James Bush connects the dots on tech tricks that many cannot. His passion for complex constructions doesn’t just end on his board, he also works as a graphic designer which just further draws his focus into laying down well-spaced lines and making stylish shapes.
His skating and art is inventive, with a refined technique embedded with layers of nuance. He’s been flipping his board all over the UK and Europe for years and he’s always managed to present something new, visually interesting and different.
So now he is a No Comply Network member, we hit him up to talk about how he originally got into skateboarding and making graphics, growing up in the UK skate mecca of Milton Keynes, getting sponsored by Motive, filming and skating at the Buszy, hanging with Jack Edwards, hitting ledges the hard way, inspirations from Danny Montoya, his angle on great design, meeting Callun Loomes, getting down for Get Lesta, skating for éS , shooting photos with Leo Sharp and his favourite skaters, spots, skate videos and more.
When did you start to make art?
My mum was the head lecturer at Graphic Design at Northampton University. I was always making art since I was a kid. When I was 3 years old, I was copying typefaces and graphics off cereal boxes and I would draw all of the characters when I could barely even write.
So you were influenced by your parents?
I was adamant that I wouldn’t be influenced by my parents, when I was a kid, I was like no way will I end up doing what my mom is doing but then as I got older and progressed through school and then I did a foundation degree, I realised I wanted to do Graphic Design.
I accepted the fact that it was what I wanted to do it, and what I was into to, so I just went with it.
What drew you towards graphic design?
The way I describe graphics, is like if you took Fine Art and added some obsessive compulsive sort of mannerisms to it. I don’t like sitting there and shading a face and creating realism. I like building something almost mathematically, so there’s a lot of maths to graphic design that you can’t incorporate into Fine Art. So I’ve got this addiction to things about the medium and I like working out angles in a linear way.
Sounds like your skating, how did you start to skateboard?
Around 2003, I played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and I was really into skating but I didn’t think it was something that I could actually do. But I have family in America and my cousin skated. I met up with them and they had me going around on a board and I was like this is sick! I could stand on it and move comfortably and I was like this is fucking rad.
What was your first board?
I remember my first board distinctly, we weren’t a rich family or anything, so I wasn’t about to get a £100 board that I might never have skated. My folks bought me a WHSmiths board; it had an Alien with a hairdryer on it.
When did you really get into it?
I started off really slowly. Me and my friend named Ollie, were the only skaters in our area, skating around our neighbourhood when we were 9. We weren’t allowed to go into the city centre and I didn’t have the means to get there as well. So, that was the first two years of skateboarding for me.
It wasn’t until I was about 11 that I started to skate in the MK city centre.
Did you know Milton Keynes was a UK skate mecca?
I had no clue till I was about 11. Me and my friend Paddy went to a music festival in central called Music for You. We saw some brilliant Ska Punk bands there but we brought our boards and eventually we just went off and went skating for a while around the city.
Where did you skate?
The first spot literally right near the festival was the Theatre district. I saw that 8 stair and I started to Ollie the 6 that comes around that curve. I’d never skated anything bigger than a 4 stair at the time.
I skated, the 6, then the 7, and then eventually got to the 8. Then I started to Kickflip it.
Giles Brown AKA ‘Brownie’, who I didn’t know at the time but is now a good friend, started to film me kickflipping it. I was pushing as fast as I could go. Felt like I was going Mach 10. I’d never skated a stair set that big before and I was just sliding across the floor because I was going so quick and not even popping my board! Yeah, he used that footage 10 years later in a video to mess with me!
What was it like skating in MK at the time?
When I first started skating there, I was just skating with my friends from my neighbourhood. But when the Buszy was built around 2005-2006, I started going there and I made friends with skaters who were my age, like Josh McManus, Matt Ballant, a lot of people who sadly no longer skate any more. It’s a shame they were all so talented, Josh was sick, he was flip backtailing the T-Block in lines.
So, when did you get sponsored?
