Introduction & Interview by: Guy Jones
Photography by: Melody Berkery, Naoise McCarthy, Henry Kingsford, Rafal Wojnowski, Anthony Acosta & James Griffiths
Some of Conor’s nicknames, including ‘The Wallie Keen Giant’ and ‘Wolverkeen’, are obviously funny but do also reflect his talents and positive traits. He has some of the finest wallie and wallride variations out there and is continuing to leave his mark on historic spots left, right and centre (this is an understatement regarding the 118 Banks, to which he brings a backside nosegrind revert in these very pages). I’m not sure I’ve ever met anybody as enthusiastic as him either, hence the ‘Wolverkeen’ epithet, which references his dashing good looks (compared to Hugh Jackman’s character in X-Men) combined with his overflowing ambition. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone look so mortified when the crew decide to stop skating and return home on a depressingly dark, damp winter evening. Conor has worked incredibly hard and I feel it’s purely for his self satisfaction, the respect from his peers being just an added bonus. Props to Conor, he’s achieved so much and will continue to do so, but let’s never forget the Charleson Shuffle; his party trick of a frontside bigspin hardflip. Give it a go and imagine doing one in front of JB Gillet like Conor did. Lots of love pal.
So firstly thank you very much for doing this, but can we just confirm that this interview is meant for us and not your 200th appearance in the fabulous Grey Magazine?
Haha! Yes, definitely for you guys. For the last two years almost every branded project I did just happened to be through Grey, and Henry Kingsford has helped me out a lot in the past. I’m sure the consumers of the mag are sick of seeing me in there. I know Henry is. I’m sorry that it’s taken a while to get something going, but we’re here now and hopefully will be again, because I still owe you an urban wildlife spotter’s guide.
We’re obviously messing, we also really enjoyed your SOLO interview. We understand that this is a statement and not a question so, in the words of Nathan Morris when interviewing Lee from Blue, “What’s your favourite horse power?”
Growing up skating in South Wales before making the move to London, it seems as though you’ve always been surrounded by incredible skateboarders. Do you feel that the incredible Welsh transition skating scene inspired you to skate street spots like transitions despite them being flat 90 degree walls?
Honestly the origin of the transition side of it is strange. When I was a teenager there was some tension (now in the distant past) between the Newport and Cardiff scenes, and I was more exposed to the Hologram boys (headed by Nick Bastard/Richards) street skating in Cardiff than to Pulley and Collins fighting ramps in Newport. Nick made a video that came out in 2009-ish, which was around the time I started trying to use my brain a little more when street skating. Rhys Whaley and Kev Barry had a shared part with loads of bank spots and some wallrides and it was the part I kept going back to for ideas. They were fucking around while doing really hard, confusing tricks throughout and it helped veer my attention away from hucking my corpse down the Sports Café eight stair every weekend. I also think it stems from being plagued by an over-keenness. When the plaza was built down the bay, one of the least-skated obstacles was a bank to jersey barrier. I’d often ignore the ledges and skate that, because I could get more goes in. Probably. It’s all a bit of a confusing blur.
Staying loosely on the subject of Wales, growing up it seems your family were (and still are) super sound. Your dad is also an actor who appeared in several known things. Is it true that people didn’t want to beat you up because of one of his more intimidating roles on the big screen?
Yeah. My dad’s scene in Green Street is the bane of his life. He plays some geezer heading a group of hooligans looking for a scrap with Frodo and his mates. Twice in school and once in a Spar I avoided getting my head kicked in because somebody said, “Oh, leave him alone, his dad’s in Green Street”. Dad isn’t stoked on it though, he’s a lot more hyped on the theatre work he’s done which is all really well reviewed, but gets you less points down the pub. Like any career in the arts work comes and goes, so he’s worked a ton of other jobs to fill the gaps, and was also massively supported by my mum grinding away in the NHS.
You’ve worked as an extra before but would you like to get into more serious acting? Your accent often changes depending on your environment, which would be a big advantage. I’d also love to see you host a documentary series exploring skate spots mixed with nature and environmental issues, like a radical Nigel Thornberry. Do you have any desire for this?
Yeah, my accent is a mess. Even before I left Wales people would ask where I was from. The work I did as an extra was a short stint a while ago, but I’d definitely consider it again. I think it’s the easiest thing to do if you have a part time job or you’re a freelancer and you want to bolster your income. In my experience, you’re sat around chatting or on your laptop in holding most of the day and you’re called on to set for an hour or so of work here and there. Even that’s cool. I got to see Will Ferrell and Steve Coogan improvising scenes, both with John C. Reilly, on different jobs. There’s also a Stonehenge documentary out there somewhere where I’m playing a Bronze Age man making a pilgrimage decked out in animal pelts, I’ve not seen it myself yet though.
