Writer REMIO is a man of many talents. He’s also a man with a very strong work ethic. Whether he’s pumping out fresh stuff in the streets or stuff fresh off the press for his SLEEPNER zine, there’s no denying his dedication to never-not-creating. Long-time friend and business associate Keith Hufnagel probably knows this more than most and solicited his services for a recent IVI Vision x HUF project. The result is a limited edition (only 50 made) custom pack with the REMIO Giving glasses, a laser-etched case, custom lens cloth, croakies, hand-drawn box, USPS Sticker, tag sticker, SLEEPNER zine, and IVI x REMIO x HUF shirt.
We were able to get a hold of the man himself and ask a few questions about what he’s been up to in 2014 and where he draws inspiration to create so much.
Mass Appeal: Hey man, thanks for taking the time out get in touch, we hear you’re a very busy traveling man. How are you and what have you been up to this new year?
REMIO: I’m well, thank you. So far I have been doing a lot of painting on canvas, a bit of freight train graffiti and the usual regiment of tagging and stickers. I’m working on paintings for three upcoming shows in Australia at Pat Tenores’ new galleries in Sydney and Melbourne. As well as a show I’m curating at a place called “Doomsday.” Looking very much forward to all three of those. Been wanting to go there since I was very young.
MA: You’re known for throwing up VTS pretty heavy when you hit, and most know it as an acronym for “Very Top Secret.” What’s the deal and history behind it? Are there other writers involved?
R: The deal is this; it’s a crew my graffiti mentor Kaput and I started as a response to the scene in Vancouver at the time of inception, about 2004. There were a few different Vancouver crews doing a lot of pieces at the time, but I felt excluded from that scene and wanted to focus in on bombing; vandal-centric graffiti wasn’t happening there in the way I thought it could be. Vancouver is full of vagrants, alleys and forgotten corners.
Essentially, Acter, my main bombing partner and girlfriend at the time, we had started a party scene vandal crew called BANDITS, this morphed into VTS when Kaput and I were roommates. It’s not what it was when it started, but I’m happy I had something to do with starting something that looks more and more like it might last for a while in some capacity or another. The first acronym was VANDAL TEAM SUPREME. Coincidentally this all happened around about the same time I was kicked out of the university I was attending. I try not to look back. It’s been great fun so far.
There have been many other writers involved, at times over 30 people, although there is a core group of diehards from the first line up that are still going strong. Kaput, Oaph and Mentos come to mind. Mentos is a Canadian living in Spain, speaking fluent Spanish now, painting canvases and drinking espresso. He’s an original. Oaph is a rapper/social worker living and working in the drudge that is the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, still. His rap group is called RAPGOOFZ. Check them out (@rapgoofz on Instagram). Kaput does it all. He is very under appreciated in my opinion.
MA: Where are you originally from? Can you tell us about how you got into graffiti in the first place?
R: I’m from a little island in Norway. A kid from Oslo on holidays on our island showed me his blackbook, a Beastie Boys tape, and a skateboard. This is about 1986 or so. It was Licensed to Ill.
MA: Judging from your work we assume that you’ve got a heavy DIY flow to your ethic. We see punk/skate influence, more so than hip hop. Are we wrong? Could you tell us what your influences are?
R: I’m influenced by a lot of things. You nailed it on the main ones, skateboarding and punk music are both at the top. Aloha spirit guides me. An overarching urge to survive.
MA: What’s up with the “R” character that you throw up? Does it have a name? When was it born?
R: That “R” was born around 2004. Kaput and I both noticed that a unique throw up/bubble letter was key, so we spent a bit of time refining what we had going on already. It’s changed bit by bit, bump by bump over the years, but it stays triangle based. A strong shape. I call it “The Remio.”
It’s an alias or alter ego that I can climb into and play around with when I need it. A steadfast friend, with no demands. Like a dog which I don’t have to feed.
MA: Where’d the name REMIO come from?
R: I made it up in the 11th grade. It was a variation on a theme based on letters that seemed prominent in the English language and used on “Wheel of Fortune.” I learned English as a second language. The first acronym was; “Reading Excites Many Interesting Organisms.” This morning it was; “Rapid Eye Movement Inwards Onwards.”
