A few weeks back we uploaded Albie Edmonds’ part from northern full length video ‘Assembly’ to give you a taster. Now we’ve uploaded the whole thing to the web and released an interview with multi-talented filmer Will Smith to go with it which you can read below accompanied by some photos shot during the filming process.
The video was filmed mostly in Leeds as well as Bradford, Wakefield, Manchester, Nottingham, Rotherham, Skipton and surrounding areas. Featuring a wide array of West Yorkshire based heads such as: Albie Edmonds, Adam Smith, Dave Tyson, Harry Pye, Harry Townend, Victor Mputu, Jake Mitchell, James ‘Foz’ Foster, Joe Allen, Josh Blasutto, Laurie O’Hara, Paul ‘Wapo’ Watson, Remie Bitton-Price and appearances from Aaron Wilmot, Archibald ‘Junior’ Adeji, Andrew Gardner, Chris Pope, Chris Parsons, Farran Golding, Jay Bex, Joab Nicholson, Joe Howard, Joe Spooner, Joe Maskill, Jono Coote, Kobie Austin, Mani Haddon, Sam ‘Blinky’ Hutchinson, Sammy Jarvis, Will Sheerin and the filmer himself Will Smith. Get watching below!
Leeds has always played host to a solid cohort of skateboarders with artistic pastimes beyond the physical act of riding a skateboard. I’ve often wondered if this is in someway related to the questionable nature of most skate spots here; faced with 45° sharp edged brick banks and plazas criss crossed with gravel and cobblestones, only those with an eye for the unusual and a taste for escaping box like confines are going to stay on. It probably doesn’t hurt that the appalling weather leaves ample time for pursuing these extra-curricular activities, either, whilst simultaneously making those awful spots ever more weathered and cheesegrater-like as the years march on.
For whatever reason anyway, Leeds’ skate scene – hidden away in unassuming rows of red brick terraced houses, sitting out the rain in overly bright pubs while footballers flicker on oversized screens, pushing through bitter streets past legions of Greggs the Bakers – is packed with zinemakers, painters, filmers, artists, photographers, DIY spot builders, musicians, writers and others for whom the urge to create is parallel to the urge to go out and skate. It is an urban sprawl bursting with inspiration, one in which the next project is only just around the corner. Will Smith, the man behind the lens of recent Leeds scene video Assembly, is one of those drawn in by the city’s creative leanings. To coincide with the video being hosted by Vague, I sat down with him (alongside Welcome’s Adam Smith) to discuss filming the video, relentlessly injuries, northern aesthetics, snowboarding, art, soundtracks, and my own creative talent for taking particularly stupid slams on a regular basis.
So we’re sitting here with you nursing a fractured leg, how did it happen?
About two weeks ago I was in Austria, at an event called DIY X, this guy Ethan Morgan puts it on. They got truckloads of snow and took it to different spots in the city, over two days. They had a shaping team to put the snow in, but we could build whatever we wanted. There were maybe 30 riders, it was really busy, and on the second day there was quite a long wait between each try and my legs were getting pretty cold. Every try, you were basically starting from scratch. I wasn’t warmed up, I went to do a switch front 180 wallride, missed the wall and landed straight legged as fuck, felt something in my knee go and it was like a hot knife. I’d been home a week, got an MRI done, I thought I’d done ligaments but it turned out I’d fractured my leg… by that point I’d walked around on it for a week, which probably didn’t do it any good.
You’ve had a pretty injury-heavy year, right? Did you originally start filming to make the most of time you couldn’t skate or snowboard, like so many people do?
I basically filmed a video and injured myself… I’ve never injured myself so much, I’ve rolled my ankle four times in two years. I’ve had the camera ages, I’ve always wanted to make a video. Me and Lau (Laurie O’Hara) went to Manchester, met up with Sammy (Jarvis) and filmed a little bit there, and I was planning on just making an edit. Lau was pretty free, I had loads of free time, we started talking about filming a part and it just evolved from that. I got a crew of people I wanted to film in my head, asked them all if they wanted to film a part and everyone was kind of down so it naturally started, which is really nice.
So from pretty early on you knew it was going to be a full video, rather than random footage which built up until you’re going “Oh shit, I’ve got a 40 minute video”?
