Mike Manzoori is a skateboarder and filmmaker from England who lives in the USA.
Shredding on all terrain with a fast and loose style, Mike came up as a skater in an era when there was almost nothing to gain from it except the thrill of learning new tricks, having great times and getting some free product and props from his peers.
But by laying down some pivotal moves and picking up a series of new and impressive skills and putting his foot down across the UK and in the United States he has had a legendary career as a skater and as a filmmaker as it all has progressed.
Mike’s feats on both side of the lens have landed him serious accolades in skateboarding for decades. Although in that time skateboarding has changed a lot he has consistently done his own thing and just kept it rolling. Through that process he’s taken his skating and filmmaking to heights he never thought possible.
Unphased by trends, thriving on fun and spontaneity, taking influences from everything, he just goes for it, regardless of risks and this approach has worked out for him.
So we were stoked to finally have a chat and ask him to join The No Comply Network and talk about skating, creativity, filming and more.
Mike was down and so we had a rad conversation about skating and filmmaking, skating street, vert and everything in-between, searching for ramps in Florida as a teen, his first sponsors, M-Zone, witnessing Curtis McCann at his peak, getting on Powell Peralta and Santa Cruz, his thoughts on the UK skating in the early 90s, Matt Fowler and Mark Channer, the fictitious skate brand his mate made that changed it all, his first experiences of editing and filming, making his first skate video Sound and Vision, skating in London at Southbank, Stockwell and Shell Centre back in the day, getting robbed on big tricks in Birmingham in the 90s, Ideal Birmingham, landing the first Ollie down the Fastlands Double Set, filming on different formats, behind the scenes of his Hating Life part and a series of his most iconic tricks, the future of skate culture, his thoughts on skateboarding in The Olympics and much more
Read the Mike Manzoori Interview below to find out for yourself
When did you first see skateboarding?
Skating was always around. My brother’s always had boards when I was kid but they were just like 70-style plastic banana board type things. It was always a thing. I fully got into it, around the Back to the Future era, which was in the mid-80s. So around 84-85. I was actually quite heavily into BMX and I read the BMX magazine, BMX Action Bike which later became RAD magazine or Read and Destroy and I started to see skate photos in that around that era.
So you’d see Michael J. Fox skating in Back to the Future and we were like woah look at that, it looks awesome! And then at the same time, you’d see these skate photos of people riding quarterpipes and halfpipes – mostly halfpipes.
Typically when there was like a vert ramp jam with BMX’ers and there was the odd photo of an Invert or an air, and I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was like whatever’s going on there, I want in on that!
Imagine if you’d never seen footage of an Invert or an air on a vert ramp, like what is he doing there? How did that happen!?
And they were shot on fisheye usually, which made it even more distorted and trippy.
So yeah BMX’ing in the mid-80s, and that bit of mainstream media. I’d already started skating but them that film Police Academy came out, where they had that skate scene in the film that had the Powell Bones Brigade in it, who were like the elite skate team at the time, showing up in movies.
So it was riding BMX and seeing skating in BMX magazines that really made me open my eyes to skateboarding.
Mike Manzoori, Madolly shot for @readanddestroy
When did you get your first board?
The real turning point was that there was a sports shop in my hometown in Ealing in West London. They had a few skateboards in there we heard, so we went to check them out and while I was in the shop looking at skateboards, my BMX got nicked outside.
I came out and I was like ah! My bike’s gone, I can’t afford a new bike but then I thought I might be able to rustle up the cash for a skateboard quicker than I can get a bike.
So that’s my starting to skate story, it was really the turning point right there, that was my gateway drug to skateboarding.
That’s sick that losing your bike was your start to skateboarding but you got more out of it in the end!
That’s a good way of looking at it. I wish I’d thought like that at the time because I remember as a little kid I was crying my eyes out as a kid because my bike got nicked. That’s because it took me a long time after that to save enough money to actually get a skateboard, it took me nearly year until I got a board. The bike, I’d saved up, I got the parts, built it up, it was my pride and joy, I was like nooo!
How old were you?
I was only 12, doing paper routes. There wasn’t much money. It took a long time to get a skateboard.
Yeah, that’s not easy to replace
My dad got me the BMX originally and it was a sick BMX but then I started getting more serious about it. I wanted to get pro parts and stuff like that and I was constantly upgrading it. So it was a pretty legit bike by the time that I got done with it. So that’s actually part of the reason why even to this day I’ve got a soft spot for BMXing. I still even do a lot of of BMX filming these days. It’s just a little side thing I love.
There are similarities between the two
You are totally right. There are a lot of similar aspects that give each other mutual respect and legitimacy. They are not fucking around, like on strapped on boots. Until more recent years, at the time skateboarding and BMX were definitely not seen as cool.
But both of them in the last 10-20 years have become seen as a lot cooler in the rest of the world’s eyes. So we kind of all had underdog roots we shared together.
Especially in the UK, there was limited turf, not many skateparks, there was one ramp in town and it was like, we’re bloody well going to share this ramp because there’s ain’t any other one…there’s no point fighting over it. The ramp, the bowl, whatever it was at the time
It’s different out here in the US. There’s only a couple of towns and parks I’ve been to in America, where they crossover and share the same space as well as they do in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, of course there is a little bit of beef here and there in the UK but generally we get along and ride the same places and it’s not that big of a deal.
