Talking About Money with Mike O’Shea

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“Mikey, my big butt brotha, an authentic individual with a rotund rumpus. A man with the weight of a moon on his back. Posterior monthly’s rear of the year. Yes it’s true that Mike can do really cool doodles, but it’s unfortunate that his raw talent should be so overshadowed by his bell shaped buttocks! Such is the luck of the draw (get it…draw?) in the birth lottery that his undeniable gift as an artist barely gets a look in because of his undeniably god given curves. But he doesn’t believe in God, because he thinks he’s a bit of a berk, not just Christian God either..all of them! What sort of God would gift Mike with a trouser-bursting hump like his and deny the same privilege to his two identical triplet brothers! A God of war! Or a God of phwooaar! Zing!

Anyway, enough butt jokes, Mikey is a breath of fresh air in a sea of pretentious try-hards, he has an in-built default setting for always calling things as he seems them (whether you like it or not) and I believe his authentic approach to life really shines through in his art. Plus it looks fun, like Mike, a fun dude who has a mean bs 360 to boot. I feel honored to have him as a friend and to be able to piggy back on his talent..and he can croon like you wouldn’t believe…plus he can dance. MIKE IS ART! Mike is his butt! Like Totally! Yeah buddy!” – Phil Evans

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Our cartoon correspondent and all round dope doodle cheese Jon Horner talks wonga with this week’s guest…Mike O’Shea.

Let’s start with Lightbox. A lot of how you made the animations is covered in the behind the scenes video, but I was wondering whether you had ideas for scenes you wanted to do before you started working on it, or whether you were reacting to the footage once you saw it?

There were no set plans beforehand, I just knew I wanted to do some sections where one frame animated into the next frame. Other than that I just made it up as I went along. Phil would send me rough edits and ask if I could add stuff in certain parts and I’d just try stuff and send it back to him and go from there. I was getting bits sent to me all the time and we would talk about ideas for it and stuff, but most of the time I didn’t know what it was going to turn out like until I had finished that section. Long story short, it was all about reacting to the footage when I got it.

When did you know what the music was going to be? Everything fit together so perfectly, it’s pretty impressive that there wasn’t some massively elaborate master plan beforehand.

Haha, Maybe Phil had a plan all along and didn’t tell us! It just kind of grew organically I think. Me and Phil are on a similar wavelength so it just kind of worked. It was so easy working with him, he pretty much liked everything I gave him and we seemed to have a very similar view of what we thought worked and what didn’t. I didn’t know what music he was using until he sent me a rough edit for me to work from. Like I said before I couldn’t really do much until I saw the rough edit, I responded to the footage and the music at the same time. I really like Gibbo’s music and I think it fit really well with the whole vibe and that definitely helped when i was drawing my silly pictures. I got super amped on the tunes and it made me want to do some trippy stuff that would work with them smooth beats, ha!

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Have you and Phil worked together before?

Yeah, we have worked on getting a dance floor pumping with our sweet moves but we have never worked on a video project before. Phil got me involved with a group exhibition he was apart of a few years ago, so we kind of worked on stuff together before but not really. We both had work up in the same show but that’s about it until now. We clicked pretty quick and I always really liked his video work and he seemed to like my drawings so it was only a matter of time before we did something like this together, I think he was just waiting for the right project to bring me in on. We had talked about doing something like this for a while and this seemed like the right time to give it a go. I hope we get to team up again in the future, just like they do in the Avengers.

Ha! Which one of the Avengers are you? Which one is Phil?

Hhhmm, good question. Which one keeps them all together? I guess that would be Captain America. Phil is that guy, the nerdy dork that no one likes but without him it would fall apart. I think I would be Ironman because I’m super smart, witty as hell and I have loads of money and sex appeal. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Good choice. And you make things that almost destroy the world.

Haha, hell yeah. That’s me. The key word there is ‘almost’, I also save everyone’s asses. People reading this who don’t know the Avengers aren’t gunna follow this, ah well screw em, those jocks.

It is pretty odd that a huge amount of people now do know who the Avengers are. Ten years ago I don’t think anyone would have seen that coming.

