Listen and enjoy!
OMS-So, what do you write and how long have you been going down this
LEARN- I write Learn and push YME, Circle T, and SFL. I caught my first
tag in late '89 when I was a freshman in high school.
OMS-How did you get into writing your name over and over again?
LEARN- OH man...such a long journey and seems like forever ago. My family is mostly
all from NYC originally. When they where hippies they moved to Cali in
the early 70's and started a commune...I was born into that. So we
always had visitors and extended family come out from New York. In
1987 my dad's friend in NY sent out her two teenage daughters for a
few weeks, I was 12 and they where probably like 16 or 17. They where
full on 80's hip hopped out, door knocker earrings and all. Anyway,
they tagged all over this notepad. I remember they wrote "Moe Baby 189" because one was named Maureen, and the number was for some street in Washington Heights where my fam is from. They also just wrote the cliched 80's hip hop stuff like "fresh" but it was all like
sick hands. I remember when they left, keeping the notebook and just
being so enchanted for some reason with this crazy writing I've never
seen. Soon after I started just copying it and writing sports teams
over and over. I loved the repetition and release of anxiety/angst
in writing...I still do to this day! Soon after in probably '88, my dad
noticed me writing on paper all over, and he came home with Subway
art. He got it and was like "hey Taki is in this, I grew up with
him" and "I remember when he used to write that all over the place".
After that is was pretty much on. I studied subway art, and started
noticing tags around the bay area, I just became hooked. I was so
mesmerized every time we went for a drive up to SF or San Jose, and
even the few things popping up in Santa Cruz then. From the beginning
I was always so into tags, I don't think I even saw a piece until a few
years later. So in late '89 I started writing "Heights" after where my
family is from. I first caught tags in my high school bathrooms and a
few in my neighborhood. Typical toy stuff. I would also write BPM
after Bennet Park Manhattan.. I was so in love with NYC and wanted to
live there so bad as an early teen.
OMS-What was it like at the start, and what were your reasons to keep
LEARN- It was a lot different than today, at least for me. You kinda
felt like you where on a Island, Like "how do I do this?" It was so
mysterious. I remember this telephone poll outside my apartment window
that used to get tagged a lot, I would wonder "when do they tag that?"
"can't be in the day." I would wait up till I passed out trying to catch
someone hitting it...haha. I had no reference on how to start, I would
go under bridges when I was like 14 and 15 and just stare at the tags,
hoping I'd see someone doing it, so I could get some hints. I pretty
much just caught tags here and there by myself from like '89-'92, never
meeting any other writers. I never even thought or imagined trying to
piece. I was really just into the tags, the fat power scribes on the
buses, and the mixed mean streak tags on light polls and bus stops,
and big flair tags. That was the shit then! You kinda had to figure
everything out on your own until you meet someone. I remember putting a
can in a Pringle's container and catching tags, we got stopped by
the cops and just said we where coming from the store. They looked at
my chips and moved on. Haha...funny. I got a lot of tips from reading
subway art and figured out how to rack oven cleaner caps for fats and
then tester model paint caps for thins. I pretty much write for the
same reasons I started 23 years ago, The FEELING! The pure enjoyment
of writing and the therapy it gives you. I also just love being apart
of a movement that is against the status-quo, andagainst the idea that private
property is more important than people, and the poor especially. It's also a
culture that can't be bought or sold by this inhumane economic system
we live in. Another thing I think kids starting now have to realize is that,
back then it took years to get going, to learn how to do anything, let alone get noticed! For me "fame" or any kind of recognition never really crossed my mind. I didn't even realize most writers wrote for
that reason untill later on. I was just doing it cause it was fun and I
was for some reason obsessed with it...still am...haha.
OMS-Who or what influenced you back then?
