Blueprint enthusiast Tom Pickard sat down with Dan Magee to talk about ‘Then and Now’ where they discuss @meetatbenjys, Dan’s first ever Bedford scene video ‘Foolish Lifestyles’, Blueprint history, Cover Version, art deco, his filming thought approaches, his favourite filmmakers and much, much more. Have a read below and then watch two exclusive releases in the form of ‘Foolish Lifestyles’ and a new @meetatbenjys x Vague clip (featuring raw footage of Colin Kennedy, John Rattray, Scott Palmer, Nick Jensen and Paul Shier) to keep you busy.
Watching Blueprint’s ‘Waiting for the World’ on VHS for the first time in the year 2000 was a pivotal point in UK skateboarding for myself and many others. Don’t get me wrong, there had been a number of amazing UK videos, which showcased some ballistic skateboarding and they all have a special place in the British skate scene, but the aesthetics of these videos never felt fully formed to me. After absorbing WFTW around a mates in our hometown, we were now proudly inspired to go out and skate our shitty cobbly pavements instead of dreaming of a smoother and warmer US climate! The inspiration kept on coming with videos such as ‘First Broadcast’, ‘Lost & Found’ & ‘Make Friends With The Colour Blue’. These projects were all highly visceral and presented our UK values within a new visual methodology. For me, these factors made the videos extremely watchable, I would find new discoveries on every viewing. This made me more and more curious about the bloke behind the lens, Dan Magee. I would always hear about this infamous guy behind these essential UK skate videos, you’d hear on the skate grapevine that Magee was ‘harsh’ or ‘opinionated’ or ‘hard to work with’. Over the years, this made me even more curious about this ‘man behind Blueprint Skateboards’. Since the year 2000, the UK, London specifically has changed a lot, socially and architecturally, skateboarding has felt this change for the good and the bad. I thought that this would be a great subject to explore Dan’s skateboarding timeline, from ‘Then’ until ‘Now’.
“Meet at Benjys”
Dan Magee – Then and Now…
How’s life at the moment then Dan? How’s skating and shooting?
Skating’s just like a hobby again now. Like straight up, like if I’m not working, I’ll just go out like once or twice a week at the most.
You use the word hobby, would you say you’re just enjoying it now? Like just for the actual going out element over the filming?
I haven’t really earned any money from filming skating for a long time now. The whole dynamic behind filming skating has changed, it doesn’t really matter how you shoot. For the most part, everyone’s got the same camera, everyone’s shooting the same way or copying the same way that someone else films. Now it’s more about a dude who’s just young and out there and always with a camera. So, you’ve got to be one of those guys or there’s not any real work. Brands don’t really make skate ads anymore. There was a little period in time where people would make skate campaigns look like ads and that’s when I started doing bits and bobs in that style, but that’s really died off now. I mean, there’s not really that much work about, unless you’re like a full-time skate filmer. Sometimes I think, could I do that? Perhaps not really at my age. The pressure of making something good when there’s so much good stuff out all the time is off putting just for starters…
Do you feel that you would be going through the same motions as you did 20 years ago?
Yeah. These days, I’d rather feel financially secure, over pure skate life. It sounds like a dream, but you have to be out there all the time and if you’re making something for somebody else, you’ve got to edit it how they want it, produce it on time… there’s deadlines…. where-as with ‘Cover Version’, it was all up to us. We could film what we wanted, when we wanted, edited how we wanted it. I mean, that’s kind of better for me at the moment. That’s kind of what I’m doing now, I’m just out with Conor Charleson, it’s not stressful to go out with him, he’s keen for it and he’s not like a dumb dude either. He’s fairly intelligent, it’s not like going out with a much younger skater, who you don’t click with. It’s just mellow, I can boss him about a bit too, you know he loves it.
So, what made you start the @meetatbenjys account?
I think it was because I knew that the Victoria benches were getting canned. I saw a lot of stuff, especially from visiting skaters that would talk about that spot being the best spot in London. No one really skated them for a massive period because they were capped for so many years, then Lucien (Clarke) and the Palace dudes de-capped them, so it got super popular again. I was like, well, I’ve got loads of footage of the benches from day dot, literally from when they were unwaxed, when no one skated them.
Looking at the footage, I think Toby (Shuall) was one of the first people to skate them for some reason.
And what does meetatbenjys mean?
Basically, you know how Pret a Manger is everywhere, like on every corner? Well, not so much to that extreme, but there was this company called Benjys that was a snack shop. It was in every station in London, there were Benjys everywhere. They sold the cheapest shit, like a hotdog for 99p, or cheap samosas and stuff. There was one right at St James’ Park station, right next to the benches. So, you could go there, get breakfast, get lunch, whatever and just pitch up all day and you would never have to leave that one little area.
"there were Benjys everywhere. They sold the cheapest shit, like a hotdog for 99p, or cheap samosas and stuff. There was one right at St James’ Park station, right next to the benches."
Do you follow any of the nostalgic accounts such as @swift_blazer?