Yeah for sure. Anyway Jon, back to me and my drawings. Jeez. it’s not all about you and your dorky comic book heroes. Why did you bring that up? (I know I brought it up but I thought some tension would be good for the readers, ha!)

Hahaha! Did you read comics much growing up?

I read Spider-man a bit for sure but that’s about it for the American stuff I think. I always liked that guy. I read a lot of the Beano and some Dandy also. Can’t remember too much of it now, but I used to have a stack. Me and my brothers would try and come up with new super heroes all the time. We would all draw a bunch and try and out do each other with the coolest heroes.

You make comics yourself, right?

Not too much, I have dabbled. I did a couple for Eyeball Comix and some small ones for Vice. I want to do some more for sure, I think its fun to mix up what I do. I get bored if I just stick to one way of working. I like to paint, illustrate, animate, make comics, clay sculptures and whatever else I can play around with. This week I have been playing with clay. It’s fun to use your hands and experiment a bit with the stuff rather than just drawing all the time. It’s cool to think in a different way sometimes.

Yeah, I totally know what you mean! It seems like a lot of how you work is really tactile, like you keep computer stuff to a minimum. Is that true? And is it a choice or just how you like to work?

I wish I could keep it even more minimal on the computer front. I’d love it if I never had to use a computer again to create anything but that’s not going to happen. It is very useful and of course it is great for a lot of things, I just don’t like staring at the screen all day.

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Did you go to art school or anything like that?

Yeah man, did all that jazz. Got into debt and learned a little bit, ha. It was good actually but I’m not sure I would go now with all the rises in fees. It’s way to expensive for what you actually get out of it, you spend most of the year off with half terms and summer holidays.

When did you start Highbrow? What made you make the plunge into small business ownership?

Haha, to be honest I’m not sure when I started it, it kind of happened slowly and is now moving even slower! I just wanted to make a bunch of stuff and put it all in the same world, the world of Highbrow. I was starting to make videos and I wanted to make some board graphics that I didn’t think fit anywhere else so i made them for my own thing instead.

So what’s up with it now, is it on a Roger-style hiatus? Got anything planned?

Haha, yeah kind of I guess. I just moved to London so I’m trying to still find my feet here. Once I am settled I think I’ll start doing some more with it. It’s not going to be a proper board company or anything, it’s more of a fun side project I can work on from time to time, you know, put out limited edition boards and shirts and stuff. I am about halfway through filming a new video. Now I’m in the big smoke I hope to get the ball rolling on that a bit more. I’m sure I’ll have something else to go along with that when the video is done.

Also, starting cool, independent, underground board companies is so last week.

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What prompted the move to London? You were in Bristol before, right?

I had enough of the white crusties with dreadlocks and bare feet! I was there for 9 years and one by one a lot of my friends moved to London. I came up to stay with Chris Jones a bunch (yeah I just name dropped, big deal) and he pretty much convinced me it would be a good idea to move here. I don’t think he has many friends, so I have to hang out with him now to make sure he has company, I mean, who likes that guy? Well apart from everyone. Only playing. I luv ya C.J. Now go finish filming your Isle section.

I love London right now, I mean, it’s the honeymoon period so of course I’m loving it. I’m lucky that I have a good crew of friends that live close to me so I don’t have to travel for 2 hours to visit anyone. There’s also really cool stuff happening all the time. It’s hard to stay in and draw when there are exhibitions, book and zine fairs and stuff like that to go to. Also there are loads of new spots for me to skate.

Rad. You’ve done board graphics for the 3 Js (Joe Gavin, Jak Pietryga and Chris Jones), got any more coming soon? Anyone you’d particularly like to work with?

I don’t have anything lined up at the moment. I think it’s time I do one for the double J, Jake Johnson. How cool would that be? Ha. There aren’t too many that I’d like to work with to be honest. It would be cool to do a board for Polar maybe, or Magenta, but I’m not sure if my stuff would fit. Where do you think my vibe would work best? Which company would my drawings fit on?

Maybe enjoi?

Yeah, I think I could maybe do something for them if they were down for it. I like Drehobl’s new series that just came out. Oh and a Krooked guest board would be awesome.

