The history books will tell you how much of a legend Ali Boulala is in skateboarding. Despite his fight with all sorts of vice’s he will go down in history as one of the best skateboarders to ever grace the scene. Today, Vice have Epicly Later’d his incredible life story across 4 episodes. It’s heavy stuff, as you’d expect. Heartfelt, bonkers and every other adjective in between. Get those teas on.
We have interviewed Ali twice over the years. The first in 2005, the second in 2006. Discover them, re-read them – there’s only one Ali Boulala.
All hail Tom Penny from his Menikmati section for éS back in 2000. French Fred left some words about it:
“When I was editing Menikmati, it was pretty cool to go thru old tapes containing Penny footage, that other people filmed. At the time of Menikmati, Tom was in a very dark period, getting new footage with him was pretty much mission impossible. So we decided to use old archives for this part, whatever cool stuff we would find, then saving whatever new stuff for his Flip “Sorry” part. For this Menikmati part, I only filmed the switch front foot impossible on the hip!”
History tells us that you will find only a handful of unique individuals within every culture worldwide. Look across the pond to France and the big book of skateboard history there will reveal that the creative mind found within Fred Mortagne is one of their country’s finest.
His sterling work within film making launched back in 2000 from delivering the wonderful éS ‘Menikmati’ video. The cast featured the likes of Ronnie Creager, Rick McCrank and Eric Koston to name a few but his relationships with the likes of Arto Saari and Tom Penny led him to make one of skateboarding’s most legendary videos ever: Flip Skateboards’ ‘Sorry’. Fred’s work here is unique. Call it the right time, the right team, whatever you want, this film launched an assault on skateboarding in 2002 and left a crater for every other team on the scene to crawl out of. Fred’s film direction continued from there with stunning work alongside Cliché Skateboards. Their relationship blossomed and led to full length productions that have seen the brand become a world-wide force.
The other side of Fred’s talent is documented successfully in photography. Six year’s ago, before the trend of Facebook ‘likes’ and The Berrics, we welcomed his unique photographic skills to our Triple Shot features in 2006, so here’s an overdue sequel to what was one of our most read features back then.
Fred is now a staunch WeActivist and is about to participate in Red Bull’s Illume photo competition.
Easy Fred, great to see that you have unleashed your ‘Hand in Hand’ book online this month. Looking back, what would you change if you were to travel back to Israel tomorrow?
I would go during summertime, as the days would be longer than when we went in November. I didn’t want to shoot at night or use flashes but it was getting dark at 4:30pm! I had to change my plans a little bit as a result and didn’t come up with as many skate pics than I personally wanted, and in the way I normally shoot them. It was frustrating for sure but going in the summertime would probably be too hot! I’d rather go somewhere new!
Taking us to the present day we have seen that you have passed over duties of film making to Boris Proust for the new Cliché video ‘Bon Voyage’, do you have footage in this forthcoming production?
So so so. the thing is, as crazy as it might sound, considering the history we have together, we completely parted ways with Cliché. I am not doing any work for them anymore, nor will I be involved in anyway with their new video. There may be a few old clips in there that I filmed but that’s all. A chapter has turned. Although, this doesn’t mean I’m not working on other projects with some of Cliché’s riders. I’m of course very close with the riders. I like working with Flo Mirtain who’s has good ideas and motivation. We made a short movie in French making fun of skateboarding, so I’m working on making the English version of it.
What other projects are coming soon?
The biggest project I’ve been working on directly involves Javier Mendizabal and is directed by Thomas Campbell for whom I have the biggest respect. This has been filmed entirely on 16mm film and should drop around summer time and has been a super exciting project to work on. I’m very close with Javier and truly respect his skateboarding. In addition I’m working on couple ‘making of’s’ about that project.
There’s much exciting stuff to come, and you will find out sooner or later but expect some very diverse things. The outcomes will be very different from each other. No routine, no repetition, and of course, no following of formats either, I’m trying to bring new stuff.
Take us through how your ‘burnt’ photo series were put together? Which shot has been most popular?
One day I came across some shitty slides. Nothing interesting on them. Instead of throwing them to the thrash, I figured out I could do some wild experiments. Being a pyromaniac, it didn’t take long for me to realize how good burnt stuff could be. The Mark Appleyard kickflip at the top of this page seems to be a popular one.
What are you shooting on mostly these days?
Still on my good old Nikon FM2, my first reflex camera from 2001. Well, I had to get a new one after accidentally destroying the shutter of the original one. It was a sad moment. So I still shoot mostly with film, but it’s very tough because no one supports this format anymore and magazines pay ridiculous fees these days. This alone has pushed people to use digital only. Economics suck.
We asked Fred to ‘Expose’ some of his most cherished photos over the years. Enjoy the tales behind the shoots.
This photo above of Alex Gavin was shot in Montreal in 2008. Some force attracted me to the Olympic Stadium. I knew I had to go there. In one day, I shot more epic stuff than in months. There are tons of hyper photogenic spots so I was in heaven and I also had the chance to hook up with great and super motivated skateboarders. All the ingredients were gathered for pure epicness.
