We published an interview with the multi-talented productivity machine that is Al Hodgson on his new ‘Gradient‘ offering, highlighting the editing process, filming with Jude Harrison and Harrison Woolgar, SΦMNIUM and much more. To accompany the interview we’ve released a ‘B-Sides’ of the ‘Gradient’ part for you all to enjoy.
Yes Al! So to start this off, could you briefly describe how this project came about? Your part came as a bonus to the SΦMNIUM project predominantly focusing on Harrison Woolgar, right? What was some of the motivation for this delectable part and did you feel more or less pressure from your perspective?
Yo Guy! So I suppose the project was pretty much Jude (Harrison)’s idea initially. We’d filmed a clip or two for ‘MARITIME’ and he tried a few times to persuade me to work on a solo thing with him. I think he was quite into the idea of doing a part with another VX filmer, I’m not sure haha. I was reluctant at first because I felt like the days of being able to get clips were a bit behind me. It takes me forever to land stuff and I’ve had quite a few recurring injuries, but I also suck at approaching projects casually. So I knew that what was probably a casual suggestion from Jude would likely become a bit of a saga if I let myself enter into it… Plus with Jude in Tunbridge Wells I thought there could be logistical challenges too. So, for a while, I just convinced myself out of it.
But a few months after we’d finished MARITIME, Harrison mentioned that he’d be keen to work on another part but also that he wanted to learn his way around the VX1000. The possibility of it being collaborative between him and Jude kind of took the pressure off a little and became the impetus to actually do it. We worked on it alongside filming for what became SΦMNIUM and Jude’s vid CONSTANT SEEKER.
Do you feel that having both projects on the go at the same time increased productivity but also perhaps took some of the pressure off, in the sense it wasn’t one mission to get one trick but could be one mission to get something for you and Harrison?
Other than being tiring, it actually worked out pretty well. It’s rare that you don’t clip up when you go out with Harrison (or Cal and Alfie), so it seldom felt like the pressure was just on me to make the day productive. We’d tend to always go out with a decent plan of what we’d be hitting, so we’d rarely be coming back empty-handed because of those guys, which in turn made me feel less guilty for trying to get stuff here and there too. But I also kept it pretty low-key and didn’t really tell anyone what my footage was going towards. Even Cal and Alfie didn’t know I had a part until the premiere haha.
Other times I’d link up with Jude solo. Those sessions felt more pressured because I felt guilty about Jude having to travel to film and so didn’t want to waste his time, but they all ended up fine in the end.
Me getting clips was pretty much always a battle and “I’m never doing this again” became a bit of a mantra that I imagine both of them got pretty over listening to. But it all worked out in the end and I’m so grateful for all their efforts and patience on it.
Yarris and Jude Harrison were on camera duty for your stunts. Being your creative self, you certainly have a clear vision of how you want the end product. Did you influence how they filmed, perhaps asking for ‘run-up shots’ or provoking how they filmed you, or did you leave it up to them independently?
Generally, I don’t tend to get clips that often because it usually takes me a while and I always feel guilty for wasting a filmer’s time. Yet at the same time, I’m also quite particular about how clips look but don’t want to be a control freak over how someone else films for their own project. So, for the most part over the past few years, aside from a few guest clips in our vids here and there, I just wouldn’t do it.
But I trusted Jude and Yarris with the filming for sure. Jude is a great filmer, and Harrison had all the fundamentals and vision already, but is also super keen and patient, so it was chill. We’re all mostly on the same page when it comes to how we think stuff should look, but they were also open to my thoughts too, which definitely helped clear my head. It was still a bit of a lesson for me in relinquishing control, but that’s healthy I think haha.
Did their filming choices affect your editing process? Perhaps they filmed something you didn’t realise which works well in the overall video. How did you find editing your own part? As a very talented, modest man, was it difficult?
Very kind of you Guy, cheers 🙂 Editing the part was kinda weird yeah. It was one of those crossover situations again where it’s hard to treat the footage objectively because it’s of yourself, but at the same time, I did want it to be edited a specific way and didn’t want to have to try and be a control freak over someone else’s edit.
