Etnies Jameson HTW Winterized Boots

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Are you on the lookout every winter for a simple pair of boots? Not to skate in of course, because it’s rare to find a crossover that works, just a clean and simple boot that deals with the shitty British deep freeze and dampness for 5 months straight. The kind of boots that don’t make your feet wet. Boots that don’t have heels or super thick soles that take forever to put on and make you feel like a stupid goth twat. Do you ever feel this seasonal anxiety?

The chances are that I’m on my jacks on this one, but for those who agree that this feeling exists I can safely say that those frustrating days are long gone, because etnies have totally smashed it with their Jameson HTW. I’ve personally been a big fan of the Jameson range from their very first offering, which include the SC, Bloodline, eco, eco 2 etc – they’ve always delivered a killer shoe to skate in but these new winterized numbers are next level and guess what? You can even bloody well skate in them too. Question is though: why did it take so long? Perfection always takes time and with 30 years experience in the game, etnies are now looking to up their game across all of their ranges and nailing it too.

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These boots are ridiculously comfortable as soon as they hit your feet but not too bulky like some other winter boots I’ve reviewed in the past. These are skate shoes with amazing waterproofed gum compound on the outside, mirrored by insulated, quick dry material on the inside. The tread on the sole is a little deeper than your average skate shoe allowing you more stability on slippery surfaces too – like ice and snow. Once back indoors, you can stick your shoes on a radiator when wet and they will dry pretty quickly. They are also easy to clean just with a wet rag, or in the washing machine on a low heat, but the best fact of all is that you don’t feel like you are lugging around any weight – just like wearing a skate shoe.

I opted for the jet black ones (as I once was a stupid goth twat) but these also come in brown tan and also black with white soles as you can see in the photos. No joke, these are the best winter boots I’ve ever had on my feet and made by the skaters of Soletech, for skaters. Just don’t tell anyone else how good these are, and that they are only £85, otherwise you will see them in your local high street shops by February and your Dad will be wearing them.

Zac

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Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains

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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.

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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.

Words: Zac
Photo: Zac (Unseen photo of HR backstage at the Astoria, London 2007)

Science Skateboards – ‘The Important Nothing’ video

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To get to the point, ‘The Important Nothing’ is really darn good and you should watch it. If unavailable in your bricks n’ mortar skate shop (R.I.P. SS20, support your local), you can get a copy from the Palomino.

Within a relatively small scene such as the UK, reviewing home grown videos is a delicate task, because they’re invariably a labour of love, by someone with admirable intentions who is likely to at least know someone you know. This small degree of separation means that each such review in our now extinct domestic print media has tended to be super positive. Who would say they didn’t love a work that someone has slaved over, with little commercial return, especially if you could conceivably session a spot with individuals involved in the near future? But you also want to be credible. A review can be a recommendation.

With internet clips vying for attention, why should you, the reader, part with both money and time to watch a full length vid, if you’ve been told that each and every UK video is brilliant? I wrote that the Isle video was excellent, because it was, I’m now going to tell you the Science video is more than worthy of your 25 minutes and £10, because it assuredly is. Unfortunately there are a number of videos that came out between these two offerings that are less than great. Because we’re all friends here, those sub-par offerings are left unmentioned rather than subjected to some narcissistic display of mean-spirited wit.

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Science are an interesting outfit, and are part of the movement of small firms that are increasingly important to our culture and lifestyle. To distill an argument advanced in some detail here, the act of ‘just doing’ something, like setting up a small skate firm, stamping your tastes onto a corner of the market, keeping yourself motivated in the face of the pressures of adult life, connecting to other scenes and firms, and hooking up a community of like-minded skateboarders not only keeps skateboarding diverse and unique in the face of increasing commercialisation, but it helps us pursue our essential reason for being – the urge to create (our “species essence” in Marx’s view) – that is so often lost in the alienating experience of the 9 to 5. And when motivations are this pure, the outcome is more often than not cool as fuck.

Starting in 2006, owner Chris Morgan has been responsible for the lion’s share of the brand’s look and feel, and is behind the editing, design and large part of the filming of ‘The Important Nothing’. His interview with Crossfire is a good read, and provides detailed insight into one man’s personal vision of skateboarding balanced with a keenness to frequently collaborate (including with big names like Sergej Vutuc and Jon Burgerman and team rider Sam Taylor). Aesthetically, Science could be placed within the tradition of post-Blueprint 1.0 UK companies that combine unashamed artiness with an appreciation of gritty UK street scenes, 90s callbacks and golden era hip hop, soul and lo-fi indie, alongside Landscape, the National Co and Isle to name the most obvious. Where the National have looked to the hot shit that comes out of Sweden in their team line up and video aesthetic, Science make connections with the equally hot Japanese and SF scenes – and ‘The Important Nothing’ has strong similarities with recent Japanese independents like the Lenz videos.

