Introduction & Interview by Jono Coote
I probably don’t need to harp on any more than I already have, across a range of magazines, about Stockwell Skatepark’s place as one of the brightest jewels in South London’s pollution blackened skateboard crown. That, however, hasn’t stopped me yet; surrounded by the questionable fruits of rapacious developers, it is an oasis of social interaction in a way that was once the province of local pubs, markets and barbers before the majority of those were bulldozed to make way for luxury flats and Pret a Mangers. During four years of living within walking distance of the park (and in fact flatly refusing to move anywhere in the city where I wasn’t close to this sanctuary), I met skaters from across the globe who were drawn to its uniquely weird mise en scène. Amanda Perez was one of those skaters, and her early visits to Stockwell when over from Madrid visiting friends quickly drew her into the fold. She is such a part of Brixton Beach’s makeup now that I was surprised to realise she has only lived in the city for three years – but then again too many nights spent lurking on the bench above the bowl will warp anyone’s perceptions of time and space.
With a story leading from Uruguay to Madrid to London, and with her all out approach to style-led transition skateboarding seeing her hooked up by Blast Skates, Vans and most recently UK skateboarding institution Slam City Skates, I’ve been looking forward to sitting down for a chat with Amanda for some time. Eventually the opportunity arose at the tail end of a rainswept Leeds weekend, serendipitously at one of Hyde Park’s lurker benches – one day someone will have the idea of twinning these paragons of vice, much like they do with towns in different countries, and the council will organise formal visits between the two for local skaters to experience different communities. My original interview notes were in fact based around the causes and effects of extensive travel and, while it immediately came across in the text how intrinsic Stockwell has been for both of our personal skateboarding journeys, without the urge to travel in the first place neither of us would have ended up there. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that travelling around with a skateboard and meeting like minded people is bloody great, and probably proffers the key to inner peace and total enlightenment, or some such transcendental guff; which is essentially what the following interview is about, so have a read and then heed the call of the road.
You’ve hopped countries a couple of times since, but you grew up in Uruguay, right? Did you start skateboarding there, or in Madrid?
I never even touched a board in Uruguay. I did know about the skatepark that was there, near the beach, but I started skating in Madrid. In the beginning it was just on an abandoned street behind my house. There were some guys who would skate there, and it looked so cool – even in an abandoned street there was something about it, it looked so tempting. In the beginning it was just skating street, doing flip tricks. Then someone built a miniramp in a squat house, and that’s how I started skating transition. It was indoors but would get wet all the time, it was so bad, but it was somewhere to go. It was near my school, we knew the guy and we had the key so we could go whenever. It was weird at the beginning, because I was just skating flat ground in the street before that, I got really into doing kickflip fakies on the miniramp… that was my thing for a bit, every time I went to a ramp I would do a kickflip fakie (laughs).
And was that how you met the Madrid transition skaters, Nico and Dino, those dudes?
So that was when they built the skatepark near my house, Legazpi. That was a really big project – all that part of the river in Madrid, it wasn’t that nice, it was just a river full of crap. They had this massive construction project, they wanted to make it look nice so they could charge more for the apartments they were building nearby.
And what brought you to London, when did you decide to move over?
So the friend I started skating with, on the abandoned street in Madrid, he moved to London. I came to visit him one time and I just loved it. There’s always been something about the UK and London I really like, so when I came here for the first time to stay with him we went for a skate, he took me to touristy stuff, loads of places, and I didn’t want to go back. I visited him again and started meeting more people and I just wanted to stay, I didn’t want to go back to Madrid – but I had one year left of uni. I told my parents I just wanted to stay, but thinking about it now I did the right thing, going back and finishing uni, at least I have that there. I’ve always been really anxious and impatient, at that time I just wanted to be there – it was so sick, the Stockwell lot, I met Macey (Amanda’s partner), I just wanted to stay. But it was the smart thing to do I think, staying and finishing my degree.
And now you’ve been here for what, five years?
Shit, I guess all those times you were visiting, in my head that was when you lived here.
So that was four years ago, then in June three years ago I moved. It hasn’t been that long.
And you’ve moved around quite a bit, have you ever thought of moving on or are you still stoked to be in London?
I don’t know. I kind of got bored of Spain and Madrid, and that’s why I wanted somewhere different, to escape a bit. I’ve always found it hard to stay in the same place, I’ve always liked moving, but I’ve found a good home in London. But who knows, you can never say.
Having been back to Uruguay since, is there much of a skate scene there – parks, shops etc?
