‘Gorgeous’ Dave Watson Interview

Words: Joe Moynihan
Photos: Andrew Belson

Have you ever arrived at a skate spot, and felt like you’re not alone? The ever so gentle, rolling sound of urethane slowly eradicating itself upon smooth concrete, haunting you, and making you feel slightly uneasy?

Well, chances are, at least if you happen to be in a certain fuchsia coloured car park in Essex, that it’s none other than young David Watson. Lurking away in the shadows, only to come out of nowhere and probably pop a switch flip over your head, which, more than likely will have more style to go with it than an absoludicrously well trained, shape-throwing ninja could ever demonstrate.

Besides the surrounding enigma, Dave is a rad guy who is just having as much fun as he can with skateboarding. So if you ever hear that sound of someone hard at lurk in a multi-storey, it might just be him, and you should go and chill with Dave. He’s the home of witty banter. I managed to catch up with him over these cold winter nights, and talk about the usual stuff – smashing in vans, bongos, being gorgeous, warehouses and chiefing infinite refills from burger king, you know, stuff like that. Watch your backs…

The beginning is generally a good place to start, what made you first pick up a skateboard?

I think the first time was when I was about 13 I guess. Some mates of mine were heading down Rom skatepark on bikes and rollerblades. I didn’t have a bike or a pair of rollerblades so I found some old Toys-R-Us board in my shed and took that. Just so I could go and see this ‘ROM’ place. I got there tried to roll down a bank and probably received the first of many Rom inflicted grazes to come. I think that my first day skating at Rom kind of put me off, as after that I didn’t skate again until gone fourteen! That park was scary.

So at what point did you realise that you weren’t going to put that skateboard down again?

Second time round me and a mate were bored of playing football and basketball, so I decided to get my board out again and I was hooked. We’d take turns trying to ‘jump’ on it, I think we had seen someone do an ollie on that previous trip to Rom a while back – couldn’t believe it was possible – didn’t even know what it was called till a few weeks after we got the hang of it, ha! We basically skated round the local area for few months, the library two stair was the place to be. I think I got my first magazine, Thrasher, from Wham! in Lakeside. I realised what a proper skateboard was and got one for Christmas! I was well happy with that, a Black Label deck, Indy trucks and some abec seven bearings – I was really into the ‘abec7’ rating back then for some reason. Haha.

Weren’t we all? Haha. Essex isn’t exactly renowned for it’s wide array of skateable terrain, what sort of spots was you skating when you first started out?

I was living in Ockendon at this point. We basically just skated flat ground at the library. It had some really small curbs and couple of steps, it was amazing, cardboard boxes to ollie over and all sorts. After about six months my mates gave up, by then I had found the Lakeside car parks, which are about a 15 minute skate from my house. So no matter what the weather was like I was always down there. I even met my mate Dan Charley there, he was older than me, so I kind of learned a lot things from him to start off with. I started going back to Rom every weekend, couldn’t skate it at all but kept going back for some reason.

What exactly IS so special about Lakeside? I don’t even know and I somehow end up skating there at least 5 times a week.

I probably would have given up when my other mates did if I didn’t realise it was there. It helped me progress with learning tricks a lot. I met a few other skaters down there who were all older than me by a good few years. They all had cars and I ended up going skating with them down at this park in Sevenkings, nice, smooth floor and lots of different stuff to skate. I skated there any time I could, used to bunk the train all the way there from Ockendon if no one was driving. We had some really good sessions at the weekends with my mates, Paul, Lou, Sanger, Grant and Dan. It was rad skating there. I skated there for a good year and a bit, but if I weren’t there I was normally in those lakeside car parks skating the flat or just here and there.

Where did the name ‘Lakeside Ghost’ emerge from’? You don’t look or act like a ghost, surely ‘Lakeside Lurker’ would have worked for connotation and alliteration purposes alone.