So, accounts like Swift Blazer are cool. They repost stuff, they tag me in it, I like the clips. I think that’s cool, I haven’t watched a lot of my videos in a long time – so it’s great to see it all again. All the old guys are getting props, you know, he might repost somebody like (Mark) Baines or (Paul) Shier. They can repost it – sick. He’s got a fair few followers. With the Benjys account, I can’t really keep up on it, I don’t keep up on it that much because it’s like living in the past a bit for me. It’s got like 2000 followers – nothing… but then somebody like Swift Blazer has got so many followers, essentially from other peoples’ work. For me it’s a bit of a double edged sword, because it’s making your stuff relevant again or doing fan service, but it’s also very strange, when I think about repost accounts. Dude hasn’t filmed, he hasn’t made a video, he hasn’t really edited his own video, he’s never been on a skate trip, but he’s got a following. So it’s a bit weird for myself because he’ll post a trick or a clip from a video, and I’ll remember that exact night; we did this, Chewy (Cannon) did that trick, we went back to the apartment, then we went to this restaurant, you know what I mean? All of those clips have super personal meanings to me. That being said, I get it. It’s 2021 and these accounts are almost providing a service as a media outlet. I guess it just fries my old head a bit that any dude can just repost or re-edit stuff that we all travelled the world and grinded it out to get… any random guy could get a certain amount of internet fame, all from the comfort of his bedroom. When I started the Benjys stuff. I wanted to make it a bit different to those repost accounts, because it has stories behind each day or clip or whatever. As I say, I can’t keep up with it, it’s almost a bit depressing to go through the tapes and shit you know.
"All of those clips have super personal meanings to me. That being said, I get it. It’s 2021 and these accounts are almost providing a service as a media outlet. I guess it just fries my old head a bit that any dude can just repost or re-edit stuff that we all travelled the world and grinded it out to get..."
You’ve touched upon that it can be depressing watching the old tapes, but how does it feel when you do follow the whole day’s story through one tape?
If I’m stoked about going through tapes, it’s fine. But then if I’m not that into skating at that point in time, it just feels like I’m trying to live off the past. You know what I mean? You’re just going through old shit… Also, there’s quite a lot of footage of (Chris) Massey (who passed away) in there, so again, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because I’m stoked to see footage but it’s also quite sad. Sometimes, it also kind of makes me kind of bummed on where skating is now, how everyone thinks skating London is amazing, blah, blah, blah at the moment, but it’s like, no, spots used to be better. Shell Centre is gone, White Wall, Paternoster Square. So amazing. People now seem to be repeating themselves in terms of doing stuff, like people going crazy on Instagram doing something in pink camo trousers that someone did 25 years previous. So it’s that aspect of it as well, but yeah, it just depends on my mood, because I’ll realise that the city is being explored and interpreted in new ways that weren’t apparent in the nineties and 00’s.
So, going back, where and when did you first start skating?
All right, so I’m from Bedford and people started skating because of either ‘Back to the Future’ (1985) or ‘Police Academy 3’ (1986) I started in 86’ when I was 11 years old. Bedford is a town that’s about 70 miles away from London, it’s a pretty small town, and at that time it was definitely still in the zone of skaters getting started on because of skating. For me, it was a double whammy because Bedford’s a town with a bunch of private schools, one of which I went to and I hated. My parents weren’t rich, they were just like normal people and being mixed race… my mum had a Jamaican accent and stuff, back then, especially at a private school, you don’t fit in. The fact that I skated as well, it was even worse, you know? I mean, ‘you don’t play sports? You ride this thing with your mates and all your mates are from a normal school?’. I’d get shit for that. Bedford had a big influx of immigrants, coming from Italy, Poland, India, Jamaica, that’s kind of how my mum ended up there. There seemed to be a lot of dudes on the streets, robbing you or starting on you. It seemed that was a big problem in Bedford because of that dynamic of people on the streets and posh kids from private schools getting mugged and shit. But then, I would go skating and get started on or mugged too, skating was not fucking cool, from either side. So it’s like, oh great!
"My parents weren’t rich, they were just like normal people and being mixed race… my mum had a Jamaican accent and stuff, back then, especially at a private school, you don’t fit in. The fact that I skated as well, it was even worse, you know? I mean, ‘you don’t play sports? You ride this thing with your mates and all your mates are from a normal school?’. I’d get shit for that."
What made you actually go out and skate?
I was shit at all sports. I guess I was into computer games, like Commodore 64 and shit like that and I did karate when I was a little kid just because I liked ‘The Karate Kid’ and I looked Chinese or whatever. So I was doing that, but it’s quite gnarly to keep up on that, I got quite high up, like Brown belt, but like, you have to fucking go for it. But then, I didn’t really have any friends at the private school because they were all posh kids. So all of my friends, like my godmother’s son, went to a normal state school. I lived on a main road, but Bedford has loads of these closes and crescents, like little cul-de-sacs and stuff like that. So all my friends lived in all these closes, like little communities, so you’d be friends with all the kids in your close. My friend Graham would live in this crescent, then you’d be friends with Phil Sampson who lived across the road, a kid who lived in the close next to them would be there and they all got skateboards when Back to the Future came out, so they all skated together. I went to see them in this close and rode his board and I was like, good at it. I thought I was going to just have shit balance and fall off, but I could ride it straight away, literally pushing and bombing it down the street, like instantly. I was 11 at this time and because all of the friends’ parents knew each other, they were cool with it as it felt like a community, but obviously we wouldn’t stay in the closes, we went off and did a load of shit like kick over walls and stuff like that, kid stuff.
"So all my friends lived in all these closes, like little communities, so you’d be friends with all the kids in your close."
What was the first actual skate video you ever saw?
Uh, first one was… it was either Streets on Fire or Wheels of Fire, can’t remember, the one where Natas does the method off the curb cut and it has Rob Roskopp in… Wheels of Fire, Santa Cruz, 87’, that’s it. Phil Sampson had a copy of it somehow, because at that time you obviously couldn’t get videos so you either had to literally share a copy between like ten mates, or you had a copy of a copy of a copy, and Phil had a copy. I want to say he rented it from somewhere, somehow… oh yea, he rented it from a ski shop called Two Seasons and we watched it and I was like – Yeah! So that was the first thing I saw.
Did that solidify your interest in skating?
