Tom O’Driscoll is a skater and musician from Norwich who lives in Sheffield. His gnarly style of no holds barred skating first came to our attention when he Frontside Lipslided the rail at Fastlands in Birmingham, landing the first banger to go down at our Beyond Skateboarding jam there. So after skating with him then and later on in the streets of Sheffield, we ended up getting to know Tom and found out a lot more about him.
It turned out that unlike his clear ‘do first and think later approach’ to skating big street and transition spots he’s quite the opposite in conversation. He’s an extremely thoughtful and creative person off his board who makes interesting experimental electronic music, studies philosophy and is clearly heavily influenced and inspired by skaters, artists, musicians and creatives of all kinds from around the world.
On top of all of that, he also has some great opinions on the act of skateboarding itself.
So after finding out there was more about him, beyond the bangers he puts down on his board and watching his skating progress to even more elevated levels in each release of The Panasonic Youth videos, we thought over lockdown, it would be great to chat with him about his skateboarding, music, creativity and his personal approach to it all and as expected he had a lot to bring to the conversation.
By the end of our chat we were stoked that Tom was down to be a No Comply Network Member.
Read the Tom O’Driscoll interview to find out how he first saw skateboarding and thought it looked like a good fit, growing up as a young skater in Norwich, going to Drugstore, watching Chewy Cannon skate as a kid, making music, his latest tracks and releases, his thoughts on studying philosophy, moving to Sheffield, meeting Zach McAdam, joining The Panasonic Youth, making the soundtrack for their Gran Canaria trip, shredding Dev Green, Shaun Currie, Sex Skateboards, Louis Slater, art, video parts, Slugger, Heath Kirchart, getting sponsored by Ron Calow’s World Peace Machine his DJ gig on Noods radio, filming for Fully Fissured, skating in Birmingham, and his favourite skaters, spots, music, videos and photos of all-time and more.
Read the Tom O’Driscoll interview below to find out for yourself
Tom by @callumpainter
What’s your full name?
Thomas Michael O’Driscoll
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Norwich and have lived in Sheffield for five years now.
When did you first see skateboarding in Norwich?
You used to see quite a lot of skaters if you went into town on a Saturday in Norwich.
What year was that?
I guess it was like 2009-ish, everybody was wearing all neon coloured studded belts and tight jeans at the time.
Plus when I was in Year Five, at school, skating was briefly really popular. It was a craze like Beyblades or Crazy Bones or something.
Heelflip in Norwich shot by Rob Salmon
When did you first get a skateboard and what brand was it?
My dad got me this No Fear skateboard from Sports Direct for a tenner. It had this eye full of veins with wings on it. The wheels exploded on impact one time when I was doing stationary Ollies. I think I was about 10 years old.
Jokes. Where did you first go skate and who was in your crew?
There wasn’t really a crew when I first started, but everyone would skate the playground after school.
A mate of mine called Otto had built some ramps that we used to skate round the back of his house.
When I got a bit older I’d say the proper crew was me, Malachi Smith, Olly Allen, Arthur Vaughn Myhill, Liam Painter and Callum Painter.
We skated together all the time at Gipsy Lane. There was the little City Hall crew too, people like Jack Garrett and Bigby, the NSE lot.
There were only a few places you could skate so most of the crews kinda meshed together a lot of the time.
Tom, Norwich: Shot by @callumpainter
What was it like growing up as a skater in Norwich?
Yeah quite good, there used to be some fun spots around when I was younger.
Skating still wasn’t quite cool yet, so you got shit from people at school and in the street but nothing too bad. Plus I was dressing all emo back then so I didn’t really do myself any favours.
Norwich is not an easy place to skate but when you’re a kid you don’t know any different.
I realise now some of the spots we have now and had in the past were pretty rare, I’ve not skated stuff like it elsewhere.
Tom, Norwich: Shot by @callumpainter
What spots did you skate there?
There were these brick-weave volcano-hip things on Rose Lane that we used to call Crusty Tree Spot.
That was easily my favourite spot. Doesn’t exist anymore which sucks.
