Q u e s t i o n s w i t h M I K E 1 7 1
MIKE 171 AT THE WRITERS CORNER, NYC
1:JOERAEL: Since you and SJK 171 are both are from the beginning. I'm sure countless people would like to know what is graffiti or writing to you? What is it in your view?
MIKE 171: Tagging or Writing our Names was a sense of telling the World “Hey look at me, I’m Mike-171 and I’m here.!! The Media called it Graffiti when they started printing the photos and stories in their newspapers.
2: Can you explain your monikers for those that don't know about the numbers at the end of your names?
MIKE 171 :171 is the street we lived on in Washington Heights. We saw Julio 204, Taki 183 so I put my name Mike-171. Steve put his initials SJK 171. Jose -JEC*
3. You and SJK 171 have both have been life long friends and partake in the part of this culture with a strong alliance. How did the two of you meet?
MIKE 171:We lived in the same building so we were playing together since we were kids.
4. How did you get into writing? When did you start?
MIKE 171: Steve, Jose and I were Delivery Boys at the A+P Supermarket, we noticed writings on the hallway walls like “Bob loves Mary 65” and other simple name tags. So we took white shoe polish and wrote Our tags.
5.What was it like writing in the BRONX in the 70's?
MIKE 171: Writing in Washington Heights was exciting and an adventure. It took us to places that we normally would not go. We got to meet other writers along the way and we were able to share spots and places that no one dared to go to.
6. Can you tell us a little about what it was like painting Subway trains in the early days?
MIKE 171: As kids in the late 1960’s we used to ride the “A” train to Rockaway Beach in Queens, that train took us from the tip of Manhattan to the last stop in Queens. We would go to each car tagging out names with magic markers. Than we explored the train tunnels and train yards ( 1969-74)with Spray paint, this was a new Level. Standing up on the wooded plank that was for protection of the third rail which was 600 volts of electricity that could fry you in a heartbeat, just to spray our names.
7. In knowing you both I attribute the psychedelia in the writing culture to you guys. Where you started to embellish your letters with designs and colors. Were you some of the first to do this?
MIKE171: Growing up in the 60’s with Rock n Roll music and using drugs gave us the psychedelic experience that made us more creative in our inner Spiritual ways. We would dapple on paper, black books and do Masterpieces on train cars in the tunnels and train yards while tripping on acid and other substances. WOW what a trip...
8.You both made a huge impact on the culture in more subtle ways. For instance early photo documentation and sketchbooks "black booking". Can you share some of this early instinct response to document and keep your sketches?
MIKE171: As you know from the “Wall Writers” book and Documentary film, Steve and I took many photos of our tags and he was able to save them and the blackbooks over the years. As we got older all he had was stories by word of mouth.Then one day in 2009 we were able to share all of our History with Roger Gastman. This open up a door for us in the Art Culture World than has now left our mark as the Pioneers of The Graffiti Movement.
9. How does it feel to be a pioneer in this vast global form of visual expression?
MIKE 171: Now that we are in the spot light being recognized as NYC Graffiti Pioneers it is a Humbling experience for us. Each year something new has come our way, from doing a wall for 50cent, both shows of
“Beyond the Streets” in L A and NYC, showcased in the Museum of Graffiti in Miami. Traveling to Europe and opening up doors for future venues. It seems endless for us.
10. Being pioneers what is your hope for the future of this movement? What is something you would wish to seeing this movement as part of your legacy?
MIKE171: For over 50 years we are still the same, being creative in our ideas, sharing our thoughts and feelings about the Arts in which we are teaching others of the History of the Graffiti Culture. Art is from the Heart this is what we want to pass on the Torch to the younger generations.
“Graffiti will never Die” ~Mike-171