Oh yeah. It super, super got me into skating. I guess the whole thing about the eighties was, you want to be cool don’t you? Like everything is based on Marty McFly being cool, you know, he’s got his Jeep, he’s got his puffer / denim combo, you know, it’s like in that Wheels of Fire video, it’s Jeff Kendall and he’s got some sunglasses on and he starts jumping across lorries and stuff like that, you know? So I guess the whole thing was like, yeah, you want to be cool. That’s the weird thing about the eighties, you know. I was into it for sure.
Over the next couple of years, were there any standout videos that you would watch more than others?
Yeah. It was the black and white Rubber Boys section in the Public Domain video. I was like, fuck! That was the one thing that made me stoked on making videos exactly. I literally rinsed the fuck out of it, watched it again and again and again, I really liked the black and white stuff and that’s maybe why in Waiting For The World, there’s a lot of black and white stuff and in (Nick) Jensen’s part where he’s skating Victoria station, there’s a shot that starts on his face and moves down to his board, so if you watch that Rubber Boys part, that’s where it came from because I always loved that kind of stuff.
When you actually watched that Rubber Boys part at that time, could you actually tell that you were enjoying it from a visual point of view as well as a skating point of view?
I always wanted to make or be in a video and have my own part or whatever, but no one had video camera, there was no access to it. There was this kid, Scott who was a freestyler, he had access to a video camera because he was kind of rich, but he kept it to himself and made this sponsor me part or just a cool guy part of him freestyling in his garage. The next one was, when my mate, James Purnell, whose mum was a teacher, had access to the same video camera that Martys got in Back to the Future or the VHS-C version of it. He could get that camera in the summer holidays, because his mom was a teacher and then we made our own video and we just filmed each other and then we edited it tape the tape. So yeah, that’s probably the one thing that I liked. Like you are saying ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, it’s like, everyone now goes apeshit about VHS, and it’s like, me and my mates actually used to film on VHS and edit tape to tape when it was like the new tech! So when VHS started coming out again, I couldn’t believe that shit was popular again. All sorts of skaters definitely use VHS cameras and lug them about for the trend now. Looks great sometimes, but at the end of the day, oof.. give it a go editing tape to tape! So, to me it’s cool that they do it, but I’m remembering the days when we were at home, editing tape to tape. But when I watch Workshop’s ‘Memory Screen’, you can watch that and be like, that’s edited tape to tape, that’s fucking insane! Even the first Blueprint videos were edited on Betacam, an A / B roll system, and I’d never used one before, that was my first introduction into editing. This guy Adrian Frearson offered to help edit the video, but then he was like, you can have a go and I just did it straight away, he showed me how to do it on the fly, it was amazing.
"Like you are saying ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, it's like, everyone now goes apeshit about VHS, and it's like, me and my mates actually used to film on VHS and edit tape to tape when it was like the new tech!"
I’ve always got amazing memories visiting London for the first time to skate. Going to spots that you’ve seen in videos, seeing other famous spots on the way etc…. Tell me about your first experiences going into the capital.
The first time I went to London was with this kid from my school and his mum who lived in the close really near me. So, we went to London and his mum waited at every spot reading a book. Like we went to Meanwhile two and it was gnarly back then, dude, it was grim. It must’ve been like 88’ and his mum is at ‘Meanwhile Two’ with a book and we’re little kids skating it, it’s raw, like in the eighties, rugged as fuck. I think we went to Southbank, it was completely open with the little banks, you could skate all the way through, but where the corner is now, where the caged storage area is now where everyone pisses, you used to be able to go all the way through. So behind where the quarter pipe is now in that corner, you could look straight through. To support the undercroft buildings there were these supports, like half Y-shaped supports, every 10 feet or something to hold up the undercroft. These made perfect compartments where you could extend them with cardboard or whatever and make little houses out of them. So all the way through that bit, was a shantytown for homeless people. So we’d be there skating and my mate’s mum would be there reading a book! In the eighties, London wasn’t as commercial, when I was a kid and we’d go to London with my dad, we’d get back, and he’d tell me to put this up my nose and he’d put a flannel up my nose and clean it and it would be completely black. This was a time when you couldn’t even get American sweets, like you couldn’t get Skittles and stuff like that. You know? I mean, it was just British as fuck, when I watched ‘The Crown’ the other day, it really reminded me of how London was back then.
"It must've been like 88’ and his mum is at 'Meanwhile Two' with a book and we're little kids skating it, it’s raw, like in the eighties, rugged as fuck."
When you were first going into London, were you seeing any other skaters?
Back then, I can’t remember seeing any skaters. The one time in London I remember, the first trial by fire, was going to the ‘Ban This’ premiere (1989). I can’t remember who took us, but it was, fucking crazy, an amazing premiere. I think it was at the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road from my memory, then we went to Southbank and it was packed with kids from wherever to see that shit, and that was for me like, this is incredible!
So when did you actually make your first skate video?
About a year after that, me and my mates made a home skate video called ‘Foolish Lifestyles’. It was a total buddy cam system, we filmed each other and then me and James would figure out the editing, it was super trial and error, but he had the handle on it as it was his mum’s work camera… I think the only copies made were for each person in the video. I remember watching it a lot, even though it was just all of us. Google that Ben Anderson dude who is in it, War Journalist for VICE / HBO now, he’s got a Joe Rogan podcast episode!
FOOLISH LIFESTYLE’S VIDEO (1990)
How did your connection with Faze 7 come about?
Before Blueprint came about, Faze 7 was a skate company distributor based in Halstead. Around 93/94’ I got ‘sponsored’ by them but was really on flow for them, I got like ‘bigspin’ blank and Droors shit from them. I reckon it was because I looked Asian and Daewon was Asian, oh and Baines had broken his leg so there was a spot that had to be filled!
"I reckon it was because I looked Asian and Daewon was Asian, oh and Baines had broken his leg so there was a spot that had to be filled!"
So as you skated more, did you start going into London more?
