Henry Edwards Wood produces skate videos that transcend the boundaries of art and skateboarding cultural documentation. His relentless drive to hone his craft and capture unseen skate talent, impactful tricks and the intangible moments that he manages to witness behind his lens have been lucky enough to be delivered to our screens for the last 15 years.
It’s very rare to find someone who is so passionate about skateboarding, filmmaking and the culture that surrounds it all with the ability to translate their vision into various visual forms. He’s not just great at filming and editing, his post-production skills and thematic ethos of his films are all interwoven with a distinct character and personality. It gives his films a philosophical outlook and sense of being and importance that resonates with the viewer as a fellow skateboarder on multiple levels.
He’s most well known as Hold Tight Henry due to the series of Hold Tight London edits he produced with Morph. It’s a fitting nickname because he always made himself available to film and be there when skaters needed someone to capture a trick.
His library of skate edits contain their own self contained language and history built around the friendships and partnerships that he’s made along the way. He’s more than just a filmer, he’s a documentarian of the London skate scene and specifically his favourite spot the Southbank Undercroft.
We are beyond stoked that Henry is now a No Comply Network member.
Ever since watching his work for Concrete Poets, HTL and the Long Live Southbank campaign we wanted to make this happen.
So after a long time of appreciating his films, we had a chat about how he first saw skateboarding and became passionate about filmmaking, producing Concrete Poets’ Writer’s Block video, car park sessions in Catford, meeting Greg Conroy, Faris Hassen and going to Southbank, inspirations from Dan Magee, Blueprint, Waiting for the World and Lost and Found, Josh Stewart, meeting Morph and starting up Hold Tight London, Jak Pietryga, Chewy Cannon, skating with Shaun Witherup, getting advice from Fos, discovering HD cameras, working for Landscape Skateboards, Jin Shimizu, his thoughts on the Sheffield skate scene, Mark Baines, Shaun Currie, shooting Slam City Skates first ever skate video – City of Rats and selecting the soundtrack and sections, living on Theobalds Rd in Holborn, David Yap, putting together full parts of Nick Jensen, Joey Pressey, Rory Milanes, Lucien Clarke, Steph Morgan, Snowy, Casper Brooker, Darius Trabalza, Jerome Campbell, Neil Smith, Karim Bhaktaoui’s tricks and capturing clips with Arran Gregory, Madars Apse, Kurt Winter, The Gonz and Ben Jobe, freestyling with Femi Bukonola, his thoughts on Palace Skateboards, Long Live Southbank and his Innocence and Experience edit featuring Kyron Davis and Blondey McCoy.
Read it below to discover it all for yourself.
How did you originally start to skate?
Man, it’s very hard to pinpoint that, the way I look at it is, I was led on a path of inspiration and suggestion. When I think back there was always a skateboard in my house. One of the little original Penny boards, a yellow plastic one, that was always available. Standard kids toy. I’d skate on that.
My mum’s friends had a family with kids, of a similar generation, a few years older to us, they had all of the 80s boards and they were always skating as a family. We would get plonked at their house to be looked after and I skated with them, so I was always riding on boards. When I was a kid skating a board was just like everything, kicking a ball or getting on a bike.
Yeah, it’s all the same when you’re a kid
Yeah just playing with gravity and wheels you know? That’s pretty much all it is. That’s all humans as kids are doing pretty much. That was a highly over intellectualised answer but it’s true. People have asked me that before but the genesis of an idea never has a ground zero. I think the memories I have of seeing a skater using a board in a proper fashion as we would call it, in the wild, stand out to me. I have vivid memories seeing older skaters, standing up on their boards, on the popsicle shape skateboards.
Do you remember who they were?
Nobody special or in particular. Just people from Catford. Skateboarding did not exist where I was from. As an object I was familiar with it but I didn’t know about the culture. I mean you do get little bit of American culture coming in through TV. I was growing up in the 90s after all, so it was everywhere in some sense, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was out, skating was around. But I decided that I wanted to be a skateboarder in probably 1999.
Back then it was like an identity thing you know? Because back then it was this fashion tribe. Kevs, Townies, Chavs and the alternatives, grungers or whatever you want to call them.
Chain wallets, rock tees, big shoes or trackies and trainers
Yeah, basically the whole world was like you have to choose your uniform in some sense. You have to choose your pack your tribe, to know where you belong, especially school was all about that. I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was a shapeshifter, I played all the sports but I was also very academic, smart but loved music, I refused to be defined. I was always being moved around.
Also I used to do ballet because my mom was a ballet teacher, so I was used to being the odd one out. Also just because I hated the world I was in at the time where everyone’s playing EastEnders politics, stabbing each other in the back, becoming vicious to each other and manipulating each other, I was just fucking over it.
I was sick of being betrayed by my friends. This was just a journey of being in a school in Central London I guess. I decided to be a skateboarder by my own and I just skated in Catford by my own. It was a very hardening experience being shouted at and trying to do that at the time.
How old were you when you decided to be a skateboarder?
Around age 12. I was still going to school, I was still playing sports, I still did everything. I was that hyperactive kid who had to do stuff; I had to lend my hand to most things. Fated with that ‘Jack of all Trades’ thing.
Why was skateboarding the thing that grabbed you?
It was because it was completely different to everything else in how it operated. The way that it was self-dictated and everything else. I skated for a year and there were all these chance occurrences. There was a magic to it. There were all of these meetings that led me on a path to be a true skateboarder, a code and credence to get into that identity. But to get into that world, there was no internet, no Instagram and it wasn’t around me, where I was like so many people in the UK.
The journey of discovering the world that transcends the skateboard – as an object – itself was some serious magical stuff. It led me on a path where I met friends, discovered the odd other few people in my school, who skated and became my friends and we started a crew. That became Concrete Poets and we started all of these echelons in the skate world and skate stories, and I wound up in Southbank and became the person I am today in some sense.
Yeah. Who were the first people in your skate crew?
Its funny right you start skating and you don’t have any reference points. You’re looking for other people who skate. You start to notice stuff like clothing and bands and stuff. And looking to older skaters, who were really more grunger. Skating was more a part of their holistic image, let’s say.
Looking back on it weren’t what we would call steez as core skaters I was in the school band I played bass and I ended up getting into a band with these grunger types at school and I was just learning to skate.
I would follow them to the local carpark. They were doing Slappy Noseslides and Kickflips.
Okay, they weren’t new to it
Yeah but they were a bit older and I started to get the idea, they weren’t the coolest, most switched on guys and they didn’t care that much about the skating. I was just fascinated with skating. It felt impossible to get it off the floor. It was magic you know?
The point is that they led me to Comet car park, the car park where Concrete Poets were born out of. Through hanging there with them and meeting people there I got more into it, and I even met some older skaters later on who said they used to go there.
There was a certain affordance that helped skating and a community to manifest in that space, like Southbank, that car park had that. It was the only car park that was open in the area, so skating’s going to happen but there were connections there because it was the local area.
Do you still keep in touch with people from school?
The only people I keep in touch from school with are the people who skated. I liked skating because it gave me this whole world nobody understood but when they saw it; they respected the hell out of it. It was just a defense mechanism.
