Interview by Eden DaSilva
Sper IBC has been a familiar name to the walls of Victoria since the early nineties, and consistently keeps his name fresh with some eye-catching pieces. Whether it be on freights, the Trackside Gallery, Graffiti Alley, or anywhere else in the world, his variety of styles and Skuzzabot character are always a pleasure to catch around. Just days before his recent move to Montreal, we caught up with him at Victoria’s Wildfire Bakery.
What got you into graffiti?
I was going to Kaleidoscope Theatre acting school as a 13 year old because of my behaviour issues, and on the wall of the theatre outside and up Herald street, Hans Fear did a big Pause burner, and then beside him Sight did a burner that said unite – so it was Pause and Unite. When I saw that, I didn’t know what it meant but I knew I wanted to do it.
What were your first attempts at graffiti like?
I painted some plywood boards in my backyard on Mother’s Day, and I did a piece for my Mom that said “Happy Birthday Mom”. It was this abstract piece that copied what I thought graf looked like, and she loved it.
Did you start out writing Sper, or did you try anything else out first?
I started out writing Rupture. Sight and Stelth were teaching me how to paint. I quickly changed my tag to Sper though, I only did one Rupture piece. And then Stelth put me in IBC, which probably would have been in ’94 or ’95.
What are your thoughts on Victoria graffiti today?
I think Victoria graffiti has a lot of potential right now, because there’s a lot of young kids that have a great attitude here. I think for graffiti in Victoria, there’s a lot of energy and I hope that the younger kids start to learn how to piece as well as bombing, because they’re really good at bombing.
Are there any writers in particular that are catching your eye?
Yeah man, I love FauxPas, Gabr, Blank, Alter, and Darko. Those guys are my favourite right now.
I know you were doing some travelling recently. Where did you go? Any favourite places you’ve painted?
I went to New Zealand, Vietnam and Cambodia, and last year I went to Japan. My favourite place is Vietnam so far, they’re not concerned about an old wall that’s peeling off and has moss growing on it. If you wanna paint a mural on that, go ahead. They appreciate beautifying urban space. I like doing graffiti because I like making people happy with my art, I’m done being an angry youth. I had a lot of anger, and that’s when I did my bombing. But now that I’m older, I respond to people that appreciate it, and in Vietnam they really appreciated it.
Any favorite stories from your travels? Any crazy stories?
Painting under a bridge with water buffalo right beside me was pretty fun.
I went into an alley in Vietnam with Honest and Zima from Toronto. It was rush hour, dinner time, everyone’s getting home and making dinner, and we wanted to paint. We went to one shop and the little kids spoke English, one ran up and said “Can I help you?” I told them we were trying to paint this crazy wall right in the labyrinth of tiny alleys, for free. And then he talks to a bunch of people, and they go “Yeah paint it” but nobody actually has authority on the wall. Just kinda if the group says you can paint, you can paint. So we start painting, everything’s going well, they’re giving us food and beers, taking selfies while we’re painting, music blasting, scooters racing by, people are cooking noodles, it was so full of life. And then the army shows up, all their gear on, yelling. A community debate ensued. There was a huge group of families that were defending us, and then the military was trying to bust us, but in the end they said “Okay you can paint” but it was pretty tense for a while. After that, the vibe was even more positive because everyone was celebrating.
Are there any opportunities that graffiti has given to you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
I’d say the best opportunity that graffiti has given me, is making friends. I find it very hard to meet people. I find the older I get the harder it is to make new friends, and for me as a creative person, friendship and community is the most important thing to me. I remember when art crimes was the only graffiti website at the time, this was in the late nineties. I looked on art crimes, I found Askew, emailed him, and a few months later he picks me up from the airport in New Zealand and lets me stay at his house with a whole bunch of well known writers from Australia and England. Just coming out of highschool and being able to connect with people all over the world, making those friends, that’s the most valuable thing.
Do you have a favorite type of spot to paint?
Absolutely freights. I don’t do enough freights but whenever I do, it makes me realize ‘Oh, that’s why I do graffiti’. When you’re in the world of freights it’s a different world, and to me it’s a world that belongs with graffiti. It’s a magical world. I love these big transformers made out of trains in abstract landscapes that someone is doing. So good.
What gives you a Visual Orgasm?
Girls with tattoos.
Is there anything you’ve learned over the years that you wish you knew when you started?
When I started painting, I had a real ego. Because I was always a good artist, I thought ‘well shit this is gonna be easy’ – so my first burners, I would try and do technical shit, instead of just learning how to do good straight letters. Sometimes my pieces would turn out, but most of the time they were garbage. My advice is just start simple and legible, and then gradually work up.
What’s in the future for Sper? I hear you’re about to move to Montreal.
My priority is to meet people and make new creative friends, so that I stay inspired and mentally positive. I want to paint at Under Pressure, I want to do Skuzzabot comics on doorways with Markal in all the alleys. I’m gonna number them so you can follow them around to read the comic. I want to develop the Skuzzabot character even more.
Do you have plans to paint with anyone there? Anyone you want to meet?
I’ve got a good friend over there named Naimo. Meor, Bfor and Scribe have been really cool to me. Five 8 and Earth Crusher are dudes that I hope to meet. And Stare, I’d love to meet Stare because I think his murals are the best. My favourite in Montreal.
One more thing I want to add is RIP Dr. Derfer MSIAS.