Bedford’s strange, all these people from Bedford ended up doing different things that were connected with the London skate scene. There was a skater at my school called Andy Hartwell who was super ahead of his time, he was trendy, and he was also not a private-school kid! It was like, ‘what you doing here? you’re not a private-school kid!’ He was a dude that was into cool shit, like DC hardcore punk, horror films… I’d go into his room and he’d have a samurai sword…. he would make his own t-shirts…. he was that kind of guy. So he started working at Slam and then his girlfriend, Sharon started work at Slam, who eventually married Mike Manzoori. Anyway, I essentially got kicked out of private school for failing my exams and I went to a normal college and, the one time I’ve ever done it, I claimed dole money for like six months or something. I’d just live at home, take the dole money and go to London and buy a board. That’s when I started going to London more regularly because from Bedford it’s only 40 minutes to Kings Cross. I drew a map the other day, so you’ve got Bedford here, Stevenage, St Alban’s, Milton Keynes and Northampton. I was basically a local at every single one of those places for some weird reason, I could literally go to one of those parks, every day. My mum used to work on the market, selling tights in Stevenage, so I would go up with her at like 5 in the morning and skate there all day. St Alban’s was real close, it was on the same line, so we’d go to Pioneer a lot, I met most of my friends there. Then Radlands opened and that was only like a 35-minute drive from my house, so Bedford was right in the middle of all these spots. So I didn’t really skate London that much until I moved there for University.
What did you study at University?
BA in English and Information Technology, joint honours at the University of North London, basically I didn’t get good grades so I just took whatever I could, so I could get to London. I was skating way more than studying so I got a shit degree in the end but luckily, I’ve never had to use it.
Who were you skating with at that time?
People I knew from Pioneer, my mate Phil Cunningham and skaters from Harrow, they all became Southbank locals, like a kind of second generation after Simon Evans, Matt Stewart, Johnny Wilson and Winstan Whitter. All those kids were kind of like the first generation of new school skaters at Southbank but a lot of them were from Harrow or the suburbs, like Morden and then the second generation came in, which was skaters like Clive Daley and Ryan Mills. We kind of knew them from skating at St Alban’s and also a little bit because of the Faze 7 connection, they were all ‘sponsored’ by those Faze 7 distribution brands, but they weren’t really. Skaters would get a couple of Alien Workshop boards every month and a half and were ‘on’ Alien Workshop but really, they were riding for Faze 7. Everyone was on distributor flow, just random.
That was just UK skating at the time, right?
That was 100% what UK skating was, with the exception of maybe a couple of people that had more direct links to American sponsors, like Manzoori was on Powell, Curtis McCann was on Powell, Shane O’Brien was on Santa Cruz. So there was this second generation of street rats that would get flow stuff but people would take it really seriously. Magazines would print ‘Sean Ward is on Plan B!’, no dude, Sean Ward is not on Plan B. So I hung with those dudes a little by way of Southbank, but found myself gravitating away and skating other spots like Fairfields and Milton Keynes cause I was friends with Rob Selley and Paul Heyward. So by being in Bedford, which seemed like the centre of the universe or through the Faze 7 connection, I was connected to all of these little scenes, like I met little John from Nottingham and I met Alan Rushbrooke via him so I’d go to Nottingham and skate with them, Nottingham is halfway up the M1 so then you end up in Sheffield so that’s how it all evolved. So going back to your question of how skating has changed – For me, I got to know the dudes in London, and all these other scenes just from going there and travelling around, whereas everyone now knows everyone here because they’ve all moved to London. Skating now is even more Londoncentric than it has ever been, like every spot is in London. If you watch ‘Lost and Found’, we made a big, massive effort to be super inclusive of the whole of the UK. No Ireland unfortunately, but we were up and down the M1 going north, going to Scotland, referencing where people were from and that was a massive part of it. Now, the big videos that come out are all London, you know. Cover Version was too, but that was because of necessity and we didn’t have any budget to leave. But yeah, I think that’s the change, that’s the difference.
So to help us with our timeline going forward, I am going to show you some famous skate photos and I want you to give some thoughts on the trick, the spot or the skater and what you were up to at the time. So first off, we have Wig’s legendary Channon King 50-50 shot from 1995.
I mean, if somebody did that now, it would be equally amazing right. This is when Channon first moved to London, Channon was a dude that would skate all across the city, it was like him, Manzoori and (Mark) Channer, they were maybe the only people that would skate outside of Southbank and that little area.
"Channon was a dude that would skate all across the city, it was like him, Manzoori and Channer"
That thought is just crazy, you’ve got a whole city…
I mean, I didn’t go to East London for like years and years, like Liverpool street was the most east I went, I think we either skated Southbank or we might have ventured into the city; St Paul’s and the financial district because those areas were complete ghost towns, like absolute ghost towns. When the offices were shut, it was absolutely dead. Behind St Paul’s at the white ledges, you’d go there on a Sunday and the only thing that was open was a Burger King that cabbies might go in and that was it, there was nobody in town. You could skate anywhere you wanted, I mean, just to do that, it’s insane.
Did you ever see Channon, Channer and Manzoori in passing?
Yeah, I knew Channer and Mike from skating St Albans and stuff. Because of World Industries and stuff skating went technical at that time and an ATV Mike skated transition and I think he was like too far ahead of his time to be as popular a skater as he really deserved. Maybe a bit ‘heshdog’, whatever everyone used to call it but yeah, they all skated everything, so good, once again, they were all too ahead of their time.
Do you remember the first ever clip you shot for Blueprint’s first video ‘Mixed Media’?
It was probably Baines or Ewan Bowman, I can remember one of the earliest things we filmed was at St Thomas More Square by Tower Hill, marble ledges, an instant kick out. There’s a big double set there that Ewan slammed on, but Mike Maldonado ollied it.
