Sydney has a rich pedigree of graffiti talent, a large portion of which seem to have started somewhere between 1995 and 2000. Keis falls perfectly into this category, and brings with him a unique yet recognisable Sydney public style, with bucket loads of swing and flavour to go along with it. His pieces are so sharp they make every other writer wonder why they're still trying, you'll know what we mean if you've seen them in person. He tackles graffiti in his own way, has some unconventional views and perspectives, which makes him all the more interesting.
Yo Keis! Let's kick this off the essentials. Where do you reign from, where did the name 'Keis' come from, and what crew(s) do you represent?
The name was originally KEAS, it was just my favourite letters at the time and Keas was the only word I could make out of it. I briefly changed my name after finding out someone else wrote Keys, but my friends kept calling me keys so I said fuck it and went back.
I'm from the Lower North Shore of Sydney and just represent myself, my friends all know who they are.
What was it that dropped you into the world of graffiti? When and why did you pick up the can to start with?
I always had a fascination for graffiti and all art really, like most people it started from me being a little shit and writing my name on the desks at school. I started with a can in about year 10 so '98... You're making me feel old now!
You've been in the scene for some time, but now seem to have the whole 'adult' thing pretty well down pat. How do you balance the 'adult life' with graffiti?
Well in hindsight graffiti taught me some great life lessons, like dedication will pay off, setting goals and achieving them. I think any successful wrtiter can be successful at anything, its all about the individuals drive and willingness to fail time and time again until you achieve what you set out to. I actually enjoy graffiti more as an adult, you are so far removed from the whole "scene" and the bullshit that goes along with that. You just need to remember that you are an adult and not do stupid things that are going to effect your adult life.
Do you find yourself as eager to go our and run amuck now as you always have?
For graffiti not at all, on a personal level I try and keep a lid on it as much as possible but there is definitely a fire burning inside of me (laughing) I still feel like I can party harder than any of the kids these days!
We've all had times when things haven't quite gone as planned, have you ever had a mayday situation in the process of a panel or trackside? How did it go down?
I always tried to be very calculated and careful with everything I did, but I do have one!
I had just coming out of retirement and was going to paint a nice chilled spot out in the middle of nowhere, someone had a great idea to sneak into some sheds and paint some trains. I wasn't comfortable in the place and should have trusted my instincts and bailed out, but I went along for the ride anyway. there was 6 of us that entered via a hole about 1m x 1m and everyone just went in and got started right away. I walked around a little trying to calm the nerves an familiarise myself with the giant cage we were in. I didn't even get my paint out of my bag when I heard voices, I let the boys know I could hear something, they all thought I was paranoid and kept going, I went to check out the noise and sure enough the roller door went flying up "Time to go boys!!" I shouted and hit the legs, I was furthest away from the hole but shot past 5 of the guys like a bat out of hell. I made it to the hole and a mate was stuck, funnily enough he is actually the smallest out of all of us, I politely apologised before kicking him through the hole "cheers bro!".
I could hear people behind me chasing me, a quick peek over the shoulder confirmed about 10 not-so-friendly looking people were running towards me. Awesome! A female cop was hot on my trail "Stop or I'll shoot!". This scared me even more and I clicked it up another gear and ran as fast as I could. All those hours on the treadmill must have paid off because none of them kept up.
I got to the top of the hill and couldn't hear anyone behind me so I looked back and couldn't see a single one of the boys, I figured everyone got pinched. In the street cop cars were driving around everywhere with search lights on, I found a nice looking bush to spend the next 3 hours until the sun came up. I was real lucky that night, I would like to personally thank Fitness First for that one.
What do you think of how the system is dealing with graffiti these days? Are they doing it right? Or have you got a few pointers for them?
People may disagree but I think Social Media is the best thing to happen to art and Graffiti, so much inspiration at your fingertips. It has definitely pushed me to think outside my comfort zone.
When it comes to paint, what's your pick? The Hardcore or 94? And what caps?
94's are unbelievable for a legal writer like me, but if I had to do something quick you can't go past Hardcore 2's.
Time for Top 3, the part of the interview where we pick your brain for your Top 3 of whatever we list. Go!
This is the part of the interview people start to hate me (laughing) I can't stand Aussie Hip Hop, except Bliss and Eso, I am a huge fan of them.
Yeah Im Gangsta! ha ha
The Wolf of wall st
Despicable me, I don't think I have ever laughed so much in a movie!
Must have things when out painting:
A BIG wall, I hate small pieces
Final food! I have to eat before I put on my final, I don't know why it just ruins my flow if I don't.
Ways to spend a Sunday:
1. Well one Sunday after a huge night in the city drinking and waking up in bed with 2 gorgeous girls and all the boys at my house, we decided to kick on and start drinking again. The devil came over disguised as my good mate and joined in and then it started to really go downhill that afternoon, we somehow figured it would be a great idea to go to Thailand then and there. I grabbed my passport and a phone charger, who needs clothes anyway! jumped in a cab, called the parents with some completely bogus story about where I was going. I called the devils girlfriend and convinced her that he was coming to Cairns with me to take photos of me racing my dirt bike. Fatboy came along with a bag filled with my clothes and a pair of motocross gloves just in-case!
I was awoken by a lovely air hostess some time later "Where am I?" I enquired, "sir you are at Bangkok international airport, you have to get off the plane now". Oh dear I thought, I have work tomorrow (in Sydney of course). A quick phone call to the boss "Ummm sorry, I cant come in tomorrow", he enquired as to why, "Im in Bangkok". He told me he should be pissed at me but since it was pretty cool he let me off, "Have fun!". It was by far the coolest thing I have ever done!
Your style is pretty unique, yet resembles aspects of a classic Sydney style. What or who would you say inspired your style?
Growing up I was really into Style Wars and the whole New York style. I was a massive fan of all the TM-OSF guys, I basically used to copy (very poorly) Kerock's KE and Roms' S. It very slowly developed into my own style now.
Are you happy with your style now? Or are you pushing for something new and different?
I am happy finally, It has been a long slow road but lately I have been really happy with my letters, if you look at all my pieces in order you can see how I got here. I have no idea where it is going, I spend very little time drawing and developing, it so it's a slow process.
Who out there has your attention right now? Any writers or artists you can't go past?
So many and for different reasons. SOFLES of course, he just blows my mind with how creative he is and how he can just come up with something completely different every time he paints. Style-wise I love looking at guys like TASTE, SIRUM, ASEND, SONE and so many others. For cleanness Phibs and Jiesk. I paint with Jiesk a lot and the dude is so clean. If I'm a little off my game my piece will look like a turd in comparison.
Thanks for your words of wisdom Keis, any shout outs you'd like to make?
The two dudes from the Thai trip, the Devil and Fatboy!
Be sure to check Keis out in Instagram at @keis_one