Interview: James Brewer
Photography: Tim Borrow
Gnargore was started in 2002 by three skaters from the West Midlands. All three were doing as young skaters do and started a local crew. Yet somehow, in its eight years of existence, Gnargore has turned into something much more, and now appear as a representation of the West Midlands scene. Not just a group of skaters that make a video and flog them to ‘Timmy Turnstains’ down the local park, they have become a powerhouse for producing them, with their fifth in the last six years just being released! Not only that but working with local skate shops Ideal and Spine they have come together to organise great events over the years that has really benefited the scene. For all the jip Gnargore get, there’s no denying that there a good thing to have in a scene that finds itself struggling at times. So here’s a little insight to the warped mind of Gnargore ‘founder’ Tom Gillespie and life seen through the eyes of Gnargore.
So first up explain what is Gnargore?
Gnargore is a crew of nobodies that you shouldn’t really of heard of. And if you hadn’t, good. We’re just some mates with with camera, who can’t skateboard very well but don’t give a shit. But we have a lot of fun being shit.
The crews been productive for eight years now, what’s different now to when it first began?
Nothing! Other than producing videos that the shops actually want to stock. Sale or return, you know how we do. Spine actually sold out, so thanks to Chris for that!
In your eight years or skateboard domination, there’s been more internet controversy associated with Gnargore than there was with 2 girls 1 cup. How did that happen and how do you feel about it now?
I think I was a bit keen in trying to promote the first video and got on peoples nerves on the Sidewalk Forum. Now I know they’re all ‘cunts’ so I don’t care. Apart from Steve75. But especially Gawkrodger
Dan Jordan – Treeride
You’re well known for producing mini-edits regularly on the website. How easy is it making these, do feel any pressure from your audience, seeing as this is pretty much the only representation the West Midlands scene seems to get?
The mini-edits are pretty much the stuff that are too shit to be in a Gnargore video. The shittest of the shit. Like drunk dudes and parodies of other internet videos. Epicly Hater’d being a good example of this…
You’ve just released your fifth video in six years, which most will agree is more than impressive. Has this always been the plan, and how has it been filming them?
Five videos is more than enough for anyone. It’s just really a way of documenting a scene with me and my friends. We used to film it on a shit DV camera with a fisheye meant for an SLR camera gaffer taped on. Now I’ve got a proper camera so the production quality has gone up, but the skateboarding hasn’t, hahaha…
You premiered the video at The Mixing Bowl cinema at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. How did that go?
It went really well, better than I expected. The disc worked for a start which was great! I had a lot of trouble burning them all myself and trying to get them to work.. The menu screen kept crashing my computer, so in the end I sacked the lot of it off! I sold all the DVDs I’d made to people and shops and got rid of the twenty-five Wizard Council t-shirt’s too. Wig and I ended up on the radio talking about it!
Joel Taylor – Crook
And how was the response to the video?
Really good. Everyone liked it who saw it on the day! I’ve had people come up to me saying how hyped they were off it too. It was pretty rowdy in the cinema. Everyone had brought beers so there was lots of cheering and shouting!
A Third Foot, Fallen, Witchcraft, Krew and Supra all sponsored the event and we held a raffle to give away the prizes. They were all really generous with the product they sent through, so most people left with something! The ramp jam afterwards kicked off too! Everyone was going all out to win the A Third Foot board. Ryan ended up winning via a vote!
Something that stands out for myself is that the video came across a lot cleaner and with more of a direction than the other video’s you made. Is it true practice makes perfect or was it all an lucky accident?!
Before I edited Wizard Council I looked back on the other Gnargore videos and came to the conclusion there was no particular theme holding them together.
For Wizard Council I wanted to make sure all the parts fitted together coherently. That’s why there’s no titles or names in the video and the gaps between sections are really small. Also, there’s no bullshit in this video. No arty montages or shots. The only non-skate stuff really is some bro shots and some high 5’s as I wanted to keep the feel of how tight the Gnargore crew is.
With this DVD you’ve offered a free zine with artwork from people involved in the project. What pushed you to do this? It’s definately something I have never seen with a scene video before…
It just kind of happened! Me and the other lads have always talked of grand schemes and ideas when we’ve had a beer or two! But this time it really just kind of happened. Wig’s girlfriend Aimee works at the Birmingham University in the Print Department, so she has access to all the screen printing machines. Wig, Dan and some of the other Gnargore boys are talented artists and got together to do some drawings for a zine! It ended up being an 8-page booklet that when unfolded turns into an A3 poster. I was a bit worried the video was shit and wanted to give people value for their money, so the zine was a way of giving that to people! It was also really fun to get stuck in and print. A massive shout out to Aimee for all her help. Without her it wouldn’t have been possible.