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The filming style is unobtrusive, and avoids the closer-than-close fisheye steez currently en vogue and beloved of the Magenta bros and some of the aforementioned Japanese films. There’s a nice nostalgia, with a lot of black and white and deliberate graininess (and the jazz intro keeps things far more classic Stereo Super 8 than Palace VHS), with callbacks to a 90s hip hop appreciation of kung fu movies and frequent flashes of primary colours complementing the lovely DVD packaging and Science’s graphic output and logo. The soundtrack fizzes with a nigh on optimum balance of hip hop, soul, stoner rock and indie that made me think of some of the classic UK and East Coast vids – with Dan Magee, Josh Stewart or Chris Mulhern likely to be pretty stoked on the choices. Rounding off the ‘just right’ mix of characteristics is the 25 minute running time – if my knee wasn’t jacked, I’d have picked my board up and raced into the grotty streets of Long Eaton as soon as the credits rolled (in stark contrast to the soporific effect of the 1 hour plus running time of certain very big budget hammer fests).

Highlights from the skating includes London-resident, Leicester ex-pat and prolific scribbler Sam Taylor and his quick feet, loose style and mastery of wallrides and no-complies. Pete Buckley, whose time in Sapporo, cements the Japanese connection, rocks a classic Girl/Choc (circa Mouse/Paco) steez and boss man Chris Morgan can do stylish new-old (no-complies) as well as old-new tricks (refuting the assumption that 30+ skaters can’t do good flips). I dig any Luka Pinto stuff since his Eleventh Hour section, and really like how he and Glenn Fox have established this unique style that Channel Islands (get it?) Quim Cardona looseness with Magenta quick-feet.Ben Cruickshank reps the lanky-tech (more golden era Girl/Choc – gangly natural street styles of Shamil Randle) and the dope Saafir track.

Dan Beall has been another favourite since his standout Baghead Flats section. Dan reps a different fine vintage of street skateboarding, strongly British in style – the nimble precision honed on rough terrain that other slight-of-frame bros like Welsh Tommy and Jin Shizmizu also rep.

The premiere went off.

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There’s a rad SF friends section that includes relatively well known locals like Tony Manfre and John Lindsay and the combination of spots doesn’t overkill the hill bombs (and includes Fort Miley, some DIY spots and street that isn’t sloping at 45 degrees). Dan Tomlinson is sick, with powerful pop and clean trick selection, that contrasts with Josh Cox’s unusual trick bag and manny mastery. Holdtight London alumnus Joe Sivell holds down the last section, with Roots Manuva setting the scene for tech and fashion that throws a contemporary British-take on early 2000s Puzzle glory days. Remember Stephane Giret? I’ve been betting a pirate’s hoard of gold doubloons on a come-back for both the tricks and the wardrobe of that brother, and Joe’s leading the charge to make sure I’m soon a wealthy man (and laughing at the rest of you as the pound sterling continues to fall through the floor).

I don’t want to do this video a disservice by listing too many historic references (that many of you won’t have been around for… but I’d bet more doubloons, and maybe a bronze cudgel and a horned helm, that Chris Morgan knows exactly what I’m talking about). Suffice to say, a bit like Pontus’ amazing Polar video, you can enjoy it equally as a fresh feeling contemporary offering, if you have the gift of youth, or as a life affirming, knee cartilage re-growing re-up of a certain era that burns very brightly in our sub-cultural memory.

Chris Lawton

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Reviewed: Download Festival 2016

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Download Festival 2016, Donington Park, 10th-12th June 2016

Words: Alex Gosman
Photo credits to: Ben Gibson, Jen O’Neil, Ross Silcocks, Matt Eachus & Derek Bremmer for Download 2016

Damn, that was a fun three days, despite some traditional British weather making an unwelcome guest appearance! Yep, Donington Park’s annual rock and metal bash recently celebrated its 14th birthday, and Crossfire was there to soak it all up (the music, that is). Here’s how things went down…

FRIDAY

ROYAL REPUBLIC singer/guitarist Adam Grahn’s confidence borders on cockiness, but that’s forgivable for a band armed with songs as good as ‘Make Love Not War’. Whether dispensing between love-life advice, or leading the crowd through a stomp-tastic rendition of ‘Full Steam Space Machine’, the Swedes provide an entertaining and explosive start to Download 2016.

