I first met Hour at Astor Place. I remember him keeping to himself while skating really well. That’s what stood out most to me about him—he was a humble ripper, someone you rarely came across in the NYC of the 1990’s.
As usual with graffiti, I heard through the grapevine that he wrote ‘Hour’. So the next time I skated with him, I gingerly broached the topic. Luckily he was receptive, and our friendship gained a new commonality.
When I started this project, it had been a few years since I last spoke to Hour. After searching for his info and getting in touch, I asked him if he was down for an interview. Luckily again, he was receptive.
What came first, skating or graffiti?
Graff came first. I started seeing guys in my neighborhood (Chelsea Projects) doing graffiti when I was young – specifically this family, the Arriero brothers. This kid name Baby Luis, who had a crazy rat tale/mullet, would walk around with a used JVC boombox, and his brother, Boobie, would be practicing burners in the back parking lot of my projects. So I’d go to school trying different designs on my Trapper Keeper. Then I got my hands on a Sharpie and started drawing on the bathroom stalls. It started from there and I kind of became addicted.
What year do you think that was?
It had to be ’87 or ’88. You know at the time as a kid you go through different fads, but that one stuck with me. Everyone wanted to play video games; I’m thinking about how I’m going to see my name up somewhere.
How’d you get your tag?
I inherited it from this kid named Manny from my neighborhood who used to skate, too. He used to write Hour, and a lot of the KRT dudes used to hang out my neighborhood, specifically this guy Doc KRT, who looked like a Descendant from Azgard – he was diesel with a huge red beard, always wore 40 Below Timberlands, and used to drink Crazy Horse. So I always seen graff over there. I used to see Manny drawing in his blackbooks and I was like, “this kid’s good!” So he gave me a couple outlines and styles to practice. And me as a kid I was so happy that someone that understood the culture on a higher level than I did took a shining to me.
How did you get into skating?
There were kids in my neighborhood who skated, and I had a Variflex that my mom got me from Toys R Us which I used to knee board around the parking lot on, but I wasn’t that serious about it. But I was rollerblading at the time. And in 1995 I was at Union Square one day, and I had my rollerblades off and this kid Duke from Queens let me see his board. I was doing tic tacs and I remembered seeing some kid do what I now know is a slappy. I saw the sparks and thought it was so cool. So I kept ramming the board into the sidewalk trying to emulate the trick I saw. I probably tried it for four hours and my boy Duke is like, “Can I get my board back?” And I was like “Wait, I gotta do it.” Finally, as the sun was going down I was like, “I gotta do it.” So I went up to the curb, slapped my trucks onto the curb, and actually stood on the curb like a stall, and I was so happy, thinking, “I have arrived; this is it.” I sold my rollerblades and never looked back.
There were a handful of dudes that would take the time out and show the younger generation things, like this kid named Vince, who was homeless and would always sleep around Union Square. He was nice, people slept, he had a real unorthodox, but clean, style on the board. I would do kickflips, but turn my body. So Vince took me over to this scaffolding on 14th St. where the Diesel store would end up, and he was like, “Hold on to the scaffolding and train your body to keep from turning.”
I got my first actual board, a Zoo board, with my own money from Supreme. It was a blue True East board with a movie theater on it. My boy Manny just had a baby, so I didn’t know many people skating at that time, so I just skated with random kids. And then I met Akira at Union Square. There’s this kid looking like Method Man with crazy braids and an upside down visor, and pow! He just ollies the handrail! And I was like “Who is this dude?” We just started talking, and then me and that dude were inseparable from then on.
Video: Bryan Chin
So how did you start getting boards from Zoo?
Around 1996, me and Akira were skating the jersey divider in front of Union Square, and I was learning blunt slides and wallies on it. Eli Gesner from Zoo York was there that night, wearing a black Zoo hoodie and skating a Zoo tag board. He came up to us and asked how long we had been skating for. I was like, “I don’t know, a year and a half or something.” And he was like, “Wow, you guys progress quick!” Then he goes, “What are you doing tomorrow?” And I’m thinking, “Who is this old dude?” Eli said, “I work for Zoo. I want you guys to come by.”
So the next day, we were so excited we didn’t even go to school. We went to the office in the afternoon, and I remember getting out of the elevator and it smelling like incense. We got introduced to a couple people, then Eli took us to a locker with mad boards and he was like, “Which one do you like?” I picked a Peter Bici with the Albanian flag. And it was over after that. Now we’re going to Zoo to get boards.
Switching back to graff, who did you look up to in the early days?
Well, growing up in Chelsea and living near the High Line, what always stood out the most was Cost and Revs. I remember asking my mom, “What’s Cost and Revs?” And she’s like, “I don’t know.” But definitely Cost and Revs. Definitely JA, seeing him everywhere. This dude Doms KOC, who I ended up running into later in life. He used to bomb with Pona and they had the Westside Highway on lock. Definitely Trip KRT, JDone, Spot, Slash, SN, Giz, Skuf, Nato, Bruz. These were real prolific dudes.