But out here in America, they take it way too seriously, and give the BMX’ers a lot of grief, that’s not really deserved as we are all just trying to have a laugh.
Yeah, true, I think it’s down to the pegs
Yeah, that’s a lot of pegs and handlebars coming at you, that’s when it gets terrifying and they are flying around the park. But another thing is that if you’re out there struggling with cops and vigilante public people, it’s just like hey man we’ve got to be friends in this, everyone else is against us, you know what I mean…and we don’t have that much choice of homies you know?
Yeah, there’s a way to work together
It’s like when you kicked out of the spot; you know they’re just going to come back when you’re not here! There’s a certain drive behind what we do that is hard to dampen.
Yeah it’s better to collaborate. So growing up in Ealing, what ramps were you skating then?
It depends on what era really. That’s because over the years there were different ramps. When I was young a lot of times we were skating the Crouch End ramp in North London. There was Latimer Road. But Latimer Road was at the time in a pretty sketchy part of town, because literally a stone’s throw away from the vert ramp was a gypsy site. The gypsy kids loved when skaters showed up. They’d throw rocks at you, fuck with skaters, and nick your board.
I remember one time a kid came up on the platform and took a shit on top of the ramp. It was a pretty wild scene under the Westway, that was going for a few years. We were little kids out of our element, to go skate that ramp, so we didn’t go to skate that ramp too much.
We built a vert ramp in Ealing for a little while but it actually ended up getting blown over by a big storm, just one half of it flipped over. That was quite unfortunate. I don’t think it lasted six months. It took longer to build than it lasted I think.
Mike, Frontside Boardslide,Le Grande Bornand France 1990,: Shot by @daveswift01
There were various ramps in London. There was one in Kingston a bit later on. That was a pretty sick ramp. It was metal. Had big coping, more American style, it was fast as hell because it was metal. I’d skate there a lot with Ali Cairns.
Then there was Northampton, and Stevenage. Outside of London but those two were always worth the trip. And Bracknell, now I think about it there were so many ramps in England at the time now I think about it. We were lucky.
Mike, Frontside Ollie: Shot by Tim Leighton Boyce for @readanddestroy
How did you get into skating street?
There was just a really small scene back then. Travelcards were a new thing so you could go all over London with them. I remember when travelcards were brand new. They were 60p for all zones bruv, you could go everywhere. Bus, train, everything and that just opened up spots for us.
In one day, you’d have several different sessions. You might go skate a vert ramp, then go Southbank, and then sling your pads in a bag. Skate there for a bit, then go skate a mini ramp. Start off in Harrow and end up in the City of London. It was normal to skate everything.
Mike, Backside Wallride, Museum of London, 1995: Shot by @wigworland
But then there was a point where I was getting sponsored and street skating was taking over and literally my sponsors were like can we see your street skating more? Can you put your pads away basically? It’s kind of weird. Looking back on it now, it sounds so fucked to say it but I got a direct request from my team manager, like it would be good if you were street skating more and don’t worry about the ramps put you pads away for a while. And even though you started to think less and less of it but I was like I still like it…
Frontside Ollie, at Ewer Street in 1991: Shot by @wigworland
Who were you first sponsors?
Shop sponsors back then. First sponsor was M-Zone, this skate shop back in London. My first major sponsor was Powell-Peralta when I was quite young.
Then Santa Cruz. It was around the time I was riding for Santa Cruz when things were changing a bit to street, at that time the TM in the UK was like vert’s cool but not that cool any more. I didn’t understand as he was really into skating vert too. A lot of people did it, a lot of people stopped skating vert. I always like to skate everything so I didn’t notice the difference or mind as much it was nice to not have to take around your pads with you though. You felt a bit freer just street skating.
When did you first go to The States?
Actually yeah. Just before I got sponsored, my step-dad had moved in with my mum and me. He took us to Florida to Disney World. I was completely addicted to skating so I was figuring out anywhere to skate when we were there.
I remember wasting nearly two-thirds of the holiday making my family take me to skate parks. It always failed for one reason or another. Back then there was no internet. We were clutching at straws. Looking in the phone books. Asking around. They’d drive me from one town to another.
Now I know the area, thinking back to where we were I’m like holy shit; my parents were driving me, through such sketchy hoods looking for skate parks. Florida is a weird place. It gets really dark. When you’re off the tourist-Disneyland track, the rest of it is fucking swamp land and crackheads and weirdos, it’s fucked up.
At one point we were in Tampa, my step dad called 411 for information, when we were trying to find this old concrete skate park, right in the projects. This guy on the 411 information number my step dad called was like, ‘You’re from England right, you are a tourist? You don’t want to go there!’.
I’ve been there since and I can see why he said that. I mean as skaters we’ll skate in projects or council estates or wherever you know, you know how to watch your back but a tourist family on holiday with a 13 year old with his brand set up, it’s like hey…I was looking to get jacked over there at the time, we were looking for trouble.
I remember as well tripping out because Florida it’s quite a tropical climate, even though it was the middle of summer, every day at 5 o’clock it pissed down with rain. Then we’d have a day out and it would be light for half an hour and I’d get to go skating around the hotel and try to learn tricks.
One of those days, we were in some pretty hillbilly town, near some woods. We saw a house that had a vert ramp in the backyard. These guys at the skate shop had given us direction. We didn’t know anyone. No one was home.
