We're excited to bring to you this interview from Malaysian writer Asmoe Roc. You may not have heard of this guy, but you won't forget him. A passionate writer with a sound approach to graffiti, particularly regarding letter structure, Asmoe is part of the ever growing but still young scene in Malaysia. Surrounded by similar countries, each with their own unique yet fast growing graffiti culture, Malaysia is a breeding ground for unique and seriously nice graffiti. Check out the conversation we had with Asmoe, and take something from it. Particularly what he has to say about how letters should be constructed and formed, and the attitude you should take with you when you paint.
Please introduce yourself to us - who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
Hello there. I’m Asmoe Roc from Shah Alam, Malaysia. I’m a graffiti writer representing Mediumtouch Crew, Malaysia. Just finished my degree in Architecture and currently working as an Assitant Architect.
What was it that first sparked your interest in Graffiti? How and when did you start painting?
It all started with some of the movies and music videos that I watched back in 2005. I watched a lot of movies and listened to rap song all the time. One of the movies that influenced me a lot was “2 Fast 2 Furious”. There was a scene where an Asian lady sketched her car’s decal design on paper and this particular scene really got me. I started to scribble some letters on paper, with no basics, arrows and extensions everywhere. And I thought it was really cool. In 2010, I met some of the locals and experienced writers around and they said what I did was wrong. They told me about real letters and the importance of basics in lettering.
From that moment, I always pay attention to the structure and foundations, and at the same time I tried to come out with my own style. I started to take it real serious and sometimes got stressed out when it didn’t work out. Hahaha. I started to paint for the first time with my partner in 2010. It turned out really bad. Haha we all have our first time right? So chill, it’s part of the process.
Wise words! Your style is very recognisable and unique, yet there's something comfortable and familiar about it. How would you describe your style, and who or what are your greatest influences?
Style is an identity and character which represents who you are. I would describe my style as “Basic With Style”, where the letter’s structure have their own funk, swing, various composition and yet the basic and foundations are strong. I treat my letters like they communicate with each other in my very own language and voice. If I stripped all the extension and additional structure, my naked letters still look strong and fresh
Nowadays we can get a lot of influences with the existence of internet, instagram and stuff. But I kept myself at a distance, not taking too much from it. I’m afraid I might bite the others. But I always love to see writers with so much flow and strong identity such as Soten, Towns, Phat1, Storm and Slider.
You're probably the first Malaysian graffiti artist that we've featured, what's the scene like over there? What's happening and who's fresh?
Over here in Malaysia, we are still growing and evolving to put Malaysia on the map. We struggle in learning new skills and try to be fresh in every production that we made. There are several crews in Malaysia and each crew have their own philosophy and identity. Each of us has different kinds of styles and for me that is a good thing. We made a tight connection with our neighbourhood such as Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand as well.
You might want to check out Katun from Phobiaklik and Akid One from Mediumtouch Crew. Frankly, these guys are always on point in every piece that they execute. And fyi, Katun is one of the contestants from Ono'u Tahiti 2015. Both of them are really fast, skilful and dope.
We got a huge spot in Kuala Lumpur which is Klang River. A lot of international writers came here to paint like Aroe, Gary, JohnKaye, Dems189, Bond, Fecks, Zeta, Mr Wany, Jaba and many more. It was a huge retainer wall along the river. And if you come to Malaysia, you can clearly see the graffiti pieces from the monorails.
As we said your style is very strong and unique. Do you sketch a lot and prepare for each piece? Or do you freestyle once you're at the wall
In order for me to explore the form of each letters of my style, I do sketch a lot. Black and white mostly. I will add some colours to explore the colour combinations. If satisfied with the forms on paper, then I drop the sketch on the wall to see how it turns out. But sometimes, I freestyle a lot too. Freestyling is a good exercise to determine my critical thinking skills in composing the flow of the letters. No reference. Just the “Wall VS You”.
Do you have a favourite letter or combination of letters you love to put next to each other? We've seen you rock so many variations of your own name, and you have so much flow with letters most writers struggle to get their heads around.
My favourite letters are always the one with a perfect swing such as “S” and “E”. These forms of letters will help me to shout and scream in my own language hahaha. But balance is crucial, so I combined these letters with some of the vertical structure such as “A” and “M”.
We like to do a little thing in our interviews called Top 3. We'll give you a topic, and you hit us back with your Top 3 of whatever these might be. Go!
1. Nuke Uno (Phiberwryte, Paintura)
2. Akid One (Mediumtouch)
3. Katun (Phobiaklik, ZNC)
1. MnM (Crispy)
2. Cocoa Frosties (Cereals)
1. Game of Thrones
2. Coach Carter
1. Kendrick Lamar
3. Biggie Smalls
1. NY Skinny (Lego cap)
2. NY Fat
3. 94 stock cap
We've noticed you have a passion for architecture and by the looks of it - you're pretty good! Is this what takes up your time when you're not painting and sketching?
I wanted to be an Architect since I was a kid. Just completed my degree in Architecture in local University and currently work as an Assistant Architect. I really love to see how forms, space and order of the buildings react with the society and environment. During my studies, there were a lot of pressure from the heavy work and deadlines. So graffiti is my escapism where I can leave my problems and stress behind. Sometimes I apply some of the knowledge in architecture to my piece such as lines, proportion, scaling, balance, asymmetry and fluidity. They really have a good connection.
Have you travelled much? If so, what are your favourite places to visit and why
Not much. I’ve been to Bangkok and Singapore. Each one have their own character. I choose Singapore for their skyscraper. They were just amazing. For graffiti scene, Bangkok. Ive met some of the local writers over there and the scene is quite huge. Loving their stylewriting. Dope! We've all had things turn bad at least once when we're out painting - Tell us about a time when the mission didn't quite go to plan.
When I was just about to freestyle for the first time. Haha I thought I’ll nail it but unfortunately, I was wrong. There is a huge difference between freestyling and referring to the sketch. I went home frustrated and went over my piece the next day.
What's in the future for you? Any big plans or projects you're working on?
Currently, I’m still working on my stylewriting, painting and sketching. I also do commission graffiti work to earn some cash. For me, graffiti has always been a priority. Architecture as well. I’m hoping to travel, build connections, paint, having a good time and learn from each other. Live the life baby!
Asmoe, it's been an absolute pleasure. Any last words or shout out's you'd like to give before we wrap this up
Real writers write real letters. Cheers and have fun!