I don’t think I’d ever take acting to the next level. The documentary idea appeals to me, but that’s not the easiest pitch in the world. I’ve had ideas before about trying to structure something around taking skateboarders out of their comfort zone both in terms of difficult spots and confronting them with issues outside of finishing video parts and remembering to tag their sponsors. Skateboarding is so global and spans so many nations and cultures that I’m sure you could find a few skateboarders working in different areas of conservation and environmental science. Skateboarding is an incredible social bridge and would definitely be a way of getting some coddled Californians to get their hands dirty whilst also spreading knowledge of issues and the different ways people are trying to manage them to an audience that perhaps wouldn’t usually be interested. Imagine Torey Pudwill doing a bat survey in Brunei, trying not to get rabies, whilst live streaming to the global Grizzly gang.
I’ve been hyped to see you going on various trips covered by such marvellous publications as Grey. Could you tell us some of the places you’ve enjoyed as part of a company or self funded trip, both in terms of skate spots and nature-wise, if you’d be so kind?
I seem to keep getting drawn back to Malaysia. Most recently that was with Grey to link up with Vans Malaysia over there, but the only reason that came about was because I had a university field trip to do ecological surveys in Borneo in my final year. I booked my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur back to the UK for a week later than everybody else and stuck around to skate. I had my mind blown in the jungle for two weeks, as the biodiversity there was on a whole other level to anything I’d seen before, and then I was lucky enough to link up with some local skaters in KL and get shown around the capital for a week. I ended up going back a few years later with Jimmy Silver, Joe Roberts, Casey Brown and Will Creswick, we drove up and down the country visiting all the smaller cities and some islands. Any change in climate trips me out in terms of the way the natural world changes, so I quite like to tie skateboarding trips in with a chance to explore a different biome. That being said, all the Vans and Levi’s backed trips with Jim Craven, skating epic concrete structures around the UK and camping in the middle of nowhere, have been a blast. We also did one to Cyprus, but had a bit of a hard time spotting the local wildlife. Mikey Patrick was really keen to see a viper.
How about where you’d like to go?
I’ve never been to South America, so that’s pretty high on the list. I’d definitely also try and tie in some zoological tourism, like an Ecuador and Galápagos Islands trip or something. I’ve also got a dream trip to Borneo that I’ve already planned out and budgeted, travelling across the northern coast hitting all the small cities and dipping into the jungle for a few days to hike. I’ve been talking about it for years now though…
Give us a nature fact if you’d be so kind?
Bioturbation caused by two invasive species of crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus and Pontastacus leptodactylus) affects zooplankton community composition, but does not affect the size of the organisms. That was the conclusion of my dissertation. Very dry, but you won’t find it on Google.
I know you have a big interest in comedy, and I’d personally love to see you doing stand up and writing sketches. You once said if you were to do a routine you wouldn’t tell anyone. Is this true, have you done any and do you have any desire to push this? Perhaps an incredibly arcane routine based entirely around turtles?
I have written something about turtles. I’ve written down everything I’ve ever thought was funny for the last five or so years, but I’m still yet to pull the trigger on performing anything. I feel like talking about it here is a pretty solid claim. I’m sure in amongst all the crap I’ve written there must be a few laughs. Inverts and a tight five can be a joint year’s resolution for 2023.
You’ve probably got some of the coolest sponsors for a massive nerd – Vans, Hockey, Pepper, Spitfire and Levi’s (brands send money to the usual address). Did Levi’s put you on after you exhausted the jeans from Deptford Market?
Haha yeah, the guy that runs the Levi’s stall there complained direct to the head office as I was always cleaning him out of his wide-waisted 550s so they put me on to keep him quiet. And then there’s the truth, which is that I’m lucky enough to have good friends (Manny Lopez and Charlie Munro) that put in a kind word for me. I think Will Miles might have had a hand in it as well.
As the world slowly declines, it’s come to the point where we have to appreciate our chosen communities and support our loved ones more than ever, which leads me onto the next question. What do you think of the new Zelda and what other games/fantasy based points of interest do you like?
The new one is out next month I think. It’s going to be mint. Before I got distracted by Slipknot and Strongbow I was definitely a Nintendo kid, and it’s started to bleed into my adult life. I go through different eras of immersion in different fantasy worlds. I’ve always got time for Middle Earth. I’ve been following One Piece since I was eleven. It’s a manga with over 1000 chapters that’s been going since 1997. I need to know how it ends. It’s entering the final saga and I’m trying to keep up with all the theories about all the different plot lines that need solving. I’d also probably be a pretty good asset in a Harry Potter themed pub quiz. I tried Zoom DND during the pandemic with Casey Brown, Mark Gavigan and Fred Gravenor and would be super keen to get that going as a regular thing. Casey has written a skateboarding RPG that I think we’re going to try out soon.
Thanks so much for enduring these stupid questions mate. Please tell us what you’ve got in the pipeline and give us a handful of recommendations if you’d be so kind?
I’ve been trying to wrap up this part with Magee, which has been slow, but I do still feel lucky to be working on something with him again. I appreciate the fact that he’s setting time aside for me after being in the game for decades. I’m also supposed to be getting some bits together for lovely Greg Conroy for a Serious Adult piece, and then hopefully on to some new bits. I’d like to get back to Malaysia this year when the weather turns and try and stick around in that part of the world for a couple of months. I’d recommend keeping an eye on the Welsh scene and visiting the Horniman Museum.