Have you got any other projects in the works?

I don’t have any projects lined up at the moment. I’m just about settled into my new life in London and I’m now in a position where I can start thinking and working towards new things. I am pretty much just doing things for myself at the moment. If anyone is interested in working with me give me a holler, I’m well down for doing some cool stuff.

Do you have a day job then?

Yeah, I have a day job which takes up a fair amount of my time at the moment, but you’ve got to work to pay the bills and London ain’t cheap. I work in a coffee shop in Camberwell called Daily Goods. Most peeps who work there draw and skate including the badass boss ‘Carter’, so I’m in good hands. Pop down for a coffee if you’re ever in the area.

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Do you collect boards or art or anything like that?

Yeah, I have a few boards that I have kept hold of and not skated. I have a Roger deck that I really like, it’s called the Bowl Troll. I also have the first Skate Wizard Polar deck, which Jakke said was the first graphic he drew for them, so that make it even more special for me. Jacob is my boy.

Oh and I have Chris Jones’ first pro board for Crayon. I don’t really like the graphic if I’m honest but when your mate gets his name and face on a board that’s kinda a big deal. Most of them are sentimental I guess. Oh, and I’ve kept one of each graphic I’ve designed in the past.

I collect art and zines from my friends too. We normally do swaps. I give them something and they give me something in return. It’s good to support friends. I have some stuff from Kyle Platts, a few paintings from Jacob Ovgren, Paul Arsecott, Tim Ryan and a bunch of other friends that make cool shit.

Who else’s stuff are you into at them moment? In skateboarding and outside?

Hhhmmm, well to be honest i have not been looking at much artwork at the moment. I find I get too influenced by other people’s work so I’m making a conscious effort to stay away, ha! I want to focus on developing my own stuff and not get side tracked with what other people are doing. Also, I think I’m more inspired by people’s attitudes towards working then their actual work. Like, somewhere who loves to make things and is honest and pure in what they do and just does it because they have to. People’s positive energy for life and creating get me hyped, I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me. All that aside, I really like that cartoon Rick and Morty. Have you seen it? It’s so interesting and goes to some deep places at times but is still just a funny cartoon. It would be pretty damn cool to work on that show I reckon.

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What medium that you’ve never tried would you like to have a go at?

Stand up comedy, that’s an art form right?

Yeah, definitely! How come?

Because I think I’m funny. Ha, well normally when I’m drunk. Oh and I like the attention. A room full of people watching me makes me feel good inside. I’m a bit of an attention seeker sometimes.

No, but I really like stand up comedy and I think it could be an interesting thing to try, or maybe do sketches and weird videos and just put them on YouTube, ha. I mean, I use humour a lot in my artwork and I always wondered if I could translate that to something else other than drawings. But these are just thoughts, I’m in no position to actually try it out. I’m too scared.

Me and Phil Evans send each other little weird videos of us trying to act and stuff from time to time, mostly to make each other laugh. We have talked about trying to make something for the public also, but maybe they are just funny to us. Inside jokes and the like.

Last words…

Try not to be to self conscious about what others might think. Do what makes you happy and enjoy yourself. You don’t have long on this planet so have some fun. Oh, and go dancing in a club, field, bus stop or whenever it doesn’t matter, as long as you are dancing its all good. GO DANCING RIGHT NOW.

Check out Mike’s dancing skills at his site, buy some of his rad shit on his shop and follow his doodles on Insta. Phil Evans’ Lightbox project can be found here.

Now get those teas on mate…

‘Talking About Money’ with Greg Conroy

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The first time Greg Conroy‘s humourous illustrations caught my eye, they brought a wry smile. His simple, but effective artform tells a story, poking fun at skateboarders by highlighting the hypochrisies we are sometimes surrounded by. Our cartoon correspondent Jon Horner was sent to delve into the background of Conroy’s mission, paying homage to George Bernard Shaw who once famously said: “No, I am an artist, not a businessman; businessmen always want to talk about art, but artists only talk about money.”

