12 Questions With "Zaps" BTA CMW

By - Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

What’s your name and what crews are you repping? ZAPS: I write ZAPS and I represent BTA, CMW, and FB that’s about it. 1. How did you choose your name and why? Z: Well my name is like a game with the letters: If you have the ‘Z’ and you flip it upside down then you get the ‘S’, if you take away one of the sides from the ‘A’ it turns into a ‘P’. It’s just like a mirror game you know all kind of symmetrical, and ZAPS, man that just means you do it and you get out, you can’t think about it, every second counts. 2. Why do you paint? Why bomb? You’ve been staying up pretty consistently over the last decade and I always see something new from you on the streets. What drives you to be like that and never stop painting? Z: I paint to feel alive, to get up. If you’re talking to people they might say that they saw your tag somewhere and that means they know you were there, that you’re getting around. When I traveled to Chicago to paint there I was just a random dude and people would ask, “what does he write?” And I would tell them my name and that I’m from PR and they’d get all excited because they’ve seen my tag and have family down there. That’s fucking awesome man, you know because it’s across the ocean that people know who you are. It’s those moments that just make you feel humbled and accomplished. My mom knows about me painting, my entire family knows about what I do. My mom will see one of my tags and she’ll come up to me real angry like, “what were you doing in Carolina?!?!” Then I just tell her the story and what’s up I don’t really hide anything from her. Crazy things like that and because it’s just fun to do. You also gotta stay in shape man. I do it so people always know that I’m here or I’m there, I’m always around. Also, you always gotta keep it simple. I only have to prove things for myself; I’m not painting for random people that don’t care to see this. I’m painting for me. My family sees it, my mom knows, my little brother knows. I just see it in a completely different way I care about what I do and I don’t like when people ruin my stuff. If someone ruins something I painted I fix it and go ruin something that they painted. People know man they’ll know when I do it. 3. Can you tell me the story behind the photo of one of your bombs on the train with a police officer standing right in front of it looking at the camera? I think it’s yellow with a black outline. Was the officer telling you not to take the picture? Z: The thing is when I paint I never go and take the pictures myself. There is always someone else who goes and takes pictures for me. With this photo, specifically, it was a girl I knew who took it and she wasn’t the only one taking pictures. There were a bunch of people at the train station taking flicks and the police officer was going up to all of them telling them they couldn’t be doing that. If you want you can go take the picture yourself but you gotta be wearing gloves, you gotta wear a hat, you’re risking a lot you know. So the story behind that picture is that I painted that train with a dude who tagged DIEGO, he’s from Madrid from the MTA crew. I met him through TRECE who was with me in the TAG crew. So DIEGO came down and knew TRECE and asked him who painted the trains, he knew I was always up on the trains and told me about DIEGO. I didn’t know who the dude was so I took him to paint a wall first, you know to check him out see if he was a toy or not, I’m not just going to take any random dude to hit the trains. So that same day we painted the wall we went later on that night to the Bayamón station to hit the train. I chose this spot because I had painted it by myself before. I had done a CMW it was a light blue fill-in, black outline, and yellow power outline. It was crazy, I hit it by myself at like 7PM I was so scared almost shit my pants. I got there on the train and left on the train after painting it. It all happened because I would go see a girl who lived in Bayamón so I would take the train down there. I went so many times to that station that I realized there was a spot at the end of the platform that didn’t have any cameras, there was a little gate that wasn’t guarded, and it was usually left open. There were trains on the tracks that were sometimes parked because this was the last stop on the line. So I would walk over and jump the fence down to the track do my shit quickly and get out. You just gotta act like nothing is happening, the first time I jumped and was coming back out some dude dropped a bunch of quarters on the floor and everyone got distracted so I slipped by without anyone noticing, you know shit like that. Painting is a lot of theatrics and putting on a show so you can either get by security in to some place or so people won’t suspect you’re painting they think you’re doing something else. I’ve done a bunch of different things to fool the police: I’ve pretended to be puking on the street; I’ve pretended to be a bum sleeping on a bench before. I took off my shirt, my shoes, and I laid down with just one sock on hiding my phone pretending to sleep until they left. They walked right in front of me looking for someone who had been painting and didn’t notice; some bums even help you by telling you when they’re