Hailing from Lewes, East Sussex Albie Edmonds now lives up north and has firmly established himself in a short space of time, recently earning himself a place on Welcome Skate Store team. He’s pretty much put together 3 full parts in the space of a year. We’ve uploaded one of them here from Leeds full length video ‘Assembly‘ filmed by Bradfordian Will Smith. To coincide with the part release we have uploaded his issue 23 interview conducted by Jono Coote. Check out the interview and part below, go purchase Assembly on DVD, then await another part from this productive fella soon.
Sitting in a plain top floor room in the centre of Leeds, in the storage space/ping pong thunderdome which can be found above Welcome Skate Store and Village Books, the focus has moved from the ongoing inter-staff table tennis tournament and on to Albie Edmonds’ many and varied pastimes. Me, Fraser Doughty and Tom Brown are sipping beers and grilling my fellow Sussex transplant, which – given his recent signing to a record label, coupled with the fact of him filming pretty much three full parts with different filmers over the course of a year – feels very well timed indeed. Albie’s free form, spontaneous approach to all terrain skateboarding, which always brings to my mind Tim Brauch when I watch it, is something which chimes well with our discussions of jazz musicians and jazz sampling in hip hop. If Albie’s skating was music, Guru would have been buying the rights for his Jazzmatazz project – something you’ll most likely be able to attest to after watching at least one of the multiple parts he’s been working on by the time these words are on paper. If not, then maybe put on Volume 1 Side 1 of the aforementioned Jazzmatazz, kick your feet up, and enjoy his skating in the static form you can find amongst these words whilst getting some insight into the nature of productivity.
Fraser: So… Albie, Albert, Bert, Al, who are we talking to here? And when did you move to Leeds?
(laughs) Definitely Albie. I first came to Leeds because my mates Michael and Ned lived here, they were at the same uni as me. I came to a house party, had a very messy weekend and was like, “Yo this city is fucking sick!” I also went and looked around Leeds Conservatoire – at the time I was at home doing carpentry, kind of having no purpose in life, and thought maybe I should take music a bit more seriously and study it. I didn’t want to go into halls as I was 21 at the time, but those two said I could move in and me and some other mates from Lewes moved up. It was me and four of my best mates in a house, which was pretty ideal. That was my taster of Leeds, a massive piss up (laughs).
And you studied Music Production, and you got signed recently right? What kind of music is it you actually make? I don’t know much about a lot of electronic music.
Electronic Music Production, yeah. I’m so shit at answering this, I guess it’s spoken word based hip hop with a songwriter, almost folky influence in some parts… sounds shit when I say it though, I would hate to listen to that on paper (laughs). I guess kind of that. I hadn’t played any gigs in Leeds at all until two weeks ago, when I played my first gig up here, just because of COVID. I felt quite intimidated when I first moved here because the music scene is sick, and most of my mates who are musicians are all jazz musicians; I’d go to all these gigs and everyone was so good. It was really motivating but also really intimidating, I’m not a virtuoso in any instruments or anything. But I released a few tunes independently, I’d made a load of mates in the music scene and I guess through that some collaborations came about. The label that I’m working with now, they have a really good Spotify playlist for UK independent hip hop and I think I was hassling them, like “Yo, put my tune on your playlist!” They hit me up a few months later seeing if I wanted to put a project out and now I’m putting out a seven track EP sometime next year (check out Albie’s music here).
And what’s the process involved in making it? Is it all digital, or do you record some of the instruments and then loop them?
I play guitar and a bit of keys, so I record that stuff and then do the rest on my computer. I’ve got a mic and everything so do most of that at home, and some stuff at uni. That’s why last year was shit, part of the reason I moved to Leeds was to be able to use all the studios and equipment and I just wasn’t able to.
Normally I’d ask loads of questions about gigs in Leeds, your favourites and all that shit, but you had what, a year here before lockdown?
