12 Questions With SOEM – Graffiti, Style and Art
It’s been a long time coming, and finally our exclusive interview with SOEM is here to drop! We linked up with SOEM after his first art show in December and wanted to keep the positive vibes coming his way with a great full fledged interview. SOEM grew up in the Boston area writing graffiti with friends and working hard at perfecting his style ever since. He focused on letters and handstyles during his High School career and quickly learned about the world of graffiti as a young teen by the older kids of the school.
If you’re lucky, catching some original SOEM stickers and tags around the Boston area can be a real treat, but catching a piece or simple is just straight up luck.
1: Let’s get right down to business and let our readers know who you are and what you write?
Word up, I’m that dude people have met and seen before but didn’t notice. I’m a beat maker on occasion who record shops old vinyl records. Every once in a while you’ll see me in a line for a rare sneaker release. I’m the dude whose graffiti name everyone says but doesn’t realize it. I am “SOEM”.
2: You are widely known world wide for your calligraphy signature hand style. What made you stick with this hand style after all these years?
It’s a weird thing honestly. I just wanted to do something new and it kinda stuck. I’m not saying I reinvented anything at all, just that I found something for me to really improve and build within graffiti.
3: Were there any influences growing up both in finding your hand style and your work done on canvas and other mediums?
There are a ton of influences when it comes to my work, and handstyles. Living in boston is number one. There is a big history with graffiti out here that is kinda unspoken about. It’s not really a bad thing though, I guess it is one of those things that stayed true to the rules of it like fight club. There were legends in the game that hailed from here, and those that had friends who visited and did their part. I feel like boston itself is like an oracle of a graffiti matrix lol. Some of the best handstyles and pieces I have ever seen have come from artists out here. Over all from pieces, throwies, and scripts I pretty much gotta say Boston’s graffiti scene as a whole is an influence. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
4: This past December, you had your first solo gallery showing at Kulturez in Cambridge, MA. How well did you prepare for the show and what made your decisions final on the amount of art chosen for the event?
I feel like everything that went into that show only happened the way it did because of the fact that it was my first solo show ever. All of it was a learning experience, and it was a lot of fun looking back over everything. I honestly had a years time to really get the work done which was good, and bad in the same vein. I always try to go with the first ideas that come to mind, and that pretty much was the main idea to go for. I didn’t want to think too much about it all. Not that I don’t care about things, but because I can get really o.c.d with my thoughts and I didn’t want that to happen. So I tried to keep it all natural and treat it like it was my last show (biggie influence). With that in mind I tried to sike myself out almost as if I have done this type of thing before, and now I’m going left field not remotely close to the things people would expect from me. The goal secretly was to make that show feel like a reunion.
5: Your gallery show had a ridiculous turnout with a great amount of love and respect from people coming in and out. What were you expecting the night of the show in terms of overall turnout and excitement?
To be completely honest with you I was really fucking nervous about the show. I was hoping people would come out on that particular night to be a part of something historic. I wanted everything to have meaning just like my name “SOEM” but to be something secret just like the meaning of my name (a word people say all the time but hasn’t realized it. “so-em what you doing tonight”) I was planning on the event falling on that date because it was 12/13/14 which of course will never happen again, and if and when I put a book out about that show people will have lots to talk about from that night, not just because of “me” but because the original plan worked to put together a graffiti reunion.
6: How much time do you spend with graffiti and what value does it have in your life?
I am noticing now more than ever that I am slowing down, that’s not something meant to be read in a bad light. When I first started at age 14 it was seriously all I cared about from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. That went on until I hit 26, and now at 28 (as of 2015) I deff can’t say I’m doin’ half as much work compared to when I was younger. I joke around with some friends now a days and they often say “yo the old soem would burn you today” its partly true though lol. Yet with all that said, graffiti is still a part of my life. There won’t be a day I’m not planning a mean sketch for a wall or even just practicing. According to the old school rules, a lot of writers would retire at the age of 20 In the 70’s and 80’s. When I think about that and look at my crew members who are still painting and killing it, that alone can inspire me to wanna keep up.
7: Picture this, your flipping through a magazine or book filled with pictures of graffiti on walls, trains, handstyles and canvases, what would you be most interested in and why?