LEARN- Again tags and vandalism! The chaos and mystery of it are where my influences come from, not from any other writers really. Early to mid 90's California tagging, heavens, scribes, bus
hopping, and mean streaks! Nowadays everyone pieces, but back then in
Cali not everyone did, a lot of writers were just into bombing and
tagging. The gang culture in Cali had a lot to do with that. I mean
some of my first tags I noticed were gang stuff XIV and Norteno and
Sureno tags. I had a lot of pent up aggression and anger from a chaotic
family life, and being naturally kinda quiet, the graffiti I saw just
spoke to me and gave me a release. Regional local crews and writers
early on that inspired me were., TBK (Troubles Back Klan) they were
doing heavens in my area in like '90'-91, TOS ( Takin Out Suckas), HNR
(Hit N Run) and early FTL stuff. Writers in Santa Cruz and the bay, like CORE
TBK, TROPIK, TEMPT, KRAZER, THERO, CANCR, SOME, REPOS, PUZL, SPIE,
TWIST, DREAM rip, ORFN, KOLAGE, MOBY. Then when I moved to Oregon
my senior year '92 I finally met a few writers, BLER and PHOKES. That's when I
officially started writing LEARN in early '93. This is also when I
first saw stuff on trains and noticed writers like CHARLIE, CRISES,
GKAE, SK8, TOMB, POEM, SWAE, and THE SOLO ARTIST! BLER and me formed
my first crew in '93.. KOS (krime of soul) haha! Not long after in
'93, I started tagging the trains in the local yard. Later on in '97-'98
when I was living back in Cali for a bit, I got huge inspiration and
was able to be a more well rounded writer from dudes like IKSOE,
ERUPTO, DIET, RENOS, MEWZ, GORE were all huge inspirations as well as early
Maine pioneers during my first Maine stint '95-'99 like CASE, BERN,
RICH, LACK, and REPS.
OMS-What are your thoughts on how things are today?
LEARN- Some good things, but I dont think it will ever be the same as the
first 3 generations, '69-'99 in my opinion. If you started after that I
don't think you can appreciate the work and dedication it took to get
well rounded, meet writers, and figure things out yourself. As well as
putting in work in all the steps...Tags, Throws, Piecing. Also the
amount of shit we got as toys, kids nowadays just come out and want
respect after a year or two of using their fancy paints and biting the
new fad on 12oz, and thinking they can paint where ever they want. FUCK THAT! There are some exceptions, and I personally am trying to
revitalize the idea of trading flicks, passing down knowledge,
teaching kids to stay off the internet, having writers meetings, and
painting to have fun, bomb, and hang with your friends, fuck all the
fame and ego shit, shits so 2003! haha. I've always hated stamp
licking and self promo but that's maybe why I'm also a bit jaded.
I've been doing this shit for 23 years, with no self-promo, and have gone pretty unnoticed. I guess I'm a "writers writer" as JURNE put it once. I'm fine with that, I'll keep painting and doing my thing. I am also glad writers that have been putting in real work for decades, are getting paid... MSK
dudes and old NY dudes reaping the benefits of the culture lechers. Making loot is rad, better than fake ass kooks that never did anything.
OMS-What keeps you motivated to keep doing your thing these days?
LEARN- Insanity and beer! Haha...nah, I don't know man, it's all I really know.
I've been doing it so long it just seems natural, and I still have a
hell of a lot of fun doing this. So, really that's what matters, I guess. I like seeing my
name still and love the feeling, it never gets old! I also like that I'm still doing my thing after all these years and have no plans to stop! It's a badge of dedication and longevity that I proudly rep. I
love graffiti and I'm super loyal to it for what its given me! It
indirectly saved my life. I almost feel like stopping or going
totally legal is cheating on graffiti and turning my back on it. I
will always do this in some way or form untill I die. I don't think I could ever
go legal wall guy either, just wouldn't be the same, I'd rather quit.
OMS-Where does your inspiration come from now?
LEARN- Like I kind of said before, illegal or not, I'm proud as hell to be a writer! Not a artist
or anything else, but a graffiti writer! I'm proud my daughter will know
what I've done and how much I dedicated and contributed to a amazing
culture. I hope she can find something to be so passionate about and
pour her heart into someday. My crews and close friends in them
inspire me, all of us getting older and still doing our thing in some
capacity. I also feel like I'm still learning and getting better, so
that inspires me. Also in a weird way, getting older inspires me,
because graff is a constant and it's the one thing I can really count on that will be there for me when I need it, no matter what age or changes I go through. Also in todays world of instant everything, where people just talk to friends and socialize through a computer, graff is
real and tangible, you have to go out and do it! You have to be
uncomfortable at times, test yourself, as well as clean out all the
bullshit and fear put in our heads by today's society.