It doesn’t take long for the heavens to open, to the annoyance of most – but not all – people here. “Thanks to the rain for bringing you all in here, and to Babymetal for being a novelty act, so no-one wants to watch them!” declares HECK frontman Jonny to a packed Maverick Stage tent. Who’d be Heck’s manager? Clearly unafraid of ruffling a few feathers, the guitarists spend most of the set either in or on top of the moshpit, to the soundtrack of possibly the finest twisted hardcore attack this side of Converge. Amazing.

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Back on the main stage, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE are delighted to be back at Donington, and have little trouble whipping up one of the weekend’s gnarliest pits. Guitarist Adam D is still the foul-mouthed court jester of metalcore, and although a couple of cuts from recent LP ‘Incarnate’ sound great, it’s a triple whammy of ‘My Last Serenade’, ‘Rose Of Sharyn’ and ‘The End Of Heartache’ that hits home the hardest.

“We’ve been told not to incite any moshpits…so no moshing!” cackles HAVOK vocalist David Sanchez, a man who speaks rather like Steven Tyler on amphetamines. Amusing, yes, but he and his band are seriously good at injecting fresh vitality into tried-and-tested thrash sounds, and the likes of ‘Living Nightmare’ are greeted with the kind of frenzied circle pits they deserve.

MOTORHEAD were due to play third from top on the main stage, which has been renamed the Lemmy Stage after Mr Kilmister’s sad passing at the end of last year. Rumour had it that some of his old friends and bandmates would get together at Download to jam through a few ‘Head classics, but the reality is far less exciting – nothing more than the stage-side video screens showing some old Motorhead festival performance videos, interspersed with some interview clips, mainly from the ‘Lemmy’ movie. Better than nothing, admittedly, but you can’t help but feel that both we and he deserved more.

Thankfully, THE WILDHEARTS are here to provide some (not quite so) old-school rock n’ roll thrills. The rain appears to have let up, but much to Ginger’s delight, the Maverick Stage tent remains packed, and that’s understandable when classics like ‘Nita Nitro’ and ‘Everlone’ sparkle as brightly as they ever have.

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And so it’s back to the Lemmy Stage for RAMMSTEIN, the first of this weekend’s headliners. The German industrial metal titans steal the show with almost frightening ease; be it vocalist Till Lindemann’s Charlie Chaplin-esque entrance, the onslaught of pyrotechnics during a thunderous ‘Du Hast’, or a surprisingly effective (and affecting) semi-acoustic rendition of ‘Ohne Dich’, this is about as great a marriage of song and spectacle as you could hope to witness at Download. It’s a bit of a shame that they’ve toned down the more, shall we say, homoerotic elements of the stage show, but they sound magnificent throughout, and as we head back to the campsites, no-one’s complaining.

SATURDAY

Saturday starts much as Friday ended – theatrically. Swedes AVATAR are dressed like The Joker’s unholy marching band, and easily win over the curious with some genuine anthems in ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, and closer ‘Smells Like A Freakshow’. Over at the Encore Stage, all five members of SANTA CRUZ look like the lovechildren of Michael Monroe, and remain as gloriously in thrall to 1980’s Sunset Strip glam rock as ever. “Who wants to fuck tonight?” screeches vocalist Archie Kuosmanen, a man whose spirits have not been dampened one iota by the rain. Sounds like fun, dude!

It isn’t until TURBOWOLF take the stage, however, that our day truly kicks into gear. The Bristol crew may be buried halfway down the Maverick Stage bill, but they play with all the confidence and swagger of main stage headliners. Chris Georgiadis is a true master of ceremonies, leading his band through gems like ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ and ‘Solid Gold’ with no little panache, and as the tent fills up, you can’t help but feel this should be the start of something big.

Over to the Dogtooth Stage now, to see what the musical yoof are up to. MILK TEETH don’t waste a second of their painfully short slot, getting the whole tent bouncing like it’s 1992 with fuzzed up grunge-pop gems like ‘Vitamins’. DEAD! have something of an identity crisis going on, hopping from power-pop to hardcore to funk-punk (plus various points in between), but deliver it all in a gleefully snotty, carefree way.

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MEGADETH’s set, like their recent ‘Dystopia’ album, sees Dave Mustaine and co back to their snarling best. Predictably, recent cuts like ‘Post American World’ go down almost as well as classics like ‘Peace Sells…’, but there’s an extra surprise in store; namely, the appearance of Nikki Sixx for a (admittedly ramshackle) cover of the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK’. “Hell has frozen over!” declares a grinning Dave.

