18 May 2015
30 April 2015
Life is short
Filled With stuff
Don't know what for I ain't had enough
I learned all I know by the age of nine
But I can better myself if I could only find
Some new kind of kick
Something I ain't had before
Some new kind of buzz
I want go hog mad I'm lookin and lookin and lookin for
Something I ain't had before
I'm lookin' and lookin' and lookin and lookin to find
Some new kind of kick
-New Kind of Kick- The Cramps
This photo reminds me of my friend Simon Graham. Simon was a couple of years older than me when I met him and he was total Fred Smith III devotee.
I met Simon’s dad first on the compound we lived in near A’ali on the island of Bahrain. Simon’s dad must have seen me skateboarding around and approached me one day to tell me he had a son who was about to move out with him and could I show him around because he’s had some problems. At the age of twelve or so, it made me feel important and I looked forward to the day of meeting another expat Brit lad my age, cruising by the house daily until the mysterious Simon would arrive.
When he arrived, he reluctantly came out to meet me, probably because his dad forced him. He was wearing tight black jeans wild spiky hair and a Cramps T shirt and full of Working Class Glaswegian attitude. He had very little to say to me and almost seemed irritated by me form the get go. What a let down. However, he soon picked up skateboarding. It was something I already knew how to do so I got some begrudging respect from him. Very quickly he developed an obsession with Fred Smith the III an obscure 1980s skateboarding pro (who was never really professional if I remember correctly). While the rest of us worshipped the glamorous Christian Hosoi, Simon was all about this crusty tattooed (way before tattoos were OK with square society) East Coast Alva boy. He’d only ride Fred Smith boards and soon his spiky hair became dreads like a true Alva boy. I was pretty fucking impressed and we soon became mates.
Simon introduced me to some amazing music, had a bogey collection named 'bob' that was the size of a baby's fist that he would keep in the drawer beside his bed. He also taught me how to sniff glue (not cool kids, not cool). I remember I was probably thirteen and Simon was fourteen, and he was around my house and casually lit a cigarette in front of my mum. No shits given. I remember asking her afterwards why that was OK with her and she said something to the effect of, “Well it looked like he knew what he was doing.” I was proud to be associated with him and enjoyed introducing him to people, which would often result in a classic snot-faced, “I’m Simon Graham what the fucks it to you?” Which cracked me up every time.
Often we'd stay around his house listening to bands I'd never hear of until two in the morning, drinking a crate of beer that his dad had bought for us. We were pretty tight for about one year and then one day, he said to me, "You won’t be seeing me much anymore Pete, as I am going to be pursuing pussy instead of skateboarding." I told him that sounded ridiculous but fine.
Sure enough, he was true to his word, the dread locks became flowing long hair, the Cramps became Guns and Roses and girls replaced skateboards. He lost me and I lost him. I haven’t heard from him since he left Bahrain. He did say that he could not wait to return to Scotland to try every drug he could get his hands on. Hopefully he made it safely through that pursuit. I often wonder how he turned out but really I don’t want to know. It simply wouldn’t sit well to find out he’s wasting away in an office in front of a glowing monitor like the rest of us. In fact I hope I never hear from the wanker ever again.
21 April 2015
More art and details here
A few years ago, my daughter Medwen started making me read books she liked. You know how it is when you are so moved by a book, film or piece of art you have to share it? Well, she kept placing 'Kensuke’s Kingdom' on my desk, next to the bed, "Have you read it yet? Have you read it yet?" I finally started to read it just to shut her up but now I'm thankful she made me. Ever seen a grown man cry reading kid's book? And it also got me off my arse and begin writing my own kid's book. Anyway, it sounds like they are turning it into a film and the concept art looks very worthy of the story.
18 April 2015
15 April 2015
I just stumbled on Part 1 of this documentary on the Meaningless of Modern Life. Its pretty right on. I had no idea Australian telly could be this superbly scathing. Watch it and feel like shit about yourself, late-capitalism and its connection to mental and emotional well-being, or lack thereof.
13 April 2015
Even though, I've lived outside of Swansea longer now than I actually lived there in the past, I still consider it home. People still look at me funny when I tell them Langland Bay, Mumbles was once one of the epicenters of Surf/ Skate culture in the UK. Ever since I was about seven years old all I wanted to do was surf and skate because I'd see all the older lads on their way to Langland as they went past my house on Overland Road. It was such a captivating and all-encompassing subculture. I'd spend many an hour staring into the window display of Dave Friar's Surf Shop, dreaming of my first skateboard before I eventually got it thirty-odd years ago.
Anyway, Jonno Atkinson who isn't actually from Swansea but moved there a few years ago, quickly saw the historical significance in the scene and began collecting archived zines, video footage and conducting interviews with some of the key players and put it all together in documentary format, entitled Over Ply Wood (a play on Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood,' which you should also read). It traces the trajectory from surfers making crude wooden quarter pipes down Langland in the 1960s to the legendary Morfa vert ramp to the late 90s street scene to the current scene centered around Exist Skatepark/ shop. Local scenes may not seem as much of a big deal in this day and age but pre-internet and during skateboarding's intermittent dark ages, they were everything. Needless to say, I'm stoked to have been apart of it. Without it, I'm not sure what the fuck I'd be doing with my spare time...
