Louis Slater is a skater and artist who runs Sex Skateboards.
He grew up skating on the streets of Sheffield but after joining the Baker Crew in California, he spent half the year having hijinx in Hollywood and the other half chilling in Chesterfield.
Little did Louis know he and the crew that he lived with in Cali were making skate history.
He was too busy skating and making art to notice at the time. He’s a spontaneous character who’s always looking forward to making his next creative move on a board and at the canvas.
Louis has been a member for a while and he has an exhibition in East London this week on Thursday 20th of February 2020 in London.
So we hit him up to have a long chat about how he learned to skate and make art, meeting Mark Baines and Carl Shipman, living at Warner Ave with Reynolds, Ellington and the Baker gang, inspirations from Jim Greco, Boulala, Edson and Penny, Ollieing over Swedish train tracks, starting Slugger Distribution and skate store and more.
Read below to discover it all for yourself.
So, you grew up in Chesterfield?
When did you get your first board?
I remember getting a skateboard in my last year of primary school. I used to walk past this skate spot in Chesterfield, this underground skate spot and used to see everyone skating about and it just looked amazing and I just wanted to do it.
What was it called?
It was called AGD it was a post office building. It was undercover, had a four set, little ledge down some steps. The ground was kind of fucked up like weird slabs, it was a bit rickety but it was the best spot. There was a Barbara Hepworth sculpture that was outside there that I didn’t know then but that I know now.
When did you last go there?
It’s not a skate spot anymore, it’s something else but they kept the sculpture.
What got you hyped on skating?
Yeah, it’s all mentality. I don’t think it’s all about doing tricks on a skateboard. Doing a trick is satisfying but how skateboarders dressed and everything else was what I loved it all in that era, everyone looked like the Beastie Boys and that.
What were you wearing at the time?
What before I started skating!? I probably had a Bart Simpson t-shirt and some big Nike boots because I was wearing them before I skated. But obviously if I saw some skater wearing big cargo pants, or some big cut off trousers, I’d wonder where the fuck did he get them from. I want to get some of them. Or he’s got a Ben Davis shirt, I want a Ben Davis shirt. What the fucks that on his head? It’s a beanie that’s like massive.I want something like that. Ha-ha, Just everything. I wanted to be like all of these other skaters.
Who got you your board?
My mum and dad got me a board for Christmas, a Plan B Danny Way board, the Tales from the Crypt graphic. It was amazing.
How did your mum get a Danny Way board?
I went to a shop called Boat World in Sheffield and it was there they had that Danny Way board. They had loads of stuff, they had a Janet Jackson board with somebody covering her tits with their hands. I remember they had that one on the wall. There were loads of slick ones. I didn’t know who Danny Way was or what Plan B was; I just liked the picture on it.
When did you start to make art?
That Plan B Danny Way board, I painted that. I remember when I was 6 or something I drew a wasp and my teacher took it to show another teacher and said, “whoa, look at this what he drew!”. I remember I found it easy to copy it and then I did art at secondary school. My first canvas I brought around 2003/2004. I just needed to start painting, I had dabbled a bit before that but that’s when I got hooked on it.
How many people were in your skate crew?
Me, my mate Martin Kennelly, who I run Slugger skate shop/Distribution with and another mate called Will.There were probably fifteen skaters in Chesterfield overall.
When did you skate outside of Chesterfield?
I started skating with a few mates from a youth club and we all started skating together. Eventually they were like something’s going off in Sheffield; there’s something going off Nottingham. Then we all slowly started to go places. After that I never wanted to be in Chesterfield. I always wanted to travel about and skate new places.
How’d you get about?
Bus or train, nobody drove, nobody had a car.
Early 90s was tough, how’d you stay committed?
Only a real skater understands it when you start skating, that’s your thing. There would be Christmas skaters, who would get a setup for Christmas but then you would never see them again. But I think once you’re really into skating, you just keep on doing it.When you analyse it maybe it was travelling about, meeting new people. I was never into like sports or stuff like that but I was into skateboarding. But now skateboarding is called a sport!? Ha-ha but is it? I suppose it is for some people.
Did you ever go to any demos?
I went to Nottingham one year after Radlands comp with a bunch of pro’s. Kris Markovich was there, Kareem Campbell, Henry Sanchez, Joey Suriel, Mark Baines and Shipman, all the Sheffield lot. Everyone from that world-era. All of these people you’d only seen in videos. I wouldn’t say celebrities, I didn’t know what that meant back then; it was just these gods from these videos.
But none of the world know who they were just us ten skaters from Chesterfield. Jeremy Wray was there. I got his autograph. It was in that era when he was FS flipping down Carlsbad. He was cool as fuck. He was the nicest guy we met. He was polite and just like a normal geezer.
What was it like watching Kareem skate?