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The rain has started again, but the thrash party doesn’t stop – it merely squeezes itself into the Dogtooth Stage tent for MUNICIPAL WASTE’s first UK show in four years. The band sound like they’re channeling a new-found hunger as they rip through what seems like 50 songs in 40 minutes, and their irreverent sense of humour remains intact, with ‘I Want To Kill The President’ reworked as ‘I Want To Kill Donald Trump’. Oh, and they deservedly get the circle pit of the weekend.

As annoying as the rain can be, it seems appropriate enough for BLACK SABBATH’s final UK festival show, and it lends their opening self-titled anthem that certain extra gravitas. Considering all the mockery directed at Ozzy Osbourne during (and since) that awful reality show, he truly seems in his element tonight, doing what he does best with a gigantic crowd firmly on his side. Sure, he’s a little off-key for the first few songs, but that matters little when Tony Iommi’s riffs sound ten times as imposing as they do on record. Wisely sticking to the classic early stuff, Sabbath barely put a foot wrong tonight, and the sound of thousands of voices singing along to the likes of ‘Iron Man’ and ‘NIB’ will surely linger long in the memory.

“Let me here you shout ‘One more song’!” cries Ozzy, following the penultimate ‘Children Of The Grave’, and the place goes utterly nuts as the band launch into ‘Paranoid’. There’s a certain sadness to knowing we’ll never see them here again, but also a sense of pride in seeing the gods of British metal conquer a festival that probably would not exist, had it not been for their pioneering early 70s work. Gentlemen, as you sail off into the sunset, we salute you.

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SUNDAY

MONSTER TRUCK and their riffs seem like they’d work better at a Deep South chili cook-off, but they still sound pretty good in a mud-soaked East Midlands field. Sleepy heads nod respectfully as we all wonder how bare-chested guitarist Jeremy Widerman can be so perky at this ungodly hour.

AMON AMARTH give this weekend’s main stage headliners a real run for their money in terms of stage show. Armed with two huge dragon’s head props that regularly spew smoke, along with a decent helping of pyro, they stomp their way through ace Viking metal anthems like ‘Raise Your Horns’ like a true band of the people. Magnificent, and deserving of a far higher slot next time around.

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WITCHSORROW play quality doom metal, and for half an hour, they turn the Dogtooth Stage tent into their own dark church, full of baying acolytes whose appetite for monolithic riffs was clearly not completely sated by Sabbath. The band sound great, and have surely converted a few more to their cause. We wander out for a while, and catch the last couple of DELAIN songs; Dutch symphonic metal that proves oddly catchy, even as the weather continues its onslaught.

There isn’t a single dull moment during FRANK CARTER AND THE RATTLESNAKES’ set, with no little credit due to the man himself. Whether singing atop the crowd (or in the middle of it, for a poignant ‘Beautiful Death’), telling stories of past circle-pit injuries, or getting the power cut for inciting a wall of death, he’s the perfect frontman for the Rattlesnakes’ fury-fuelled anthems. ‘Juggernaut’, in particular, sounds utterly unstoppable today, and the sing-along to the closing ‘I Hate You’ could make Maiden blush.

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ELECTRIC WIZARD boast some of the best non-Iommi riffs of the weekend, and hone them ever further during their monstrously slow and heavy set. They also get bonus points for drowning out the sound of Disturbed frontman David Draiman croaking and hacking away on the main stage. Now there’s a man who needs more fibre in his diet.

The day is drawing to a close, but BILLY TALENT aren’t about to let us slack off. “I know you want to go home, get in the bath, jerk off and watch Game Of Thrones – so do I!” Thank you, Ben Kowalewicz, for arguably the quote of the weekend. And thanks also to your band for firing on all cylinders – ripping through the likes of ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Fallen Leaves’ like the punk rock warriors you are – despite having more than enough great tunes for a perfunctory ‘Greatest Hits’ walk-through.

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The Main Stage crowd rise en masse from their soggy camping chairs as UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ booms out from the PA – a sure sign that IRON MAIDEN are about to kick off. To a degree, your enjoyment of tonight’s set depends on how familiar you are with Maiden’s recent ‘The Book Of Souls’ album, although the affecting, Robin Williams-inspired ‘Tears Of A Clown’ impresses old and new fans alike. Bruce is in fine form (if we had a shot of whiskey every time he shouts “Scream for me, Donington!”, we’d never make it back home alive), and there’s a veritable feast for the eyes, too – with various props from the ‘Powerslave’ era wheeled out, along with all manner of Eddie-related antics.