The usual Saturday routine was to start at City Hall, then go to city four, then law courts, then finish the day back at City Hall or make the trek out to the skate park.
When we got a bit older we used to go to the rails in Heathgate, or sometimes Olly would want to throw himself down a massive set of stairs.
What’s your favourite spot to skate in Norwich and why?
The Law Courts is probably my favourite spot that still exists. It’s so haggard, but it’s seen some great sessions.
Definitely one you have to see in real life to really appreciate the clips. A session there is either a total headblag or a lot of fun.
You live in Sheff now, what do you miss most about Norwich?
That’s a hard question. I guess old friends and my parents. I also miss the convenience of a small city.
I’d never ridden a bus till I came up north because you could walk or skate everywhere you wanted to get to in Norwich.
You can get to the beach pretty easily too. But we have the peaks here so I don’t mind too much.
Backside Nosegrind, East London: Shot by Rob Salmon
Did you ever skate with Chewy Cannon?
I’ve skated proximal to Chewy Cannon. It would be a lie to say I skated with him.
This one time me and my mate Jan were at the old Yarmouth indoor park and Chewy turned up.
We were like 14, fanning out that he was there and then Jan ate shit really hard in front of him, it was so peak.
Like, you’re a little kid and you finally get to see this next local legend pro guy everyone’s always on about, only to absolutely stack it while he’s watching. Chewy seemed concerned by it though, he asked if Jan was alright. That was nice of him.
Oh yeah and one time I got in Chewy’s way in Drugstore while he was trying to leave. It was awkward. I was maybe 13.
What’s your favourite Chewy Cannon trick done in Norwich?
Not sure I know any to be honest; most of the East Anglia footy I’ve seen of Chewy’s was in Lowestoft or Yarmouth.
I heard a rumour he did something switch down lucky star rail but I’ve never really gotten confirmation on that or seen any footage. A question for Spex.
When did you first go into Drug Store skate shop?
It’s always been the only place in Norwich you can get legit boards, hardware, gear, etc. So inevitably at some point I had to go in there and get a board.
My dad always used to prefer buying things from shops to buying them on the internet, so some of that rubbed off on me I guess.
Once you get over the initial terror of being in a skate shop, it suddenly becomes the only place you want to be. So yeah, I was there pretty much every weekend taking up space on the sofa and generally annoying Sam and other local people.
Tom in front of Drug Store by @callumpainter
Favourite thing about Drug Store?
Guess the old Pottergate space just has a lot of formative memories for me.
Drugstore is where I got my first boards, skate shoes, learnt to grip my own boards.
First time I saw the Dylan Reider Gravis part was there when it had just come out. The Stay Gold premiere was there.
I had a lot of times and experiences there when I was young that made me think yeah I fucking love this, I wanna do it forever.
Some of that magic is still there when I walk past or pop in. I hope kids get to experience some of that in the new space.
Tom, Ollie Back Foot Plant, Shot by @reeceleung
You’ve done sick Back Foot Footplants, how did that one down the 9 stair go down and what inspired you to learn that trick?
We were at the nine because Jasper Pegg wanted to do the Switch Wallride out to regular on that spot. He did it really sick.
Hugo Boserup also had a really sick photo of one in Vague a while back that I was really into.
Not sure it’s a trick I’d do now but it definitely feels good down a drop.
Why do you like going big with your skating?
I’m shit at ledges and manuals.
I have a really short temper so I doubt I’ll ever put the time in and learn that kind of stuff.
Besides, big stuff looks hectic in videos and it’s fun to do when it goes right.
Tom, Big Bridge 50-50 Grind, Shot by @reeceleung
You’ve done some huge 50-50s but who’s got your favourite?
Jasper Joe Pegg, Switch 50-50 at Memorial Gardens.
What are your thoughts on Heath Kirchart’s skating?
Yeah I think Heath’s skating is pretty undeniable. Amazing style. He seems like a tweaker too, which I enjoy.
Favourite Heath Kirchart trick?
My favourite Heath Kirchart trick would probably be the back Tail flip out on that six stair rail in his Stay Gold part.
How’d you meet Zach McAdam and join the Panasonic Youth?