gone. Sometimes you can pretend to be talking on the phone waving your hands around like you’re in a fight or something and people will just ignore you, police don’t say anything when they see that. Shit what was I even talking about? Ok hitting the train with DIEGO. So we decided to go the train station dressed really nicely, like we’re going out to the club or something. I had pained it before, but I decided to take DIEGO, because I told him that they would probably never expect someone to try and pull it off a second time so we had a good chance. We went dressed with button down shirts, nice pants, and nice dress shoes and carried the paint in a Custo Barcelona bag you know just to keep playing the part. Inside the bag there was a towel with the cans on top of the towel and then another towel to keep them from clanking around and making noise. I’m looking out and I tell him to jump over the fence, so he jumps first and I jump over right after him. We get down and start painting. I’m someone who always likes to keep it safe I can’t do things without a plan or if I’ve been drinking or smoking. I gotta go in with a clear mind so I can always be aware of what’s going on around me. So we’re on the tracks and I did my yellow throwie and right next to it I wrote, “Hit n Run”, you know I hit it and I run. I finished painting my part and I’m looking out for the cops as DIEGO is still doing his thing. I see trains coming in and out passengers everywhere a lot of stuff going on and nobody has noticed us yet. It’s impossible to paint there now, because they’ve got a security guard always walking around there and one of those cameras that rotates 360 degrees. So this dude hasn’t finished yet and I’m starting to feel nervous because we’ve been there for a while, and I’m trying to hurry him up telling him we could get caught any second. I mean this was at 9PM the station was full! Finally he finished painting, we put the gloves in the bag, we are completely clean no paint on us and we jump back over the fence and get into the elevator right next to the spot to head down. We’re in the elevator super excited like I can’t believe we just did this my heart’s racing so much adrenaline. We swipe out of the station and nobody notices us at all. Down the street there’s a gas station so we walk down and I call my girl to come pick us up. We go into the gas station to buy something to drink as we’re waiting for her and when we walk out we see that the train we had been painting has all the lights on and it’s being rolled into the main terminal. We’re like holy shit! All of a sudden like four cop cars race up to the train station park out front and jump out running up to the platform. All this time DIEGO and me are just standing there across the street at the gas station watching all this happen waiting to get picked up. A lot of people in the station run up and start taking photos of the train that we painted, so I called my girl up to park the car and go take a photo and that’s how we got it. It was easy man. In and out. I mostly painted the Sagrado Corazon stop thought with YAD and I also hit that with ETHER and UTAH also. 4. How did the BTA crew get started? Z: That’s another trip man, it all started because I used to live in Trujillo Alto when I was growing up. BTA first meant ‘Bombing Trujillo Alto’; I think the majority of the people who are new to the game didn’t even know that one. It started with SKUNK and me, he’s from Bogota, Colombia, and the abbreviation for Bogota is BTA. So we both had our own little meaning for it and we were really excited about that and it we just kept looking for things we could come up with. Best Team Around, Better Than Anyone, people really hate that one, Breaking Toy’s Arms, I love that one, Beating The Authority, Bombardeo Todas Areas (I Bomb Everywhere), Better Think Again, Boricuas Tienen Arte (Boricuas Have Art), Bombing Tagging Associates, there are a lot more. There are even people that I’ve talked to from Colombia who also have a BTA crew from over there and we talk about our different meanings and where were from. We’ve also talked about me going down there one of these days and hooking up both BTA crews and painting together and uniting. We started meeting other writers and bringing other people in the crew little by little. It was around that time that they started construction on the metro system in in the metropolitan area, mainly down in Rio Piedras. We used to sneak into the underground tunnels when they were first being built and that shit was crazy, it was still all just mud, a huge endless tunnel that looked like you were inside the Titanic or some crazy shit like that, like a sunken abandoned ship under the ocean. My mind was blown. Right now the construction is all fucked the tunnels are leaking it wasn’t really built well. The station is shitty with little benches that people barely fit on; I don’t think they did a good job. What we did to have fun was sneak down there and paint the tunnels. I would hook up with people from my school because it was at school that I met a lot of writers. Little by little I just got more into it and kept painting all the time. That’s also how it happened with SKUNK because I went to high school with him. First we were in elementary school together then he got lost, just moved somewhere, he