Hi Mark, it seems like you are very productive lately… this is your second full interview in just a few months… are you sixteen again?
Hey Mate! Yeah, it’s all been quite good recently. I had a problem with my knee early last year and was worried that was it for me but with some physiotherapy and a little time it healed fine and I was able to get back into the swing of things. I bought a foam roller which is one of the best things I’ve ever bought, and eased off on cycling so I could heal up. I feel good and I am also at the stage where I want to make the most of skateboarding whilst still I can, going out and shooting and filming stuff without looking too hideous.
When we were kids the average age skaters were considered “old” at was around 28, nowadays 40 year-old skaters put out sick video parts and skate at an amazing level… not only Guy Mariano and Daewon Song that are definitely from another planet… but also more human skaters… is 40 the new 20? What’s your secret to keep skating at this level?
I think this is the first generation of skaters that have just carried on throughout their 30s and kept it going?! Before it was maybe drilled into people that it’s only possible to be a pro skater up to your 20s. You make some changes in the way you live I suppose. You’re not going out drinking every night and you try and eat a little better maybe to keep your body working as well as it can. I do some cycling, I try to eat well and I rarely drink. Not to be boring, but I spent a lot of time doing that stuff and my body can’t hack it anymore. I had years of it where I didn’t have to get up at any time and no one to tell me what I should be doing. I feel rough for days after if I go out boozing now, so I don’t even bother. You’ve got to be driven to go out and film and shoot photos too. I have skated so much over this winter and spending a Tuesday night in Barnsley trying to shoot a photo in -2 weather isn’t for everyone, but that’s the stuff that makes you appreciate it when the good weather comes. I’m sure it won’t be forever but right now it’s still in me to want to go out and try and be productive and do that kind of thing.
March 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Eastern Exposure 3, probably the most influential video in the history of skateboarding. If you watch it, it is so current, people (and brands) still get inspiration from this video, it marked the rebirth of skateboarding after a dark era. What do you remember about that time?
I remember that video coming out and it was refreshing. Obviously, most videos from that time came out of Cali so to see something that looked like the UK was different. We could relate to it, the spots and the weather, although the skating was different from what was coming out everywhere else. Skating has always had dark times. To be honest, if it had another dark time soon it might be a good thing but it probably won’t for a while, if at all. Not with the amount of money being invested and the big companies dictating things. That video was incredible, anyway. It was raw and it helped get those guys out of there, which at the time was difficult for East Coast skating. I was fortunate enough to film with Dan Wolfe in SF some years ago. I felt nervous every time we went out because he made one of the most influential videos of all time, but he was cool.
Nollie Lipslide, photo Reece Leung.
What’s your favorite food? Do you like to cook?
I like to eat fish a lot. I actually love the food over there in Italy. Whenever I stay at Lorenzo’s we always eat the most amazing, simple food. Italian food is up there for sure. I love to cook but sometimes I get lazy and make the same things, usually some salmon or sea bass. I just got a stone pizza oven so I eat pizza 3 times a week now, all from scratch.
Wine or beer?
Wine or a decent beer. Wine for sure when we are out in Italy.
You have been part of Blueprint ever since the beginning, we talked about that in a previous interview we did a few years ago so I won’t go on about it, but I’ve noticed that almost all of the people involved in Blueprint at the time are now fully involved in skateboarding and many of them with important positions in the “European skateboard industry.“ Colin works in the marketing sector for Nike SB, Jerome for Cons UK, Shier & Jensen run Isle Skateboards, you started the WESC Skateboard Camps, Mackey is involved in NB Numeric and brilliantly manages Los Art skateshop, Magee is involved full time in video productions, and Chester now works for Adidas Skateboarding… It seems like you guys learned a lot from the Blueprint days. Are you something like a secret society that controls the skateboard industry in Europe?!!? Ha ha ha…
I think it’s partly down to the association with Blueprint. At that time everyone was happy to be involved with Blueprint so people could make those connections. Blueprint was a respected brand for many years and we always put out quality videos and did things the correct way. I suppose companies saw that and respected it. There’s also the thing of it being who you know, etc., but generally I think people respected the riders enough to offer them those positions over the years. We all learned the correct way to do things. Whether it’s putting a trip together or a video project, we’ve all been around that for a long long time and it’s something that you just can’t fake. We’ve all lived skateboarding over the years and been a part of the industry, so you pick things up along the way that no suit or random guy from a different background is going to understand. Obviously they’re all good at what they’re doing and are in a position they deserve to be in.
