I suppose I’d better start with some background information about who I am and why I’m writing this. Well, I call myself Dose and I was born in 1970. I was brought up in North Tonbridge on one of the council estates. It was a pretty nice place to live with lots of kids playing in the streets and plenty of green places to mess around on so it wasn’t bad like some in London. In fact, it was pretty nice.
I went to Hugh Christie School in 1982, which was a short walk from where I lived. It was a massive school back then with over 1500 pupils and plenty of trouble. I remember loads of the usual stuff like kids fighting almost every lunchtime and dodging hassle from the glue sniffing punks that wanted to rob whatever you had. I avoided most of the trouble by fronting up to people. This tactic worked for me and I only got into a couple of fights in my time there.
Back then, most people where into Ska and Madness and I remember the uniform we all adopted was burgundy stay pressed trousers, cardigans and Dr. Marten boots. The Hadlow Crew were the bollocks back then and I remember knocking about with them because the first friend I made there was a bloke called Damien and he was from Hadlow. We were good mates throughout school. I still bump into him once in a while and it’s cool to see him. He’s a decent bloke and I respect him however much trouble he gets into.
Out of school, I got up to the usual stuff on the estate, which was generally being a pain in the arse and causing trouble. We liked annoying the farmer at Petrie’s Farm but it often resulted in him catching us and giving us a good hiding with a horse crop. In hindsight, he was a lunatic who thought nothing of giving a kid a good caning. Years later when I was an adult, I took my mountain bike up there for an off road ride and the bloody idiot started shooting at us. Luckily he didn’t hit us so I live to say that Mr Petrie died. Not by my hand but old age.
I was in the same year at school as a lad called David who lived just down the road from me and we knocked about together sometimes. He had an older brother called Mark and we became good friends back then. One day Mark played me an electro album. It must have been around 1982. I loved it and was hooked straight away. I was officially into Hip Hop. Not many people were into this music and there wasn’t much of it around so we had to grab it where we could. Recording anything we could find on the TV and radio, walking the streets with a “Ghetto Blaster”, wearing ski jackets in the summer and all the usual ridiculous things kids do when they are really into something. When a documentary called Style Wars was aired in 1984, I had to record it and I have to say that this changed my life forever. This documentary must have inspired a generation of graffiti writers and I’d say was the single most influential production in UK graffiti history. I played that VHS tape to death, over and over again. Amazing music from the New York gang: Grandmaster Flash, Sugar Hill Gang, Rammellzee & The Furious Five along with amazing break dancing and graffiti. I remember seeing those trains and it truly inspired me. It was amazing. Graffiti had been going for a few years by then and some of those pieces were amazing. Pioneering artists like Seen UA, Dondi, Shy 147, Case 2 and Skeme to name a few. There were plenty more artists that I haven’t mentioned so if you haven’t seen this documentary, you have to find it and watch it.
Needless to say, within a few weeks of seeing this, I acquired some spray paint and had started experimenting at the back of the garages. My best friend Unitie was with me keeping watch out while I painted this truly crap piece onto the wall. It wasn’t pretty but I was trying. Unitie went to Hayesbrook School and there were some good writers there. I don’t know how it happened but a spray off was organized between me and one of the Hayesbrook kids. I think he wrote Scat. The wall was chosen and it was the Sports Hall at Hugh Christie. I went first and did this really crap piece. The next night Scat did a really good piece and blew me out of the water. He knew what he was doing and I didn’t.
This caused a real uproar at school on Monday, which resulted in me taken to the head masters office for interrogation. I kept my mouth shut, took the blame and got suspended for 2 weeks. When I went back, they made me paint over the wall too. I’ve always felt let down by the school for not helping me to channel my energy. I was never shown a path into art classes or anything like that. I reckon schools today would do a better job than my teachers did. At least I would hope that they would nurture someone with creativity instead of suspending them.
I knocked around the area with Unitie listening to hip-hop and doing the occasional piece until the end of my school days at 16 when I left school and got a job.