Fortunately, I feel like Jude, Yarris and I are all from a similar school of influence when it comes to filming, so it didn’t feel too different to editing my own footage if I looked past the fact that it was of myself. If anything, it was cooler because Jude had the balls to do things like riding the Lighthouse bank while filming (NBD), so stuff like that made the edit a little more dynamic than if it was my own clips I guess.
However, for the edit I did approach it completely differently from how I normally would for a typical O.W.L project. Usually I pour over an edit for months, watching and rewatching over and over and changing gradually as I go, making a visual identity, b-roll, etc. But for this, because it was of me, it felt gross doing that, so I intentionally just chose the song, placed the clips on a timeline in time to the music and that was it.
In the end, Jude & Yarris shared about 50% of the screen time, with Yarris filming more clips overall but Jude filming most of the lines, so it worked out well as a collaborative thing.
Harrison has brought his own VX now, do you feel him filming you was almost like a crash course in videography from yourself and Jude?
Harrison has actually been a decent filmer for a while. He’s great at wielding a VX, he just hadn’t had much experience with the VX1000 specifically so needed a bit of guidance with camera settings, positioning with the MK1 etc. Now he’s on it and out in the wild filming his own vid, so I can start planning my early retirement…
As for Jude, do you see a bit of yourself in him? Young and hungry to make the most out of their own location? He’s defo giving Tunbridge Wells’ scene some more light as of late. Do you see a comparison to Brighton’s scene?
I actually do see a little of my younger self in Jude, yeah. I remember feeling the same passion at his age for local street skating and for the heritage of the scene I grew up in, even to the degree of tunnel vision sometimes haha… But he’s got a lot of knowledge and skill and a dope passion for the craft, which in an age of lazy Strobeck 4:5 bullshit is refreshing – especially for someone who was born in 2004.
As for comparisons between Brighton and Tunbridge Wells, there are some for sure; mostly in their prolific scene video back catalogues, which are impressive for small satellite towns, but they are quite different places for the most part. Although I will say it’s more impressive to me simply how much scene video heritage T-Wells has considering how dubious most of the ‘spots’ are, and that’s coming from someone who skates in Brighton… It’s just a good thing that it makes up for it with the best mannie pad in the south.
What were your fave and least fave spots that you skated during this project?
I definitely have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the two Brighton Marina bank spots (bank-to-wall and the ‘Kitten bank’). They are those kinds of spots you tell yourself you’ll never skate again every time you try something, but then a new idea comes into your head and you have to try it out. But they are both savage haha. I question my motives sometimes when I think about how much time I’ve spent at those two spots…
Did you return to any classic spots that have maybe had less exposure over the last few years, or which have been resurrected? I feel you opened up the Quadrophenia bank with the fakie flip and kept the momentum up for that with the backside flip!
I definitely re-watched lots of the old local Sussex and Kent videos to try and get some inspiration or think of potential new approaches to classic spots, yeah. Bottle Alley in Hastings is a good example of one of them. It’s been skated forever, but I feel like there is so much left to do there. It’s on my bucket list to watch Conor (Charleson) skate that place one day.
Also, I guess the ‘Kitten Bank’ was a good example of approaching a spot in a new way too. I actually first tried the bigspin flip there in 2018 but didn’t do it. I didn’t want to blow out the pop-up drain idea so I didn’t tell anyone about it. That ended up probably being the biggest mission in the whole part to roll away from haha.
It’s kind of you to say that about the Quadrophenia wall spot. That’s another spot I hate to love as well actually. But I definitely can’t claim to have opened it back up, that was a joint effort. It was an old crusty classic for years but it was pretty knackered and limited. So in 2021, we decided to build a very simple bit of DIY there to breathe new life into it. We had a heavy first session on it where Dougie did the insane alley-oop 360 revert to fakie, which was also the same day as the fakie flip and loads of other stuff there. I did kind of have that fakie flip in mind when we were making that concrete section, and it’s maybe the best thing I’ve ever done so I’m pretty glad it worked out haha…
But, as I say, a lot of people deserve the credit for making that spot a thing again, and in terms of keeping the momentum going, major shout out Cal’s 360 flip to fakie because that was bonkers. That was the same day as the backside flip and Ellis’ clip in SΦMNIUM too. We all lost our shit when he did that.
