Interview: HOW & NOSM
Identical twin brothers HOW and NOSM (Raoul and Davide PerrÃ©) are graffiti artists and professional muralists. They were originally born in Spain, but grew up in Germany. They paint on anything they can get their hands on – canvases, skateboards, sculptures, mounds of snow, walls, toys, and more. They’ve traveled to more than 50 countries, painting their names on various surfaces. Their graffiti can be seen all over the world, including The Bahamas, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Brazil, San Salvador, the Honduras, New York, and many others. They even blessed the Berlin Wall.
In the late 90s, they permanently moved to New York and became members of the world famous TATS Cru (other members are BIO, BG183, NICER, & TOTEM2). Painting for 22 years now, they’ve grown from hitting subways and trains, to custom-painted murals for corporate clients such as Nike, Coca Cola, Sony, MTV, and Kodak. If you live in the Bronx (specifically 163rd Street and Westchester Avenue), you might’ve seen the Big Pun memorial mural that Tats Cru painted (video at the bottom).
They are artists in various other aspects as well. They do graphic design, live painting / demo shows, promotional media, workshops, lectures, sculptures, writing and editing, and also tattooing.
Below is the interview that I had with them. Check it out…
Tiffology: Does art run in your family?
How & Nosm: No.
Tiffology: What was happening in your lives that pulled you on the path to write? And how long have you been doing it for?
How & Nosm: Well, we never liked spending much time at home, for various reasonsâ€”such as divorced parents, drug abuse, and being on welfare. The best way to entertain ourselves was to play outside and escape reality. We would invent our own games and enjoy, as most European children do, the nearby forests. Later on we got into skateboarding, so we kept spending most of our free time in the streets, inventing tricks–and that’s how we got introduced to the illegal graffiti surrounding us. That was in 1988…so we’ve been painting for 22 years.
Tiffology: Why graffiti? What does it mean to you?
How & Nosm: We didn’t really choose graff for the art aspect at first, but more for the entertainment part of it. Writing is a great tool to celebrate freedom, or even just let out some aggression. As we were on welfare with limited funds, it was a way we could pick any surface for free to paint on, and we got the paint in such a manner as well. To this day, it means total freedom… freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of expression… freedom of creativity. We don’t have to justify our actions to anyone but ourselvesâ€”be them right or wrong. All we have to take into consideration are the consequences.
Tiffology: Who and what inspires you today?
How & Nosm: Everything and everyone around us.
Tiffology: RANDOM – First jobs, what were they?
How & Nosm: We stocked shelves and price labeled products in a local supermarket where we’d been caught stealing…then bar tending.
Tiffology: Is there an explanation behind choosing the names HOW and NOSM?
How & Nosm: Not really. A random pick of favorite letters at the time, and now we just enjoy the combinations and their flow.
Tiffology: As twins, are your styles generally the same or different?
How & Nosm: We would consider them similar but not the sameâ€”just as twins are. But working together all the time, we naturally influence each other and develop new ideas together.
Tiffology: What was the biggest risk, or craziest experience, that you’d like to share?
How & Nosm: Leaving Germany and everything behind and moving to the Bronx with holes in our pockets to do graffiti was quite crazy. Don’t you think?
Tiffology: I’ve personally never seen anyone paint mounds of snow. I’ve seen pictures of that enormous sea turtle and the skull. With the color detail and time put into it, they were very dope. What sparked into your head to spray paint snow?
How & Nosm: Our endless need and urge to paint cannot be tamed by any of the elements for an extended period of time. We have to go outside and paint. We believe that the most important part of writing is the interaction with the outside and communities. On that specific occasion a blizzard had just passed New York City and we had to free the entrance to our studio of snow drifts. When we gazed at all the piled up snow we had shoveled we remembered the snow sculpture our friend DAIM had created back when he used to live in Switzerland. Once we finished our own snow sculpture, we thought we should try to combine painting and sculptingâ€”and there you have the results. We had to make sure it didn’t snow while painting thoughâ€¦it would have covered the hard work.
Tiffology: RANDOM – Do either of you read books? If so, what would you recommend?
How & Nosm: We used to read plenty of books but our work has been so time consuming that we’re reading a lot less. We recommend reading though. Feel free to read “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon, “Prison Writings” by Leonard Peltier, or the “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx & Frederick Engels.
