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TMD Crew

March 2010

Many crews in the graffiti game are bound together because they follow the same goal like getting their name up but after a time the members go seperated ways. The TMD Crew from New Zealand is different from that. Since 1996, they stand for a healthy and long-lasting force in the writing scene because of their strong sense of family that exists separate from anything art and graffiti related. It’s easy to mistake this crew for another all-star ensemble of famous names but essentially this aspect became secondary to the importance of good friendship. "The Most Dedicated" has unified this eclectic bunch of individuals who embody a broad range of skills, professions, ideals, faiths and approaches to art ...

Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Berst, GBAK, TMD.
Askew, TMD, SUK, F1.
O’Che, TMD, SUG.
Dyle52 aka Saves, TMD, GG.
Pest 5, TMD, Lords Crew.
Uprise, TMD.

What's the meaning of TMD and what does the crew mean to each of you?

Dyle52: The Most Dedicated. As individuals, we are dedicated to so many things. Some of us to God. All of us to each other, to our art, to fitness and to our children.
Family first, graffiti second.
TMD as a set of three letters can mean whatever we feel like at the time. Everyone has their own spin on it, of course, and back in the day it stood for "The Most Dangerous", which doesn't really suit us today. To talk about the culture of our crew and what that means to us is a whole different conversation. These people are my family. I'm not just saying that in a cliché way, it's really true. The people in this crew are the sort of people that are there for you, no matter the situation. They are there during the glory moments, but also there to pick you up from the gutter when times are bad. We celebrate Christmas, New Year and birthdays together. We are about when our crew members have children. We are there when a crew member loses a family member. This is one of the key ingredients in our crew's success. I think, there is something about the Maori and Polynesian vibe of our city that extends into the culture of our crew and how it functions that is very unique.
Pest5: "Transcending Mortal Desires". It goes deeper than the aesthetics!

When did you become a TMD member and how came you joined the crew?
Dyle52: I joined TMD at the start of '99. I met Phat1 and we became friends. One day he called and asked me to be down over the phone. I was very hyped about it because all my old crew had fallen off!
Berst: I'm one of the last members to join TMD, so I have only been in TMD for about a year now. Phat1 gave me a call one day and asked if I was keen to be down. Then a couple of days later, I was out doing my first TMD piece.
Askew: I got put down in 2000 after my former crew sort of disbanded. It felt like the natural choice though. I had been very close with Phat1, Diva and Dyle52 before then, we are all the same age and came on to the scene around the same time.
O'Che: I said no at first because I thought I wasn't good enough. Then I was told it's family first, so I said yeah ... O.K.!

How did everything started in New Zealand, where did the influences come from and how did you personally come into the game?
Askew: The NZ scene started surprisingly early, with some great writers doing pretty polished and clean looking stuff really early on. My neighbourhood in Central Auckland had many of the earliest writers; I've seen tags that go back to 1980 and before. The New York Subway inspired work took off here at the same time as most places around the world, pretty much right after Style Wars played as the Sunday night documentary here in 1984. Overnight, there were kids spinning on their heads on pieces of cardboard and trying to rock their name with style around the city. As I said, I grew up right on the epicentre of it all, saw all the old pieces by crews like Smooth Inc., who were in Subway Art and it just permeated itself into my psyche. By the time I started high school, I was starting to mess with tags but more or less just as an extension of being into Hip-Hop, not really with any aspiration to be a great writer. I got serious around the age of 16 as people like Phat1, who I knew were the same age as me, started really rocking the city. It made me realise I had the potential and might get surpassed if I didn't step my game up.
I grew up around Pacific Island street gangs. My cousins were trying to imitate the Los Angeles gang culture and got into tagging. I started tagging to be part of what they were doing. I only used to tag ‘straights' around East Auckland, riding around on my mountain bike. I started to see the graffiti pages in The Source and HHC magazines and that led me to start writing.
Berst: I have always known TMD and they have always been a huge influence in the New Zealand graffiti scene. In style and progression TMD has always been a crew that I have looked up to, being that I'm from a generation after them. Internationally, I have always been drawn to painting a complex style and going all out. I took a lot of influence from West Coast graffiti and really tried to push towards that direction. My first crew that I'm part of is GBAK. They are a crew that are mostly from my age group and are very important in pushing the development for the future generation of New Zealand writing.
I watched Sinae paint on her and Cantwo's honeymoon trip to NZ. I'm 110% Sinae influenced. At that time, SUG had only two members, president Sinae and new member Lady Diva. I wanted to be down with that so made it my mission to be SUG!

