1) What do you write and what crew do you represent?
EL, EL1, 73 (73 was a pseudonym(EL upside down), for when things were heated): RA
2) Where did you get your tag? Any special meaning behind it?
I started out writing "Comet" back when I was about 11 years old or so. It soon grew in to "Mister" afterwards and then rolled itself in to EL when I was about 13. Which stuck with me. I think it was a matter of outgrowing each one until EL evolved. I chose it because it was fast, simple and I enjoyed playing with those particular letterforms.
3) When did you start writing and what were some of your early influences?
I was in 6th grade about 10-11 (I think). It was the early 1980's and hip hop culture had started spreading and hit Miami soon after NYC was saturated. Music was, and still is, a major influence in pretty much everything I do. Before the hardcore bass and Triple M DJs there was Soul Sonic, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. Before there was Teela (my wife) there was T La Rock. So starting with break dancing and being the "boy who could draw" down in Perrine, it was a natural progression. I started noticing what was happening on the walls and started mimicking and writing on paper. 1st generation Miami writers that caught my attention were Rener, Mero, Icey, Scam, Mega... (AOA, ATKM, 88 Boys). Then when I was about 12, I hooked up with my now life long friend Merlen in 7th grade, we were introduced to Subway Art, racking cans and MD 20/20. It's been all downhill from there. Many Home Depot capers and helicopter chases later.
4) What was your favorite Penit/Wall and why?
The Penit (Doral). I liked the huge round room. The scale of it. The process of finding it through dark ass, freaky, flash light only corridors that opened in to the great room. It felt like we had an entire city block to ourselves (shit, with all of the new Miami writers there at once sometimes, we kind of had the whole city to ourselves). Everything about that place makes me think happy thoughts, even the occasional gang violence and crew wars that erupted added to the mystery and excitement.
5) Is there any crazy story that sticks out in your mind from days at that Penit/Wall?
So many things happened there... Out of everything from bottles getting broken over kids heads, cameras stolen, chases, myths about the dude that died painting the cross out in front, ghost-like behavior, full on 30 people rumbles, full on 4-5 crew top to bottom productions, writers benches, etc... I have to say that the first time was pretty memorable. Merlen and I were about 12/13 years old respectively, and my mom drove us there in her yellow 1978 Honda Civic because we could not figure out the bus ride from down south. She waited in the car as myself and the lanky white boy walked through a field into this enormous abandoned building with a sack full of clanking paint cans (I guess she was more hard core than I gave her credit for). The feeling of walking in to that place was like no other. The fabled graffiti promised land, complete with labyrinths, a moat and all. No flash light and scared shitless, we were determined. We made it through the dark and onto the 2nd floor. It was like our 2nd or 3rd piece ever, and we had no idea what the hell we were doing, but that EL piece sticks out in my mind until this day. 2 hours later we had graduated to the next level as writers.
El & Merlen's first piece at the Doral Penit - 1985
6) Name a Miami writers work that you respect a lot (thats not in your crew/associated crews) and why?
I don't know too many new school kids. I still kind of consider your generation "new school" because I am trying to stay young at heart ;). Krave is doing some nice work with a more fine art slant. MSG crew seems to keep the torch running with a lot of nice productions. Mecs (I cheated) is like the energizer bunny of Miami graf and an old friend. There seems to be a lot of legal stuff going on nowadays that is really nice.
I have met a few people within the past couple of years since I have been back in Miami. I know they are writers and I respect what they do, but I am just not familiar with it. I will take a look around. Ask some questions and get back to you on specifics. I want to get my facts straight. I notice pieces all the time I just don't know who it is. The old schooler's I respect, I have already mentioned.
7) Any good stories about a time you got chased or busted?
There were a few... A racking spree with Seel and getting chased on foot mid-day across US1. I jumped on a bus through a crowd. They found Seel about a mile away under a canoe in someones yard. Another time at the Waterbed city wall, off of the Metrorail, at 3AM, helicopters and all. We ended up hiding under the AC unit on the roof. Nasto getting torn up by the police dog on another caper. Merlen getting busted with 8 cans in his biker shorts. Luckily, I managed to get away from most of the serious chases that involved vandalism/shoplifting. There was more serious shit when I was younger, but I will spare you the details. Let's just say I am glad I made it out and here to respond to these questions.
8) Whats the biggest problem with Toys nowadays?
I think toys have been the same throughout the history of graf. Going over some one has never been cool. Cap caught fame off of other peoples labor. And the problem still occurs. I think if you take time out of your life to go and toy someones piece for no reason, you've got problems that cannot be dealt with in one discussion. Toying and retribution are problems that perpetuate themselves. Once it starts it is hard to stop without finally turning violent. Now, if you meant toys as in talentless, graf wannabes... We were all guilty on some level at some point when we were starting out.