I met Zach McAdam on one of the first few times I went to Dev Green to skate.
He just came up to me and asked if I wanted to come skate street.
I think the first PY edit came out about a month later? Maybe less. We started going out filming in Sheff regularly after that.
Tom, Bank to Flatbar Nosebonk 180, Shot by @reeceleung
What’s been your favourite Panasonic Youth video?
Probably the full length. Despite all the battles and setbacks there were some really good times and I think Zach did a great job bringing it all together. In general I always prefer working on sections for full videos.
The feeling you get when you start collecting footage you’re happy with, knowing it’s going towards something substantial, that’s kinda the best.
How did you first go into Slugger?
I needed a board after about a month or two living in Sheffield so I went in. They hadn’t moved yet so the shop was still in the forum. Niahll was working.
What’s the best thing about Slugger?
Martin Kenelley and Louis Slater are always trying to help people out and hook it up for people in the scene. It’s rad.
What’s your favourite thing about Louis Slater?
He’s got good conversation and is an honest guy which I appreciate.
I like asking him about Jim Greco but you can’t do that all the time I don’t think. He’s got some good stories, seems like he’s lived a couple lives.
Do you have a favourite piece of art by Louis Slater?
There’s this one painting he did in 2016 that’s always stood out to me.
It’s like this red faced guy smoking a cig and there are trees behind him.
It’s really raw, proper grabs you. A lot of the stuff he did in 2016-17 is great.
Painting by Louis Slater
What’s it like living in Sheffield and what’s your favourite spot?
Yeah I like it here, feeling pretty comfortable now it’s been a while. I’ve never really liked the sound of the big city, and I also don’t want to live in some isolated village with nothing going on, so Sheffield is a nice happy medium. Plenty going on here but I don’t get overwhelmed.
Recently I think my favourite spot has been Crystal Peaks ledge. Random choice but yeah there’s been a few sessions there where it’s been beautiful evening sunshine and you can see the peaks in the distance.
You have all this open space with smooth ground all around you. That’s probably one of my favourite feelings. Rolling around with loads of space and smooth ground all around you.
Tom, Roll on 5-0 Grind, Shot by @reeceleung
You’ve done some sick tricks at Dev Green, what’s your favourite part of the park to skate?
Thank you! I like skating the sub block and the flat bar is pretty much perfect.
Tom at Dev Green: Shot by @eazystreets
What’s your favourite trick you’ve seen at Dev Green?
Albert Mu switch front shuv Dev Green two, no contest.
There are a lot of people that deserve a mention though.
Denver’s random tear this summer, Fakie Flip the three and Tre Flip the driveway, insane.
Moggins, Ben Broyd, Jerome Campbell, they’ve all killed it on Dev. But yeah Albert beats them all.
What’s it like skating with Shaun Currie at Dev Green?
The first few times I saw Shaun Currie skate in person felt pretty special to me.
Think most kids my age grew up seeing his footage and photos constantly. I was a huge fan for sure.
It’s been five years since I moved to Sheffield and we’ve skated together loads since then so it’s just normal now. But yeah 12 year old me would be tripping if he knew I’d end up skating Dev with Shaun all the time.
Do you have a favourite trick by Shaun Currie?
I had that Sidewalk Magazine photo of him doing a Kickflip Footplant on a school bench up on my bedroom wall in Norwich for years, so that one sticks out to me.
Otherwise I guess it’d have to be his Brass Monkey Ender or the 270 flip at Shipman hip.
You skate street and ramps, what’s the best thing about that?
I guess it’s just good to have options if you want to be able to skate all the time. If all you skate is bowl and the local one floods what are you gunna do? I can’t skate transition for shit anyways.
What’s the best thing about skating handrails for you?
It’s sick when you don’t eat shit.
Tom, Gran Canaria 50-50 Grind, Shot by @rich_west
Why do you like to throw hippy jumps into your skating?
They’re fun and don’t really require much focus, you just lob yourself and hopefully land back on.
I always joke that it’s a gimmick trick. If it is, I do bare gimmicks.
What music you listen to growing up?