How would you describe your style. Is there a typical style from your country?
Askew: My style is just the embodiment of all lessons learned over the span of my career. It's partly the writers in my city that came before me, although it's also been shaped by a lot of advice given to me by older or more established writers from around the world. I could honestly write a novel about each of the European, American and Australian writers that took time to teach me valuable lessons along the way. It's the graphic conclusions I have come to from trial, error and scrutiny of my work. It is also defined a lot by the circumstances in which it's painted and the materials accessible to me. New Zealand style is harder to be specific about. It is evolving fast though and starting to make an impression on the world. The reason is that we have a really united scene right now and an open dialogue between many crews. If I do something, I feel it's O.K. for anyone in my country to take a bit of that idea and flip it, as long as I can take it back and flip it back on them. That's the way we work out here and it's really cool because it's very devoid of ego. From the outside, I guess, NZ style looks big, vibrant and most likely painted with Astro's.
My style is influenced by Sinae, Askew and Smash, so I guess, it would be ‘funky'.
I would classify my style as semi wild-style. I do believe that when you strip everything back there should always be letters that are strong and funky and I believe the complexity of my pieces build on from that. Out of healthy competition between the crews I'm part of, we are always trying to out-do each other. I believe that bringing more colours, more complexity and painting bigger might be the reason why I paint the style I do, rather than just simpler letters.
Spontaneous and slow. I don't really sketch, so the magic just happens when I start painting. I never know how it'll look by the end of it and it's never as cool as I wish it was, but that's life, right?

Are there writers you look up to or writers who inspire yourself in any kind?
O'Che: The whole TMD crew.
There are so many people and artists that inspire me and that expands further than just writers. I take inspiration and reference from a lot of things, but writer wise, there is a lot of people that come to mind instantly, such as: Askew, Phat1, Can2, Bates, Revok, Rime, Sofles, Dems and plenty more.
Until I was 28, I treated writing like an internship as far as being open to various influences. It was an interesting although not totally calculated approach. I just kept an open mind to criticism, advice and allowed myself to be schooled on different techniques and philosophies about letter painting. Not to say that I've closed my mind now, but between 28-30 I had a major shift in my motivation and also a coming of age of sorts. I really feel I've emerged now as a formidable force in the international scene and from here on is when I will take this art to new places. Like I said though, I could write novels about my influences because there are honestly so many writers I owe a lot of credit to.
Dyle52: Yeah, there have been so many people to influence us. Writers have come to NZ and certain traits of theirs, we have taken on. For example, Loomit's and Daim's work ethic, Cantwo for letter structure, and Rime for knowledge of style.

It seems your team becomes more and more global. What's the main goal for the future?
Berst: World domination and expanding into different areas of art.
Dyle52: To grow as a family together. Reach our individual goals along the wall and have a lot of fun as we give back.

Your whole crew structure looks very professional to me, compared to other crews you seem to be very well-organized. Is there an idea behind or is it just because the crew is spread all over the planet?
O'che: Organizations work by having one ‘type' of person within the group that makes a group function. We have one of every ‘type'.
Dyle52: I think, we work like a tight unit because of our love for each other. For some of us God is the foundation and so he's there in the mix of it all. You definitely can't put writers in your crew for skills alone. It must be friendship first. There are so many talented writers out there, that doesn't mean they will connect well with the crew.
Uprise: I reckon Askew's the key to it all and through him everyone plays their part and shit just works.
Askew: Perception is an amazing thing and, I guess, graffiti is a lot about how you use and exploit that with the means you have at your disposal. TMD is a very big but functional crew, that doesn't happen overnight though. A lot of communication is required. We talk, constantly, plan and do our best to set goals and work out how to utilise our pool of skills to achieve them. The rest is how you present that to the world, so they understand what you are about and what you are doing. Being geographically isolated made us embrace the internet pretty early and many of us are pretty savvy in putting work out there at a consistent rate to keep TMD present in the global scheme of things. Honestly, we still have so much more we want to achieve in way of art and interesting projects, I think, one great thing is we don't do all this stuff with the thought of money on our mind. We still do things that we just find fun or cool. Simple as that!