Yeah Wapping, Baines has got a photograph from that day where he’s got a Muska hat on doing did a nollie 180 switch crook, believe it or not, on a long marble ledge and Horsley was shooting a sequence. That’s a day that I can remember when I filmed, which stands out in my mind, like, ‘oh, I’m filming’. I’m not sure if it was the same day but I also remember shooting a clip of Baines at the old Design Museum white handrail, he did a nollie crook or switch crook I think.
Next photo, Scott Palmer at the old Cantelowes Park in 1998.
Oh yeah, good that bank, it was so steep, Scott caught this so high. I actually found footage of Shier doing a cab flip on it recently. When I first moved to London, I lived in my halls of residence at the top of that road, which is opposite where Charlie Munro used to live for a long time. So when I went to Munro’s place when filming a couple of bits for Cover Version, I was like, dude, I can see my old fucking room from this window! So back then, for a little while, that was a good warm up spot, like people would come to stay with me, and we’d just go there. It was a perfect hip, but it also kind of could be a street spot, which is kind of good. I remember Leo shooting this because I think he had shot Rattray doing a melancholy over the fence beforehand.
This is it, when I would see clips from there, I didn’t know if it was a skate park or not.
I liked stuff like that, which is what annoys me about Bloblands now, how they changed it into a skate park. I filmed a couple of clips of Korahn and Connor on the far right side and I was fighting to frame out the skate park, because it’s a legit spot, it was the best natural skate spot. I guess they were trying to do something for the scene, but I wish they could have made a more sympathetic looking addition to that spot when it’s such an amazing spot already.
Ready for the next one? Colin Kennedy in 1998 at the Shell Centre.
Oh yeah, he actually filmed this twice and it’s in two different videos, it’s in Anthems and WFTW. In Anthems it was shot fisheye and it looks shit, whereas in WFTW it’s shot’s long lens and he does it very differently, he ollies out more. It’s actually pretty gnarly when you see the long lens footage of it, there’s just no run up. That graphic as well, I’m backing that, that was one of my first graphics I made using a computer, it was a rip off of a rip off of a Rennie Mackintosh, so it was a double rip-off, I kind of like traced it using Macromedia freehand and fucked with it a little bit. But when you look at it, it’s quite technical for me, cause it has all fades and stuff. I wish I had one of those boards though, we had to make it two different sizes because Colin was always into really big boards and they just didn’t sell back then, but I always wanted boards that guys could skate. So I made it in two different sizes, and I think the one in the photo is the smaller one for some reason. He was always really committed about what song he wanted to skate to, so my solution was that he would give me 20 CD’s and that track that he gave me for WFTW was the only one that we had in common in our music collections, ‘O.C – Time’s Up’. Yeah, Wig shot that, banging photograph obviously, and it also makes me think… did we really just make yellow shirts, is that all we made?! That’s all I’ve got to say about that besides how good Shell was to skate!
So this is Ben Jobe at Southbank bringing us into the year 2000.
Oh, that’s weird that you’re showing me this dude! I logged this the other day; well I didn’t log it because he didn’t make it. So Ben actually does like a super long noseslide on this thing and then on the same day he tries this but doesn’t make it. I sent this to Conor and I was like, dude, how the fuck did we have all this stuff to skate, and we never skated it, no one skated this at all. There was another clip I saw of Chris Pulman skating down by Tower Hill, where it’s all bank things that you could skate, like Conor could skate those now like 5.0 the top and stuff, but no one skated it. So there’s like all this stuff, like this bank that no one ever hit, but look at that thing, it would be perfect now. Photos like this make me wish that I was tuned into this stuff back then. It was a while until these kinds of rugged spots were really starting to be skated. Jake has obviously taken it to the next level, but the first person who really started doing it, you know, skating gritty estates and connecting it all together in terms of surfaces and tricks and stuff was Jensen. You see it in his MFWTCB part, which I didn’t film a lot of, that was all Ches (Neil Chester) and (Ben) Dominguez. Since then, Vase has come out and that was when it really started to all come together.
"Photos like this make me wish that I was tuned into this stuff back then. It was a while until these kinds of rugged spots were really starting to be skated."
Onto our final photo, another Back Tail, Rattray on SOAS hubba bringing us into 2001.
Barton shot that one, I like that era of Barton cross processing his photographs because there’s a Baines one as well that’s amazing, looks really good, exactly the same colours.
Was it the front nose?
They were some of the first Blueprint ads that I first saw, crusty as hell spots, but it just looked good.
Right, I think when we became friends with Barton and he started hooking us up and we had that logo and yellow t-shirts and stuff like that, that’s when it all started coming together.
Do you remember filming the Rattray back tail? It is in WFTW, but it’s maybe not at night?
No, we went back in the day and he did a shove it out and Skin Phillips was shooting, something happened to the sequence and it didn’t come out. Rattray would come down and stay at mine and Massey’s house, it was like a skate house, lots of people came and stayed, just smoked weed and stuff. So that skate house was basically the impetus for the video stuff. I mean that’s how Snowy and Olly Todd moved to London, like Snowy moved to London and Massey let him stay there for like eight months’ rent free and Toddy moved to London and crashed for months. That’s kind of how Landscape came to be, a lot of videos were edited at that house, the ‘Sumo’ video and the ‘Portraits’ video…
So what do you find most rewarding about making a full-length skate video?