9) You were part of the small group of the early Miami writers that most people nowadays have no idea about. Please share some stories or history to enlighten all of us who came after you?
I got into this a little bit with the other question about how I started out... The first generation writers came about 1 year or so before we hit the scene. As far as we are concerned it was just a little while before the The Penit. Merlen and I hooked up with Seel, JR, Doze, Done, Vote, Foe, Mec, TMS, Meer, Even, Merge, Near, Nasto, Nore, Dekay (DK), Ease, Faz, Edec, etc... Some of us formed the VIP, DOM and finally AIM, RA crews. Some of us were in our own crews. 7UP, FA (Eventually Inkheads...). STV bridged states and crews. All of our time was spent piecing or planning the next one. 11 pm until 5 am night after night. Miami was officially "blowing up" on the graf scene. Sneek, Seam and Solo: WHO, VO5, deserve a lot of props. It was a huge scene down here. Riding the rail to check out spots and catch flicks. Some things don't change much. It felt like a big family (most of the time).
There was a production we did on a wall called the "Racoon Guns and Ammo" wall. It was pretty ambitious. A top to bottom 20' x 75' wall. From what I recall it was one of like 5 or so T to B's in Miami at the time. We did the "AIM All City" wall (across the highway from Santa's Enchanted Forest) a couple of times as a yearly production. Writers from the crews would be coming and going pretty much all night, for 2 nights. That was an interesting experience based on people showing up randomly and filling in and/or outlining this part or that one. It was a seamless process with no chasing. In retrospect, we were kind of asking to get caught but it all worked out in the end.
El - Raccoon Guns N Ammo Wall
El - Raccoon Guns N Ammo Wall
AIM & RA crews - "AIM All City Wall" - Off Bird Rd. - 1989
After high school there was really nothing going on down here to keep me around in terms of pursuing art/architecture. All of my peers were anxious to get out. I got accepted to Pratt on a scholarship and moved to the graf mecca when I was on the later side of 17. Hooked up with Edec and became exposed to the hardcore graf scene in S. Bronx and Queens. UW and King Bee, Sine5, etc... We did a few of pieces and get ups. Crotona Park (freezing balls), scrap trains, clean trains/stations/tunnels... I also hooked up with some neighbors, younger Brooklyn cats, who wrote Plex and Menz (I think). They showed me how to hit the clean train lay ups and facilitated my first and only “dust” experience (friggin’ Brooklyn). Anyway, talk about adrenaline. The conductors usually are still in the trains. This is where I actually slipped/fell on the wooden part of a frozen 3rd rail (narrowly avoided the grim reaper). Lots of good memories... SohoZat, and the store down on Broadway and Canal that we used to get the Video Graf and caps from (forgot the name... By the “I am the best artist” piece and Canal Plastics). I saw things and people that I had only seen in books. The originals: Seen, PJs, Duster, Smith, Sane, JA, Lee, West. Right there. Graf was on every nook and cranny. It showed me how little the Miami hometown actually was. I grew up a lot there.
Edec & El - NYC Scrap Yards - 1991
It has been a long time for me since I have made an attempt to piece. I still write on napkins and paper all the time. I can pretty much say my hand style is probably better than it has ever been. My pieces are pretty much all on paper or the screen. I've got a lot to lose these days so I try to stay on the right side of the law... I got married to a great girl that accepted pretty much every thing that came with me, including the graf stories that she has to listen to when we get together with the old crew.
Graf was an enormous part of my life. I can say it has led to pretty much who I am today. I do work in graphic design, architecture, and my fine art career has been moving along well. Graf has informed all of those things. I have had a fixation with the letterform that goes back to trying to perfect an "E" and and "L" countless times.
I have been looking forward to a reunion production. If any one out there wants to organize something let me know. I am down.
10) What do you think of the graf scene in South Florida and where do you think its headed?
It is a different place from when I was younger. Miami is growing. As for the scene, it is hard for me to say. I really appreciate what I see. A lot of enthusiasm. I like the general development of graf as a "style". Techniques are much more sophisticated now. Global influences. I can say I am still waiting to see someone really break the boundaries and lose the shell that has encased graf since its inception. I like what the people at Graffiti Research Labs are doing with LEDs, projectors and public DIY gatherings. I enjoy the approach/attempt to get beyond. I know it is not Florida, but I think that people down here can take cues from things like this and push a little bit. Miami tends to be some what insulated for most things that involve aesthetic and intellectual developments. I think the people that left and are coming back are going to continue to make a big difference. It is on its way though. I give a lot of credit to all of those out there who keep things moving.
El - South Beach - 1989
Merlen & El - Waterbed City Rooftop - 1989
Merlen & El - 1991
Merlen, Meks, El - 1991
Seel & El - Doral Penit
Meks, Merlen & El - Tennis Bangwall
Merlen & El - Downtown Rooftop