The second half of the show sees an onslaught of hits; ‘The Trooper’, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ and a closing ‘Wasted Years’ all received like old friends by a crowd that’s exhausted but damned if they’re gonna fold before Download 2016 does. Semi-regulars on the festival circuit they may be, but Iron Maiden still create a sense of occasion whenever and wherever they play, and tonight they close proceedings in fine style.

Overall? Download Festival 1, weather gods 0 (but, y’know, full marks for trying). Here’s to 2017, whatever it may bring…

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Emerica The Hsu G6

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The last time I was sat with Jerry Hsu was at Meanwhile Gardens in London years ago. The poor b’stard had slammed hard and put his shoulder out which meant game over for his trip but he was still full of beans. His resilience is partly why he’s one of the most respected out there though, he’s an innovator who has melted minds over the years with his skills on a rig and no doubt will do again in the future.

This month sees his new pro shoe, the G6, hit your local skate shop and it has been designed to almost perfection. I’ve had a pair on my feet for the last 2 weeks and the first thing you notice is the comfort involved as they firmly cup your feet with a cushion type feel. It’s a protective feeling you only get from wearing mids too, something I’d completely forgotten about as my feet have been hugging slim vulc lows for ages.

These vulcs are super light, a remarkable difference from his last pro model. They also feel a lot slimmer too with support coming from every angle. This support comes from the upper inside the shoe, known as a G6 Welded Frame, from Emerica’s spiel. It works a treat as your feet don’t move about at all.

The only negative is the beautiful red insoles tend to leave your socks pink after the first few sessions, so best not to wear whites if you don’t want them pink. It washes out fine though so hardly a biggie. The Rebound Foam they use in their insoles should give you adequate support when hitting up stairs and rails too, if that’s your game.

These are top mids. Solid design and engineering once again from one of the best skater owned shoe brands of all time.

Go find them in your local SOS and get hyped for MADE Chapter 2 coming soon.

Zac

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Isle Skateboards – Vase review

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In common with skateboarders across the UK, I spent a mid-week evening huddled in front of Isle’s debut full-length video ‘Vase’. This was courtesy of Nottingham’s 42 skate shop, with a large crowd squeezed onto Rough Trade’s trendy utilitarian chipboard benches drinking expensive craft lager.

The audience mixed fans of OG Blueprint, those who’ve seen and enjoyed Jacob Harris’ previous work, especially the award winning ‘Eleventh Hour’, and daft youth who don’t know or care about any of those things. This context is relevant to y’all, as any familiarity with Isle co-owner Nick Jensen’s other life as a fine artist, the brand’s unrepentant positioning towards the ‘arty’ end of the spectrum, and the series of high-concept web edits for Dazed & Confused could lead you to fear an experience veering towards the Quartersnacks parody of late-stage Alien Workshop: “seagulls….. seeaaaagullls….. seeeaaaa gullllllls”. But it doesn’t veer that way. For full disclosure, I really rate Isle’s thoughtful graphic output and dug their Dazed & Confused stuff – but I’m a pretentious bastard.

For more down-to-earth types, Vase manages to be more than a little arty whilst fully committing to raw, relatable street skating on almost entirely crusty ass spots. It’s urgent, fun, short and snappy, and makes you want to skate in the tradition of the fine ol’ proper skate videos made by old folk in ancient times. I say “video” not “film”: no one likes a trust-fund Tarquin who calls every Instagram post a fucking ‘feature film’ and they wouldn’t like Vase, and all is well with that.

Three things to cover: the filming and editing; the music; and the skating. The prophesied artsiness in the editing is pretty paired down – grainy skits of the team and a nice linking theme of silver party balloons initialing each skaters’ name that drift forlornly in the wind, deflate on spiked railings, or float out across the Thames. And quite a few floating vases plus the VX-as-flowerpot motif used in the magazine ads. But the filming is a game changer – with Jacob Harris taking the fidgety VX mastery one associates with Minuit/Magenta’s Yoan Taillandier to new levels, sticking unbelievably close to the skater, from super low down, and jerking towards or away from the obstacle to create a sense of speedy dynamism that queasily draws you along with the action. In this, Vase has similarities with Static, Minuit or the Japanese Lenz films – but overall looks entirely different, not least in the bleached palette that makes everything look drenched by weak, winter sunlight. Definite contender for honorary doctorate in VX studies, making others’ switch to HD look all weird again just as we’d finally gotten used to it. Vase also feels like a change-up on the more sedate, dreamy Eleventh Hour.