Yeah, a little bit less than a year. A lot of my mates’ bands play Hyde Park Book Club so I do go to a lot of gigs there, mainly jazz stuff. There’s a Leeds based band called Project Hilts, which a lot of my good friends are in, who are fucking sick and have played all over Leeds. They were my introduction to a lot of different venues – The Wardrobe, Hi Fi, Domino – as well as finding out about other bands through the support acts. I’ve been to a few gigs at Wharf Chambers, I love that place.
An independent venue that sells Sam Smith’s, what’s not to like? I never knew Leeds had such a big jazz scene, does that feed into your music beyond the usual jazz samples in hip hop? Basically, are you sat at home a lot smoking weed listening to Sun Ra?
(laughs) Umm… naa. Sun Ra is sick, but I’m not jazzy enough to sit at home smoking joints listening to Miles Davis or anything. I respect all of that, but I don’t listen to a lot of jazz. In my opinion though, the best hip hop collective of all time are A Tribe Called Quest and all their samples are very jazz influenced. So I guess I listened to a lot of jazz based hip hop anyway, and it definitely helped me meet a lot of other musicians. One of my good friends, Glen, plays a lot of jazz keys with me.
You’re also a snowboarder – did snowboarding or skateboarding come first?
I skateboarded first, but then when I finished school all my mates were going to uni and I didn’t want to do that at all then – I was really over education. A few older people I knew had done bar work in ski resorts and shit, so I wanted to do that. The first season was in Montgenèvre, France washing dishes for six months. That was when I learned how to snowboard and fell in love with it. It’s like having one really long hill to bomb but then you get a lift back to the top, what’s not to love about that? I did that for three winters and wasn’t skating that much apart from a bit in the summers in between. Lewes is a pretty small town and all my mates who I skated with kind of quit, so I didn’t have a crew to skate with unless I went to Brighton. But then once I moved to Leeds, I met Joe Allen and all that crew and skating was back. They were super welcoming, it felt like I had a crew again and I was skating street properly; probably for the first time ever with people who were regularly doing it. Leeds made me fall back in love with skating in a way.
See, it’s always fucked with me what a good skate scene Lewes has. Before the new park even, there was fuck all to skate there but there were always skaters. Sam Roberts, Pete Hellicar, Ben English and Diggs getting older… how the fuck did that come about?
Oh yeah now it’s banging, for a town its size it probably has one of the best scenes in the country. When I say it was dead, I mean all my close friends had stopped skating so I didn’t have a proper crew. In terms of its history it’s sick. Before the new one was built, I always heard this rumour that the old park was made out of recycled fridges. It was this weird, white carbon fibre skatepark, pretty shit but I loved it because it was where I learned to skate. The scene there was sick at one point. Sirus (F Gahan) went to the same school as me, he was always filming skatepark edits with all the locals, and all the Brighton skaters were coming over a lot. Sirus was mates with all the Lewes and the Brighton people, so those two scenes amalgamated. I was just a grommy kid, obsessed with all of Sirus’ videos.
Tom: Was that a mission for the local kids, to try and get a trick in one of his edits?
Yeah, we didn’t know much about skateboarding outside of his videos. I remember going to one of his premieres at BYC, this indoor skatepark in Brighton, and everyone was fanboying hard. Marley, one of my mates, had a trick in one of the Brighton edits and we were all stoked on it. I feel like in the last year or two Brighton has had a really banging scene, mostly due to Al Hodgson and his crew. Dan Fisher, Griff, Louie and Rupert Antoine, Harrison Woolgar, they’re all sick. I don’t think a lot of those dudes live in Brighton now, they just travel down, but Al is still based there.
Lewes is probably most famous for its bonfire, can you explain that chaos for those who don’t know? Because it isn’t Bonfire Night, it’s Lewes Bonfire Night and it’s separate.
I don’t know how it’s legally still allowed… how can I describe it?
Fraser: It’s like The Wicker Man, it’s a council approved Wicker Man for Lewes. If you need a good crop yield for the brewery you’d be sticking a virgin inside, anyone you don’t like politically, then burning it, right?