People didn’t know what to do about us just throwing us all around. It really hardens you up mentally. Everyone was giving you shit for it just because they couldn’t understand it.
Those early days in the 00s it wasn’t quite mainstream
When you’re young, you have a more naïve perspective on it. You’re sold by the mainstream narrative that everything is like a uniform that you put on. That you buy your way in and you get a board and you’re one of the gang. You get a board and you assume you’re a skater. You can’t fault the logic but its’ not true. But you have to go through that to realise it’s irrelevant what you’re wearing. You’d end up trying to find the others. As a skater, you’re dropped in to this world…It’s arbitrary but skaters are the one who don’t feel like they belong, so they’re looking for other people
Yeah the black sheep
Yeah, because we are.
Somebody’s always got to do something different
When we were younger I was like I want to think for myself. I don’t want to do what everyone else was doing. Skating seemed to be a vehicle to do what you want, if you put your mind to it. It’s still that. For the individual it’s got unlimited possibilities.
Concrete Poets is a philosophical name to come up with as a young kid. How did you come up with the name?
All of the skate videos that we had and watched had that poetic sensibility. We got an education through skate videos that we did not get anywhere else. The music, the art, the culture and the archetypes of the industry. I was opened up to a world of artistic substance that gave me a much deeper poetic view of the world then my peers. All of us skaters had that. We weren’t stuck in that, you have to do this or that or you’re a wasteman mentality.
When you’re young everyone is being pushed into a box; you get multiple opportunities through skating to express yourself
It literally dissolves boundaries. It turns boundaries into objects of interest and joy it dissolved everything around you that are boundaries.
What was your proudest memory of the Concrete Poets video?
You mean Writer’s Block?
Writer’s Block was actually the 2nd Concretes Poets’ video.
There were two videos that have never been released. Before we were Concrete Poets we were the Asylum Skate Crew. There is a legendary Catford scene video we made that probably has like a 20 burned DVDV release distribution that circulated around the local area that I’m looking to release in the future.
It’s my last gem of like wow; you guys have not seen this shit. It’s just me, Greg and Faris, being little shits skating around Catford and the local area.
That’s funny you made a video before that but it did seem like Writer’s Block was well produced for your first one
When Concrete Poets came out I was 18. Maybe 19. So the thing is with skating from the moment you become a skater you act out the narrative of the pro skaters in that sense. You go out and film.
So the videos happen. So by the time I was making Writer’s Block I felt like I was doing it properly.
It reminded me of Dan Magee’s Lost and Found. Did his work influence your filmmaking?
Yeah mate 100 percent. I treat the Blueprint Skateboards videos as gospel. Because they literally were. It was the British skate videos and the alternative narrative that they provide that gave us a creed and a modus operandi.
What did you think of Waiting for the World?
Waiting for the World, the intro sequence, is literally like the Blueprint, of how to behave as a British skateboarder which is totally different to American West coast and East coast skating.
Dan Magee is a genius. It’s such a sick, visual symbolic idea as well.
Yeah, it was an ad for modern descent that still rings true
Yeah it was like creative disobedience without violence. If you don’t like the establishment, this is what you can do, that’s not going to put you down the wrong path. It was expressing the frustration of a generation.
What about Lost and Found?
Lost and Found defined my teenage year. When Lost and Found came out we were young skaters, immersed in the skating culture, reading Sidewalk every month, going to the jams, every skatepark and spot we could, travelling the country, filming. When did Lost and Found come out? 2005?
Yeah it was 2005
So Writer’s Block came out in 2007. All younger artists imitate, it wasn’t defined or written down. But there was an obvious shared consensus on what skate videos are. In some sense you can look at any scene videos in the noughties, they were trying to be L&F. It was the exemplar of that aesthetic that Magee created and worked towards.
There’s hints of it in Landscape Portraits. I mean its VX and Super 8 but there was a communication in it that was saying something without words, about how to look at your environment, and create art, in a chemical manner, and shift our perception by using these modern tools around us to make sense of the world in this way.
Did anyone else influence your filmmaking?
Magee combined with Josh Stewart. Then of course all of the big productions coming out of America, like Girl’s Yeah Right and Habitat’s Mosaic video. All of these things. Skate videos were the thing. I was trying to make something that was that thing. I was trying to emulate the format. I mean that’s how everybody was learning it.
Your videos had hints of that but they were unique due to the music and aesthetic.
I was also bringing in the new influences, the digital editing, the glitch aesthetic, and this idea of the digital world – internet life, I was bringing into it what younger people do, they absorb culture quicker and faster than anyone right. So I did have ideas that I was trying to modify but I was well aware that I was partaking in the tradition of skateboard filmmaking.
So you pay references to the classics, like intertextualities in novels. I saw skate videos as the interesting modern format in the world at that point.
As somebody who was creative, could write, used to play music, I had the understanding that you had this pattern, this format and that you can work in the confines of it to make infinite art but there’s that shared unique pattern and integrity within it that means you can make skate videos.
At what point did you come up with Hold Tight London?
You do everything through feeling. You don’t have any experience you’re not on the same track you’ve been on for 20 years. You do what feels right.
So still today I’d watch my own videos rather than other videos, it’s a conversation with yourself and communicate things you can’t express that you can do through music or movement, I learnt through early on, skate videos gave you this identity.
‘I was the guy who made skate videos’ – nobody did that. It’s how you express yourself. It’s a spiritual experience for me.
Editing skate videos, involves a lot of pattern recognition and synthesising movement to music, that’s highly emotive so the process, of constructing a skate video from the ether of your mind into the pixels of the screen, is decision by decision but your led by this organising agent.
It’s a very mystical experience. You don’t make the film, the film makes you. You’re just a vessel that just manifests this thing into the world. It was the way it was then and it’s how it is now.
The whole point of skating is that your following the narrative, what’s coming out, who’s making moves and this and that and the alternative narrative. But as a viewer to it. So there was always these quantum leaps forward when a video came out, so it would give you hint when a video came out, that was saying here is where we are at now.
So there was a hysteresis, this whole other world, behind what people saw going on and the other stuff happening at the time between these skaters and brands at the time. There was even more advanced stuff going down at the point of the videos’ release
But my point is that I was watching the scenes unfold and I was watching it morph and change, right on the ebb and flow of it. I kind of feel like my superpower is how to fuse that and make sense of what’s going on, package it up and show the rest of the world
So you felt like your films were a conduit for the skate culture that surrounded you
Be a catalyst for what was happening and you see what’s happening and you open your channels and allow it to happen faster. I didn’t create Hold Tight London it’s just a name.
It had a relevance of that time when there was a feeling that there was a whole new generation of skaters coming up that weren’t in the limelight as such but were sharing the same environment.
We slowly started to realise that we can hit the streets and that there’s way more spots these guys haven’t seen that we could go to and that we had the biggest city of Europe on our doorstep and we had no excuse to not be out skating and filming every bloody day.
So when we were making Writer’s Block we had Concrete Poets, which was our crew, that was just how it was at the time, all the crews come together and mix at Southbank, that’s what happens.
How did Morph get involved?