Onto the music, which is again a change on Jacob Harris’ previous stuff – eschewing Motown for a heavy 1980s UK electronic bias: Yazzoo, New Order…. Ian Rees spent the entire video delightedly bobbing about in my peripheral vision. But not to everyone’s tastes. Hip hop heads and Mixtape/Static purists left grumpily claiming song-for-song replay of the BBC’s Synth Britannia.

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Finally the skating. Despite some of it being obscured by Will Golding’s massive head in front of the screen (how can someone blessed with such precise, dexterous feet have a head the size and shape of a Looney Toons anvil?), the skating mixes relatable lines with the occasional mind-blowing banger. Tom Knox, with pro status awarded with the video’s release, opens with super quick feet, enviable flatland game and the closest of camera follows (or maybe I was just coveting his sneakers) and nails one of Vase’s super-bangers – ollieing out to a tight wallride then dropping into a subway underpass (with subways reoccurring later). This was one of my favourite sections of the video. Casper Brooker, with long legs that never seem to bend too much, nails the other highly notable banger – a kickflip across the width of the Southbank 7 into the flatbank the other side.

Paul Shier and Jon Nguyen share a section. Co-owner and transatlantic Blueprint hero Shier is short and sweet, with fast ledge combos and whipped flips on tight banks (no signature tres flip though) and Nguyen filling in the post-Blueprint hole left by Coakley: the bearded Yank with the super precise flip tricks, unafraid of jumping switch stance down curved hubbas. Enjoying Shier’s section, and then writing about it, hopefully pays penance for the time, shortly after the release of ‘Lost & Found’ when I (drunk out of my mind) sang “heart breaker” at him whilst he was waiting at a bar in Barcelona, a performance I sustained for a good one and a half minutes longer than either of us were comfortable with. That said bar was themed on a fairies’ grotto leaves absolutely nothing that isn’t drenched in shame. As someone of similar vintage, it’s stoking to see Shier continue to put it down to such a level – something he’d better continue doing until he drops dead at 103, otherwise I’m summoning a posse to fly out to LA to sing “heartbreaker” at him until everyone’s face melts like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sylvian Tognelli and Nick Jensen have solid sections mid-way through the video. For Jensen, with so many amazing sections under his belt at what is still a relatively young age – including sections that are contenders for ‘best section’ in videos stacked with great skaters (‘Lost & Found’, ‘City of Rats’ and ‘Eleventh Hour’) – it must be hard to plan a strategy, especially if you’re a notorious over thinker. In the case of Vase, Jensen opts for something a little more planned out than his more spontaneous ‘City of Rats’ section, with lines that seem deceptively simple (bump to bar ollies) before morphing into all switch or alternate ambidexterity. A couple of enormous switch flips, one down a stair set that would have been a section ender ten years’ ago, are thrown in the middle to remind us that Jensen can skate everything better than almost everyone.

The last section honours are held down by stylish Welshman Chris Jones – which ties with Tom Knox as my favourite of the video (on first watch, although you know how different sections churn around as favourites on repeat watches). A couple of the bank to block/bar tricks and the gap ollie into a tight bank stand out as the big tricks, but I really loved his couple of downhill lines through subway underpasses – long, fast flatland with alternate switch and regs tricks and then out-of-the-blue snaps down decent sized stair sets. He has a cool lanky, slightly hunched yet relaxed steez as well – kind of like Philly OG Brian Douglas – coupled with that enormous pop. Long downhill underpass lines for #trendwatch in 2016? Its got to be 20 years since Ricky, Tim O’Connor and Fred Gall did them on Eastern Exposure and 411.

Marks of a good skate video include an urge to skate immediately after (and at least 3 days of desperately wanting to push yourself to skate better before slipping into the usual tentative mediocrity) and a strong memory of both the detail and the overall feel of the thing. All those criteria are well met by Vase. I knew I’d dig it, as a fan of Blueprint, Eleventh Hour and a bunch of the skaters in their own rights, but I didn’t expect it to make such an original, skate-year defining impression.

Hope this installs Isle where they deserve to be in the eyes of the British (and global) consuming public, especially amongst those who are unafraid to take an hour out of a skate trip to visit a gallery.

Chris Lawton

éS Sal 20 shoe review

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Had a taste of shoe heaven yet this year? If not, you’re about to find some. The history of the original Sal 23 started as the very first éS shoe when they launched back in 1995 – at the time it was a bona fide classic, the first pro skate shoe for Sal Barbier that spread like wildfire throughout the scene that was not only admired for its fashion statement, the functionality of the shoe was 100% built for skateboarding by skateboarders.

