Art Primo: What’s up guys? What do you write?
AP: How did you guys choose your names?
AMUSE: I had a 2nd grade teacher who used to call me Mr. Amuse. So when It came to choosing a name I dabbled with all sorts of random little things, but that was the one that always kind of stuck with AMUSE:
me. AMUSE fits my personality the best and the 126 is just kind of a personal meaning.
MERLOT is super random. I was in and out of a few names and wanted to find something new. I was at a bar with a friend and he said, “Why don’t you just try writing Merlot?” as I was drinking a glass of merlot. So, that’s where it started.
AP: You guys rep different crews, what crews do you guys rep?
AMUSE: Yeah we both write different crews, but together, we write Alphabet Monsters. That’s our kind of little package deal. I write for DE crew, FYM crew, NSH crew, UCIT crew. Yardbirds Crew... a variety of others that are kinda random and are
MERLOT: I don’t actually have any crews other than the Alphabet Monsters and UCIT.
AP: What year did you each start writing?
AMUSE: I was actively doing graffiti by 1999.
MERLOT: 2008? I think.
AP: Hell yeah, what got you started in it?
AMUSE: I had started coming into contact with it in the real industrial areas by the train tracks in Chicago. Also just being a kid and exploring and riding bikes,skateboarding...things like that. There were a couple of things that introduced me to it before that, but by ‘98 it was really in my face. Graffiti became something that I was actively trying to do– picking up scrap cans in chill spots and trying to figure it out.
MERLOT: I had a bunch of friends in high school that were writers that would go out and paint, and I looked up to them and wanted to try it out. They got me started by drawing in blackbooks at first, and then I just took it from there.
AMUSE: A bad home life turned me in that direction too.
AP: So when did you guys start writing together?
AMUSE: We met at the end of 2014, and then in 2015, we started meeting up sporadically to take painting trips and MERLOT moved to Chicago at the end of that year. We’ve been actively and steadily painting together for a year and a half.
AP: That’s crazy you guys have made such an impact in such a short amount of time. What do you think fueled it?
AMUSE: MERLOT’S got a lot of style and already had a good following , she was building momentum and so was I. Then when we started painting together, it really caught a lot of people off guard especially because we were a couple and traveling a lot.
MERLOT: Also, we had different styles. People were excited to see our styles blend and merge. AMUSE influenced me on what I was doing and I influenced his letter structure.
AP: What's your favorite marker?
AMUSE: My favorite marker is probably any meanstreak, you know solid markers, undeniably, and a very drippy largest mop you can find, like the krink ones or the 4 oz big squeezes.
MERLOT: Honestly, I really like his “hot boy” markers, not that you're going to tell everybody how to make that.
AP: Please elaborate!
AMUSE: Its the unipaint body, the px-90 filled with a black ink of sorts, and that alone works perfectly.
AP: What is your favorite thing to paint?
AMUSE: Property that doesn’t belong to me.
Boom, within the category of property that doesn’t belong to you, is there anything in particular that you prefer?
AMUSE: Nothing beats American transit.
MERLOT: As far as walls and stuff, I like to paint cinderblock. I feel like on a flat cinderblock wall the paint goes on nice and smooth.
AP: Ok I’m going to ask you a question and count backwards from 10, and you both have to answer at the same time, dating show style. See how in tune you guys are. Favorite piece or wall y’all painted together? 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1
MERLOT: The Western Wall
AP: So you said Rothskilde, and you said The Western Wall?
MERLOT: Yeah the Western Wall, the day they closed down the whole street. In Chicago there’s this big wall that he calls the main wall, that’s in a parking lot, right on this main street.
AMUSE: It’s on Western Avenue, in Chicago, and it's the longest running street in the United States and the traffic there is absolutely ridiculous, as far as how many cars are on it per day and it’s across the street from the largest High School in Illinois, we’re talking 5,000+ students. It’s in the epicenter of everything, it’s on the way to Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play. There’s always traffic, it’s one of those walls you have to start early in the morning and you are just bombarded with people all day long, and there’s a Wendy’s Drive-Thru and people talking to you. It is just a nightmare. The day we painted it together, the whole street was shut down for construction, and it was silent out there. There was no construction that day, it was like we existed in the middle of everything, but at the same time the middle of nowhere. It’d be like one of those photos where Times Square is turned off. Everything was closed off. It was amazing.
AP: And then you said the Rothskilde fest?