I’ve only been back two times. The first time I was just with my brother and we were quite young, but then two years ago was the first time in fifteen years that all of us – my parents, my brother and me – all came back together. I did take my board, and went to the skatepark I used to see when I was young. It’s not amazing, I don’t think there’s a massive skate scene, but this year was the first time a video from Uruguay has come up on Thrasher. And they’re sick! They’re kind of moshers, metalheads skating loads of stairs and rails. I was looking at the spots in the video thinking shit, I recognise some of these spots and never thought people were actually skating them. They were killing it. I started following one of them online and realised there’s actually a skate scene.
And I guess it’s like the UK, in a country so small if you’ve been skating there for a few years you probably know most people and you’ll have been to most places where there is a scene.
It’s funny, Uruguay has three million inhabitants – that’s the whole country, not just the capital. Madrid, greater Madrid, has three million inhabitants. So I moved from a tiny country to a city with the same amount of people. It was kind of a culture shock.
So you’ve basically moved to busier and busier places, Uruguay, then Madrid, then London. Delhi next maybe?
So you started skating Stockwell loads once you moved here, is that where you met Matt Bromley and how the Blast hookup came about?
The first time I bought a Blast board was before I came to the UK. I’d seen some videos of Snelling on YouTube. I loved the mascot so much, I had to email Bromley and ask if he would ship to Spain. I got a board and it was so good, I think that was five or six years ago, then I met him at Stockwell when I started visiting there. I remember seeing Snelling for the first time as well and thinking “this guy is a nutter,” but then he was lovely.
On your Instagram account there are always loads of kid’s toys, gubbins and 80s ephemera – did that bond you guys closer?
It did I think, and doing the collection we knew there had to be a toy. I’ve always loved the 80s toys, even McDonalds used to do some really good toys. Macey has been collecting for years as well, he’s been a big influence on that side.
Last year Blast launched their first signature series collection, with each rider given creative direction as to how the board was made and designed. What influences went into your creation? How was it designing your own shape? It’s a level of interaction with what you are skating that not many skateboarders reach…
So the first uncut deck was based on a Jeff Kendall, with some twists. Then for my one, we kind of did a similar thing but went down to a 9.75. The first test we did, it had a really short nose. It was alright, but I thought if I had a bigger nose certain tricks would feel more comfortable. Once we added those inches it was sick, the best shape.
And who decided on the scrunchie and the toy – you, Bromley, or was it a collaboration? How did you actually make the toy?
The scrunchie was definitely me, and the toy was an agreement from the beginning. There had to be some kind of creepy-related option. I always wanted to get those tools, the pressure pod and the air compressor, and this gave me the chance to give it a go. So you get the figure; imagine, if you are creating it from scratch, you sculpt it in clay. But if you already have the figure and you just want to replicate it, you get the figure and create a silicone mould. You have to have two halves, with the object in the middle, then there is a tunnel so you can fill the middle. You take out the figure, that’s your mould. You have to be careful not to get air bubbles in the mould, or you’ll end up with all these tiny air bubbles on the surface, but once you have that mould you’re sorted. That was the hard part, learning to use the pressure pot. Then the resin has two parts, you have part a and part b. One part is the hardener and one is the regular silicone, then you put in the colourant. You mix the parts, but you have to be really careful – you mix one for thirty seconds, another for thirty seconds, you put B into A, mix it for one minute. You put the colouring in the hardener, mix them together, then you have a window of time where you have to put it in the mold before it starts curing. The mold goes into the pressure pot, you seal the pot, turn the air compressor on until it hits 60p a side, which is about 20 seconds, and that sucks out the bubbles straight away. You leave the mold with the resin inside for half an hour in the pressure pot. Then there is an air release valve, you release the air slowly, and it’s done. It’s hard, if you do something wrong with the pressure pot it can explode, it can go really bad. We have it in our house in the kitchen, it vibrates so loudly. One day I was stressing, I had to do ten monkeys in one day. Even if it’s just 20 seconds, it’s so loud… one of the neighbours a couple of days later was like, “Is everything alright?” Macey said I was making resin figures, he was like “Okaaay.”
DIY is obviously an ongoing theme with Blast – everything from scratch, now the boards with Gnosis as well. How is it visiting the factory?
It’s just sick, going there the first time blew my mind. You have these companies doing boards made in Chinese factories, churning out loads of boards, but when you have skaters making boards from scratch? Until you go to these workshops, you don’t realise how much work goes into getting this shitty piece of wood together. I guess it’s kind of like skaters owning skate shops, it’s skaters owning board workshops putting all their love into the boards. There’s so much attention to detail, it’s a win win. They’re also trying to change the packaging, get rid of the plastic and move to recycled paper.
Stu’s been doing that with Lovenskate, it’s sick! So I know Bromley has some collaborations in the pipeline – talking of which he should do something with Morph’s prison hooch company, you’re welcome for that idea Matt – and I know by the time this comes out we’ll be able to talk about the Blast X Slam collaboration. You’ve also just started skating for Slam, right? How did that come about, and how is it skating for such a London skateboarding institution?
