SPIRITUALIZED – “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go” – (Fat Possum)
The welcome return of Jason Pierce’s songwriting does not disappoint. No space rock here though, but who needs it when a tune is this good? Absolutely beautiful work. (Z)
NOTHING – The Carpenter’s Son (Relapse)
It doesn’t get darker and more personal than this tranquilized lullaby by US shoegazer’s NOTHING. This is the most solemn cut on their new album Dance on the Blacktop out Aug 24th. Dig it out. (Z)
WEEED – This
Expect a large dose of heavy psychedelic shit from Portland rockers, Weeed. Once you get through the long af intro of didgery-dont’s, they thump out some great stoner stuff, kind of like The Sword on shrooms. (Z)
KIKAGAKU MOYO – Gatherings
If you search through the Tokyo psych scene you will no doubt hear amazing feedback on Kikagaku Moyo whose new track delivers 70’s inspired stoner vibes with a beautiful Asian feel that seems to refresh the usual American approach to this genre. Search through their Bandcamp for more ahead of the release of a new vinyl offering called Masana Temples where you will find this tune. (Z)
Warp Transmision – The Process Ultra
Time to step up the noise. This album absolutely rips when it’s in full flight and can drop a bongload of chill on a dime. It’s like Hawkwind, Mudhoney and Monster Magnet in a fight to see who can eat the most PCP left on the table at times. Finnish psych/stoner at the highest levels. This tune kicks off a seven track must listen. Go find it and buy it….Yeah, actually own it. (Z)
Rampant hardcore featuring the people behind DIÄT and HEAVY METAL. The sound of your last breath before drowning as a shark takes both of your fucking legs off. Intrinsic, chaotic and absolutely out of control. (Z)
APHEX TWIN – T69 Collapse (Warp)
Best video of the year so far? A contender for sure. Cannot wait to find a post with all of this messaging decoded. For me, it’s an ode to the biggest world power war happening right under our noses, right now, you will just have to look harder and deeper every night to see it all happening around you. (Z)
THEE MVPs – American Dreamin’
The MVPs ain’t taking shit no more. they figured it out. Thank fuck for that! They wrote a song about it in celebration. Turn it up and make sure you see them live as they are a very good band to see up close and personal. (Z)
GRIM STREAKER – Mohito
This NYC/Brooklyn band have the sneer, the beat rips and also carry a slightly gothic edge on some tunes from their past catalogue giving their sound an open road for their debut LP. Keep an eye on their activities if this floats your boat.
NO PROBLEM – Let God Sort Em Out (Deranged Records)
No Problem are a Canadian punk band from Edmonton, Alberta, who just completed a short UK tour where they proved to be one of the highlights of the recent Bloodstains festival in Leeds. If you like bands such as The Wipers, Red Dons and the Observers, then you are going to fall head over heels in love with No Problem’s high-energy, echo-laden garage punk attack. They’ve already released three albums on the consistently reliable Deranged Records and ‘Let God Sort ‘Em Out’ is the latest and best of the three. In need of a fresh punk rock buzz? No Problem, they got it. (JS)
FETISH – S/T EP (Beach Impediment Records)
When it comes to breeding vicious, dark hardcore punk, Portland, Oregon on the pacific northwest has always had an edge. And that edge just got sharper. Fetish feature former Poison Idea drummer Thee Slayer Hippy and guitarist Vegetable, playing together for the first time since the ‘War All The Time’ album three decades ago, alongside 3/4 of local punk heroes Long Knife, with later PI guitarist Brandon Bentley. It is, as you would expect, fast, furious and ferocious, propelled by Slayer Hippy’s legendary rhythm attack. A full album is due for release later this year, but in the meantime, strap this on for size. (JS)
BLIZZARD – Peace of Mind (Riding Easy Records)
If you’ve not discovered the Brown Acid compilations from Easy Rider Records yet and dig that 70’s garage fuzz and proto metal sound then await their 7th offering coming this Halloween. This Blizzard track from 1973 is for the Hendrix lovers for sure. (Z)
FUTUROPACO – La Torre Cade
This is journey-man driving music that should be the soundtrack to a skateboard video at some point. The no vocal approach works a treat for this Danish psych outfit that can jam out the dirge with happy synth parts, searing solos and colossal beat work. (Z)
Where were you 30 years ago? If like myself, (and yep, this is a fan feature) you were at school in 1988 discovering that Acid House was a thing and skateboarding was guaranteed to get yourself beat up on any pavement around the UK from people wearing tracksuits, then you know. Boy, so much has changed since!
It was a magical time being 15. Everything was new, the culture tap was constantly dripping, so long as most of it didn’t return home with me. I’m pretty sure I was still eating Polo mints at this stage before returning through the front door of the parents’ house, disguising the smell of Benny & Hedgehogs smoked down the park after school. Girls were a big thing. I was on heat pretty much daily, trying to play catch up with the older kids who had all the filthy stories. But looking back, they were probably talking absolute bollocks – lying because instead, they found a porn mag in the woods and should have been talking about what happened on the last episode of Spitting Image.
That peer pressure also spilled into music and it was Def Jam and Public Enemy that caused the biggest stir of all. You couldn’t miss it. We’d gone through and admired the invasion of the Beastie Boys, we’d robbed the VW badges and set ’em up on chains. We’d also been busted for nicking said badge’s off the car of the bloke next door and learnt that you should never shit on your own doorstep! Ah, the mistakes were rife. I was one of those twonks who could never get away with anything, whilst my mates were doing all sorts of madness and running free. Nothing has changed on that front, but Public Enemy were a serious force in our playground and our ears joined their army.
The sheer mention of skating Stockwell Skatepark before a Public Enemy show in 1987 made most kids shiver with fear. No white kids were going to be anywhere near that show that night, they said. “You will be mugged. Stabbed”. But this was the norm whenever we went street skating. We were moving targets, the lot of us. Me especially, looking like the goth offcuts of Robert Smith’s arse hair in tight jeans. If we attended that show, we were fucking dead, apparently. That was the only conversation we heard everywhere. So of course, we went.
So here we are, 14 years old, me and my mate from school sessioned a freezing cold Brixton Beach and entered what we thought was going to be last night of our lives, grasping onto our skateboards as weapons and ready to take it for the team. But wait, NOTHING happened. In fact, the total opposite happened. All ‘those black people’ that were supposed to be clutching flick knives to steal our one pound notes were stoked to see two white kids on skateboards. And I mean, we were so fucking white with fear that we must have looked like scared-witless ghosts on entry with skid marks trailing. Suddenly when we clocked how rad this actually was PE took the roof off the place in the only way they do best, and boy did it go down! It grained in me forever. A grand AWAKENING.
When ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back‘ was released, a friend copied it from vinyl onto a cassette tape for me. By this stage I’d found hardcore punk via skate videos, yet this was the most punk record that had ever hit my ears, and still is. This album is the most punk record EVER made. It broke every rule lyrically, calling out everything corrupt around us. It also pulled people together, by stealing the best Slayer riff to kick it off! That was the biggest surprise of all. Crazy crossover, but they absolutely smashed it.
Millions also barked Fake News and called out Operation Mockingbird – the CIA’s invention that you still see today clouding your views on what’s really going on via the mainstream media. Chuck wasn’t putting up with that malarkey. The mainstream hated them following Yo! Bum Rush the Show. They hated the mainstream, and then launched the best counter-attack strategy ever recorded in audio. Dope songs with stolen samples from every classic, layered with hard hitting lyrics that will remain relevant forever. I mean, if you have not heard ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’ for a couple of years, turn that shit up and see what happens. It’s one of the most infectious tunes of all time that is guaranteed to make you lose your everything within the first chorus. It’s still, for me, the best tune on this album but feel free to argue the toss.
There’s no point in going through the entire record, discussing Flavor Flav’s criminal records, or Chuck’s views. I’m sure people have done it on every anniversary. So cherish your memories to this absolute gem of a record today as it turns 30 years. I’m not completely sure if anyone else in time will ever be able to match it in terms of influence.
Until now, our annual round-ups have followed the blueprint: “everything’s terrible, except for skateboarding… skateboarding’s doing great”. But the winged demon eggs incubated through the previous eighteen months went and hatched in 2017, squawking white supremacist claptrap and shitting all over the soft furnishings, mixed with additional lumps of viscous misery that would have seemed far-fetched even to time-travellers from 2016’s increasingly twitchy, doom-prescient milieu. The horror of Grenfell tower within weeks of multiple terrorist attacks in the UK; and an undead British Government that failed to respond with any humanity to the former yet capitalised on the xenophobia provoked by the latter. This time, however, skateboarding seemed less than immune to all the decay and panic… not least because we lost one of our own in the terrorist attack in the London Bridge area. This tragedy said something about us and our times.
Ignacio Echeverría exhibited the quiet heroism of the best of our species, intervening to protect an injured women – facing armed terrorists with only his skateboard. His country of birth was quick to honour and remember him, posthumously awarding the Spanish Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit for his bravery. Skateboarders, from the Mile End community, across London and worldwide, came together with a skate organised along his last route, with a flurry of artwork, and more recently, with a skatepark in Spain dedicated to his memory. But the British Government? Slow to confirm he was missing, and even slower to provide his anxious family with vital information. An EU national and a skateboarder: characteristics sufficiently out-of-check with Brexit Britain’s now dominant narrative.
Many of our frontline politicians – our representatives who should have been first to publicly acknowledge his bravery – remained absolutely silent. Government Ministers, whose salaries we pay, were similarly tardy and disinterested when the rest of the nation looked in horror as the unthinkable happened at Grenfell Tower. Again, ordinary people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds (and, as always, the emergency services) put themselves in danger, and then gave their time and possessions with such generosity that the storage and distribution of huge amounts of donations, with no official assistance, became an incredible logistical challenge for the volunteers on the ground. The elite at the centre become ever more removed from the multitude of confusing reality they purport to govern.