I was pleading with my step dad to break into someone’s back yard and skate their vert ramp, and he was like you can’t do that, they’re going to come home and shoot you!
But I managed to squeeze through the fence and checked the ramp out. I was like ah it was so sick because back then, people put stickers on the lip. I ran up and stole a H-Street sticker and peeled it off from just under the lip. And I put it on my cap and was wearing it for the rest of the trip. I was like yeah sick. But I didn’t really get to skate much on that trip unfortunately as much as I tried.
But that built up the hype for when you went there next and properly skated!
Back then Europe wasn’t popping off as much as it is these days. There was way less stuff to skate and opportunity if you were trying to make it in skating or any of that stuff. There were a few people who were older than me who’d made the move in years prior to me, who’d shown the way a little bit back then. That’s just what you do, you follow their example. Like Steve Douglas and Bod Boyle.
They were older vert skaters from England who moved out to The States followed their sponsors and then those guys ended up running skate companies.
Bod Boyle runs Dwindle these days and he worked at Santa Cruz for years. Steve Douglas is part of all that stuff, he ran New Deal for years and Dwindle.
But those were the people that I followed but then pretty much a few years later I moved out here and things rapidly develop in Europe, that you could have a skate life there, find things to skate, and get opportunities without having to transplant to the other side of the world. We were like the last batch of skaters where it was kind of necessary where you had to do that.
Mike, Tre Flip, High Street Kensington, London, 1994: Shot by @wigworland
Yeah, in the noughties UK brands like Blueprint and Euro companies like Cliché were changing all of that.
Well think about this. When you started skating Blueprint existed. So when I was kicking around in the UK, what was before Flip was Deathbox, which I guess was the first real UK skate brand before Blueprint and all that. But when it came out we were all stoked to see a UK company but even though the riders were sick but the brand itself, I don’t know, it just wasn’t that rad. It was cool, we were stoked because it was ours, and it was UK so we were backing it.
But by the time Blueprint came out you couldn’t see the difference in the boards.
Deathbox had weird concaves; weird graphics and you can tell the difference. Whereas the time Blueprint came out, the graphics are the same, the ads were the same, not the same style but the same quality level, the skating was the same, and the videos were just as legit. There was nothing you could talk shit on at that point so it had come a long way by then.
Up until then it was just imitations of what was going on over here in America. Not quite got it right kind of thing. Maybe that’s just a weird perception I have. I remember looking at Blueprint stuff being like damn that looks legit you know.
Frontside 5-0 Grind, London: Shot by @wigworland
Yeah Blueprint boards, videos and graphics looked professional and their videos were sick
They had their own thing going on, it was not a version of something else. Blueprint was Blueprint. It was not on a par. It had its own thing which is hard to do in skateboarding, the whole package, the team, everything, they nailed it.
I thought Deathbox turned into Flip I didn’t know they were two different companies
As I remember it, my memory is terrible but I remember Deathbox was around for a couple years before it became Flip. They had both companies for a while. Flip was their sister company for a little minute. The Deathbox team was filling up, so they put some new more street skaters on Flip. Flip being the street brand. Deathbox is the gap under pool coping. So literally Flip was this new street version. Then they phased it out. There was maybe a six month period where they kinda had both, then Deathbox got dropped and they reshaped it all as Flip. But I could be wrong but maybe that’s just my perception looking back in time. They had a lot of ads in mags, they were everywhere as Deathbox, it had to be a couple years.
I definitely remember being on a trip in Europe, me and Curtis McCann, we rode for Powell. There was Deathbox guys like Alex Moul and there was the Flip guys. There was a contest or two were there were Flip and Deathbox riders in the same contest. So it was a weird kind of transition moment.
Mike Manzoori at Kings Cross, 1990, shot by @jamesahudson
Curtis McCann is sick. His footage in London is legendary.
Yeah Curtis is an absolute legend. He was the guru.
Yeah he did a Frontside Grab down Wallenberg a year before Gonz right?
I heard that and that’s where he broke his femur. That’s what kind of fucked him up pretty badly.
Curtis’ footage in Celebrity Tropical Fish is still really steez
It’s insane. It’s interesting to hear someone younger talking about Curtis and actually being able to appreciate his skating. Because I don’t know if people get it. Because over the years when his name’s comes up or I bring him up, I’m like you don’t even know. If you saw him skate live it’s a different thing.
People talk about Penny, how amazing he is and next level magic on a board. Curtis was like that and then some way before these dudes. I’ve never seen anyone like that before and very few since.
One of the most talented skaters I’ve ever met to this day for sure.
That’s a huge accolade
I could do a whole interview just about how awesome Curtis is. Let’s put it that way. This is how nuts he was on a board. A lot of the reason why he was awesome was all in his head. It wasn’t just about what he did it was about how he did it. He did it stylish, he did it first, and he did it before he even understood what he was doing. He told me he would think about tricks before he went to bed as he would go to sleep and go over them in his head, imagining how you would do them, the process of trying the trick, so he’d dream it and wake up and go and do it. He’s like 15. We were young kids at the time and my jaws dropping, like who are you? How are you thinking about this?
He was just like yeah, if you think about it in your head enough times, then your body’s already doing, it so when it comes time to do it, you’ve gone through all of the slams already. I was like what!? How does that work?