Wig Smith – Indy Nosebone
You’ve got rather an eclectic group of skaters in the crew… How does the Gnargore program come to pick up new people? Is it a picky process or can anybody be in?
Nah, you’ve gotta be able to handle Dan Jordan and Tom Hinton torturing you. Hanging out and bro’ing down. It’s not a case of being good at skateboarding. It’s just about being a mate. Powerslides, going fast and a good bbq technique are a must to be on though. Double fisting beers is a requirement at all times as well. Early grabs needed, flips not necessary. Training provided. Apply within.
So who is Dan Jordan and where did the illustrious ‘Porno Denim’ nickname come from?
Dan is a human foghorn, and he is my friend. Porno Denim came from Ben Powell and Nicky Howells when they reviewed the last video for Sidewalk Mag. He’s a girl’s size 0 because he’s a vegan. He is the nicest prick you’d ever wish to meet.
You’re known for skating some rugged spots. Do you look for these on purpose to represent what your into?
There’s pretty much fuck all where we live since all the main meet up spots were shut down. This was right when most of us started skating. So we all pretty much started skating ‘non spots’ resulting in some people calling them ‘Gnargore’ spots. They would usually end up being a wallride or a curb to slappy. The dream being both at the same place. I guess it’s just a case of trying to make the most out of what you’ve got within your range on a Sunday afternoon.
So let’s give some of the Gnargorians their 15 minutes of fame. If I name them I’d like you to give a brief description of them…
Right: James Denning – Backside Flip
Tom Hinton – Tom emigrated to New Zealand with his family, but returned to the UK to go Uni. He’s done with his art degree in Worcester now, so I’m not sure exactly what he’s got planned for the future.. He’s a talented artist and had an exhibition at the Spine Gallery space recently. www.thomashinton.co.uk
Wig Smith – I’ve known Wig for years. He was in an older group of skaters from my hometown that I kind of looked up to when I first started. He’s the last one of that group still rollin’, and we’ve been skating together since back in the day. Wig’s got an enormous book and CD collection thanks to him working at HMV and getting hella discount!
Daniel Jordan – We’ve already touched on the porno denim persona about Dan. He’s also a talented artist, and is working hard on his graphic design work for bands, like logos and thirst and stuff. He won some award for the National Trust at Uni. Kid’s got skills!
Arran Burrows – Arran was the super annoying kid at school in my year, and he happened to be in my form! I’ve been skating with him the longest of everyone. I remember one day when he turned up for school in some Osiris D3s and we all freaked out that he had what we thought were the best skate shoes of all time on… how times change! A couple of years ago he put himself into a coma and nearly died after falling off his board onto his head whilst skitching on a car at the train station. I was really scared for a while that I would lose someone I’d been so close to for so long (no homo). Luckily he pulled through, and can move all his limbs and talk. For a while after he couldn’t! He’s super into his cars at the moment, and has a flash Mazda that he burns out and wheel spins at every opportunity!
James Jones – James is the man of mystery. He is super quiet until you get a few drinks downhim. He’s also got a million nicknames including Nudge, Nudgey, J-Rock, JJ, Jellington etc he used to roll with the Bromsgrove crew, but he moved to Halesowen with his family, and the bus route between the two towns sucks so he hopped crews and chills with us!
Ryan Price – Ryan a.k.a Clever is the raddest kid ever. When I first met him he was about 13 at Perdiswell bowl. he came up to me and was telling me all about his new setup. Most kids at 13 get Grind King trucks or some crap, but he had full-on 149 Indys and an 8.25 Creature pool shape board!
Below: Joel Taylor – Pop Shove
Harrison Thom – Harrison is another artistically talented member of the ‘Gore. He’s off to Uni in September to do Fashion. He’ll whip you up a dress no worries if you want! He’s Scottish so it’s easy to make fun of him. His boot doesn’t work on his car so you have to access the boards in the back via the back seat.
James Denning – AKA Creepy Den because he bought a young girl some crayons in an attempt to flex her! Den has the same camera as me and has been a real help filming double angles or filming stuff when I’m not around. He’s also working on a local scene video called “Shropside”, focusing on the skaters he knows from the Shropshire and Hereford areas.
Joel Taylor – Joel started wearing full on pajama bottoms out skating last year. I’m not really sure why! He want through a bit of a punk phase too. He’s off at University in Aberystwyth, and filmed his entire part about 6 months ago. He really went off on one in the last month before he left. That’s when he did his ender, which is pretty dreamtime.
Tom Carr – Race Carr is from up North and moved down to Worcester. He’s recently moved to Bristol. He’s one of the most stylish people I’ve ever seen on a skateboard. Even in videos!
And of course yourself – I’m Tom. I work at A Third Foot at the moment answering the phones, making the tea and fetching Ken’s lunch. Sometimes we work on some graphics too! It’s a dream come true to work for those guys. I’ve been buying their boards for years before I even knew where the factory was.