The premiere, like every video that I’ve been involved in, including Cover Version, they’ve all really been edited for the premiere, which is why view counts annoy me. You know what I mean? Like X amount of people watched this video, more people watched this one etc… Videos should be edited for a premiere. I was stoked on how the first showing for CV turned out, it was like wild as fuck, really loud. How I remember ones as a kid or videos I made before. I’d rather have that one day, that one event where it’s apeshit, like Lost and Found at the Prince Charles was insane, 2 maybe 3 showings, people crammed down the street blah blah blah, like that’s an event and that’s what a full-length video should be. You’ll always remember the whole night of a dope premiere, but watching a standalone part on a phone at a spot… I dunno.
"that's what a full-length video should be. You’ll always remember the whole night of a dope premiere, but watching a standalone part on a phone at a spot... I dunno."
Some of my fondest moments were going to London specifically to go to a premiere at the Prince Charles, skate the whole of Friday and Saturday and then go to the premiere in the evening, that was the icing on the cake.
So that’s what I mean, it’s A – the process of it; you’re out every day, you’re doing something that not many people can understand. Whether they got a trick, or some random dude is like talking to you or you see some shit in the street, you know what I mean? Something’s happening every time you’re out, you know, that’s amazing at the time. Then B – the actual final edit is actually quite enjoyable; like piecing it together and then C – the premiere is the thing. The disappointing part for me is actually when it’s released, that’s the bit that actually kind of bums me out, sends me into a bit of a spiral, you know what I mean? Like, so where do I go from now? What do I do now? And that’s why now, I’m just like, I’ll just go out with Conor a couple of times a week. It’s like with Jake (Harris), he made a completist Tom (Knox) part and it’s like, what do you do now after that, you know, keep doing the same thing?!
@meetatbenjys x Vague
There was quite a long period in-between Blueprint ending and the start of Blips. How did it feel being back on the cold streets of England filming trick attempts for hours on end?
I mean it was good, I was still filming skating between MFWTCB and Blips, like Nike work, just trips for Nike and stuff like that, which was sick, on some expenses shit, trying to get something made in a short amount of time. This was also the period when everything was changing to HD, no one really knew what they were doing with HD and then it’s like everyone’s going to shoot HD, but it’s all got to be on a Panasonic camera, zooming in on people’s faces, you know, that’s where it’s ended up… but getting back onto it… Yeah, it was good. For CV, we just got into the whole ideology behind it, you know, like shooting with these cameras, shooting at these spots, try and do it like an old video where you’re kind of like keeping stuff, not on Instagram, keep things secret, so it’s for the premiere, you know, trying to hold whoever was involved just to try and do it how we used to do it, that was basically the whole premise behind it and we did it. Barely any of it was shot in summer, which is kind of sick cause England just looks better when it’s not blazing sunshine. We were out, like in, you know, plus one, zero degrees, minus one, I’ve never done that properly on that level.
How does it feel for you now watching WFTW beside Cover Version? Do you feel that there is any kind of common thread running between the two?
Definitely, that’s what I tried to bring to the project, previous edit techniques and just researching how to use those Sony cameras and stuff like that, you know? My main contribution to CV was like, it’s meant to have elements taken from every video I’ve worked on. There’s a whole ton of editing techniques like all the black and white is from WFTW, all the shaky whip pan, shutter speed stuff, where it’s a quick edit of building shots, moving to another frame of a building, that’s a motif in every video I’ve done. Also, when you see a Conor shot and a little cartoon animation comes out, that’s the same style as the animation at the end of Chewy (Cannon’s) part in Lost & Found, there’s little things like that, or the way (Scott) Palmer is framed up with Humber Bridge in the background, then you see Sam Murgatroyd in CV framed up with the Brixton sign in the background. Then there’s Blueprint footage of Shier showing a coke can or showing stuff to the camera in slow motion and in CV, Charlie’s doing the same kind of thing, so all of these little elements is the sum total of all the videos before it, you know what I mean. The graphic design elements of CV are a mix between First Broadcast’s vertical strip and the checkerboard effect of the later Blueprint graphics. It’s all mixed together, the brutalist building stuff is the same as say First Broadcast where the camera whips away to the Barbican, you know, it’s all connected. But, those are almost meant to be easter eggs from my side of things and not to detract from the aspects that Kev (Parrott) covered a lot of, as well as shooting half the video… he cleaned up messy shots and ramped slow-mo bits. Also, because he’s got a better ear than me, he did a lot of the audio mixing and the final sound mixes for the video…not just technical stuff… the spot aspect especially all the East spots were all Kev’s side of it. I wasn’t that much of a spot seeker before this vid. Kev and (Joe) Buddle kind of got me more into that side of it. Not forgetting that a lot of the main cast like Jak (Pietryga), Manny (Lopez) and Harry (Lintell) were people that Kev worked with heavily in the past.
How important is the ‘country’, ‘city’ or the ‘space’ to you, when it comes to video presentation?
You know how like (Bobby) Puleo has all these rules about, like skating spots and stuff, for instance, you know, Marc Suciu went across the country and skated every single spot that was amazing and fucked up every one, Puleo was like ‘nah’. I kind of see where he’s coming from with that. The filmer is showcasing skaters in their environment and I really like that stuff. For instance, that Jake Harris – Tom Knox project, they’re both native Londoners that have grown up as friends from being really young kids and Tom’s only ever filmed with that one filmer on the same camera that Jake started filming with, at spots that they grew up around. So that’s why it’s almost a perfect concept part when you think about it, because it’s not even a concept, it’s just like, this is the product of their environments and this is the end opus of what they’ve put together in their history, you know what I mean? But then something like Lost & Found is a big mix of all of the UK plus Spain and it probably works the best. I think the main thing with that video is that it was a team dynamic and everyone was in a really good window of skating at the time… for that reason the spots almost were secondary.
As we were talking about earlier, skating crusty estates and creating beautifully flowing lines through rough brick is almost a norm now. Why do you think it took so long for people to really start doing this?