Seeing Kareem Campbell skate that was sick as fuck. You know the high benches people sit on? He Backside Ollied over one. We didn’t even know how it was possible we would be like Backside Ollieing up a curb. Watching him do it was amazing.
Did you ever skate in a Radlands comp?
I did do yeah, those old Radlands comps were the best ever. I remember speaking on the payphone at school to my mate who’d been the year Penny won. He was tripping, we couldn’t believe someone was that good!
What skate videos did you watch?
First video I used to rinse was H- Street’s Next Generation video. The music and everything else made you want to skate. Then, 411 videos came out and one of my mates always bought it and we’d always rinse those. So I’d watch them and old New Deal vids and Mad Circle stuff too.
Did you go to Sheffield a lot?
Yeah every weekend. The main spot in Sheffield was walking man. It was a little undercover spot, we’d go to Hallam, Crucible and a place called The Hump.
What’s The Hump?
It was a carpark of a banking building. It was a speed bump called the hump, like a driveway in a carpark, it was knocked down recently. I remember seeing Carl Shipman, he used to rock up there sometimes and do some amazing tricks. Carl was way ahead of his time.
Carl is from Worksop?
Yeah. Worksop is a little town outside of Sheffield like Chesterfield.
Where did you skate the most?
Street skating and carparks more than owt and then Wakefield Rehab skatepark opened, an indoor skatepark and we used to go there as much as we could.
How did you meet Carl Shipman?
Skating the streets of Sheffield. I just saw him and his mates skate by me, then I started seeing him at Wakefield and everywhere.
Was he the first sponsored skater you saw?
Yeah him and then Mark Baines, both from Worksop too. They were the first two.
Did you want to go pro?
I never wanted to be a pro skateboarder. That thought never entered my head. That first Danny way board, after I skated it, when there was nothing left of the graphic, I painted over it – Louis Slater Plan B – but I never really thought I’d be pro. But I liked the idea of being sponsored and getting free stuff.
Who was your first sponsor?
Sumo skate shop. Seb Palmer from Sumo sponsored me from a young age. I’d only been skating a few years. He’d seen my videos of me skating about and he was like do you want to be sponsored? Not how he worded it exactly but he said like you want to start getting cheap stuff or trade? He said never get a big head about it you know what I mean. So I think I always thought that. It’s good advice. Sumo was amazing for the Sheffield skate scene and it was the best shop. I wouldn’t be doing anything in skating without Sumo. I have a lot to thank Seb, Henry and everyone there.
Who else skated for Sumo?
Baines, Joel Curtis, Neil Chester, they were the main ones.In the first Sumo advert, it was me, Baines, Carl Shipman, and Joel Curtis. I think it was us four. It was just four headshots, a little quarter page in Sidewalk.
When did you first go Dev Green?
I went to the meetings with everyone from Sumo with the council people. Without Sumo I don’t think that park would have been built. It was originally an old 5 a-side football pitch, that area was quite run down at the time but then they went to meetings and got it built. That was 1999/2000. The park is 20 years old now.
Everybody always comes through it’s funny because there was all these real old street spots where people would meet but now we all meet in a concrete skatepark in the middle of the city centre. That was unheard of 20 years ago, there were no parks at the time, we’d all travel the length of the country just to go to one park.
Does Sheffield love skating?
There’s always been a new generation of skaters in Sheffield, so many independent scene videos.
Is there something special about Sheffield?
I guess but I don’t think it really matters where you are , it’s the people that are making the stuff happen.
What were you doing back in England?
Early days I was drinking, getting drunk and skating but then I started painting around 2003. I started drawing in America a lot; I had a little A4-sized sketchpad so I’d draw all the time. So I started to do that before I bought canvases.
At what point did you start up Slugger?
I went to America in 2008 I found out that Erik, Jim and Andrew were starting Deathwish Skateboards and Baker Boys distribution. Then Martin, my business partner at Slugger, got in touch with me and said, “lets start a distribution company for Baker and Deathwish in England”.Erik was down and it changed my life. I went back to England and we started Slugger.
Why’d you move to Sheffield?
We opened our first Slugger skate shop in Chesterfield in 2008 and then later we opened a shop in Sheffield, probably 3 years after that but after we moved the shop I thought fuck it! It’s time to move to Sheffield.
Best thing about being in America?
I think it was just the freedom. It wasn’t like growing up in Chesterfield. It was an amazing place to be in America. It was everything that I wanted. I wanted to skate; weather was nice, amazing people, friends. It was perfect. It was just a great place to be. Good times.
How old were you?
Yeah I was sixteen onwards, I was the youngest one, everyone looked after me
Who’s name was on the lease?
I stayed with Ali and Alex Moul when I first went , then the other house at Warner was Erik, Elissa, Shane Heyl, Scott Colperman; their names were on the lease. They were so cool, they let me stay there for however long I wanted and then when they moved to Hollywood and got another apartment and they let me stay there for three months. I would sleep on the settee or on the floor. Never no questions asked.
