Off Script: GOUCH
" You cannot just do one thing and call yourself a good writer."
GOUCH had a busy 2016. He released a beautiful, biographical short film and was among a group of select heavy hitters featured in the recent GHORT exhibition in New York City. These were just the most recent achievements in the long career of a graffiti writer who considers his tags to be as valid an artistic expression as any piece or canvas he might paint, and there is no doubt that his handstyle is sharp and instantly recognizable, whether it is executed with a Uni or spraypaint. Rooted deep in the stylistic traditions of his native Brooklyn, GOUCH continues to aim for perfection, in the books and on the street.
How did you get into graffiti and who were some of your influences?
I was born into it because of my older brother. He was a writer. He used to go out bombing and I’d ask him to hook me up, and he actually would. I would go to school the next day and see my tag up. He was a late ’80s bomber, so it was just in me. I was always a book writer. I would doodle in the late ’80s. I didn’t really start bombing until ’91. Markers, tunnel stuff, train stations. Spray paint on the streets was ’93 and then in ’94-’96 I bombed a little more with blockbuster straight letters with somebody else. So I had that background in Brooklyn from the late ’80s to the early ’90s. I consider myself an early ’90s writer, because that’s when I actually started writing outside.
I grew up in Brooklyn. My parents raised us in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the late ’70s, and then in ’86 they moved me and my brother out to East Flatbush, an all West-Indian neighborhood. A crazy neighborhood, a lot of writers out there. I always looked up to my brother. He had one of the most prolific crews back then, called the Flipside Crew. It didn’t really get documented, but I know about it and a lot of old-school Brooklyn cats know about these guys. They were very prolific and innovative with their handstyles. That’s ultimately where I came from.
There were a couple of cats in my neighborhood that had the dopest styles. There was TEKAY and there was MAGOO2, his partner. Then there was this other, slept-on individual that no one really knew about. He always rocked TEKAY’s crew, TNR, but his tag was DRONER, or DRONE. (Yes, there was another DRONE, RIP.) The original DRONER was one of my main influences where I got my style. You can look at his old tags from my photos—because nobody else has them—and look at my tag and you’ll see it. Also, in South Brooklyn I have to give a shout out to NEEK TQS and ZEONE from KOC ACID, they were major influences on my handstyle. Eventually I met NEEK and ZE and that was dope.
How has your handstyle changed over the years?
Back in the mid ‘90s I used to write more abstract because I came from the Flipside Crew. I really refined it when I linked up with SOBER in the early 2000s. 2000 was the year I met him. I stuck with the pointy G and the R with the star at the end of it. I did not invent that R, but I own it, it’s mine! Nobody did what I did with it. I forgot where I got it from, but it’s mine!
I had other names before GOUCH. Old Brooklyn cats know those names, I don’t give them out. I wrote on a few trains with the other tags, motions—where we jumped down on the tracks when the train came in the station, hit it and bounce—and lay-ups.
We used to stop the train in the middle of the tunnel. At the 59th Street tunnel on the N line, we would hop right up there from the ditch and pull the lever up, put a spray can underneath it—because when you pull the lever up, it went from green to red—so you put the can in there and the light would stay red. The train would roll in and it would stop. We would creep out from where we were hiding, bomb it all the way from the middle to the end and then run right into the ditch. That spot got burned! Kids were doing it all the time and it got burned, man! The cops bagged somebody there by holding a gun to this kid’s head.
I don’t write those tags anymore. GOUCH is my tag.
Do you have any favorite markers or other tools?
I used to love going to Pearl Paint to cop the silver Uni paint markers, the chisel tips. As soon as I got out of the store I would take the tip out and rub it on the pavement, so it wouldn’t be too sharp and have a little bit of bleed to it. Juicy. People wouldn’t know what the fuck I was writing with. It was just a silver chisel tip. Silver pilots, I’d do the same shit. So it’s not just a really sharp silver Pilot tag with a medium tip, but thicker and fatter. It dies quicker that way, but you get the juiciest tags. Too this day I still do it.
Obviously, I like chisel tips. I’m a chisel tip writer. I don’t like the Sharpie chisel tips, I hate those. I like the little chisel tip you get from Staples, the box that comes with the red, the blue and the black. Those flow real nice. I like this really obscure one called Monami. It’s a Japanese brand, you can’t find them anymore. I was in a 99 cent store one time and I bought ten packs of them. The chisel tip Monamis have that buttery flow that you cannot find anywhere else. If I was able to get those now I would. I have one pack left at my house that’s sealed, because I’m afraid to open it.
With spraypaint, I was always the type of guy who just used what I had handy. If I did a piece and I didn’t have skinny caps, I would use a stock tip. Yes, it’s cliche, but now I love Montana black. You give me a Montana black with the stock cap—I don’t care about the fat caps, I like the stock cap—they’re perfect. You can blast them by putting a lot of pressure on them, you can get a flare tip out of it, you can get skinny with it. Love it. Just the way the can comes is perfect for me. If I do a piece, I’ll get the yellow banana caps for the Montanas, those are dope.
What’s the best part about bombing with tags for you?
The way I see it, when I bomb with tags, whether it’s with a marker or a spray can, I take that tag like it’s the last tag I’m ever going to take. Because I’m taking the risk, I might get caught, and if I get caught then I might have taken a wack tag, and what was it for? If you step up to a wall all nervous, your tag is going to come out wack. I always step up to a wall with a hundred percent confidence, big cojones, and just kinda blast it, whether I’m on Flatbush Ave, with mad cars zooming by, or I’m in a dirty alleyway. I focus on it, I’m in the zone and if I get caught then at least it’s a dope tag.
What does it take to become a good bomber?
GOUCH: Being well-rounded. You have to have a healthy balance, a healthy appetite for tags, throwies, straight letters and ultimately masterpieces. I’m no masterpiecer, but I can burn when I want to. You have to master every aspect of writing. You cannot just do one thing and call yourself a good writer.
For me it was years of practice. I was fortunate to have a brother who schooled me and forced me to learn a handstyle very early in my childhood, literally practicing on paper for an hour every night. I had no choice. I had something to prove to him and to myself, that I could learn this shit. Hours and hours of practice, studying, dedication, devotion. Stay off the internet, stay in the books!