Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Jenkin Au
Photography by Alan Ng
Please Introduce yourself to our readers.
What’s up, my name is Roscoe and I am the manager here at SubV.
Tell us about the store itself. Coming into the store there is a mixture of spray and clothes and books. It seems like the store is more focused on the subculture side rather than street culture. Can you tell us more about this?
Definitely. The SubV project started as an art gallery at first, so we were strictly showcasing graffiti artists and up and coming artists, and then SubV got associated with a website called bombingscience.com, so we partnered up together at this locale here and we had Bombing Science in the back and SubV in the front doing the art gallery. Gradually, we started bringing material from Bombing Science into SubV and eventually, the Bombing Science owner bought out SubV and then we started putting in the spray paints and getting into the T-Shirts and the clothes game. We always tried to keep it artistic, even with the clothes, you know? We try to showcase artist brands and local brands.
How did you guys come up with the name SubV?
The original name of the gallery was Gallerie de Subversive, meaning subversive art gallery. I think that the owner at the time was ticked off that there were not that many art galleries in Montreal at that time that catered to that specific art subculture. There were all these art galleries that had paintings of apples and pinecone trees, so we wanted to do something different and shake things up a bit.
This spot seems like a really good one for graffiti artists to come to. Tell us a bit about the products that you guys carry for graffiti artists?
We are actually, through Bombing Science, the wholesale supplier for almost all the east coast graffiti shops, so we got everything. The main paint brand that we carry right now is Molotov. It’s a really good paint brand from Germany. It’s top notch and they have a huge color selection. We also carry Aramac.
What’s the most experimental art supply brand that you guys carry?
I’ve got to say that the flyest shit is probably the Dalo. Not many people know about that and it is a bit of a complicated marker to use. It’s an industrial paint marker with a steel tip and it works with the pump system. You can use this in the rain and you can use this underwater too, this thing is vicious. I have never used it myself but I have seen them test it. This shit is the bomb man.
You also carry shoes and apparel. Tell us a bit more about how you got started in that.
Yeah definitely. The apparel started out as graffiti brands and then slowly branched out into different artist brands. Upper Playground is doing a lot of artist collaborations, Rebelaid is doing
a lot for us and FreshJive is a good one too, not that it is an artist brand per se, but they do a lot of artist collaborations. We like to support a lot of the local brands. SixPack France is another excellent art brand that we are doing right now. For the kicks, we got the indieaccounts with Nike so we get the limited editions and we get the access to Quickstrike with them too. Right now I am really pumped on the New Balance account that we got. It’s the lifestyle account with them and they got some really nice heat coming out. We are doing Adidas too. They got their classics line so they are really showing the old school joints from the ‘80s and stuff.
How does SubV support the graffiti community besides supplying?
We always sponsor events. We always get the right hook-ups from the right people. We mostly support the community by sponsoring events. We also have our monthly art shows. This art show in particularly is a little sparse. They have a clothing line with us so too so that is why we booked them but usually we try to book a lot of the graffiti artists. We try to mix it up by booking some established artists and then some up and coming artists. We like to give exposure to the new generation. Supporting the local guys is important for us.
How long have you been part of the scene?
The graffiti scene? Shit, I have been painting since I was twelve and I am twenty-six now.
Crazy. You know, there is almost like there is two different sides to graffiti. There is the tagging and almost vandalism aspect and then there is the mural aspect. Do you support both sides?
Absolutely. It’s really the same thing. People who do murals usually came up tagging trains and what not. The media likes to portray it as two different things. You guys are official so I won’t lie to you but if I was talking to the media, like some kind of newspaper, I would definitely tell them, “Yeah, yeah, there is a difference between the two!” These legal walls… People are just trying to make money to survive and eat too, you know?
There are two sides to everything. For a business owner, they might be ticked off because they are losing money. For an artist, they might be ticked off because the piece that I am writing on complements my work. It’s really hard to find that balance. How do you see it?
Absolutely, it’s a take it or leave it thing. You do not have to merge the two in the minds of the average person. If I am talking to a newspaper I will definitely stress on the difference between the two, because there are some artists now that only do legal work because they are grown men and they are just trying to get that money to pay for their life. There is a difference in the execution, it’s just that ninety-five percent of the time these people will go out at night and do a few tags too.
Coming to Montreal and walking through the city, there seems to be a lot of graffiti work around, a lot more than Vancouver. What is your view on the current scene of graffiti? What’s the state of it?
Montreal’s got a really good scene, I am really proud of this city. We are doing it really right. Vancouver’s got a lot of really official writers too. I would say that internationally, Vancouver has some better known artists than Montreal. The problem with Vancouver is that it is such a clean place. It has such a large cleaning budget that it’s tough for the artists there. Montreal has that French flavour so in a certain sense it isolates us because the French writers will not be able to parlay with Americans and stuff, but we have an English scene too, it’s very bilingual here. I would say there is more communication between France and Montreal than there is between Montreal and the States; Montreal is a good melting point for styles. There are a lot of European influences and New York influences. It’s healthy here because the city supports it. There are a lot of legal walls for kids to practice on and there are a lot of mural programs that people have developed. The freight scene was healthy for a while but it’s been hurting a bit as of late, but back two, three years ago, there was a good freight scene going on too.
No matter how heaty a scene is, taggers will always be there. What are some of the hot spots right now?
TAL is one of the classic joints in Montreal for sure. For Bombing, NDG is good, there is a lot of action here. Downtown too. There is a lot of Bombing there, it’s going strong. We got some good spots that have been closed down recently, like the Stinky Factory. There are a whole bunch of good little secret spots. There are lots of good spots being discovered on the east side of town lately too.
SubV has helped to cultivate the graffiti scene in Montreal throughout the years. It’s definitely dope that artists can get so many supplies from all over the world from your store. What’s up next for you guys?
I am trying to push these artist brands. I feel that we have gotten to a point in the fashion world where a lot of people are going back to the basics. You have these little Van’s Authentic Lows and the croquette thing is doing good now. All the basic styles are making a comeback. People are going back to the white tee and the cutting soul. It’s always a cycle. People are getting sick of the logos and shit. I am always big about pushing the art side of things. I feel that it is a universal meeting ground. Good art will speak for itself, beyond any logo or any hype or any of that bullshit. Even if you like to keep it plain and you don’t like busy tee-shirts you would still be able to appreciate a nice piece of art. The kicks too, I would like to push kicks a lot more too. I try to put people onto the fact that they can’t always be chasing the HYPE all the time and should try to carve their own style. A place like SubV is good for that. We have a lot of variety and we don’t stick to one thing, like, “Oh, you have to be Hip-Hop.” The art here is really macabre and it’s got a gothic quality to it. This place is great for carving your own niche.
What is HYPE?
HYPE, I would say, is a critical point in society’s information system. Have you heard of mimetics before? It’s like how ideas spread in a kind of way that is almost genetic. Ideas spread and evolve and change like a virus. HYPE is that critical mass where the virus has become a pandemic. Watch Inception.