Not unlike skateboarding’s elite, corpulently bunkered down in Californian private indoor skateparks and in generously air-conditioned multi-brand action sport offices, unsure, unaware and irritated as to why skateboarding in London, Tokyo, Oslo, St Louis or rural Britain should appear more vital and relevant to the windswept masses who actually go skateboarding.
To talk of skateboarding itself in 2017, it became more important than ever to distinguish between the business of skateboarding, the act of doing it, and the community and culture of the people who do it. The business is hurting – and an influential part of it wants us to hurt too. One industry insider after another took to Instagram to curse and belittle the indie companies (I hope the excellent Lovenskate, Northern Co, Skateboard Café and Scum Co & Sons take as accidental complement their placing, alongside gender diversity, in a prominent skate artist’s ‘100 worst things’ listing). It is those (almost all white) men, those Monster-fit-wearing bros, who let in the sportswear brands, yet they claim to be corer than some cutty, unpaid skate rat who happens to wear Nikes (because they made it impossible for him or her to purchase anything else). There they are, admonishing us for ceasing to care about the umpteenth colourway of mall-ready logo-board, glossy Berrics edit, or anything that happens outside of a narrow strip of Californian real estate. Market competition is apparently well and good when it’s happening to someone else.
In other news, although to some, much of what Ty Evans has done may suck (or, to take Nick from the Palomino’s higher road, “it’s not shit, you just don’t like it”), he has it absolutely right in his Nine Club interview that the bigger ‘core’ brands may be to blame for their own decline if they regard the full-length video (the ultimate artefact of our culture, to be entombed with our kings and queens and guarded by complex traps) as mere marketing expenditure, unjustifiable if they fail to correlate with an uptick in sales. The proliferation of marketing ‘content’ has replaced works of fucking art and future touchstones of our youth and young adulthood. The Skateboarder Magazine has been killed so the Berrics Magazine can replace it (non-consensually absorbing subscribers and Instagram followers to the understandable chagrin of those who’d invested in the former mag out of actual informed choice). More ephemeral content. The newer, smaller brands, with the freelance auteurs they work with (Josh Stewart made the new Traffic video, which is just a perfect turn of events), are capturing both the imagination and spending money of the kids and veterans alike, because they come from an authentic place that is more about solemn ritual (videos are what a skate company ‘should do’) than product placement. Some bigger brands know this too, of course, Real and Crailtap among them, and it’s nice to see Real’s strong, politically-charged 2017 board art placed alongside the upstarts in the Ripped Laces’ review of the year’s best graphics. Seriously, if you’re among those who argue that the newer companies ‘add nothing’ to skateboarding, open a skate mag from the mid-2000s, when the bigger brands reigned supreme, flick to a page full of their deck ‘graphics’, and then compare it to today’s skate shop board wall.
But because the devil is now well and truly in the room, many of the videos from today’s insurgent indie brands, though largely self-financed, are endorsed and co-branded by the sneaker companies slowly murdering the very same ma and pop skate shops that stock and premiere the darn things. So we exist in an insane dichotomy: the 20-30 year deep ‘core’ brands feel compelled to churn out only throwaway web edits; whilst the new upstarts produce the meaningful stuff we care about… Except with a swoosh or 3 stripes somewhere in the end credits. And no one is getting paid.
On that note, let’s see if Nike’s dedication to building more skateparks or indeed supporting their existing current batch of parks continues in Europe throughout 2018. Most brands abandon these sorts of projects after 4 years so we are watching closely. (-Z)
Yet there are shards of light amidst the clouds, as there always are. DC made a fucking skateboard video. And it was good; and not just because of Tiago Lemos. Alex Olson’s 917 unexpectedly dropped a full length with little fanfare, that divided opinion, but – on balance – was more rad than otherwise; and Krooked followed with a highly enjoyable 20+ minutes that ignored two decades of filming progress, convention and consistent aspect ratios, and was no poorer for it. But 2017 was really the year for British and Japanese skateboarding, as Skate Twitter (shout out to all 15 of you….) has proclaimed more than once. And also for Australian skateboarding (and New Zealanders skating in Australia), with Melbourne becoming a global skate destination that is starting to stand alongside the NYC-Barcelona-Copenhagen-Berlin-Paris-London skate tourist lock-down.
Highlights from the UK included Jacob Harris’ continuing ‘Atlantic Drift’ series and Quentin Guthrie’s ‘Next’, which followed up his equally great ‘Brexit’ with a banging section from a personal favourite and new Skateboard Café acquisition, Dom Henry (I’ve studied the skating of Kalis, JB, Daniel Lebron, Baines, etc. for twenty years, to sub-mediocre effect – Dom nails it, with aplomb, at almost ten years my junior. Bastard). With reference to Atlantic Drift, just now on its sixth episode in 12 months, it can’t got without comment that this was one of the many series and standalones of the year (alongside other indie offerings, including sections from the final episode of the Sabotage vids) to be premiered, hosted and co-branded by Thrasher – marking the year that ‘The Bible’ became ubiquitous in online skate media (eclipsing the Berrics and standing high above the ashes of the now defunct Ride Channel).
One of the most memorable, distinctly British, offerings came in the form of Jim Craven’s high concept ‘Island’, that eerily charts a small group of skateboarders’ journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, wild camping and skating isolated spots of melancholic rural solitude. It’s reminiscent of the 2013 Carharrtt WIP x Antiz ‘Swiss Banks’ edit, but a more compelling watch. Perhaps lower profile, but well worth uncovering, was Bristol’s OWL skateboards’ UTOPOS, whose team reject the ‘easy’ option of plaza or chiller spots, choosing instead the grimy by-ways of the British post-industrial wasteland, and wearing on their sleeves their obsessions for the writing of Orwell, Huxley and Ballard and the utopian socialist architects and town planners associated with New Brutalism. Together, the two edits capture starkly contrasting rural and urban takes on the uncanny eeriness to be found in our grey-skied lands.
Before moving eastwards, a very different take on Britishness. Palace’s double-hit for 2017, opening a free indoor, 90s Radlands-recalling ‘Mwadlands’ park and suddenly releasing their first full length, Palasonic, reminded our corner of the world that they are, first and foremost, a skateboard company – despite having expanded from relatively niche hypebeast catnip into the wardrobes of almost every Home Counties teenager (I teach in a large university and, without exaggeration, at least one in every three white males in any given seminar group will be wearing a Palace-branded item). It says something of Thrasher’s success that they’ve grasped what others have not – skateboarding has finally gone very global, and in doing so it has diversified. They may have awarded SOTY to an All-American, heartily-built rail chomper, but other nominees included Europeans Oski, Daan and Palace’s Lucien Clarke – on the back of his Palasonic section (complete with Toby Shuall tribute gratefully noted by appreciators of Chris Massey and Mazzy Star).
Over to Japan, much of the autumn was spent in anticipation of home-grown brand Evisen’s debut. Those sections shared on, who else, Thrasher, did not disappoint – with Seimi Miyahara distilling all that is eye-poppingly unique about the scene and its skaters: lightning quick feet, precise flatground execution, fearless pop, and creative approaches to distinctly odd obstacles that require all those things, invariably filmed at night out of expediency, but providing that nostalgic Mixtape feel amongst the new and weird. You can watch the sections and buy the video from Nick.
Along with London’s ascendancy to NYC based-zeitgeist hunter’s wet dream, the Evisen video throws up interesting questions as to what makes a scene cool? Japan has always been cool to Western skate eyes – due in no small part to the Orientalising exoticism we continue to project upon the place and its people – but of 2017’s rise of Australian skateboarding? The Antipodean Canada of skateboarding: assumed to be all XXXL t-shirts, fitted caps, and fucking Globe shoes, despite producing skateboarders who are better per capita than most Americans and Brits. As in the case of Canada in 2016, several Australian brands came of age in 2017 and several amazing scene vids showed us what idiots we are. And Sports Class produced one of the coolest edits of the year that wasn’t even filmed in Australia.
The final, perhaps biggest victory for 2017 was won by female skateboarders, with brand after brand turning the women on their roster pro. This included ever-late-to-the-party bigger brands, like Plan B with Leticia, although that barely compensates the terrible women-hating, Islamophobic, homophobic things said or shared by the online persona of one later career Pat Duffy – please let it be a Putin bot (props on spotting it, and consistently calling it out, to Thom Callan – we don’t give present-day Morrissey a pass for the terrible things he blurts about Englishness because of the music we love, nor should Duffy get a pass because of what he once achieved on a skateboard).
Pundits celebrated the names on boards of the aforementioned Ms Bufoni, then Nora, but forgot that Weekend gave Alexis Sablone a board towards the start of the year whilst upstart Swedes Poetic Collective had never thought to draw a distinction between its male and female riders, with Sarah Meurle’s name on a board in their earliest days as well as creative agency over what it looked like – to stunning aesthetic affect. Take note you few remaining balrogs who can neither break the bro-down nor crack out a decent board graphic. Warm feelings all round when long-time ripper Lucy Adams’ board on Lovenskate was accompanied by a rad video part, but our progress also stalled with the internet backlash to Lacey Baker’s incredible section, prompting Anthony Pappalardo’s intelligent piece for Kingpin (the writer, not the Alien alumnus) spotlighting skateboarding’s persistent issue with bigotry. Before commenting angrily that there isn’t, and has never been, a problem with gender or sexual orientation in our world, skim the Facebook thread on Lacey’s section (and threats to unsubscribe from Kingpin beneath Pops’ article) and get back to us. The idea that we’re holding women skaters to ‘performance’ criteria (stair count, rail height), whilst 90% of sponsored male skaters are variously appraised on the basis of style, taste, creativity, spot-selection, etc., is absurd. If all male skateboarding is held to those quantitative measures, we’d be much poorer for it. And, as in wider society, there’s always an evaluation according to the sexualised male gaze, a gaze that will either objectify or find fault: Lacey is insufficiently feminine, Leticia is too overtly so.
