12oz: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Rebus: Born in Brighton on south coast of England, left school in ’91 to become a screen printer. I did this for about seven years. Since then my only real creative outlet has been graffiti. Oh and not to mention the years I lost to drugs and chasing girls!
12oz: How did you choose your tag, any special meaning?
Rebus: I went through a number of tags/street names, before I finally settled on Rebus. Before this point it was just some half arsed tagging and the odd dub here and there. Rebus means to restructure or reshape, and it’s also a puzzle in which you substitute letters for images. For example Apex could be a rebus using the image of an Ape and the letter X.
12oz: How did you get in to graffiti?
Rebus: As a teenager I first got into mod culture and our local scout hut was where everyone went on a Friday to listen to soul/mo-town music and hang out. This is where I first saw breaking. We used to share the hall with some guys who were into break dancing. All I was doing was taking blues and getting drunk while these other guys were keeping themselves together and practicing their routines. This was my first exposure to hip-hop culture. This was around 1986-87. Around the same time a classmate came into the form room one day with this mad drawing that said “Disco”. I had never seen anything like this before and I was intrigued straight away. For a while he took the credit for the sketch and a few more until that Christmas my Dad bought me Subway Art. The penny finally dropped and I was trying my first outlines.
12oz: What is it that you love about graffiti that keeps you writing?
Rebus: I think the reason after so many years I still look at graffiti is that ephemeral nature, the constant change and life cycle of graffiti. The modern game is moving so fast and it pushes the writer to evolve and develop his/her technique. For me it’s still all about the letters.
12oz: Tell us about your style and how it has developed over the years.
Rebus: I try not to overcook my pieces and focus on the profiling of my letter form. That is to say that each letter is like a b-boy flexing a pose. I will often sketch each letter on its own rather than try to work on a whole outline of a piece. This helps me to maximize its characteristic. Next to that it’s color choice and working to create a new or strong color combo. I would say that I have an old school style that is trying to keep up with modern trends, which is a constant challenge.
12oz: Who have been your major influences?
Rebus: Growing up in Brighton I was influenced by local guys like the Dusty Knights, the Cheeba Wizards and also the Chrome Angels. This town has had a scene for many years and it’s been said before that it’s got its own vibe here. We all tend to get along and encourage one another. In modern terms I respect the styles of HA crew who have been dropping burners here for years. In Europe I look up to people like Dems and Rage (Spain) and Wild Boys from Italy. These countries have set the bar very high in my estimation. Modern paint has had a massive influence too! These days we’re too quick to grumble about flaws in products available but this is just unrealistic. All the bases are covered if you ask me.
12oz: Paint brand of choice?
Rebus: You can’t go wrong with Montana Black or Mtn.
12oz: Cap of choice?
Rebus: All the caps just confuse the hell outta me with different color dots doing this and that. I just tend to roll with whatever is handy.
12oz: What music motivates you to paint?
Rebus: Hip-hop music opened my ears to other genres and I listen to pretty much anything other than pop. When I’m painting freestyle I tend to roll with hip-hop just to add that extra drop of ego needed to make it happen. If I’m working from a sketch anything will work as background noise.
12oz: Memorable mission moment?
Rebus: Well for me these days mostly painting legal walls what is most memorable is the positive feedback I get. The old bill tend to turn a blind eye when they see a grown man dropping full color pieces. They often show an interest.
12oz: Any tips you’re willing to share to the next generation of writers?
Rebus: The way the game is changing with public opinion becoming more positive is only good if you ask me. The next generation of writers have a lot to live up to and they will have had the pioneers to thank for it. My advice to anyone starting out would be to look back and see where it all began and to try to grasp what the true essence of graffiti is, which will be split down the middle. On one side your bombers will say keep it real and only do illegals and hit up as many tags, trains or rooftops as possible. Down the other side you got the pursuit of style and developing your techniques. For me it’s all about style and letter form, later comes the tech. Repetition is fundamental to achieving your own style. Slack off or take a break and you could set yourself back years in terms of development.
12oz: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Rebus: Right now I am focused on painting as often as possible pushing myself to experiment more freedom at the wall with freestyle pieces. I don’t see me getting bored anytime soon. On top of that I’m involved in a shop that’s just opened in Brighton called “Red Eye” where I will be running a paint supply from the basement.
12oz: What do you think the future holds for graffiti?
Rebus: I’m sure the scene will go another complete circle and will fall out of favour. But for now the future is bright and as long as those involved keep pushing it forward, graffiti will never stop.