A lot of you guys seem to travel a lot. What do you think are the main differences between the different parts of this world? Graffiti related and social?
Dyle52: I've been travelling to Mexico and USA for the last four years. I've observed the cultures, landscapes, scenes and have concluded that people are the same all over. There are certain differences, but overall, people have to go through peer pressure, heart break, love, food - or lack of it, families, broken homes, graffiti beef, goals of being king, searching for God.
Askew: Everywhere is unique and has its own set of circumstances, social or economic etc. This obviously factors greatly into the feeling of the writing scene. I feel blessed to have been to quite a few places now in Europe, America and Australia and being able to make those comparisons. As I answer these questions, I'm in Detroit, which is like a post-apocalyptic setting from a sci-fi movie. This place is almost third-world in the middle of one of the most powerful global economies and despite being a haven for creativity, when people feel down and out it's hard to get out and paint with any vigour. This is about as far away from Auckland as it gets.
Pest5: I think that you can look at any country and compare what the influence of American culture is in relation to the indigenous culture. Like, do they have graffiti, pop music, fast food? The more you have of that and the less of the local traditions, the less different and interesting a place is. It's the differences that make travelling fun. Like graffiti scenes that evolve in isolation, often have the most original and interesting ideas. The downside of globalization is the threat of assimilation.
Berst: I've only been to a handful of places so far, but I believe that at the moment the New Zealand scene is really healthy and alive. I guess, the main difference I see between countries is their mentality towards painting graffiti. It is great that each place have their own methods to their madness.

In which countries have you been so far and where ... yet and where do you want to go?
Dyle52: USA, Mexico, Australia. I want to go to India, South Africa, Europe and return to USA.
Pest5: Hong Kong, California and Hawaii, Italy, Spain, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Cook Islands, Australia ... I want to see more of China, the empire of the future! Also, we are yet to get through South America.
Berst: So far, I have been to Hong Kong, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Köln, Mainz, London, Brighton, Los Angeles and New York. Networking and meeting new people is one of the greatest things to happen in graffiti, considering painting graffiti can be one of the most anti-social things to do! In the future, I would definitely like to explore more of Europe and the United States.
Askew: Yeah, like I said, I've been to quite a few places in Australia, America and Europe. I've been pretty lucky to spend a good amount of time in those places, especially in the last few years. I'm really interested to see South America and Asia next. I'm particularly interested in going to places where graffiti isn't huge yet or on the cusp of exploding. That excites me.

Interested in trains?
O'Che: No.
Berst: There is a lot of hype around passenger trains these days, but I have a greater interest in freight trains rather than passengers. I just don't know if a lot of people that paint trains these days really have the same reasoning behind painting trains as when writers did when graffiti started. People painted trains back then because their names ran all day every day. Things lasted and people would see it. Nowaday's put aside the experience and mission of painting a train, in the most likely case your name may only last a couple of hours with hardly anybody seeing it.
When I look at all the earlier train graffiti all the pieces were burners and it seems like there is only a couple of writers that have really pushed the boundaries on trains since then. For the fact that there is a lesser quality on trains, I'm less drawn to them. Freights, on the other hand, stay up and do travel throughout the whole country here. Hats off to the people that do go out there and do their thing though!
Askew: Just to further elaborate on Berst's point, I think trains are a pretty interesting subject, especially when discussing the ‘train scene' of New Zealand. I totally understand the attraction and have found myself totally allured into that world from time to time. Sometimes, particularly in Auckland, it can feel a little abstract or even redundant. The energy required, the world you end up living in, the paranoia and stress all for the maximum of 25 minutes of painting can take its toll. I guess, I understand the perceived nobility of doing something secret, not for the instant ‘props' from your peers but to be honest, I write to be seen. I won't even lie. All that ‘I just do it for myself' bullshit seems like such a cliché sometimes. Our system is pretty small and at this point is so out of the way for the majority of commuters that panels mostly don't get seen. I love the dynamics of catching a running panel flick and some of my best pieces have been on trains and painted in less than 15-20 minutes. The reality for me here in NZ though, is there are better targets, spots that are more risky, last and tick all the right boxes really.

