French Interview

Richard Sayer, also known as French is a skateboarder originally from Aldershot, Hampshire here in the UK whose passion for drawing has been documented and sought after worldwide. He wears what could well be a german war helmet when he has to wear a lid and slips and slides around the place as if he is carrying an Excalibur!

This beastly attitude that he applies to his skating can be seen in his incredible illustrations. Although a steady hand is needed to perfect these skills, his knowledge of the history of darkness, war and terror are essentially what make up the striking attitude of his work on record sleeves and skateboard graphics. Zac and Zombie ask the questions in the same month that Real Skateboards launched a limited edition deck titled the Oval Remix doused in French’s artwork.

When was your first drawing?

I dunno, scribbles as an infant? I used to draw soldiers shooting Nazi’s well Germans. I loved all this war as a kid.

Last drawing?

I just drew a t-shirt design for Grim at Freestyle Skateshop in Newport. It’s an Executioner drawing.

Fave skate graphic of all time?

I think it’d have to be the Jim Phillips Santa Cruz graphic, Ross Goodman Grave Digger. It was my 1st ever proper board in 91 from Surrey Skateboards. I wanted it for so long and after my Dad saw that I was serious about skating he bought me it for my birthday. I actually have one again now still in the vinyl rap. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. It’s all things that skate graphics should be. The colours are amazing, it’s kind of simple, runs the whole length of the board and has a top graphic of a skeleton coming out of a coffin.

Worst skate graphic of all time?

God there are so many over the years…. especially now as well. I think may be anything Alien Workshop since about 97…..they just lost it and they look like an organic toothpaste tube design. Also the boards are shaped like banana’s.

No 1 from your personal fave illustrations

1. This is the Freestyle design I’ve just done for Grim. I think this is one of the things that I love best about working with people on the same level. Grim’s a good lad, as are all the Newport skaters and he asked me to draw shop shirt and I did ask what he wanted? He just said you know us, anything. Well I do know them, but I think if I did something like that they’d never sell any and they’d get seized by the Police for obscene publications. So an Executioner and Axes it was and Grim wanted a Creature style green for it. I’m stoked on the way it came out.

Essential Zombie film?

Zombie Nosh!

Texas chainsaw massacre one or two?


Have you ever thought about being a school art teacher?

I started on a Pgce course at ULU to become an art teacher. I lasted about 4 months, I liked teaching , but teachers are hypocritical idiots and I just didn’t feel right telling students to do things I didn’t agree with. Also the problem is that all the things the government and a bunch of funny old art teachers just wanna teach really have no relation to building skills or have anything that is true art. I just thought it was nonsense so I just thought for my morals I had to leave it. So I went and worked in CIDE full time for Badger and Greg and worked on my drawing….

Ah, so that’s why CIDE went bust!?

You cheeky bastard!! The shop fucked up after I left… I guess it’s ‘cos I did work there 6-7 days a week for a year… and I was meant to be working 3 days a week!

OK, try this one, what is THE skateboard company of all time in your opinion?

I would have to say SMA in 91 -93. Mate SMA Debunker video is amazing. Alan Petersen, Karma, Nick Foster and Corey Chrysler made me realise that I wanted to skate forever. They just made it look raw and exciting. Also at the time the video was pretty out there with all the film clips etc It could also be 151? It’s difficult…. i think it’d change over time.

No.2 from your personal favourite illustrations?

2. This a drawing I did a while ago for a Suburban Bliss shirt, as a shirt it’s not coloured and I actually use it as a business card. I just coloured it for a limited Edition “Early Griffin” print that will be on sale at Analogue in Edinburgh. I’m really proud of the line work and detail in this one. I really can’t believe it actually worked out as well as it did. Loads of people had said they find it a little scarey, I don’t see it myself. Each to their own I guess?

Obscure thrash band(has to be before 1990 and can’t be signed to Roadrunner)?

Acid Reign or Re-Animator.

The one and only fruit?


Fave trick in your box?

Backside 50-50’s on curbs at the underground car park in Farnborough.

and someone else’s?

