Garden introduce two classy additions to their sterling team in the form of ‘world-class smilers’: Scott “Dunder” Anderson and Billy Wells. Both are fantastic to watch on a board and both are fantastic human beings. Check out their shared part below lifted from Garden’s brand new video ‘Danger‘ releasing later this week in full. Jono Coote caught up with filmer Kieron Forbes about whats changed with Garden since we last spoke, their new video, influential artists, introducing Dunder and Billy and much more. Check the interview by scrolling down and then get stoked on the new shared part with Dunder and Billy.
Introduction & Interview by: Jono Coote
Imagery Courtesy of: Garden Skateboards
Videography by: Kieron Forbes, Jamal Jabbar, Miles Kondracki + Cameron Lenton
I am currently in the middle of reading The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein’s essay on disaster capitalism and how the proponents of neoliberalism use wars, disasters and tragedies to further their agendas both personal and political. Stuck inside isolating due to a colleague at my day job coming down with COVID, thinking about how this pandemic could be used to widen the global poverty gap yet further, I should have little cause for positivity. Speaking, however, to Kieron Forbes – the man behind Garden Skateboards, whose promo should be available for your pleasure as you read this – I am reminded that, in the face of rampant inequality and the various degradations that late capitalism visits upon us with clockwork regularity, what is essential is the grassroots network of creatives and activists getting out there and doing what they can to affect the world around them. The micro and the macro are intrinsically interconnected, and in a society streamlined to milk you of your energy and brain power then art in itself is an act of resistance. Garden Skateboards are a company who make no concessions to corporate success, but exist rather as a platform to display the skateboarding, artwork and music that they think deserves putting out there. Read on for more info on their new video, travel, Hall & Oates, collaborating with Welcome Skate Store and more; and cheers Kieron for lessening the existential angst and feelings of helplessness which naturally arise in the face of an unregulated free market’s slow erosion of human decency.
This interview is coinciding with the release of your new promo video ‘Danger’. Since we last spoke to you you’ve gained a couple of new team riders, right? What else has changed since then?
Yeah, It felt like bringing on a few more people made sense. Almost immediately after we launched we invited Neil Kellas, he ticks so many boxes for what we are about. Scott Anderson (Dunder) also jumped in, which was rad – that was sort of a homecoming since he was involved in Harvest, and Rory was the only guy on the west coast.
Billy (Wells) is our only Englishman, sort of dipping our toe in the water with having a team rider who lives at distance. Miles (Kondracki) got him up the road for a week or so and honestly how quickly he fitted in was impressive. I’m really stoked to have them both involved.
Billy Wells and Scott ‘Dunder’ Anderson share the part which is playing alongside this interview – if they were a famous pop duo from the past (Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, PJ and Duncan etc.), who would they be?
Hahaha, that’s actually a hard question. Their part is shared in the sense they skate a lot of the same spots and have a shared moment, it’s a bit of a tender moment. As pop duos go I suppose they are like Hall & Oates?
I really hope that means one of them is sporting a proper 1980s John Oates ‘tache for the part… So how long has this video been in progress for, and has it panned out how you originally expected it to?
Kellas is probably the number one ringer for John Oates, haha!
The video has been in progress since 2019 and honestly we didn’t have any intentions of putting a video out right away, but it just accumulated over time. Initially after we’d been over to Spain we bought a VX and one of those DCR readers and we were all about trying to do a VX production. In fact the outro of the video is some of what we had already filmed with it, but the reality of dealing with tapes and glitchy cameras took over so we stuck with HD.
It didn’t pan out how any of us expected. A positive and something really nice about this one is that almost everyone has filmed one another, lockdown circumstances being what they were. It was rad to have people team up or go out together and get sent drops of footage from here and there. I think for the team it makes it way more personal and important that they are involved on more than one level.
Your first video was filmed entirely within the EH postcode, the next in Northern Spain; did you decide on the call of the road or blatant localisation for this one?
Our Zaragoza trip was meant to be an extension of what we did with filming just in the EH postcodes. We wanted to go somewhere people had been, but not the obvious choice for Spain, and frankly the guys deserved to do a trip somewhere out the country.
Danger is a continuation of the promo extending to all of Scotland, although things being as they were it was predominately the major cities and some satellite towns. It’s got a bit of an East Coast bias but I think there is a lot in there that people will have never seen or forgotten existed.
It has been interesting seeing everyone work out going on skate missions, filming etc around the new rules. Following on from that, sort of, the last year has had us all adapting to different spots in our immediate vicinity or even finding new ways to skate old favourites. Did you manage to maintain the inspiration to keep hitting local spots, or were you climbing the city walls and ready to hit the road again once things started easing this spring?
Yeah it’s a weird one, I can only really speak for myself but I think everyone’s had a shared experience in that there’s not been anything to look forward to. The idea of a holiday seems so distant that focusing on projects has been doubly important, as well as enjoying being outside around friends. I genuinely think that’s why skateboarding has done so well over the last year.