My parents moved down to the town just after I started my job. I left one house for work in the morning and returned to Barden Road after work. Barden Road ran parallel to the mainline to London and I could hear the Tonbridge station tanoy from my house. What was even better was that at the end of my road was Tonbridge Yard. Needless to say it wasn’t long before me and Unitie started jumping the fence and painting the trains. This place was amazing to me back then. The adrenalin of going somewhere like this was addictive. You could almost feel the electricity going through you when you were there. I believe Unitie and I were the first to go to Tonbridge Yard as there was hardly any graffiti back then on British Rail. After a very short time, we were pretty up on Network Southeast and started meeting people who had seen our tags all across Kent and Sussex. We met some of the cornerstones of the Hip Hop scene back then. Some of them have gone on to be pretty well known and successful I’m pleased to say.
Unitie went to school with Bos 22 and Dvize so I started to get to know them. I think it was Dvize that introduced me to Skore. Skore put together a crew called DV and I was very happy to be a part of it. This crew consisted of Skore, Bos22, Theme, Cel, 2Fine, Dome, Dvize, Atak, Amoe, Unitie and me. A few other people on the scene back then were Floe, Oker, Dice, Craze, Stumpy, Ruin and Eneme. I used to see Eneme and Floe a lot back then. Another lad on the scene was Blob. He was an amazing DJ and got me interested in DJing and before you know it I had a pair of 1210’s. Blob went on to be called DJ First Rate and even won a DMC world championship with the Scratch Perverts. If there’s a scratch sound on a Morcheeba tune, it was him. He’s still around and I see him from time to time. I used to knock around with the Sevenoaks lads too. One fella that I remember that has gone onto greatness is Mark (Mr Thing). He would go on to meet First Rate, become one of the Scratch Perverts and also win the DMC championships. He’s making some shit hot albums now with his crate digging treasures. I always remember chatting to him back in the nineties. There was no big head there. We were producing music back then and needed some breaks. Mark was more than happy to accommodate us for a whole evening round his house with his racks of vinyl. He’s a top man who has my respect.
Score was, and still is an amazing artist. In my opinion he was the best graffiti artist around the area and I learned a lot from him. These were good times and we did loads of stuff back then and were constantly on the trains. I remember they never had a guard at the back of the station so people would throw their tickets into a bucket. Almost every night I would go through the bucket to find a ticket from London to Tonbridge. I had a train key so I was able to unlock the back drivers compartment. This is a weird way to travel seeing the tracks behind you but it worked for us and we never got caught bunking. Of course, we had a return ticket so no worries when we were coming back from London. So my time back then generally consisted of travelling trains, going to hip hip clubs and painting trains and walls. Good times!
Score showed me a legal wall in Grove Park. There were some good artists up there including Krimean. I always remember his characters where cool. This was a new experience painting in the day and I did quite a bit up there over the next couple of years.
It was a bit dodgy there and there were a few times some local idiots robbed us but we never had anything worth having on us so it wasn’t too bad. I think the second time I went there I saw a tag over my first piece saying Mafia. While I painted that day, someone said that Mafia was there and pointed him out. He was a scary looking bloke but I still fronted up to him. Luckily my usual tactic worked and he seemed to respect me for having balls. I dedicated my piece to him and we became friends. I remember his mate Enrol was always around too. Pretty soon there was a massive crew of people up that way that mainly consisted of bombers who caused mayhem wherever they went. There must have been 100 writers in that crew which I think was called the Assassins. They we running around everywhere bombing everything that pen or paint would stick to. I would be seeing more of them in the future that’s for sure.
There was this one time, Me, Unit, Skore and Che jumped over into the Grove Park sidings. Me and Score went and did one of those old trains they used to have laid up there. When we were walking back, the old bill turned up and started chasing us. We ran around for a while and jumped over a fence only to be greeted by a vigilante fork wielding nutter who managed to keep us there until the old bill caught up. They searched our bags and found our paint. We told them we were on our way to go and do something and luckily they believed us!