Let’s start with Suburbs (Gregory’s stream of consciousness style comic about London, dog walking and Toby Shuall). How did that one come about?

Well, I’d just broken up with my ex. We lived together in Zone 1, right by Tower Bridge and I’d moved back to my parents’ on the border of Lewisham and Greater London, so I spent the first few weeks trying to find a local alternative to Southbank. Just somewhere to go and have a roll about. I’d just got a dog too, so I spent most of my days walking around the suburbs looking for spots with the dog. I was always stoked on Toby Shuall’s Head Cleaner section but started watching it obsessively when I moved home. it seemed a lot more relatable to me, back home in my late 20s.

The comic was sort of a visual diary I suppose. I had the thought process that’s in the comic going through my head all the time cos I was always out with the dog and always watching the section. With the other half of the book (that Jeremy Jones contributed to) I wanted something a bit funnier, making fun of the ‘deep stuff’ a bit.

So you were a proper Southbank kid then?

Yup, pretty much. Me, Henry Edwards-Wood and Faris Hassan went to the same school in Lewisham and all started skating the local carpark, then after a year we upgraded to Southbank. I’ve always preferred Shell Centre though. In the mid 2000s it would be ‘let’s skate Waterloo’, and I think its a bit sad that the new generation doesn’t have that. Southbank, Shell, lower Shell and, at a push, pigeon shit banks!

Where did drawing come into it? Was it something that came from skating and skate art or something separate that eventually joined up with skating?

My dad’s an artist (a proper one), and we didn’t have much money so, as a kid, we’d spend all day just drawing and making stuff out of cardboard boxes and paper mache. There weren’t many computer games as a kid, actually we had a black and white telly until the mid 90s. I remember going to a mate’s house and watching colour TV and getting proper tripped out, I thought it was only colour in cinemas! Haha!

My dad got me into it though, he lectured at Goldsmiths in the mid 80s but got laid off. He always encouraged us to draw, I was always super keen on cartoons and my older brother got me into comics early on. When skating came along I sort of fell off drawing religiously and skating became number 1, but it was always there in the background. Then I got back into it again heavily in my early 20s but never really wanted to show anyone. I was a bit embarrassed.

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What sort of things would you draw? I used to obsessively copy Beano characters.

Early on it was Asterix and Obelix and Tintin. We had loads of those books and I used to think they were amazing. I liked the Beano and Dandy but the drawings in Asterix were so great, really solid cartoons, they still stand up today. Then as I got a little older it was copying comics: Green Lantern, Superboy and Robin. I liked the teenage superheros, they had fit girlfriends and were always a bit jack the laddish, which to an 11 year old nerd is sort of the dream. You can tell I was popular at school! Then as I became a lot older, 20s, I got back into cartoons and sort of started to form a ‘style’.

I love the Asterix books! I used to get them at the library when I was younger and now I still keep an eye out for them in second hand book shops.

Yeah you can get so many good books in charity shops, for like 20 pence, I go for a dig once a month or so on the high street. Loads of great children’s books too. Anthony Browne the children’s book writer/illustrator’s work is what really lit a fire under me to get back into drawing in my early 20s.

Oh interesting, why him in particular?

His books can be read on two levels, he writes for a child to understand but there a visual hints and clues to a deeper story for the parent to see as they read. A lot of his books have quite adult content really, class issues and troubled relationships. I like things that have multiple depths and can be viewed simply or with a more significant undercurrent. I’m not sure if that comes off in my cartoons though, I’m sure most people go ‘haha, yeah man I think weed is cool too!’ and I’m thinking noooo, laugh at the stoner, not with him! Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I don’t want to alienate myself from skateboarding entirely, I’m not that dense! Puff away lads! Laugh with the stoner!

Hahaha! What was the process of finding your style like? Your work is really distinctive, was that a deliberate choice or something that sort of just happened?

There’s a guy called Walt Kelly who worked at Disney, he left and started doing a newspaper strip called Pogo which I personally think is the basis for all good cartoons. He’s the Gonz of cartoons. If you look at Robert Crumb’s early stuff as a teenager, im sure he was looking at him loads. And there’s a guy called Jeff Smith who made a comic called Bone. Jeff Smith says that his Bone character is kind of his take on Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and my characters are pretty much a vague rip off of Bone. It’s all a farce! I’m just nicking from other people. But realistically, I think most western cartoons end up back at Walt Kelly.