But he would make his tricks fast, they didn’t take long. He would try something new and goof around with and do it. Doing crazy weird tricks was just fun for him; he’d do Cab One Foot Nosepicks because I saw Danny Way do it in a video yesterday. It was like what, you don’t even skate vert what are you doing?
Sounds like he was a natural skater, who could just do what he wanted
It’s like this weird level of confidence where that they don’t care enough, so they just do it anyway. Yeah it’s crazy. It’s too easy, so I might as well do it because I can.
When it’s fun it’s easier to learn
Yeah, the trick has already happened before you have had time to worry about it or think about it. If you start thinking about a trick too much, you start losing it innit?
For sure filming can be stressful but it can be really fun too. So why did you start to film skating?
Part of it was necessity. Now everyone has a camera in their pocket on their phone but back then video cameras were a rare thing but it was becoming common enough that everyone knew someone who had a camcorder. Also being sponsored and videos was changing, they were not all big productions by the skate sponsors like they were before they started being more home movie made on camcorders, so the idea of filming each other became a thing.
Because before then you’d rarely film each other. It was pretty expensive to film skating. But camcorders were more common. Sponsors wanted to get footage from you because instead of sending someone out to film you, they wanted you to send in tapes to them.
I borrowed a couple cameras when I first started making skate videos, that was literally to show my sponsors footage and also I actually went to college, with two skaters called Mark Channer and Matt Fowler who were both really good skaters back then.
Mark had access to the media equipment at college as he was doing media studies so he could access the editing suite too.
Matt Fowler, he was doing a graphic design degree and for his final major projects he basically created a fictitious skate brand and made us three as the team. So for the skate brand he did the logo, the ads, the t-shirts, board graphics, all of that you know.
So because Mark had access to the editing suite and I knew someone who had a camera, we decided for fun one weekend that we were going to make a video for the fictitious skate brand as if we were the team.
We did that, made the video it was super fun aligning up the footage with music. Back then it was literally just hitting play and pause at the same time on two decks. There wasn’t much control like you have on a computer now. So you had to kind of jimmy rig the timing, when the music went faster or when it stopped to get the timing right. So we’d time the cuts really loosely to that, so it made even more magical when things tightened up. So if you actually lined up the skating and the music, it was such a great feeling, it made the hair on your neck stand up. It definitely gave me a buzz for editing skating specifically.
From there we did a couple videos ourselves. A lot of things just aligned. Santa Cruz needed footage so they sent me a camera. Then we started messing around with that. Then things just became necessary to film each other. It became thing. But then after I started having fun making videos I started to get more injured and I became being the guy with a camera more because I was dealing with a dislocated toe, or fucked up back or fucked up this or that, so it became a natural evolution
Mike Manzoori, Ollie Transfer, 1994: Shot by @sharphoto at Pioneer in St. Albans
What was the name of the fictitious skate brand?
It was called Jello. The skate video was called Bubblegum weekend. Channer had a sick part in it. Channer’s awesome. He’s a badass skater. Honestly, very blessed to have him as a sidekick skating for a good few years. He was a very inspiring dude to skate with. Pretty funny little video.
It’s sick that a fake team got you hyped on filming and making skate videos
Then they left a camera with him. I borrowed a camera of another skater called Matt Anderson, once I had access to that media editing suite, they were like no-one’s using, so you can use it whenever you want
So after we did that Jello video for Matt’s project, I was like let’s make another video. So I used it all the time after that Jello project. I filmed for 6 months and I put out a UK scene video called Sound and Vision. There’s a lot of footage of Birmingham in there.
Yeah I was going to ask you about any stories about filming in Brum for Sound and Vision
So there would have been a shit load more footage of skating in Birmingham in the video but I did actually get robbed in Birmingham. At that car park under the NEC, I was filming with Benny and Jagger, but that was way later. That was a 411 camera, that they had sent me for 411 video mag back then.
Actually. I can’t remember. I don’t know if it was the Jello video or Sound and Vision but one of those videos, prompted 411 to send me a video camera over because 411 had just started. They knew I was making videos and they wanted me to film videos in the UK and send them over to 411.
Why was there so much Brum footage in Sound and Vision?
I had a lot of good times skating in Birmingham. There was a really good scene there when I was growing up. Good scene, good skate shop with Ideal. The reason why I was actually in town a lot was because at the time I was going out with this girl who was going to college out there.
So I was going there almost every weekend for a while, while I was seeing her and that’s whyI skated there so much. It’s brilliant when I remember back to it. I stopped through there about a year ago, looked like a similar vibe but a lot has been developed since I was there decades ago.
Definitely. So watching Sound and Vision, there’s footage of Richard ‘Benny’ Hughes, skating Chamberlain Square, Library and Central TV in Brum, what was it like filming in Birmingham at that time?
It was fun but it was definitely a bit on the pikey side back then, no idea how it is now.
Like I said this kid pulled a machete on me, just as I was putting the camera in the bag, he chased me through the parking lot, he chased me down, and all the ledges were down the side of the parking lot.
I don’t know if it is still the same but above the ledges, there were all these square window that ran down the side of the parking lot but there were these metal x’s in there that blocked them off.
I was trying to see if I could dive through the windows to get on to the canal path to escape and get away from this nutter with a blade.
So whilst I was deciding to see if I could jump through there whilst running at full speed, I tripped and fell and the camera fell out of my bag.
