EE: Tell us a little bit about who you are, where you grew up and what you tell people you do for a living?
R: I was actually born in Tokyo although I grew up in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs. For work I paint signs and murals, design logos and posters, run several gallery spaces and develop various drinking holes. For fun I like to paint walls that mostly say Roach.
EE: When? Where? and What? was the first piece of artwork you can remember creating?
R: My first piece of graffiti was a gold chrome 3 letter piece with a Galaxy Blue outline that said MEF IE. It was painted in 1998 and sat between Roseville and Chatswood station. Prior to this I drew a lot of short comics and cartoon characters. I grew up on Bean, Dandy, Simpsons, Marvel etc.
EE: How did you get into painting graffiti? How old were you? Why do you do it?
R: I was around 14 years old when I began to notice it. It was a friend at school who brought in his brother’s photo album. From then I noticed it everywhere, especially on the train ride to school everyday. We had a crew with 4 mates in our group that were into it including my younger brother Numskull. We did back car insides everyday before and after school. It wasn’t until 98 when I did that first piece, I was mostly bombing and sketching working my way up to doing a piece. My mum was also key in encouraging me to peruse the artistic side of it. She let me paint my bedroom a few times.
EE: Can you tell us a little bit about how the graffiti scene in Australia differs from that overseas?
R: We have ‘Lad’ culture which is pretty unique to Oz. The internet has merged a lot of graffiti cultures and styles together. There are still some countries like New Zealand and Brazil where they still have very identifiable native hand styles. I guess these days we kind of have a ‘global’ look here in Sydney, some would disagree I’m sure. Probably a lot to do with how well travelled most writers here are.
EE: How did you come up with the name Roach? Is this the only name you have ever used?
R: I wrote MEPHER for over half my painting career, I also wrote CLERK of some time, ROACH has been going for about 7 years now. I kinda couldn’t believe that no one had rocked it here before, it is the perfect representation of Graffiti for me. Roaches are everywhere, if you get rid of a few, there are always more… disgusting things.
EE: How are the most recognisable aspects of a Roach piece? How does Roach stand out among the crowd in the graffiti world?
R: You can tell my work these days as its very simple and legible. I have many styles of the word that I like to play with. I’m always trying to paint something in a style that makes me feel good. I often try it twice then move on. I am enjoying making the letters more human at the moment, putting them in a scenario, kind of like a comic book.
EE: What’s the difference between graffiti and sign painting? We have heard sign painting described as grandpa graff?
R: It seems to be a natural path for a lot of graffiti writers as they share similar methods and processes. It’s letter based mostly, they use things like 3D’s, keylines, outlines etc. I would say graffiti is for the self, where as signs are usually for someone else. One is for money, one is for fame. I paint signs with spray paint, I also use brush. I paint graffiti in sign lettering styles but I don’t paint signs in graffiti styles. To me they’re like cousins, they’ve got a fair bit to talk to each other about.
EE: How does your graffiti work differ from your sign painting style work? Are they coming together?
R: They come together for some beers and a good time, but they live in separate houses if you know what I mean.
EE: What do you look toward for inspiration with sign painting?
R: I look at lots of things. Sydney’s got a load of great hand painted signs still kicking around. We also have a lot of new awesome hand painted signs too, as there seems to be a great resurgence of the art form at the moment. I look to more active sign painters as their work is easy to find and follow – Lynes & Co, Colossal Media, Jeff Canham, Dave Smith, No Hope, Sure Hands.
EE: Did you teach yourself how to paint?
R: I was never taught sign painting, design or graffiti for that matter. I just do my own research and paint styles that make me feel good. I get the feeling that there is always a gripe with me out there regarding this, but it really doesn’t bother me, I just do my thing for people and their businesses and they seem to like it. In saying that, I would have loved to have learnt but no one ever offered to show me. Every time I go to see Lynes & Co, I pick their brains and watch them work. There are still many methods and techniques I have never tried but am dead keen to.
EE: Spray can or a brush?
R: Both! I am getting way more confident painting with brush seeing as I’ve been doing so much of it in the last few years. It’s more fiddly and takes ten times as long, but the crisp result on smaller scales can’t be achieved easily with a spray can. Spray painting is faster and also much more natural for me, I have a shaky hand and don’t really like to be anchored down to the surface. The time thing is a big one for me, I never seem to have enough of it with my current workload.
EE: What was the main inspiration for your East Editions furniture pieces? How did you choose all the words and terms you painted on them?
R: I wanted to pay respects to the sign painting industry. Much like graffiti there are known terms, slogans, saying, tools, paints, colours and techniques that represent the art form.
EE: Was it challenging working on Timber furniture as a medium instead of a wall or canvas?
R: It was a royal pain in the arse painting these things, a lot of love and patience went into them. I am really happy with the outcome, they were really rad pieces by Thomo & Coach before I even touched them, so I was hesitant to begin.
EE: You used enamel paint on the Timber Boxes. Why not use normal acrylic paint?
R: I use 1 Shot Sign Painters Lettering Enamel. The name describes it well as you mostly only ever need one coat of a colour as it is very full bodied. Once you paint with it, you have about 15 second before it begins setting, making it hard to manoeuvre after this point. You basically have one shot at getting it right. Acrylic paint doesn’t have the same flow or consistency and doesn’t come with a super shiny gloss finish which is the effect I am after.
EE: How did the rise of the digital age affect sign painting ? Has printing just taken over?
R: I wasn’t there painting signs at the time, but it seems the vinyl plotter was indeed the biggest disaster to face the industry. A lot of people moved with the times and converted as it was a faster and cheaper way for people to advertise their services, and it was a quicker way for people to make money from signs also. They actually stopped teaching sign painting courses here in Sydney some time ago. Fortunately it has had a great resurgence in recent times, you can take courses again, and there are people who want to pay a bit more for that nice hand painted look. There seems to be something much more human about the way letters are arranged when done by hand, that people want to make their business shine a little brighter.
EE: Digital vs Hand Paint? Why always hand paint?
R: I have a saying which is ‘Always Hand Paint, Decal When Appropriate’. Making nice signs takes time, and when there are alot of signs to be made it is not always possible to hand paint every single one. I try my best to paint as many as I can but don’t always have the time.
EE: What is next for Roach?
R: I am travelling through Europe and will end up based in the US this year. Its always been a goal of mine to move to that part of the world and experience the internet in real life! Haha! I am curating and presenting a group exhibition in New York this September, and plan to paint walls in every country I visit along the way. Follow my adventures on instagram @roachi
Check out our Roach and Thomo & Coach Timber Boxes hand painted by Roach here
Find our more about Roach here