Yeah, but I didn’t expect it to be 40 minutes… maybe 25 or 30. We got interrupted with lockdowns and stuff though, so from when me and Lau started filming there was quite a big gap and there is footage that’s two years old. Most of it was filmed in the last year of filming. Normally I film a part over winter, but because I couldn’t leave England I had loads of energy I wanted to put into something, so I just filmed that instead. I got to snowboard a little bit when it snowed here, but otherwise we just went out filming all the time. I just treated it like snowboarding, we drove out, found spots and went on missions.
I guess like you were saying, if you’re used to street snowboarding missions, shaping the spots, did that make it easier going out to all these horrible Yorkshire spots and clearing them up enough to skate?
For me it’s weird, because I can’t do stuff on some of the spots you guys are skating, but skating is so easy in regards to showing up to a spot and you can just skate it – you don’t have to build it, it just has to be dry and you maybe add a bit of wax. I always have a broom in my car, I’m sweeping the spot while all these skaters are just skating about slamming on all these pebbles and I’m like, “Just give it a sweep!” It just feels natural to me, it’s built into me now. I definitely prefer showing up at a spot and not having to build though.
So how did the name Assembly come about?
I was trying to think of a name, Harry Pye was over quite a lot and we were discussing it, but a lot of the time I was just coming up with names in the shower. Every time I’d think of a video name, I’d be in the shower and something would come into my head.
Adam: Shower thoughts with Will…
I was thinking about how the people in the video wouldn’t necessarily be out filming together, it was nice bringing people together who wouldn’t normally be filming with each other. It was quite a nice dynamic, I was thinking about a word that would bring together that, and assembly – a group of people coming together for one cause – I googled it one night, and that was the name.
I know Dave Tyson’s part came together right at the end of the filming process, were there a few people like that who surprised you?
Yeah, that’s why the video ended up being longer than expected. People had filmed most of their parts but not finished, they were wanting to film bigger shit for the end of their parts which always makes things slower. While that was slowing down, with a few other people – usually Dave and Lau – we just went out and hit all these quirky little spots in a day and it was really nice. There are a few parts in there that surprised me last minute, like Wapo’s – man, he’s so talented, it blows my mind. The day he did that roll in, the second time he did it because no one filmed it when he got the photo. We just went out and got all these clips, it was sick.
What other tricks or things you weren’t expecting to happen surprised you in the video?
There’s a few you know. We went to Nottingham to this manny pad, last time we’d been Harry Pye had fucked his leg up so he couldn’t skate it. The next time there was a market in the way, but we knew about this other manny pad and we’d driven all that way so we went there. It was about twice the length of the original one, and higher. He was trying a fakie shuv, fakie manny, fakie flip out – on the hottest day, but he got it and it was so clean. That was really sick, I didn’t think he was going to do that.
Albie (Edmonds) on the soundtrack as well, so me and Albie had made a couple of bits for Instagram with his music. I had this idea where I wanted these clips of Foz that didn’t fit in at the end of his part, there wasn’t enough for a full song but it needed something and I had the idea of Albie coming up with something for it. We’d been thinking about it, then we were at Playhouse and Albie was playing this piano which is in this outdoor hut there. I ran up and filmed him, then went round his house with the footage one day. I’d cut the footage to how I wanted it to be, and Albie just played the piano how he thought it would work. I didn’t really know what I wanted but he played it exactly how I wanted it. I really like that bit in Foz’s part.
It would be sick to do a full Leeds video with only Leeds bands with skaters we know in them. It actually wouldn’t be that hard to get together.
Albie’s ollie off that wall was ridiculous! Albie had found that spot and we’d been thinking about it for ages, we drove up and he didn’t even warm up. We had to sneak in because these people that worked there were going to kick us out, then he ollied once, kicked out, got up there again then did it. Straight out the car… He did the back 270 tailslide to fakie at Wakey ledges, he grafted for that – that was a nice line.
Obviously Foz’s pop shuv, that ended up in Thrasher, was amazing. Lau did that nollie bump nollie heel down the stairs at Saxton Gardens, which was crazy. We’d filmed the nollie bump over winter with the fisheye, but you couldn’t really see the crack so we went back to get it with the fisheye and the long lens. One of the attempts, his board accidentally heelflipped. He did the nollie bump, landed it, didn’t even come and check the clip – just went back up and started trying the nollie heel version. He got it so quick, I didn’t expect that.
Remie’s crook at the Wakey Ledges, across the whole length of the ledges, I don’t think anyone had skated the whole length of that one. Remie was doing these crooks full speed, it was so sick. He filmed his part towards the end of the video.
He’s got such a unique style, it’s sick.
