“ON THE BRICKS”
Words by Lovenskate’s Stu Smith
I first met Dan about 7 years ago in Munich at one of the legendary Ramp comps Volcom held at ISPO. Jake Collins was drunk, and told me “If I know what was good for you, you’ll put Dan on Lovenskate, plus, he’s the only one here that doesn’t have a board sponsor”. Dan’s been on Lovenskate ever since, from this funny 17 year old kid speaking innocent nonsense, to a 24 year old man (still occasionally speaking innocent nonsense). Dan has grown into that rare kind of skateboarder, a big fella, but skating super smooth and light footed, all flowing. He’s on a team with some pretty vibrant characters, but his approach is a bit more simple, he doesn’t go for ‘flair’, he doesn’t scream or shout or make a big fuss, just high speed, effortless looking, gnarly skateboarding. “Man I couldn’t skate with all those things all hanging off me, it would do my head in”. Maybe this is the same approach that he has to his work, get ya head down, and get the job done. Dan once gave me some sound advice when I was battling a trick, ‘Do it with fucking purpose Stu’. I think about this a lot, skating, working, everything. Always fun to have on a trip, the list of antics, disasters and funny quotes are endless.
Jake Collins – “This is going a good 8 years back now, we were all Heading to Bristol on the train for a Fifty Fifty Xmas party I think, and cans were getting drunk, out of the blue skinny asked the boy “Oi where the fuck is Birmingham in Wales eh” haha just classic skinny shit that we get on the daily! Keep smashing it at life skin! Carve to the grave ! Love you brother! X
“On another occasion, a skate trip to Barcelona, we went out for a few beers and a pizza. Dan fell asleep in a bar and then got lost for 12 hours and eventually showed up the next morning at the apartment with beer and baguettes. He’d had his phone and wallet robbed sleeping on the metro and when he woke up a homeless guy had told him he had to get off the train and pull himself together. He got out at this famous building he called ‘Gandalf’s Palace’ (Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia) and then walked back to my apartment in Cañelles (if you’ve been there you’ll know thats pretty impressive). When he arrived he told us the story, including the moment when he’d lost us all, trying to fight a drug dealer who’d robbed him of 60 euros. ‘I am gonna film a part today Stu’ He said, ‘But first I’m gonna smash these beers‘. Settling down to his tins, he puts his hands in his pocket and to his surprise, pulls out the €60.”
Stu – Not that I’m trying to paint a picture of Dan as any kind of stupid, he’s not at all, the guy is building houses FFS! I met up with Dan one early January Sunday morning for a ‘healthy’ fry-up, to talk skateboarding and working life on the bricks.
So how did this Vague thing come about?
I don’t even know.
Well Jerome has been shooting photos of you for a while right?
Yeah been shooting with Jerome, out in west Wales, Burry Port, sick concrete park out there, and started filming a part with Harry Deane a while ago, and didn’t know what to do with it really.
That was over the course of a year?
Yeah I didn’t really have a reason, just for the fuck of it really, we’d all meet up on the weekends, with the boys, skate and film and shoot.
So you’re usually out with a filmer?
Harry Deane is from Cardiff, and would always be filming there, Jake’ Collins is from Newport but he lives in Cardiff, and Harry has been making the CSC (Cardiff Skateboard Club) video and all that. Sam Pulley or Jake Collins was filming a part with him, so it makes sense to film with him as well. I knew I wanted to film a part, but I didn’t know what for.
So it worked out perfect, you ended up with a video, some photos, and from that an interview with Vague. Who else are you skating with? When I can, with the team (Lovenskate), it’s so good to skate with Aaron Wilmott and Jordan Thackeray and that. Jordan’s on a mad one right now. I was supposed to meet up with him, but he’s gone back to Essex.
Yeah it’s hard to keep up with Jordan’s couch surfing, here one day, gone the next. Speaking of that, you can’t really do that right now can you? You’re one of those guys, who manages to skate a lot, be progressive, shoot photos and film, but, you’ve got a really gnarly full time job. Like gnarlier than most, not going to a warm office sitting next to the radiator. You’re outside, in the freezing cold, laying bricks.
I love it like. Good graft. You grow to like it mind. When I started my apprenticeship, I fucking hated it, drove me nuts.
Yeah cause you’re not working for a lot of money doing that are you?
Nah, fuck all, two years of apprenticeship, 170 quid a week.
Proper graft, for not much money.
Yeah literally slavin’ away in the freezing cold and it’s raining, and you still gotta be there. But I do love it.
Yeah cause you share photos on the Lovenskate group chat of the work you’ve done. It’s a mad skill.
Yeah its a mad skill, it’s crazy. You gotta do it all by eye, all symmetrical, all the work within 5mm.
So thats why you gotta do a harsh apprenticeship?
Thats whats mad, you can’t make a mistake, building a house, or a big wall, or putting a door in. You only have 10mm ‘Purps’ between each brick, if its a bit out, then you end up cutting a disk wall down, destroying it like, doors coming out, walls coming down the lot.
Have you had to do that?
Nah, well we had a problem the other day. You got your wall, and door, and over the door you have a concrete lintel, supporting the weight above. You got room for 150mm either side of the door, and the site manager came over and said it wasn’t right. So it all had to come down. £600 that cost, and we all have to chip in for that, cause we were all responsible.