The section that made the biggest impression on me, out of the incredible number from female skaters in 2017, was Alexis Sablone’s Welcome to Weekend. I loves me a snapped flatground flip, and Alexis represents much that is rad within and beyond skateboarding (a resilient East Coaster, an architect, a thinker, with that Kerry Getz or Dave Mackey power push). All this contrasts with, and shows the path to leaving the white/Californian/middle-aged/apolitical/commodifying/male cartel alone to their prolonged ten-year death rattle – as Bertolt Brecht then Walter Benjamin once implored us to erase the traces, build the new, exorcise the detritus, finally enter the 21st Century, albeit 18 years late.
Ah, the sound of a cold one being opened, your mates having a laugh and a sick skate session. You can’t beat it. From the teens that are seeking and learning to the old codgers who just can’t give it up, skateboarding is a fun bastard and London’s vast skate scene delivers for all.
Say hello to just one chapter in our fine city. The WASC crew is made up of a few friends you may have seen at demos, Crossfire jams and in 90s skate mags. Long term friendships that have been forged by the love of four wheels and good times. The glue of this crew is a Whatsapp group that’s pretty much exactly like Gossip Girl – but based in East London, not Manhattan’s Upper East side. It runs 24/7/365 and constantly treads a very fine line between banter and insult. People leave and are ejected regularly. It’s (mostly) in good humour.
Yah Bru 4 is their latest installment filmed across the year collectively, so sit back, get a beer on the go and take in the sessions before diving into a few facts found in the memories of Ben Phillips and Brendan Ryall below.
For the record, the main crew consists of Ben Phillips, Brendan Ryall, Tom Ball, Steven Crawford, Simon Skipp, Michael Daley, Gavin Coetzee, Kevin Parrott, Ed Davis, Dave Turner, Mark Brewster and Andy Hinshelwood.
Delside main crew are Paul Carroll, Phil Clutton, Nigel Davies, Dave Maddocks. Plus Skipp, Kevin, and Brendan.
Friends include Chris Morgan, Jak Pietryga, Conor Charleson,Dan West, Manny Lopez, Jake Hipwell, Ben Cundall, Jamie ‘Heavy Handed Harry’ Harrison, Alex Irvine, Josh Cox, Ben Larthe, Dennis the Swede and Barry Dring.
Better, younger wingmen.
Youngsters at the spot have become a heartwarming regular during this project. Gavin with Jack, Steve with Jack, Kevin with Clem and Dave with Otto. Most importantly the young ones weren’t just there to watch; this next generation are already up and rolling and well on their way to surpassing their ageing fathers.
With a crew in their 30s and 40s, gaps and rails aren’t really on the agenda anymore. We were in the West End and Manny Lopez was with us that day. Ryall had thought about putting a crowd barrier across the SOAS gap, but common sense and a more sensible crew always won. Manny is insanely comfortable on rails. So we thought fuck it, today’s the day. We set it up and whilst we were still looking for excuses, he went straight in. It’s really sick to push your own limits, and it really helps when you have a kid on form to give it that final push.
The injury deckchair:
Crew is everything. Filming is really a byproduct of our missions. Mark Brewster has recently had some gnarly surgery on his ankle so the build up to this meant he would come out with us every weekend, without fail, with a deckchair. Our legendary heckle bench will not be the same without him as he sat there, chilled beverage in hand, barking unsolicited feedback from the start of the session to the end. It never once got annoying (jk lol).
Another one who’s battled injuries is Ed Davis. The Royal College of Surgeons have just informed me that most of his problems stem from an ill advised session down LB 10 after a jazzy afternoon on Bermondsey Street a couple years back. The good news is his transition skating is already picking up where his Wilson street carnage left off.
Gavin the Wizard in speed dealers and a bucket hat was one THE “in” look on the streets of London over the last couple of years. Perhaps his only more powerful look was flying out of the darkness via a pressure flip down 3 at the tail end of a Battersea session into an amphitheatre full of merry onlookers. The ensuing uproar could be heard all the way to Westminster.
Brendan Ryall and his magic hands. Shot by Dave Turner.
Delside DIY mission appreciation:
Paul Carroll has built a magical ramp in a forest in Essex. It really is incredible and the only ramp sessions comparable to it would be the legendary Playstation / Bay66 mini-ramp sessions BITD. Knowing the weekends are street missions, Phil Clutton built some amazing flood lights out of LED lights, 100ft of cabling and a car battery. With a culture clash of obscure 80s songs and raw punk blasting out a Marshall speaker, the night sessions become timeless and unforgettable!
The City of Rats:
With deadline approaching Ryall was on a rare solo mission with Skipp. They arrived at the Mudchute brick bank and spotted a massive rat on the top of it. This thing was so tame, it carried on sniffing around and eventually cleared off. Si started working out his trick and Ryall crouched down to find his filming angle. The bloody rat came back, ran behind him and up his shirt onto his back! Much screaming went down whilst Skipp laughed his arse off. We still got the clip, with a different angle.
The Dry Cleaner’s Choice:
The special award for TDCC goes to Patient Mike for a never ending stockpile of fresh white ghetto gowns. There aren’t many people in their late 30s that have a 360 flip like him. He is true, genuine talent (even if he does do too many lipslide, 5-0 change ups).
The ender – Si Skipp at The Temple of Doom:
This truly is a Skipp spot. No one else would care or bother. 12 years ago, when Si was in his prime, he kick flipped it, but not how he had hoped. The spot is so crusty that no one ever wanted to go back. Featuring a crusty surface, huge gaps in the bricks, a grass run up and rough tarmac for a roll away, who would want to go back? Si of course. In winter, armed with 20 meters of carpet for the run up, we went back, rubbed the mildew off the landings and the battle was on. One roll in a pirate camphor bush and another handful of goes, the ender was in the bag. This commitment for any skater in their 40s isn’t normal. Here’s raising a glass to Yah Bru 5!
Inspired by the abomination of shite news across the world thanks to the pillocks that were voted to actually SERVE us, we got caught in a fuck-muddle of an afternoon of not giving a flying fuck and decided to do this fuck list. It took no longer than 20 minutes to throw together and if you have better suggestions then leave them in the comments below, or just fuck off. List features are for twonks.
10. Wesley Willis – Fuck You
Wesley Lawrence Willis was a singer-songwriter and artist from Chicago. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1989, he spent much of his life living on the streets. He had a tough life and a lot to say fuck you about. Let’s all say Fuck You for Willis. RIP.
9. Poison Idea – Made To Be Broken
Frontman Jerry A gets a Fuck You in before the song has even had a chance to get started. And when the song explodes it’s a total aural Fuck You in your ears. Kings of Punk. Kings of Fuck You.
8. Trail of Dead – A Perfect Teenhood
A perfect teenhood
They’ve released a barrage of amazing records and this is up their with their very fucking best.
7. Articles of Faith – Give Thanks
Vic Bondi’s AOF has the best Fuck You in the breakdown of this Chicago hardcore classic. “We must spread this to all people” says Bondi in this tune and it certainly traveled far and wide. It’s a burst of frustration that has always been a favourite for many.
6. Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias – Fuck You
Comedy bandwagon jumpers, Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias released this straight up message in 1978. I remember playing it on Glastonbury Radio when I was asked to play there in 1996 and we got shut down and thrown off site. Always better to have a memory like that than a boring one.
5. GG Allin – You Hate Me and I Hate You
“Well, you hate me and I hate you. You never understand the things I say or do – So what’s new? You never liked me so I say Fuck You.” A perfect Fuck You from everyone’s favourite poop-flinging fuck-up. Go find the new documentary, ‘The Allins: One Hell of a Family’ that premiered this winter. Absolutely mental viewing.
4. Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
Take a break from the barrage of punk rock for Cee Lo Green’s absolute tune with the best message of all time. The first message on this YouTube clip reads: “dedicated to my ex boyfriend”. Nuff said.
3. Fear – I Don’t Care About You
It doesn’t get much more fuck you than LA punks Fear, famed for baiting the crowd so much that their gigs would more often than not explode into violence. They truly didn’t give a fuck and don’t care about you, fuck you.
2. The Subhumans – Fuck You
One of the most covered and famous Fuck You songs in punk. Both DOA and New York Metalheads Overkill and The Stiffs covered this, but Canadian (not UK) punks The Subhumans were the ones to do it first.
1. Conflict – The Day Before
Welcome to one of the most super-charged, anarchic, punk rock tracks of all time. A tune that spits venom on the prospect of nuclear war whilst at the same time pays respect to unity and dub. Conflict’s seriously explosive Ungovernable Force album, released back in 1986, is one of the best ways to end a shit day if played on 11. Find it and embrace it, as Colin Jerwood’s vocals are still as relevant today and he will go down in history as one of the masters of all Fuck You’s.
Dead Kennedys – Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Yes, we know we cheated here, as Jello does not at any point say those two golden words, but in light of selfish politicians stirring up racial hatred worldwide you can suck our oil. Fuck You.
SKATEBOARDING, COMMERCIALISATION AND THE PRIVATISATION OF THE CITY
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled wasn’t convincing the world he didn’t exist, as posited in The Usual Suspects, but luring us to blame each other for the bad decisions we make when navigating His system. Global finance goes tits up in 2007, and it’s just a few bad bankers to blame and us, for expecting public services. Pupils are tested at age six and teachers are punished with never-ending inspection, but it’s the children and staff who lack ‘resilience’ as mental distress spreads like wild-fire.