Adam: I think that came from stopping skating, then coming back to it. He picks stuff up… at first, when he started skating again, I didn’t know he skated when he was younger so I thought he was just picking this stuff up from scratch, I was like, “This dude’s going to take over the world!” [laughs]
He’s got one of the best crooks I’ve seen. The first time I met Remy was when he did the crook three shuv out, I was like, “Who the fuck is this dude?!” I didn’t really know him then, but he did one kind of sketchy and I asked him to do it again. I’m so glad I did, because the one he got was so clean. He’s such a sick guy.
Again, Wapo with that roll in! He pushed home from work, got home, pushed all the way there, there’s this Merc parked right next to it so he couldn’t kick out. He just did it, then we went to that bridge down at Kirkstall, he did a ride on 5-0 front 180 out then fakie hardflip, he did that about eight times and it was the same day! [laughs] That clip at Horsforth when you slammed and backflipped into the bowl!
And how was it over the filming process, and previous videos, watching Harry Townend’s transformation from hesh foetus to Long Harry?
It’s so mad, the opening clips in his part don’t even look like the same dude at the end, I love it. It’s been sick watching him grow up as well. We used to do all the transition missions, go to Hebden Bridge and stuff, this kid with loads of energy who’s now just grown into his personality. His skating, now he’s getting a bit bigger and stronger, he’s going to get really good I think.
Your last edit Brown Tea was very skatepark based while this is heavily street focused, with the exception of some Horsforth footage. Was that a conscious decision or something that happened organically?
Well Brown Tea started with Joe Howard wanting to film a part, me wanting to start filming again, so that started naturally as well – the same people were always at the parks with us, so I was like, “I’ll just make a video with these boys.” Again, I rolled my ankle and couldn’t skate properly, so I made a video instead. It’s such a good way to still be in on the session, obviously not when you first do it but once you get some movement. It’s good physio as well, helps get the mobility and the strength back, and you get to hang out with all your mates even though you can’t skate.
Whereas with Assembly, I’ve always wanted to make a street based video so I was hyped. I didn’t mind having transition footage in there, but if I did I wanted it to be big shit or DIY, not just random skatepark footage. Northern videos, the spots are so shit and crusty up here, people watch these videos and they’re like “That’s kind of sick,” but when they go there… That concrete DIY miniramp you and Wapo skated, that miniramp had holes in it, the coping had holes underneath it, it was great.
I guess obviously Hyde Park footage has been played out since about 2010, except that edit you filmed with Foz which made filming there acceptable again… were you ever tempted to make his part a sequel to his Hyde Park rampage, just because you know he could do it again with a completely different trick selection?
That video was filmed in I think three days. He was just destroying the sub box, watching him do that was mind blowing. The front 5-0 back 180? First go. A lot of it was, and I guess it kind of has to be with that kind of thing. I don’t know, he’s just amazing. Watching him skate Hyde, it’s like he’s unlocked the secret tape.
Adam: Favourite skater who I actually know.
Definitely. And Harry wanted to film some stuff at Hyde on the sub box, but it felt different with Assembly compared to Brown Tea, where Hyde just wouldn’t have fit in with the other footage.
Especially now there’s a gnarlier sub box in Leeds…
Exactly, Horsforth is proper and if you’re doing shit there it’s proper. Harry’s footage there is really good, I was stoked to get footage of Joe Howard there too. He nearly did a frontside invert in the big bowl. I’m going to put the clips out, he got so close. He took a beating, he was trying it with a dislocated thumb as well. Joe got Harry hyped to do that backside layback in the deep I think.
Adam: I love Harry’s Horsforth footage. That back tail he did, he’d just learnt them the other day at Hyde. The noseblunt at Wernside too, that’s my favourite clip in his part.
That noseblunt, he’d been at work, we’d talked about it for awhile and that evening he was like “I think I’m going to do it today.” And he did!
Obviously you snowboard a lot, but have you ever filmed any snowboarding edits and if so how does it compare to filming skating? You were talking before about shaping spots, but it must be different using the fisheye and stuff…
I always film second angles on stuff snowboarding. It’s basically the same thing, the physical filming is the same, at least filming long lens. With fisheye, the way you move the camera in snowboarding, the movements are way bigger – it’s such a big pan you have to move the camera more, while with skateboarding it’s all these quick little movements with your wrist. The rails and stuff are bigger, so you’ve got more time with it.