Even the first time I came to London, the first skate shop I went to was Slam. Skating for them now, it doesn’t feel real – how has that happened? Four years ago I was visiting their shop thinking how cool it was. They’re just legends, they’ve been supporting the scene for so long. 25 years, that’s mental!
They’re a fucking cultural phenomenon, the fucking Beastie Boys played in their basement! So what was the design process and influences that went into the collaboration?
Honestly I wasn’t involved in that, I knew it was coming out and then it happened to be really good timing when they were putting together this new team for the shop. I’ve filmed an edit with Morph at Hackney Bumps which should be coming out with it. It’s a Blast X Slam collab but it’s not related to me joining Slam, it’s just weird, good timing.
As someone who also works behind the scenes at Vans, how does it feel reconciling the ‘industry’ side of things with the physical act of skateboarding itself? Obviously they are a company closely intertwined with skateboarding’s commercial growth over the years and HOV has given them a permanent presence in the London scene, how has it been seeing things from the ‘other side’ as it were, rather than sinking cans on the bench at Stockwell?
What is it they say? I stopped skateboarding to work in the skateboard industry (laughs). It’s been two years now. It was funny, I went to the interview on crutches in a massive boot because I broke my ankle in House of Vans. I couldn’t go to the first one so we had to do it online, I went to the second one on crutches, I didn’t think it was going to happen. At that point I was applying for so many things, it just felt like good practice for other interviews. They had these fancy offices. I went in thinking, “Imagine going to work here every day?” Then a week later HR messaged me saying I had the job. I always get nervous with that kind of stuff, even working with Vans has kind of made me push myself in terms of working with more people. I get really nervous, anxious, really red, but everyone in Vans is so, so safe. Not just the UK either, the whole of Europe they’re so sound, and it seems like everyone is in the right position – everyone is so carefully chosen, it seems like they are in the position they are best suited to. But going from Stockwell to an office job, it’s definitely a change.
And then on the other hand I guess they do all sorts of rad events – Go Skateboarding Day’s city takeover and all of that.
Yeah, but sometimes with those events it’s hard to strike a balance; coordinating and organising those events, but finding time to skate as well. On Go Skateboarding Day I was sorting everything, there was a five minute window and I ran to get a skate in before getting back to it. It’s good to be on both sides, because you realise how much work goes into it and it makes you appreciate it even more. When I see other events going on now I think fair play – people think it’s easy putting on skate events, but it isn’t. Especially with Vans being part of a big corporation, there’s loads of stuff you’ve got to be careful about. Even the flyer, it sounds silly but it has to be a specific logo, depending on what it is, and it can’t be any other logo than that logo.
So since you moved here you’ve ended up with this pretty full on job that keeps you in the city a lot, but where else have you enjoyed in the UK – Scotland, Wales etc?
I went to Wales for the first time three weeks ago, I was in Newport but it was really brief and we were camping, so I still have to have a Wales trip. I really enjoyed Bristol, I really like Margate but maybe that’s just because of Cates’ Pool. I don’t feel like I’ve been to that many places to be honest. I’ve been to Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow are both fun.
Did you go to Livi?
I went to a gnarly park, but I don’t know if it was Livi. Is that the one Stu Graham skates? I think I’d remember if I’d gone there, so no, I haven’t.
Closing things up closer to home, what are your five favourite skate locations in London, and five favourite non skate things to do there?
First, Stockwell. Second, Stockwell… (laughs). It’s quite a hard one. Peckham Rye is fun. Three, Hackney Bumps. The stuff they are building now is sick, and there’s more planned. Four… this is quite hard. There are places I haven’t been to which I’d like to, Cann Hall looks really good. I’d say Crystal Palace, but… it’s not too bad, there’s just something off about it. The Grove is fun sometimes.
I saw some clickbaity, Braille Skateboards type shit on YouTube saying ‘overview of London’s biggest DIY’ and it was about The Grove and I thought to myself, ‘Steve would have something to say about this’.
I was going to say Tottenham, it’s just so gnarly. I used to go more when I first started visiting London.
It’s the best. You were there when I first broke my ribs, you thought I’d rolled my ankle and kept trying to give me beer but I was really winded.
(laughs) Non skate-wise, the first thing would be sleeping. Second, riding a motorbike. Third, going to a Slobheads gig. Four, going to a car boot sale. Five, chilling with friends… all of those include friends I guess. Well, maybe not sleeping. Going around on a pushbike, I’ve been doing that after work to get away from the screen, riding along the river.
Amanda Perez’s interview featured in Issue 23 of our print mag. Get a physical copy of the issue here.