Popular culture – the entertainment, advertising and commentary enforcing the tacit ‘rules’ we live by – clearly delineates good and evil, ‘core’ and corny, and instructs us to find easy scapegoats, usually other schmoes trapped in the system. Skateboarders, rather than blaming the commercialisation of leisure time and mainstream assimilation of niche sub-cultures, blame individual pros, trying to feed their kids and pay rent when they finally sign up to the swoosh or the three stripes. The system carries on unseen and unassailable. We’re each surviving a game in which the rules are unknowable whilst an unseen hand swaps our carefully painted dwarf warrior for a dried hunk of shit. Rather than blaming the idiotic game and going outside, you yell at Nigel the Mage, I kick Sarah the Dark Elf in the shin, and Geoff over there blames you and I equally and puts your new D10 up his arse.
Let’s take the big, interwoven challenges facing skateboarding today: commercialisation that squeezes core brands and local shops; gentrification and the loss of public space; and, of course, how the commodification of sub-culture enlists us as agents of gentrification. Having assimilated most of the earth, capital has run out of new markets to exploit. So, the cultural realm is commodified and used in a “kind of real estate scam” (David Harvey) to repackage and sell off great lumps of the city. Skating (and ordinary skateboarders), along with graffiti, DIY music scenes and other grassroots culture, help make neighbourhoods desirable to developers more interested in street art than fine art, after which the new owners prevent us from doing the very thing that originally gave the space value.
Steve Berra’s recent Jenkem interview reveals a skateboarder who feels little loyalty to the soul of the thing and willingly accepts capital’s terms (in contrast to Philly’s Sabotage crew in the final days of Love Park, stubbornly refusing to bend the knee as the king’s horses overrun their barricades). Berra appoints himself the adult in the room, throwing shade on those who fail to see ‘how things are’ in corporate bro speak that sounds not unlike Jake Gyllenhaal’s manipulator-savant Lou in Nightcrawler. The Berrics is a business, but the culture of skateboarding? He has uncritically adopted what Mark Fisher called a ‘business ontology’: everything boils down to the profit motive. The moral or aesthetic are irrelevant to Steve Berra. It is simply ‘business’, an abstract phenomenon assumed to surround all of us, like air, or the ghosts of our ancestors.
Berra’s worldview shines through his last two video parts. His stealth installation of prefabricated skatepark obstacles make the streets efficient, predictable. He joylessly annexes public space with nascent, temporary Berricses, for his private use only – unlike the democratising generosity of DIY and in harmony with the neoliberal belief that public space should bend to market forces. All human endeavour is not analogous to business and the ‘market’ is simply the aggregation of millions of human decisions, both sensible and silly: it is no more able to effectively govern our actions than any other network of fallible humans doing and saying dumb shit.
We, the common man or woman, need freely accessible spaces to meet, to be entertained, to sell our wares, and to share rituals of community cohesion: expressions of grief, celebration or protest. The downgrading or total abandonment of these civic purposes – these ‘public goods’ – occurred at the very time skateboarders started using such spaces (the sidewalk, municipal plazas, rather than the private space of backyard swimming pools). In ‘The Poetics of Security’, Ocean Howell shows that the kind of skateboarding most loathed by town planners and local politicians directly grew from the “barren, defensive spaces” associated with triumphant Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Hard, sharp ledges in open, windswept plazas replaced more intimate, humane spaces that encourage the ‘chance encounters’ and unhurried meanderings beloved of utopian urbanists. The architectural cattle prods that herd us from office, to shopping centre, to restaurant or bar, gave form and vocabulary to modern street skating. For ageing British skaters, spaces made otherwise empty by Thatcher’s 11 year war on society are synonymous with Panic/Blueprint, Viewfinder or Video Log, in which Baines, Shier and Selley, the Shipman brothers, Rowley and John Dalton rattle through foreclosure-scarred high streets and dilapidated bus stations. The death of a truly ‘public’ realm enabled the golden era of street skating.
Since this time, skateboarding performs the shifting role of sworn protector and unwitting agent in the erosion of public space. If 90s street skating revealed then re-purposed hollowed-out spaces, giving deliberately meaning-free public realm new subjectivity and vibrancy, by the 2000s we were contributing to a new wave of commodification: bundled within the older term ‘gentrification’. Once the deliberate clearing, re-development and re-selling of residential space in densely populated cities like Paris, it now refers to a more organic process; a decentralised urge that needs no civil servant’s urban masterplan; a contagion that town planners are powerless to resist even if they wanted to. It transforms space and culture, and recruits well-meaning artists, community workers and (potentially) skateboarders to be its unwitting landing party. Whole towns and neighbourhoods are tentatively colonised by art studios and cafes, and then wholly transformed by the alien invasion force: the developers and investors who assimilate the very soul of the community into a brochure-ready, homogenous aesthetic that appeals exclusively to middle class tastes and budgets.
But imagine you care not for the dispersal and disenfranchisement of working class communities, that the searing injustice of Grenfell leaves you unmoved, and you care only for how this affects your ability to skate the streets. How and why is skateboarding both coalmine canary and unwitting collaborator in subsequent waves of gentrification? And, more importantly, what might the options be for non-cooperation, resistance and roll-back?
Thanks to the person who left this outside our office this weekend…
Skateboarding is perfectly legal across most of the UK. Unless there’s a specific By Law or PSPO in operation, you have every right to skate a public area. But gentrification has created areas that look public in every discernible way.. but aren’t. The Guardian newspaper have chilled out on misconstruing and sneering at the young and/or the working class, as if recalling a day out at the zoo to people who have never visited, and have done something useful for once. They’ve mapped the spread of ‘pseudo’ or ‘Privately Owned Public Spaces’ (POPS) across London. These spaces, although designed to resemble municipal plazas, are owned and controlled by private firms (often investment companies) who draw up (but don’t necessarily publish) restrictions covering their use. Cue the overweight private security guard, permanently at the mercy of violent urges, whose job it is to kick you off – along with rough sleepers, groups of young people just hanging out, even families consuming food and drink not purchased from particular premises. When combined with the ‘defensive architecture’ on which Howell and Iain Borden write widely – the anti-homeless spikes and skate stoppers that pock-mark such spaces – they explicitly signal who can and can’t be there, degrading the principles of our democracy and social fabric.
If capital is no longer just in the business of appropriating housing estates, flats and small business premises, but the very streets and squares we walk and skate across, how on earth could you and I be its agents? Howell argues our activities ironically make these spaces more marketable. By skating previously uninteresting, uninviting spaces, we help make them youthful, ‘edgy’, ‘urban’. Think of all the destination marketing, aimed at attracting foreign investors and tourists (including to cities hostile to skateboarding) that use images of skating. Howell’s depiction of Love Park is an example we’ve cited before. Originally designed as a space for passers-by to tarry, eat lunch, Reaganomics saw an end to that. Increasingly destitute homeless people, many of whom were drug dependent and deprived of welfare support, colonised the space. But with Ricky Oyola’s generation of East Coast street pioneers, followed by the second generation of technical ledge skaters led by a young Fred Gall, Love Park became a magnet for a different kind of user, hardier than easily startled office drones. To paraphrase Oyola, if skinny teenagers weren’t afraid of no crack head, why should a grown-ass executive? So skateboarders made Love Park usable for everyone else. This made it valuable to developers, so the skaters, like the rough sleepers, had to go. And then, without the everyday presence of skaters (with Brian Panebianco’s younger generation getting their sessions when they could, often at night), Love Park as we knew it lost its value to the City of Philadelphia… and the rest is history and rubble.
Did generations of skateboarders intend to be agents of their own exile? Of course they didn’t, and the stubborn efforts of the Sabotage crew to fend off both municipal and skate industry capital earned their right to inhabit the space several times over. Howell’s term “footsoldiers’ of gentrification” is deliberately provocative: it illustrates how skaters’ ability to make a city unique and attractive gets co-opted. That value, created through random moments of weird risk taking, is then commodified and transformed into something else. The authentic and anarchic becomes something symbolic and safe: from the Haçienda of gurning, mad-for-it ravers to the Haçienda of high-value real estate. Your and my use of a space makes it valuable in a way that it wasn’t previously, but the outcome of time and love freely given is frustratingly unrealised profits for the kind of vampires that think only in the short term. It doesn’t matter to them that no skating will eventually mean no plaza – by then they’ve extracted their return and moved onto the next thing.
Sometimes skateboarders can hold the line and fight the invaders off. But when they do, the battle is never wholly won, and in moments of victory, it’s important to remember that not everyone fought on the same side – some danced to the speculators’ tune. Take the successful campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft from redevelopment into retail space. The younger generation, skating the space daily, understood what it meant (because they were creating and maintaining its value). Some members of the older generation, particularly former Kingpin editor Niall Neeson, fell quickly into Berra’s ‘business ontology’, siding with the so-called adults and plumping for the Southbank Centre’s Hungerford Bridge alternative. Neeson wrote an article for Huck, (since removed), dripping in condescension, in which he railed against the naivety of the skaters who used and loved the Undercroft. You can’t fight the market, kids. But history, and the hard graft of LLSB and their supporters, proved that you can.
But the story doesn’t end there. LLSB’s campaign to restore and re-open the lost ‘small banks’ started quite recently. The irony is that the brilliance and authenticity of their original campaign (far outmatching the Southbank Centre in its reach and intellectual and aesthetic sophistication), in charging the space with even more cultural value and international profile, captured the attention of capital like the burning eye of Sauron. In order to fund the £790,000 needed, in comes Adidas with a generous contribution.
