Monday 6 December 2010

The Kool Skool Interviews South London Writer Dicer TSM Author of New "Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti Book

Dicer TSM

The Kool Skool Interviews South London Writer Dicer TSM Author of "Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book

"Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book cover

Dicer is an Old School South London Graffiti Writer, who is still representing the culture, by painting sick Burners, and giving back in the form of his amazing new Self Published "Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book. The book is crammed full of over 250 photographs of rare and unseen Train flicks from the golden era of London Graffiti. Dicer also known for rocking the infamous Battersea/Vauxhall/PatMore London Hall of Fame, took a moment to talk to The Kool Skool about his soon to be Classic Book, and legacy in the London Graffiti Scene.

Dice District Line in 1991

Dicer 2010

Hi Dicer, thanks a lot for coming by, for those not familiar with Dicer, could you tell us a little it about yourself?

Well, I've been writing graffiti since around 1985, the story follows along the usual lines of the American invasion of hip-hop into the uk, and myself starting graffiti. Although, I guess I am somewhat different to other London writers in that I didn't go to school with lots of writers and get into painting that way. Instead I simply went out on my own, racked paint, and did it by myself for my own gratification for many years. In 1987, I chose the name Dice, at the time it was more for convenience as 4 lettered names were popular and easy to write. Although it’s always been a bit difficult to bend and shape the letters too much as there's not much you can do with a D. In the early 90’s I battled for supremacy with my pieces on the District & Circle Lines writing Dicer/Diser, by the mid 90s my crew TSM (The Shag Masterz) were competing with the likes of DDS on the trains, in the late 90s disbanded. I painted a lot with Khans STD in the early 2000’s, Since then Ive been painting “freelance” as it were, with anyone and everyone, I still get a kick out of battling people on walls.

Dicer window down flames

Being that you’re a South Londoner, and traditionally the South is often over looked in its place in Graffiti History. Why is it that people seem to sleep on the South?

I guess it’s because historically there were no big halls of fame in the South to attract attention, but also the Holy Grail of train lines (the met) didn’t run down South, having instead a truly underground subway didn’t help attract writers to the area.

Soge 1994

Who are some of the South London legends and stories you remember?

When writers used to hit the Buses in South London, (84-86 era), there were some very legendary writers, namely Lazy Lady, Pest, Feend 219, and Dust. It’s a shame some of them didn’t graduate on to the train scene, as they probably would have been as big as Fuel and Prime.

Early 90's top to bottom

Why should New Schoolers care about the Old School?

Well, I wouldn’t expect anyone to “care”, but they should at least know as it stops their heads getting too big! People don’t realise half the time the stuff their bragging about doing has been done a hundred times before, and better! People were doing full colour top 2 bottom wholecars in 1986, by 1987 every yard had been slapped.

"Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book inside

What made you put this book together now?

My main motivation for putting “Steel Canvas” together was just to get the photos in print, before they disappear from history. I’d lost a ton of photos from broken hard drives, and actual photos had degraded, been lost, stolen, and given away. I felt like the curator of a graff museum, and it’s my job to restore these photos for future generations. My secondary goal, was to take graffiti back to looking at photo albums and books. The internet is now so saturated with thumbnails of grainy out of focus “old school” photos, the whole meaning has been lost in translation! Having photos of old school graff in a book is a way to bring it to the people and get them talking about it – people tend to huddle around a book, whereas viewing the internet is almost always a solo pursuit.

"Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book inside

That's a really interesting way to think about it. The internet has kind of devalued and even played out the action of looking at graffiti photos, also many writers nowadays have probably never seen a painted train in traffic. I have never seen a lot of the photos in Steel Canvas, whose photos are they, are they all yours?

They are 100% all my own. Any train you see in the book I personally saw running, probably tagged the inside, and occasionally maybe had a piece next to it too! I try to make it clear in the book, that unlike a lot of other publications this is the first time that a single person has made a whole book using (only) their own photos. I think it gives the book a certain authenticity, it would of been so easy to plaster the book full of train photos from my personal archives.


For those of the internet generation, can you explain how writers got photos of other artists?

It was a lot different back before the net. A lot of a writers status was based on rumour and reputation, not actual hard evidence. Photos of trains weren’t banded about like they are now, they were very coveted, and secret. Us later generation writers looked up to writers like Fuel, Prime, Drax, Crash, Cazbee, Hate etc. Not because what they had done (the photos didn't emerge until after the year 2000 on the net), but because we had heard stories of whole trains, top to bottoms, yard chases etc. And to us aspiring train writers, they seemed like gods! You would always meet other writers out on the lines if there was something running that day. During the time period that the book covers, I rarely saw any of the old school train photos that seem so familiar now, and are freely available on the net. Writers would arrange to meet up somewhere like Covent Garden and bring photos along and generally they would swap the ones that were bad angle shots or out of focus keeping the good ones for themselves. Unfortunately, this practice has since backfired, as a lot of the only surviving old school train photos are the ones that the writers discarded in swap meetings, due to the originals being destroyed by BTP after house raids. Over the years even these poor angle shots and out of focus shots have become more prized. So they have been color copied and duplicated to the point were the quality has suffered so much, so the piece is just a blurry blob on a bleached out train. Nowadays we are more clued up because of the internet, we can see exactly how many train pieces so and so crew or writer has done back in the day (or so we think), but we must always bare in mind that whatever you see in photos is only ever 40 - 50% of the whole story. So just imagine how big writers like Kast were in his day!