There was a local shop that was actually run out of the back of a van, called Arkology, run by a guy called Andy King, he basically started to give me shop tees and discounts when I was around 14-15. He just filmed me one day and that was that. We started filming and I started skating for the shop.
Unbeknownst to me he started to send my footage to Rob Selley, who ran Motive Skateboards. I’d skated nothing but Motive boards up to that point.
At what point did you fully get on Motive?
I started to get Motive boards when I was 15, just flow style. Then Rob put me on the full squad after I put out my welcome to Motive video.
That was the point I started to push myself in skating. I filmed more and started skating more every weekend and tried much harder to get good shit and skate stairs, hurting myself and really dealing with it. Before if I was skating stairs and I fell and hurt myself, I’d be like man, I’m over it! But that was when I started to battle for tricks.
So we filmed that part, it was like a minute and a half. You need to see the jeans that I was wearing in it! Absolutely stinking man.
You skated with Jack Edwards who also did a lot of tech tricks, but did you feel like you were both pushing it at the time?
We used to stay at each other’s house and go out skating a lot. Jack was fucked man. I looked up to that guy; I was skating with Jack a lot. I felt like anything I did was not all that, due to skating with him.
Jack learned how to Switch Flip Crooks one day and on that day, he did it on the T-Block on the same day and then he did it off the ledge at the Theatre ledges in a line, in like five goes too. I was like man, how can you learn that shit and then go and do it off the T-Block, that’s unbelievable!?
When did you last see Jack Edwards?
We hadn’t seen Jack in a while. We were texting each other every day. He’d come and stay at mine for a weekend and then I’d go and stay at his for a weekend in Birmingham. Alternating. Then it got to the summer holidays’ I’d just finished my GCSE’s and we were hanging out for a month straight, skating with each other and skating in Birmingham. We went to Pioneer with Selley and stuff and film there and had a lock-in and stuff.
But then one day Jack disappeared and I never heard anything from him from that point. Then a month later, I got a message from his friend Greg Herbert and he was like, “have you heard from Jack? He’s not speaking to anyone…?”
I was like nah man; I’ve been trying to get a hold of him as well. Can’t find him.
He just disappeared…We’d hear whispers of a sighting of him, where people had seen him here or seen him there but nothing concrete.
Did you see Jack again?
A while after this, me and Selley were hanging out and Jack hit up Selley. Selley was like do you want to film some stuff at that new Radlands park?
Nobody had seen him for about three years at that point. Jack came down and did all these incredible tricks in one afternoon, he did the Kickflip Nosegrind Nollie Flip out in ten goes maximum. All of those tricks he filmed were in five ten goes maximum.
I think he always disliked online criticism
Yeah he used to say that to me and Selley but we lurked through everything and there were zero negative comments on any of his footage. He felt like people were talking negatively though definitely.
It’s hard to deal with it when you’re young
He was a good dude and we had a lot of good times back in the day. It was one of the best times of my life, I just got sponsored, I was skating with my homie, who was a similar age, and had a ridiculous talent. It was inspiring to skate with someone like that.
I’d go around to his house and he had this little flip camera and he’d go and skate this car park by himself and he had this one bench he’d robbed from a skate spot and he’d be doing Switch Flip Front Blunts on it.
Sick. Not many people have ever even done that trick.
Did you see that line that he filmed on that camera at that Lightwoods park in Birmingham? He did Switch Flip Front Blunt to regular on a ledge, and Nollie Flip Noseslide down the rail?
All just filmed on his little flip camera.
Do you have a favourite trick by Jack?
Legitimately, it’s the line at that skatepark. The way he did it was so casual. He did it that good. He could do everything in a couple tries. Just put his headphones and do what he wanted.
So at what point did you feel like things were starting to take off? I remember you filmed a banging ten tricks
Yeah, that 10 tricks was filmed by my friend Tommy filmed. That was funny. We were bored and it was raining and so we decided to film it and then for some reason Ride Channel decided to buy it. That was the moment I realised how wonderful the internet was. People were commenting on it like, check his Euro Laugh! It just made me crack it up. Like what does that even mean… I have a European laugh!?