I always wanted to put my drawings out into some sort of public forum or do something with them, but for years I had no idea what I wanted to draw. I spent loads of time in Cide skateshop when I was younger and French worked there and I think he’s the best. I spent years trying to draw gory stuff like him, but it just wasn’t for me.

So after drawing French-esque stuff, what was your next move?

The French stuff was always half hearted. I’d start a drawing then give up halfaway through knowing it was just a poor imitation. That was around the time skating took over from drawing and I just doodled cartoons on post-it notes at work. Then I got really heavily into cartoons again, watching loads of them. The Studio Ghibli stuff is great, and Japanese cartoons like Conan Boy of the Future and Mysterious Cities of Gold, Japanese kids’ cartoons, that’s where the cartoon style started to develop. I was reading Bone over and over trying to pick apart how to draw good cartoons at that point too. It was quite methodical really, too bad I fell short of the mark copying them!

After reading Bone loads and tracing it back to Walt Kelly I just wanted to make newspaper strip style stuff. 3 panels or single panels, I got a bit obsessed and started to think that newspaper strip cartoons were the basis for ‘real’ cartoons and that cartoons should stay true to that. I still think that actually. Comics and animated cartoons are just an extension of those newspaper strips I think, a political or social story broken down for the everyman.

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What do you think about political or editorial cartoons?

They are the purest form of cartoon. I’m just not smart enough to do them, so I have to break it down to skateboarding, which I think I understand.

I don’t really see a lot of difference between what you do and what guys like Steve Bell and Martin Rowson do, I think you just exist in different contexts. It’s all about ‘speaking truth to power’, right?

Thanks! Yeah totally. I find the world in general, or more specifically humans, pretty hilarious. The way we conduct ourselves and what we think is important is so alien to me. I find most social interactions pretty funny in terms of the ridiculousness of what people think they are supposed to say, and skateboarding is exactly the same. It really is the silliest thing a grown man could do. Super rad but really silly.

I just want to make fun of people that take it seriously, growing up in the London scene is a big part of that. There was and still is a very big focus on ‘being legit’, and when you think you want to impress an older guy on the dole who gets left over trainers from his mate who’s sponsored it’s so daft. It’s all ridiculous.

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Hence ‘Serious Adult’?

Yup! Plug time! Serious Adult is pretty early on, but at the moment it’s half a crew/half a clothing company I guess. It’s just an outlet for something creative and fun. We’re putting a video together and doing a few runs of t-shirts to try and fund filming trips and get it out there a bit. Everyone that gets free stuff is into art and looks at skateboarding creatively and are all amazing skaters too. I hope we can make a short edit and get people stoked on having a laugh when skating. Everyone says ‘oh, skating’s just for fun’ but then HAVE to wear the right clothes and do the right tricks. Everyone filming for the video is creative and really has fun skating.

Who’s involved so far?

Jeremy Jones, Jaspar Woolf and Luka Pinto are stacking clips. We’re doing a trip to Sheffield on Saturday and I’ve spoken to Shaun Currie (who I used to know back in London and who might be the funniest skater in England) about it a little, so I’m hoping we can get some footage of him. Both him and Luka have filming commitments at the moment so it might just be a few tricks, I’m not sure, hopefully everyone can get 30 seconds and we can put a 5 minute video out. I’m hoping we can get some Lukas Kacevicius footage too, he rips Southbank and is always happy! Jasper’s been stacking clips, he’s killing it, and shout out George Toland for filming! He’s always keen to go on missions. The crew is coming together well!

So yeah, putting t-shirts out, hopefully more stuff when the money comes in. I just want to make money to take everyone on trips and make rad edits of them. It’s tricky trying to make clothes or a product from cartoons really. I don’t want to just put out a logo t-shirt, because who cares? Buy a Palace or Landscape one if you want to support a skateboard company. I want people to buy it because they think the designs are fun and they like the team.

