Interview: VATOE LD GOA
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the legendary writer, VATOE. I was invited to see him paint, and got a chance to take photographs of him in action. He’s currently killing it in Philly, but is also up in major cities across the country. He is well known for painting spots that stick out, like bridges and roofs. There is no doubt that he’s getting up and being seen. During our time together, he was extremely welcoming, sincere and showed an obvious dedication to his work.
1. Where are you from originally?
In 1996 I started writing in St. Louis but there was no scene there. I first saw graffiti in Chicago and my boy HOAX lived in LA. I went out to visit him. He was just starting out at the time and he kind of helped me with letters and showed me how to route streets and get spots.
2. What influenced you to start writing?
Like I said I’d seen graffiti in Chicago when I went out there. I was at a party one night and I was drawing letters for some weird reason and I drew a VATO and was like, “hey I can do it.” I think the next night I went out and painted a freight train. There was definitely no influence in the city that I lived. I think when I was in Chicago I always wondered how they did it. I was definitely intrigued and wanted to learn how.
3. What compels you to continue?
At this point I’ve been addicted for many years, painting every night. But when I first started I was into freight trains. I saw a lot of big time writers from all over, and set goals for myself. “I wanna do what they do.” Now days I’m in it for the love of adventure and exploring. I don’t have the patience to paint burners and have since become a bomber. I also have the mentality that if I don’t do it someone else will. In the rain or bitter cold, no matter the circumstances, I need to get it in.
4. Do you have a specific style?
I change my style a lot. I feel I stand out from a lot of other writers. Piecing wise, nobody has my style. Bombing wise, I think I’ve got my own original style as well. I get bored doing the same thing hundreds and hundreds of times. I switch it up a lot.
5. Any influences?
When I first started back in the nineties HOAX, OBCES, BUKUE, VIBES, and IRIE were my biggest influences. BUKUE was the only one I didn’t know, but seeing his pieces were influential enough. Mad style and color combos. HOAX and VIBES taught me letters, and OBCES was my first roll dog, inspiring me to paint every night.
6. Any other interests?
I like a lot of things, but one way or another they have to do with graffiti. Like photography and traveling. When I take photos, they are mostly graffiti related, and even when I travel for non graffiti reasons, it’s always involved. There’s no question, I’m getting work done. I will make time, find time, even if I don’t feel like it. It’s embedded in my blood. I’m addicted, it will happen.
7. What crews are you affiliated with?
Ld’s-LowDown. #ldeez We’ve been around since 99. We started in St. Louis. I love my family. It’s only getting bigger and better. I’m also in SIRES crew, GOA from Boston. #GOA
8. Any crazy stories worth sharing while out painting?
MOOSE and I went to paint a short bus in South West Philly one night. As we walked up and got ready to paint, we realized there were people in there having sex. Haha, she was loving it. “Fuck me, Alex fu fu fuck me Alex.” So we kinda walked away, and were talking. “Should we paint, shouldn’t we?” Haha, we definitely painted. The people on the bus go, “who is that, what are you doing?” “It’s Vatoe and Moose, and we’re painting the bus. We’ll be gone soon.” They replied, “well can you come back soon?” “No….” Haha, it was so funny. They got dressed, and came out and watched. The chick just got out of prison. I’ll always remember that night.
9. Favorite cities?
The city of Oakland. I always have fun there. Detroit was too fun. But Philly is definitely my favorite city to bomb.
10. What do you want to be remembered for? Any plans for the future?
Being a sniper, you’ll never see me, but I’m here to take out the kings. Haha. Upside down crowns…. Keeping doing what I’m doing. I like my new setups from this past year: new tags and new throwies. I got this new single letter throwie tag style where each letter is done but in different spots. Definitely going to see that in the future…
Shout out to my boys ACUSE, IDEO, and LIL TINY. MEET YOU AT THE CROSS ROADS… LOVE YOU GUYS.