AMUSE: Probably the coolest time we painted together based on the fact that it was like being at camp. Crash course in everybody getting to um..one we got to nerd out with a ton of amazing international writers, but we also really got to know each other better, in a way of constantly painting, and painting, and painting. You know, Art Basel we’d done things like that but this really had us figuring something different out, and it really set the bar in pacing and how we work together and figuring out the things that we are capable of.
AP: You guys ever get chased? Oh, yeah, you guys got a hella good story, I’m not sure it’s a chase, but it was that time you got hemmed in the sticks, or do you not want to talk about that one?
AMUSE: MERLOT and I got arrested in Montana for tagging on some abandoned property. We were painting fill-ins and a local saw us and a good 50 miles later local sheriffs pulled us over and had us come to a police station. Placed us in custody and separated us for a while, and we both stuck to the story of “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” and eventually we were able to talk our way through it and get let go. But that was a scary one. That was the first time either of us had been arrested. We’ve had some close calls in some other cities, just police pulling up and questioning us a little bit, but mostly we’ve been pretty good at what we do.
AP: It seemed like it was on some real My Cousin Vinny kinda tip out in the middle of nowhere when you first told me the story.
AMUSE: Yeah, if it werent for the local high school girls volleyball team making it to some championship we probably would have ended up sitting in jail but the sherrifs daughter was a volleyball player, and he had a game to catch. So I think that helped wrap things up quite a bit. It was hairy, I was definitely worried about sitting in the middle of nowhere for a while
AP: And it was just a completely abandoned piece of property?
AMUSE: Yeah it was just old farm property, and there was no signage, no nothing, and it was just the ideal graffiti canvas and we probably took a little longer than we should have and painted every aspect of that property.
MERLOT: And this guy got photos of us as we were walking back to the car.
AMUSE: Joe Hero
AP: Favorite spraycation location?
MERLOT: I love Puerto Rico, and it was more of a vacation vacation, but we also did spray there and it was amazing. You can paint on the beach, you can find abandoned structures.
AMUSE: Driving around in your bathing suit all day long and pulling over to paint whatever you feel like was definitely a great feeling. Just painting and having a good time with no pressure and a ton of shit to paint. Beautiful weather, yeah, that was an amazing time for sure.
AP: Who were your early influence in graffiti?
AMUSE: I had a very heavy west coast influence aside from growing up in Chicago with guys like EAST, SIEGE, POSE a lot of those guys were huge names in Chicago and all doing really awesome things. But there was something about the west coast, it was very influential with the size of what they painted, the technical aspect of how they put things together. The west coast style, man there was something about it. The audacity that they had for climbing and finding crazy spots that were hard to get to and still doing crazy intricate very technical pieces. Ummmm, New York subway painters undeniably had a massive influence on a lot of the things I was doing but I really found myself, and found my identity through what was happening in Chicago, and I think that was the most influential of any of them.
MERLOT: And me moreso, felt like I was more inspired by the writers I was painting with I wasn’t really doing much on the internet. I was on 12oz, but I wasn’t very active, so I feel like I wasn’t allowing myself to be inspired by people all over the world but I did look up to the MSK guys, RIME definitely a huge inspiration, and WANE,
AMUSE: And the BTM crew.
AP: What advice do you have for the young kid starting out?
AMUSE: Take risks, make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes, first and foremost. A true mistake is only one from which nothing is learned. So fall on your face and get up and figure it out. FInd what you want out of this though, it’s not all that you think it is, just cause your doing big crazy colorful pieces and using high-end spray paint doesn’t mean that’s this whole life. There’s a lot of struggle and sacrifice that comes with it. So really pick and choose what you want to put your mind to, and if you put your mind to something, put your whole mind towards it, and go for it. Nothing can stop you, this is an industry that we all created for ourselves, so it’s just a matter of proving that you can thrive from it, or falling on your face and failing.
MERLOT: Be yourself and express yourself in your artwork. Be true to your values and feelings. Even though you can take influences from other artists, always show your own personality in your work.
AMUSE: Having influence is one thing but definitely choose your own adventure.
AP: Like the books.
AMUSE: Exactly, but this book you can’t backtrack to page 32 if you don’t like the outcome on page 48.
AP: Shout outs?
MERLOT: I’m going to give a shout out to 179, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
AMUSE: Shout out to my man Joe at Art Primo for the interview. Shout out to all the Seattle homies. Shout out to everybody, keep doing it. The scene’s great, it’s thriving, there are crazy things happening, we always overcome in a way, keep pushing.