OMS-From tag-banging to what you do now, how did that change come
LEARN-Very slowly, like I said before I started catching tags in
late '89 and didn't even attempt a piece until summer '95. So I spent 6
years just tagging and doing hallow throw ups. I never have considered
myself an artist or have been good at drawing, plus I have a visual spacial
learning disability, so the fact that I can even do one today, comes
from a lot of mistakes, ugly ugly shit, and repetition! I grew up in a
era where the media "tag banging" thing was pretty hyped and as a
young teen growing up in that, I gravitated towards tags and vandalism.
Still my favorite part of graffiti, it's the soul of graffiti and
always will be. I always knew the boundaries though...no churches,
cemeteries, houses, cars, and I personally have always stayed away
from small mom and pop businesses. I come from working class people
and I'm one now. My beef is with our capitalistic greedy culture not
average people trying to get by; But things we pay taxes for: buses,
bus stops, signs, freeways, underpasses, abandon buildings, roof tops,
mailboxes, tunnels, dumpsters, trains, etc...is where graff should
OMS-You've experienced a lot of years doing this, you must have a
crazy story or two?
LEARN- Yeah a few...Bombing in SF with TIE and others,
getting chased in Hunters Point (worst part of SF) was scary. Running
through abandon muni tunnels getting yelled at by crack heads. Not
fun. Hiding under a train with Jurne in the snow and 20 degrees out
for a hour, while a cop was parked 20ft away not fun. Running around
Portland in the day with Alke and Lack getting chased, changing
outfits cause we where retarded and decided to catch a few in the
day, not fun. So many man...they all kinda blend in. Memories though..
OMS-What's your favorite thing about graffiti?
LEARN- Telling the world you are here and alive! No matter what race, gender or how much
money you have. The friends and bonds you form. The pure feeling of
catching a drippy silver or popping that gloss black outline.The
stories and memories; And the statement against consumerism and
bullshit idea of private property rules over people.
|SF MUNI TUNNELS 1997|
OMS-Your love of freights, where does that come from?
LEARN- Like I said before, I moved to Oregon my senior year '92, and there was a fr8 yard
there. My hometown didn't have much fr8 action, so this was the
first time I really noticed them. I would get all high and walk down
there and just be in this peaceful yard surrounded by these big metal
moving things and with graff on them, I was hooked immediately! I started tagging on them in '93, then piecing on them soon after I first moved to Maine in '96, so my progression and history has alot to do with fr8s. I love yards and layups cause if they're in the city it's a
peaceful retreat from the fast paced bullshit around you, and in the
country you have these metal urban things in a nature setting, it's
just always a perfect mixture. Just knowing you can do a piece and it
will last 10 years or more or be all over the country and/or Mexico
and Canada, walls can't compare. They just seem so much more pure and
real to me. I also like that you have to do a lot, I mean at least
300-500 to get noticed. It filters out a lot of the people in graff
just for the fame or ego. I love benching, and just being around fr8's.
it reminds me of a more simpler time in this country. Just pretty much
everything about them man.
|2007-2011 (First one 1999)|
OMS-What's your advice to up and comers and the new generation?
LEARN- Have patience, and seek out advice, be humble and understand that your year
or two ain't shit...call me back in a decade or more. Stay Off the
Internet! Learn your regional history and that there probably were
dudes doing this way before you so respect that. It's not a sprint
it's a marathon, enjoy it and take your time. Travel and have fun...
and be a good person! Style and how good you are really don't mean
shit if you are a piece of shit who doesn't respect the culture and the ones that have been doing it before you. Fuck how good you are, you aren't getting respect from me or most real writers for that matter. Last but not least, please get a good handstyle before anything else! Its the most
OMS-Some quick one or two word answers:
3. Pop culture?
4. Favorite color?
7. East Vs. West?
OMS-Any last words or shout outs?
LEARN- Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell my story bro. Much Love to my daughter and girl! My family, friends and my crews and all the characters in them. Love
OMS-Thanks for taking time to do this, and thanks for doing your thing?!
This dude has amazing photography....check him out!