Do you skate for NB Numeric now? I have seen your new model for Fabric Skateboards recently too… right?
Yeah, I have been on NB Numeric for a year or so. I’m hyped on it, the shoes are incredible, the team is incredible, and Seb is an old friend of mine from way back so it’s nice to be able to link up with him again. Mackey is now working for them too so it’s pretty rad to be a part of it. Fabric is a British brand and we are working on some stuff now. It’s going well, we just need to produce some video stuff which we are working on. We have some rad artists working on the graphics now so it’s looking good. It takes time and there’s so many brands these days that you have to try harder to make something worthwhile and stand out.
180 up switch kickflip over the rail, photo Reece Leung.
From your point of view, what was necessary to have as a skateboarder to be noticed and make a career in skateboarding in the 90s, and what do you need nowadays?
I don’t think people saw skateboarding as a career in the 90s. Especially over here. I remember when we started Blueprint we were almost laughed out of the game, ha ha. It took some time to be accepted. But I like that, being the underdog is fine. Now you just need 10k followers and be able to do some quirky tricks right? I have no idea now, it has changed so much. Now you don’t need to go through the process of filming and shooting photos to get out there and earn some respect within skating, or at least it seems there’s a fast revolving door that welcomes the next guys as quickly as they disappear. Scott Palmer always used to say, “You’re only as good as your last video part,” and I think that’s spot on. I always thought like that too. Now I don’t know, you’re only as good as your last insta post? It seems that is the most important thing to a lot of people now. Stuff that if you did in the 90s or even 5/10 years ago you’d be laughed at is pretty much accepted now. It’s pretty funny I guess, you see people trying so hard on insta to find a niche to get recognized. You don’t need to have a 4-minute banging part anymore, just get those 15-second clips. It’s all a bit more narcissistic I guess, but it’s the way it is now. That is skateboarding now, it’s not going to go back to how it was, it is constantly moving onwards. Anything goes almost, sex changes are in for God’s sake, ha ha ha, sack taps will be next.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of amazingly talented skateboarders not making it and leaving the game. From your long-lasting experience, apart from having a talent, what’s necessary to “make a career” in skateboarding? Any advice for the younger guys?
I have seen it with people too. Maybe they expect too much from skating. You’re lucky to be earning a wage in this country from skating. In America it’s the same thing I’m sure, unless you’re hooked up on certain companies or you have some energy drink money coming your way. I think a lot of it is down to who you know as much as how good you are. I don’t even know to be honest. I see dudes hooked up, getting paid decent money and they’ve never put out a part but are held up there as being the best. For me that’s weak but some people get lucky like that. There’s some dudes who will never get a look inside, they could be kooks or just unlucky or they get bigged up too much too soon and believe the hype, and believe they made it before they really get started. There still needs to be progression in skateboarding, very few people have enough style to disguise the fact they’re not actually that good.
Do you still “make a living” off of your sponsors or do you have a side job? Does the idea of eventually having to get a “regular job” in the future scare you?
I do make a living, but I’ve had to do other stuff as well. I do the skate camps over here and I have Story clothing, but I probably don’t make a penny on that. If you’re wanting to get rich from skating then you might be set for a disappointment. That’s the point I suppose, skateboarding is more than just money even when it is your job. I spent a few years buying up old road bikes and doing them up to sell on but I haven’t had to do that as much now. I still do it as a hobby but it’s not that I have to do it at the moment. I don’t need a lot of money to live, I’m not trying to buy a gold ring or a flashy car.
Nosegrind, photo Jason Lewer.
What is the current state of the UK skateboard market and industry? From the outside it looks like one of the most active, productive, and alive in Europe…
Actually, the skateboarding side of things in the UK is amazing. Lots of dope skaters here right now. Korahn, Andy Evans, Casper, Tom Knox, and the list goes on and on. Shops still struggle which is harsh, skating is the biggest it’s possibly ever been and yet so many stores here close down or struggle. A lot of them say the same things as well, so it’s tough, Instagram can make things look rosy but behind it all the reality is different I guess. I don’t have a store anymore so I try and not get too caught up in that side of things, but I sympathize with all my friends who have stores and try and do positive stuff for their scenes but still struggle. It’s shit, but that’s partly why skaters need to get back on top of the industry and support the shops, and get people coming back through their doors again, or at least buying their product from skate shops and not random sports shops. We need to keep the money within skateboarding as much as possible which is tough these days. I think it’s pretty decent here for sure, although there’s more to it than you see. Kids should try and support their local skate stores if they can, otherwise they will disappear and we might be left with a skateboard section in sports shops next to the roller skates and scooters. I hear it’s coming soon anyway, once the Swoosh starts making skateboards. But overall in the UK it’s a good scene with a lot of amazing skateboarders. It does tend to feel like you have London and then everywhere else but it’s always been that way. There’s a massive bubble surrounding the M25. Not saying that’s a bad thing but you will hear different stories in different parts of the country, that’s for sure.