I’m really into reading internet hate comments, there’s just something funny about the crazy stuff people will write anonymously.
What’s the weirdest comment you’ve read about your footage?
My favourite one is, my first part that went up on Thrasher, it was the Get 420, Get Lesta Video Part. I made that joke up early on when we were filming and mentioned it to Cal and he actually named the whole video after that! I couldn’t believe it but some guy commented on it under the Thrasher video feed and said ‘Yeah, that was a great part but I’m still waiting on the mindblowing ender though!”.
I was like No! I went back to that spot six times for that trick, I snapped five boards, I broke my ankle and shit and that was what you wrote?
It was the hardest thing I’d ever worked for properly in skateboarding and he was like…yeah I don’t care!
What trick was that?
The Switch Heel down the Big Block 5 near Ipswich.
Yeah , that was gnarly
There’s this crack that runs along the top of the steps and just this one gap, that’s just over a board width and the first time that I skated it, on one of the first goes I had at it, I hit the crack and it fucked my balance up and I flew down the stairs and I ended up sitting on my ankle in the worst position, and my ankle went backwards. It was gnarly and I had a little black hole in my foot. It took me 4 months to recover from that.
What was it like going back for it?
Quite a while after that passed, I went back and went for the Switch Heel. But this time we drew a line on the floor with a stone so I could see where the crack was so I wouldn’t hit it again.
Every time I was rolling up to it I was looking for it and making sure I was not hitting it. Cal came up with the idea to scrub the floor with the stone, which worked really well. But I was still worried about it. My attempts at it were wild; I was just popping my board and just flailing down that thing.
What’s it like to skate?
It’s quite high, it’s short, the floor sucks and the landing rips you apart if you fall over basically. If it was smooth people would skate it more. But yeah, it’s difficult to skate because of how rough it is.
You’re from MK, how did you get on Get Lesta?
Callun Loomes has got a friend in every town throughout the Midlands, so being mates with him, you meet other people. I met all the Sheffield dudes through Cal but actually a few of them I would have met through Mark Baines, because I got on to Fabric just before I met Cal. But most of the guys on Get Lesta I met through Callun.
How did you meet Callun?
He hit me up and said can you Switch Tre down Leighton Buzzard, Double set? I’d never chatted to the dude before in my life!
That’s jokes, did you know what Get Lesta was?
I went to the premiere of What’s Cooking, obviously I looked up to Kelley Dawson and Kris Vile and everyone and had known them for a while. I went to the prem of that video and that’s where we first met, we added each other online and I liked all of the stuff that he posted about Get Lesta and then one day he just randomly hit me up about that Switch Tre.
What did you say?
I was like, I don’t know if I can but I’ll try!
The next week, we were at the double set and I landed the trick and we became friends quickly after that.
What’s it like filming for Get Lesta videos?
The atmosphere of filming with Get Lesta can be stressful but it’s very family, sort of vibe.
Everybody was all out hyping each other and we’d all try to get everybody out to skate together, even if it’s just one person who was going to skate the spot. There would normally be eight people there just screaming at you, like C’mon man do it, you got this! It was sick!
It’s cool how he brought skaters from The Midlands together
Loads of great skaters are from the Midlands. Harry Bastard. Horsley, the photographer, countless.
What is it about tech tricks that stokes you out?
It’s the same way that I am about the graphics that I make, I’m a bit of an obsessive, mathematical type of person, that’s just how my brain works.
The first video I saw was Adio’s One Step Beyond and Danny Montoya’s section.
I was obsessed with Toya’s section and the way that he flipped the boards onto ledges and I was like that’s sick, I want to do that!
Yeah, all of his ledge tricks were so good
Yeah, it was so ridiculous that he could do all of that stuff man.