Morph has been filming for longer than me and he’s younger than me, he’s been in it for a long time. So he’d already put out Routes and his skate crew, 3L, was already running the game from the east. I was in Lewisham in the South. He was north of the river. Southbank was the convergence of those crews and all these other kinds of crews. As you get older people fall off, that’s what happens.
So we amalgamated into one squad. So I was the one to do all of the media and editing, so I gave it this thing, a sting, a brand – Hold Tight London, you make a movement, you should give it name, put it out there, then we starting uploading it all on Facebook and our site with QuickTime embeds on 56k dialup.
That’s what it was, so bringing everything under the same name was a smart idea and social media was an excellent one.
It wasn’t even called social media at the time. Facebook was massive but we just shifted there from Myspace, the technology that gave us the freedom to meet up and organise stuff was all that Myspace and Facebook stuff was all about.
We had a Hold Tight London group and we’d be like we’re meeting up today and we’d meet up there on en masse, we were meeting up today. It was a change in skating.
We had that young kid mentality; these old guys don’t know what they were doing in some sense.
We were the first to do serialised web montage and we literally set it out.
In Writers Block, there’s a London montage, that’s Hold Tight London zero. If you watch the line-up, music and the aesthetic, every section is a chapter to do something new. I was messing with the London one. Using more gully music and grading, everything reflected what everyone was listening the streets.
There was a big kickback because all of our lives, all the time, we were told cowabunga dude! And all this stuff but we were like ah, that’s not us. Also we wanted to do something different and get a reaction.
Yeah that was what you were into and what you saw and heard around you so it came natural?
Skating and street culture are intertwined. Hip Hop and skating have always been there. Street culture and skating have always shared a connection, especially on the east coast of America.
At which number of HTL edits, did you think fuck, we are starting to get recognised?
It all moved very quickly. Because were getting real-time hits, we had counters on the sites, we were getting buzzed off not how many hits we got but how many countries were seeing the videos. It wasn’t a hit based economy. We were like this is what we do, how can we get more people to see it.
Basically, we were like here are all these skaters that nobody knows about, we were all kinda new. The way you get sponsored is to get coverage. It was a precursor to sending out sponsor me tapes online, so everyone was sharing it. Seeing scene videos on all sorts of travels.
Now you’ve got Instagram. We were like we’re doing it, let’s show people. But I’d say by HTL number 3, we would get good feedback and would go out to skate spots and stuff, so you sort of felt it.
So by number 3, you felt it was getting attention
Skating was a good echo chamber, everyone’s looking around but also the views were going up. We started to get referenced in skate media. Sidewalk took an interest. Writer’s Block was selling; it was selling in Slam while we rolled out HTL London and I’ve got to mention Morph because he played a massive role in it.
How did you and Morph start HTL together?
The first time I ever met Morph was when he was filming Jak Pietryga. Jak was as good as he is now!
I came around the corner and Morph was filming Jak doing a line at Shell Centre. He was coming diagonally at the 6 stair and was Tre Flipping the 6 and then Kickflipping the 7 that is like perpendicular to it, straight away with no pushing.
That was in like 2002.
Man, that’s so long ago
They’ve been on the game since day. Yeah, I connected with him there because he’s a filmer and I was a filmer.
Yeah, you saw his filming technique and respected it
We would get very geeky about who’s good at it. Not that many people are good at filming. I’ve had to work on it since the start but people who know the detail, you respect someone infinitely who can wield a camera properly, knew the settings correctly and could film footage that would be essentially accepted by somebody like Blueprint and Morph would get it right.
Shaun Witherup was killing it at the time, what was it like to skate with him?
Shaun Witherup was just there at Southbank.
He wasn’t a part of Morph’s 3L crew or Concrete Poets but I was already filming a lot with Shaun and with Science but that dude would turn up and slay Southbank
His Southbank footage always stood out, he had a technical ability to skate the cheese that was like Daewon-esque.
People would put that stuff in videos now; Shaun Witherup was so ahead of the game. Style and power and just a relentless attitude, he was just out ratting all day every day. I had the same mentality.
Which Witherup trick stands out most to you that you filmed?
One of my favourite lines of Shaun he does is on Mayor Road, the spots that Tom Knox made famous recently with his super long line filmed by Jacob Harris.
Shaun does this line in the Slam City Skates Promo that Magee made with that Biggie Remix track. He does Ollie up, classic Shaun, Crook the rail, little crook bonk, it’s all downhill and does a Switch Ollie over this little fence. It looked the shit.
We sent it into Magee and we thought he’s going to love this one and he did and put it in the promo. He spelled my name wrong in the credits but oh well.
You were filming with Concrete Poets like David Yap and Jin Shimizu but filming sponsored skaters too, were you getting paid for your footage at that point?
Yeah I was getting a little bit of cash from Landscape at the time.
Yeah Jin was getting on Landscape at the time too right
Yeah but you’ve got to remember at the time Jin was a super star rising, killing it. Could do anything with style. He had mad mature steez for his age, progressing rapidly and got on Landscape. Unfortunately he got injured and that slowed him down.
Did you ever chat with Fos much?
I learned a lot from Fos and it was nice to talk to someone in South London about skating, go to his house and get some insight on how to run a successful skate business. From your living room.
Yeah Fos put in the work to take Heroin to where it is now
Say whatever you want about Fos, but he smashed it and look at where he is now. He gave me a lot of opportunities early on.
He also showed me how to type out an invoice on MS Word and you can get paid. I was like this is amazing, this is such a helpful piece of information that nobody else ever showed me!
When did you start to film with Chewy?
To be honest a lot of the footage of Chewy Cannon in the Hold Tight’s was filmed by Morph. Magee was making use of me and Morph as we were learning and getting better and producing stuff he would accept.
I forgot to mention that HTL actually came about because we were asked by Magee to film some stuff for the first Slam City Skates video that they wanted to film back then.
That was when Mark Baines and Magee were involved in Slam back then. So we were initially involved in that, thinking yeah we’re going to make the Slam Video and then were what we’re going to give the footage to them so Magee can get the glory?
Basically like, fuck it, let’s do Hold Tight London. We weren’t getting paid or anything. When you were young you just want access and ultimately you just want to do your own thing.
But ultimately Slam backed it and they paid for some web space and stuff, so the timing was good.
Yeah, it’s good that Slam were supporting it.
Yeah, again that was all through Mark Baines. Baines I met through Shaun Currie. He’s from Edgware in North London but he moved to Sheffield and he’s a Concrete Poet so I had to go and see him.
Obviously Shaun fell on his feet there and got integrated into the scene, which is one of the most wholesome and integrated scenes in the country and I met Baines on a trip that we did to Sheffield. The whole city goes together and it’s dope.
Yeah, it’s really dope
It’s got a rich heritage, their deeply ingrained into the history of this country
Yeah Louis Slater, Baines, Sumo, Story, Slugger
I think even back then Sumo wasn’t there anymore but it felt like it was, like Slam. It had these echoes of this massive resonance of a scene. The talisman of a skate shop.
Yeah, Sumo ads were sick. Gnarly Joel Curtis ads.