Dusty’s was a good place to go on a Sunday and I remember meeting the Morcheeba boys down there. I also met and became friends with some lads from Canterbury called Hash (Petro), Curse (Stormer) and Amoe. I’ve recently met up with Hash who now writes Petro and has done really well for himself. Proper artist way beyond graffiti who’s completely mental. I like him .
I knocked around with them for a while and we wrote NRS. I took them to Grove Park and they took me to Canterbury and Margate. We also went to the Civic Centre in Orpington on a Friday. I remember meeting Aroe up there along with loads of other people. It was quite a small community back then so people knew each other.
Then it all started going bad.
One evening, a few of us who will remain nameless decided it would be a good idea to bomb Hayesbrook School. The following week, Unitie and I were arrested. We took the wrap for everyone there and nearly got locked up. We got massive fines that took us a long time to pay off. I remember I had just started work and I earned £50 a week. My fine was £40. I remember doing community service with Bos 22 and Dvize so luckily there were a couple of friendly faces there. The rest of the people there were Chelsea Head Hunters and nutters that had stabbed people. We were there for painting on walls for Christ’s sake. They made examples of us big time and we had to suck it up pulling tyres from ditches with old blokes who liked stabbing people. Luckily we survived it.
One weekend Unitie and me heard there was a writers meeting at Chatham followed by a beach party in Whitstable so of course, we were up for it and up to Chatham we went. When we got there the whole of AZ were there. There must have been 100 writers there that day including Spud and Sinbad. We got on the train to Whitstable and all hell broke loose. Everyone pulled out paint and pens and completely destroyed every carriage. They were leaning over passengers so they could paint the windows. I remember Sinbad spray painting the ceiling. Basically every space on the train was covered and just before we got to Faversham, people threw their pens and paint out of the window. I had a can of Hammerite that I hadn’t used so I decided to keep it. Big mistake!
British Transport Police were waiting for us at Faversham and we all got searched one by one. I got nicked along with Enrol because we stupidly didn’t throw our paint out of the window.
We were taken to Faversham nick and questioned. I just said that I hadn’t done anything and that my can was unused. A few hours later, we were released. I had to sign a piece of paper to say I would be the guardian of Enrol as he was only 15 so I did it to get him out. Years later, I found out that Enrol’s name was Richard Reed (AKA The Shoe Bomber) who was responsible for trying to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe. Nutter! He had that look in his eye back then. I always thought he was into graffiti for the anarchy and nothing else. I was right. The police weren’t prepared to take either Enrol or me home so they asked where they could drop us off. We said Whitstable where we thought there was a beach party. When I got there I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was complete carnage. There were boats and beach huts burning and graffiti everywhere. I found Unitie and we went along the beach away from the madness and went to sleep behind the wall. We had community service in the morning and I really didn’t want to get nicked again.
Of course within a few weeks BTP and Faversham Police talked and realise that they had dropped us off in the middle of a war zone and that I should be questioned. They showed me all the tags and asked who they were. Of course, I kept my mouth shut and after a while they realised they weren’t getting anything out of me. This was a real scare for me as if I’d got charged, I would have gone to prison. It was enough of a scare that I had to change things and decided to give up graffiti. It was really hard changing my lifestyle and there was a massive hole in my life where graffiti was but it had to be done.
It would be 23 years before I picked up a spray can again which brings us to 2011. A part of me regrets giving up the art side of graffiti and I now feel like I’ve missed out on 23 years. The people I used to run with, Skore and Petro are now really well known and I wonder if I would be well known too. Who knows eh? I’ve had my life filled with good stuff and now I’m back and enjoying painting. I’m now married with kids and a mortgage and am a law-abiding citizen. No sign of the vandal that bombed Tonbridge yard and defaced anything he could. Just a bloke that feels the need to create art with spray paint on legal walls with old friends. So here you are. It’s me when I was young and it’s me now. I hope you enjoy looking at the old work and the new work to come.