Yeah he Nollie Heel FS Noseslides a handrail
Yeah, it still blows my mind now. When I was first watching that, it looked cool but I couldn’t comprehend how good it was because I was like 10 at the time when I got that video. I could do a few tricks but the idea of doing that on a handrail, I had no idea of how he did that.
Yeah Danny Montoya has a great style
His ledge skating looked precise and it had that mathematical thing about it that really attracted me towards his style of skating. Yeah, I love that line where the whistle is going off in the soundtrack. It’s a super long line. It’s so sick. Also, the editing in that video was impeccable. Josh Stewart did a great job on that video.
Did watching that video get you into graphics?
I was well into that. The style of art in that video was deconstructivist-esque almost, and I was quite obsessed with that style already at that point, like that whole era when digital art was blowing up.
When did you start to make graphics?
My mom’s a graphic designer, so we had a Mac and I’ve got an OG copy of Adobe Illustrator 2.0, that’s so old, we’re talking like you can’t even build anything on this software, it’s so hard to do anything, it’s so limited.
The whole deconstructivist thing was kicking off because people were limited, the way they were building stuff was really mellow but they’d be like photocopying stuff wrong intentionally, just messing around with the technology and seeing what they could do.
To design a vector logo on Illustrator back then was crazy and difficult to how people now use it for.
How do you mean?
Nowadays we like, try to emulate how that style looked you know. I’ll like try to build something that’s deconstructivist, like a poster of something and I’m having to work to emulate something that people just did naturally then, I loved how that stuff came about originally.
The bane of most designer’s life is kerning their typefaces but I will sit there and enjoy spending 45 minutes making sure my type is kerned impeccably.
Your 180 Fakie Manny over The Brown Bar was done well. What inspired you to do that?
It’s funny how that one went down, So, I did an Ollie to Nose Manual over it about a decade ago for my Motive Welcome part. Cal suggested that I should do it over the brown bar spot in MK because I’d done it over the black bar at the Buszy but I was like I don’t know, it just seemed ridiculous to me at the time.
How did it go down the day that you landed it?
We went there one time when Mark Stern wanted to Half Cab Heelflip over the bar and Cal basically brought me there to try and get me to do it without letting me know that he wanted me to try it there that day.
I was trying to do another trick over the bar, I think I was trying a Nollie Cab Flip over it but I was getting nowhere near, then I started pissing around and doing a Frontside 180 ollie over the bar and I was like, actually I think I could actually do that to Fakie Manual…
I tried a couple, landed in the manual and started lifting it and I was like, Oh shit, I think I could do it.
How long did it take you to land it?
It didn’t take too long, it took about 30-45 mins to do the first one but I did it really shit, then it took me ten minutes to do another one and I did it really shit, and then I did the one with the Frontside Half Cab out and it was much cleaner and I was like yeah cool, I’m hyped on that
But then I tried Fakie Flip out for a while, for like half an hour more, so I’d be skating it for an hour and a half or more in total but my knee was getting so fucked from just landing in the manual.
I had to keep bending down to try to stay in manual, so basically it just fucked my knee up really badly and after a while, every time I’d land I’d just stick and hit the floor because my knee was just gone.
I landed one and fell of it on the Fakie Flip out and just didn’t do it. Eventually my knee blew out and I had to give up.
And the Switch Ollie Manual?
That was for the shorter project Cal did most recently, the video was just 15 mins. I just got on éS and that was the first time I skated the shoes.
Why did you leave DC?
I’d been with DC for 8-9 years and it just kind of changed when Quicksilver took over. Every year the budget was getting less and less. Every year I was with the company I was like I want to be doing more stuff, not less. I remember a couple of the riders having trouble getting paid and stuff.
When Jody Smith was TM it was going well but then they cut the TM role and so then it was one guy called Ed doing everything and it started to go downhill, because it was just one guy doing six jobs. Then Ed left and then Dave Snaddon took over, which was rad but at that point the budget was still small, nobody was getting paid, I wasn’t getting paid at all and there was no photo incentives.
When I got on we did but everything got pulled away slowly and surely but that was the time when I doing more for them.