Yeah, just rep your ends shit. it’s all about expressing yourself in your environment about your environment. All good skating is that. Not saying that it has changed but the skating that I saw, the imagery, the subversive nature, the local pride, that’s got nothing to do with nationalism, we all share these elements and these terrains, it’s like tribalism over nationalism
Yeah it’s beyond that it’s got more to do with shared passions and interests than anything else
It’s gritty as well. This godforsaken country, the weather’s terrible, our government’s outrageous. We all go skating and it doesn’t have to mean anything you know.
Yeah, having networks and groups in a larger culture is what makes it stronger
It’s like music, you can appreciate music, which does seem to have a geographical sense of its origins and skating is exactly like that. In music we’re using the same 12 notes, like in skating, the boards are all fundamentally the same and if you do a Kickflip, it could be the same anywhere but there’s the cultural local quality and character and texture you can appreciate it.
You can tell within an instant if footage is Paris, England or even The North of England, just by the light of the sky, or the floor or the road markings or the terrain of the environment itself, that nurture that local scene. It creates its own genres of skating that’s native that particular locale.
Yeah, and you get a lot of different skate styles out of it that’s a great perspective
Just want to get this on record and give a shout out to Baines because Story hooked it up for us back in the day. Slam and Story were basically the same back in the day. Baines, Magee, they were so legit. I was living the dream, met my idols and they were safe. Never happens.
At which number Hold Tight edit did you get to when you were asked to do the Slam City Video?
The idea was simple. We set it out. That’s why Hold Tight was great. Because we said look we’re going to do this, we told everyone, made a statement of intent. We’re going to drop an edit every month. Which at the point nobody else did. Except for Sk8 Mafia, who did their Sk8 Mafia Saturdays?
It was triumphant every time we got a new edit out because the whole scene watched us try and make it. It was hard. We did 11 of them. We did it for nearly a year, and then we spent 6 months for Volume 12, which became the DVD with the remix video. Not to toot my own horn. It was pretty dense multimedia content coming out of a small scene from grassroots made content. But that’s why I loved it because were making it out of nothing
How did DVS get involved?
Skating was a small family and everybody knew you. If you showed you were down and if you were down to hang out and skate you were keen and down to work and had good ethics, there were opportunities for you. I lapped it up. I owe everything to the elders in skating who gave me opportunities but I would say that I took them too. And I tried my absolute fucking hardest at every single one that I got.
If you were in the core of street skating, trying to get clips, not in the scene of the people reading magazines, but in the producers of making the content it was a small world and Mathieu at DVS, he knew about what we were doing.
Lucien Clarke was on DVS so it came naturally. I learnt how to do all of this. I learned how to get sponsors because of how people were in the video. It still works that way now. No money was made; anything we made was just for duplication. I made some money from DVD but none of that went into what I spent to put into it.
I’ll say it now, there are no Hold Tight London T Shirts, the whole point is that we’re not a brand. The brand is superfluous, we’re just a crew, we’re friends, we’re a mate that’s been my mantra, all the skaters you think skate for opposing brands, we’re not separate entities. All your mates who ride for separate entities are all mates, they all go to the pub together, it’s all just status. On the streets it means nothing.
What was your favourite track from the HTL videos?
There’s so many I hold the original HTL’s in the highest regards, it was pure raw, aleatoric street skating. I think my favourite one is Volume 4, Wiley’s – ‘What You Call It’ track. It kind of sums it up right there. We were trying to break convention, we weren’t trying to do the Jazzy indie stuff, we’re from London, this is what we like and the music that was around us and that represents us.
That Wiley track is raw as fuck
My favourite thing is the drop in the line that Jak filmed with Morph in Pimlico, for me it’s the synthesis of getting that right, the motion and the right part of the track that’s the magic when that fell into place I’m happy! That’s what I live for. Form and unifying music and motion.
That’s what a skate video is in a nutshell. A complete structure of that. But just to finish it off…Is that Morph in that first line with Jak where he starts of and Kickflips the Pimlico double set and he lands as the Wiley track drops and he ollies over something and zooms around at some people, looks back at them, then Nollie Backside 180s and Switch Heels and goes under the railing. Morph filmed that.
And it looked so good.
That’s banging, have to rewatch that
Essentially a bunch of grown up angry teenagers, on the streets doing it with style. Morph filmed it but I put it together in that way. I find it weird that I’m called Hold Tight Henry but Morph already had his nickname originally. He was infamous before we started to film and work together.
Who filmed most of the footage, you or Morph?
He got his nickname before I got mine. Morph filmed as much as I did and some ways probably more. It was one big blazed up haze of clips.
Filming all day long, bunning all day long. We’d never remember who filmed what. I do take it seriously but sometimes people tag me in clips online but I’m like nah its Morph.
Filmers can tell, who’s filmed what, everyone’s got their signature style.
It didn’t matter at the time. Filming sometimes is long so I’d be stoked and be like Morph take it from here, or vice versa. Even though we love it, it can get boring and long even though you have to just make the same motions over and over.
But then sometimes you’re like I wish I filmed that.
Morph was a character. I was one of the first people to document him and he was the frontman filmer for Hold Tight London.
I was always trying to be behind the camera. I always saw myself more as a producer, all of my mates are characters in my films and Morph was a character too. It all just happened organically, it just came out that way naturally.
Its’ interesting to hear how you collaborated with Morph. But to bring it back to your filmmaking you had a flat on Theobalds Rd in Holborn and that played a big part in City of Rats, how did you end up living there?
When it comes to skate videos as a filmer, I set out to film clips of videos. It pays to start stacking clips but that becomes the video.
During this time I was at university whilst I was making HTL and I dropped out to make web content for Kingpin and Sidewalk and I was filming part time for Landscape.
Somehow I was filming all hours of the night, filming for all of them and my own projects. I was commissioned by Fos to make the first full length HD video in the UK and it was going to be the Landscape video and that was when Rory was still on Landscape.
It was going to be the Landscape video and when I moved to Theobalds that was still the case but then shortly after Rory left Landscape left to go to Palace. But the whole point of the video was that Rory was going to go pro and have the ender in the video so that blew apart the project.
I was only getting a few hundred pounds a month, it’s like all videos, I wanted to make a mark with the video, to achieve my goals of being the best skate filmmaker in the world, which is obviously what you’re trying to be when you are a kid you know?
Making the Landscape video was a dream come true. It was a validation, In my journey to be a skate filmmaker, accepted and entrusted to make something like that I was basically trying to do that, it became this time I was trying to pioneer this HD format thing.
There was this progressive thing where the technical side of skating was getting higher and higher but the videos were the same. HD had just come out, I was getting insight into the HD world that was coming in and all the different he post production options that you have and I was like I want to make my mark making these types of videos that look like skate videos but are also the future of filmmaking.
Somehow this thing morphed into the Slam video – ‘City of Rats’.
Marshall Taylor asked me if I would like to make the Slam Video. And I asked him if he would like to buy the footage I had of Rory, Joey and Snowy, off Fos?
So then we had the basis for a video. I had clips of a lot of other people but they were the main people involved. It happens a lot in skating anyway.
It was the first time in UK history that a lot of footage was bought in-between companies.
So basically I took a hit and Marshall said it would have to come out of what I was to be paid for producing the video. The scene I came out of, it was all these legends I grew up with in their prime and had become fully defined and had reached that level.
