While some graffiti writers make their tags hard to read, one writer does not. KEECH’s work is often big, bright, and colorful and literally impossible to miss. KEECH is also a renaissance man of sorts in that he does tags, throw-ups, pieces, stickers, and some of the best rollers in all of Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of getting to interview KEECH (who is also an incredibly generous and awesome person) about being one of Philadelphia’s most visible graffiti writers.
Chris: How long have you been doing graff?
KEECH: I been writing since I was a kid. I was a South Philly writer, and I used to hit the Broad Street tunnels in late 80s, had my 1st son who I’m so proud of in 1993. After that I kinda stopped hittin’ walls but never stopped with a pen on paper and pizza boxes. I always kept an eye on the walls to see who was doing what and who was getting up. Then about 3 years ago I came back out pretty hard hitting the city all over.
Chris: How did you get started writing graffiti?
KEECH: I got started I guess the same way we all did. I liked graffiti. Me and my boys started doing it, and before you know it your linked up with others.
Chris: Is there any graffiti piece you have done that you’re particularly proud of?
KEECH: I just did a roller I’m really proud of: An I-95 view…it was my name huge, but on the top I wrote “Save the Ta-Tas,” and I painted a big breast cancer ribbon. It got buffed in a month. I started to think, “Damn, I’m doing all these pieces why not put up a positive message.” But most of my work I’m not to fond of. I’m definitely my worst critic.
Chris: Who are some graffiti writers whom you have a lot of respect/admiration for?
KEECH: I love all the writers who are doing their thing. I like to see new stuff like different styles, new roof or highway spots that never been hit before, but I got respect for everyone who paints though. IYA (In Your Area) has some of my favorite writers: Tone, Hase, Dero, Oz, Ozo, Kair, Goldy, Klark, Cese, too many to name. Sora just got in, he’s killin’ it. I got in like 2 yrs ago, that was definitely a highlight for me!
Chris: What is your best and worst experience you have had while writing graffiti?
KEECH: Damn I can go on for days about both topics. I did a lot of stuff solo one night before New Years Eve. I go on a roof on Broad Street [and] there’s 2 walls to hit, so of course I hit both. Well across the street was the bus stop. It was late so the subway stopped running which means the bus stop was really busy. I kept waiting for people to leave then paint. Finally I said, “Fuck it I’m painting.” People were looking right at me, and all of a sudden cops are flying down Broad Street and they pass me. I run to the back of the building where I got up and a cop was already parked there. Long story short they got me! I did a big roller KEECH Happy New Years 2012! I got out at like 8:30 pm New Years Eve night, just in time to party and make the parade, and see my work!
One of the best times so far was at “The Infamous” release party on South Street, meeting so many writers, and just being around all them people who know and understand why we do this shit was great. By the way, my wife was with me which was great because she’s the best! But we sat at the bar talking with SOBAD, and then RAZZ (RIP RAZZ) came over and was like, “Oh you’re KEECH, I like your work! I was like, “Damn, I’m sitting here with 2 legends and they’re admiring my work. That’s definitely one of the best nights. Also chillin with BRAZE and ESOW, meeting OZO, and so many others that night.
Chris: Do you believe graffiti writers, and the practice of graff in general is misunderstood?
KEECH: I think graff writters are definitely misunderstood! People think we’re dickheads who just go out to fuck shit up and ruin peoples properties which isn’t true! It’s just about getting up and throwing your tag, sticker, piece, whatever… up and getting away with it. We all got our own reasons why we do this shit. I don’t know what mine is, but I love it! My wife knows and understands it. I’m not a route walker or bomber. I never wrote on a van or truck in my life. People hit my van prob like 4 or 5 times and I knew them! They didn’t know it was my van. Did I get mad? No. That’s their thing. They’re bombers! ( Clue & Omar hit my van, thanks fellas).
In other cities there are a lot of legal walls which cuts down the amount of illegal graffiti. We need more legal walls. Graffiti will never end, and it will never be stopped even though the buff is strong as shit right now. You got all these people including myself putting up stickers all over. They’re quick, easy, and fun. There will always be graffiti. We all have our own reasons why we do it, but we all understand each other without knowing the reasons.
Chris: Do you have a favorite type of graff (piecing, tags, throw-up, blockbuster, etc)?
KEECH: I look for the crazy spots to paint. I want people to drive by and say, “How the hell did he get up there!!” I like to make it blend in sometimes, as if its not so much graffiti, it’s just my name in big straight letters on an overpass somewhere. I never liked rollers because people make them so plain and I felt it wasn’t graffiti, but when I started writing again, to get to them high spots I needed a ladder or an extension pole. So I did a roller, then the wheels in my head started going…well they’re always going…but they kicked in high gear! I started doing rollers with shadows, and different kinds of letters almost using different fonts but they’re my own styles and just kept going with it. Now I do a lot of them.
Chris: I noticed that some of your work is in really high locations (the one in Greys Ferry comes to mind). Frankly, it’s awesome. Is there a particular sense of adrenaline and accomplishment associated with that?
KEECH: There’s definitely an adrenaline rush when you’re hanging off a 7 story building with a 20 ft pole trying to make straight lines and clean letters. One night, me, SORA, and MAK hung off and did some bangers, and they got buffed in a week. I hung off some spots and you just stare out at the cars whizzing by. I’ll think, “Where they going, it’s 3am.” Or, “Why are they driving?” They have no idea I’m up here risking my life for what…just to get a reputation.
The rush from all of it is so intense and so satisfying, but so addictive it’s crazy! I go out on missions by myself and the only reason I head home is cause the suns coming out. I cant stop! I love this shit! Shout out to my wife who’s prob my biggest fan, (well when shes not mad at me) for understanding me and this shit, and my 3 kids for dealing with me. Love yas! Fuck Cancer, Diabetes and all the rest! ” Take Notes Kids” KEECH “InYourArea”
No doubt whatsoever, KEECH absolutely KILLED IT in this interview. A special thank you to him for providing such interesting in-depth interviews about something he truly has a remarkable passion for. I can’t wait to see what else KEECH puts up around Philly, as he is truly a man who has worked to achieve such a great reputation in our city’s graffiti culture.
Please check out our other graffiti interviews from:
…and check out more of KEECH’s work from our friends at 215graff.com