Have you got many left of the first tee? it looks like most sizes are sold out on your website.

I’ve got about 3 left. I gave a lot out to friends but I just broke even, so the money has funded a smaller run of tees and the filming trip to Sheffield. I’m trying to do it properly, paying for travel, per diems, buying DV tapes. I don’t think people should do something for free, much like illustration.

Have you been approached by any companies to do stuff for them or approached any yourself?

I haven’t approached any myself yet, but I worked a few roughs out for Science, that’s sort of on hold for now I think, we couldn’t quite work out an idea that really grabbed both of us. I’ve been chatting with Matt Bromley from Blast, it looks like something will materialise there which I’m super stoked on, Matt’s a great guy and really thinks deeply about art within skating and Blast is my favourite company, I only ride their boards so I’m super stoked. And Bryce asked me if I wanted to do an exhibition at Parlour. It’s just talks at the moment, but hopefully that will come together soon.

I would like to do boards or graphics in general for companies of course, it’s every skate art nerd’s dream, I just don’t want to jump the gun. If someone’s stoked on my stuff I’d be really chuffed to be approached but it’s still early days for me I guess.

If you could do a board for one pro (doesn’t have to be a current one) who would it be?

Hmm, a tough one… Lavar Mcbride. He’s one of my all time favourite skaters and he was pro during a time when skateboard graphics flourished. You could really do something cheeky with it.

He’s from the right era, he’s the right skater, and you could definitely take the piss in those days. No logo boards then!

What do you think of the state of skateboard graphics at the moment.

There are some amazing people out there, but in general it’s so banal. Just really clean and sanitised and graphic design based. Skateboarding and cartoons really belong together, the 90s proved that. It was the best era for graphics, the most controversial and visually the funniest. I don’t understand how we have gone towards this logo board era. I see kids skating really creatively and having fun all the time, so why are the boards not a reflection of that? Todd Bratrud can put out something well drawn and funny, so what’s everyone else’s excuse? Paul Parker, Matt Bromley, French and other people do hold the candle of course, there are great people out there, but I don’t understand why some graphic designer that doesn’t skate is being hired to make a graphic for a mega-corp company and pass it off as a board. Just put a Monster energy drink logo on it and get the real money if that’s your goal.

James Jarvis’ Blast board is one of my favourites in recent years though, it’s great.

Maybe I should retract that graphic design stuff? Will I get in trouble?

You can if you want but I’m with you 100%!

Yeah fuck it. It’s true.

Also, I doubt Plan B were about to hire you to do a series. Sorry.

Haha! It’s great that you dont have to even say Plan B but we both know that’s what i was talking about in terms of logo boards. I hope Danny Way doesn’t find me and hit me, I’m fragile!

You aren’t gay are you? Then you’d be in real trouble.

That’s a different interview.

Hahaha! Next time.

I totally had sex with a girl this morning! I swear to god. It was great!

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Props. I think it’s fair to say that most people who know your work know it from Instagram. When did you start putting things up there?

The longlivesouthbank account put up a rough of a drawing I did for them and i had just got Instagram but didn’t really use it. I saw it had a bunch of likes and being naive didn’t realise anything they put up gets automatic likes so it felt very validating. That’s when I started putting my own stuff out there for the first time really. It felt nice to know people were looking at my stuff and found it funny, which is quite sad for a 28 year old man really. But that’s what Instagram is for.
I find it interesting though, I was chatting to Matt from Blast about it. People think that’s how it works, and I totally fell for it too – if you have likes you have a product, which isn’t true at all. There’s a far shout from 100 or a thousand or whatever people liking your drawing on the internet to handing money over for it on a physical product. It’s the same as skate videos. No one buys them and the market is completely turned on its head. I suppose Sidewalk cutting back from print is the same thing. The internet can be great to put something out there, but it makes us lazier as skaters I think.

Was it Insta love that that prompted you to make Suburbs? Or were you planning that already?

Hmm, I kind of wanted to make it and just put it on my shelf and forget about it but the insta love made me think maybe other people would want to see it too. It’s like when people get addicted to taking selfies. I avoided smart phones for years but now I’m totally sucked in. I’ve become the person I hate. Check me out on Instagram I need validation!