Yeah, well you either pay for it, or you got to fix it yourself, which means it’ll take time, and then you’re not on the bricks yourself so you’re not earning. So you just pay someone else to do it (knock it down), and its a shit job. Either way, you’re taking a hit, but its better to be on the bricks really.
What did you call it, ‘Purps’?
Yeah its the 10mm gap between each brick. It’s got to be 10mm, so it all works out exactly. If someone starts a wall at one end, and you start the other, you gotta meet in the middle. Bang on like.
You ever built skate parks?
Yeah I helped out, its fun, really fun, but more like a general labourer. I don’t really want to go down that career path. It’s really hard work. When it comes to the surface, on a big scale, working with all that concrete, it’s really hard work, starting at 7am, waiting for the truck, then working concrete it til 11pm at night waiting for it to go off. Even cleaning the tools is hard. Well intense. In Sweden it was freezing, snow everywhere. Proper.
So you aren’t on the bricks in the snow?
No. I have been laying bricks and it did snow, it was horrible, freezing mind, wind everywhere. This wall had been up for 3 days, and the wind blew it over. It (the cement) had gone off, it was fine, just so much wind, we went home and the wind blew it over (laughs).
Did you like the cement mixer in the edit?
Yeah its sick, I didn’t notice it at first. We don’t actually use a cement mixer Stu.
You’re joking!? Really? (Laughs) Perfect.
Nah. We work for this big firm, like Barrat homes. We have a huge silo, full of unmixed concrete. You put your bin under it, press a button and pull the handle and it mixes and fills it up with cement, that gets lifted up, then your labourer drags it round for you to your spot. Then all you gotta do is wet it up, dry it up, make the perfect solution.
Did you ever hear about the Belgium Mix?
Nah, what concrete?
Yeah, we were skating this park in Nepal, made by Make Life Skate Life and all the different crews that work together to make those amazing parks. Alex Hallford was saying that the surface of the park that the Belgians work on are always more sticky than the rest.
Yeah I do know what you mean, Mechelen (Belgium) is like that, exactly like that, it just feels more sticky, it really works, you really stick to the surface. It’s a different mix. Hallford doesn’t like that?
He just says its ‘different’. So who’s the crew you’re skating with?
Jake Collins lives half hour away, I skate with him now and again. At the moment its me, Pulley…mate Pulley is insane, how he is not hooked up out of his eyelids I don’t know! He skates everyday, and he’ll eggplant anything! He gets obsessed with a trick and learns it. It’s inspiring to skate with him. Also Beanhead, Sox when he’s around, little Ben Morris – he’s only 18 mind, he’s sick, he’ll stick everything, always looks like he’s gonna die, but he’s sick! and Alan too.
Thats some pretty heavy transition skaters there.
Literally, that’s all we grew up skating, like indoor parks, transition everywhere, sick vert ramps too.
Yeah in Wales you’re actually blessed with some amazing outdoor parks and concrete bowls right?
Yeah Newport, Cwmbran (where Sox is from, two there), then more up the valleys, where Pulley’s from, they just had one built. Then Hereford’s like 50 minutes away. There’s 3 outdoor parks within 15 minutes driving, then two indoor parks in Cardiff (Spit and Sawdust). Then it’s really close to Bristol. So can’t really complain to be fair, we are pretty lucky.
So does your job really limit the amount of time you get to skate? You missed a couple of trips last year, like the Swiss Team Trouble Comp.
Yeah well I’m self-employed, it was close to christmas, I couldn’t be a month without money, you gotta be clever, you gotta save money for those days when the weather’s bad and you can’t work. Not that I’ve got any money now mind. Gutted I missed the Swiss comp, Lovenskate won again didn’t they, it looked insane everyone had swimming pools and that. But Switzerland aint cheap, first time we were there, Sam Beckett bought 2 double vodkas and coke and it cost 50 quid! I can’t do that, I wanna buy a house.
Really? Where you living now?
Right now living with my girlfriend’s at her old man’s house. I’d want to buy a house in Newport, or Bristol. Good for work, and good for skating.
So tell me about the spots in the video. A lot of it’s Newport?
Yeah Newport, the Tredegar park, and the town, then Hereford. That gap to lip is a hell of a spot, the ledge, then a downhill, then a big set at the bottom. I ain’t trying that set again though. Not that I’m scared (laughs).
Yeah theres a couple of tricks in there of you skating street, we don’t usually get to see that, but it looks sick. That wallie!
Yeah that wallie was intense. It was fucking scary man. The tranny against the jersey is pretty small, and then the fence is up to your nipples. proper scary. I had to do it 4 times or something. For filming and Jerome shooting the photos. They kept making me do it, fucking 15 times. You don’t realise how scary that was (laughs).
Theres none of your DIY in there though?
Nah thats gone, they knocked it down, for planning, but then nothing happened, theres nothing on there. We’ve had 4 diy spots like that, and they’ve all been knocked down. So stupid, especially when theres nothing being built on it.
Have you got any New Years resolutions?
I wanna get a bit more lean? Bit more healthy like. Lots of vegetables. I tried jogging the other day. Murder it was. I was well into it, but the next day! I stretched before as well, but its intense. But skating’s good exercise. We’re all quite active, but I’m not healthy, I don’t wanna die when I’m 30 like. Loads of veg, loads of fruit, orange juice. I really wanna thank a few people please. Grim at Freestyle, Jimmy and Jerome at Out Of Step / HUF, and The Carve!
Chav Dan – On The Bricks – by Harry Deane