This period was golden. Skateboarding was raw, the real underground. None of Michael Jordan’s people were anywhere near our scene at the time, although said sports pro did share the same basketball number with Sal – the 23, a number that most 90s skaters will never forget due to this shoe. This new re-issue sees his infamous number switched to 20, paying homage to éS celebrating a sterling 20 strong years in the skater owned shoe game. Only a hardcore few will want their 23 back, but the double decade will do nicely.

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Rightful big ups to éS for their achievements aside, let’s go back to functionality, because it’s rare these days for any skate shoe company to issue a shoe that has an ollie patch. Most companies want you to skate every day so that your Mum has to buy you a new pair and replace them fast – it’s a sucker marketing strategy, sneaky too. Barbier and the dudes at Sole Tech wanted a shoe that lasted. It’s a beautiful touch and one that you will appreciate when you slip these on and start pushing.

“I wanted a rubber piece on the side so it wouldn’t rip up. I kind of liked that, because I don’t always like wearing ’em when they’re brand new.” explains Sal in a previous interview. “By the time most skate shoes break in, you have to get a new pair because they’re all ripped up. I worked on the design of the whole shoe, the sole, the logo, everything, around 1994-95.”

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We had a delivery of the Sal 20 here recently and have spent 3 weeks in them now. The first obvious observation is that they are now made thinner than the OGs (thankfully), but back then everything in skateboarding was wide – apart from wheels. They are comfy too. None of this waiting for the shoe to be ready for a sesh, these are lit straight out of the box. I personally like to stick the laces behind the tongue allowing the logo to represent, like a number plate. Surrounded by smooth suede with perforation holes in front of the first lace, these are super simple, but perfectly efficient for street or mini ramp skating.

All you need to know is that these are 100% skateboarding. éS have brought a classic back from their wonderful archives and re-issued them in style. You need a pair in your life. Support skater owned brands so the next wave of hard working skaters can get what they deserve.

It’s worth noting that these come up a little small, so I opted for a half size up and they were perfect. Find them in your local skate shop this month in three colourways.

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Lakai MJ Oiled Mahogony skate shoe

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If you visit us regularly you will remember that last year when the canvas version of these Lakai MJ’s hit our feet there were some serious high fives going down. Not only has this simple, slim, comfy design moved forward, it’s become a skater’s shoe of choice worldwide.

This month Lakai have released an ‘all weather’ range for the winter months ahead and thankfully these arrived freshly boxed the day before a trip to Portugal’s stormy beaches. The good news is that they came back looking like they did when we left with them on, despite walking around on wet sand whilst we took photos of really bad surfing on 3 foot waves and avoiding puddles all over Lisbon trying to find skate spots. It tanked it down.

The oiled mahogany thing aside though, Lakai have produced a classic, timeless skate shoe that is not pretending to be some lame sports shoe copy, they’ve kept their class and delivered what we need; the shoes we skate.

Ask for them in your local skate shop, the one that really knows their shit – you’ll probably find Lakai’s full all weather range there that should assist you through the coming winter months.

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A visit to ‘The Seaside’ again with Cardiacs

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I was once a Little Man aged 11 looking out of my Little House through my parents Whole World Window. It was a beautifully innocent time hanging out in the burbs of Surrey, riding my BMX after homework through wet leaves and spiky conkers, not giving a hoot about anything. The stereo in my bedroom played 7″ records from Adam Ant, The Jam, The Specials and Madness, slabs of vinyl bought on a Saturday afternoon in the little independent record shop in our hometown of Sutton. Chick-a-Boom, was owned by an overweight biker who sat behind the counter with a huge beard. Aside from his overwhelming presence I loved the smell of the vinyl there, as opposed to the big store on the high street they called Woolworth’s, where my Mum preferred visiting for her records. Collecting music weekly became something special but as you know, the Whole World Window is a very special and endless space – where discovery, is everything.

Somewhere hidden in the suburbs of the same county in 1984, Cardiacs were preparing the release of their original cassette of The Seaside. They were only a few miles down the road. Their off-the-wall, psychedelic punk rock was being distributed to the ears of the chosen few throughout Kingston Uni and the suburban alternative pubs like The Mill and in other small towns nearby in Surbiton, Teddington and beyond. Little did I know that a few years later just one sniff of Cardiacs’ musical drug would change my entire life, forever.

Trying to explain Cardiacs’ sound to those who have never heard them before was always difficult. Like Victorian funfair music in a knife fight with John Carpenter; an horrific, terrifyingly exciting sound that should be used for torture purposes, they said. It wasn’t for everyone, but I wasn’t everyone, I fell in love on first play and made it the soundtrack to my life. We had a crew of us at school who worshipped the band but most people thought we were weirdos. This was a local band, one that our brothers had past down the line to us and we totally enjoyed being those weirdos. It was an honour to wear that badge…with the flower on it.