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Ha! Well I’m glad you made the jump to putting out a physical comic, and if Instagram helped make that happen then it can’t be all bad. Do you think it’s affected your style or your work in any way?

That’s interesting, because like I said I think single panels or 3 panels are a perfect medium for cartoons and that really lends itself to Instagram, so I would probably do the same thing either way. The next comic is longer and has a mix of single panels, 3 panels and longer comic stories so I don’t think it’s had too much of an effect.

But to a degree, maybe, I’m not sure. I really find it fascinating. It’s really narcissistic and the London scene has a lot of that (clothes, wanting to be seen etc, mainly in the younger generations) so I guess Instagram is a good medium for what I do, or what I’m trying to make fun of.

What’s the plan with the new comic?

It’s just an extension of the Instagram, with some 6 page stories thrown in and interviews with Jeremy Jones and French.

Sounds good! What stage is it at? Will it be out soon?

I just need to wait to see if I can do more than break even on the next run of t-shirts to put it out. For the tees the money model is: break even, keep some money aside for trips and some for the next run. If I dip into it to put the comic out I can’t put out another t-shirt run, because the return money on the comics is so much less than the tees, and if I don’t get a return we cant go on more filming trips.

Hopefully if the Parlour exhibition comes together I’ll sell/give away the comics there.

Good luck with everything! Anything else you want to add?

Shout out Greg Finch. He’s my favourite skater.

Find Greg at seriousadult.com

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Throwing Rocks at the Villagers Below

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Yesterday it was announced that Sidewalk Magazine will cease as a print entity. In exactly twenty years, several generations of British skaters have contributed to global Blu-tack shortages re-decorating walls with adolescent stoke.

90s hip hop gave way to 2000s gnar, then to 2010s indie brands and mega-corps, whilst Sidewalk remained the go-to title for information, paper cuts and borderline libellous in-jokes hidden in plain sight, outlasting several titles at home and abroad. The market forces at work are so much bigger than skateboarding, with a global shift in the preferences of young people away from print to the instant gratification of social media-linked online platforms – forces that finished titles beloved to our little world, Slap and Sidewalk’s neighbour Document to name a few, as well as enormous titles that mostly deserve our derision, including the almost total death of the 90s crop of ‘lad mags’ Nuts, Zoo, Loaded, Front.

The Sidewalk brand, and the skateboarders behind it, will hopefully live long and well online – as is the strategy (whilst Kingpin, also hosted by the suits at Factory Media, became a free print title over Christmas). But it’s hard not to feel that something has been lost – that skateboarding is at once suddenly less personal and less iconoclastic. Fans of early-to-mid 90s Rocco hijinks, mixed with a particularly British sense of fun and love of shit-talking, Horse and Powell imbued Sidewalk with a unique voice that took the piss out of puff-chested American big names and made the home town heroes feel appreciated. It would be hard to imagine dudes that ‘made it’ whilst staying in the UK most of their careers – Shier, Kennedy, Baines, Vaughn, Chewy to name just a few – getting quite that degree of shine without the reliable patronage of a title with Sidewalk’s level of clout, built up from hard graft and present in every skateshop and on every British skater’s floor (or chronologically ordered on the designated shelf, if you suffer from my obsessive personality traits).

The Berrics obviously believe print still has a role to play, that there is a particular power in a skater having a photo in a physical format, as they only recently chose to buy out and continue the respected-but-struggling Skateboarder magazine.

But predicting the future for print.…especially if you’ve got fidgety shareholders to keep happy….is anyone’s guess. Somehow chasing the same customer base of ‘thinking-man’s skate geek.’ We have the free titles, many of them heavily supported in exchange for advertising by Adidas, Nike and Converse, such as Grey and Fluff. We have the one-man-labour-of-love titles like North, Varial and Florecast, and the more expensive, high-concept or limited run titles like Dank and 43. If you were to claim it’s the cover price alone that puts print in such a tricky place, how do you explain Dank? A quality Scandinavian coffee-table mag, heavily influenced by fashion, art and design magazines, that retails for the equivalent of £10 a pop and is sufficiently successful to make the jump to English-language from its original Norwegian.