Adidas are not Costa or Prêt, but tales of Red Bull cutting and running when the DIY builds they fund provoke the ire of the authorities, or Adidas’ own abortive (but initially well publicised) ‘saving’ of the historic skatepark in Kennington, do not bode well for the long-term trustworthiness of skateboarding’s mega-corporate benefactors. One of the greatest ironies of the diffuse, decentralised nature of late capitalism is that, rather than bringing about greater accountability, it concentrates power and isolates it from ordinary people. But how else do LLSB get anywhere near their target? This is all part of the impossibility of navigating a system loaded against us. In the case of Southbank, the rules of the system – in requiring users to pay for a publicly owned, taxpayer-funded space that attracts visitors to London – go unquestioned in 2017’s Great Britain. We’re back in a business ontology, where the ‘customer’ pays. Could Real – of all current skate companies, surely the most consistent in their stance against the ills of modern politics (against Trump, against racism, against aspects of neo-liberal capitalism) – have held onto the two best skateboarders of their respective generations (Busenitz and Ishod) without the sneaker cheques that flow from Adidas and Nike? The insatiable rise of the sportswear giants threaten organisations like Real/Deluxe as it sucks money out of the skateshops they rely upon to stock their kit. And Real surely know this, yet have little choice but to support teamriders who sign up to the Swoosh.
I remain an optimist, and a strong supporter of LLSB – particularly as they invest in something many a government-funded, multi-million-pound regeneration project ignores: the actual human beings in their community, rather than ‘just’ the space. But the story shows that even doggedly manning a stand for actual years, rain or shine – one of the few acts on earth that owes little to the capitalist superstructure – can potentially be re-used in someone else’s marketing strategy. To avoid difficult choices in which there is no definitively ‘right’ option, and always an unknowable future cost, the system around us has to change more radically. A strong focus on rethinking regeneration (severing the link between improving the environment for communities and destroying those communities) in the Labour leader’s party conference speech is welcome and shifts the debate whatever the outcome of a future election. In the here and now, other lessons can be gleaned. The work of the skaters of Gillet Square – an autonomous space managed in cooperation with the community and the borough authority (with group learning facilitated by personnel shared with the LLSB campaign) – to oppose threatened redevelopment could be instructional for the rest of us.
Even more optimistic in scope, is when inclusivity is designed into new spaces from their very inception – creating physical enclaves that are potentially post-neoliberal. In this, the Nordic countries lead, as they do in many other respects. I recommend twointerviews, both by Daryl Mersom, with Søren Enevoldsen, the architect and skater responsible for incredible public plazas in Denmark, in which school kids play, office workers shoot hoops, couples play ping pong, hipsters buy local produce, and skaters perfect ledge tricks or schralp deliberately accidental transition. There is commerce in these spaces, but it does not overwhelm other uses. Enevoldsen describes “active urban spaces” in contrast to spaces where “you are always told what to do. Everything is organized and targeted towards certain behavioral patterns and you become inactive and zombie-like. I want to create places… where a greater variety of people can co-exist. If you see a tree in nature it can be used in so many different ways… You have to become “active” in your approach the tree. Just like a skater is “active” when he searches the city for new possibilities.”
Skateboarding has created value by activating the inactive – value that can, has been, and will continue to be exploited. We should continue to fight to save the spaces we have transformed, for ourselves and others that use them, but we should also work harder, through activism, lobbying, entrepreneurialism and our own education, to achieve more spaces that have radical potential from the very start.
Skateboarders are equipped to think in radically different ways as future planners, architects, urbanists, who can then redesign physical spaces that are resistant to gentrification. Think on that if you can’t think of ‘owt interesting to study at college.
Every sub-culture believes their people are better than the bozos on the outside. Skateboarders have a notable tendency towards exceptionalism. We collectively fail to distinguish between good and terrible skate art. We believe authority should leave us be, whether we are respectful or pig ignorant towards other users of public space. If we see the world differently, with unique expectations of life, work and the city – is this potentiality ever realised? If it isn’t, we may as well be any other group of beer-chugging jocks.
Almost half-way through 2017 and the world is still chain-barfing 2016’s dirty pint, exhausted by elections that serve only the politicians who call for them. If we engage (and you should engage… please vote), it is more out of habit or forlorn hope than genuine belief that things can change for the better. Optimists see hope in the millions galvanised to protest, choking up airports to make Islamophobic travel bans unenforceable, filling town squares to hear a man that looks a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi speak of good, old-fashioned socialism. But we’ve been here before. Although hyper-capitalism has failed in its pledge that each new generation will be better off than their parents, its Randian high priests still sit at the very top of the hill. The sadly departed cultural critic Mark Fisher, known by his blog moniker K-punk, noted: “From the G20 protests, to the millions marching against the Iraq war, to the Arab Spring, to the short-lived student campaign against fees in the UK – the narrative of evental politics since the late 1990s has been reliably repetitious. Euphoric outbursts of dissent are followed by depressive collapse.” Big acts of resistance fail because we cannot imagine any serious alternative to the current way of things.
Illustration: Jason Lennox.
I was too busy failing to broaden my flip repertoire through the early 2000s to pick up on the radical thinkers that clustered around Fisher, and am now reading their ideas on ‘hauntology’ with neophyte zeal. This describes a state in which, with no impetus to create anything genuinely new, we are haunted by past visions of the future. Nagging memories of how things should have been are whispered by the ghosts of the 1960s, when man dreamed of space travel and the vast, imposing architecture that brought the modern to the everyday. In contrast, today’s pop culture, politics and economics recycle the past in ever more rapid loops. Baggy-as-hell, light-ass-denims are back, y’all. We are detached spectators, ironically curating, rather than actively reshaping our lives.
Skateboarders are avid consumers and hoarders. We commodify nostalgia’s warm snuggle. But skating is also all about practice over theory: playfulness and participation, which has the potential to be radical (in both senses of the word). We inhabit the city and the everyday with piss and vinegar, and yet, in the most urbanised century in humanity’s existence, still wait to have politics done to us – buffeted along by the story instead of framing the narrative. Long Live Southbank helped change this, doing what Surfers Against Sewage did for surfing in the early 90s: taking responsibility for our environment with an infectious energy and globe-spanning visual language.
I hate Trump, May, Farage and their ilk more than the generation of failed ‘moderates’ (read neoliberal ideologues) they usurped, and am truly terrified for the future. Although most big fights feel lost, despite what the entrail reading of recent UK election polling may suggest – now is exactly the time for little, local and everyday actions that can help push humanity’s stalled jalopy back onto the Enlightenment’s journey towards new and better. Skateboarders can do, and are doing, more to be part of the resistance: these are four things to start with.
SKATE THE STREETS, ALWAYS
Skateboarding imbues the city and our leisure time with purposes beyond consuming or spectating. On Swedish radio, Sidewalk’s Ben Powell and Skate Malmö’s Gustav Svanborg Edén declared skateboarding “inherently political”, which made me want to high-5 the pair of them. Street skating claims our ‘right to the city’ in an age of privatised space and demonstrates, in public, what the human body is capable of in an age of sedentary work and leisure. We know this to be true since the opening frames of ‘Welcome to Hell’, and know in our bones when we are 17 years old, but forget by 35. In an interview with Sidewalk, one of the coolest fucking things I’ve read came from Andy Wood, the owner of Endemic, Huddersfield’s skateshop. In his 40s with a young family, he skates fast, pops over handrails and describes skating the streets as a responsibility for older skaters: how can we complain that the kids, with their abundant and accelerating skillsets, never leave the park if scene elders don’t set an example? By continuing to street skate alongside real-life responsibilities, we change what it means to be an ‘adult’ – and no diggity it needs changing.
In the EU Referendum and US Presidential election a generational chasm opened to leave poor Wile E. Coyote flailing in the air. The media characterised those who voted to turn the clock back as old, white and resentful of an unknowable future, whilst the young, who by and large voted differently, were smug, consumerist, over-educated ‘metropolitan elites’ (who simultaneously can’t afford to pay rent). Mainstream sport is little help, separating coaches from sullenly obedient players and audiences from participants. In skateboarding, kids shred with salty seadogs old enough to be their parents. Ordinary sports, or Britain’s inefficient and hierarchical businesses (where senior managers fail to say “hi” to lowly co-workers), remind you just how potentially powerful our little world can be.
If you want to see the sort of respectful negotiation of space no longer valued in the UK after 40 years of “there’s no such thing as society” (Thatcher) or, if society does exist, it’s “broken” and we are somehow to blame (Cameron), go skate a Scandinavian city or read our article on the scene in Malmö. Street skateboarding produces authentic, inclusive and active urban spaces, which we must negotiate with people of totally different ages, occupations and interests (in contrast to being penned in skateparks with people just like us). Every time you disprove the prejudices of a pedestrian, you win a small victory that reverses the erosion of our collective social capital. If we’ve given up on education being primarily to “make a man ethical” as Hegel believed, we can bring a small part of his ideal classroom to the sidewalk: by not being dickheads, and not ever quitting.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL
Thousands of words have been written on the role of skateshops as youth clubs, first and last sponsors, community hubs and cottage production lines transforming civilians into skateboarders. We can all agree on their importance, but have no idea how to save them.
If Lost Art can run aground, the challenges facing the Skater-Owned-Shop look insurmountable. Liverpool One (a new generation of sinisterly clever neoliberal shopping centres, erasing the line between high street and private property) forced independent retailers from the centre. Then rents soared as the rest of the city gentrified and the fickle patronage of Nike turned to Janoski-stacked JD Sports and Sizes. Mackey sees future survival in terms of fundamentally re-thinking what a skateshop is for: back to hardgood basics and building links with other local independents – bars, tattoo parlours, book and print stores. Similarly, legendary Athens ripper Vassilis Aramvoglou has kept Color Skates running amidst Greece’s recession and sovereign debt crisis, focusing on similar fundamentals and building a relationship with a local bicycle courier to provide their sole means of goods delivery, sacking off tech utopians like Deliveroo (blinkered to the misery they bring to a precarious labour market) and keeping scarce wealth circulating between firms that genuinely support their city.