The dude jumped on top of me and sat on me and was like waving the blade around and I’m like looking in his eyes and he looked terrified, he looks like he’s bugging out.
He’s like give me the camera, give me the camera and I just started pissing myself.
I told him I was like mate, I’m pissing myself and he’s like ahhh and he was sitting on my crotch so he jumps up, he didn’t want to get pissed on.
He grabs the camera and at the time, the way it worked, if I was filming myself, I’d put in a certain tape and I’d leave the footage in there. This tape it had like 2 months’ worth of footage of myself on it. We didn’t have computers back then, so that was the tape.
So he took the camera and I was like can I get the tape out, you can take the camera but I need the tape, and he tried to figure out where the eject button was and was struggling to find it. So I tried to reach out to point to show him where to look and said it’s that little blue button and he thought I was trying to reach out to grab it and he swiped at me with the blade and he took off running with the camera and the tape.
I’ve had some fun on the streets there but you know that happens, it happens everywhere, it can happen in the nicest places or the worst places.
Idiots are everywhere. There was some great Channer footage at SB where he does a Backside Heel down the 7 and Fakie Heel on the bank
That was a sick line huh?
Yeah the Southbank footage looked so good
It was all open back then but it was starting to get closed up. Around that time, the bars were being put on the bank on the small banks. Where the little banks are. They put flatbars on the bottom of those which meant you couldn’t skate them as banks but you could skate them as a gap from the top of the bars.
Carl Shipman had a nice Frontside Flip picture over the bar.
@mikemanzoori, Frontside Shuvit, at South Bank: Shot by Leo Sharp
I don’t know if you saw in Sound and Vision when Simon Evans does that line, where he goes through the really dark bit and comes out the other side, the bit that is all blocked off now?
That dark area was where homeless people were living. It was dim and dark and it was disgusting. It was more open but it was fucking really grim, it stank of piss and shit like you wouldn’t believe. I bet it still stinks a little bit pissy in the corner but mate it was gnarly back then. When your board shot out into the dark corner, you were like please, please just hoping it would not be all wet and gross.
Yeah, now it’s a stop for tourists and teachers with school kids on tours
It’s got cultural relevance now
It’s a cultural touchstone. That previous piss place is a cultural heritage site.
That’s crazy. I remember when I first went to Southbank as a kid; I bumped off school and went there. It was weird, it was this no man’s land, there were no shops, from Southbank on that river front, in a mile in any direction, there was nothing, nobody, you felt like you were going to get robbed, you were just like what the fuck am I doing here, this was all on a week day too, so there was definitely nobody about. Now it’s a cultural hotspot.
Frontside Boardslide the Southbank hubba, 1995: Shot by @wigworland
This was all before CCTV too.
Not just under where the Southbank was but you know that big roundabout that is between Southbank and Waterloo Station?
The whole underpass area they called it Cardboard City back then because there were so many homeless people living there, it was such fucking weird zone back then. Not that I have a problem with homeless people, I live right around the corner from Skid Row right now. But just as a little kid going into unchartered territory in London back then it was weird for sure.
Mike, Backside 50-50, Southbank, 1998: @wigworland
Bet it was sketchy but fun though
It was an amazing adventure, on a 60p travelcard, I could go anywhere. I was just a 12 year old on the loose in the city, it was so good
What about skating at Shell Centre?
Yeah. Depends on which way you came. If you came from Embankment over the river, then you’d probably skate shell afterwards on your way out or you’d come out of Waterloo Station and you’d skate Shell on the way to Southbank it was all part of it for sure.
Then once you saw that spot in the Blind video ‘Video Days’ with The Gonz skating it that just made it 110 percent the spot.
Shell Centre had a lot of things going on over the years, it was quite a big area and it was surprisingly almost never a bust.
Which is really weird to think of because there were the ledges, the 8 stairs, the 3 stairs, the up and down 3 stair round the back, the out ledges.
There was a fucking lot going on there thinking about it and you could skate it all pretty much all the time when I was kid growing up anyway.
Definitely. Yeah, it was a classic spot, that was maybe even taken for granted at times.
Those marble out ledges, were like pool coping almost, the way they bevelled. It was an interesting spot for sure.
Yeah your Smith grind there was next level, how did that one go down?
That thing once you locked on it and went it was so much fucking fun. Thinking back now I can remember that being one of the best feeling Smith Grind I’ve ever done. It was the fastest marble and the way it curved, you just had to lock a Smith and you just had to Smith and sit there and take it. You’re making me drool just remembering how fun it was to skate it.
So in Sound and Vision, the Backside 360 Kickflip that Channer did on that bank was amazing?
On the Roll in? Or on the Harrow Bank to Bank?
The Roll-in at Radlands!
There is one in the credits in Radlands and there was one in Harrow Skate Centre, the HSC. They sold the video for me and distributed it so I made a little promotion for them that went at the end.
In that Channer does a Backside 360 Kickflip on the pyramid there. Both of them are fucking amazing. Difficult in different ways.
Obviously the roll in one was 360 to Fakie like on a quarterpipe and then the other one is straight up and over a pyramid.
Yeah, it’s surprisingly a sunny day, he just did it perfectly, and the ramp was so splintery and soggy and dead, nothing to it, to pull that off. That was fucking nuts.