My dad used to play Jimmy Cliff a lot and he’s always been really into John Martyn and Van Morrison.
All the middle class parent favourites like Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell. The first CD I got was Dookie by Green Day.
I have a mate called Will Sanders who basically shaped my entire music taste through secondary school. He got me really into Rustie when I was in year 9.
Do you DJ mostly, or make tunes yourself?
I don’t really DJ. I make music yeah.
What kinds of music do you make?
At the moment I do whatever I fancy. Over the first lockdown I was making a lot of ambient and instrumental stuff.
The house I just moved out of had a bass guitar left there by the previous tenants so I was using that and borrowing my housemate’s electric guitar to make guitar music for a while, that was sick. More recently I’ve been playing around with dance music and making beats.
What music have you been listening to recently?
So I just moved house and we didn’t have internet set up for the first few weeks which was actually quite nice because it meant I ended up digging out a bunch of my old favourites from my record collection.
Was listening to a lot of SD Laika, Kate Bush, Klein, William Basinski, Dean Blunt.
Since having internet again I’ve been listening to David Shawty constantly, Evergreen, Loveliescrushing, the new Salem album. Loads of stuff.
Plus Dad’s about to give me his old Walkman too so I can go back through my tape collection which will be really sick.
You’ve got a DJ gig on NOODS radio. How did that come about and what types of music do you play in your sets?
I’ve been lucky enough to do guest shows for two of my friends who have Noods residencies, Gabriel Gifford and Evan Majumdar Swift (96Back). Hopefully I’ll get to do another sometime.
For these radio mixes I tend to try and play the biggest variety I can manage. It feels to me like with radio you have that freedom, whereas if you’re playing a club or an event, you need to do something way more coherent.
You studied Philosophy. What are the benefits of thinking about the world in that way?
I guess for me the best thing about doing a philosophy degree was having those three years set aside to chew over stuff that I’ll probably never get to think about that deeply ever again.
Studying philosophy helps you get better at seeing through bad arguments and rhetoric, as well as teaching you how to make good arguments. I feel like I’m harder to convince now, one of many ways in which my degree has made me a more irritating person.
I also reckon philosophy helps give you a little more perspective on the things that really matter.
You made the music for a Cassette soundtrack of The Panasonic Youth Gran Canaria trip. How did you come up with that idea?
Zach always has to try and find music that hasn’t been skated to and won’t get pulled from YouTube for copyright.
He hit me up asking if I had anything he could use. I’d been making a bunch of guitar music that worked pretty well for a skate vid. So that was that.
Why did you decide on cassettes and not downloadable mp3s?
Zach and I both like buying tapes and records; I definitely prefer to own physical copies of releases that I really care about.
Zach just threw the idea out of making a tape and I thought it sounded cool. It was a nice way of rounding off that video and commemorating the trip with a physical thing rather than having these disembodied files floating around online.
Switch Wallie in Gran Canaria: Shot by @rich_west
What are your thoughts on creativity, skating and music?
It’s essential in both.
Which creatives in skateboarding do you look up to?
I really like Alexis Jamet’s art, the airbrush stuff is dope.
In general I think I probably have the most respect for people like Liam and Callum Painter because they make amazing stuff off their own backs while working full time and having their own lives and shit. It’s very impressive. It’s good to look up to people you know I think.
You came to our Beyond Skateboarding jam at Fastlands and ripped, why did you come down that day?
Thanks man. We came because Pete said we had good odds of getting free gear. Nah just kidding.
We came because the jam sounded like a good time and Pete said Birmingham had spots.
That was my first time there. We had a sick day, thanks for putting the event on.
What was your favourite trick at that jam?
Pete’s Switch Heel down the big set. Always good to see someone win a battle.
Plus he’d really only just started getting into skating big stuff at that point so it seemed really ambitious. His rate of progression is alarming.
You did a sick Nollie Hardflip into the bank. Who has your favourite Nollie Hardflip and why?
Calvin Ligono, no question.
Who’s your first board sponsor and how’d you get hooked up?
I guess it would be World Peace.
