While gripping a firm handle on the fundamentals, BOLTS throws it back to a time when house was disco, when denim flared, and when psychedelics were almost a food group. As he himself describes it, it’s a mishmash of “old and new”; a brand of ’70s funk tuned into ‘Today FM’.
There’s a simplicity in BOLTS’ style; a lo-fi approach to getting letters up that seems almost complacent. It’s a formula that many ‘true school’ appreciators might turn their noses up at… Well, fuck ’em. True, it lacks balance and exactitude, but that’s exactly the point. In the same way that negative attention in a classroom full of ‘goody two-shoes’ is still attention, a deliberate imbalance in flow is still a form of balance. As a certain luminary recently explained to me when observing BOLTS’ work, “good graffiti is good graffiti, no matter what the style.”
An enthusiastic Kiwi who jumped the ditch and is now flourishing in our southern playground known as Melbourne town, BOLTS is truly in his element. He’s far from aggressive, quite the nice guy in fact and doesn’t mind a laugh, but he still doesn’t mind telling you exactly what he thinks.
While you should never take candy from a stranger, this jelly bean’s probably been double-dipped in something worth a giggle.
Let’s get straight down to brass tacks. You’re a Kiwi, now living in Australia. Are you happier having Melbourne as your playground?
Sorry Auckland, I have to say Melbourne IS more of a playground, there’s so many things to explore over here. I’ve been in Melbourne for a fair while now and I still have so much more ground to cover. I felt unmotivated in Auckland maybe toward the end, probably because I’d been there my whole life and wanted to see what else was out there. When I came to Melbs it was like starting graffiti again, and it literally was; no one knew who I was so I had to start again which was fun. I’ve taken much inspiration from my mates here.
What do you miss about Auckland?
Royal Crown Draft Cola, sometimes I miss Wendy’s burgers I guess.
Tell me more your growing up in New Zealand? When did you start writing?
Well I lived in the western suburbs of Auckland and I guess growing up there was pretty cool. I had a good group of mates who I used to skate and party with, a couple of us started tagging different skate spots where we used to skate. I started noticing an influx in tagging around the age of 13/14 where it was just EVERYWHERE. It really was an epidemic but I liked it. It was around then that I started tagging shit stuff: my first name was “DARKSIDE” (cringes) ha ha ha. If my Dad brought home some Dulux Dazzles from the building sites he worked on I would do sneaky fill-ins at the local bus stop.
So the saturation of bombing was what caught your eye. Were there many big burners up at the time? Who were the standout names that paved the way before you?
My commute to school was when I first really started to notice proper graffiti cause I was from the west but had been going to a shitty private school in the city. It was there everyday on the train, day in day out. I was glued to the walls. ‘Combat Zone’ and Mount Eden station were my favourite legs of the journey. Sometimes if my mum wasn’t picking me up from the station I’d ride the train a few stops further so I could see my favourite pieces, which were at the time were SHINE’s ‘coke cans’ and the ever-changing masterpieces from FURY, WEBS, IKON and AGENT at the Railside Avenue walls. That was around the time when freights were out west too so I got to see what I thought was train graffiti (chuckle). AGENT, ADDICT and PHAT ONE were my favourite west writers from that time, oh and NYCAM! I also loved seeing RANSOM backward tags on all the shop roofs in New Lynn.
Sounds like the all-too-familiar love affair was well underway. Do you remember when you started rocking pieces yourself?
I guess when I met SNATCH (the most famous ‘Westy-straights’ tagger), YIKES and STRAY (IRE) was when I started doing pieces. We used to go to the New Lynn tracks every weekend and paint the same spots. SNATCH and I walked the tracks a lot too, we were also tagging a fair bit but still trying to do pieces. I remember when I really fell in love was when I saw the IKON piece at ‘Combat Zone’ that had a black fill and a crazy exploding star background. It said ‘IKON NO.1’ and I thought, “yes, yes you are!”
Later I met BERST. He was way more keen and active then me, and still is. We hit it off pretty hard and he gave me heaps of push to get out more and do some real good shit. We were going out so much in fact we both lost our girlfriends over it. I remember the night we ran into ASKEW and SMASH at the servo on K Road. ASKEW was like, “you wanna come for a mish?” and we were like, “FUUUCK”. We had shit paint with us (Dymarks) and we did shit pieces, but that was a memorable experience for us.
Since then I’ve kept ASKEW in high regards as a person who helped me understand graffiti in so many ways.
He’s dedicated that’s for sure, no doubt a positive influence on the outlook of many from across the ditch. What are a few characteristics that differ between writers in New Zealand and Australia?
I don’t think I came across writers in New Zealand that carried box cutters and had rats tails ha, people do shit a little less officially in NZ.