Where else did you go in America?
Erik was filming for This is Skateboarding, the Emerica video and he wanted to get something. There was an Emerica tour there. I couldn’t afford to go. He got loads of Baker boards sent like 20-30 boards, sold them. Got my ticket and so me, Erik and his wife Luci got a three-day train from LA to Philly.
How did that go down?
It was long and funny, I’m glad I did it but it was a bit torturous towards the end, but it was fun, well we thought it was going to be fun but a day into it we were like fucking hell! But it was a good experience, it was my 20th birthday while I was there too.
What else did you see in Philly?
I saw Brian Wenning nearly do a Switch Heel down Love Park!
What was that like?
We turned up and were like fucking hell, Brian Wenning is chucking himself down it. All I remember was that there was a massive crew of people there and he was just jumping down it. I had my camera on me and I thought right, I’ll film this, he got close, he even landed on it.
How much did you film?
I never thought I was a filmer but I always liked capturing stuff behind the scenes and always had a little camera on me. I’ve got a lot of footage from back then.
What about that train track Ollie in Sweden?
That was on a WESC trip with Mark Baines and Ali Boulala. Those train tracks were at the WESC offices.
The photographer, Horsley was like someone should Ollie over those tracks into the bank. We found these pieces of wood, Horsely sorted it and was ready with his camera. Felt like I had to have a crack at it.
What about Jim Greco?
Yeah Jim Greco and Boulala , they changed the way everyone dressed. Me and Jim used to skate the flat bar outside the apartment a lot.
Did they influence you much?
Yeah, definitely. When Ali started wearing tight jeans and leather jackets that was it.
He’s an amazing skater
Yeah, he was amazing, everyone knows that but it was more his personality, how he acted, which I liked almost as much as his skating. He just had it all Boulala.
He opened my eye to you know you don’t just have to be a skateboarder, it’s beyond skateboarding. If you want to wear skin tight jeans, a cut off top, if you want to wear skinny jeans, shirt with rips in it or spray paint your top, whatever you want to wear ,you can do. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, you can just do your own thing. I like that.
Yeah, his tricks were super unique.
There will never be another Ali Boulala. There’s nothing else to say.
What about that crook at Wilshire?
It’s in Baker 2G. I used to go down there with Jim Greco, we used to skate a flatbar in daytime, he had a flatbar at his house and would train the trick he wanted to try down the Wilshire rail that night. It was fun the missions with him and Jay Strickland filming . I 50-50’ed it then Jim said you should crook grind down it! I probably wouldn’t have tried it if he didn’t say I should do it. But he gave me the belief I could.
Was it a battle?
It was a bit of battle yeah. I’d 50-50ed down handrails but never a Crooked Grind. I don’t think I’ve done it down a handrail since.
What’s it like living in Warner Ave?
Warner and Newell, there were always people staying there, people who stayed on the settee and on the floor that weren’t living there. There were just as many permanent residents as temporary basically.
Did Penny come through?
Everyone in those houses idolised Penny. I know I did. Yeah, he’d just left before I got there. He’d left a massive impact and everyone talked about him, everyone would talk about when he’s gonna come back? What’s he doing ? He was just this big legend.
What was it like seeing Elissa Steamer killing it?
There weren’t any other girls killing it but I never thought about Elissa like that. It was never like whoa, check this girl doing this!? It was just like another one of your mates skating, the fact she is a girl makes no difference.
Did you miss England?
I never missed it, I always wanted to get out and get away from where I was from but I always enjoyed coming back you know what I mean. Nice to be home for a bit. I always stayed within the 90 day visa and made sure I came home before 90 days were up, everybody asked me to move but just never did.
Were you making art at that time?
I’d been painting for 5 years, then Edson opened up Wayward Gallery in London and gave me my first show.
How long have you known Edson?
We’ve always been mates. We used to skate and drive everywhere together. Then he moved to London and opened Wayward Gallery. That was amazing.
You’ve got a show with Edson soon?
Yeah, it’s a group show. Edson has been making these sculptures. I’m putting some pizza boxes in the show.
Where is it?
Exhibition is on 20th February 6PM at Studio 59 on Bethnal Green Rd, E2 6QA .
Any advice for artists reading this?
Not really. I’m not an authority on art, nobody is, it has to come from inside you.
I like Boardslides. I like 50-50s. Kickflips. Back Tails are alright.
Who’s your favourite skater?
Favourite skate video of all-time?
That’s a tough one. My biggest influence was Baker/Bootleg.
The Sex Pistols.
Favourite skate photo?
Lennie Kirk, Backside 50-50 Grind. That’s the one that springs straight to mind. I love Lennie Kirk.
The skate to the skate spot.
Favourite piece of art?
I only concentrate on the painting I’m doing at that moment, that’s the only one that matters