So they’re called tableuxs, basically a massive papier-mâché sculpture. It’s divided into different bits of the town and they have different societies, I think there’s nine or ten in total now. Each one has their own fireworks society and each one will pick a different target each year, make a huge papier-mâché sculpture, fill it with fireworks and then blow it up. They’ve done everybody and everyone – Kim Jong Un, Boris Johnson, every Conservative Party leader ever, quite a few of the Labour ones, no prisoners. It’s sick, and it ends in absolute chaos because everyone gets fucked up, drinking whiskey all night, there’s fire everywhere. Everyone is pissed, there’s bangers going off all over the place, in these thin, cobblestone streets with the castle there. Everything is on fire, it feels like you’re in a 1600s riot. It’s sick, everyone should go.
Because Lewes is known in Sussex as a middle class artistic haven, you’ve got that fancy artists’ retreat outside of town. Who are some of the more eccentric characters you can regularly see on its streets?
I don’t want to slag off Lewes at all. It’s fairly Bohemian, a lot of middle class hippies and old ravers. It’s a nice place, a great place to grow up so near the countryside, it is a strange place though. I don’t know about regular weirdos, but there was one really good story about a guy that came down to the skatepark with his kid on a scooter. Me and my mate Harvey were sat on the ledge and the guy came over, picked up a leaflet on the floor and asked if it was ours, which it wasn’t. It was a Flat Earth leaflet and he was like, “It’s kind of interesting though, isn’t it?” It was clearly his leaflet that he’d placed there next to us, he’d come up, pretended it wasn’t his, then started going in on that stuff. That was really funny, this guy had come down to the skatepark with his kid on a scooter to convert everyone to Flat Earth Theory. Otherwise, you just get a lot of scooter kids at the park, and middle class kids pretending to be badmen. A little like Horsforth Skatepark, right?
What I really like about it is, it’s really crowded and loads of people go there and hate it. I think it’s great. Everything’s just really close together, a lot of the transitions are tight. Obviously you know Jono, we went to Belgium with Sam Roberts and Jake Miller, then me and Sam went again, and all the skateparks in Belgium are just sick. They’re all built by Concrete Dreams, the guys who built Mechelen DIY, which is huge. Other places in Belgium saw these dudes creating this thing, and now they have a company. All these tiny Belgian towns have these DIY-inspired but still incredibly built skateparks, that are all really quirky and have really interesting obstacles. I think Sam, who was heavily involved with getting Lewes Skatepark built, was inspired by what he’d skated out there.
Tom: You can kind of see that you’ve come from a park like that when you skate Hyde, you’re everywhere – compared with most of us, who line up, hit the block, maybe push around before the next obstacle, you’ll be ‘blam, blam’. You skate it like Sam (Hutchinson) – you don’t session one particular thing, you’re on everything.
I think Hyde is sick for that. Hyde is a weird anomaly, on paper every line is very mapped out but it actually works really well to flow around. People skate it really well, especially Bruce and Foz. I think it was in the first or second week I moved to Leeds, I didn’t know anyone and maybe typed ‘Hyde Park Skatepark’ into Youtube or went on Welcome’s account, and it was just after that Foz edit at Hyde Park came out. I’d been there and skated it twice, so I knew just how fucked all those tricks were.
And with that first trip to Belgium, you hadn’t been abroad before and me, you, Sam and Jake went out in tents, got pissed out our heads…
(laughs) I do not know how my mum let me go on that trip. I was 16, Sam said you were going to Belgium and asked if I wanted to come. My mum walked me down to the station to get picked up, I can just imagine what she thought when she saw you three. It was fucking sick, really fun and I feel like you were fairly good guardians for the week.
Yeah, I feel it was a good first skate trip experience. What are some of the other places you’ve been stoked on, and where would you like to go?
Well I haven’t been on many other skate trips. I went to Barcelona a few months before COVID with Joe Allen and about 15 others. There was such a big crew, half of us were in different places the whole time but it was fucking sick. It was the first time I’d had anything like that, I was blown away. It was super hot, it was in January and I hadn’t skated in four weeks because I’d broken my foot. The physio said I shouldn’t skate for eight weeks, but obviously I was going to Barcelona so I bought an ankle brace and just pushed through with a lot of painkillers. It was amazing skating there, especially after winter in Leeds.