Craig Questions Heel-blocks.

When are you going to get rid of your girlfriend and start pushing mongo?!

Never, never ever will I push mongo….fuck me Zombie get over the Mongo thing. Shit-footer!

Raddest skater award goes to:

Corey Chrysler.

Worst Skatepark of all time:

All skateparks have something to offer, I don’t think there’s a skatepark that doesn’t have at least one part I enjoy. There’s nowhere I won’t go if I’m near and keen for a skate.

Third fave personal illustration?

3. Paralow This is gonna be a Pointer Footwear shirt. The brief was a child hood hobby. The other people that made drawings for it were a little different. Marcus Oakley made his about climbing trees, Nick Taylor drew this little monster puppet. But for me, I was so into Commando’s, the SAS, Soldiers and playing war when I was a kid. I loved it!! I really wanted to be in the SAS the whole time I was a kid, it used to get comics like “Commando“, “Battle” and “Victor“. “Charlies War” was a favourite of mine for sure. I really wanted this drawing to look like it’s come straight out of one of those publications and I really feel that it has.

Top 5 bands and albums of all time and why?

Ozzy Osbourne – “No Rest for the Wicked” . It’s got loads of amazing riffs and songs on there, ” Breaking all the rules is amazing and it hold a lot of good memories of my friend Pete who past away through solvent abuse, it reminds me of all the fine times we had. It also reminds me of living with Alan Glass, running round the house playing air guitar with badminton rackets.

Bolt Thrower – “IV Crusade” It was the 1st death metal album I ever owned or heard. My brothers friend gave it too me and at the time I’d only heard things like Iron Maiden and Slayer, and then this world of brutal death metal opened up to me with one cassette of wonder. Shit… listening to “this time it’s war”
still makes me remember all the reasons why I love death metal.

Deep Purple – “Burn”. I love Deep Purple and for anyone who thinks ” oh! But without Ian Gillan they weren’t that good and Smoke on the water is the best” are dick heads. The best thing about Deep Purple was Jon Lord’s keyboards. I think they rule..up to about ’79 they were amazing. Songs like “Burn” “Sail Away” and “A200” are sick. Burn is a total winner, good blues style, killer riffs and crazy keyboards. Also you have to listen to Deep Purple on vinyl…. this record was made for it and sounds best on it.

Sepultura – “Beneath the Remains”. All Sepultura after “Arise” is pony. I’m not discussing it, it’s a fact. But this is the best album I love it. The drums are just so pounding and the vocals are the best they had I reckon. Also the production was finally not so shit you couldn’t hear it and not over produced. Also the cover artwork is amazing, my brother used to have the poster in his room when I was at school, I was always jealous. “Primitive Future” is brilliant. I’m not explaining it…go buy it. Don’t download it go buy it on cassette or record.

Putrid Pile – “The Pleasure in Suffering.” As a one man death metal band go, this is the best band I know. I love others like Viral Load, but this is really the cream of it. The vocals are sick, and the riffs are cutting. I swear if they were an object they’d be a circular saw cutting through a mass of zombies. Its amazing….so far this year it’s the best thing I’ve bought.

What you hate most about modern art?

Art work without any actual skill. I have a degree in art, I understand the conceptual side. But I think if there’s no actual refined skill involved it can go swivel.

4th fave personal illustration?

4.This Wizard drawing represents a really proud moment for me. I drew it originally for my friends zine, and then Uniqlo asked if they could use it for a t-shirt and paper carrier bags for the shop. I was cool with that, but it didn’t realise how big a company they were until I saw about 5 people in five minutes with the bag in the centre of town. I guess the the fact they made 250 thousand bags and sell the shirts in all their stores in the USA, Japan, France and UK. So to see my work all over like that as a really proud moment.

Best corpse?

The Hell’s angel dude that appears in all the Romero zombie movies.

Best skate travel story?