Yeah and you got to show their skating in this new format for Slam instead
Yeah, everything had led up to that point. I broke up with my girlfriend and I was living in Central London with my mates. I had this base camp in the centre of London and I somehow managed to do it. I was on call like a doctor every day for like two years.
What year was this?
This was all around 2010-2011.
2011 when it became a solid thing Winter 2010 was the start when City of Rats changed from doing the Landscape videos.
It’s all there in my iTunes, a trailer for a HD Blue ray production for a Landscape production that never was. I love making trailers; I pride myself on making banging trailers.
Yeah, your short fast paced videos are really good, the ones for City of Rats and LLSB were like little self-contained parts
Yeah I was perfecting short form promo Instagram style content back, then because I had made so many videos for the magazines as well. It’s what I did. It’s amazing to condense narratives of a full skate video into short videos with short windows. Back then you had raw cuts you knew weren’t going in.
Now they’d be on Instagram But once I had the footage and wanted to make the edits, with me, I’ knew I had something to do with them, I just want to produce not consume. I was stoked on City of Rats. I wasn’t given a salary until right on the end when they paid me a grand every month to focus on it so I could get it done.
OK, let’s chat about City of Rats.
Yeah that was my magnus opus.
Cool. I remember Jensen’s Kickflip over the bar at Southbank, was the first, how did that go down?
That was exciting man.
Skating Southbank has changed. It’s never-ending, Tricks are like a harvest then we go out, sometimes it gets stagnant and boring and there’s nothing new or fresh but all you have to do is wait for time to pass and there are all these confluences and unpredictable processes from the outside world that changed the topography of Southbank. And all other places too.
So they did a little reconfiguration at some Southbank Centre board meeting for whatever reason and as Jensen puts it in a Long Live Southbank edit they put a railing perfectly in front of the bank to make a kicker it’s the perfect natural forces in motion that creates skate spots.
These architectural anomalies give us this affordance of a new place to skate that only skaters who have a certain perception can see.
Nick Jensen is the king of skating spots with no run up, just one of his talents, and he has a pride about Southbank. We knew it had to be done and we knew it was NBD but that was actually filmed for a Thunder commercial.
Initially Jensen was only going to have a few tricks in City of Rats but it went from being a standard shop video to a fucking epic.
Yeah, it was a proper full length skate video
Yeah but once the skaters see what goes down, I was always making rough cuts and edits to get them hyped, I know once you show them they were like this is banging and want to be a part of it.
So after we did something else completely for the Thunder thing. I started giving up so much footage that I lost any opportunities I had to work for Nike by using loads of clips meant for them to go into City of Rats.
There’s an all-night section that’s in the bonus section. It blows my mind, there’s so much of it. I didn’t care because I was only there for the art of making a video, It didn’t matter, The project itself, I became it.
How did you decide on such an eclectic soundtrack ?
It’s a good question. Understand by this point I knew what I was about, I worked tirelessly to find a formula I knew in my own head that I knew would generate the video that people would see as mine, in my own style. I’m still involved like any artist.
I had a formed notion of my formula. My whole thing was we are expressing ourselves in our environment and we’re using sound as another thing to show how skating is a multi-level hyper-dimensional cultural document and it’s one thing, it’s tricks and music but if your smart about it, you can tell a whole story.
So in my head, I was like this is the first full length London skate film, in some sense.
These are the best skaters in London and they are doing their best and also on the back of that, to hint on that and tell stories about London, which was such a melting pot of music and the empire and the legacy of London within it, after colonialism, the Windrush generation and every immigrant generation that came to London after that.
We’re an international city, its a fractal resonance of the world as whole, so I tried to show that off. So I tried to take people on a journey of the history of music of this city in this way.
It starts off as a sort of bardic, folky, very pagan sort of way in terms of its music style and that slowly morphs through different genres, to bring you through the different aesthetic cannons that a video can have.
Because I also was aware that a skate video is an instructional video, let’s be real it’s a how-to video. Right?
But it’s not just an instructional video for how to tricks, it’s instructional for a young soul in a world that doesn’t know what it is, to find their path and their niche.
So as a multi-level document the music is important to that. Skating is about different styles. Music goes hand in hand with certain styles. Of course these days we live in the age of no style no school and it’s kind of beautiful.
I thought that City of Rats is a bridge between that. I saw it as a peak moment. You can look at like the waves of a skate scene like the rise and fall of a dynasty you had the Blueprint supremacy and Landscape everything around that and that golden era noughties stuff and it went even further than that, where everyone took their art to the peak.
After that the whole scene changed. Palace rose out of the ashes, Isle as well. It was a watershed moment. I always think it’s a watershed moment, when I seem to come in at the beginning or at the end to document things.
In that film, there are hints of the whole origins of the film, in regards to the history of London and there’s stuff in there I can’t even tell you then I was working on it in the depths of my subconscious for two years.
There were so many variables. It was a spiritual thing.
Every time you get a trick it’s a blessing and that video was a house and every brick was a blessing.
For sure, it must have been a mission to make it
Yeah every trick is a struggle that tells itself. They take 3-5 seconds to happen but there’s more to it than that.
Anyone who makes a full length of quality, that takes magic and synchronicity and collective intent that it takes to make it happen.
Yeah you used Blak Twang a couple times but, why did you choose the Real Estate track for Jin Shimizu’s section?
I love music. I come from a musical family. My moms’ a dance teacher in musical theatre and ballet. My brother’s a session pianist.
I’m into music of all genres. Growing up in the modern world, not much good music around, pop music was terrible.
I was a Napster kid, downloading music on there, when only you can think of a word to type in, so you learnt a lot of stuff about artist’s name through that, you had no examples, you just had to guess names and I loved UK hip-hop.
I thought it was the shit and Blak Twang was switched on and smart.
He talks about being from SE8, Deptford area and talks about New Cross, which is close to me and just to hear the twang, I’m not trying to put no fake American slant on the world I’m working within.
I grew up in Lewisham. So his tone, his literal twang was soothing and natural to me. Not gats and Uzi’s the slightly nuanced British take on that, the more insidious poverty and deeper reaching social problems he had his finger on the pulse on long before anyone did in his music.
The film itself is a journey through music. So I deliberately had two London Posse and two Blak Twang tracks because by my reckoning to me they were the most influential in British Hip Hop because they had the quality, wholesome lyrical hip-hop ethos with the best sounds and English twang and swagger of insights.
That’s just my opinion, I do it for my own ear. If I see a skate part, the right song haunts my ears. I sat on some of those tracks for years because they were too good to be used for other parts.
That’s another thing, after the art; you can rip off some ones music and use it for free in your skate video, if you’re good enough to deserve that track. British skating, were not paying for rights, we’re not a million dollar industry.
I like to think artists appreciate when skaters use their music because we’re somewhat kind of reverse choreographing their track through the video.
So with Joey’s section, with that Benny Fairfax guest line in it, it was the first line we ever saw at Gillet Square AKA Crackba, how did that go down, do you remember finding that spot?
Yeah, you would have seen it in the Stella Supply Promo before City of Rats.