I used to get Sex Skateboards here and there from Louis, and way back when Chris Pulman was hooking Jasper up I got one or two Descent boards.
But yeah World Peace feels like more of a solid thing. Ronny Callow asked me this summer if I’d be keen and I said yeah.
Excited to see where things go with it. The team is sick. We’re filming for the promo at the moment so keep an eye out. The guys have got some really good footage.
What is Fully Fissured?
That would be Frank O’Donnell’s Instagram
How did you end up filming a part in his video?
Me and Frank have been filming and skating together for about four years now.
We basically haven’t stopped filming together the entire time I’ve known him, plus I was in his last vid (Fissure Time).
Favourite trick to film for People Move With Their Hands?
I think it was probably the Wallride crook at Hospital Banks.
The trick felt really good so I didn’t mind doing it a few times to see how good I could get it. It’s nice when you can give your filmer/editer options to choose from. It was super sunny and warm that day.
Pete was crending over a trick and me and Harry were just sat laughing and having beers. It was a great experience all round.
You did a sick tre flip into the massive fountain flatbank in Birmingham Town Hall. How did that go down?
Thank you! Pete had suggested we go filming in Brum and Frank was keen to drive. We ended up at Birmingham town hall because Pete wanted to do the Switch Heel Fakie manny.
He got that pretty quickly, so then after all the randoms got done sitting on the spot I had a go at the Tre Flip and eventually one went right. Still a little bummed on the way I adjust my feet when I’m rolling down but I guess it doesn’t ruin the clip.
Outside of music, do you have any other creative pursuits?
Yeah I do a lot of drawing, I’ve tried painting and photography, and sometimes I’ll write bits and pieces.
I’m trying to get into reading books more regularly but it’s long and I’m lazy.
Tom, Nosebonk in London: @callumpainter
Are you working on any new videos or music projects?
I just finished a project called angelnumber555 with my friend Tom Grace Whittaker who makes a lot of digital art.
The tracks are on my Soundcloud
Other than that I’m talking to a few friends about collaborating on some music which hopefully will go somewhere interesting.
As far as videos go I guess the main one right now is the world peace promo, but I’m also working on stuff with Zach for PY.
I might get to make some music for those but I’m not sure at the moment. Albert says he’s making a video so I’m trying to get clips for that.
I’ve filmed a bunch with Vlad and Liam for a Norwich scene video. Danny Jackson is putting out a new thing which I should have clips in too. Lots of things on the boil at the moment really.
Any upcoming releases you would like to mention?
Rosahoez album three coming this year, it’s gunna be called ‘I forgive you for party rocking’.
I’ve also done some bits with 96Back which should come out sometime this year, not sure how much I can tell you about that though as there’s actually labels and shit involved and I don’t wanna piss anyone off.
Who is your favourite skate photographer and why?
Callum Painter. That’s the homie.
Reece Leung, close second. Also the homie.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in your city?
Norwich Law Courts.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in the world?
In Valencia, that really famous black marble bank spot. I think that’s probably the best street spot I’ve ever skated.
Do you have a favourite skate photo of all-time?
Maybe the Jordan Thackeray Back Noseblunt at Dean Lane in Bristol that was on the cover of Free Skate Mag issue 26. So fucked.
What’s your favourite skate video ever and why?
Probably Emerica Stay Gold.
I’ve seen it so many times. It was that video I saw at the age when everything was still new and crazy and I was so sure that’s what skating was supposed to be like. Funny to think how different things are now. It’s a good one to watch before bed, I find it very comforting.
Who’s your favourite skater and why?
Jamal Smith. He’s really good.
Also, Kyota Umeki
Who has your favourite style on a board and why?
Do you have a favourite piece of music?
My favourite piece of music is Break4love by Hype Williams.
There are very few songs that don’t age. When I listen to that song it feels like the first time I heard it, even though it’s been years since then.
I don’t know why that is. I’ve been a big Dean Blunt fan for ages and the Hype Williams stuff is amazing.
Do you have any upcoming releases or updates?
Nothing set in stone.
What do you think about The No Comply Network?
Yeah it’s great; we need more people doing this kind of thing.
Any last words Tom?