|Interview: Sae & Mons
Old school name, crew & city?
SAE: COSMO (84-86), SAE (86-89) and during shorter periods of time also SINZE and DEL.
Our first crew was called Youngsters and later Outlaws (TWO: The Writing Outlaws) 85-89 both of them with MONS. Otherwise just ”Middelfart posen”.
MONS: Chronological; FUSIE (85), CREE, RAND (86), KEN (87-88), SNEKE (88), DANE, SATS,
BASN. MONS has been on/off since 88. All the different names were probably due to the fact that there weren’t that many of us. To an outsider it must’ve looked crazy with all the different names and tags all over town. I’ve hung on to MONS, also since I stopped in 93-94, and if a job comes up, it’s being signed MONS.
When and how did you get startet?
SAE: Like the rest of the young people in Denmark I was break dancing and into the boogie in 84. The graffiti, however, quickly took over and I did my first piece; ”Beat Kids” (which by the way was the first piece in Middelfart with a background and outline and whiteline), back in 1984 at the age of 11.
My biggest revelation was when the DR (Danish TV channel) aired the documentary ”Style Wars” – that day changed my world. In hindsight I don’t think that any movie or artistic experience has affected me as much as that documentary did. It wasn’t just the graffiti – it was all of New York, the ghettos, the urban environment and the sub culture that got to you. It was overwhelming.
I started painting with MONS in 85 – among others the legal double piece ”Kaimy Relax”.
MONS: I was in Copenhagen in 84 when the movie “Beat Street” first came out. In it I saw some weird kids doing some funny moves and painting on boards at the Burger King. It made a big impression on the kid from the suburbs, so I went back to my mates and started to draw cool bubbly letters and cartoon characters.
I first met graffiti and hip hop in “Wild Style” on German TV. It was a weird experience, I didn’t understand a thing they were talking about and I thought it really odd but nonetheless quite exciting with the illegal paintings. Finally I saw some very old graffiti in the book
”Amerikanske billeder” (American Pictures), which was part of my parent’s book collection.
We also visited the Thomas P. Hejle youth club in Copenhagen a few times where we learned quite a bit. They totally rocked in Copenhagen.
When was your first train?
SAE: A freight train in 87 with MONS. The piece was an almost true copy of the pale green
SAE with hearts and a character.
MONS: I've painted a few since then.
How did graffiti start in Middelfart?
SAE: The hip hop/break dance wave hit Denmark in 1984 – and there was quite a few of us in town who joined it back then. There wasn’t much graffiti in town, though – no more than a few “seen” or ”Lee” tags before the end of 84 and 85. After this there were only the most submerged hip hop freaks left. We were hanging out at the youth club “Borgen”, which was also the venue of many jam sessions during the eighties with the boys from Vejle, Århus,
Fredericia and Odense.
MONS: One guy’s brother had just been to the States and brought home an album with “Sugarhill Gang”. We listened to it a lot in the summer of 84. It was some pretty weird music but it was also awesome and very different from everything else we knew. - Those were the days, break dancing in front of Winner-Burger and Uniposca pieces behind the book store.
How many writers where there in Middelfart at that time?
SAE: Back in 84 there were about 10 to 15 doing sketches and tags – but no one was doing real paintings. In 85 (once the the first craze wore off) there were only four writers left: SAE, MONS, MOE, MATES – (the last two were also b-boying on a pretty high level) plus a handful of hangarounds, among others BLIX, who was the big brother of MATES. The few of us left were, however, very persistent.
In 88 a few new faces turned up, 2 to 3 new boys, which gave both the town’s graffiti and dance scene a bit of new energy. The boys were DOPE (Geolog G, MDK), PAZI (writers) and RAKIM D (dancer).
It’s my impression today that Middelfart might have had Denmark’s highest percentage of serious hip hoppers compared to the size of the town and the population. There was no other town that size with the same amount of graffiti at the time.
Who were your partners in crime back then?
SAE: My homeboy MONS. We hung out together and worked with great understanding – I took care of the letters and outlines while MONS did the characters, the colouring and the background.
The other writers in town - MOE and MATES – were in it too but did less graffiti.
We always hung out together in Middelfart, though, and were quite good friends – in hindsight it was much like a big family. MATES’ penthouse apartment was our second home during those years and the closest we get to a Grand Concourse/149 st. – or Writer’s Bench in Middelfart.
How did you get in contact with writers in other cities?
SAE: From 84 the crew from Middelfart hung out with 2-3 guys from Vejle. We visited each other quite often and arranged jams in our local youth club. Later on between 86 and 87 we met SROW/MARC (Odense), and through them we got to know SCEM/SONE (Odense/Cph) and later SENS (Odense/Ålborg). Through Tue T. (MDK) and Prins-Henrik (notorious b-boy from Vejle) we also met LIST and a couple of other writers/hip hoppers from Århus.
