Ahead of the Smashin Brum book release this Friday at the Wagon and Horses in Digbeth we caught up with Rob Kay to talk about the reasons for putting Birmingham’s graffiti history in to print.
First off, gotta start with the boring stuff. Can you give us a little background about yourself and your history within the Birmingham scene?
I feel Brum scene has always been really under-represented within the UK. Was that part of your impetus to write the book?
The idea to write the book originally came from Page FKS. When he first saw Crack & Shine by Freddy Forsyth, he wanted to put something together to represent Birmingham in a similar way. He came to me with a load of scraps of paper with names and ideas scribbled down. We chatted about it for a while but the idea eventually fizzled out. Every couple of months I’d get Crack & Shine down from the bookshelf and mull over writing something myself. Eventually after going through a few different ideas I decided to have a go at my own book. I’d already put a few of my own magazines and zines together and helped other people with doing the same, so I roughly knew how to kick it off.
How have you felt the scene has developed over the years? It felt as if there would be real bursts of activity before it would die down again, but now it seems … (thinking about tense)
style, bouncing ideas off one another, doing one another’s outlines.
You mentioned about a lack of local styles. Do you think this is due to the emergence of social network sites like Instagram? What other affects do you think this has had on graffiti?
Yes. People get to see so much more now. The only influences you had before the rise of social media was what you had around you unless you travelled. You could pick up on what city a writer was from by the style they painted. Social media has had a huge impact in graff overall. It’s made people lazy. It’s being used as a form of getting up rather than actually going out and getting up. Instead of going out and doing 100 pieces to get noticed you can do 10, put them on Instagram and get twice as many people see it, it’s taken away all the hard work, taken away the man hours walking tracks and streets, and staying out all night to get that perfect spot.
How did you go about choosing who would be featured in the book?
Are there any writers not in the book that you wish were?
Can you give us a little bit of background about the accompanying film and how that came about?
This book and accompanying film could be seen as the legacy of Birmingham Graffiti. You’ve become the Henry Chalfant of the West Midlands. Are you proud of the work and is there anything you would have done differently?
Any final thoughts you would like to share?