very little Graffiti in my hometown when I started – there were certainly no other writers. It wasn’t until I started traveling to Sydney and Newcastle by train in my teen years that pieces became stamped in my subconscious. There was something innately different about seeing a piece with my own eyes and seeing a picture of it. This was in 1988.
ILG: What were your early influences?
CAIB: I suppose in hindsight, the rawness and spontaneity of Skating and the Punk Metal scene of the eighties played a big part, as I never felt constrained in my early years to conform to a standard (The „Hip Hop“ standard). I remember thinking that I was probably the only person in Australia still doing pieces, even though I had only just started, not sure why, but as soon as others started to appear (tags in the neighborhood) I started hitting trains hard.
In 1990, I met up with some old RCF & RCJ writers and in particular Sevn & Auke, who despite my toy status treated me with the same respect that they would an old friend. Whilst I had been listening to Hip Hop through the eighties it was never as appealing as the electro and underground Hip Hop which they introduced me to at the time. Sevn gave me photos and Auke showed me how to make markers. This was and remains a big influence today on how I treat other writers I meet for the first time today – with respect and no ego.
ILG: What influences you today?
CAIB: These days I start every piece with a blank mind – no sketches (no limitations or constraints). I haven’t sketched in years, preferring the fluidity of the can, starting with my final outline and working my way backwards from there, touching up and playing with the outline towards the end – as though it was an element of “fill”.
Available paint (usually the cheapest), the surface and time also dictate the flow.
ILG: What/who directly influences your style and flow?
CAIB: My current style started in the early nineties as a way to challenge people’s perception of what graffiti should be. I never really understood the motivation behind doing a sketch on paper and then copying it onto a wall and going through the same motions time after time in a „colour by numbers“ sort of way, or comparing one piece with another. For a while the challenge of something new influenced my direction.
Some of my experimental work that I thought was original in the early 1990’s I later found similar examples of in months and years later from Australia and around the world, when magazine distribution went global. These days it’s more the thought that all that has been done or „said“ around the world is still not enough. I also like to think I have a few things in my amoury that are quintessentially mine.
ILG: What crews have you written with and write with at present?
CAIB: The first major crew I put up was RCJ and NRC, a few years later I wrote with the BRP Boys. I first met Exit in 1992 and was also good friends with Avske, Oke, Hyst and Rush 173 through the „Rave“ scene in Brisbane where I was living and working at the time. Even though I still considered my stuff to be pretty average, Exit put me down with the crew – KOC. As I say, my style was only in it’s early stages, but I remember quite clearly, Exit saying to me „I like your stuff, it’s different, you don’t see that a lot these days“ These were some pretty inspiring words at the time, and many of the guys in the crew were doing some pretty inspiring work. I have pretty much only put up KOC since 92/3 and the Affiliated ‚Rapid Fire‘.
In 2009 Sevn asked me to represent RCF which was kind of like things coming full circle for me, having started out with RCJ way back.
ILG: What is the funniest/most unique/interesting thing to have gone down while out painting?
CAIB: Myself, Phal and Hems were doing wholecars in a shed near Newcastle. I took enough paint to do 2, stashing a second bag inside one of the cars. A security guard stormed in after about 15 minutes chasing us around the place – it was hard enough getting in, getting out was going to be a problem. As there was 1 security and 3 of us, I headed in my own direction hoping he would stick with chasing the other 2, which he dutifully did. I soon noticed he had come through a doorway that he left open, so I split. The other 2 eventually got away. We found out later on that a cop at the local youth centre had my bag of paint that had been stashed in the second car. Turned out he appreciated Hems‘ work around town and tracked him down to return the bag. To cut a long story short, The Security guard was a national Karate champion and yeah, I got the paint back.
ILG: Being a member of such a heavyweight crew as KOC, do you find you are influenced by the works of your fellow members to advance your work further?
CAIB: In the early days for sure, Avske one of the crew’s founders was easily one of the most innovative writers on the scene and we would often discuss ideas and share thoughts on where we thought Graffiti was headed. I was always stoked on the level of originality of style we could put together on a wall. I think it’s fair to say though, we were never and still would never bite or „share“ style amongst the crew. no matter how you try to pass it off, if you have two writers in a crew doing the same or very similar thing, to me it’s biting. It represents a weakness of mind and a lack of respect for the artform.
I always thought of a crew as a collection of like-minded individuals, not similar styles etc. The point of a crew is to achieve things that an individual can’t ordinarily do, productions, wholecars, end to ends, hold security at bay in a yard while every one finished their piece and in days gone by, sourcing large volumes of paint. In these ways we were always competitive with each other on that level, encouraging the things we liked in each others work and cutting down anyone that did anything resembling that of another writers work. Sure we pay homage and did certain things with an appropriate measure of respect, but we never took style or fill/design influence from each other without twisting it into a new idea – burning.
I think it’s fair to say, as a crew in the 90’s we copped more flack and negativity than any other crew, mostly for our styles – breaking the mold, techno/hardcore influences and our subsequent influence on others. This in many ways made us stronger. Ironically as a crew our members still represent the traditional „4 elements“ more than most.
ILG: Can it be somewhat intimidating or difficult to keep on the cutting edge?
CAIB: That’s probably a question best left for others. I certainly don’t find anything I do difficult. I haven’t really sketched/ done an outline for years, preferring the spontaneity and physicality of the can to the irrelevancy of a pencil and paper. That to me is an unnecessary step and one that only places limitations on the final piece. I also like to use cheap paint, chisel tips and vintage tins, the feel, the smells they all inspire uniqueness in their own way. Also, working with limited resources as I have in recent years, places a kind of arbitrary limit on how progressive one can actually be…
ILG: Are any other writers are doing it for you at the moment?
CAIB: To be honest, I don’t pay enough attention to know what’s going on… there seems to be too much self-promotion and advertising these days that you have to sift through to find the interesting stuff online. I do spend 90% of my time on Flickr though, getting inspired by the photography – the documentation of graffiti, trains and potential canvasses… I like the unexpected stuff you find buried deep, the kind of thing that makes you stop and think, but never actually remember by who, when or where it was…
ILG: Trackside, panels, bombing or a chill wall?
CAIB: There’s a time and place for all those things… the thing I fear most is giving up on any one of them.
ILG: Any major projects in the pipeline?
CAIB: More kids
ILG: What is the best piece of advice you have been given along your journey?
CAIB: „Red, orange and yellow. You want it to stand out, the whole thing, around the whole works – red, orange, yellow.“
ILG: What is the best piece of advice you can give to up and coming writers, still trying to find their feet and direction?
CAIB: For a time, imitation can be a worthwhile path, while you hone the skills of fills and line work.
There are many talented artists out there that have spent their whole lives engaged in this form of mimicry – some have even been quite successful.
By all means educate yourself on the history of the art form and the movement in New York in the 70’s and 80’s but don’t become a „follower“, Don’t adopt others beliefs as your own, explore your own path and contribute something original – express your self, self-expression is after all the point of art in the first place.