But this is still less than half the solution. We punters need to earn our mates’ rates: organise events, art and photo shows and video nights, think how your business, employer or townhall can work with your local SOS. In Huddersfield (again), an assortment of tweakers self-publish Achezine, drawing on skills and facilities from the town’s higher and further education establishments, working on an exhibition, a bespoke ‘no-comply’ lager brewed by the independent next door, and a film premiere in Huddersfield’s lovely Victorian shopping arcade: locating Endemic within the heart of its community. Or Boston’s Orchard, who worked with like-minded social enterprises to keep a free-to-use skatepark running through the harsh Massachusetts winter. Once upon a time, in proud industrial towns, customers, workers and owners came together as cooperatives. With never-ending austerity promised by an Old Etonian from a golden chair, our cities are not going to be regenerated beyond the fire-sale of social housing and green spaces and token ‘creative quarters’ that are often anything but (see Southampton). Shop staffers and lurkers who moan about their scene, as the till rusts shut, need to stop seeing themselves as ‘just’ a shop or ‘just’ customers.
The West worships the entrepreneur: on TV and in the Whitehouse. Skateboarders have marvelled at Rocco’s saga for 20 years. But while the wider world reveres modern day robber barons as ‘job creators’, the only jobs skateboarding creates in any volume are in retail or yet more sponsored skateboarders. The production of skateboards – luxury items which are predominantly purchased in the world’s richest countries – survives not through differentiation, but on the lowest possible marginal costs. Economists warn that competing on price alone results in a ‘race to the bottom’, jobs hemorrhaged to low cost countries that tolerate shittier labour conditions (a practice that is in turn threatened by Trump’s protectionism, to the benefit of no one except perhaps the Chinese or Mexican workers who may end up in less stupid industries).
As in decades past, the indie start-up has changed and enriched the face of skating. Soccer-mom friendly logo boards are a minority amid weird, cool and beautiful offerings from Polar, Magenta, Hopps, Scumco, Welcome, Weekend, Evisen, Blast, etc. etc. But we’re still failing to visualise how this can benefit actual skateboarders. Some who’ve recently disrupted the market, like Bronze’s Peter Sidlauskas, counsel others to “just work the job you hate.” I can sympathise with wanting to pull up the drawbridge, but this is terrible advice. It assumes markets are fixed in size (think of the ubiquity of Palace, trading to kids with no prior exposure to skating), illustrating what economists call the ‘fallacy of the lump of labour’. The number of jobs is not finite: a newly employed person spends money, creating the need for more jobs, and so on (btw this is also the best way to shut down your racist uncle midway through his seasonal “coming over here, taking our jobs” rant). More urgently, such thinking keeps late capitalism dependent on bullshit, low pay, debt-subsidised jobs in a bloated service sector. If you have an idea, for pity’s sake run with it, for the good of us all. The internet enables you to launch from your bedroom, with minimal risk, whilst keeping up the 9 to 5. In the face of permanent global depression, skaters taking a punt at something new will provide them job satisfaction (and skills acquisition) and help kill pointless, precarious work.
Most importantly, your thing doesn’t have to be a board brand or Instagram-driven streetwear bollocks. Surely this is not the limit of our imaginations. Collect boards, do you? Think about what Deckaid has done, exhibiting skate geeks’ collections to aid youth-based charities. Have a massive magazine stash? Rent them out to your local shop. Think you and your mates have skills, enthusiasm and patience? Look what Ash Hall, or John Cattle, or Paul Regan have done with different iterations of socially-entrepreneurial skate schools. Know some artists/are one yourself/know a distributor? Check out these dudes and their ‘refugees welcome’ board project.
All this can be linked together and scaled up. There’s a good chance funders will listen, but they need something tangible to listen to. For that, my friends, you need to organise. If you go to their skatepark consultation, their ‘active in the city’ event, you’re reacting. We can set the agenda. A rabble of voices gets drowned out: but a lean, focused machine that can access and direct resources is hard to ignore. Bryggeriet/Skate Malmö as well as LLSB show us that this doesn’t have to equal endless committee meetings and ‘county council rrrradical’ faux-graffiti branding. They can be super cool, inclusive, and get things done. If you want to link and grow your projects, protect your DIY or streetspot, get a new park built, access charitable and public funding, and eventually employ other skaters in meaningful work, organising is key, and skateboarders tend to be terrible at it.
In the UK, you can get free advice from your local Community and Voluntary Service. Then you have several choices. You can stay small (limited to £5,000 per year) but start tomorrow with a Small Charity Constitution. To do bigger things (including holding premises and employing people), you can become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) or a Community Interest Company (CIC). A CIO is more attractive to funders, but must be approved by the Charity Commission, who will then monitor you closely. A CIC can be created rapidly and is lighter on the paperwork, but may be less attractive to big funders like the National Lottery. And when you start something, and it grows: remember why you did it. Even if you can earn a living purely selling boards and t-shirts, you can still be more than ‘just’ a board brand – take Real skateboard’s projects with Humidity and Uprise shops in support of the American Civil Liberties Union.
MAKE WORLDWIDE CONNECTIONS
Magenta say it, and they mean it. Who would have thought Bordeaux, with its cobbley-ass streets, would be a destination? The end game for all the above – filling in forms, busting your ass skating and filming – is to put your city on the map, boost your scene and making the world a better place. The biggest of big pictures is that this helps roll back the creeping nativism stoked by right-wing demagogues and the tabloid media across the world. Sixty-five percent of the French electorate can’t hold the line on their own. If big politics tells us that internationalism is a thing of the past – what of all of us brought up to think globally? Prime Minister Theresa May told those who “believe you’re a citizen of the world” were instead “citizens of nowhere”. Let that sink in for a moment: millions of us, the first in our families to stay on in education post-16, who went on school trips and took GCSE French, who were told by careers advisers to imagine working anywhere on earth, who have quite literally done what we’ve been told, are now “citizens of nowhere.” Fuck right off, Theresa May: a sense of internationalism is one of the few things neoliberalism gets right.
Luckily, nationalism and skateboarding are not productive bedfellows – and we can do more to unlock the power of this. Skater-led NGOs have brought skateboarding’s unique ability to engage young people to Afghanistan, Palestine, South Africa and Myanmar, alongside projects building or repairing skateparks in quake hit Australia and Native American reservations. And doing something closer to home doesn’t mean limiting your international horizons. Bruce Springstein, proud son of New Jersey and global traveller, says, “My localism is something I want to use as a strength, rather than something to get away from.” A great example is the Rios crew, putting Budapest on the map by skating and filming in a distinctive way, all whilst xenophobic, nativist strongman, Viktor Orbán, increasingly locks Hungary into an imagined past where everyone looked and felt the same.
Without trying to, the Rios guys have delivered one of the clearest rejections of everything Orbán, and May, and Trump, and Le Pen, stand for – and skaters the world over journey to Budapest to share this with them.
Of the original army of rockers that dominated the sixties and seventies, Iggy Pop was never going to be high on the ‘those destined to make it to old age’ list, yet somehow, here we are today celebrating the Godfather Of Punk’s seventieth birthday. Although Mr Jim Osterberg’s wild stories of excess and destruction are legendary, the original ‘street walking cheetah’ hasn’t used up all of his nine lives yet. He is still performing high-energy rock n’ roll, still hurling himself into the crowd and still creating inspiring music, most recently with Josh Homme on last year’s excellent ‘Post Pop Depression’ album. Happy Birthday Iggy Pop, you freaking legend! There’s plenty of life in this ‘runaway son of a nuclear A Bomb’ yet.
1. This story quoted in Rolling Stone from Iggy’s manager, Danny Fields sums up his desire for living life on a knife edge perfectly from an encounter at the Whisky in LA:
“It was a very star-studded, Jack-and-Anjelica-and-Warren night. He was waiting for his dealer, to cop, intent on getting his shot of heroin before he went on. But he had no money. So he went to the VIP booths one at a time and explained the situation. He said, ‘Look, you’re here to see me, and I can’t go on until my dealer is here, and he’s waiting to be paid, so give me some money so I can fix up, and then you’ll get your show.’ He got more than enough money. He stood off to the side and shot up. The lights went down, the music went up, he stood onstage and collapsed. Without a note being sung. He’d OD’d in front of everyone. And had to be carried off. I think that was one of his greatest shows ever,” says Fields. “It was so minimally perfect. It just says a very great deal.”
2. Self-mutilation became Iggy’s favourite entertainment for crowds during his live shows after he once fell on a broken glass accidentally on August 29th, 1969. This unfortunate incident excited fans at the time so Pop decided that self-harming would be part of his stage show. Whether it was with knives, drumsticks or broken bottles he managed to let the blood flow for psycho-dramatical effect sharing his fluids with anyone who would watch him. He also found a love for puking all over people and himself on stage, inspiring the punk scene in the 70s that followed his gross, drug-fueled antics. Roadies were always worried he would end up slashing a vein in the wrong place as he writhed across shards of broken glass covering the stage but it didn’t stop him. It was common practice for Iggy to crawl off stage covered in blood, spit, booze and sweat, heading for the accident room to cut out the shards that were left in his skin.
3. Amongst the speed, coke, heroin, LSD, downers and uppers available, Iggy once attended a music festival in Goose Lake, Michigan where, “I was snorting something they said was coke but I learned later was ketamine. I couldn’t remember who I was for about 12 hours.”
4. Iggy was punched out cold in a bar by Detroit bikers in February 1974 who were incensed by his Danskin ballet outfit and big mouth so Iggy offered out the local chapter for a fight over radio airwaves at the final Stooges gig at Michigan Palace. The band were pelted with pieces of ice, eggs and beer bottles in response to Iggy’s audience baiting. You can hear the glass smashing against the stage on the infamous Metallic K.O. bootleg.
Ph: Guitarist Ron Asheton whipped Iggy on stage with electric wire and accosted him with a noose that Iggy made for this show. August 11th 1974. Getty / Michael Ochs.