Everything was going up for the first two years I skated for them but the six years after that it was going downhill. I’d just gone pro, I’d had covers, and it was what I felt was the highest part of my skate career but I couldn’t get a box of shoes.
I know that sounds a bit weird to say but I was skating old pairs because I couldn’t get new ones.
What did you do?
I spoke to Baines about it and said, dude if you know anybody who can help me out with shoes, let me know because I’m looking.
You were skating hard, so it’s understandable
Because it was my first big thing I was always plugging it hard whenever I skated. I mean when Jimmy Astleford came from the states and stuff, he was helping me out and pushing me but then he went and then it was like oh shit, nothing’s going to happen because I live in the UK. Snaddon was doing his best but it was difficult for him to help me because he had nothing to do with that side of the business.
So how did you get on éS?
After speaking to Baines he’d heard from Kev Parrot there was a Euro Soletech thing starting with éS and he’d mentioned me whilst talking to him.
éS is a better fit, how’s it going?
I love skating for éS. It’s all gone well. It’s sick because I’m friends with Kev and I speak to Don Brown, Kelly Hart and Wade Desarmo a lot. It’s rad and I feel like much more connected to it. I enjoy skating more now.
When I was skating for DC, I was dreading going out skating and filming because I was like oh cool, I’m going to push myself and kill myself for this and I’m not stoked on the deal.
My body is like beyond repair now. I’ve been to hospital 26 times now or something and I’ve had about ten slipped discs in my back in the last three years, I can’t work and stuff on a regular basis because of long term damage to my body from skating.
When you’re putting in all of that work, ruining your body and life for the rest of your life, you feel like it’s hard to get motivated and go out. When I got on éS I just wanted to go out and skate more you know? All of the time. I wasn’t just going out just to film with Cal, I just wanted to skate again.
When your stoked, you want it to stay that way
Yeah exactly. It’s a bad thing to say. You feel undervalued and your like why am I hurting myself? Stressing myself out. Working hard to portray a part of yourself for a company that’s not giving you anything back.
I’m just trying to skate, have a good time and make something out of it but for years I was like the next thing I’m working on has to be bigger and gnarlier but now I realise there’s different ways of making it better.
Do you think more about aesthetics or technicality now?
I’m 100 percent about the aesthetics now and how the trick feels to me is the most important thing. Back when I was a kid, I just used to just go tech. I remember I did a Backside Tailslide Tre Flip Out, which in my opinion is the most disgusting thing I could have done..
Now It’s like if it feels right under my feet its good. I like alley-oop stuff and pretzel tricks on ledges, where it crosses back and forth, that’s what I like doing the most.
What’s your favourite Pretzel trick?
One of my favourite tricks is FS Nollie to Switch Nosegrind Half Cab out back to regular.
Those tricks are hard, how do you learn them?
The way I do it, is to pretend that I’m not doing them alley-oop basically. I’ll go quick at the ledge at the angle I need and pretend I’m doing a FS Nollie Nosebonk, as if the ledge was in front of me. So I know I’ve got to land with my weight in front of me like I was going to land into Fakie nosemanny.
When you try to alley-oop, you will just hit the ledge, you’ve got to go quick, pop early and pretend that you’re not going alley-oop!
Never thought about it like that before
Yeah, there’s this one rail in Manchester where I did a Switch Tre over it alley-oop. It’s a steep eight stair.
So I’d been trying that Switch Tre over it for 2 hours The first hour, I was trying to do it alley-oop but I kept scooping the board into the rail. But when I thought about it differently it worked out. Go quickly and do a Switch Tre, it was a mission but eventually I did it and that’s where I learned that technique.
Barney Page, did alley-oop SW FS 360 Ollie over that rail, it’s got to be one of the best tricks over it. That was mindblowing .
What trick have you done that you’ve been most stoked on?
I think it would be the 180 Fakie Manny from Last Orders.
Although Get 420 was when I was at the highest of my ability Last Orders was where I cultivated my style and I think my skating looked the best.