MA: How’d you first link up with Keith Hufnagel? You guys old friends?
R: The first time was through Twist. He asked me to help with the installation of his Ray Fong adidas shoe. Keith and I have been friends since.
MA: We’re fans of the SLEEPNER zine. Where’s that name come from and what’s the concept behind it?
R: The name is a re-spelling of Sleipnir, it’s the shapeshifting eight-legged horse from Norse mythology. Odin’s horse; Loki has something to do with it. Sleipnir is an interesting character. It was also the name of the biggest oil rig disaster in the history of offshore oil projects in Norway.
MA: When did you first get into photography? What do you like to shoot and what do you shoot with?
R: As a youngster my mama put both a paintbrush and camera into my life. I have been making pictures with an XA2, a digital olympus waterproof point-and-shoot camera and my iPhone right now. I like how the XA2 handles black and white film, been getting good results there lately. We thrifted the XA2 and paid 50 cents for it. The thing tolerates being dropped frequently. I like that about it.
MA: Collaborations between writers and companies isn’t necessarily a new thing, but there seems to be a definite increase in them lately. What do you think compels brands to seek writers, as opposed to more “traditional” and gallery artists?
R: Probably some sort of sense of lawlessness or maybe honesty, since writing on stuff is still illegal. Maybe looseness. I don’t think most writers bring contracts or high demands into the picture when approached. I know I don’t. I feel blessed when approached by anyone to do a commercial project because I am supporting a family. I have to make stuff in order to be happy. Writers are free people. The writers and artists I admire are all very free-spirited in many ways that the average person is not.
MA: What made you say yes to the IVI Vision x HUF collab?
R: It was financially appropriate for me when it was offered. We had just had our son and I trust Keith.
MA: What makes a good collab/bad collab with a brand?
R: The collaborator has to value the brands mission statement and bring their own values and ideas to the project. It has to fit for both.
MA: What’s your process for collaborating? What did you do first when it came to this one? Did you sit with the idea or did they already have a game plan with openings for you to jump in on?
R: I’m not sure what my process is. I listen closely to what the other party wants to do, then I offer my perspective and see if it gels. In this case It worked well. Brian Garofalow over at IVI is a pleasure to work with.
MA: You seem to be a fan of sunglasses. “The Remio” sports them a bunch. What’s up with that? Do you wear sunglasses at night?
R: I don’t typically wear them at night. My eyes are really sensitive to light, [so] I wear transitions. “The Remio” wears them for other reasons…
MA: Are you a conspiracy theorist? We hate the term, but like the truth. Do you have any favorite ones?
R: I like the truths that are veiled behind the outrageous claims made in conspiracy. I like seeing how others react to conspiracies and then I make my own mind up.
MA: Do you have a favorite city to travel to and write in?
R: The city I haven’t been to yet is always the best one, so much more to find out.
MA: What city has your favorite graffiti, past or present?
R: It’s probably buried. I’m looking for ancient stuff now. In the past I may have said New York or San Francisco.
MA: What are your favorite tools of the trade?
R: The free ones.
MA: What did you want to be when you grew up?
R: A Marine Biologist. Science was at the top of my list of interests.
MA: VTS and HUF had a very special capsule collection that dropped a few months back. We dig how it came out, from the Instagram photos to the actual capsule pieces. What was it like to manifest that? `
R: It was fun, a group effort really.
MA: Let’s say I was an alien that just dropped in and got lost here and I wanted to know what graffiti was. How would you describe it to me?
R: Graffiti is a way to show people that you were here, and you had something particular to say.
MA: Any last words? Maybe a quote to live by?
R: “Friends are the family you get to choose.” Or maybe “Bring it up again and we will vote on it” (applies to a burp or fart).
And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our interview with Keith Hufnagel (Huf Worldwide) and Brian Garafalow (IVI VIsion) by clicking the video up top. The two discuss the logistics and skateboard and graffiti influence of the collaboration.