5. Iggy once found himself tucking into some prostitutes in the Mondrian Hotel in 1974 enjoying a jar full of exceptionally fine coke. When the stash ran out, Pop and one of the girls drove off to an apartment to score more when a gang suddenly burst into the room with loaded guns shouting, “everybody freeze!” Iggy then found a barrel pointed at his temple until they realised who he was and let them both go. Another lucky escape.
6. Iggy’s maniacal stage performances had impressed a famous Ford Agency model named Bebe Buell who was the girlfriend of musician Todd Rundgren. Around the release of Raw Power, Iggy found himself asleep on valium in their bath as it overflowed into the rooms downstairs. On inspection, Iggy was found with Bebe’s two dogs cuddled into his shoulders. He had fed them both valium too. All three of them survived drowning.
7. In a desperate attempt to get off heroin, Iggy’s parents helped him switch over to a form of methadone called Dolophine. Following a relapse one afternoon, Iggy was chased by cops whilst driving for over 7 blocks before crashing his car directly into a tree whilst traveling down a one way street the wrong way. When the cops busted him he fell out of the car door and was taken to hospital and tested. There was so much cocaine in his system that it had cancelled out the alcohol and didn’t register him being over the legal limit.
Ph: Getty / Michael Ochs
8. Iggy once avoided death by gas explosion once after quite an impressive incident found by Danny Sugarman, as quoted in his book Wonderland Avenue:
“After we scored, we hurried to Wonderland. That’s when we found Iggy. Actually, we saw the mess first. We couldn’t have missed it if our eyes had been closed: we would have smelled it, we would have stepped in it. It began at the front door and continued down the hall: chicken bones, egg shells and crayons. The volume of garbage increased as we neared the kitchen. Crusts of wholewheat bread, Saran wrap out of the box unrolled across the floor, coming to rest at a broken mayonnaise jar, more broken eggs. The refrigerator was face-down against the bar counter, contents spilling and dripping out. The toaster was flipped over and open and there were three burnt slices of toast, cold, inside. The oven door was open and on top, all four pilot lights were out. Nothing was lit. The house reeked of gas. Had we decided at that moment that we wanted a cigarette and lit a match, we would have created a crater on Wonderland Avenue. And there on the floor, not more than six inches away from a broken jar of Skippy crunchy peanut butter, face down and bare-ass naked, lay my hero and friend. Iggy had pulled similar Cat in the Hat type stunts before, but never this severe.”
9. Just this week Iggy Pop was the victim of an internet death hoax. “On Thursday (April 20th, 2017) the singer’s reps officially confirmed that Iggy Pop is not dead. He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the internet,” they said. To be fair, this is of the less dangerous threats to Iggy’s life. But he still survived.
Raise a glass to one of the remaining legends in the rock n’roll game on his 70th birthday. The music scene today and everything in between that is savage would not have been the same without his influence.
Watch the documentary Danny Says. It’s an amazing story where Iggy’s early career in the Stooges features heavily.
Pick up the book, Total Chaos by Jeff Gold book. Highly recommended.
Read Wonderland Avenue by Danny Sugarman, it’s an incredible story of his life around the carnage of Iggy and LA rock stars in the 70s.
Simon Bernacki frontside wallrides the TBS DIY. Photo: Tim Smith.
For skateboarders in the Northern Hemisphere, the start of the year can feel like the end of the world. An existential and meteorological downward spiral, deepened if you spent last summer somewhere markedly better. But then trips are excitedly planned across chaotically duplicate social media platforms through April and May; a glut of adventure from June to early September; then the stomach-tightening disappointment as nights lengthen and tarmac dampens. The cyclical woe ramped right up in 2016. Brexit’s ‘fuck you, footloose citizen of the world’ followed by the fever dream turned reality of President Donald J Trump make escape more necessary than desirable.
What if, in 2017, we took something back from our travels, improving our hometown environments, the rest of our active lives and the lives of younger generations? Last summer, my friends and I visited Copenhagen and Malmö for the third time. This year, it would be nice to reduce the contrast between away and home. Fortunately, the relatively small Swedish city provides a lodestar for UK skate scenes demoralised by generational churn and municipal hostility. Most impressively, Malmö’s skaters have demonstrated what we already know to be true: skateboarding is an incredible tool for creating and maintaining active and engaging public spaces, a free spectacle for participants and bystanders, encouraging a sense of shared-ownership over the city and its public realm. Politicians in the UK invest millions trying to ‘engage’ young people, to encourage a sense of community, to increase physical activity, and to bridge the generational divide – skateboarding does all this for free.
Zombie Stu getting some at Steppeside DIY. Photo: Simon Bernacki.
Malmö is a modern skateboarding phenomenon. The 2016 final of the Vans Pro Skatepark Series was not hosted in sun-kissed California, but in a frequently rainy upper corner of northern Europe. The city features in videos from sportswear giants, ordinary Joe’s and several documentaries (with a school within the indoor skatepark attracting particular interest) and is, of course, headquarters to Polar Skateboards. Copenhagen, over the bridge, attracts attention for similar reasons: huge, well-designed public skateparks, indoor parks and global events; flourishing DIY scenes; rippers attracting the biggest of sponsors; and energetic cadres of long-time skaters who have convinced their local authority of the wider benefits of all of this.
Malmö is a more unlikely story than the Danish capital. It’s much smaller – similar in size to Nottingham. It also experienced the sharp-end of de-industrialisation and the fragility of neo-liberal redevelopment. Just as Nottingham lost thousands of skilled blue collar jobs with the fall of textiles and heavy industry in the 1970s and 1980s, Malmö’s largest employer, shipbuilding, went into free fall. Both cities looked to the financial and business services for a ‘knowledge led’ recovery. This proved just as vulnerable to global headwinds, as Malmö was particularly hard hit by the Swedish Financial Crisis of the early 1990s. A visitor from the North of England in the mid-1990s would have observed familiar symptoms of urban blight.
Now, five years after the Occupy Movement and nine years after the Global Financial Crisis, Malmö is an optimist’s poster child for intelligent and inclusive regeneration. And, would you believe it, skateboarding has played an important role. Malmö’s development (aided by small things like building a university and a bridge to Copenhagen) is due to more than skateboarding, but when investment ran in, the local skaters were already at a sprinting start. With nowhere in winter other than an indoor carpark, they formed a club. As membership grew, the City took notice and provided an abandoned school for a mini-ramp, and then the much larger former brewery site for an indoor park, and the non-profit Bryggeriet was born. Competitions built capacity such that, when the Council agreed to support a ‘destination’ skatepark to spearhead the regeneration of the old ship-building area, Bryggeriet worked with a team from Portland to ensure user expertise nibbled into the marrow of the project. The result was the incredible Stapelbäddsparken, which drew Quicksilver to relocate the Bowlriders European Cup in 2006. By this time, Pontus Alv had released his first video, ‘Strongest of the Strange’, broadcasting to the world that parks and events were the tip of an iceberg that encased a street and DIY scene, which in turn helped kickstart the global proliferation of the ‘crete-and-hope’ ethos, as well as the verb “to charge”.
The wonderful Stappelbadsparken park shot by Andrew Cullen.
When Quicksilver withdrew from skateboarding, Bryggeriet together with the City took over. Malmö’s annual Ultrabowl was given a budget to: “put Malmö on the map, and help develop a relationship with the skaters for other projects.” Even more incredibly, the Council considers skateboarding within its strategy to ensure public spaces are well used, and co-brands Skate Malmö with the skaters. Among other things, Skate Malmö officially encourages skateboarders to visit the city, something that eluded Philadelphia in Love Park’s heyday as a global skate magnet.
Forensic skate archivists will trace much of the above to Phil Evans’ ‘Coping Mechanism’ and recent interviews with Gustav Edén, one time Unabomber rider and now Skateboard Coordinator for the City of Malmö. Gustav was generous with his scarce time and responded to our questions, exploring factors that may enable British skaters to have the confidence and sense of agency to act on Malmö’s inspiration.
The foremost questions are: can lessons from Malmö be applied in the UK? Is hard work and a can-do attitude more important than the serendipity of living in progressive Sweden? Malmö City did not always regard skateboarding so favourably, once seeing it in similar terms to many UK Local Authorities: a ‘nuisance’; young men making noise and wasting time. Gustav argues that Malmö’s skaters’ attitude and ambition were as important in changing perceptions as the successful hosting of global events: “the City supported the development of the skate-organisation and helped it grow. The City gave skaters a chance. That’s half the story. Perhaps more crucial… is that the skaters here realised they had to be a good partner to the City. They realised they had to give the city value for their investment.”
Our experience in the UK is often characterised by Local Government hostility (in Kettering, Norwich, Birmingham, Sheffield and other towns and cities where bans have existed for years or have recently been implemented). However, we have to be honest and admit to often choosing a passive role. We lobby councils to pay for skateparks; we launch online petitions to fight bylaws and save skatespots. Rarely do we tell the town hall what we will do in return… and then go out and deliver it. Though successful skater-led UK campaigns often argue that skateparks may reduce anti-social behaviour, or increase physical activity – little is usually done to ensure that “may” becomes “will.” There are many brilliant exceptions, such as Frontside Gardens, the work of John Cattle and Wight Trash, Ash Hall and Sheffield’s Skateboard School, and, of course, Long Live Southbank.
I’m generalising, but the point stands and Gustav concurs: “Skate organisations often (not always) forget to shift the focus to what they can do for the city and how this can help them grow, rather than just thinking about what the city can do for them. The skaters in Malmö have been a strong, driven partner for the city. For a community development department, this is a godsend. Someone wanting to do something and actually being able to deliver. That is a crucial part of the Malmö story.”
