For this Artist Spotlight we were able to meet up with SNO, one of the veterans of the graffiti scene in Rochester. SNO has been apart of the locally based, internationally known crew FUA (From Up Above). We got to sit down with him and talk about his roots in the graff scene.
How did you get started in Graff?
Growing up my parents had their own issues, so we moved down to Florida when I was younger. I always liked graffiti, when I got out to Miami I didn’t know anyone so I just started to write. I met a couple guys who were graffiti artists and I started tagging with them.
When I moved back to Rochester I met Range. We started painting together and the rest is history. To this day I still go to Florida and paint with my friends down there. I meet up with them at different graffiti conventions around the country.
How did the FUA crew get started?
FUA was started from an old crew called D.I.E (Down In Elevation) in the early eighties. They were the original crew here, like every crew they had their rivalries they battled against. One of the writers was Jester and he started FUA (From Up Above) to compete with D.I.E.
They two crews did their things for a few years and then it died out. Jester’s little brother started it back up and eventually Range and a bunch of other artists joined. When I came back to Rochester, FUA was already set up.
The only thing they used to do was tag. I learned how to do pieces and throw ups in Florida, so when I came up I started pushing the crew to do bigger pieces. Range jumped right into it, he is real artistic so it worked out to do pieces. We were partners for a solid five years, doing pieces together.
Eventually FUA kind of faded again, until Zone started getting back into it around 2000. He started pushing everyone to start painting again. We were actually rivals for a while even though we were in the same crew, now we paint together all of the time. But since the crew got started back up we have been traveling to different conventions across the country and hitting other crews hard ever since.
We have FUA members in Africa, Puerto Rico, Denmark, and Germany. We started in the nineties ands its blow up to an international crew. We paint on the level of people that we used to look up to. It’s crazy for me to think about sometimes, there are role models I looked up to; now compete neck and neck.
You meet a lot of different cultures and different styles of graffiti. That’s the amazing thing about graffiti, you met up with someone and you don’t have to speak the same language but as soon as we get to the wall we are on the same page. We understand each other.
Do you still have rivals in Rochester?
Really in Rochester we have no rivals. There are some younger crews around D.E.A, F.F.L., and H.F.K. But even H.F.K has pretty much joined our crew. There really isn’t any disrespect, people like our shit and we get along with everyone.
We are not assholes; we get along with other crews and artists. That makes a big different, if you act arrogant that’s when your work starts to get disrespected. But we get along with everyone and respect them as artist and as people. There really no need to have rivals.
We have been approached at conventions by different crews to battle, but we usually try to avoid it. Conventions are a place to go paint, not a place to battle with every crew that challenges us.
We went to Brooklyn last month and got completely disrespected. We went down there to film a video with Zone, Little Etho, and Decoy. We were going to do a mural for a video. As soon as we started painting this dude from the neighborhood came by and told us we were being disrespectful for painting in his hood.
We told him that we were just there for a few days to film a video and that we would be out in a few days. He ended up leaving but the whole day we kept thinking he was going to come and fuck up our mural. We tried to get as much of the piece done as possible. We painted until it was dark; all we needed was twenty more minutes to finish the mural the next day.
We got there super early in the morning, but the whole mural was destroyed. Luckily we got almost all of the filming we needed the day before so hopefully the video of it will be out soon.
Do you wish the city was more graffiti friendly?
There was a convention in Miami basin, it takes place in the Windwood neighborhood, and they have walls for days. Miami Beach has a huge art gallery culture; artists come from all around to paint murals. The whole neighborhood is filled with hundreds of murals. The neighborhood is really run down so they city allows artists to paint because it makes the area look better.
I wish Rochester was more like Windwood and the city would let us turn our neighborhood into an art gallery. We have issues with the city. They say people don’t want to come to North Clinton to shop; to shop where? There are no stores for them to shop here to begin with. They blame all of the problems on graffiti, when the big problem is the crime and the drugs. White people have no problem coming down here to buy drugs, but I guess the graffiti scares them away from the stores here.
We have gotten the city to agree to let us paint the electrical boxes on Clinton. I know the city has been all for Wall Therapy. The city just needs to make up its mind. Do they like graffiti or don’t they? How is one mural good, but another causes crime? It is a double standard. It doesn’t make sense.
Are there any drawbacks to being a graffiti writer for so many years?
It gets hectic. Money wise is always hard, the paint is expensive. So is traveling to other places for conventions, usually we are spending money out of our own pocket. An average mural that we do cost us probably $1500 in paint alone, even simple pieces could cost $80.
It’s bad that the city knows us so well. I can’t even go and bomb in my own neighborhood anymore. Anytime I go and bomb I will get a call from the mayor’s office or the city council yelling at me for my graffiti from the night before.