Filming lines in snowboarding is way harder, because you can’t push and so you have to have lines to get natural speed, then the filmer has to be able to keep up as well. It means there’s got to be a lot of snow to make it work. I love filming lines skating, I think filming fisheye lines is my favourite thing to do. Trying to film bowl lines as well, follow filming like Chris Gregson. I’ve always been a fan of Jon Miner too, the way he films Brandon Westgate going full speed is so sick.
I’ve always been into filming man, growing up watching videos I always wanted to make them as well. You work hard on something, you come out with a product and it’s rewarding. There’s a lot of effort that goes in on the skater’s part as well, everyone who has a part in the video has worked really hard and each person has grafted for different tricks. It’s sick seeing it and being on the other side of it, because in snowboarding I’ve usually got the filmer going, “Oh this trick would be sick on this.” Then, because I know everyone’s skating here so well, it’s sick seeing you point a spot out, they’re not too sure but then they get it. In that sense, filming the two are very similar.
So you’ve pretty much just answered it, but one of the things I wanted to ask was what decided you on filming a full length in an age when social media has left most people with the attention span of a sock?
Well I hate Instagram. I’ve always grown up watching full videos, looking forward to it – especially in snowboarding because the videos don’t come out all the time, they come out at a certain point of the year. You don’t know what anyone has done, you’re waiting for the video to see it, that’s what’s sick about it. Instagram saturates everything to the point where sick stuff gets overlooked because you’re getting so much thrown at you. It’s like making an album, filming a video part. Everyone’s part, you’ve built it up, it’s not just random shit. There’s a lot more to it than just ‘look at this clip.’ I think it’s something that needs to stay around, even if it’s just online.
But doing the premiere and DVD, that felt nuts man. The premiere is the best part of a video, everyone being there hyped, getting steaming. Doing it at The Brudenell was rad too, after going there for so many years and seeing so many premieres there. And they do sell Guinness, which is a bonus. I was so worried going in there, I’ve been to so many premieres when I’m in the video and it’s fine, but when you’re the filmer and it’s all on you… I’m like, “Please play, please work the whole way through.” [laughs]
So like we were saying earlier about Bill Strobeck’s weird fucking filming, are there weird trends in snowboarding videos at the moment?
Not really, but I feel like a lot of snowboard videos have a formula these days. The Videograss guys used to make these videos, a lot of people like it and they’ve kind of taken on that style in the same way people try and emulate Strobeck in videos. In a lot of those videos there’s a lot of 35mm, lifestyle bullshit. 35mm’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t just film anything on it and it makes it cool. There’s a lot of that, but besides that it’s not too bad really. This year there’s been a lot of sick videos out actually.
One thing I remember Joe Allen saying, because he filmed the Mates video with me and Sparrow Knox; he’s never been on a snowboard filming trip before, but he said it was crazy how much driving we do. Skating, you get to a city and just skate about, but snowboarding you have all the gear, all the shovels and stuff.
I guess it’s how skating in LA must be, the way people describe driving around for hours. Talking of Joe Allen, how was it filming at the same time as three other Leeds based videos were being made? Did you all have some group chat where you would discuss how to avoid too much crossover?
We’d bump into each other in town and stuff, but when we were kind of in lockdown and I was going out with only one or two people at a time, we didn’t really see anyone. It was sick, town was dead, all these spots that you can’t normally skate that freely that were just open. We bumped into Jack Gittins a few times, but I was filming with Joe for the video so I didn’t really bump into him filming much. And then Hallett and that, I didn’t really bump into them that often. It is sick, with a few of the guys filming for two other videos as well, there was never any beef. I like that about Leeds, it’s not cliquey. Joe’s pretty on it with finding spots as well. You know, you find a spot for someone, take them there, film it for your video. Or Joe finds it, takes them there, it’s in his video. A lot of people were off work because of Covid too, so they had a lot more free time.
To what extent is your art influenced by skateboarding and snowboarding? What else gets you hyped to work on it, and what came first, art or boards?
I skateboarded first, there’s pictures of me at maybe three or four years old with an Action Man skateboard, a big orange board with a bumbus on the tail [laughs] shout out Dave Tyson! There weren’t many people in the village I grew up in that skated, but this guy had a World Industries set up and when I got a normal skateboard it felt mad. Then later on, I started snowboarding. Where I lived skateboarding wasn’t very accessible, all the spots were mega crusty, but there was a dry slope 20 minutes away. I didn’t skate much after that until I was 16, when I went to America, Big Bear in California, and started skating again there. When I was there, we were filming these episodes called The Grindhouse, I was helping filming with that and that’s what got me started filming.