As the teen market has jumped to phone-app based media, Sidewalk’s challenge has been to keep hold of enough of the 25+ expendable income market for print, whilst maintaining enough reach across the younger demographic with their online content. As long as the online content plays second fiddle to print deadlines, that’s tough to do. And when you look at the Factory Media website, under ‘who we are’, you see exactly the market Sidewalk’s holding company expects its skate titles to aim for: aged 10 to 28 – the youngest and (one of) the smallest demographic targeted.

Illustration by Jon Horner

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So although we’re not now, and hopefully will never be, mourning the loss of Sidewalk as an entity and group of humans, it’s probably much more than generational angst affecting me and many others with a sense of sadness (as older skaters bitterly note the change in cultural weather towards something chillier and less permanent than those comforting spare-room archives of ink and paper). Two things are lost to be precise: skateboarding is inherently tactile – the feel of grip tape, the smooth graphic of a new board, the physical act of turning a page and pouring over a photograph – an experience lessened through a screen; and that iconoclasm again. If your online content needs to hoover up likes, tweets, follows and shares from Factory’s target 10 to 28 age group – what about the swearing and piss taking?

Skateboarding becomes somehow more ‘public’, less of a cluster of secret, sometimes warring societies – if you say something cheeky about a snotty top-tier pro, they can immediately see, share, sue or lobby sponsors to remove those all important ads. Everything gets safer – and only the indie websites, with little to lose by way of advertising (or at least advertisers who know what they’re getting themselves in for – take Quartersnacks: Supreme may be many things, but afraid of a little controversy it ain’t).

So that’s where I’d like to leave – on what Sidewalk in my early days of skating meant. I desperately wanted to feel part of skateboarding – that unknowable, mysterious thing owned by the cooler, older dudes in my hometown, that I could never be part of (at least before moving to somewhere more tolerant of over-earnest, socially awkward groms). Reading Sidewalk – particularly the tour articles penned by Horse or Powell, made me feel part of that secret society. And introduced me to some excellent wonky, booze-fuelled writing. The photographers of Sidewalk have been rightly praised as some of the best in the game: Wig, Bartok, Leo, CJ, Horse himself, etc. – but the writing, especially early on (Uncle Someone’s Wold of Something; Vincent Carducci’s record reviews), was/is fucking excellent – up there with the lauded Big Brother alumni Carnie and Nieratko.

At 17/18, with the exception of stuff, a cool English teacher got us to read (Orwell, Aldous Huxley) the written world was dull – something you had to study, on pain of a Monday morning bollocking, not something that brought on the stoke. Before Kerouac, HST, Burroughs and Bukowski opened my eyes to how weird, wrong and punk the written word could be, I read, and re-read the Sidewalk tour articles. Two clearly remembered anecdotes stick, both from Dope clothing tours: Frank Stephens and Colin Pope standing high on a hill, drunk out of their minds, throwing small stones at a village below – transformed by elevation and perspective to mean-spirited giants throwing boulders at tiny peasants; and the trip to Japan, where jet-lagged travellers were jolted awake by Harry Bastard with his head out of the window, squawking back at the early morning crows – fully inhabiting his title of ‘the Bastard’. It may lose something in the leaden re-telling, but, alone in my room, I laughed my ass off several times over both mental pictures. And that was British skating, underdogs fucking around – not athletes giving lifestyle advice.

Now go find Buck Rogers after, or whilst perusing this site of course…you’re a child of modernity, you can do both.

Words: Chris Lawton

Thanks to all of the skateboarders that have grafted daily for two decades to bring us humour and the best skating out there in print under intense deadlines for Sidewalk Surfer and Sidewalk Mag. There are no words to describe the dedication involved and the joy that your team brought to so many skateboarders over those 20 years, and long may it live online. Sidewalk Mag RIP. – Zac

Reminisce Andrew Horsley and Ben Powell’s finest moments in our 200th Issue feature. Facebook is indeed wank.

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