Ali Boulala was living in Lyon for few years. Of course being around Ali, it’s pure comedy almost all the time. Just going out walking the dog might turn into something special. It was the first time in my life, and very probably the last, that I saw a dog doing some wallrides!
I like shooting with Javier Mendizabal, he always super down for missions. His skating is very photogenic and different. I like the fact he’s into photography too. He shoots really good photos, so he perfectly understands some situations I put him in; very specific and precise ones to create strong images. Sometimes it requires patience and involvement from the “models”, and with Javier, for this fact, it’s always easy to shoot with him.
If I’d have requested to make this photo happen, it probably would never have come to fruition. Sometimes photography is just magic, without you doing anything. We didn’t even try to attract the flying rats, they would come back on their own and they all flew off at the right time in the right spots. I must say though that those little bastards were annoying Mr Salazar so much that the madness was setting in! Omar Salazar, Fs bluntslide, Lyon, 2006.
The tricks need to be crazy and amazing in order to make great skateboard pictures from a false idea. Sylvain Tognelli, bs 180 flip, Lyon.
This is in my neighbourhood. I passed this place for about 20 years until I realised it could be turned into a skate spot with the right people involved such as Steve Forstner (pictured) and Ali Boulala. It’s a very strange and limited spot and the only time it was skated, but I’m stoked we did it.
The confrontation between different worlds. Some people focus on playing, while some others are into fighting. Not much else to say. This is from my book called “Hand in Hand” that you can watch online down ↓ there. Charles Collet Fs lipslide, Jerusalem 2010.
I obviously love the work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who passed away in 2012 at the age of 105! He never knew but he had a great sense of building such great spots for skateboarders. Ricardo Fonseca in Le Havre, France. 2005.
Without knowing I started filming for ‘Sorry’ while making éS ‘Menikmati’. This was on the very first Flip trip I had been on back in 1999 in France. The whole team went to visit Tom Penny in the french countryside where he lived with his mum. This picture sums up the general vibe and atmosphere of the trip pretty well; a batch of wild teenagers going crazy all the time. Funny memories!
Flick through Fred’s ‘Hand in Hand’ online book and if you feel like treating yourself to one of his ‘burnt’ series photos or even a pack of 4 postcards featured in this article, they are available now from his Big Cartel site.
‘Sorry’? Don’t make me laugh. Judging by this record (the band’s second), Vancouver quartet White Lung aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings and their raw, blistering punk rock attack will rub salt into your wounded heart. Strangely enough, you’ll thank them.
Belting through ten songs in less than 20 minutes, the pace is Ramones-relentless, but they never sound less than convincing. Vocalist Mish Way could match most typical punk screamers for power, but her piercing howl has the clarity and melodic edge that lingers long in the memory after ‘Sorry’ has run its course. Guitarist Kenneth William is no slouch either, whether scratching out a brittle melodic line on ‘Bag’, an ace spidery riff on ‘The Bad Way’ or unleashing bursts of screeching sonic warfare on ‘Those Girls’.
The overall impression is of a mix of early 90s alt-rock and riot grrl (Mish Way is a self-confessed Courtney Love devotee) fed through an 80s hardcore blender; the end result being as addictive and uncompromising as you could hope for. Granted, they’re not offering up anything particularly new, but they certainly infuse these old sounds with fresh rage and vitality. Check them out – you won’t be sorry either.
Interview by Ralph Lloyd Davis Photo’s: Davy Van Laere 10 tricks video by Ralf Goossens
Let’s start with the obvious. How long have you been skating and where did it all begin?
I’ve been skating for 9 years now and I started in Mechelen on a small mini ramp at the local swimming pool.
I have seen you at lots of skate events around Belgium, do you travel by yourself or move with a crew of friends?
Hmmmm. Usually with some friends who where down to go. Most of the time though it’s different people because not too many of my friends are into contest skating.
Who did you start skating with? Do you still skate with the same crew?
I started skating with people from my little hometown next to Mechelen, but after a while we kind of grew apart and I went skating with older guys from Mechelen. It was fun because they had a car already so I didn’t have to pay for shitty train journeys anymore, just the food. The first crew we had was pretty dope we had a realyl good time and made some videos too. It was me, Kristof (a.k.a. Den Dikke), Stefan (a.k.a. Ellington), Jente (a.k.a. Voorspoels) (laughs) and Robin Marien. We had the name ‘Lala Crew’. (laughs) Now two of them are skating again but they don’t have too much time with work and school which sucks because they skate super-good.
Ellington? I guess he’s a fan of Erik’s skating.
Yeah, he skates like Erik Ellington a lot!
Watch Jarne knock out 10 tricks for Muckefuck in the local concrete hole.
Who are your influences?
That’s hard to say but my first influence was probably the Flip ‘Sorry’ video. I watched it everyday but it didn’t really made sense too me because I didn’t know any tricks, it just motivated me too skate. These days I like to watch Wes Kremer, a lot of Skate Mafia stuff and as for others, I don’t know, any skaters who have fun!
