So It’s a freezing winter day in the Midlands, we’re unpacking our kit from the car when we here a “Oi” and we turned around to see a very jovial and very cold Kem doing a sexy dance for us. The reason he’s so happy is because he’s going to get kebab and chips for lunch and the fact that he’ll get a few minutes respite from the cold while Mef carries on with their latest production. KEMEF have been here since 7:30am at a secret location putting the finishing touches to a full wall production they started yesterday morning. Kem and Mef have been a duo/crew/partners in crime for about 27 years and are now undisputedly top of their game. We caught up with them for a small insight into what’s got them to where they are today.
400ml: So when did you get into graff and how?
Mef: It was my Dad! We were watching some music videos and there was some graff in one of them, I think it was a Blondie video. My Dad said “You’d be good at that because you’re a quick drawer” so I started messing around, then I watched Beat Street and that was it for me. My first tag was Hugie, which was my nickname, then I met Kem a few months after I started, he was going to college with Crizer and I was at school with Crizers brother.
Kem: I started in 84 after seeing some tags done by some local Skinheads; I thought I’ll have me a bit of that. Then I saw a couple of pieces done by some local breakers, which I thought were pretty cool and that was it. I didn’t see Beat Street till a few years later but I was already into taggin by then. I messed around with a few tags until I decided on N’deva in 85.
400ml: How did you come up with the tags Kem and Mef?
K: When I was writing N’deva I used to put Chem up, short for Chemical. Then I just played with the words a bit and started using Kem.
M: My Dad was a welder and I was with him at work one day and there was a big bottle of Methane…Meth…Mef…3 letters, that’ll do. I was Mef until I got busted in 87 then I became Asasyn when we formed Adicz, but I went back to Mef in 1989.
400ml: What graffiti crew are you in?
K&M: ADZ Adicz, we formed the crew in 87. We’ve made up loads though, we were Special Effects, Cultural Thugs, and When Crizer joined he came out with loads of crew names. Such as “Twentieth Century Phenomenon” But we just took the micky out of Crizer for thinking of a crew name called TC fuckin P, we came up with loads of piss take crew names The Mystical Fresh, Crazy But Real but Crizers favourite was “The Mystical Wizards of Enchantment” and he went for it…He even painted a massive chrome that went all the way down the Alum Rock Road in Birmingham which I think you can still see today. I’m taking the piss but we had a right laugh with Crizer in the crew.
400ml: You’ve both been prolific writers since 84 you’ve started stopped and started again. What’s kept you enthusiastic for so long?
K&M: We always want to better ourselves; we always want to better each other. That’s why we’ve painted together for so long we always want to burn each other off the wall, you should see the texts we sent each other this morning. “Bring you’re ‘A’ game, your gonna get burned sucker” We love the banter but that’s what keeps us going. It’s always about the next wall and trying to get one up on each other, well maybe that’s not quite right, we just wanna hold our own or do a bit better we don’t want to paint a wall and let the wall down in a way. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it your still always as competitive if not more so now, this time around we’ve got a bit more belief in ourselves. We started fucking around again and thought we’re not bad at this lets put a bit more effort into it and here we are, still painting and still loving it.
400ml: So is there anything that really kicked things off this time round?
K: We’d started painting properly again and as we said were putting more effort into it, doing more full wall productions. Then we did a tribute to Dondi, which we called “Painting by numbers”. The same night I put it on Flickr it went mental, loads of people commented on it, we were getting emails of Duro and Zephyr saying how much they liked it. This really inspired us to push on even more.
400ml: You’ve both been painting for nearly 30 years now, and in that time painted a lot of walls. Do you have a favourite?
K: I like all of them; I don’t think I’ve done my favourite one yet.
M: That’s a cop out answer.
K: OK! If I had to pick one out it’d be the second Pink Panther one and the Blue wildstyle one we did in about 87.
M: The Blue wildstyle one for me also, and the chrome characters we did in 87…and the Chrome wildstyle from 88. As for the newer stuff I’m gonna say I haven’t done my best one yet. If I’d have done my best one I think I would have stopped.
K: Cop out.
400ml: Those characters were pretty striking how did they come about?
M: We were always trying to do stuff which other people hadn’t done, it’s the same as the Chrome wildstyle we did in about 88 I’m sure that was one of the first like that.
400ml: One of our favourites is the “King Asasyn” from Walsall pit and the Asasyn pieces you did down Tamworth.
M: Kem said how good those Asasyn pieces were and I didn’t really think that much of them. I got there to paint the first one and I had no paint what so ever until Custo came down and he only had two cans of this one of that so I had no idea what the fill was going to be like.
400ml: Apart from each other who’s your favourite writer and whom would you most like to paint with.
K: Anything by Pose 2 I think he’s the fucking Bollocks. He’s got old school flow I think his stuffs amazing.
M: Seen for me I’d love to paint with him. I’d like to waste him. I’d say to him I looked up to you as a kid, now I’m gonna burn you of this wall.
400ml: So what do you think of the way graff’s been influenced by the Internet? We’ve heard a lot of artists don’t like their stuff appearing online straight after they’ve painted it.
K&M: We think it’s great, and it’s helped a load. CIA wouldn’t have seen our Dondi wall if it wasn’t for Flickr, we wouldn’t have met and painted with half of the people we have if it wasn’t for the net. Were in touch with writers from all over the world. Kemr’s in touch with us, Zephyr, Doze…Loads. We’re big fans.
400ml: So you’ve got a show coming up, tell us about that.
K&M: The shows called “Steel Horses” and it’s based on New Yorks MTA in the 70’s
It’s being held at The Vanity Bar, 79-80 Bolebridge Street Tamworth and it’s on for one night only. Come down have drink and say hi.
400ml would like to say a massive personal thanks to KEMEF.