We’ve definitely pushed ourselves to look at old spots, get back on Google Maps and locate new spots, but most importantly not create unrealistic expectations.
I think what’s really cool is the forced realisation that we should appreciate what’s in front of us or at arm’s reach; the idea of doing a trip around Scotland camping and skating seems like such a treat after however long of the same repetitive process.
I reckon there is a bit of fatigue at this point, but if anything everyone just wants to keep filming. Having those guys get access to a camera and the ability to film each other, easily, makes a difference and takes a bit of the formality out of the process.
And did lockdown open up a lot of spots in Edinburgh? Were people more open to skateboarding for a brief period? I ask as in your Flatground interview you mention skateboarding being pushed aside in favour of other, more commercial areas.
There were definitely some easier conversations with security or, like most places, there were none so for sure it made it easier. I think Edinburgh city is going to be really odd in the next three or four years, COVID has hit the high street here really hard and it’s crazy because it is a capital city. I can really see cafe culture taking hold and more and more luxury city apartments, so it could eventually be really hard to skate here. It’s sort of antithetical to the idea of more public space; yes, more inhabited space, but only if you do what we want you to do with it.
Edinburgh is old and new at the same time so it’s always going to have a bit of this struggle to move forward. There is a real sense of entitled ownership, because a big slice of Edinburgh’s community is old money that genuinely takes disgust in seeing anyone doing anything outside their idea of normal or well behaved!
Brexit/lockdown has affected a lot of board companies in terms of actually sourcing hardware, how has this impacted on Garden?
Much the same as anyone who has a small stock purchase, it was a struggle to find a manufacturer that had the time to take an order. We ended up with a European manufacturer so inevitably we got hit with a heavy customs charge.
Regardless of your politics or what flag you want to fly I reckon people are going to start realising Brexit has and will only fuck the little guys. As a result our margins are pretty thin. If all the UK board companies got together we could actually fund a UK manufacturer and guarantee a decent and well priced supply chain.
I guess as always, in the face of rampant neoliberalist greed, grassroots collaboration is key… which brings me on to the collab you did last year with Welcome Skate Store, how did that come about originally?
Honestly doing small things you care about is always going to be way more interesting and more impactful to your own sense of worth as well as your brands.
The t-shirt with Welcome came about simply because Sam really dug the Byrne board graphic we did and asked if we were doing a tee, which we weren’t. Welcome had an anniversary coming up so it seemed fitting to do it for them, plus it was a nice fundraiser for the National Autistic Society. We are big fans of Welcome and I think consistently they’ve had such good shop merch, I was flattered they wanted to do something with Garden.
The David Byrne graphic, and a look at Garden’s Instagram account, both point towards a foregrounding of music in the company’s identity. What artists are on heavy rotation for you at the moment? And, if you could choose anyone, which label would Garden enter into a symbiotic relationship with a la Santa Cruz and SST?
For me personally, I have a real love for a wide range of stuff. Looking at my most played, currently on heavy rotation are the Cocteau Twins, Alex G, Sonic Youth, Tatsuro Yamashita, Khruangbin, Wham!, The Eurythmics, Billy Idol, Built to Spill, Jocelyn Brown and HUM.
The obvious choices for me for a label to build a relationship with would be Sub Pop or Matador, but it could be cool to have access to Jeepster’s archive almost exclusively for Belle and Sebastian’s older artwork. Rough Trade for similar reasons as well. Some one really commercial like Island would be cool as their stable of artists has been so wide and eclectic. In a similar vein a publisher would be sick as well, like Faber & Faber or Random House, some of the big publishers’ early cover art is incredible.
In your last interview for Vague, you mentioned that “…the idea that someone could discover art through skateboarding is exciting,” and talked about using your boards as a platform for different artists. Are there any upcoming collaborations we should know about? More broadly, whose art on a board has excited you recently?
There are about a million different plates in the air at the moment, and collaborations haven’t fallen to one side but the focus and relevance of making sure we’ve got a decent supply of boards is more pressing. There are a tonne of people on a list and pretty much all of them are down. I’ve got a couple of really achievable but sort of stupid ideas as well.
Recently I was really stoked on UMA, specifically Nathaniel Russell; mostly because I’m a big fan of his work in general, but also because it is so perfect for deck design, it’s really expressive in the best way. I think Strangelove is amazing, more now than ever I’ve got really into old Santa Cruz and Powell graphics and the act of making that piece of art with screen printing in mind, all the separations you have to do is a different way of thinking. The Natas capsule they just did is really great. I always like what Blast Skates does. They are such a lesson in what a brand should be and almost every project they do makes me wish I’d thought of it. I really like the Loose Company from Rotterdam and, closer to home, Moth Skateboards are at an early stage but I love their gothic artwork. I’ve got a lot of time for what they could be.
Garden Skateboards: DANGER – Scott ‘Dunder’ Anderson & Billy Wells