Man that’s a good question. Not to sound corny but I came up in that era of when magazines were the shit. I used to steal them from tower records when it was on the corner of Newbury street back in 2002, and when it switched to virgin records lol. But because of the influence and wave it had back then, when I look at any graff magazine now I’m checking for everything. The scripts, the throwies, the pieces, and the canvases. Those were the things I wanted to aspire to be good at growing up, just from looking in magazines. I even use to look at the ads and see what they were selling back then, and how they marketed it towards us. Over all maybe because of what I was doing at a younger age, those productions were the main thing I was looking at back then, so it’s always going to be one of the key chapters in any mag I’m looking through.
8: Have you faced any real hardships or failures since you’ve started this art form?
Yes I deff have faced hardships just like any other writer in the world I wanna say. This is truly a lifestyle that people live and risk everything for. Just think about how much energy goes into really trying to get a handstyle fresh, and graffiti pieces that are so clean you can just look at one and tell how long someone has been killing themselves just to get to that point. I’ve gone through pieces getting dissed, my parents wanting to kick me out of the house if they saw a tag on piece of paper. Past relationships died. Good friends I’ve lost. There is a lot to take in when you really look at graffiti writers as a whole. Some would call us the scum of the earth, all because we want to write our names and get up. It goes a lot deeper than having the traditional hardship story as well. I was always the younger one coming up in graffiti since my peers were all older than me, as well as the people I looked up to. With that being what it was I got to see how heartless the rest of the world was to them ( us graffiti writers ). My personal stories of grief and hardships aren’t the ones where I’m talking about bad drug abuse, and going to jail numerous times. My personal hardships consist of seeing the people I looked up to, and a few close friends passing away. A lot of people have dealt with this but unfortunately it’s been hitting a little too close to home as of laltey. I know it comes with getting older but I guess it’s just my turn to see it all unravel just like those that came before me.
9: Growing up here in Boston, do you think Boston writers get the attention they deserve?
Man. That’s really a good question. To be honest I personally feel as if Boston writers are slept on compared to other places. Yet, I will say for the last three to five years I’ve been seeing a lot more love get shown for those that write from Boston. There is just a lot to cover to be honest. From handstyles, to throwies, and pieces I just feel like there are some legends ( through my eyes ) that haven’t been spoken about. It’s kind of a thing we all know out here though, almost as if we are the underdogs of some sort, but stay hungry because of it. It deff has built character for a lot of us. But like I’ve said I have seen that change in the past three to five years as of 2015.
10: What do you like about your name and what don’t you like especially?
What I like about my name is the meaning behind it. It’s a (unofficial) word that everyone says but hasn’t realized it. So- em said like “so, em” what you getting into later? Has been said in movies, tv shows it’s said by everyone but is often just forgotten just as fast as its said. For me personally I felt like that’s what graffiti is. Words people see all the time in the streets but don’t realize it. Phrases and sentences just casted away. Knowledge that only those that understand the language can see. And with that said since we do the graffiti we can see where it has been used by the rest of the world but they don’t even see it or recognize. I feel like corporate companies, commercials, popular movies all use graffiti influenced things and I’m often looking around like…. For real? This cereal box got the meanest color way, fill, inside outline, force field ever. Lol people might think I’m crazy but I remember seeing the FED EX trucks and saying that’s pure graffiti right there. A Halloween color way with an ESPO inspired arrow in the letters. I could go on but yea. Soem is what you see and say all the time but dont realize it. NOW what I don’t like about my name as of lately is how many new Soems there are. I know there is no way you could be the only person in the world with your tag name but wow. There is like 7 of us now lol. Originally knew about 3 over all. One in Puerto Rico, one in New York, and another in Germany I wanna say. But as of latley there has been a lot turning up out of nowhere, it’s all good though. I just wonder how they came up with the name.
11: What’s next for SOEM? More shows? More stickers and canvas? How do you want to evolve with the art?
As far as what’s next for me I honestly don’t know, especially as of recently. I never thought I’d win handstyle competitions like last year, nor did I ever think I’d do a solo show. All I know is I wanna do more, and to take myself a little bit more seriously, and to step my game up. There’s always room for improvement and I’ve learned from the best that “you are only as good as your last piece” (to quote allchrome). As far as growing and evolving I just wanna stay consistent and make people pay attention a little more every time. Let’s just hope for the best.
12: Any last words/shout outs?
Shoutout to my Boston family. I gotta thank my people that have held me down since day one PFP crew. GN crew. And the legendary ALA CREW.