Would you say the scene is insulated in Auckland? At the same time as producing some of the most progressive writers on the planet it seems that many feed off each other’s ‘influence’ quite heavily, perhaps a side-effect being ‘stuck on this crazy island’ as ASKEW puts it. Would you agree? Or do you think it is the same everywhere these days?
I 100% agree with this statement! There are very few who have innovated. I really like seeing where it’s gone from when I left until now. Sometimes I return and I’m blown away by the level of quality, but a lot of it is just mimicked by what certain progressive writers are doing (I guess it’s better to take influence from someone who actually lives in your country – that’s how the style evolves). Then there’s fellas that stick to their guns and keep the same style but progress through the decades, perfecting it and not following trends – that’s what I like to see when I go to Auckland.
You’ve got a particular flex on letters. How would you describe your style?
Hmmm I like to think of it as a mixture of old and new, everything I’ve picked up along the years moulded into what do I now. I try stuff out and sometimes it works, sometimes not. I like to have a balance of technical and fun happy-looking stuff, nothing too jagged or angry because I’m a really nice person.
So you think style is a reflection of the individual? That character that lies beneath?
Definitely. Art imitating life.
Do you think this is naturally occurring? What does this say about those who’ve been hard at it for years but still struggle holding down a clean letter?
I say good on them for still going, but yeah its a natural thing I think. If you love Slayer and Megadeath you probably like wearing black jeans, black t-shirts and shoes etc, and if you love Flo rida, Selwyn and Drake you probably like wearing clothes that are too big for you… is that a good analogy or what!?
While I’m at it, I’m going on the record here… Odd Future suck!
Let’s get back to where you’re at now. How are things evolving in Melbourne for you? You’re developing fast in the tattoo game I hear.
Yeah, I guess I’ve started making changes in my life a bit, thinking more about my future and all that sorta stuff. I love getting up in the morning without that feeling of ‘oh shit I have to go to work’.
I couldn’t agree more; do what you love and love what you do. There’s plenty of writers crossing over to potentially promising careers in tattooing and Melbourne seems to be the Mecca for this. Was it something you always imagined yourself doing?
Absolutely! I always wanted to do it eventually… since starting tattooing it’s the first time I’ve ever felt like I have had a proper job where I’ve had to apply myself 100% (and actually wanted to as well). I feel like a sponge again everyday I’m at work; I’m learning and I want to be the best at it ya ya ya!
What are your opinions on street art? I’ve got my personal gripes with the ever-blurring lines between ‘graffiti’ and ‘street art’; one seems to happily feed off the other, sometimes with little acknowledgement or prior recognition. You’re right in the thick of it over there, what are your thoughts?
Thats a tricky one! I know a couple guys who do street art and they’re really nice people! But I also have a few friends that are gay and they’re really nice people too, so I guess it’s just an ‘agree to disagree’ situation here…
You’re part of some reputable crews that are spread across the Tasman and beyond. Do you manage to stay tight with everyone? Tell us more about your involvement with FLIES, RTR, GBAK and BOT families.
Yeah for sure. I try stay tight with everyone, but you know, it gets hard to stay in touch with EVERYONE. I give it a good crack though ha.
I don’t know how to describe my involvement really, things change from year to year. I really just value the friends I’ve made and I guess it’s the honour that keeps me feeling worthy of being put in any of these crews. When I was a young-ass toy I used to dream of being in RTR and I guess ‘if you can dream it’ blah blah blah. Also since the internet came out I’ve become a bit of a ‘viewing victim’ so seeing FLIES and BOT spread across Australia and the world (especially in European countries) — now calling them friends is pretty cool. Who would’a thought… lil’ ol’ Kiwis aye? Ha ha!
Now for a few BOLTSY one-liners. Give me a quick response to each of the following familiar sayings:
Home is where the heart is.
Home is where the bed is.
That which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
I want to kill Facebook for ruining a generation of humans. I bet if I tried it would make them stronger, so yeah, I’d agree with that!
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
…and don’t forget food, girls love food… HaaaaaaaaaaaM!
Slow and steady wins the race.
Yeah, and being a really nice person.
He who dies with the most toys, wins.
He who dies with the most toys is generally a selfish cunt who never shared nothing with no one!
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
Life speeds up the older you get.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
No way just keep trying to beat them, cause joining them means losing!
Be careful what you wish for.
Be very, very, very careful.
Nice guys finish last.
A lil’ bit aye.
Cheers BOLTS, it’s been a pleasure. Any final shout outs or words for the young hopefuls?
Hi Mum look at me! I’m on the [email protected]!!!!!!!!!!!( . )( . )!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Shout outs to everyone who is a contact in my phone cause you’re actual friends, not two-dimensional ones that exist on a screen. Also, shout outs to everyone who gets outside and goes for a walk after reading this too.
Proof that the youth are revolting.View all posts