I mean to us at the time that was just another street spot. If something new pops up youv’e got to rinse it for footage before someone else does.
The game is still the game and it was back then and we were winning the game.
So with Jin’s part, how did you decide the editing and intro sequences?
Also to just say at the time were filming; Jin was living in New Cross at the time, so that was why I used the Blak Twang track.
Understand there’s a multitude of reasons why that track was the right one. It was locked in for a while. Also Jin was into Hip Hop at the time.
Also by mixing the audible aesthetics I was aware I was prepacking the images of the skaters as blueprints for their sponsors and being like here you go, here’s something marketed related to the skater and each skater has their own steez and identity and I believe that’s what skaters wanted.
So I was aware I was doing first mock-ups for skaters and their sponsors.
Yeah, it’s important that the music fits the style of the skater
It makes or breaks the section. The B-roll. It’s everything. At the end of the day when the trip is done, its’ all aesthetic and form.
It’s almost irrelevant at that point, there’s a deeper level where those that understand the technicalities and evolutions can be impressed and understand the lineage and who did what and the impact.
So anyone knows skate videos regardless of that, the beginning, middle, end of the trick, so its pure form and aesthetic people can never put their finger on why a video works but they can recognise the difference between a good video or a shit video and why that is.
It’s been my job over the years to find out what those things are and put my finger on it and bring it into my work and projects I do.
How did you decide to arrange the video into so many sections?
Again going back to it being this counter cultural document, it was that.
It was a where’s where of the spots and who’s who of the scene, like any good video, so I had all this footage and this beautiful line-up of other people, who were non shop riders. The edit makes itself in some sense.
To get a feel for how the scene is, you put people who skate together, together. So there’s many ways that you can make a cut.
So every cut or clip has meaning, so you can link it, to give a deeper felling of resonance to the viewer, to the contrast of the interval or juxtaposition of what came before it. You can do those through similar tricks, similar types of spots or mates right?
So in the friends section its meant to go through connection, so I tried to make sure there was a relevance to who comes before and who comes after so that to the people watching it that sequence of skating gives them an overview of kind of how the scene was back then.
It was a very delicate thing and there’s a methodology to it. There’s a full categorisation system in there. There’s a different types of titles, in different series of fonts, in different styles and colours in that which had a code, I had to codify it just so I could repeat it over and over again.
Dan Magee codified his stuff with so much stuff, that you can watch it over and over again and you can still draw new things out of it. Obviously I have to make decisions on how it looked and I knew that people want to see it and their needed to be a certain fanfare for the shop riders.
So if you look closely there is a three tier font colour, size system, on top, as a kind of homage to waiting for the world and little sort of aphorisms and phrases and stuff.
Little cultural things were added. It’s like an algorithm, I knew this was the only time I was going to make this film and it’s got to say everything, once it’s done it’s done.
So it was an exercise of my brain, left and right, lot of intuition and pattern recogniton but also a lot of rational decision making, systemisation and organisation. That’s why I love making skate videos.
How did Ben Jobe’s Frontside Tailslide off the cheese into the bank wearing steel capped boots go down?
Mate’s that’s just why I love skateboarding. I don’t even know why I was at Southbank that day I was there randomly there one day, I had my camera.
You tend to have a sixth sense of being in the right place and time after you’ve done it for a while. Ben Jobe comes down, randomly after work, had his steel capped boots on and suddenly wants to skate and because he’s a prophet and a fucking ninja, he did that shit and it all happened in about ten minutes.
Yeah, it went into the friends montage alongside The Gonz.
Speaking of the Gonz, what was it like to film the Gonz?
I had done some stuff with them in London and filmed some stuff of the Gonz here and I had his phone number for some reason.
I phoned the Gonz and I was like, do you want to come out skateboarding?
He met us at a little plaza spot, it wasn’t Republique but it was like another similar traffic island spot and he just came out street skateboarding with us one day and it was fucking sick.
I felt like a little kid. I couldn’t get the camera out quick enough.
Mark Gonzales is literally the real fucking deal and will do it on his own, in the streets with anyone, so it was fucking incredible.
I love how that clip was totally random and it was completely fucking Gonz. Just filmed in some random backstreet.
That’s what I’ve been blessed with, I’ve had the chance to observe and film the gods of skating and when I’m not doing that, you stand at Southbank and they’ll come to you.
What about Karim’s Tre Flip over that rail? Was that the first Tre over a rail in the UK at the time?
No. Andrew Brophy did one. He Tre Flipped over the Canada Water Rail before that. But he was the only before that maybe, Korahn did a rail in Bristol, not sure. But Tre Flips over rails did not exist.
That spot was our local flat spot because we lived around the corner and there was this strip of marble that was undercover, so it was that sort of thing, it was low and awkward but it’s very rare to find any handrails in the UK that are possible to go over and that have that city aesthetic behind it.
Because it was low and awkward, it was exactly what we were like trying to communicate in that video. We were skating those kinds of cutty spots, the scraps, not exactly the spots you wanted to skate.
Karim Bhaktaoui made light work of the Kickflip and the Pop Shuvit over, it, early on in the filming, he like literally did both of those within a couple minutes on one day.
The Tre Flip, we went back there maybe three times, he landed on it a lot, the rollout was uneven and a bit treacherous but if I’m honest…the one that sticks out more is the Tre Flip he does over the road gap where he chest bumps David Yap at the end. In the alleyway?
That road gap, I found on the day that we moved into Theobalds, it’s literally around the corner from it and for me I was like that’s perfect, horrible to skate but looked amazing, proper London streets.
Karim and I went back every Sunday for a month to that road gap and that guy he just went to war at that fucking road gap.
So it was a full on vendetta, so when he landed that, the elation? We went through a portal that day you know? That one sticks out to me more!
But I’m so stoked on Karim because that was his first full proper part. And I was really stoked; I got a good response from using that Groove Armada track because I really didn’t want to put Karim’s skating to Hip Hop. I wanted to surprise people.
The only joke I’d make now is that it was a feat, juggling around so many of his Tre’s and Pop Shuvits, they are all beautiful and I could’nt not put them in there but my achievement there was spacing them out because they were all fucking phenomenal.
What about Karim’s Front nose up Chalky?
The Frontside Noseslide that he does up at Chalky is unfuckwithable, incontrovertibly, the gnarliest shit, that’s been done in this city for a long time, for different reasons than other gnarly shit.
How did that go down?
Karim was just in a window in that video, where he was like I can do anything, and I’m going to do it and he literally would. It was beautiful to be around.
What was it like the first day that he tried it?
I’m pretty sure he did it on the session. Karim would try it when I wasn’t watching; he just liked to jump on stuff. He’d like to get up to stuff, he could always get up on to it but the problem was that the hard part was getting out of it and popping out.
It took him a long time that day and the ones that he put out weren’t super dipped and locked out but it was still unbelievable and impressive.
But then some wonderful moment of inspiration of divine inspiration or intervention, the one that he lands is just so fucking bolts.
And he Nollies out of the Front Nose, it was unbelievable. The angle that he even had to come to even get to it, he was coming at a 45 degree angle at it due to the tree that was there, man, it was crazy shit.