Did you look up to any Belgian skaters? I know Hans Claessens us a a rad skater and skates everything. You seem to skate everything too. Is there a connection?
Oh yeah! We watched the Homemade videos (Local skate videos highlighting the Belgian scene filmed by resident pro Geoffrey Van Hove – Ed.) a lot too but we didn’t really look at the names so we didn’t know who was who. Only when we recognized somebody from Mechelen (laughs).
There are not many casual skateparks in Belgium, or not around where I live, so you can’t really skate the same stuff every day. You have to skate everything to skate a lot here, otherwise your always stay in the same place. Also, I like to skate shitty spots and that’s what we have here for sure. (laughs)
Haha! Yes, Belgium is no Barcelona that’s for sure.
What I wanted to say is that I get to skate more now with Hans and its really sick to see him back on his board like before. I have a lot of respect for him. It’s really motivating too.
I know you skate a lot of transition, does that help with street skating?
I don’t know. Maybe it helps you go faster or something, but it sure doesn’t help your pop. (laughs)
True true. Tell me how you got sponsored. Was it through skating contests or did you send sponsor-me tapes out? How did you get on Element?
A friend of mine started a clothing company and sponsored me for a while. The skate shop from Mechelen (Core – Ed.) helped me out a lot at the same time by talking to the Belgian distributor Transind. I also think Phil Zwijsen had filmed some internet clips and was so happy about it and showed it to them. (laughs) I filmed a lot with him that winter and he presented it to the team manager I think.
Phil rides for Element too and lives in Barcelona. Are you staying with him right now? Do you get to travel together a lot?
I saw him last week when I was in Barcelona, but just for a couple of days because he went to a contest in Austria. We usually skate together on Element trips but for the rest he’s always on tour or in Barca. When he’s in Belgium we skate together a lot.
Backside Crail on some seriously heavy metal. Ph: DvL
What’s Muckefuck? I saw you had a pro wheel with them.
Muckefuck is an Austrian brand that makes boards and wheels. I skate for the wheel part and everyone from the team got a pro model. It’s really sick. I saw some kids at the skatepark that bought my wheels and they are really good. I’m really happy about it.
Where have you traveled with skateboarding? What was your favourite town/country to visit?
Hmmm…I don’t know really. I went to the same countries a lot and it was always a little different. I went to Scotland a couple of years ago and I really liked it there. Man, it was pretty rough but there was a lot of nature too and a sick contest. Istanbul and Budapest are really sick too. I also like Spain a lot. There’s always good weather, good food, good spots.
Istanbul? I didn’t know that. Did you go to Livi in Scotland? It’s one of the oldest concrete skateparks in the country.
Yeah, Istanbul is a really hectic place but such good spots and weird food. I went to Livingston but it was raining, we just drove past it and checked it a little but it was just fun being there (laughs). It just sucked we couldn’t skate it!
It rains a lot in Scotland. You should try and get there this summer!
Yeah indeed! It rained there almost all the time we were there I think (laughs). It would be sick too go back.
Jarne spends his time skating the globe. Frontside ollie to ball anyone? Ph: DvL
You went on the Kingpin Drive trip, what was that like? Any good stories?
Yeah, that was a crazy trip man super sick! We went swimming in a super nice lake somewhere in Austria close to the cradle skatepark. where Rodrigo did the crazy Hugo Liard drop in. That was crazy because you had to aim between some rocks otherwise you were probably dead. Manuel Margreiter was doing front flips into it (laughs) but he’s a local you know, he’s been there before (laughs).
With all the traveling, how do you manage school? Do you still go to school? What do your parents think of your skating “career”?
Yeah, I still go to school. I almost quit just before because I was going on a lot of trips and it didn’t look like I was going to make it, but I got some free time so I can catch up while the others have lessons. I don’t know what you call it in English but its like lessons for starting your own business. It sucks that I’ll miss some lessons but it’s good to have the diploma at least. My parents are cool with it, my mother even said I could stop school and just skate, so that got me a bit confused so I carried on going anyway (laughs). Having a diploma is good though, and if I quit now I would have done all this slaving for nothing (laughs)…
Ha! Good luck with the diploma. School helps in the long term but skating and traveling can teach you life lessons. Your English is pretty good. Is this because of school or did skateboarding and traveling help? Was it difficult in the beginning?
Thanks! I hope I get it the diploma! I learned a lot of English from TV actually. I have older sisters and they always watched The Simpsons and Friends and stuff (laughs). So I learnt a lot of English from there and now when you travel you speak a lot of English too. I learned a lot of French on trips too but not enough to do interviews (laughs).
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know, just skate, try make a bit of a living from it, move to Barcelona, work a bit and go on trips. I’ll see what happens. I just have to get a diploma first and then I’m free to go!
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank all my sponsors and everybody who helps me out right now, muchas gracias!
The pain of not making tricks and the overall pressure of completing individual sections making skateboard videos is revealed in the making of Flip’s ‘Sorry’ video captured here by French Fred this week. Boulala, Rowley and more share the rage.