“At the age of 13 (1983) I moved to Amsterdam. That was an adventure in itself because in the village where I came from there were no ‘trams’, haha! That was what ‘graffiti’ was to me, an adventure, it made you explore things and it tested the outer limits of your courage. Nobody told you to climb fences and spraypaint ‘banana’ trains, that was an urge that came from deep within yourself. The graffitimentality is one that makes you do crazier things step by step, it makes you push the limits further and beyond. Sometimes writers aren’t even aware of this process, it just takes you over and you go with the flow until you reach your ultimate goal.”
The trips ANGEL made to Paris in the 80’s can be seen as a step in reaching his ‘ultimate goal’.
ANGEL: “It was in the summer of 1985 when I got exposed to Paris-graffiti for the first time. I was doing all kinds of dumb shit together with ZAP in the centre of Amsterdam, when some writers who just got back from a trip to France with their Eurorail-ticket, walked up to me and showed me pictures of graffiti in Paris. They showed me pieces along the Seine River by the Crime Time Kings and The Chrome Angelz. Unbelievable fresh work, the impact was like I witnessed a UFO landing!
In the 80’s ANGEL hooked up with Parisian writer BANDO and the two became friends. Travelling from Amsterdam to Paris became a regular thing.
ANGEL: “The first time I met BANDO in person was by accident. I was boarding bus 67 at the Museumplein together with LINO-One when I bumped into CAT22 and this other guy. “This is Bando”, CAT22 flat out told me. After that introduction a hookup was quickly established.”
The ‘City on the Seine’ generated an enormous attraction. In Paris the two most prolific writers in the 80’s were BANDO and MODE2. BANDO had moved from New York to Paris and because of his tight connection to the graffiti-scene in New York he was an early adopter of the culture. BANDO first got schooled by his Newyork mentor BEAR 167 from The Death Squad. Also the works of legendary New York writers DONDI and FUTURA 2000 were an important source of inspiration for his own work. BANDO’s high level skills and his far-off ability and vision in designing letters in a very personal and original style made him one of Europe’s leading figures in the world of graffiti-stylemasters. MODE2 was originally from London, England. As a member of the London based graffiticrew The Chrome Angelz MODE2 was famous for his unique character designs,. When a select group of writers from Amsterdam hooked up with these Parisian and London artists a natural chemistry took place. They formed the Crime Time Kings and together they travelled through Europe to drop masterpieces in as much cities as possible. MODE2 and ANGEL were specialized in making ‘characters’ while the others mastered the craft of designing letters. The CTK-crew had a huge impact on the development of European graffiti. Looking back it can be stated that the crew caused a ‘revolution in style’. At that time almost all spraypainted ‘characters’ made in Europe were based on the visual language made popular by Disney. ANGEL changed this landscape by designing characters that were based on the look and feel of underground comics. His characters looked rugged and tuff and most of all, they had a story to tell.
ANGEL: “Yes indeed, in the mid 80’s I visited Paris by myself on a regular basis. At that time I was a school dropout. In my opinion I wasn’t qualified to join a normal school program. So, to escape the system, I travelled abroad as much as possible. I was the youngest kid in the crew. Those older guys took me under their wings and looked out for me. When I was adrift in Paris BANDO told me: “You can crash at my place”. Me and MODE2 never hooked up in those early years. We just missed each other time after time. It took us until 1987 to finally meet. I think the ‘Wizard’ next to the famous Crime Time piece in the book Spraycan Art (note 1) is MODE2’s most legendary creation. That character is famous worldwide. In 1992 this ‘Wizard’ was used without permission by ID&T as a logo for their Thunderdome parties and merchandise (note 2). MODE2 didn’t want to make a fuss about it but I just couldn’t let this happen without resistance. So, in 1997, I’ve made ‘Thunder Thiefs’ as a subtile protest against this unfair jackin’ of original designs. Thunder Thiefs was published in Power Unlimited magazine (note 3) in an edition of 40,000. My message to ID&T was: “Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil! Nobody ever mentioned; Drawing About Evil… Committed By A Copy-Cat. Who deserves To • Be • Hung from the Highest Tree!”.
ANGEL tells this story full of passion. ‘Thunder Thiefs’ connects all elements. It shows the Parisian connection in the form of the Crime Time Kings and at the same time its an example of their ‘not-to-be-fucked-with’ attitude. A blueprint and testimony of how to ‘keep it real’! The city of Paris would – without knowing it at that time – become a very important piece of the puzzle which would lead ANGEL to the second phase of his development.
ANGEL: “In the beginning of the 90’s I went back to Paris one more time. It was me, SHOE and BANDO. We were asked to paint a commercial job for a fashion label. I didn’t want to put much effort in pre-designing. I just freestyled my characters on the spot. My motto was: “You Ask, I Deliver”, no sweat. This method of operation turned out to be my personal ‘Egg of Columbus’. „Keep it stupid simple, just go with the flow, the Throw-Up way, how a ‚graffiti-toy’ starts his game. From that moment on the ways of the ‚toy’ became my basic assumption. I became the embodiment of a toy. Its a Toy’s dream! I can present myself as a Crime Time King but I’d rather be a TOY!.”
Next up: Chapter 2 – The Baby Hype and the Gods Vicious Babies.
Note 1: Spraycan Art is the first book that documented the initial stages of the worldwide spread of New York City Subway graffiti style and subculture. Authored by Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff and published by Thames & Hudson on September 1, 1987.
Note 2: Thunderdome was the name of the music events held in The Netherlands by party organiser ID&T starting in 1992 and ending in 2012. The style of music was mostly hardcore house and ‘gabber’ sometimes mixed with British or German ravemusic. At its peak Thunderdome attracted around 40.000 party people a year.
Note 3: Power Unlimited is a Dutch multi-format computer and video games magazine. It is the biggest gaming magazine in the Benelux. The first issue was released in June 1993.
Copyright article 2017 – Dutch Graffiti Library
‘Thunder Thiefs’ Ink and Pencil – collection Dutch Graffiti Library
English translation: Remko Koopman.