Yeah to do that at that time on those ramps with so much pop and steez stands out till today
Yeah, we just had seen a Birdhouse video that had come out with Jeremy Klein. I think it was Feasters.
Jeremy did that trick on a bunch of spots really sick. It was next level. Within a couple weeks. Channer was doing it left and right all over town He nailed that one in Northampton on the roll-in and then some, his foot was hanging off a bit but he did it so relaxed, he doesn’t even give a shit. We were all tripped out.
Nowadays it’s easier to learn stuff from crisp footage rather than grainy VHS
Cameras were so bad back then. People have so much nostalgia for VX but the film is quite terrible when you compare them to newer cameras.
VX is sort of untouchable because of that way you connected with it as a kid
Yeah. I understand that. I just got my VX fixed recently. I hadn’t needed it for a while but it’s sitting there so it’s up and running for when I have a need for it. It’s the same way I do shoots for different clients outside of skating. I can’t tell you how many times people request Super 8 footage because they want that nostalgic feeling. You point the camera at the exact same thing but it gives you that different look. It has something the other can’t give you. You can’t replace one with the other. I don’t understand why people love VX’s so much but we do.
Frontside Rock N’ Roll, Harrow Half Pipe, 1994: @wigworland
Nowadays you can mix all different formats
Yeah, there’s a lot of room for everything. It reminds of those eras back then, the 90s was kind of strict, like with the whole vert skating then. We’ve gone through the growing pains of skating. Now we’re at this age, skating has being around the block a few times. You want to longboard, go for it, I don’t give a shit. Bomb a hill go for it. You want to freestyle, you want to be a pool guy and dress retro, there’s room for everything, there’s the slasher guys, and whoever can do whatever.
But back then, it was like you are not doing the right thing. I was like what do you mean, we’re supposed to, we’re not supposed to do anything, there are no rules. That’s the good thing about skating these days it’s a lot more open minded then when I was younger, that is for sure.
Doesn’t seem like it slowed you down. Did you feel affected by the rules in skating at the time?
It was kind of confusing.
Its like do what you want but not that!
Yeah. I think I was just lucky that I was always in a crew or around the right people where we were aware of what was going on but we also were kind of doing our own thing and it didn’t really matter that much. I was always near the cool stuff but never in the cool stuff enough that it mattered. Like let the cool guys worry about that, I’m not that cool, I’m going to carry on doing this thing I think is fun and I’m going to carry on having fun. I’m not here to take it too seriously.
I always felt like I had the opportunities to do really good things but not the pressure of doing the most important things. If that makes sense.
Always doing the things you wanted to
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a deliberate master plan. I was just in my own world, I don’t know any better. Whether it’s doing graphics or boards or videos.
Don’t think too much about it, let’s have a laugh. As I got older I got more mature and considerate, I think that gets in the way. I wish I could go back to being more naïve and just doing things on impulse, I don’t care if it has been done before or not, I’m just going to do it.
It’s a really empowering thing, when you’re young and dumb when your older you start worrying too much about your own shit and stifling it.
I think you need to have a balance
Exactly, as long as you’re getting that nourishment from it and other people are too. It’s fine. The skate stuff, we’d be doing it whether we had to or not, you just want to do it. It’s just a drive.
So how did your Hating Life part go down?
Hating Life came about because back then, Sole Tech, Etnies, the parent company of éS, Emerica and Etnies, they had a distributor in the UK called A4.
They sponsored a handful of UK riders and had UK teams for the individual brands.
They got Neil Chester ‘Ches’ to do the video for them. At the time I was waiting for my visa because I was waiting to go back to America, so I was living in London at the time. Because I rode for Etnies, they were like do you want to be in the UK video? And I was like fuck yeah, I’m down.
So Ches came to London a few times. We did a trip out to Peterborough to visit my mum out there. Most of all of its London footage, some Stevenage too.
There’s also that Fastlands footage in there, where you do the front board up the rail, how did that go down?
Funny story. So the line, I did a Front board up that rail, landed on the ledge, rode along and at the other end I was supposed to 50-50 the rail but I chickened out and I Ollied over it. I did that because I’m terrible at grinding handrails at the best of times. Flatbars, rails, I’d rather Slappy on to it then Ollie on to it if it’s possible. I don’t know why. Always terrified me. To this day, I wish I’d just fucking manned up and grinded it because it’s so little and so easy but last minute I was like no way. Now you brought it up, I’m still kicking myself about that one.
After going there so many times, it’s sick to realise how you carve around that corner going so fast, that is tough.
I appreciate that. Yeah, it was definitely a weird awkward one to do.
Then you do an Ollie in to the bank and Lipslide the ledge to pop out, how did you come up with that one?
The Ollie into the bank to Lipslide I was just pissing around. I was just going back to the beginning. Then we moved on.
I was surprised that made it into the video. I look back now; I was thinking it was weird that it made it into the video. I was like why did he put that in the video.
People still talk about it to this day, I’ve skated that bit of the spot, its super fucked
I looked back at it now and I was like, what the fuck was I even thinking. The reason I think it’s weird that it is in the video is because I thought If was a kid watching it, I was like why the hell did he do that, it’s not inspiring it doesn’t look fun, it’s not cool, why did he do that?
Yeah, that was inspiring. Kris Vile did an Ollie over the 9 rail on to the ledge and did a 180 just before the wooden ledge at a jam that we did on that spot
You’re talking about the rail I Frontside Boardslided up? That’s fucking crazy.