How did you get down with KRT?
The area I grew up in was definitely a hub, because all the trains passed through and all the clubs were there, so different graffiti writers would always come through. I remember one day JA was hanging out, and there was a bunch of black, juicy tags on the back of all the benches that said, “JA 5×7 JA 5×7 JA 5×7” on all the benches. And I was like, “What’s five times seven mean?” And JA says, “Five by seven. That’s the size of jail cell, shorty. You don’t ever want to go there.” I was like, “Alright. I’ll see y’all later.” But anyway, this kid Acer used to do a lot of burners in my neighborhood, and I would come out because they would have the radio playing and they’d be drinking and partying. Doc KRT would be hanging out, too.
Doc ended up getting locked up, and Acer had been writing to him in prison. Acer told Doc that I was doing my thing with graffiti, so Doc gave me the pass to keep the Chelsea chapter alive. Next thing I know, Net hooks me with Cost through Instagram, and he starts commenting on my flicks saying he likes that I’m stirring things up the way it’s supposed to be done. But once I threw up that KRT on the wall, it was on.
Who did you look up to in skating?
I’d have to say, my first and all-time hero is definitely Harold Hunter. But the funny thing is, I met his brother, Ron, first through rollerblading. So around the time I gave up rollerblading, I see Harold with a skateboard, but I thought it was Ron. And I was like, “What’s up, Ron?” And Harold’s like, “Nah, yo, you must be thinking of my brother.” Now I start seeing features change and he’s like, “I’m Harold. I skateboard, I don’t rollerblade. What’s your name little man?” I’m like, “Anthony.” And he goes, “What’s up Anthony? You gonna skate or what?” This was when I started hanging out at Astor Place, and I’d sit in front of the Starbucks and watch dudes play skate. People like Chris Keefe, Ryan Hickey, Huf, Keenan, Matt and Mike Bell, Ivan, Javier, the list goes on. I was like, “This is amazing.” Steven Cales would skate in Timberlands. I remember one night, there was something wrong with my board, so I was sitting on the curb watching Huf and Keenan playing like 40 games of SKATE. When they finished, Keenan was like, “Yo shorty why aren’t you skating?” I was like, “I just started and I’m not that good yet.” He was like, “Let me see your board.” He looks at my board and tests the tail for pop, and he was like, “Nah, man you can’t be skating around on this.” Pops his board up and looks at it, and he’s like, “Here yo, this is yours.” I’ll never forget, it was a Chico Brenes board with a little gorilla on it playing the drum, it had black and silver Spitfires classics with Venture highs. I was so happy and he just walks off toward 3rd Ave. So Keenan is right there with Harold. Just raw talent, and I studied his style and all his videos.
Video: Bryan Chin
What do you think it is about these two subcultures, graff and skating, that attracts the same type of dude?
They’re both raw and rebellious. And they’re both tribalistic and family oriented. Graffiti you got your crew. Skating you got your crew. And a lot of skaters and writers I know didn’t want to conform to a format that’s so predictive, so they find these niches and tribes of people that feel the same way. That’s why I think graffiti and skating go so well together. They’re both stress relief, expression relief, and overall escapism.
In skating it’s not cool to film at skateparks. In graff it’s not cool to paint legal walls. So are legal walls the graff equivalent of skatepark footage?
That just sounds like people trying to point the finger because they’re not representing and they’re not doing anything for themselves. What people fail to realize is all elements are elements. I don’t knock nobody for doing legal walls. That’s been going on since Lee and Zephyr. You gotta branch out. You can’t just keep running from the police. Who the fuck wants to keep running from the police all the time? Not me! Sometimes I want to be able to set up my cans and convey my thoughts onto this canvas or truck or legal wall or whatever.
In regards to skatepark footage in a video part; it could be freezing outside! I can understand how people want to see certain things, but at the same time, if you want to see something, you gotta be the creator of it. I’m not gonna sit here and throw stones in a glass house, I’m gonna be the one who’s creative and do something cool. But there are so many people that want to talk smack. Perform! That’s it.
Video: Bryan Chin
Back in the 80’s and 90’s, skating and graff weren’t accepted by the mainstream. Nowadays they are a lot more so. How do you think this warm welcome from the masses has changed these subcultures?
I think it’s beautiful. I can’t be jaded in my more adult years because I’ve seen the game change so much. It’s just another cycle. If people want to do murals and legal walls, get money! People try to hate, but check the scoreboards!
Any shout outs?
Akira, KRT crew, Cost, Net, Claudia, Earsnot, Mom and sister, Amy, RIP Harold Hunter, RIP Keenan Milton.