That trip to North Wales a few months ago was really good. It was really funny, driving into Wales past a hill that just wasn’t that big and Little Harry going, “Is that a mountain? I’ve never seen one of them before.” So I never knew Ben Raemers, but watching footage of young Ben, that pure naivety, some of the stuff Harry comes out with properly reminds me of that. It’s amazing. “Am I supposed to take my shoes off, or do I keep them on in my sleeping bag?” We told him that if you look into a naked flame, eight years on it will ruin your creativity and you’ll never be able to be creative again. He kept having to check with all the Welsh locals, “Is it actually really bad for you?” Big up the North Wales locals. Rob Parsons is amazing, and his bowl is something else. You’re skating this bowl, there’s mountains in the distance and you cross the road to this gorgeous river with rocks you can jump off. All those local kids, you could tell they’d grown up skating this beast of a thing. There’s probably only 20 or 30 people in the country who could skate that thing, and all these kids from tiny little villages skate it like it was just a miniramp.
Tom: You’re obviously a skate rat but not the typical skate rat. You’ve dedicated yourself to it, but it seems like there are other things. What other things have you got hidden up your sleeve non-skating wise? Sports or creative things, travelling, cycling, camping, whatever?
I fucking love wild swimming. It’s another thing I can definitely see me staying in Leeds for, this summer has been amazing in that I’ve driven out to spots two or three times a week to go swimming. That’s what’s sick about Leeds, even just cycling out for half an hour from my house I have Arthurton Reservoir and more. I’m really into that, getting out into the wild. But music and skating have always been the two things. I used to be really into dance as well. I did that at GCSE, my mum was a tap dancer and dance choreographer. She did a lot of choreography for Stomp.
Tom: This is what I mean! I know you through skating, now I know about your music stuff, but I can imagine you being in a club, throwing shapes and everyone being like “What the fuck?”
Me and my brother used to be super into breakdancing, we’d go to battles and shit. I still love dancing to good music, but it’s more of a pleasure than a hobby.
Fraser: You sound like you’ve come from 1992 in a time machine. What do you like? A Tribe Called Quest. What do you do? Breakdancing.
Tom: I just love that about skaters, you meet these people through skating but they have these layers and layers.
It’s the same with Mike Clarkson, he’s a fucking amazing skateboarder but also pretty much a doctor and an amazing photographer. And the same with Blinky. I guess with a lot of skateboarders, it’s really good to have other shit outside of that. It makes you appreciate it more and see it from a different place, to take that step back sometimes. And then your body isn’t as fucked either!
You live in Leeds, it rains for six months of the year so you’d better find something else to do… but also, you’ve managed to film pretty much three full video parts in the past year. How did you figure out what you were going to film with whom? Or was it just an organic thing wherever you happened to be with one filmer?
I started filming with Joe Allen pretty early on into living in Leeds. Like I said, that crew were super welcoming and I just got on with them really well. Then, a few months ago, I suddenly found myself filming with three different people and I couldn’t remember who I’d asked to go film which trick. I think I just wrote notes on my phone – these are the tricks I want to do with Will Smith, these are the ones I want to do with Josh Hallett, these are the ones I want to do with Joe. Me and Will hang out quite a lot outside of skating anyway, I find it really easy filming with him and quite a few times we’ve just gone on missions to Bradford. He’s from there so he knows the area really well, knows loads of weird spots. That felt like a really natural process. Then more recently I’ve been filming with Hallett. I found it a bit intimidating, filming with Hallett is big boy shit (laughs), but then obviously they’re all really sound and getting out with Hallett a bit more at the moment is the plan. Could I also shout out Belgium peeps: Thierry, Robbie and Concrete Dreams. Lewes peeps: Ben and Diggs, young killer Evan, Pete Hellicar and his shop The Skate Society and my OG boys Marley, Gully and Louis.
Albie Edmonds – Assembly Part