What the hell
Yeah, Kris’ line was one of the toughest things done since your footage
Is he goofy or regular?
Kris is regular
To hard backside 180 off?
Yeah! Yeah that was at the Fastlands Jam that we did
What a fucking G. Just Ollieing on to the ledge would be pretty fucking terrifying, without even considering the Backside Ollie off. Oh my god. Wow. Kids these days. Do people grind the rail down the double set?
Nobody’s done it yet
Yeah it’s a weird rail
It’s a square rail, with kind of mellowish kinks, if I remember rightly. I was there about a year ago. I was passing through Birmingham and I thought I’m going to take a look at Fastlands. I literally pulled over to the hospital by there and I ran over to have a look at the spot and I was glad to see it was all still there but I was tripping that the run up to the double set was all asphalt and smooth and fast.
Yeah, it’s so much better now
When I was skating it the run up was the gnarliest thing; there were just cracks, buckled sidewalks, and drainage going the wrong way and those grates with the metal bobbles on them. It was a fiasco just to get to it, to get the Ollie down the double set.
So I’m tripping that it’s all smooth and asphalt so I thought people must be killing it now.
A couple of people have Ollied it but nothing else has gone down it really
Nobody’s Kickflipped it or anything?
Nobody’s Kickflipped it yet.
I’d like to see somebody get that
Same here. So you did the first Ollie down Fastlands, how did it go down?
I can’t remember which way it went down first because I did it a couple of times. When Tim Leighton Boyce shot it and I think Benny might have shot it both times. I might have done it three times even.
I know it’s pretty illegal but I don’t give a shit I’ll tell anyone this but I think it ended up in two different videos. I milked that one for all it was worth. It was definitely in the Santa Cruz Big Pants Small Wheels video.
I remember I was a bit gutted because that was around the time that they sent over a camera and I filmed Channer and those guys and we made a bunch of our own videos.
I gave them a bunch of footage and I only had two clips in their video and I was like ah, that sucks! But the double set was one of them.
Then when Tim was there to shoot the photo, Jason Adams was randomly visiting the UK.
I don’t know why he got a ticket to the UK but he rode for Santa Monica Airlines, which was a sister company to Santa Cruz at the time, and so he ended up at my house. We skated together and we went to Birmingham together and skated up there
Mike at Fastlands the day he did the first ever Ollie down the double set: Shot by @idealbirmingham
I remember the day I did it with Tim, it was a fucking cold day, it was January or February, and it was so bloody cold.
I was really hyped because Jason was in town. He was a really fun dude to skate with. It was the same day that we skated one of the most perfect 9 stair rails which was at The Bank of Scotland, that was in Birmingham, that used to be there. I 50-50ed and front boarded it in Hating Life.
Mike, Frontside Boardslide, #Birmingham, 1992: Shot by TLB for @readanddestroy
We started off skating those Bank of Scotland rails and we ended up down at Fastlands.
Actually, I think that was the first time because I rode for ATM after that. So basically I had it in a video, had double page spread of it and I still filmed it again for another video. I was like this is my bloody double set.
I don’t know what I was thinking but yeah, it ended up in an ATM video as well after that.
Mike, Ollie down Fastlands Double Set, Shot by Tim Leighton Boyce for Read and Destroy
Sick, you double checked the double off the list
Yeah I really made sure people knew that I did it. I really did do it!
What about the drop in Melon Grab that you did off the Westminster Bridge gap spot? That spot is massive
I grew up skating jump ramps as a kid. So in my era doing big phattys to flatty was just normal at the time. In that time, it was post-drop in era. Remember when Bam was doing all these crazy drop-ins too at the time. It was around then. So we were all having a go at that. We were having a good time.
There was also a Sidewalk article, called 86,400 seconds, which is the amount of seconds in a day where they spend 24 hours with you and the idea is that you shoot as many photos you can shoot in 24 hours.
So that footage was a part of that day out, where we cruised around London and hit a bunch of stuff that I liked.
That’s amazing it was just one trick in a day where you did other stuff
I was on a good one. Touch wood, one of the rare times I wasn’t too hurt and I was feeling it.
In Sound and Vision, there’s a clip in Ideal skate shop in Birmingham.What was it like seeing Ideal started by Kris, Zip and Bob Sanderson at the time?
Bob Sanderson was not in the shop then. Bob was one of the rippers in town at the time. At the time he was just big Stale Rob because he would just do the biggest Stalefishes ever. He would fucking blast them. We knew him as that. He could blast a Stalefish like nobody else.
Zippy and Kris, they’re basically the quintessential pillars of the skate community. If they hadn’t done what they did what they did the Birmingham skate scene would never have evolved and flourished as it has. Maybe somebody else would have done it but they probably would have done it a little differently.
I remember when Ideal first happened. It was a big thing to have a skate shop. They were clearly doing it on a shoe string budget. Unless they were hiding a million somewhere. They were skaters making it happen. Supporting the community any which way they could
@idealbirmingham in 1993
I know that Jagger has a notoriously famous tab at Ideal that was never going to be paid off. They would make sure that everyone was taken care off.
Yeah, they do so much for the scene in Birmingham
Yeah, it’s what they do for long-term community benefit. Maybe they have made some money out of skateboarding over the years but not that much, it is completely for the love.
