Espo-gate: My interview with the man who defaced the beloved Espo mural for Kurt Vile

Here’s how I reported this story:

On June 28, 2014 my good friend Najeeb sent me a text with a photo of a man whitewashing Espo’s Kurt Vile mural on Front street in Kensington. I took to twitter to share the photo and get some answers.

Media outlets far and wide picked the story up. A few questions remained: who was this guy? Why was he painting over Espo’s mural?

After receiving a tip, I discovered that the mural defacer was local DJ Lee Mayjahs. I managed to find his phone number and give him a call myself. I transcribed and posted the interview to facebook. The interview was picked up by Metro, Consequence of Sound, Stereogum and Pitchfork.

I just spoke with DJ/kurt vile x espo mural buffer Lee Mayjahs on the phone. Turns out that he is not well. He is…

Posted by Leah R. Kauffman on Sunday, June 29, 2014

Read the interview here:

I just spoke with DJ/kurt vile x espo mural buffer Lee Mayjahs on the phone. Turns out that he is not well. He is offering to pay espo to come down and restore the mural. I hope he gets the help he needs. I also hope espo takes him up on his offer.

Lee Mayjahs: I got home and started doing research on my computer. I can’t believe what I had done ad I wrote a letter to Kurt Vile apologizing. And I wrote a letter to the artist Espo apologizing, telling them that I would pay Espo to come down and repaint it. I also wrote a letter to the mural arts apologizing. Apparently it wasn’t official. Even though it wasn’t official I’m sorry for everything I did. I would do whatever I could do to make it right. I really am sorry. I don’t know what I was doing. I literally lost my mind and took it out which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Leah Kauffman: Was it premeditated? Did you just have white paint laying around? It’s 9 am on a Saturday. What was going through your head?

LM: I live in that neighborhood. I’ve lived there for 15 years. I’m always cleaning up the streets and alleyways. I don’t know…for some reason I feel like ever since that piece has been there it’s attracted more and more graffiti to that neighborhood. Every time I paint over illegal graffiti I was blaming it on it (the mural) and I didn’t realize the people in the neighborhood love it, I’ve never really sat and looked at it. I never did any research on it and then I just snapped.

I feel like the neighborhood has been moving in a positive direction for so long and I just thought that mural there was the cause of more illegal graffiti. I snapped and took it out on that and the guy came and tried to stop me. He was right in everything he said. I was in a state of mind where I was only seeing red and wasn’t even listening to what he was saying.

LK: He mentioned that you got pretty aggressive with him when he tried to stop you. Are you planning on getting any help?

LM: I have a friend from New York who is coming in to the city to talk to me tonight. I’m going to reach out to him (Najeeb) and apologize personally. It wasn’t my intention to intimidate. I was just seeing red, and wouldn’t listen, and I don’t know what happened. I love art. I was a graffiti artist as a teenage, twenty years ago. I have friend who went to art school with Espo. I had no idea. I posted (as a comment) the apology I sent to Kurt Vile on phillymag today.

LK: Did you post as yourself or anonymously?

LM: I posted as “dumb buffer”

LK: The real shock is that you are a local artist yourself. Do you see this having a negative impact on your work in the city?

LM: I mean, probably. I was obviously not thinking. I didn’t think anything through and acted false pretense. I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions. I’m sorry about that, I love Philadelphia, I love my neighborhood and I love the arts. I’m a big supporter of the arts and so for me to do something that offends all of these people is completely out of character for me. Anybody who knows me will tell you the exact same thing. I’m sorry about it.

espo1 espo2 espo3