Panels sitting in Parsons early 90s

How important is it for the UK scene to support books like this?

It is important in the sense that it is “your” Subway Art! We’ve never had one, and this is as near to it as there is (at the moment).

How is Steel Canvas selling?

I am happy to say that it has sold surprisingly well. Looking back I was a bit naive to think I would only sell a handful to friends and family, I thought it may get lost in the sea of graff books out there, but people have been very supportive and I thank you all.

"Steel Canvas" 1987-1995 London Underground Train Graffiti book inside

Where can the people get a copy of Steel Canvas?

As it’s a self-published book, the amount of actual books in print are very low. The only place to buy “Steel Canvas” at the moment is from Chrome & Black, otherwise its mail order from the publishers; from the website; It retails around £25 - £30.

With the success of Steel Canvas, have you got there any more book in the works?

There are certainly more books in the works, but I can’t tell you exactly what, as I like the element of surprise!

"STEEL CANVAS" - London Underground Graffiti 1987 - 1995
PAGES: 120 Full Colour pages, with over 250 photographs

Spook Photo courtesy of Imerse ID
The Battersea Hall of Fame was a major illegal Graffiti Hall Of Fame in the dark depths of South London from the early 90's to around 2002,
Battersea/Vauxhall/PatMore London Hall of Fame R.I.P. in depth article, photos and memories by Dicer HERE

Get your copy of the "Steel Canvas" New London Train Graffiti Book while it lasts at London Graffiti Shop Chrome & Black or at the Websites below:


GRAFFALIFE Association said...


Anonymous said...

How can you say tsm were up against dds, most people have never heard of tsm, dds are up there with the best train crews london has ever seen.

Anonymous said...

In the early 90’s I battled for supremacy with my pieces on the District & Circle Lines writing Dicer/Diser, by the mid 90s my crew TSM (The Shag Masterz) were competing with the likes of DDS on the trains, in the late 90s disbanded.
The statement above is just pure comedy gold. Dise you should of become a comedian for a living. Firstly, TSM as a crew, hardly no one i know ever heard of this crew and we were regularly riding the lines on the circle from 90 -92.shag masters as a crew name, well i think that says it all - rubbish name and not even anywhere near dds as a crew name. You say also many of the peices running in thoses days either had a tag of yours on the insides or a peice, i think i saw one of our peices once, the others i have seen, all four train panels are on the web in pics and mostly non runners. I think your recent wall peices are good, but i think you have bigged yourself up to be someone you never was on the lines, i think most of dds would laugh you out of town if they saw what you have wrote connected to them. Your book is good and well worth a buy for anoyone who has never read this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments 'Anonymous'. If you read the sentence: "TSM were competing with the likes of DDS on the trains. By this what I meant was, we were all out there doing our thing in the mid 90's, and there was heavy competition for the yards and lay-ups, sometimes we would go to a yard and dds would of been there the day before, and it would be hot. That's what I meant by competing, ie; competing for yard space, competing for trains....obviously I didn't mean we were actually competing against DDS - to say that would be ridiculous, it just got taken out of context. 2nd point 'Shag Masters - rubbish crew name'...Yes it is!! That was the point of it, as we were all poking fun at ourselves (toungue in cheek), we picked a stupid non-hardcore (un london like) name for a joke, but it kind of stuck (it is a joke). the rest is what it is, different people will always have different opinions and perspectives of the scene. DDS are Londons premier crew and always will be they will go down in infamy. Tsm, on the other hand will pretty much always be a joke, and we are all happy with that. Peace! Dicer

Anonymous said...



The Kool Skool said...

Dear Anonymous @TheKoolSkool we appreciate everyone's input and respect your comments. Please read the articles/interviews in their full before leaving comments. Dicer was good enough to add on to this culture, not just by giving time out to answer some questions, but with his own money by putting out 2 books documenting many writers rare photos, and under his "Name". Please follow his lead. If you don't like what he has to say, at the least "state your name", and hey go crazy, create your own book.
Peace Shucks

Jp said...

Why do people have to hate ... You can't have nothing but respect for a writer like of south londons Top writers.......That guy talking shit is most probably from over north and never really got out of the manner much ... Dick head...........

Patent Attorney said...

I've never seen any obvious graffiti on the underground trains! This looks like a fascinating publication nonetheless.