Tiffology: When hitting up a spot, what are some essential items that you HAVE to bring with you all the time, other than paint and caps?
How & Nosm: Knowledge and experience.
Tiffology: What’s an average day like in the lives of the Perre brothers?
How & Nosm: Some office work, drawings, and painting.
Tiffology: Tats Cru is more than just a group of graffiti artists. It’s also a business… with an office. Tell us about TATS.
How & Nosm: www.tatscru.com
Tiffology: What does RAL stand for?
How & Nosm: RIGHT AND LEFT
Tiffology: RANDOM – What’s something that people wouldn’t know about How & Nosm unless they personally knew or hung out with you?
How & Nosm: You wouldn’t know much about our life partners…
Tiffology: You’ve traveled to over 50 countries. That’s major. Places such as Guatemala City, Honduras, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, China, Columbia, and more. Although the question might be difficult, were there any favorite places? Also, is there somewhere you want to go that you haven’t been yet?
How & Nosm: The most interesting part of traveling must be the combination of painting on any surface, be it a wall or a subway, without asking for a permit orbiting bothered…plus a fascinating culture with great people. In 2010 South America would be our favorite for wall space and Italy for trains. As for culture and people there are far too many to chooseâ€”there are great people in every single country. We are looking into visiting Jamaica and Cuba.
Surface – Steel
Medium – Spraypaint
Brand of paint – European
Top 3 colors – White, black, & red
Tiffology: RANDOM – Top 5 music artists that you’ve been listening to lately?
How & Nosm: Gang Starr, Thievery Corporation, Trentenmoeller, The Knife, Raekwon
Tiffology: As a graphic designer myself, I absolutely love the series of fonts you guys have painted. Some of them are so intricate and creative. Whose idea was that?
How & Nosm: Nosm had the idea to do 100 fonts/blockbusters in one year. It started out pretty simple and plain and then just developed more and more. 100â€¦mission accomplished we have to add.
Tiffology: You’ve done a lot of murals and pieces for various corporate clients such as Sony, McDonalds, Coca Cola, MTV, Kodak, and Nike. Everyone needs to make money, and personally, I’d rather see the real stuff versus the “fake graffiti” that companies try to pull off. Either way, some people see that as “selling out”. Does that bother you?
How & Nosm: No.
Tiffology: Haha, simple enough. Where do the ideas or inspiration come from when creating characters?
How & Nosm: Out of the abyss of our brains…
Tiffology: RANDOM – Favorite pair of shoes you own.
How & Nosm: Painting shoes.
Tiffology: Did your views on graffiti change over time? For example, when you first began… would you have ever thought that you’d be where you are now?
How & Nosm: Being younger we were wilder and more raw, so with age and time some of our views have changed. We think though, that when talking of graffiti in the sense of writing as a culture, it’s important to focus on the tagging and illegal subway bombing. To us that is the real graffiti scene. Its the basic essence and foundation of all the “other” ongoing stuff. And lot of people lack experience or familiarity with that nowadays. But we also think that the development of it has taken a great step towards a better general understanding of and respect for graffitiâ€”and has shown society how multi-faceted it can be. We are where we are now through hard work and persistence.
Tiffology: About how many cans or crates of paint do you bring along for one wall piece?
How & Nosm: 30-40.
Tiffology: Do you both tattoo or is that just How?
How & Nosm: So far just How.
Tiffology: What do HOW and NOSM have planned for the rest of 2010?
How & Nosm: Working in Ecuador in several citiesâ€¦then Lima,Peruâ€¦then Lodz, Poland for the European Capital of Culture 2016 event late in Augustâ€¦then Carpe Diem project…then Rio de Janeiro for a month in the late fall for different mural projects. In between, who knows.
Tiffology: RANDOM – Top 3 favorite meal?
How & Nosm: Rice and beans, sushi, pasta.
Tiffology: I know you guys, along with Tats Cru, have lectured at MIT twice, so with that said… do you have any words of advice?
How & Nosm: Everything is possible! Just believe in yourself.
Tiffology: Lastly… any shoutouts?
How & Nosm: Peace to our friends and families…