Cardiacs’ live shows were like anti-theatrical minefields that detonated every single explosive part of your brain. They left you in tiny pieces, excelling you to the verge of heart attack with excitement whilst every breath of air around you (and a huge fan) pushed tiny pieces of confetti into the air creating a dream-like scenario – kinda like the best acid trip of all time but without the strychnine come-down. And so it began, my Cardiacs virginity was taken at NESCOT college on February 10th, 1989 and it left me turned completely inside out. I remember leaving that room feeling like a lost dog, confused, horny and wreckless, with my lipstick hanging out. Only Cardiacs fans are going to read these words so you know exactly what I’m talking about. The question is: Where did you lose yours? Tell us in the comments at the end of this waffle.

Ph: Steve Payne

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William D. Drake’s keyboard prowess, Dominic’s incredible precision drumming, percussionist Tim Quy’s vital inclusion, Sarah’s huge smile and her mighty presence on sax all made the shows shine like nothing else. Jim Smith’s bass playing, down trodden persona and incessant bullying, dished out by brother Tim, made the show the most unnerving experience I’d ever seen. Tim’s ranting, swinging of his guitar and insane facial expressions was pure madness, but oh so controlled and delivered like a pro. All other bands playing live at that time in Ewell seemed boring and pointless, so finally I had found Armageddon in music form and it became an instant obsession. I hit the road to as many Cardiacs shows that I could get to with my new driving license and crappy brown Ford Fiesta. It made for a decent bed after the gigs finished too.

The biggest problem with my new found addiction was that their Seaside album, released on cassette, seemed to be some sort of myth. Kind of like what Animal Chin was for skateboarders; you couldn’t find it anywhere but it left inspiration with everyone who came in contact with it. The internet and mobile phones didn’t exist of course – just fanzines, the fan club and record fairs, so I searched far and wide for The Seaside (The Obvious Identity and Toy World) until a friend’s friend of a friend came good with a blank TDK D60 copy. All I ever wanted were the originals though and to this day they still evade me. The CD re-issue in 1995 (and 1990) were must-haves but a few of my favourite tracks from the live shows didn’t make the pressings.

Hearing ‘Dinner Time’ on the new re-issue today made me bounce off the walls. It was like discovering Cardiacs for the very first time again. Similarly, the mesmerising riff of ‘Nurses Whispering Verses’ was always a favourite live (alongside the chaotic punk rock assault of To Go Off and Things). These were rare gems in between the epic singles, ‘Is This the Life?’ and ‘A Little Man and a House’ – both legendary works from the amazing songwriting and production skills of Tim Smith. It’s very rare to find talent like this man was blessed with. Tim created another planet through his own World Window that we could all see, feel and touch – like nothing we had ever discovered before, or have been close to discovering since.

It breaks my heart to be reminiscing all of this right now knowing that Tim is unwell and has suffered through illness. Even though Cardiacs’ music is played weekly in these parts it always leaves me praying for his health – and I’m no religious man. He changed people’s lives forever and we are here right now to give it all back. I doff my hat to Tim Smith. Sir, you are a true musical legend.

Ph: Sarah Maher

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These words were written ten minutes after the album finished from hitting my email account today. The fingers did not stop, the memories came too fast and I just had to spit everything out. The re-issued record will be coming out via the Alphabet Business Concern on November 30th this year with those 4 tracks mentioned above and the original running order on CD, double gate-fold vinyl – both cut from the original 1984 1/4″ master reel. There’s also a tasty boxset coming, with the inclusion of replica newsletters, (YOUsletters) a cassette, poster, Walker prints, lyric booklet and a beautiful photo book containing previously unseen photography.

Prepare space in your wonderful record collection next month to re-own some magical musical history and enjoy listening to ‘Dinner Time’ from this release that we have been lucky enough to unleash for you today. It’s a marvellous tune that has been missing from the Cardiacs catalogue since the cassette release of The Seaside. Pre-order the box set here.

Big love to all Cardiacs followers worldwide.

Zac

éS Sal 20 web doc

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Those who remember the Etnies Sal 23 shoe back in the day know that it was a game changer. They were an innovative skater owned shoe choice, backed with the skills of Sal Barbier who was pushing skateboarding forwards at a rate of knots.

Watch this new éS web doc on the history of the shoe that they’ve re-issued this week and look out for them on your travels.