Keen to cover all aspects of hip-hop culture, we caught up with graffiti head Chu to talk about getting into graff and tons more
Where are ya from and when did you first pick up a spray can?
I'm from Walsall, Black Country, north of Birmingham. The very same place I first experienced aerosol paint. I mean, I went through some stage of going into a family shed and seeing some with dregs in, and cos I was into drawing in a mad way – painted with it. I suppose the first time I ever had more than 1 colour on my person would have been around 1983, summer holidays. First time I smoked any herb too, in a place called
How did you come up with the name Chu and have you used any other tags in the past?
Well… Chu is an abbreviation of tuma, which was given to me by a writer from Walsall called Dez. 'tuma of society'. He painted with Goldie and was the sharpest painter in the west mids… so when the d.a.i.s.y. age came along – I was doing tie-dye shirts with stencil patterns. Manga was hitting hard over here, and I used to write tumart (as in tuma art…) and somebody had written an 'o' after it, so it read 'tumarto'. I had a bit of a John Lennon moment and then made a 3×3 grid with CHU MAH TOH writen on it. Soon after, I dropped the mahtoh… early tags dont count – all but a mention of a crew, before chu, RWA. Revolutionary Wall Artists.
How many years of development has it taken you to get to the standard which you're at?
I dont really consider my work to be of any standard. As long as you are breathing, you are working – so standards are as abstract to me as kindness is to a traffic warden… I have always been drawing. my first 'show' was a corridor at primary school. You never actually stop developing. As long as you are working, and not lazing around and chatting. Too much chat in this 'urban' mystique known as the graffiti world.
What do you make of the graffiti world in 2005?
I was talking to a friend the other night and we are constantly bemused by the fact that we have phones in our pocket. Not only are they phones but they take photos, videos, colour screens, games, internet. It's like something only joe90 had when we were old enough to know heartache.
So things move on. Things are of avery different mentality in the mind of a graffiti artist. I suppose for us 'veterans' it's just a case of seeing all the fresh talent out there just booming style, and all the time they are watching you get on with your thing, through the years. Weird feeling man. Gettin a free bus pass soon.
What graffiti artists are you most fond of the work by at the moment?
I've always stuck to the idea that I enjoy the company and respect the company of my friends. This also comes into who I like to socialise with. I'm not saying that if I'm to be fond of your work, I should be fond of you… no. Kid Acne will always rock. Sam Flores is the dopestar! and Energ, a writer from Birmingham. I tend not to get to involved with other works. I'm a far too reflective, complex and social creature.
Your website has a huge portfolio of work. Do you possibly have a personal favourite piece that you've done?
The favourite piece will always be your next.
Writers who welcome offers of comissioned work sometimes get frowned upon. Have you experienced any bitchiness for doing stuff like Levi and Channel 4 stuff?
Man, I get shit off some types but it's basically down to one simple thing. Jealousy. If you are going to be good at anything, you need time to devote to its development. This time is valuable, so you have to work to get that time free. Otherwise, all you would ever do is not sleep and get very tired. It sickens me how some 'writers' do this. Would there be a similar response if I were to use pencil or clay?
Do you make a living off of doing what you do?
I have run my business now for 9 years, so you could say that is a living.
I've seen that you do work on everything from bar walls, to canvas, to buildings, books and brick. What's your preferred material?
I prefer painting without permission on very large exterior walls.
Are you much of a hip-hop head and what sounds are you feeling? Into much UK rap?
I have followed the hip hop phenomenon since it was imported into the UK from the states. I still listen to its music, but the intriguing thing about the hip-hop culture are the people involved, not the output. Community style. I used to work with an outfit signed to Big Dadda called 'New Flesh For Old'. The producer behind that outfit is called part2, another aerosol pioneer. He invited me to participate in recordings. You can still hear me on some of the tunes (I'm the one saying 'unbeaten' on 'Eye Of The Hurricane'). I don't like the word 'rap', because it's an action, not a belief. So commercial now, with r&b killing it.
Do you rate the Graphotism magazines? I've always wanted to buy one but they're bloody pricey.
Graphotism works on many levels. I love its 'feel'. It's easy to see how many young writers are influenced by its contents, rather than wandering streets and finding their own way. It's better to read another writers opinion, than to see the work in my opinion.
If you could give one piece of advice to a youth who wants to enter the world of graffiti, in this current nanny state, what'd it be?
Get a mortgage.
Have you ever been arrested for brightening up an otherwise dull world with an interesting and creative piece of art?
If pissing up a wall can be considered art…
What's ya favourite colour?
My favourite aerosol colours are blues and creams, but lately I've been working a lot with the red versus blue spectrum. If there were a single colour it would have to be carplan midnight blue. You can work about 4 different blues from that cannister.
Any shoutout's or plugs you wanna throw out there?
Energ, Kid Acne, Paul Merson, Banksy, Gorillaz, Lucy Mclaughlan and your mum.
Check out Chu's official website for tons of dope images!