A common fear is that officialdom inevitably ruins the cool of skating, wrecking the credibility of skaters amongst their own communities. We are currently struggling with this trade-off in Nottingham. I found myself farcically misquoted in our local newspaper, “jump up” instead of “kicker”, alongside the depressing old chestnut placing street skating within the gamut of anti-social behaviour – when skateboarding is the most supportively ‘social’ thing in most of our lives. In skateparks we socialise with people exactly like us, rather than negotiating space with other users of the city. If 2016’s tale of political and social upset is one of old against young and the educated against the left-behind, actually sharing space and interacting with different kinds of people is more important than it’s ever been.
Notts crew at Steppeside. Photo: Andrew Cullen.
Malmö’s skaters learned that hosting events ordinary people could appreciate and engaging with the public via skate schools actually benefited the core scene: “The idea from Bryggeriet has always been to deliver above the expectations of the City, as well as staying true to the skate scene.” Perhaps it’s the Scandinavian tendency to approach even the most casual thing with an enviable mix of extreme seriousness and whimsy, but the proof is in the pudding. Malmö has one of the corest, most aesthetically fucking cool scenes on earth – not just the best known company, Polar, but also Post, Hats, Details, Poetic Collective and the visual output of Bryggeriet and Skate Malmö themselves (helped by master-videographers-in-residence like Phil Evans). The skaters have managed to nurture a successful, expansive and civically-minded ‘skate destination’ and grow a cool-as-all-hell sub-culture. Gustav described global events like the Vans final as “the result, not the instigator” of this year-long scene.
This has wider impacts for the arts and youth culture. We spoke to Street Lab skateshop big-popper Rasmus Sjölin, who told us a little about the social buzz the Malmö skate scene produces. Even relatively little things like a DIY build at the famous TBS spot can end in a street party spilling from the bar round the corner from Street Lab, whilst local hotels, shops and venues all recognise the benefits visiting skaters bring. Gustav added that the type of person attracted to the characteristics of skating (not a team sport, unstructured, intergenerational) can have a genuinely life-changing experience that leads to connected interests and skills from “a network that permeates every walk of life in the city.” And for older people already sold hook-line-and-sinker, the rich skate scene attracts them and their families to move to the city – bringing their skills, interests and creative ideas. The OG street spot now on my ‘favourite on earth’ list after several afternoons this summer, known as ‘Svampen’ by the locals, is overlooked by Malmö Art Centre, directly illustrating these permeations.
Malmö Harbour. Photo: Simon Bernacki.
As a counter-balance to encroaching ‘sportification’ from the Olympics and the sportswear brands, Malmö’s skaters have ensured that their events emphasise the cultural crossovers of skating, with Ultrabowl and the Vans championship being closer to city-wide music or art festivals, rather than singularly big corporate events. The Malmö scene has also helped pioneer the greatest antidote to dumb-ass, alpha males: as many women and girls are encouraged to skate as possible, and then those who get good are supported – just as you would with male skaters. Recent upstart brand Poetic Collective proudly support Sarah Meurle front and centre in their team: in the UK only Lovenskate have the guts to strongly back (fellow Kalis obsessive) Lucy Adams. And power to them: it’s (early) 2017 people – the 1950s live on only in Trump’s inner circle of porcine Breitbart comb-overs.
We’ve so far skirted around the biggest of big things: Malmö’s advocacy of the positive role of street skating. This provides a real-life example to accompany the theory that street skating uses public space in an engaging and inclusive way, contributing to a town or city’s “collective symbolic capital”: the things that make it unique and attractive. Visitors aren’t drawn to the ten-a-penny high-street (unsurprisingly in terminal decline), where the design (and merging) of public and commercial space explicitly steers them towards either retail or work in Iain Borden’s analysis, but to imaginative, lively spaces created by the people who live there.
TBS DIY in all its post-industrial glory. Photo: Simon Bernacki.
Ocean Howell demonstrated this in the tragi-comic story of Philadelphia in the early 2000s, whilst warning that skaters could become the unwitting foot soldiers of gentrification, useful in reclaiming unutilised space but ultimately expendable when the fruits of their labour raises the real estate value. A more sustainable situation, where skaters are neither vilified or exploited – where they are “good partners” to the city – is the long game Malmö seems to have nailed. From recent news that Hull aims to be the UK’s first genuinely skate friendly city (designing street skating into, rather than out of, new public space), it is perfectly possible in our hometowns too. But Kettering shows that the reverse can still happen. A punitive townhall seals the generational divide in law: not only does skateboarding in Kettering carry a £1,000 fine, being younger than 18 during certain times is similarly punished. Hull, European City of Culture in 2017, says to its residents: “this city is yours, activate it.” Kettering instead opted for inevitable population ageing and the calcification of civic space.
This isn’t just about skating, it’s about positive micro-action. The unspeakable horror of Big Politics in 2016 may continue all the way into 2017 if Marine Le Pen’s resurgent National Front aren’t stopped at the ballot box. The urban theorist David Harper, in calling for a new fight for our collective ‘right to the city’, remarks that, “while big fights might seem unwinnable, small victories can lead to bigger ones.” In Gustav’s view, skating’s success in Malmö has been part of the city’s wider success as a place to live, be young and grow older. If we want our hometowns to benefit us economically and socially, we need to stop seeing skateboarding in separation. In times of tight local budgets, our cities need us as much as we need them.
How low can a punk get? It obviously depends of course on state of mind, drug use, religious beliefs and fame and fortune to start with, but let’s digress for a second and introduce H.R to those who may not know him. Paul “H.R.” Hudson, aka Joseph I, is the unique frontman of the legendary and explosive hardcore band, Bad Brains, whose rise to fame in the 1980s saw them travel the world to perform their bone crunching music to thousands. H.R’s presence on stage is unforgettable. Whether he is screaming from the bottom of his soul to thrashing 200mph riffs or singing sweet dulcet Rastafarian tones over dope basslines, this enigma was born to emit electrifying energy to others that can be deeply infectious. Only a chosen few can say that they fronted arguably, the best live punk rock band of all time.
I’m slightly biased here, as my 16 year old self decided to travel to the Marquee Club on Tottenham Court Rd in London back in 1989 to see them play on the ‘Quickness’ Tour. Bad Brains were the first legit hardcore band I had ever witnessed play live and their sheer sonic force and insane energy just ripped the place apart. Bodies flew off the stage all night long, beer was thrown everywhere, H.R was backflipping – someone even dived off the balcony. I had discovered hardcore from the kings of the scene, directly from the inner sanctum, instantly inspiring me to form my own band. They were that influential.
As Bad Brains grew in popularity, H.R’s erratic behaviour rose with it causing chaos within the band’s touring and recording schedule but his character was so compelling that his actions were not seen to be anything other than avant-garde to some. It took a while for those close to him to realise that maybe his abnormal social behaviour was actually out of his control and caused by a legitimate illness such as schizophrenia. This is the subject that forms the basis of this amazing documentary made by director James Lathos. As a lifelong Bad Brains fan, Lathos spent a lot of time with H.R in the US and Jamaica over the space of 10 years and decided to piece together this documentary without any prior experience of film making. A task that on reflection is an accolade in itself as his work sucks you in and turns you upside down revealing a detailed and personal inside view of the band’s struggle to keep their frontman focused throughout serious illness.
The film takes you through the early years of the Hudson family and their movements around the world from birth in Liverpool, England to Kingston, Jamaica, leading to various locations across America to their home in Washington DC, where the two Hudson brothers, Earl and Paul would meet guitarist Gary Miller (aka Dr Know) and bassist Darryl Jennifer. Strangely, both band members decided not to contribute to the documentary at all, leaving the sound bites to Earl Hudson, Bad Brains’ manager Anthony Countey, Positive Force founder Mark Andersen, Dischord’s Ian MacKaye, various members of Sublime, 311, Living Colour, Fishbone and many others, but for once, no Henry Rollins or Dave Grohl! In fact many key hardcore luminaries who we thought would be present in this flick discussing the good old days were not present.
In reflection though, Lathos’ followed H.R’s journey as a solo singer in the many collaborations and reggae projects that he formed around the US that toured Europe during the late 1980s and 90s. A mission that wasn’t all about survival, but a quest to find inner peace and happiness through leaving behind the somewhat negative, in-your-face force that punk rock is famed for. H.R struggled with this aggression and much preferred the more heartfelt, soulful Rasta vibes of reggae and dub leading him on various paths to write music with many other musicians within the genre.
The director depicts H.R as a Shaman who drifted in search of new musical directions without managing to pay a single electric bill in his life. A deeply religious man who only needed a bed and bible but whose illness eventually lead him to homelessness. Sadly, his schizophrenia became so unbearable that one questioned whether he knew if he was actually on stage performing or not. Lathos’ goes deep into the dark side of the singer’s mental instability in true documentary form making uncomfortable viewing with H.Rs personal archive of self filmed footage confirming that he was stuck in his own hallucinogenic world. But from the depths of despair there is always light and the scene that explains the purchase of a white limousine, his wonderfully bizarre outfits and that unforgettable grin are quick to soften the blow!
From the incredible unseen live footage to learning how H.R invented the word ‘mosh’ from his Jamaican patois chants, ‘Finding Joseph I’ takes you on an inside journey through the success and turmoil of H.R and Bad Brains confirming why they’re included for induction into the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For a debut production in the world of music documentaries, Lathos’ film will go down as one of the best you will see within the hardcore scene. I literally cannot believe we managed to see the very first screening that H.R himself has not even seen yet, so thank you Doc’n Roll Film Festival for the opportunity. Apparently there was so much archive interview footage that a book will also be published next January, but as the director mentioned on the night at the Q&A, it’s too early to tell what Small Axe Films will be doing in terms of releasing it online or on DVD yet but it will happen. For now, watch the trailer and get yourself some PMA.
Photo: Zac (Unseen photo of HR backstage at the Astoria, London 2007)