Why was that?
Cal’s editing had matured so much by that video and my skating had matured. I wasn’t technically doing stuff as good as 420 but I think it looked a lot better, my trick selection was better, my spot selection was better and that’s the part for me I will look back on with nostalgia the most.
Who is your favourite skate photographer?
It’s got to be Leo Sharp.
His photos are incredible, in terms of technicality but not just that, it’s everything.
Leo has an all-around incredible eye for great skating. He’s a boss.
It’s a hard question because I like to think I’m tight with a lot of skate photographers in the UK and don’t get me wrong, American skate photography is amazing but it’s not the same, it doesn’t relate to me as much. You don’t get as much soul out of it as you do from UK photographers.
Wig is from my area as well and when you get Leo and Wig together it’s really incredible. It’s fucking brilliant Leo looked up to Wig when he was younger and like took a lot of inspiration from him and took his own stuff his own way with it.
Rob Selley had a great time shooting photos and he was someone I looked up to since I was a kid, so it’s a hard one but I’d have to say Leo, I’ve shot the most with him and I’ve had the best experiences with him too.
What’s your favourite shot by Leo of yourself?
I don’t really like looking at my own photos but there was a photo where I did a gap to Frontside Nosegrind that he shot recently. It’s this spot in Milton Keynes by the City Club, and it’s such a good photo, it’s so well composed and the colours are spectacular.
But my favourite Leo photos are the ones that he shoots in Falmouth. Of all of these crazy spots and castles and the landscapes of that area.
Sick. What’s your favourite skate video?
It has to be One Step Beyond. That was my first proper video and I must have watched it 100 times, I watched it every day when I got it. I’ve even watched it a few times in the last few months. I love that video, I can still watch it from start to finish and be shocked by it.
Do you have a favourite graphic style?
Yeah, there’s so many. To be honest, I couldn’t narrow it down to one or two. For me, I like really clean logo design, Swiss design, work from the Helvetica generation but I don’t like Helvetica anymore, it’s just been over used..
What’s your favourite spot to skate in the UK?
I really like the plaza spot in Sneinton in Nottingham, but I hate it every time I go there. It’s a love/hate relationship because it’s one of the best spots in the UK but when I go there we get stuck there because anything you try there takes years but you feel drawn to it because it’s so good.
I always have a breakdown when I skate there.
What’s your favourite spot to skate in the world?
That is the Buszy. Buszy is like my little house. It’s like a little TF. Normally when I go there, I’ll come up with a basic line and I’ll just do that line for an hour and a half straight. I’ll be like really feeling doing back tail flip outs that day and I’ll be doing that and something else and then maybe trying a new trick or something I’m not that good at and I’ll just be spending hours trying to do that there.
What have you been doing to pass the time during lockdown?
I’ve been doing graphic design, skating carparks and drinking beer. I’ve watched a lot of films and TV.
I’m also making a logo for someone right now, it’s for my friend Paul Norris’ other half, Natty, she does a mental health project that helps people to help themselves. It’s a fantastic thing to help people to get through their own problems when they can’t afford to go to a therapist. So she gives them tools to help their own mental health.
Cool. Any advice to readers during lockdown?
The best advice I have is just to do something. I took that one project recently and I realised that I hadn’t touched my computer the whole time during the first few months and I thought this is amazing. I’ve been dealing with things a lot easier. You’ve got to force yourself to do it and make things happen to keep your mind busy.
How can people commission you for work?
I’ve got a Facebook page and Instagram that people can DM me at if they’d like me to make me a logo or do some design for them. There you can see my work and gauge if it’s the right thing for you.
Cool. Any last words James?
I just want to give a massive shoutouts to everyone over the years who’s helped me out in skateboarding from the start to finish, from Andy King to Kev Parrot and everyone in-between because everyone always been fantastic to me in the UK skate industry.
Massive thanks to anyone who’s done anything with me with graphic design, all of my tutors over the years, my mom and all of my homies of course.