What's your main target? Why?
Graffiti is my balance and release to my other half of my brain. So it's a personal journal and has nothing to do with the traditional motivations of graffiti.
I paint more walls than anything else but I'm open to anything. It's just a matter of whether it's going to look cool, stay, be seen or make a great photo. I've never specialized in one thing, I'm too ADD for that!
My new years resolution for 2010 is to only paint if it's gonna be something that's quality. Besides tags and throw ups of course but no more half ass, no sketch having, paint wasting bullshit. I know, some things I've painted lately have been awful and shake my head every time I think about it.

It seems that most of you guys are not teenagers anymore. Why still writing graffiti? There must be a few good reasons!?

O'Che: I started in my mid 20's, hahahahah!
Dyle52: Yip, everyone is getting older ... Except Berst! We continue to push each other and encourage each other on to keep taking it up another level. I love to paint, it's my sport. I didn't play rugby like all my Tongan cousins did, I painted. It's a huge source of expression and fun for me.
In comparison to the rest of TMD I'm the youngest and I still feel as though I have endless years of dues to pay. I will always feel that way until I reach and surpass what the older guys have accomplished. I can definitely say that by the end of my graffiti career I want to be able to paint works that are jaw dropping, whether it makes me money or not. In the long run I'm interested in art anyway, so by the time I get old I'd imagine that I'm going to be doing art in some form even if it's not graffiti.
Askew: I only feel like I started to get really good closer to 30. Why would I stop now when it's all starting to get major momentum behind it?
It's definitely an addiction. Sometimes I can't sleep or wake up at 3 a.m. and can't get back to sleep until I do some tags or a throw-up. Then, there's the other side, where you just want to try and paint something really pretty.

Did graffiti ever cause any problems in your lives?
Uprise: Hard. I took my girl's car to a spot one night and came back to it and some chicken shit chopped the radiator hose and I didn't realise until the engine almost blew. Now that's caused unnecessary tension between us when it comes to using her car again! Thanks graffiti.
Yes, when I used to steal especially, it grew into bigger things with my friends, which lead to my best friend going to jail for a long time.
Graffiti has changed my life. Not just the person that I've become but also the lifestyle that I live. I still live a normal life outside of graffiti, just like anybody else, but after doing graffiti for so long there are always moments of self-doubt, wondering why you take the road of illegal art. Graffiti always comes interferes with my personal life, but overtime I have come to accept that it's something that requires so much of my attention and I might as well go full steam ahead with it. Oh yeah, it's ruined 95% of my clothes, too.
I've heard some horror stories from other people, but to be honest with you, graffiti has mainly represented positive things in my life and presented amazing opportunities. This has defined my life, introduced me to valuable friends I love dearly and allowed me to see the world. At this point it's hard for me to see the world the way the ‘system' tells me to, when I've been rewarded so much by living outside the rules.

How is the social situation regarding graffiti in your country? Are there legal spots? What happens if you get caught doing something illegal?
Uprise: I heard if you get arrested you're taken back to a dark cell and made to strip naked in front of the cops, then they take your undies and hang them up like a trophy.
Dyle52: Our authorities are more concerned about the taggers that hit the suburbs and motorways, and not so concerned with the rail corridor. We have legal walls, sometimes we lose them for various reasons.
Askew: Yeah ... For the most part, things are kind of archaic here in a way that leaves a lot of things open for exploitation. Legal walls can be more hassle than it's worth from my experience, but there are heaps of grey areas that you can still utilise here that may not be possible in other places. Also the stigma about freights and trains is pretty different here compared to other places, even Australia. Like Dyle said, it's mainly the taggers that the authorities prioritise over the likes of us.

I think, there are a lot of Europeans dreaming of a life in New Zealand. What do you think, is it worth dreaming of it, or is ‘perfect' always what you don't have?
Pest5: We live in beautiful island paradise at the end of the earth, which is good in some ways and bad in others. Travelling overseas is expensive and difficult, our dollar is worth nothing, imported goods are expensive and the Internet is slow. But we have some great beaches!
Dyle52: Remember Europeans, we are on the BOTTOM of the world, it's small and slow, so be weary about the draw of middle earth! I love New Zealand!
Askew: Geographical isolation has been both, our gift and our curse. I could talk for days about this subject!