From 88 we started to get noticed for our qualities in the rest of the province. And it wasn't without a certain pride that we flashed our little black books at the world back then. We actually got quite a bit of respect from our surroundings. Which is understandable if you look at the period 86-90 and compares it to the rest of the graffiti in the province, we were among the best. MONS was in my opinion the best character painter in the province.
MONS: Besides those guys I also painted with a guy from Copenhagen. And by the way - we met SCEM and SENS on the Hellerup yard where we took photos of graffiti.
Tell us about your visits to Odense:
SAE: The first time we hit Odense we lived with SENS and SCEM, we had planned a train, a windowdown wholecar, and we met at the legendary burger joint. As we were standing there a handful of cops walked in for a bit of a late night snack and SENS and SCEM got busted -
MONS and I fled in a hurry and managed to escape.
Another trip ended with us dropping a bucket with 10 liters of white paint in the middle of a restricted walking area and we had a great time making footprints (true street art) for a couple of hours. It was more fun than you'd think.
MONS: That's true.
Did you visit other cities?
SAE: Copenhagen was always the place to go and our best study object. The graffiti there was on quite a high level - and there were lots and lots of skilled writers, also back in the eighties. Jams and concerts also made us come to town. Otherwise we went to Fredericia, Kolding, Vejle and Århus.
MONS: I went to Copenhagen whenever I had the money and the oppurtunity. I used quite a bit of pocket money on movies and ganja at Christania.
Maybe outside of Denmark?
SAE: No. But once we were in France together where we drank Pernod, smoked Gauloises and learned French kissing from a guy named Pascal.
MONS: Sad but true.
Which writers have influenced you?
SAE: DONDI, SKEME (NY), BATES, JEST, REZEN and SABE (all from Copenhagen) - after I stopped names like GREAT, RENS, MOA, TOYS and particularly SWET has marked themselves in Denmark. Of skilled street art people I'd like to mention Huskmitnavn.
MONS: SKEME, SEEN and LEE (NY) SABE (DK) - and my homeboy SAE. And last but not least the king of them all - SWET, who still is a good friend - he totally rocks.
Any funny stories from back then?
SAE: Heaps. But the coolest thing about being 15 years is that NO cop, DSB guy or security guard can run as fast as you can. I remember a considerably overweight security guard who thought he could catch us - we laughed so hard he almost did.
Once we got busted at Svanemøllen station in Copenhagen. It was quite an experience to be chased by a joint party of DSB crew and cops through inner Copenhagen. When they learned we were from Middelfart they totally lost interest in us - after all we hadn't done anything apart from taking some pictures.
MONS: Ha ha. That's juuuust a small penis. And something about a wallet from Paris.
How do you see the scene back then compared to today?
SAE: It seems as though there's more different environments and directions: the young and the old, new and old school style, graffiti and street art. Back in the eighties the environment was probably more closed and underground. We were laughing stock to most of the society because we still ran along with last year's trends - today the tables are pretty much turned. But it hasn't led to any noticeable culture boost.
MONS: It has become way too easy to get started. Just pick a style, get your hands on some cans and google graffiti - and you're at it!
Are you still painting?
MONS: Rarely - way too rarely, but I still feel like it.
How is the graffiti scene today in Middelfart?
SAE: There doesn't seem to be one. I moved away myself in 92.
MONS: What scene?
What impact has graffiti had on your life?
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SAE: The graffiti has, among other things, meant that my hand writing changes to tag mode all by itself.
Graffiti is a bit like learning to read and write for the second time.
Of course it has always meant something - it was a big part of my life during those 4-5 years - and in an age where one is passionate about one's interests and cultivates the rebellious and creative. Remember that hip hop was everything but modern and mainstream back then - compared to today where hip hop is setting the trend in many different artistic genres.
Moreover there was the excitement of it all - something most teenagers go looking for - because of sheer arrogance and invulnerability. After all we were playing cops and robbers.
Despite the popularity of hip hop (as seen in the pop culture) graffiti has managed to preserve its hermeneutic aura, partly because of the illegal aspect, the media (the wall/the train) and the receiver (the sub culture and others who'd be interested), partly the expression and the congenial ways (unreadable styles and signatures like tags etc.)
Graffiti has always been the ugly cousin of hip hop and as the rest of the culture commercialised itself - graffiti seems to have torn away and have made its own branch of sub culture. But that's just guessing on my part. In my book hip hop is still the crooked and innovative - but above all it's UNDERGROUND!
All of us from Middelfart have since been cultivating our creative talents both professionally and privately as graphical designers or in multimedia, music, architecture and art. So in hindsight it has been of great importance.
MONS: SAE is absolutely right. Graffiti has given me huge mental ballast and I use it myself in my work as a graphic designer and in my life in general. Among others things I've just completed a large wall painting and the graffiti really showed through. It's also awesome to see it in my own children; they're very interested in what we were doing back then. My oldest daughter aged 11 has just had a feature week in school and she chose graffiti for her theme.
What can I say: ROCK ON KIDS!
More pictures from Middelfart »