always does that. So it was my first day in a new high school and I walk out of my first class and I just see SKUNK standing there and I’m like, “what’s up dude where the fuck have you been!?!” He told me he was studying there now and I couldn’t even believe it. I didn’t know he wrote SKUNK and he didn’t know I painted either. It just so happened that we both had markers on us and decided to go out and tag. I used to see his tags on the school bus and be like who the hell is SKUNK? Then I realized it was my boy from a long time ago it was crazy man I can’t believe how that all happened. It’s just weird how people connect with each other through graffiti. That was just the beginning, then the crew started getting bigger. I had first met BRET painting in Santurce and we had a crew together that was called TAG Crew: Tecato Al Graffo (Addicted To Graffiti). Just a bunch of guys that liked to smoke, drink, and paint together. It was BRET, DEF, NEPO, TRECE, and a small group of kids from the school. BRET lived in Caguas around that time and one day he painted a wall and went over TESE. I don’t think it was even 2 days after that TESE came back and boom! Painted right over BRET to get his spot back. So BRET went back to paint over TESE and did a burner that looked like his name was eating up TESE’s bomb, that shit was sick. It was so awesome that when TESE came back and saw it he was shocked, he wasn’t even pissed he thought it was awesome, and that’s how they met. They went down to Santurce to paint together and TESE would see our bombs and everything we painted and we met up and we’d all just go bomb together. T20 is TESE’s brother so he’d always come down with him and he’d also bomb with us. They were boys with ERKO and that’s why he also always came down. Everyone just kind of new everyone else. 5. Apart from bombing the metropolitan area like everyone else you also do a lot of painting everywhere on the island. Was there a moment when you decided that you needed to get out and paint other places? Z: Yeah, of course. It’s all about T20, that dude knows the entire map of the island by memory I mean everywhere. Let me tell you a story just so you can get an idea. One day we were driving around bombing and I had terrible cottonmouth and we had nothing to drink in the car. We were in middle of nowhere on the highway and I was thirsty, I had to pee, I was bugging out. T20 hears me and he’s like don’t worry I got you and just pulls up ahead on the side of the road right next to the mountain and he’s like lets check this spot. We where driving around somewhere in Cayey and down this mountainside a small river flowed and you could drink the water because it’s fresh water. We get down from the car and he starts looking around in the trees and shit and he finds the water flowing and I’m just astonished like how the fuck did this dude know this was here. He’s like a boy scout you know, but a graff scout instead. But bombing the metropolitan area is also important because if you really look at it there’s no movement or the same amount of people in one spot anywhere else on the island. It’s crazy here man so many things going on always. Continued on page 2{pagebreak} 6. Tell me about how your bomb has changed from when it first started as to what it is today, because it’s been the same over the years but you’ve been refining it tweaking it little by little. Before it was kind of tall and had sharp corners but now its short, fat, and round. In the last like year and a half you also just decided to stop drawing your ‘A’ and always do a character instead, why is that? Why have you decided to keep the same thing for such a long time seeing as how people always seem to try new things? Z: Bombing is the nucleus of graffiti. I respect people who paint murals and are artists obviously. But if you do one thing that’s your thing and not something else. If someone doesn’t bomb then they can’t talk about bombing, you got your opinion, but you really don’t know about something you don’t do. Bombing is what really took graffiti to a next level and made it well known, why would I not do it? It’s the best part about writing, the adrenaline. I do a few pieces here and there but sometimes it’s not really worth it. Here in Puerto Rico a lot of people paint huge awesome pieces and murals and some asshole comes out of nowhere and ruins them for no reason. They just scribble a bunch of lines or come and draw dicks on it or write I LOVE YOU so and so, I’ve even seen just people write ‘Facebook’ on a nice piece, like what is that? I’m not gonna be wasting a lot of money or risking myself to steal cans to draw this piece just to have someone who doesn’t even know who I am come and ruin it because they felt like it. Or even worse, if some advertiser comes and sticks a big Hector “El Father” or Carlos Vives poster right on top of my shit. You’re gonna be like come on what the fuck? What are you gonna do call Carlos Vives or the fucking ticket agency and complain that some promoter they hired ruined my graffiti? At least now there’s a law that if you paint a wall legally the government can’t come up and paint over it. You got permission to paint the wall so you can do what you want and they can even get sued. I do my legal walls when I have nice cans and some ideas and sketches but really