How about lurkers/general public at these spots; over the years you must have built up a bit of a rapport with them? Also, do you have any outside perspective stories from this project?
To be honest, in Brighton, most of the lurkers seem to have their internal compass set to the magnetic north of the Level. Given that we mostly avoided going there, we fortunately/unfortunately didn’t have too many unusual encounters.
I guess one funny one is that, despite the mission it is to get to the Newhaven Lighthouse spot (gnar death-drop spiked fence-climb to half-mile walk along the harbour arm whilst hiding from coastguard), there’s always a fisherman up there just chilling. The time Jude and I went there for Gradient (which was the last thing we filmed for the part), it turned out to be the same fisherman we’d met there two years previously filming for MARITIME, and he remembered us.
What’s your favourite trick you did in this part?
Most of the tricks in the part I felt could have been done better really, but I was stoked on the switch crook on the electrical box. I felt like I was punching above my weight on that one as I’ve only done that trick a few times, and I rarely skate that kind of spot. I was so happy to roll away from it that you can see me hop with joy as I go out of shot haha.
You’re certainly a purveyor of banks (the gradient type rather than the inflation-causing knobheads) and I feel that the shape is often appealing to non-skaters also. Percentage-wise, how many do you think you’ve checked off in Sussex and what is it about this specific obstacle that appeals to you?
Damn yeah I do love a bank spot. I did have the loose aim of visiting every bank-based spot in Sussex for this project, and we managed a good majority I think. Maybe 80%? Ha.
As for why I like them, it’s probably because I have no pop, so any alleviation from gravity, however short-lived, is always welcome. But I also love the challenge of hitting a harsh angle bank and trying to make your board do a thing. It’s pretty satisfying the rare times it works.
Do you feel coastal areas provide better inclines overall?
Hmm, that’s a good question. Sea wall spots provide some nice angles sometimes, but then the best bank spots I’ve skated tend to be in more industrial towns and cities. And hill spots depend on the landscape. So I’m not sure. I think I need to do more research. Vague will be the first to receive my comprehensive UK banking report upon completion.
Is there any significance to the song used?
Kind of yeah, it’s a song by an amazing Ethiopian artist called Alèmayèhu Eshèté (who sadly passed away a couple years ago) about nostalgia and love for his mother. At this point in my life I’ve had to reflect a lot about family and so it felt quite appropriate. I’m also pretty certain this will be the last time I do anything like this, so it felt nice to use a song that meant something personal.
You premiered this part alongside SΦMNIUM at various locations, I feel your surprise part could be compared to Josh Stewart’s ‘Static IV’ sunrise at prems, further cementing my comparison to O.W.L being the UK Static of the coastline. Any good stories and feedback from the prem?
Well, I definitely don’t think I deserve that comparison, but thanks very much man.
Honestly, I didn’t expect the reaction to the whole thing to be as positive as it was. I knew everyone would be hyped on Harrison, Cal and Alfie’s footage because they killed it, but I saw mine as a little side thing so was quite taken aback by people’s kind words.
I suppose I didn’t really tell anyone about the part while filming for it, and I think only five or six people knew I was doing it maybe, so I guess it was more of a surprise for people than I anticipated it’d be.
In terms of stories, haha I hope Harrison doesn’t mind me saying this but he said to me that he had a tear in his eye when he saw the part for the first time at the prem, which was sweet.
Also, for that event, venue licensing meant Diggs and his brother weren’t allowed in to watch the video, so they climbed and hid on top of a shipping container in the venue and watched it from there. Absolute legends.
Other than that, I guess it was just a really cool experience overall and a nice crescendo to working on the projects for over a year and a half. Thanks to everyone who came and to all the people who’ve been so kind, I really appreciate all of you.
Al Hodgson – ‘Gradient’ B-Sides