I mean, I was always averse to skating estates because I got mugged at knife point around 2000, so I wasn’t really down for going into gnarly estates and shit like that. People didn’t really skate east, no one did back then. I think it was only when people started moving out east and Hackney became popular because, the only person we used to know who lived east was Oli Barton, and he lived in like a warehouse with a load of photographers in Dalston, Kingsland and it was fucking gnarly. We’d go round there for house parties and he’d be like, ‘if you’re going to the garage, don’t go after seven, if you’re going to the station make sure you go right and keep walking’. You’d walk down the road and like every phone box was smashed up, every bus stop would be smashed, it was murder mile all around the corner. So, no one was living out there so we wouldn’t skate there. Even Spitalfields, was like Red Light District, it was pretty gritty, so any of those estates were definitely kind of off limits, you know. However I think the reason why people didn’t really skate those kind of spots so much then is that we had amazing main Plaza and smooth style spots. You could skate Shell, SB, Vic Benches, Paternoster etc… not forgetting the entirety of the Square Mile.
"I mean, I was always averse to skating estates because I got mugged at knife point around 2000, so I wasn't really down for going into gnarly estates and shit like that."
It seemed like you were skating that Bethnal Green estate spot a while back though.
That’s when Ches was filming cause he was living near Victoria Park. That was when east became kind of trendy or people got old enough to live in areas like that and obviously Hackney and Shoreditch and all those places became gentrified. Between 2007 and 2010 when the Olympics kicked off because they started building everything for the Olympics, there was a time when everything shifted, and that area became a lot more accessible.
Nice. I know that you’re into art deco, do you think that this is in any influence in your video work?
Not even just deco, I mean, basically it’s just a weird combination of filming a lot of stuff in that era when I was growing up in the eighties, nineties, pre 9/11 where not much really changed, there wasn’t that much difference in building design. Filming all those videos in a time before the invasion of Pret, before all these new builds and stuff, when looking at all the old footage, you notice all this stuff. I like, brutalist buildings, inter-war architecture and modernist buildings and even like deco stuff, but it’s all kind of connected, you can see the evolution of it and how it overlaps, especially where I live in Twickenham. So, deco didn’t really take place here until later on, France had a big head start, by the time what we think of as Art Deco architecture had hit Britain it had already morphed into Art Moderne, which is what people often think of as Deco. I don’t really know what I’m talking about here because I’m not an expert, I’m just picking up on stuff I see a few books I read you know, but what I do know, is that all the best skate spots are part of inter-war or brutalist buildings, you could go through all of the architect Bible’s out there and look at all these buildings across the world of that period by these really famous designers and architects and they all have these amazing skate spots. But it just so happens that my attraction to this is via skating and via the fact that I’ve filmed a lot throughout my life. Now, I‘ve been shooting fashion stuff, which, you know, people are using those kinds of backdrops on campaigns, I get to go to all these amazing places and realise the connection between them and skating. It’s just weird connections that have happened in different elements of my life.
Just pure appreciation of these design elements?
Yeah, exactly, and it makes you interested in researching it and working out how it all works, especially looking at it from a different perspective, like, where I live in Richmond, Twickenham, there’s tons of buildings and structures that kind of go from art deco influence into art modern interwar period buildings into mid-century and beyond, you can see the mix. Like modernist buildings with flat roofing never really caught on here that much because the British public and taste hated flat roofs, they wanted pitched roofs, so there’s only certain buildings that take on that look. For instance I live in a deco style building that has Art Moderne features like windows and porch, but the roof is pitched. So I just got really interested, I really like Instagram stuff as well. There’s that @hoodmidcenturymodern, where it’s just literally some guy from the hood in Cincinnati, who likes looking at all those buildings in a different light rather than just like some rich white dude who is writing a book about it. He’s just appreciating it from his standpoint, I feel like I’m in the same vein where I’m just a skater that’s filmed skateboard videos, looking at this building and being like, I know this building from skating, I appreciate how it looks, but I also know exactly how the surface and the texture of the stone or the paving feels when I put my hand on it or walk on it or skate on it. Like when I went to do a fashion shoot in Palm Springs, we shot at an art museum or something, but I knew it straight away from seeing Ben Raybourn skating it, like little things like that, that interconnect me to it rather than me being some architecture geek. I know what I like, and I try and learn stuff about it whenever I see it.
Does this element of research uncover new spots for you?
Yeah, there’s an estate near me, which we got talking about right, which was used as a location in the film ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (Truffaut, 1966). I liked the buildings there because I went to Marseille and we shot at a Le Corbusier building and I knew that this estate near me was based on Le Corbusier’s ideas; like being built on piles and having a space underneath so it doesn’t block the landscape or whatever. So these principals influenced those architects that built the estate and I wanted to go and check it out cause it’s near me and there ended up being spots there. That sort of thing is kind of good because you can do a double whammy of driving or cycling around to all these places and reading up on it. We’d go skate Thamesmead, and then I’d go and research why Thamesmead failed and it’s because all the walkways that were built were meant to be a social connection thing, but then it just ended up being a rat run where people could just mug you and run off. This is why the estate never became what it was intended to be, and the intended train link was never built to the city, so it essentially became a sketchy estate. I think all that’s rad because you can go and skate there and get an idea of where you are. When we skated Rowley Way for CV, Alexandra & Ainsworth estate, we’d get kicked out by these guys, they’ve paid top end prices for those apartments and they’d be like, ‘don’t you know what this is’ and I’d be like, ‘yeah, it’s like designed by Neave Brown for Camden council in 1968’ and then they’d be nice to us and let us skate. You know what I mean? I know little nuggets, enough to hold a conversation, but I almost wish I knew more about it when I was younger. So I could have done a degree in something I like instead of an English degree.