most of my walls are illegal. Mostly at night. In terms of the ‘A’ I’m not forgetting about it man it’s just that sometimes you gotta keep a low profile. I really like the drawing the faces and characters because I’ve had a lot of fun with them over the years. First I used to paint a flat face, boom! Completely flat! Now it’s got more movement and details. Whoever has been seeing me paint since I first started knows that it’s me even though there is a letter missing. If you don’t know me and you can’t understand what it says then I don’t really care about you, tough luck. But I got a lot of cool different things I can do with the face sometimes I draw a hand on it as part of the ‘Z’ or I can put the ‘A’ on a little hat so I still have it there somehow. I can even do a thought bubble going up to the letter ‘A’. But it’s really just to keep a low profile and make it hard for people who don’t know to understand. 7. How did you come up with that character? Z: Well it all started because I came up with the face one time and there was a girl I knew that used to draw really weird looking arms, you know like Ren & Stimpy skinny. Or you remember Captain Toast Man? So she drew a really big strong body like that and I drew the face and we really liked it and just got into it drawing a bunch of more things and experimenting with it. That’s when I really decided I wanted to draw the face over and over and I just kept coming up with more different things with it. Sometimes I put it with the bomb, sometimes I didn’t, sometimes I also just bombed the face and didn’t draw letters. It’s mostly just how I feel at the moment. Also if I don’t have much paint left or a lot of cans I do an ‘AP’ or the face and the ‘P’. Or instead of full bombs I throw up a bunch of hollows. That’s something that really bothers me about Puerto Rico people don’t respect outlines when they bomb. If somebody did an outline on a spot and I know him or her why would I want to go over that with a fill-in? If you’re my friend man then you respect my hollows and if you don’t then you’re a shitty friend. People are tripping man and I just let them do their thing thinking what they want and I just don’t associate with them. People need to respect outlines. Even if there’s rules of bombs over outlines come on if it’s a good spot that isn’t cool. 8. Tell me about painting in Chicago with CMW, hitting the freights, and what it’s like to bomb over there compared to here on the island. Z: I painted a lot of freights with RESO, MEALS, and TESE. When I was up there I met RESO he’s from Peru, dude’s a crazy gangbanger but a super chill guy. He got caught painting freights in the yard and got deported back to Peru. But he’s still painting and getting up over there. I went to Chicago because TESE was living up there and SKUNK was also there so I went to visit them. It’s like I said before man people find out you write and what your name is and they’re super nice and excited. They want to go out and paint together and chill. It’s not like here where everyone thinks they’re the best and don’t want to paint with anybody else. Obviously it’s much stricter over there, they don’t even paint the streets, because you will get buffed. They paint a lot of windows because if everything on the street is gonna get buffed might as well paint the windows. That’s even worse that painting the streets, not as bad as robbing a car but almost up there. Like using etch baths is almost a felony, shit is serious. I mean if you paint a wall they can just buff it, but if you paint a window they have to take it down and put a new one up that’s a lot of money. Over there the train windows have a plastic on them that if you paint on it they simply take the plastic off and it’s clean the window is fine. If you get caught painting you’re really fucked, it’s not like down here that they might let you go if they feel like it. No way, you’re automatically going to jail no questions asked. Even worse, if you’re on probation and you get caught and they drug test you and you don’t pass, thirty days in jail. Thirty days in jail is thirty days; I don’t care who you are. Over here some police officers might let you go, some have even told me that they like what I’m painting. Sometimes they tell you to stop painting but if it’s not their property they don’t care. One time a cop told me he used to bomb also. 9. How did you first get into CMW? Z: CMW stands for Chicago’s Most Wanted and they’re a crew that I met through TESE because he paints with them. They paint trains everywhere man and they’re all from Chicago. You don’t see a lot of pictures because they are super low profile. If you paint a train and you take a picture that you want to post on the Internet you can only put a small corner of the piece or something like that. Because if you show a picture with the entire background people can know where it is you painted it and spots get hot. You don’t want to be posting pics of painted trains on the Internet taunting the police just asking to get caught. There are a bunch of writers in the crew like ERIE, SKOLE, DOZER, NIKE, TESE, SEB, SLUGS, HYPE, KOSER, JULZ, XAUST, they’re old school man. Just a bunch of old cats that are really chill and aren’t looking for a lot of publicity. They had seen I painted the trains in PR and all of that, they