Well, I suppose I used to skate there so much at first, I would be down there and I’d see some other skaters I didn’t know. I wasn’t exactly very confident with talking to people or anything like that, so I guess I would keep my distance and skate on the other side of the car park or the floor above. In that respect, I was always the kid hanging round in the shadows like a weirdo or a ‘ghost’. Because I was always there every time people skated, it must have seemed like I was haunting the place haha. I didn’t realise people were calling me that for ages until a while after. I’m not some sort of weirdo, honest!

How did you get involved with Clown?

I used to see Simon Skipp around now and then. I think Russell at Hoax had just started helping me out with boards and other stuff. He was a lifesaver as before I was just riding the most haggard setup. The same deck for months and months, a wheel falling off more or less every week. I think Skipp had seen me about few times skating down Rom maybe. I got talking to him about the MFI spot one time and that was probably the first time I spoke to him. I didn’t see him about for a while and randomly bumped into him at Romford train station one night and he just said he’d help me out with boards. I started skating with him a bit round Romford at weekends. A few months later, Kev Parrot came back from Australia and I went on a trip to Barcelona with Skipp, Kev, Bobby, Bailey, Dom, Henry, Tom Ball, James G and Ross McGouran. That was rad, everyone was killing it. I was still a bit intimidated skating with people who were all so damn good. It was fun though.

Clown were rad. Whatever happened with them?

I’m not really sure. I started getting proper Clown packages after the Barcelona trip for a few months and then it just sort of went a bit quiet. I think maybe the bloke that was supposed to be running it got more involved with his music promotions stuff or something. By then I think Benny Fairfax had already left, and Chris Oliver too, so it was a few things like that that meant it had come to an inevitable end. I was always really into Clown long before I started getting boards. Benny Fairfax was my favourite skater when I was younger. I was well happy to be involved, even if just for a little bit before it eventually went under.

I think the first time I met you was in the old Allied Carpets warehouse, practically an infamous skateboarding Mecca in its day. Tell us a couple of stories from there, namely the time you defended the face/faith with your wheely board?

Ah, the MFI Warehouse. That place was so good. Me and a couple of mates found it and got in there. It had a perfect laminate wooden floor, loads of wood around to build stuff, a ready made seven foot kicker, rails, metal edge boxes and manual pads. Someone even got the proper shop lights on. It was seriously a dream. We had this place for a whole winter. There was a Burger King over the road that you could get free refills at so we used to go in there and fill up a litre bottle for free any time we wanted. Things started getting a bit sketchy when some local louts found out about it and had a rave in there one night. We went there one day and the entire place was just soaked in beer, like an oil slick on the floor. It cleared up after a while though I think. They kept on coming back though and one day there was me and a few mates skating and some other younger kids. A few chavs started to try and smash the lights up, leaving loads of glass on the floor and that. We asked them to stop and they did. Well, at least until about ten more of them turned up and started carry on.

We decided it was time to leave because we would just get done in if we told them to stop. As we were all walking out the door, one of ’em started mouthing us off. I swung for him and missed. Haha. Next thing I know another one has ran from behind him, punched me and split my eye open, then all of them flooded out the door and started kicking me on the floor! Some random guy that was there with his girlfriend jumped on all of them, allowing me to get up. I saw the guy who had punched me and smacked him with my board! We all legged it as the guy just flopped – hard. Apparently he broke his jaw, and there was some blood and shit. He went to hospital and everything! After that I couldn’t really skate there as there were always people looking for me. I did go back there a couple of times though. It was ridiculous. They had ‘Dave’s Gonna Die‘ written all over the place! Right, that’s the last time I’m going to tell that story!

How long were they after you for? I’m fairly certain I overheard people looking for you a good few months after…

Well, apparently the guy’s older brother was some kind of wannabe hard nut that kneecapped people and stuff! I basically had to be careful not to go near Grays if I could help it, as, let’s face it; anyone with a skateboard stands out there anyway. Turns out they did beat up a few skaters up because they thought it was me or was involved with the fight. They were just idiots basically, pretty silly stuff. If I went skating down the Lakeside car parks on my own I was always a bit on edge. It’s all fine now though as this was a long time ago now.

