‘He Does Things His Own Way’ – SM Exclusive Interview With Tech N9ne Mural Artist Sril
Is it too soon to call Tech N9ne a hip hop icon?
Let’s run down some of the qualifications.
- Classic albums and songs? Check.
- Completely changed the game? Do you see all the artists gone independent these days?
- A huge and dedicated following? Not only that but they have a name, a pledge, and countless tattoos commemorating their favorite artist.
If you asked the last question a month ago, the answer would have been “no”, but thanks to the dedication and immeasurable talent of one graffiti artist from Salt Lake City, Utah, Tech N9ne finds himself in a category with the likes of legends like 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy-E.
The artist born Shae Petersen, but goes by Sril (pronounced “surreal”), expressed his respect and homage to his favorite emcee by graffing an incredible mural of Tech N9ne in Denver, Colorado (which at this point, might as well be called Tech’s second home).
Upon finding the incredible video below of Sril at work, we had to track him down and ask the talented artist about what inspired this amazing piece of artwork. The humble and dedicated Sril was more than happy to answer our questions.
Tell us your name and where you’re from.
My name is Shae Petersen, but I don’t use that too often. My graf name is Sril and I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah.
How did you get your start in being a graffiti artist? What made you decide to pick up that first can of paint?
You know honestly it was quite a while ago – just kind of walking through the neighborhood and seen different walls and different things painted and it inspired me to give it a shot myself. It was probably around ’96, ’97 or so. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but the portrait thing and trying to do realistic stuff is something relatively new.
When did you decide that this was something that you really wanted to commit to?
Honestly in the last year or so I really kind of took it more seriously, going on trips and traveling and doing commission jobs and things like that. I mean really, for me, this last year’s been pretty significant in my graffiti career.
Oh wow, so how has that been working out for you?
It’s been good man – a lot of jobs here in Salt Lake and I’ve traveled around. I hit a couple of West Coast cities so far. Things are definitely picking up for me. You kind of paint one wall and that leads to another one and different people start to see it. It kind of takes on a momentum of its own. I’m just kind of along for the ride at this point.
Well props to you man, that’s awesome you’re able to get paid and make a living doing something you love.
Yeah, thank you. It’s crazy to think about it too because, to think that people would be willing to pay you or that you could make a living just by spray painting a wall is pretty nuts, but I mean I’m all for it, so…(laughs).
You’re a professional vandal in a way.
Yeah yeah, but I try to stick to legal stuff at this point. I mean I’ve spent some time in jail and did all that stuff by going the illegal route. For me having a presence as far as that goes is good, but I try to put my energy into where it really counts: big walls, big portraits, trying to do things that really stand out from the crowd.
What inspires your art? What’s your guiding motivation behind you doing what you do?
It really just boils down to progression and evolution for me. The last thing I painted, typically if I still like it within a week, I’m not moving fast enough, I’m not progressing enough. So, for me, I just want to get better and surprise myself with the things I’m able to paint. That’s enough motivation in of itself. People taking notice and basically surpassing some of my past heroes, that’s all fun and good, but if I’m not better than I was last week then that pushes me to keep trying and improve.
Have you ever had any formal art training?
No, none at all. I’m all self-taught completely.
Wow, so when you started did it even ever occur to you that you would be making the stuff you are now? Was that even a notion?
The thing that’s crazy is when I started, I guess the tools that we had available weren’t as advanced as they are today, so it was completely something that you wouldn’t think was possible. Not only were the colors not available, but the tools just weren’t as good. No way back then did I ever consider the types of things I’m doing today, but the paint helps and obviously practice and figuring out different ways to achieve the effects. But to answer the question, not even close. I wouldn’t even remotely imagine back then that I would be able to paint the things that I can do today.
Well let’s get to the reason why we’re talking to you today: you graffed an awesome mural of Tech in Denver. What inspired this?
I’ve been a huge Tech N9ne fan for a long time, since probably ’99 or 2000. He’s always been kind of inspiring to me on the independent level. I’m not in any graffiti crews and I’m kind of an outcast for that. So we had a plan to go to Denver and I knew that he was a big fan of the city, so I figure what better place to paint a mural of Tech N9ne? I’ve been kind of wanting to do a portrait of him for a while so it was the perfect place to do it.
What does his music mean to you and why are you such a big fan?
Mostly because he’s unique. He does things his own way. He’s not really following the path of anyone else but he’s kind of trailblazing his own. I respect that and a lot of his lyrics and the things he says, he’s obviously intelligent and he thinks about what he’s doing so I mean that’s to be respected as well.
What are your favorite songs and what is your favorite album by Tech?
Right now Something Else is definitely my favorite album, just because it’s on play 24/7 pretty much. Historically “Planet Rock 2K” was probably one of my favorite songs that really put me on to him. Anghellic of course was another really good album. I think for me, consistently with everything he puts out he’s progressing as well. It’s hard to say one album is better than the other.
They’re just different and part of a progression.
That’s something to respect from him as well. I think he even mentions that before in one of his songs, that “people say you like my old shit and not my new shit” and I’m kind of the opposite. I appreciate the fact that he’s always trying new things and he’s willing to take risks.
You’re from Salt Lake City, why is he so big there?
You know, I don’t know. It’s crazy to see. I think I remember the first time he came into town, it was probably like 2002, 2003, or something like that, and he played a tiny little venue and there were probably only 200 people there, if that. Every time he kept coming the crowd got bigger and then the crowd got bigger.
His shows are good! He puts on a great show. Word travels. In a relatively small city like Salt Lake and maybe even in Denver, that word of mouth is very important. If you can get 200 people to turn into 400 people, it just moves on its own. His shows never disappoint and I think that has a lot to do with it.
Back to you and your work, where can people find more of your work and what plans do you have in the near future?
As far as future plans, I just want to keep traveling, hitting more cities, painting bigger walls and really just improving my product. That’s the plan.
What are some of the cities you’ve been able to travel to because of this?
On the last couple of months obviously I hit Denver, we hit Albuquerque a couple months back. I just did a trip to LA. So I mean LA, Albuquerque, Denver. I think that’s it so far but there’s obviously a ton of cities that I need to hit.
Is there anything you want to say before we wrap this up?
Nah I mean, just tons of respect for Tech N9ne and all of his fans and I appreciate the support.
- What do you think of Sril’s mural for Tech N9ne?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.