Arran Gregory’s tricks are banging, what was it like filming with Arran and that Nosebonk 180 he does at SOAS?
Well Arran Gregory is just a good friend.
He’s done a lot of great artwork for Slam and was good friends with Craig Jackson who I was living with. Arran’s always good for it.
That is in the extras and ten banging tricks there in the video all went down over that electric box in one session. Arran’s trick was the last one and the build-up and the bribery to make that clip a success shows everything that’s good about skateboarding, it made it a perfect moment. Living the dream.
Sometimes you get an exemplar session where everyone’s up for it and tricks go down and that was one of them. That spot was fully open for business and we were stacking for the video and Arran came through.
What about Femi’s Rap, was that rehearsed?
That’s why it’s in there, with the bit where he stops and starts and then kills it, to show that it was adlib. Femi is Femi. I don’t need to go into his past nor do I understand why he does what he does.
He is the legend of Southbank. He’s still there. I saw him there the other day. But for a while he was quite a prophet and has quite an incredible intelligence and vocabulary.
Morph filmed him spit bars a lot. But it’s not uncommon for Femi, who was always at SB during the HTL days and City of Rats days to always be there and like anyone; he has his good days and his bad days where he’s feeling social and other days where he’s not feeling like it.
It’s not uncommon for him to come up to me and said hey can you film this? And that’s literally what happened.
I was filming at Southbank, filming some other shit and I had the camera in my hand and Femi came and asked me do you want to film some bars?
So I went with him and he did some freestyles that are not in the video, that I have on my hard drive somewhere.
Then I just said hey do you fancy doing an intro to Karim’s part? I wasn’t sure what he was going to do but then he spontaneously burst into that.
I think basically because Karim is basically the original Southbank skate rat and the video was meant to be a cultural document.
I used his rap as an intermission. It’s funny because in the premiere everyone laughed when he stuttered but then he comes up with the most intelligent bars coming off the cuff after
I agonised about how I was going to use that most of the time, usually when you cut, you keep the good stuff and get rid of the bad stuff. But somewhere whilst making the edit I made the decision that I had to run it raw, because that was the whole point and it was unbelievable he did it.
The more I watch it, the more that I think; it was the best part of the video. Like it was like a symmetry break, it’s jarring for the viewers and jolts you.
You have a gut reaction which is to belittle and a few seconds later you can’t believe you laughed at him because he was just buffering up to say some philosophical shit which you couldn’t even conceptualise in a day and that’s why it was in there and that was another gift from Southbank, a gift from skateboarding a gift from the universe.
Like I said the scribe of the gods, I’m glad to document it. Femi has seen me grow up there and had watched me grow and change and so felt comfortable to be filmed by me but like I said, Morph’s got freestyles with him and he truly is a poet and a prophet amongst other things.
That’s interesting. So on the gnarly, tech side of skating in that video you’ve got that insane Kurt Winter footage, how did you meet Kurt and what was it like filming him?
Kurt Winter was in town for a bit, I mean he rode for adidas international and they were doing a lot in skating at the time and I’d done a lot for adidas prior to that with Chez who did their first UK edits.
I was kind of like one of their main filmers on the ground in that way. Kurt stayed in London for a while. He was basically Karim’s skate buddy. They made the most awesome tag team.
Karim was showing him the way around London, at the start he wasn’t keen on skating all of the rough spots but by the end, he was taking them all in hand and murking everything.
He did that Flip Crook in like ten goes. He then preceded to lock into Nollie Heel Crook and decided he didn’t like the feel of it but had got into a Nollie Heel Crook on Moorgate rail and just walked away like nah, I’m not feeling it.
Yeah, still now I’m still gutted about that. I can’t believe he walked away from it. He was a dream for me as a filmer because I took him to all of the best looking London spots and he reeled off all the best tricks. The Tre Flip he did down that big set was sick, he had to work for that, I got that aerial view.
He was about for a bit in 2011. Like so many, We were in the mix of the scene. Slam was the shit, we were living in central, 5 minutes from Slam and on the way to fucking Shoreditch where everyone was partying so everyone would roll through our flat, so we’d have the cream of the crop sitting on my couch in our flat watching the rushes of City of Rats.
What about Madars?
Madars was in town for a bit and he was living here for a while and I didn’t really film him but then when Eniz would come to town to film for Emerica, Madars would come out with him.
All of the Madars footage in City of Rats in the vagrants section was from one week when he was hanging out with Eniz, even though he was living here for a year.
He was busy studying so he wasn’t out skating that much but then at one point he wanted to get some footage once he’d seen some of the rough cuts and he was like, I want it in the video. It was because I was not too closed about it and openly invited people to come in, open about the process when the skater wanted to see their footage, so they could see their footage and I could get testers and see what works.
Why did you do that?
I heard that Magee wouldn’t let anyone see it and from that semi-communist socialist Hold Tight London perspective, I was trying to be the opposite. I formed amazing bonds with each and every one of the skaters and I had unique and great reactions with each and every one of them.
I remember when Karim came around with his girlfriend and we watched the part basically finished and it was a big fucking deal, very emotional, very proud for all of us and there were thousands of those moments for all of us. I don’t even know how I made it.
Now it’s just poster on my wall but to me it was my whole life. It was like everything I’d ever dreamed of happening at once.
You had a few joint parts in there like the Jerome-Smithy section, how did you decide to put those two together?
That’s one of my favourite parts. One because I love Audio Bullys and that track and I always knew Smithy was a real lad. And his parts are always rad but it’s hard to find a right track for a geezerish lad and so I wanted a proper track that still had that HTL vibe.
Jerome was living with him and they just had that tag team thing going on. There are three legit tag teams in City of Rats there’s Neil Smith and Jerome Campbell, Casper Brooker and Darius Trabalza and there’s Lucien and Steph Morgan.
They were deliberately done because that bond you need someone to play off. Darius and Casper was honest and beautiful.
Smithy and Jerome, they were best mates and Steph and Lucien you know and Rory Milanes, they were the troublesome trio but Steph and Lucien, you know they were fine a wine.
So yeah that part was immaculate, I tried to put equal love into all of it but there’s a lot of poetic justice in that film because of the stories of all of those guys and that became that.
They’ve all had stories since that but I tried to encapsulate all of these legends and their stories and the people who became my friends and the tag teams were a part of that. Jerome’s skating is so different as well; it brought a different level to it.
Also because the video is long I was like how can I have varied styles of edits, there’s lot of montages and edits, I wanted to get balance right between parts and montages, it was the most complex thing I’d ever worked on.
Yeah must have been tough.
It wasn’t difficult it was wonderful. Having all of that footage, it was the best thing possible for someone like me. It was all about love. I was working round the clock for two years but I loved every minute of how that edit came out in the way that it did.
Lucien Clarke and Steph Morgan’s shared part was dope. What about Lucien’s Nollie flip over Big Ben? It’s still a banger
Lucien has always been at the pinnacle of London street skating. On the NBD list all over the place. He owns the city more than anyone. His constant relentless attack on the NBD list. He stakes his claim everywhere, didn’t go there for that trick to be an ender. Every day he’s trying to film, maybe he wants to film a chill line not an ender but it ain’t chill, he’s always out there trying to do the best trick.