‘Gorgeous Dave’. What’s the story behind that?

I think it’s been said that it first came about a couple of years ago. I went to Ipswich for some little comp thing with Skipp, Kev and Nigel. Munson was there and I think they were just shouting abuse at people skating and unfortunately they called me the G word. Since then it just stuck, I think Kev and Skipp are kind of responsible for keeping it going, Powley too, I don’t even know if he knew my actual name at first. It was just ‘gorgeous’. It can be embarrassing at times though – having an older, bald and slightly pervy man calling you gorgeous in front of strangers!

Haha! How did you get involved with Vans?

Well for a while I had been skating with Skipp and trying to film stuff with Kev Parrot quite a lot, kind of seeing if I could get hooked up again. One day Kev just mentioned that Powley was looking for a few flow riders for Vans and said he’d spoken to him about me. I think after he saw some footage, Powley gave me a call and said he’d help me out and that was that. I was well happy with that. Cheers Powley!

The UK Vans team are ripping right now, what’s it like skating with some of those beasts?

Yeah, everyone on there is so good, it’s really sound. I don’t know, I suppose it can be quite intimidating sometimes if you’re at a comp and everyone is skating at this whole other level. It kind of just messes with my head in those situations, like I would just choke. Just a confidence thing I guess. I should sort that out! I don’t know, I really prefer going street skating and seeing what you find and then skating that way. It’s a lot more fun to be out and about in a city or wherever rather than in a park trying to ‘perform’ for people. Don’t get me wrong its good to see people pushing it at comps and that but I’m just not that down with it myself. I think skating is about fun and I prefer skating things that aren’t purposefully built for skating. It’s fun skating with everyone though now and then. Tyreman’s a funny guy.

Who do you tend to skate with the most?

I skate with Skipp and other random people at weekends if I’m trying to shoot photos or whatever. Sometimes a local crew of us head down Dagenham skate park for a little cruise around, then in to London to skate black wallride tunnel and that general area lately. My older friends that I skated with when I was younger have all stopped skating due to work and other ‘grown-up’ duties. Lou and Paul do come out every so often though. Was out with Kev quite regularly but he’s been busy lately with other projects, so I’m just skating with whoever is about really, trying to film whenever I can. Usually different people are off work on different days during the week so I get to skate with someone different like Nigel Davies, and Tom Ball has been out a bit lately, which is good.

I often bumped into you ‘ghosting’ around Lakeside car parks by yourself, I know a few people who for some reason aren’t comfortable with skating alone. As long as you’re skating, it doesn’t matter right?

Yeah, sometimes I prefer skating on my own, especially down Lakeside, like if I think of a trick I really want to learn, I can just go down there and skate and I don’t have to think about anything else. Or if I get stressed out with anything or people are nagging at me I can go there and I know its going to be peaceful and quiet, just depends what mood you’re in I guess. Other times I prefer skating with friends, or just anyone who’s enjoying it.

How was Newquay?

Newquay was really good. I was still having trouble with my knee from when I smashed it in on the first day of the ‘Are We There Yet?‘ tour, so I couldn’t really skate. I tried a bit but after ten minutes or so the pain would kick in from where I was moving it about too much. In the end I was only there for a couple of days. Chris Oliver won I think, Kris Vile skated really well too, everyone did. We were staying at the beach trip hotel which was insane; you can skate on the dance floor and everything! There was a mini ramp in there too! It was good simply to chill on the beach and mill about watching the vert or mini ramp jams then have a little drink later on maybe. Ben Nordberg tricking me into dropping him off at his house in Bath on my way back to London was a bit of a nightmare though. Getting lost in Bumpkin land by myself afterwards with no money, any sense of direction, and then missing the M25 turnoff and heading straight through central London, getting seriously lost whilst my petrol was running out, I just about made it home!

Didn’t you get chucked out a club at one point for playing the bongo on someone’s head? Or was that Kris?