I’ve always done shitty, sketchy drawings on A4 paper, then Schoph asked me to do an art show in London. I had loads of art, but just random crap drawings on paper. But I took these two paintings I did, this other big drawing and a skateboard, and I felt so stupid – all these massive paintings and actual artists – but afterwards I was like, “This is sick, I really like this and I’m going to start making proper paintings.” I make the frames, I’ve got big rolls of canvas upstairs and I make frames to specific sizes, it’s a whole process which I really enjoy. So I’d say art came last out of everything. There’s similarities in all of them, though.
Adam: It’s all art, isn’t it.
You know the headspace you go into skating sometimes, when you’re trying a trick? There’s not many places in life where you can recreate that, but skateboarding, snowboarding, even filming – where you’re concentrating so hard on filming it exactly how you want – there’s so much focus, you’re not thinking about anything else. Sometimes when I’m painting I get like that. There aren’t many things in life where you get to be in a headspace where you aren’t thinking about anything except that, it’s like some Buddhist flow state. I guess it’s the same if you surf, or ride a bike, but it’s definitely what links all of them together. Focusing on something you’re enjoying, rather than something you have to focus on for work, it’s so different.
It’s funny that skateboarding is such a personal, singular thing as well, but when you’re filming it’s not anymore – it’s such a partnership. If you’re filming a line, you have to be synced up. You’re not talking, you just naturally know where you need to go.
You can always tell when a skater and filmer have known each other for years, it comes across straight away.
Like Jacob Harris and Tom Knox, you can just see it in their videos. It looks like something else when it’s like that, I don’t know what it is but it just looks different.
Alongside snowboarding, skateboarding, filming and art, you also have a driving based side hustle. Having you show up at Kirkstall Curbs in what I can only describe as the car of a 1980s coke dealer, I’m sure there are a few weird tales of vehicles and what people have left in them when you pick them up?
So it’s Josie’s step brother that does it, he started his own company and needed some help so I started working for him. But yeah, it’s a mad job mate! We cover some miles. That time it was an MG Convertible, the brake fluid light was on and the brakes barely worked, it was so sketchy. I showed up at the curbs thinking, “They’re not going to have a clue who this is.” I was dropping it off the next day and I drove past, so I stopped off to see everyone and everyone’s faces were so funny. I think Lau’s words were, “Who’s this rich old fuck driving into the car park?” then I wound the window down.
We pick up vans, some of these vans are so sketchy. There’s this bloke we deliver them to in Appleby, he buys and does up vans, but we pick up the shit vans that he’s bought at auction and are all knackered and drive them up. There’s so many that are limited to 55 or 65mph, they don’t start again so you have to leave it on when you stop for petrol. You know those flatbed trucks? I drove one of them with no back on, on the motorway, one of the lights fell off, it was so sketchy. Cars with faults in them scare me.
Adam: I did that job for years, I could tell some stories. You get either really bad or really good ones.
Yeah, when you’re driving a really nice car it’s kind of fun, but when it’s a piece of shit… But yeah, Josey’s brother is an ex-rugby player so he understands that sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can’t, he knows what it’s about when I have to go away for winter.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, video related or otherwise?
It was so sick filming the video, being out with everyone, it was nice how much everyone committed to it. Every person was so hyped and worked hard for it, everyone killed it. Especially Foz… growing up watching Sore videos, I mean I’m friends with him now obviously but actually filming a part with him and thinking what I would have been like knowing that at 14, it’s crazy. Getting him out and filming was nice, seeing the stoke back in him when he was doing stuff was sick. He’s still got it too, he’s so good. Harry Pye, I think he grafted the hardest with those manual tricks. We’d go back for a trick three days in a row sometimes, trying a manual until he physically couldn’t move anymore.
Adam: The patience is insane. I feel like with manual tricks, you can get so much closer to the end than with single tricks without actually getting it. Trick in, hold the manual, primo the last bit, it’s… tedious. But satisfying as fuck.
Then you’ve got Jake Mitchell, who filmed his part within four days. It’s the same with him as with Harry, I remember him being the little kid at Hyde, knocking on Johnny Russell’s door going, “Can I skate your miniramp?” He’s always been so good though.
I’m stoked on how it all came out, it’s rad to live in a city where the skate scene is so good and everyone is so nice as well, everyone supports each other. Welcome and everything, it’s just dope.
‘Assembly’ by Will Smith