knew I was up around the island and I was friends with TESE so they told him to put me in the crew. They have meetings about this, it’s not some random thing they just decide one day out of the blue. They get together to talk and tell me that what I have to do to be in and what I have to paint. I don’t really throw up a lot of CMW here in Puerto Rico because not a lot of people know about them. It’s not really that fun if people don’t know what I’m writing. But over there everyone knows, so I always throw it up. 10. Street art vs. graffiti. Go. Z: For me, the difference between street art and graffiti, is that the point of graffiti is to be everywhere you are. Everywhere you’ve walked, and where you feel like your name should be you do that and you put your tag up. Street art right now is definitely art, I can’t deny that, but you’re not a street artist just because you painted one spot. People need to be really clear on the difference between painting street art and being a street artist versus being a graffiti writer. There is respect both ways from everyone involved, but graffiti is graffiti and street art is street art. The name itself says it, ‘street’ ‘art’; it’s not corner art. You can’t just paint one corner and call yourself an artist on the streets. It should be everywhere, that’s what graffiti is about it. 11. I heard someone got into a fight in the middle of the highway once? Z: That was T2O and GRIM that started fighting in the middle of the highway in front of Plaza Las Americas. That dude’s fucking crazy. I wasn’t there that day but a few days earlier I had been waiting with T2O to see if he would go to paint the highway sign because we had suspected he was up to that. If I saw him man I would’ve fought him too, even though I had already fought with him before. But this dude is just out of control he does things without thinking (GRIM). One time I’m around Cupey at El Señorial Plaza and I’m going over to pick up a paycheck or something. I’m in the passenger seat of the car and I see some kids painting a wall with their mom… I mean I assumed it was their mom because it was an older woman dressed like she’s working and she’s watching over them. I’m just in the car weirded out like what the fuck is going on? So I go I pick up my paycheck and when I come back I see GRIM with a bat. He’s standing there waving a bat in one hand screaming at the lady and the kids, the lady is screaming back the kids are screaming everyone is fighting. I’m like what the fuck is going on.?!?! I didn’t even want to get involved in that I just drove away it’s crazy I don’t know what happened but that dude is crazy. 12.What do you want to do in the future? Z: Man I’m just trying to graduate right now and get my degree so I can work later on and I just want to travel and paint everywhere. Go to different places and paint trains in other countries. I just want to get out of here. But I’ll always come back to Puerto Rico. I’m never going to stop painting. I’ll paint today, maybe not tomorrow, the day after I’ll go out to bomb again. I always have a marker on me, always something. Even if it’s just a rock to scratch my name on some glass. Some people don’t understand and I really don’t care to explain it to them. If you bomb then you know what’s up, and if you don’t then you don’t know and you will never understand. I also want to show the kids that graffiti isn’t this evil thing that a lot of people make it out to be. Of course there is gang related graffiti, but it’s not all about that. That is only some people that do it for those reasons, but in the end every one else pays for their actions. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done because of graffiti, fuck that, nothing at all. Any shout outs you want to give before we’re finished? Everyone from Caguas, my little brother. TESE, T2O, BRET, SEZ, BLES, THOZER, ZEB, SLUGS, ERIE, JULZ, FACT, NERD, KERS, PHET, ESTA2, RICO, ZTO, DIEGO, SKOL, HYPE, COSER, EGOR, SP2, NAS2, BLEN, SKE, REK, KLAS, ABIT, BETER, COEL, SPY, SKUNK. There are not many people that I respect in this game. DYCE. WES. DAD. DAD is one of those people who I was talking about that are on a whole other level, he’s done so much in graffiti and seen so many things that he understands what’s up and he gives respect to others when he sees that they’re doing big things. That’s really hard to find now a days older guys that show a lot of respect to new guys like he does. Everyone who paints because they like it. Man I don’t even know how to put it into words. To anyone whose ever picked up a can and bombed and knows what this is really about, anyone who’s painted with me before. And all the haters! If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am now, so thank you. If you want to hear more about what ZAPS has to say check out the extended interview on Tumblr.

There are 0 comments...

You must be a 12ozProphet member and logged in to participate. Registration is FREE and it only takes a minute, so Sign Up now. As a 12ozProphet member you’ll be able to comment, save and vote on content, message other users and get access to many other member-only features.

Click here to Login or click here to Register for an account on 12ozProphet.

You must be a 12ozProphet member and logged in to comment. Login or click here to Register for an account.