Haha, that was on the Neue, ‘Ride With Us‘ tour, which was a right laugh. We went to some terrible club one night. Well, the club was ok-ish if not a bit empty and a little bit chavvy maybe. We were just having a laugh like you do, I think bongos might have been involved maybe and then next thing I know I’m getting dragged to the back door in a headlock by a bouncer, Tyreman too! Turns out the bouncer thought that I had poured a pint over someone or something; Ollie had tried to sort it out with the bouncer and got kicked out as well! So we’re outside feeling pretty pissed off and bemused, and I think we may have stupidly taken some aggression out on a nearby van. We decided that it must have been was bouncer’s because it was black and A-Team looking.

As we were walking round the front of the club to go home some bouncers grabbed us and got us in arm locks, again. I seriously thought they were gonna kick the shit out of us. They said they had seen us kicking the van on the CCTV and the police were on there way. We just denied everything. So they take us round the front and try and take us inside. All the time the bouncer was telling me they’re gonna kick me in inside the club somewhere. Crapping it! I spotted some of our group and shouted to them to talk to the bouncers. I think someone called Powley and he turned up when the police did and managed to talk sense to them. Meanwhile Ollie had escaped the bouncers only to be kicked in by three scousers on his way back to the hotel! I don’t think bouncers in Newquay particularly like outsiders.

You got a shockingly high nollie flip into a bank captured on that trip. And I’ve seen you switch flip with some sort of demon pop. What’s with those regular flips mate?

Yeah, I don’t know really, I just seem to be able to do some switch things easier than regular. Just swings and roundabouts I guess, its probably just a case of if you can do it just as good or better switch your not gonna do it regular are you? And my kickflops (that’s gotta be typo of the century!) are different every day! Nollie stuff has always been my favourite.

Tell us the story behind the photos you’ve got for this interview.

The ollie is just an ollie that hurt my legs. The nollie bigflip manny is down the road from my house, haven’t really got another manny-bank-pad spot. Not sure if it’s legit or not, bit small, ha ha. Nice metal legs landing! And I just learned frontside wallrides a little while ago and I’m well into them, I know it’s ABD switch at this spot but who cares? I like the photo and it’s my favourite trick right now.

You were at the last Crossfire Southbank Jam yeah? How was it?

I made it to the Southbank Jam. Did Vile win every thing? That one was fun to watch the kids killing themselves, ha ha! And the two forty year olds in the thick of the product toss was hilarious. Proper grappling for the stickers amongst the kids. They looked really stoked as they walked away with an extra small tee shirt between them. I was stuck in Ockendon for the Christmas one because of the trains. I’ve been to a couple though and they’re always good fun, more of a jam vibe and being at Bay Sixty6 there’s a lot more room and more obstacles obviously, so it doesn’t seem as hectic. The one after the park revamp was good fun.

What have you got in store for this year then?

Well skating as much as possible, and hopefully not getting injured at all! Not being in Ockendon too much if I can help it, only to build my top secret bowl spot near my house. Hopefully going away with Vans, going Newquay again at some point, possibly doing something with Santa Cruz and shooting photos and filming as much as I can for a section in Andy Evans‘ next video. Learning some carpentry skills and traveling back and forth to Oxford to see my girlfriend at Uni. Basically just having fun skating.

Drop those shout outs…

Yeah, basically just thanks to everyone who’s ever helped me out, Powley at VANS, Jerome@Shiner for the Santa Cruz and Krux, Zac at SS20. Massive thank you to Simon Skipp for helping me out for the past few years. Kevin Parrot, Russel Cowling for the Hoax stuff back then, Styley, Andy Belson, B-Town Nick, Macy Peach, Dagenham Skatepark, Emily Putz, Lou and Paul for helping me out with things, Grant, Ryan Vear and everyone, Nigel Davies, Dan Charley, Chadwell Heath Dan and Sanger for being hilarious. Just anyone one I’ve ever had fun skating with.