With there being a lot of skate companies starting off as ‘crews’ such as yourself do you ever find it tempting to branch this into something more than it is already and start it up as a board company?
I’ve always dreamed of starting a skateboard company and taking over the world, but I feel the market is over saturated at the moment. All these local/small skate companies that open up and do a short run and sell them out their cars at the skatepark are just depriving the more established companies and skate shops who support the scene of valuable board sales. I don’t have anything against people who stump up a grand to get a short run produced and flog ’em, after all everyone has to start somewhere, it’s just not for me.
How would you compare the West Midlands scene to other scene’s in the UK?
It’s hard to say about other scenes, because I don’t really “know” any other scene apart from my own. The West Mids scene is really friendly. I think it helps to not have any skate media industry around here.. There’s not really any sense of competition between different groups, or at least any I’ve experienced. Everyone gets on really well and helps each other at.
Obviously there’s been a lot of scene videos coming out across the UK in the last few years. What would say separates you from them?
I think the Gnargore videos have always been in their nature about raw quirky street skating. It’s pretty no nonsense too. I’m just gonna throw it out there. I can’t stand all this slow-mo, HD camera, dolly rig, city scape time lapse, soft music bullshit. It’s skateboarding, not a car advert! Give me a Thrasher video any day.
A few years back I remember you nearly got hustled by Stevie Williams over some footage you’d filmed of Lenny Rivas, do you care to go into that?
DGK and Reebok did a demo at Creation (Formerly Epic) Skatepark in Birmingham. I was there with my camera and filmed a couple things. When the session was over they wanted to go see some street spots, so we took them up in to town. We ended up at the Smiths rails. I filmed a couple tricks of Lenny on the rail. Stevie came up to me afterwards and offered to buy the footage off me when they got back to the States. I just said he could have the tape out my camera and so he offered to give me some boards in exchange for it. When we got back to their tour vans, the one with the boards and the rest of the team had already left the city. All they had in the van that was there was these massive RBK shoes! I didn’t want to be a dick to him and refuse the shoes so I just took ’em. Suffice to say I didn’t skate in them and just gave them away!
Harrison Thom – Crailslide
And when is the Gnargore/DGK collabo coming out?
Didn’t you see?! They’ve already “dropped” on Hypebeast last week!
Not only yourself but a couple of the members through the crew have organised events at local parks etc. What motivates you guys to do this?
I guess it’s because there’s no one else out there doing it for us. There aren’t really many tours/events that come through the West Mids for whatever reason, so we just put them on ourselves. I can’t really speak for other people, but I assume they do it for similar reasons. More people should put events on. It’s not hard. A couple of emails to the right people will blag you the prizes. Then you just need a Facebook Group and a thread on the forum and you’re sorted for promotion. D.I.Y!
Is there any inspirations that you think are used when making Gnargore videos?
At first I used to watch videos and study how the tricks were being filmed. Like how many steps down from the top the filmer was on a set of stairs for instance. Sometimes if there was a double angle you could see how the filmer with the fisheye moved to capture the trick. I’m not down for the whole over the top fisheye movement some people are doing! I really liked the way the new Blueprint video was put together. Enough non-skate bits so you got the vibe of the company, but overall it was raw street skating with a great soundtrack. In the past videos, I pretty much let the guys pick their own section music within reason. Arran was trying to convince me to let him have the Hulk Hogan intro music for a while but I couldn’t handle it! For this video I set out with an overall feel I wanted to get across. Grimey, gritty and raw. These values were reflected in the soundtrack too. Dan Jordan helped out a lot with this area.
So what’s in store for Gnargore now ‘Wizard Council’ is done and dusted?
I’m going to take a vacation from filming for a little bit I think and just take it easy. It’s really hard work editing the video and very stressful putting everything together. Maybe around the end of Summer I’ll have a word with the lads and see what they want to do. A few of the guys are off to Uni so it’d be a smaller and/or slightly different crew if there will be another Gnargore production..
And finally is there anybody you’d like to thank?!
Kris, Zippy and Bob at Ideal for giving all an awesome ramp to go to when it rains and for helping us out with the cinema space for the premiere; Fallen, Witchcraft and A Third Foot for sponsoring the premiere; Ken, Joel and Steve at ATF; Ben Powell for being kind enough to review our videos; The Sidewalk Forum geeks, all the locals, anyone who’s taken us to a spot or shown us around their hometown, Wetherspoons, Zac at Crossfire, and to you for reading this crap for so long!
Gnargore’s latest video ‘Wizard Council‘ is out now and available from Ideal Skateshop and from their website. For more inflammation check www.gnargore.co.uk and to have a further glimpse into the Gnargore world check out the video below. Metal.