They’ve always been cheeky comedians, who are just looking out for the community with their attitude it felt like to me. Schooling the new bloods on how not to be a dumbarse, be street smart and how not to fuck around and have fun.
I’ve got nothing but respect for those guys and how they handled that scene.
It’s pretty awesome to see Ideal evolve over the years.
Kris Ludford and Mark ‘Zippy’ Preston at @idealbirmingham, 1993
Ideal is great. They are based in the Custard Factory in Birmingham now.
Oh right. How long have they been there for?
They’ve been there for 12 years now
That’s how out of it I am because when I went there last, over a year ago now, I did park by Corporation Street and I as like ah, the shop’s gone, I didn’t have time to stop in because I was on my way to my mum’s and it was like 6.30 in the morning. So I was like I’m not going to wait till the shop’s open but I would have loved to have seen those guys.
I’m glad they’ve still got the shop up and going though. Who’s running things now?
Kris and Zip still
Apparently over this lockdown, they’re doing really good business
Yeah, I’ve heard that the skate industry is doing well the world over due to the Lockdown
Yeah, more people are skating, its rad.
For sure. So back to your Hating Life section, in it, you Smith grind on the wall at Stockwell. That can’t be possible, are you rolling or grinding?
I put angle iron it. I put this kind of putty on the back of angle iron and glued it on to the rough edges and let it dry on. I did front board the bricks, but the Smith Grind that was definitely on the angle iron.
So skating Stockwell back in the day, when it was red, what was your favourite thing about going there?
When I first went to Stockwell it was grey, like most skateparks.
Originally it was how it is like now. Just like how the old skateparks like Harrow and Romford are but they repaved Stockwell and they kind of fucked it up with this tennis court material. Really grippy and it didn’t do well when the heat fluctuated.
So it would get long cracks throughout the day and so it didn’t last long and that’s why they got rid of the red and went back to the normal concrete.
The red sucked. It was faster than it was before. But it was really rough to fall. It didn’t slide right.
Backside Wallie, Stockwell, 1998: Shot by @hamiltonick
Never knew that before. What do you think of it now?
It’s really good nowadays. I was shocked how good it was the last time I went there. There’s so many extra treats to skate there now. Little nibbles around the edges, fun things that were never there before. We were doing laps to get speed to hit the two or three different hips there before that worked. Now you’ve got all these choices.
Wallie Melon, Stockwell, 1998: Shot by @hamiltonick
Yeah, Stockwell is even bigger now
My sister lives in South London. So whenever I go to London I always have to stop by Stockwell.
Even if it’s the middle of the night, I have to get out of the car and carve around Stockwell for a second.
Last time I was there I was tripping on all of the development. All of those tall building that they were building right behind it. I was like ah fuck, there goes the park
Nobody’s stopping skating there for the time being. Skateboarding is seen in such a different light these days, it’s great
Skating has matured a lot.
There are so many reasons I guess you could say. Everyone knows someone who skates these days. It’s not a foreign thing that you see that you don’t understand.
They don’t see us as this noisy bunch of youths wondering what they are doing. A lot of people can see a path of some sort of success that you can get from it, if you do it you know?
You can go to the Olympics these days. To parents that sounds really impressive, and normal and non-threatening. “My son got a skateboard the other day, go the Olympics and we’ll be really proud of ya”. It’s a whole different mindset.
Mike, Wallride, Side Effects of Urethane Installation, 2001: Shot by @wigworland
Yeah, the Olympics is in a complete opposite direction to how skating was even ten years ago
Skateboarding is too big and powerful of a thing to let it be anything else. It’s something that we can benefit from but any benefit can only be cosmetic. Maybe people get the wrong idea but as an entry thing to skating that’s a portal to our world.
It’s not the best start but it’s a good entry point. You might get some weirdos who have got a pure normal perception of it as a skateboarder but it’s just a smaller part of the bigger picture of the whole world of skating.
Maybe we’ll be eating our words in 20 years when everyone is skating completely the opposite. But I think there’s room for everything in skating and different style and this is just an extension of that.
Yeah it can only add to it I suppose
It’s a weird one. I hear a lot of weird mixed stuff from friends who work within the whole Olympics thing.
Every country can put in whoever they want in there. So some countries are putting in people who just started skating as their team riders, so there will be events where people will be practicing with world class pro bowl riders who are flying 100 mph and some kids from some country that doesn’t have skating and some guy from another country who’ll be pushing from the flatbottom to start.
Just like get out of the bowl! He’s going to kill you. It’s going to be quite a spectrum.
Of course that’ll be sorted out before they get to the actual Olympics but the shenanigans I hear about behind the scenes. Some countries trying to rustle up a team, sounds kind of weird.
Definitely some people switched up nationalities for it
Yeah I got a so-and so passport I can skate for them. I think the most frustrating thing for skaters about this for the longest time, or people involved in it for any period of time, is that these guys are going to repackage it and present it as this is what skating is, compared to what it is now.
It’s like nah… it’s just your version of what we do in a weird light.
That’s the worry, people are going to presume that is what you should be doing, and that’s your goal.
It’s like not what everyone’s goal is, like most skaters could not give a shit about this. Maybe that includes you guys who don’t even skate you know?
Hopefully it gets done right and brings more people into skating so they can discover this whole world behind it.