How is living in Sheffield? What kind of city is it and what do you like most and what least about it?
Sheffield is home basically, ha ha ha. I like it here, it’s good for skating and it’s good for cycling as it’s 10 minutes to the countryside. People are generally quite friendly and it’s pretty cheap to live here. There’s no real downside to it but a lot of the people I grew up skating with all moved away. It’s very much a student city, businesses rely heavily on the students. I was in a cab earlier and the driver was saying how quiet it was outside of term time. It’s just a working class place pretty much. We always say if you gave someone in Sheffield a million in cash they’d moan about the notes you handed it over in. I really want to change house at the moment. My neighbor passed away recently and his wife moved and sold the house to a landlord so we don’t know who we will get living next to us right now. We really got along with them so it sucks a little bit. If we get some annoying neighbors then it might be time to move to somewhere else in the city.
Fs noseslide, photo Greg Somerset.
How is the skateboard scene in Sheff at the moment?
It’s always been good here and there have always been a lot of decent skaters. We have a lot of students in the city so there’s always skaters coming and going. There’s a real mix which is good.
I know you are a great Sheffield Wednesday fan. Why the Owls and not the United? Ha ha. Also, what do you like about football, just the game or also the magic vibe of the stadium? It’s something so different from skateboarding…
I was actually a Liverpool fan when I was real young, then my dad took me to watch Wednesday and that was it, really. My brother always had a season ticket so it seemed natural to be a Wednesday fan. I live near the United ground funnily enough and the fans park on my street on match day so I have to see their shitty red and white shirts, ha ha. I used to really enjoy football as a kid, I lived and breathed it until I started skating. Now I follow it and I enjoy going to watch the odd Wednesday game when I can. When it’s full and there’s a good atmosphere it’s sick, we had years of really poor football so now there’s something to sing about. I hope Leicester wins the premiership this season, that would give some hope to everyone who doesn’t support Chelsea, Manchester United, and the other big money clubs.
Do you have other interests apart from skating, cycling, and football?
I enjoy cycling a lot. It’s good for fitness and it’s nice being out in the countryside. It’s hard where I live because it’s all hills. There’s no easy riding really. I like watching tennis and used to play a lot, it’s a tough game. Snooker as well. We’re having the snooker championships in Sheffield soon so I might try and get some tickets. I got some before but it was one of the worst games you could ever imagine. I was bored out of my mind.
What are you listening to recently?
Low End Theory album
Your three favorite movies?
Bronx Tale, Lawless, and the second Godfather film.
Nollie pop shove-it, photo Reece Leung.
If you could have a magic wand for a minute and could realize your biggest dream what would it be?
If I was being selfish I would be happy with a house in the countryside with a little barn to build a little park and some land. I would be happy with that. If I was thinking about others then I would be a Robin Hood and take all the corrupt, rich people’s money and do some good for the world. The masses would benefit and I could turn on the news without feeling depressed after 5 minutes… they would be some happy days. The stuff going on here now with the government is grim. The rich always getting richer. There needs to be another way.
Imagine the “session of your dreams.” Where, when, and with who?
Nottingham square with the whole old Workshop crew, Shipman, Rob, Piggy, Smig, Hirst, and the rest. 38mm wheels, big cut off New Deal jeans, and getting abuse from dudes who probably sit and watch street league with their kids now.
Spring is here, are you hyped, and what are your plans for the summer?
It’s been a long winter here. I have only just stopped wearing 2 pairs of socks, so yeah I am stoked. Fingers crossed, we might get a summer this year.
When will we leave for another tour?
Hopefully I can come out in May with a small crew. That’s the plan anyway. I’ve been missing the food. Let’s work on that.
(Interview Davide Biondani).
check abg issue 36 now.