The other way around, where would you like to live? Why?
Uprise: L.A. Cos the grass is green and the girls are pretty.
Pest5: Italy! They don't know how sweet they've got it in so many ways. Hawaii is great, too, because it's a tropical island but with all the mod cons of the USA.
Dyle52: I'd like to live in the States for a while. We grow up with a lot of American influence on us, through media, fashion and culture. I've had it in my heart to stay there. I guess, we will see ... Only God knows!
Askew: In an ideal world, I'd live here but travel and work abroad much more frequently. Those little tasters of life in Europe and the US and the opportunity that exists out there have whet my appetite.

Any ideas what graffiti will look like in the future?
Yup. Futuristic.
Like a light show at a rave.
Haha! Bolts from GBAK said that the way we have all been painting lately in Auckland, eventually our pieces are just going to regress into a bunch of fat cap lines and nothing else! Man I laughed at that because it's so true. If I though I could get away with it, I'd totally just do that!

Every graffiti career causes a lot of stories, right? What was the craziest thing that happened in your lives because of graffiti?
Painting with HEM crew in Tijuana. That city is crazy and a lot of crazy things happen. Then painting with MSK in Hyland Park, L.A., and Revok taking care of business!
That was pretty eye-opening for us Kiwi fellas! To be honest, I have a million stories, that's one aspect of this culture I love. Just getting out there and being amongst it. Two quick things that come to mind though, both involve freight painting. One time, I was painting with Phat1 and Ikon from RTR in a country town and heard a grunt behind me. I turned around and was face to face with a horse! Haha! Then, not too long ago, I was painting a freight in Auckland with Sirum and some of the GBAK's and it was near a notorious gay cruising spot. Basically, mid way through, we realised there was a rather large gay Tongan man spying on us having a wank while watching us paint! That's graffiti for you, it exposes you to a different world full of unsavoury characters!

Anything you want the kids who just started to know?
Wear an extra pair of undies when painting illegally just in case ... and don't wear your favourite T-shirt.
My best advice that I could suggest is to work hard and don't disrespect the writers that came before you. Better to have allies than enemies. We are all here trying to do the same thing.
Be yourself, don't conform to what others expect you to. Have real friends and grow together.
Find the balance between being introspective and being able to identify the big picture. Be as honest as you can be at any time, do things because they resonate with you, not because they are the status quo. Do your best to understand art and specifically what makes graffiti unique in the grand scheme of that world. Make plenty of mistakes and do your best to experience fear regularly. It makes you a healthier person.

What's you dream for the future? Anything you really want to do one time in your lives?
Build a giant sculpture out of stone or ceramic that can survive millennia like a pyramid. Ideally have it in orbit, so it can even survive global catastrophes, and large enough to be seen by the naked eye from earth.
I currently put about 25% of my effort into graffiti, which makes me shake my head every time I think about it. But with all the other shit in my life, hopefully, the near future sees me sacrificing a lot of it, so I can put a lot more focus into it. Ask me again next year and if I shake my head you know ain't shit changed! Haha!
My dream is to grow into all that God has for me, to honour Jesus with my whole life.

Shout out to Lords Crew, Nor, Cal and TNA Christchurch.
The whole New Zealand scene, Gospel Graffiti, CSA crew, MSK, DTS, HA, Steve Grody ... Haha random! Thank You!
To all the TMD family in NZ, Australia and Germany. To all the Stick Up Kidz worldwide. Much respect to all the F1 people. A huge shout to Revok and Rime for all the encouragement these past couple of years. Shouts to all the MSK, AWR, COD, DTS, RTR, GBAK, HA writers for just generally keeping everyone on their toes and always progressing. A huge thanks as well to Ironlak and everyone that's a part of that family because the unconditional support and exposure that I've been given has allowed me to grow and in turn helped elevate TMD and the Auckland scene. I'm eternally grateful for that, it is something I dreamed about, but never expected to become reality.

For further information and latest flix check out: www.tmdcrew.com

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