The above scans are from the accompanying zine which you can order, along with the DVD here:
OVER PLY WOOD.
11 April 2015
I'm still curating front rocks. These are three of my most recent favorites.
The first and perhaps my absolute favourite front rock photo of all time is of Richard Armijo taken in 1981 by CR Stecyk. The frontside rock and roll was supposedly only 'invented' by Eddie 'El Gato' Elguera a little while before this photo was taken. How El Gato even thought the front rock was possible is mind-boggling enough and then to see it pulled with such style by a youngster shortly thereafter is a perfect testimony to what was once skateboarding's dichotomy of accesiblity and exclusivity. You can have this, if you really wanted it. The story goes "Richard Armijo and his pals were kicked out of the skatepark for the last time..." What we have here is a an early version of the backyard half pipe, crew cuts, no frills fashion, two young lads deeply engaged with cutting edge moves, doing things proper for themselves. Its a little different these days. In many ways skateboarding is way more accessible to way more kids but at the same time the level is so ridiculously advanced, most kids on the street can't touch the levels of the pros. Its like being fifteen and seeing a stadium rock band with full pyrotechnics Vs a punk band in your older brother's friend's basement. Which one is going to inspire to start your own band?
Rebellion against stadium rock brings me to the second photo. Deerman of Darkwoods, probably taken sometime within the last year or two in Vancouver BC by Brian Shamanski. Deerman is a member of the secretive and elusive Barrier Kult. The Barrier Kult represents an intentional rebellion against energy drink sponsored stadium contests amongst other commercial raping of modern-day skateboarding. They seek purity through the assault of the 'violent transition' best exemplified by the 'Jersery Barrier.' Through Black Metal, nature worship, obscure horror films, balaclavas, 80s skate equipment and 80s inspired tricks they make their 'ritual.' Not unlike Norwegian Black Metal bands who fetishize their country's pre-Christian history and ancient Nordic traditions, in response to global monoculture. It is a pretentious as all hell but so perfect at the same time. Anyway, Deerman is taking a front rock to a classic Vancouver BC Jersey Barrier. It is a fantastically bleak, black and white photo of the anonymous 'plague-spreader,' with hints of a brighter future breaking through the dark Cascadian clouds in the background.
Finally, we have a recent photo of Tony Hawk in a backyard pool taken by Ray Zimmerman. There is no denying Hawk's contribution to skateboarding and his skill has to be respected by everyone who has ever stepped on a skateboard. However, I have never been a fan. I never liked his style (except his backside ollies which are simply heavenly) and never liked his absurd sponsor list and emphasis on the competitive aspect of skateboarding. In a sense, Tony is the personification of what the Barrier Kult pretend to rebel against (I bet in real-life they'd have a nice time, though). In saying that, when I saw this front rock photo, I quickly dismissed all of that and promptly stopped over-intelectualizing skateboarding. It is simply perfect. In the end satisfaction with the physical act should be enough. Forget the scenes and baggage and work on getting the deck fully lapped and checked and your back big toe ready to pivot you back in for re-entry. Its the best thing in the world.
31 March 2015
I was introduced to Godspeedyoublackemperor far too late, of course, in 2000. Y2K was anticlimactically over and done with but street politics were still charged with post-WTO energy. It was also an appropriate dark time in my life. Not just dark emotionally and mentally but also literally as I was working overnights shifts. 830pm until 9am. The only people I had much interaction with were other damaged souls working the night shift. I did not realize until a while afterwards how harmful the night shift can be on one's already fragile mental health.
I worked in a homeless shelter for young people and needless to say I was vicariously traumatized with their trauma and by being on the front-line of Portland's street culture, which was a very different beast to what it is today. Late one night one of my co-workers and I decided to start trading CDs. I soon realized our individual versions of 'punk' were very different but I always gave Dave's music a solid listen anyway. One night, he gave two Godspeedyoublackemperor discs. "Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada" and "F#A#∞."
And it was one of those moments where you find the perfect soundtrack for the time and for what you are going through. I can only say that about a handful of bands. Dave Od'd and died shortly after I returned his CDs to him. He had mentioned that he liked to see where the line was and how close he could get to crossing it. I did not really know how to respond to such a statement at the time. I don't really associate GSYBE with Dave or his death but undoubtedly they share a theme of dramatic attempts at personal liberation. Extreme highs and lows in the desire to navigate one's own way on one's own terms through this spectacle of everyday life, instead of playing the assigned roles. Beauty from the filth. A soundscape for late-capitalism malaise. Cracks in the facade. Knowing looks between us.
I had planned on writing a mini-treatise on GSYBE and the combination of personal and political in their music but fuck it, give their new album a listen. Let the world end again and again, until the day we don't need this band anymore...
'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress'