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If you’re a Melburnian, Merda is probably your favourite writer’s favourite write. Super influential in the formative years of Melbourne’s graffiti scene, Merda was at the forefront of style innovation to Melbourne. Even 25 years later, his sketches and pieces still in a league of their own. While he has been in painting hiatus for a while, we had the rare privilege of chatting to him after his presentation at the CARBON X: Writer’s Bench forum earlier this month.

Can you just tell us a bit about yourself, the crews that you are down with and what area you grew up in?

My tags Merda, I grew up in Preston but my parents used to move around quite a bit; Preston, Croydon, Upwey, Albert Park, South Melbourne, Malvern.

The crews that I was down with were TWB (the wild boys), and that’s pretty much it, oh – and I think it was Melbourne Style 1 or something, with Pnut and Mist.

Is there any story behind how you came to have the word Merda?

Um, not really. I just needed a different tag. I got busted for using Jay, so I was using 10125 for a while and then just liked the word Murder, but rearranged it so it didn’t have two R’s in it. It was a bit too long as a word so I just rearranged the lettering.

You were always at the forefront of introducing new style and concepts to your pieces, such as including 3D letterform and warped perspectives. Did anything motivate you to keep pushing the boundaries? Were you bored with what Melbourne was producing at the time?

I don’t think it was intentional; well the 3D thing wasn’t an intentional thing of planning or trying to do something different. It’s just the way my style progressed to that moment. I think progression is not a conscious thing; it’s just something that happens. It’s the way you look at art I think, and your opinions.

 What was the energy in the graffiti scene like in Melbourne in the ’80s? 

I think the late ’80s was when Melbourne had its peak pretty much. We were on top for at least two years. A lot of good writers and good styles happening.

It seems like prior to the influence of the Internet, graffiti was progressing much more organically. Writers would be more influenced by people on the line, rather than being flooded with photos online. Did Melbourne have its own distinct style and culture?           

Yeah I think people, because we had that rivalry. It was just competition with different writers, we’d be influenced by each other and try to push each other. But we also had outside influences coming in occasionally, [with] new pieces from overseas.

Who were your influences in the graffiti scene, both from Australia and abroad?

Probably a lot of the people that I have painted with; Duel, Dskiz, GS38, Prime. Definitely Zephyr, Daze, Phase2. The list is just endless.

You’ve spoken about beef and rivalry in the past where two crews would push each other to produce bigger and better pieces. Do you think the notion of beef has changed in the past 20 years? 

Oh definitely, even in the late ’80s it changed. I think it’s probably with age too, we just got older and things got more complicated. Life gets complicated. 

Hanging out at the writer’s bench and having panels rolling around for weeks on end – you must have some interesting stories to tell. Anything stick out in particular?

Just being hassled by the cops [Laughs]. Just the whole fact of meeting up with people was cool, seeing all the writers in one place and having and having a chat about what pieces  or panels you did that week. It was the biggest buzz.

Your generation had to deal with issues such as non-purpose built spray paint, but was spared others such as the influx of CCTV cameras. How would you compare the scene now as to how it was in your most active stage?

I’m not sure about the here and now, but just by seeing photos you can tell that it’s a lot harsher – a lot harder. Back in the day when I started painting, you could be up until daybreak on a Sunday on the line and you know, no one would ring the cops. You’d just be painting away.

But seeing that you had to use hardware paints, and modify the valves and caps – do you think it sort of levels out?

Oh I’d love to see the people painting these days with that paint. It’s shit. Using a VHT [spray can] it’s basically just water. Yeah it was a bit of a struggle with that paint, even trying to find good paint around Melbourne- it was hard.

Yeah, I heard a story – I think about the USA crew robbing um…

Yeah, there was a warehouse in Burnley that had Wet Paint, and Super Spray. It was basically old stock from somewhere. There must have been thousands of cans.

Just finally, what’s the future hold for yourself? Anything that we should keep our eyes open for?

Yeah I’m starting up a screen-printing setup, so I’m getting involved in screen-printing, and hopefully some new styles in the future. Definitely by the end of the year.

You can find Merda on Instagram @m_e_r_d_a.

Words by Luke Karakas