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News

Let Us Spray

All over the sprawling Salt Lake suburbs, the writing’s on the wall(s).

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{::NOAD::}Toy Crews
Kier and Yeti started noticing graffiti while they were in junior high. All they had to do was walk down the road. It was everywhere.

For Kier, it started one day walking home from school in West Valley City. Kier saw a tag he’d never seen before. “It was completely different. It had more style to it. It wasn’t typical gangster graffiti,” Kier recalls. The gangster graffiti he describes has changed little. Rarely done artistically, its crude, almost digital-looking letters are all the same.

Skateboarding led Yeti to graffiti at age 12. “They were bedfellows,” he says. “As a skateboarder, you are always sizing up the city, and you do the same with graffiti. The only difference is you don’t apologize for graffiti.”

After their first exposure, it only took a little courage and a pen, and they were tagging themselves. Since there was no one to teach them how to tag, theirs was a culture of “make it up as you go along.” It wasn’t their fault they chose goofy names or that they didn’t know tagging from piecing. Their first tags and crews were comic. Kier first wrote “Fingz” because he was good with his hands.

But it was the rush that really made writing exciting. “You get this rush and the rush feeds that experience,” Yeti says. “You’re like a fiend, doing it every chance you get.”

Getting caught didn’t deter them, either. The penalties were paltry. Chew got caught and only had to pay for the paint authorities used to cover his graffiti.

With every passing day, Kier and friends learned more of the rules of tagging. The more you “got up,” the more respect you got from other writers. It wasn’t about territory so much as quantity and quality.
They learned the difference between “throw-ups” and “pieces.” Throw-ups usually consist of simple, large block- or bubble-letter graffiti with a single color fill-in and a single color outline. Pieces, on the other hand, are much more intricate, often abstract and multilayered productions.

At the time, the scene was going crazy, so they had lots of inspiration to spur them on.

They say the most memorable tagging battle in the history of Salt Lake City might have been the face-off between crews SADK and TM in the early ’90s. No one remembers how it started. The battle took place on the fringes of Interstate 215. Each crew took a side of the freeway just south of downtown. It lasted for weeks. TM did all sorts of tags and throw-ups. But SADK did them one better: SADK did large multicolored, faded and even 3-D murals, or pieces. “They just crushed it [as in, ‘They crushed TM like a bug.’]. It was phenomenal,” Kier says. “Amazing.” And that was that.