I don’t just have one, but from about 12 all the guys I grew up skating with were allot older than me. Brow was the closest to my age at 19. Every weekend I used to skate to his house for 11am on the Saturday morning and Grill, Rat, Chas, Munt, and Dunc used to meet up and as they all drove we’d hit up loads of spots, parks all over the country. ‘Cos they were older my Mum would “let them look after me” but we they used to taking me skating all day, punch me and shit ‘cos I was the grom. Force me to learn tricks and them in the evening taking me to pubs and parties…often Brow would tell girls I was his son and they had to guess how old I was.

This happened every weekend and by the time I was 16 I’d skated most city’s and parks in the country and seen most things that other people my age would get until they were at Uni. Munt, Dunc and Brow used to force me to skate stuff, drink till I threw up, spit on my grip tape and punch me ….I used to think it was a little unfair. But Dunc explained “it’s character building”…

OK let’s have your 5th?

5. Nun. I used to really love this drawing, but I kinder hate it now. Its one people either really love or hate. I drew it for Sperm at Terror Skateboards. But I made prints of it, it’s become one of those drawings that people seem to feel I only draw like this and theres not much more to me than horrorm Blasphemy and guts….which obviously I like this kinder thing but I love to draw other things as well and this is just one string to my bow.

Worst thing about skateboarding?

Slams, back pain, getting old and rain.

Best thing about skateboarding?

Friends, Road trips, Frontside grinds.

So, let’s finish on your latest graphics for Real Skateboards. How did you get involved in the project?

I got an email from Jim at Real asking me if I wanted to do an Oval remix board. I know Jim from when I was working at Shiner. He’s a really nice guy, he even let me skate his ramp in San Fran the last time I went out and showed me and my friends around the Deluxe office and warehouse. He’s totally in it for skating and skaters. I think he asked me ‘cos he feels sorry for me? I dunno…. but it’s definately a massive high point in my illustration career.

Have you skated many Real boards before?

Yeah… fucking loads. The 1st one I had was years ago, around ’93 the slick with Salmon Agah dressed as a fairy. All the older guys I grew up skating with were well into deluxe and obviously I got into Real and Deluxe through them. I had this sick Ben Liversedge board and learnt f/s flip outta this curb cut in Farnborough I though I was him or something. They’ve always had the best wood, the best riders and amazing videos. I mean look at the team now?

What made you choose your final choice graphic?

I dunno, I had this idea for the Knight ages ago and I wanted to draw it. I just drew it and then emailed to Jim… who told me to “stop being a fag” and just draw something I was stoked on on. So I finished it off and I am really proud of this one. It works as a board and as a overall drawing before its cropped to the size of a board. But it’s good and bold and I hope it’ll sell. Well, at least I know 2 people that’ll buy it, Munt and Bingo, the 2 people who are so into Real.

How long does a graphic like this take from start to finish and whats the full process from sketch to delivery?

It really depends on the drawing, the company and what its for. I guess with board graphics. Its anything from a day to a month? I usually start with an idea andf I find other references, like images from the internet or in books and then draw the idea together in a very loose pencil sketch way. They I go over the sketch, erasing parts and redrawing the lines with more precition and attention. Often adding allot of detail. I’ll draw the text / logo seperately and then piece the drawing and the text together on the computer and send it over as a rough sketch of what the final design will look like. Often I’lll have changes to make, so when it’s all good, I’ll ink in the drawing and text seperately, adding more detail and shades, scan it and then add colours. Usually piece the text and drawing together and then crop it into a board shape. With the Real board I think the pencil period took like 2 days, inking and colour took another 2 maybe 2 and half? But I’ve had drawings for boards that have taken like a week and a half weeks to draw and the same to ink.

What skateboard company would you like to work with next?

Man, thats really tough? I dunno, I think I’ve done my top 3? I mean Creature was amazing to do work for, Zero were rad as well, no one can say they didnt like Zero when “Thrill of it All” came out. I really loved that video and Real is just the icing on the cake. The one company in skating I really would kill to just draw anything for is Independent, shit the bed, I’ve been 100% indy for so long and have proper Indy pride so it’d be sick to do something for them…

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