‘I won everybody’s vote for eight weeks on the trot. Undisputed. It was obvious it had to be my work, which was very nice to know,’ grins Temper. After a phenomenal live performance at the Sprite Urban Games 2000, he was one of four artists put forward to design the sponsor’s new packaging. His work instantly hit a nerve: they wanted him, and they wanted his brand splashed all over their drinks cans. 100 million of them.
‘The success rate was unbelievable: Coca Cola were shocked,’ he recalls. ‘It was originally meant to be a UK promotion, but people got in touch from Germany and Belgium so it obviously went European. I was already well-known on street level, but from the general public’s perception this took me to a different level. I was on television, radio, magazines, and people were actually holding my tag in their hand. It raised my profile in such a massive way – untouchable, really.’
On one hand, the ‘all graffiti is vandalism’ case could only be weakened by such a high-profile commission. But by rocketing into the public consciousness Temper risked becoming a scapegoat for graf’s less popular forms. ‘Everyone was asking me, is graffiti art or crime? I had to take a lot of things on the chin.’ Luckily, he dealt with it pretty well.
‘I protected my culture, and I communicated it to the public without diluting it or overexposing it,’ he insists. ‘I was conscious throughout every interview that I never damaged illegal writers, and only talked positively about how it’s an individual thing and can inspire. A lot of people got new commissions because their local Council began to take it more seriously. I changed graffiti for the better in this country, and I know this is talked about as one of the stepping stones to what graffiti is now.’