He’s an exemplar professional. Rather than going through the motions of every trick that he can do, he always goes for the trick at the furthest reaches of his potential and he gets there and he does it.
How long did it take Lucien to get the Nollie Flip?
I mean the Nollie Flip, it didn’t take him long, it was just another day out for us.
You see the footage of us cruising out afterwards over Westminster bridge that rolls into Rory part? Literally it was just another day.
We went out filming what do you want to do? Nollie Flip Big Ben?
Got the fish eye lens out and he does it. Didn’t take him that long.
Rory went back for the Nollie Cab a few times, but it was almost like putting in the final nails of the coffin, in Big Ben to a degree.
I’m not particularly happy with how I filmed It because of the light and the angle and stuff, the shutter speed. There’s something about it where he flips it so fast and the angel that I did because of the light behind it, it’s not as fluid and you can’t see the flip as nicely as I’d like you to be able to.
And I haven’t watched me recently but you can see what happens but I wasn’t particularly happy with how I filmed it.
I was trying to make the spot look too dynamic rather than trying to accentuate the characteristics of the trick but I watch it now and it’s not too bad. But its’ always hard because they only get it one.
Maybe Nollie Flip would have looked good long lens.
Also for me I want to get my archetypal Big Ben clip. Filming at Big Ben you get caught up trying to film something that you thought of and dreamed of instead of catering to the skater’s trick.
It’s a journey, there’s a lot of ego in both parts and luckily with skating subordinates that by making you make mistakes all the time.
How did you decide Rory was going to have ender?
Rory was going to have ender when it was the Landscape video. Rory was fucking on it. He was in a window. Even getting on Palace, it lit a fire under him you know?
Like when he said he was going to do it, he was going to do it, it did not take long like he really had something where he clocked it and from the outset it was looking like it was Rory.
Maybe it was because he was the new guy on Palace, not quite as well-known as Lucien at the time. But he was coming through with the goods.
He was doing the steeziest tricks and he was coming through at big spots, skating fast and it looked like that from the beginning.
We had some footage from a Converse ad that was never used and I used the track which ended up being the second track to his section. That Earth track had a sort of eerie distorted sound and edgy vibe.
That’s interesting, so City of Rats that came out in 2012, that year had an end of the world vibe.
March 2012. The video ended the world mate. I was well aware of all of the 2012 shit and it was the end of my world because everything collapsed after it.
The massive anti-climax and you think you got somewhere and you’ have to do something else and perhaps your employer don’t pay you for six months or something but that these things happen.
In some sense it was the end of the scene. Instagram came out and the start of my Instagram account shows the origins of City of Rats the whole way through pretty much.
So it was that watershed moment, it was the beginning of this hyper spontaneous electric communication age and that changed skating and all cultures which has led to this weird and peculiar world we live in now.
How do you mean?
Nowadays we are all in some sense, outside of linear time and historical progression due to the instant information transfer. 2012 was a big year for London. The Olympics happened. Then they came for Southbank in 2013 and we started Long Live Southbank and it changed my life.
Skate videos are so big and hard to make and then one day you find yourself wrapping up the most next level skate video ever and you’re like what do I do now? I was pretty glad about Innocence and Experience which I got out in the middle of the LLSB campaign.
It was one of the best web clips I’d done not for a bigger corporate company and there will always be a cliquey thing about being a corporate company and working for a big company, even like Slam and so it was good to do something different to anything else I was doing at the time.
Yeah that one was rad
But yeah it was rad that how it worked out I mean, I predicted in 2013, who was going to be the sick in 2020
I tried to forecast, I’m a scout, I like to stay in the grassroots just to bookends that every skate film is a life’s work and they mean so much to me and they are the only thing that keeps me going in this crazy world and they give me and everyone involved a purpose and galvanise the scene so as long as we keep doing them, everyone will be fine. So yeah, they mean a lot.
They are a statement, they start off as an idea and you have to start off from scratch. But also I’m a documenter, I try to document and observe, I do play a part in choosing spots, coercing skaters, into trying tricks and stuff and that’s a part of the game, ultimately I’m there to document the scene and I’m an archivist but the skate videos I watched as a kid inspired me so much.
Good to hear
They still give me feelings, the right videos, that I cannot put into words. Yet fill my nervous system with joy to continue to be a skateboarder and all of the physical and mental benefits of doing that.
So regardless of what I think about the current state of the scene right now, as with young kids getting into and going on their own path, and learning to skate and finding a community and developing as a skateboarder and partaking in the tradition, they’re getting out of it, what we were getting out of it.
Standing on our boards for the first time and although the culture looks a little bit different, who are we to say what the power of a 1 min Instagram video is compared to a full video.
We are in the game of inspiration, we are here to perpetuate skateboarding and I am grateful to be able to lay down some of the books in the narrative of British skateboarding.
How did you come up with the name City of Rats?
I understand we’re in the business of creating branded content for a UK distribution of UK and US skate brands. Skaters are very attuned to brand imagery. It was an honour to make the Slam video
Jake Sawyer was behind the decks. Henry Clay as well. A lot of those people informed my life and gave me a lot of encouragement and so I was grateful to be there and I wanted to put all of that into what I had done. It’s like variations of theme like music.
Here’s this thing called Slam which is this entity, which exists which has energy, which isn’t the shop, or the skateboards, or the clothes, or the culture, it’s just this talismanic image, this icon, that stands for them and the rats?
We all called ourselves skate rats and they’d done the Slam City Skates Rats promo and that rat graphic, that Magee had and that I used and it was like I’m taking something from the master and encoding that into my work as a nod to where it came from.
So I love that it was Magee’s rat artwork in the centre of the tile of City of Rats. It was all about authenticity and telling a story and I just added into those indications of how things were and the individual skaters understand it but maybe not the heritage.
Also I needed something that sounded grand. You had City of God and City of Angels and there was a flip of like there are so many types of rats in London, we’re all rats in the rat race and it started off with the word.
I thought that sounds like a big feature film and I was just translating what I saw on the street between the rich and the poor and the establishment and street culture and in other cultures rats are seen as the bad ones, but obviously we’re not that, we’re just ratting about, as in skating and enjoying ourselves on the streets.
We’re all just ratting about but we’re vermin in some people’s eyes. Skaters are happy to be in the dirt, where they find joy. The intention sounded right and I made something that I hoped lived up to that ambitious title.
You did definitely. Any last words to people reading this over lockdown?
I just want to point out to people that the industry is not the skate scene.
Skateboarding is the 99.9% of us, non-professionals, non-industry insiders going out with their friends to do something positive to make something out of nothing.
I have witnessed transition of skateboard companies into brands and the reason why Palace is so fucking big is that there is a story of authenticity and substance behind it that most people in the mainstream don’t even know about it.
There so much more behind Palace Skateboards’ iconic Tri-Ferg logo that so many people out there don’t even know why they like so much! It’s all superfluous. Skating is common ground. On terra firma we’re all the same.
You don’t have to know the names of any tricks or anything going on in skateboarding, you just have to enjoy the act of doing it and everything that comes with it and that is what skateboarding is.