"we’d get kicked out by these guys, they’ve paid top end prices for those apartments and they'd be like, ‘don’t you know what this is’ and I'd be like, ‘yeah, it's like designed by Neave Brown for Camden council in 1968’ and then they'd be nice to us and let us skate. You know what I mean? I know little nuggets"
Is there any difference in your filming approach, now compared to then?
Filming wasn’t amazing like it is now with people jumping downstairs with cameras and shit like that because when the VX1000 came out in the market, that shit was expensive for a kid back then. So if you scratch a lens, you’re kinda fucked! Then, for a little while VX’s were cheap and lenses were cheap so you could use it almost like a crash cam where you didn’t care if the lens got scratched, I’m gonna get in there and get really close and blah, blah, blah. So, I think a lot of filmers now, got into filming because they could use the cameras like throwaway cameras and also, people are better skating as well, like Jake’s amazing at skating so he can get right in there. But now, all that camera kit has gone up again in price, so I wouldn’t want to be filming with a lens that’s worth two grand or a three grand VX setup, which you can’t buy a lens for anymore. You can’t buy these lenses anymore. So who knows? People might go back to how we used to film a little bit, because lenses are hard to get now. But for CV, I felt like I had to change it up a little bit, just get a bit better at filming for the new stuff, because now through working a lot on shoots I feel that I can compose a little bit better, I guess.
What camera are you shooting Conor with now then?
So I bought that Panasonic AG-HPX171e set up in 2009 but only used it on a couple of things, like I did this Nike Taiwan thing where I felt like I could use it and was stoked on the outcome, but I wasn’t really using it how you use it now. But I remember when that camera came out, people fucking hated it because Ty was using it for Pretty Sweet, people hated that camera, they’d talk shit on it! But now it’s popular again, because Supreme has made it popular and that’s cool. So now I’m just filming with that, not exactly like everyone films with it, but just because it’s fun. I’m riding a bike around because of COVID and I wish I’d got the bike for CV because it’s just easier and cheaper for me to get about. So yeah, that setup is just easy use for me now.
Which videographers do you find interesting to watch right now?
Obviously, Jake Harris kills it. Sirus (Gahan) kills it all the time, but I would love to see one longer more full length piece, instead of loads of little bits of brand stuff, that would be great to see cause I think he’s dope! I do like the Supreme videos and GX stuff, that goes without saying. Yardsale stuff has it’s own lane and I enjoy watching that. Quentin (Guthrie’s) VX stuff has got amazing recently and I have to back Hold Tight Henry’s dedication to his style of filmmaking. One of the best videos I’ve seen recently is that weird random one made by some random kid called ‘untitled’, by Michael Nicholas. But there’s just too much, I don’t really watch anything else anymore cause there’s too much every day.
Now in 2020, do you still enjoy going into London Town? Shooting or otherwise.
Currently, only on my own terms, like I wouldn’t want to do it when I’m up against a gnarly deadline or if it’s with people I don’t really wanna film that much. I’m enjoying just going in, when I want to and I’ll come back home and I’m in, I’m out here by the river and it’s chill and I’ve got everything I need. Going into town, getting a trick and it’s all hectic and stuff, makes me so stoked to be like sitting at home with the cat and then going for a walk by the river or something like that, you know what I mean? But then it’s the same thing when I’m here – I want to go back in and see the city. But I wouldn’t want to be based in town, I’m now in the perfect place for me. I can get in so quickly and now with the bike, even going out East is super easy for me so I’m hyped.
"I'm enjoying just going in, when I want to and I'll come back home and I'm in, I'm out here by the river and it's chill and I've got everything I need."
How does it feel filming Conor now compared to filming say Colin Kennedy back in 98’?
Colin is a lot more consistent I can tell you that. Conor’s style of skating is like, throw some shit at a wall and see what sticks, that’s his style. But the thing is, when it does work out, it’s almost impossible. Like, how did that just happen? Which for me, is one of the attractions to film with him. Because, like I said, everyone’s making the same videos, blah, blah, blah, at least like if I film with Conor, he’s thinking about stuff, he’s a good thinker. If you can’t film Tom Knox, who’s the master of thinking outside the box, then Conor has a little bit of that in him at least. But yeah, all of the factors have to align at once for him to make that trick. You know what I mean? Like he’s gotta try really hard. It’s got to be the right day, his body has to feel right, no security at the spot, like a million things. It’s just different, it’s a fat fucking dude on a skateboard who can ride really high up a wall and make something miraculous happen, rather than filming someone naturally good at skating, take them to a spot, they get a really good trick, and then that’s as far as it goes. It’s just a different approach with Conor. Blue Collar.
"Colin is a lot more consistent I can tell you that. Conor’s style of skating is like, throw some shit at a wall and see what sticks, that’s his style."
So currently, you are on just on the Conor part or anything else planned skate wise?
I mean, if somebody offered me a project that was interesting where I would actually get paid to do I would do it, you know, if it wasn’t a thing that’s going to just make me hate skating, I’d like to do something different, but for now, if there’s no skate work about and I’m just on my own tip, I’ll just do me and Conor floating around and whoever else, I mean, there’s other people who we’d like to get involved but people have their own filmers and stuff, it’s changed a lot. We’ll see how it evolves at a moment as its early days, but it’s just kind of starting to pick up pace now but I just don’t want to get to a stage where it’s like, stressing me out. I just want it to be enjoyable, I’ve just done enough where I’m all in, when I’m super focused. And also, it’s like, Hattie (Dan’s partner) has had to live through all of these videos, years and years! You know what I mean?
And you’re still talking about them! Err, she obviously wants to go for a walk, so I’ll finish…
No, she’s GONE! She’s fucked me off! Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about Tom! It’s gnarly!
Haha!!!! Sorry I thought she was waiting for you.
No, she’s off!