From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013
Sidewake issue 03 : Jan/Feb 1995
Cover photo: Wig
So Allan Cuthbertson, why ‘Harry’?
-Hah! I used to skate a mini ramp in Newcastle with a guy whose name I can’t remember and he didn’t know my name so he used to call me ‘Harry’. Because I was so sketchy at skating ramp the nickname used to be ‘Sketchy Harry’ and the last bit stuck. Everything to disaster even if I didn’t mean to.
This cover is from 1995 – 18 f*cking years ago – what do you remember about shooting that photo with Wig, if anything?
-I can’t remember f*ck all mate, all I do know is that I was always shit at indy grabs, (laughing)!
If I’m right, at this point in your life, you were couch-surfing in Nottingham with no job, no benefits and no clear plan other than skating and devouring information – what was your worldview like back then?
-Free floating, taking each day as it comes; I’m pretty much back there at the moment again just with bills to pay on top of it all…
You were around at the beginning of Sidewalk and over the years have lived with most of the main people involved in the mag in one capacity or other – what should people reading this know about the dark backroom secrets of this publication?
-Hah! I don’t think most of what I would say could be printed but I do know it was done for the pure love of skateboarding and having a good f*cking laugh whilst at it. I wouldn’t trade anything for the experiences I’ve had with you lot.
You used to write a fair bit for System and Horse/Wig era RAD, along with bits and pieces for Sidewalk and your overall perception of the world at that point was heavy on the UFO, conspiracy angle – bearing in mind that this was pre-internet – what’s your take on the shadow world, little green men and MK Ultra these days?
-I still follow a lot of it but due to the sheer amount of info on the net now it’s a bit insane how much bullshit there is. Most of the shit that has happened over the past few years was written about ages ago though: economic crashes, funding the overthrow of dictators etc. I just wish oil would run out quicker to speed everything up a bit.
Weirdly this issue with your cover was also the first time Frank Stephens, (who you went on to found Unabomber with along with the rest of the OGs), had had any proper coverage anywhere – tell us a bit about how Unabomber came together initially?
-Yeah Horse made me hold the actual mag for the photo to go with this the other day and I didn’t realise that it was the mag with the first Frank stuff. Unabomber came about because at the time there was nothing like it anywhere, we were sick of the “flow” deals from the US companies and the lack of recognition that some UK riders were getting at the time, so we decided to have a go at sorting it out.
Back in the mid-90’s, skate competitions were still super important because there was no Internet – what was your take on park skating and skating in contests? You were quite against park skating but used to still get involved when it was required…(you came 10th at the British Champs one year against Yanks with zero sponsors from what I remember).
And stoned out of my mind thanks to Steve Olson, (laughing)! Yeah I hated the whole competition run thing, I wasn’t too consistent really and had a hard time with transitions, or maybe it was the fact that it was just you skating out there with all these eyes on you, f*ck knows. I did and still do hate the fact that you can’t really judge somebody’s run when it gets to a certain point. It all comes down to style and that’s totally subjective.
Silvester has an interview in the current mag in which he basically lays it out that none of you OG Bomber lot ever made any money from skateboarding but did get to travel all over the place, albeit existing on Super Noodles, hash and cheap booze. Which destinations have you travelled to through skateboarding and which were the weirdest/most memorable?
-Yeah we made f*ck all out of it but travel was the perk;the list of places is too long to print. The Dope tour around Europe (3500miles in 10 days) and the Dope trip to Japan were the best fun I had.
I’ve never seen anybody stress as hard as you used to when filming/ shooting photos – did you enjoy that anger? Was it cathartic to smash your board up and scream obscenities in public? Or are you glad those days are done with?
-I guess I did enjoy venting the anger but I think that’s what drove me to skate. Now I don’t have that rage as much and I guess that’s why I don’t really skate that much anymore.
You developed a pretty deep interest in computers, programming and the web over the years, which is amusing for somebody who didn’t even have a home for the majority of your teenage/adult life. What do you find fascinating about that technology and what do you know that other people would benefit from knowing?
-After I broke my arm I couldn’t skate and was spending a lot of time in the Dope offices playing online games, then the idea for the ‘Spots’ book came about. The Rev showed me how to use Photoshop and other things and I became addicted. The first time I ever really used a computer was designing and laying up the Spots book. Talk about in at the deep end! From there I just kept on learning and the broken arm incident made me realise I couldn’t rely on skating forever. I do know that people should not be afraid of computers, they are pretty hard to break but they should really get on top of their online presence and security. There are a lot of nasty things online and people seem oblivious to it.
I saw somebody selling a copy of your Spots book on eBay the other week for something ridiculous like £200. That was basically a precursor to the online spot guides that exist today, except you did it totally solo on a budget of exactly f*ck all. Can you tell us something about that whole process? How many are there in existence?
-£200! F*cks sake really, did it sell? I have no idea how many are around now but I do know that I ended up getting the last of them pulped, proper Partridge moment, (laughs)!
I only recently got a copy of my own thanks to Derby Daz. I don’t have anything from my past in skateboarding, not even any boards. So I was recovering from a badly dislocated ankle and the guys at Dope said why not make a book on skate spots, sort of like the “where guide” used to be in R.A.D, as this was before everybody got totally anal about keeping spots secret. They said they would give me a bit of money to go off and do it and we could take the money out of any profits the book made. I had no idea about being self-employed or any of that shit so I started off doing it. Yashica T5, a bag full of B&W film and 2 years later it was born. I owe a lot to Kev, Justin and Will from Dope clothing. They taught me a hell of a lot and it’s a shame that Dope clothing didn’t work out because they were amazing people.
So some time after hurting yourself badly and quitting being a ‘pro skater’ you ended up getting married, moving to California and being the Flip TM for a few years – what do you remember either fondly or not so fondly about that whole experience? You must’ve witnessed some insane skating first hand at the very least…
-Ah it was fun but the driving and the hours were a bit insane. I miss the sun and easy living but I also missed going to the pub with your mates and having a laugh. That level of skateboarding will scar you for life though!
You moved back over to the UK and eventually bought a house, started working various non-skate related jobs etc – was that a culture shock after being immersed in the convenience and gluttony of California for so long?
-I’m not on the mortgage yet mate! There was no culture shock really; the only bad thing was trying to find a job…
So what have you been up to since returning? You done a variety of fairly strange jobs: Donny Osmond was cool or some shit?
-Well I worked as a bicycle mechanic for 18 months and ended up running a cycle hire scheme for 3 universities (600 bikes) in the east Midlands.
That went tits up and I got laid off only to find that I wasn’t entitled to ANY benefits due to me living in America. So I went back on the self-employed route after not getting anywhere applying for jobs. It’s slowly picking up with web design and I have also been doing a lot of roadie work at stadiums and theatres. It’s proper graft, shit money and even shitter hours but the guys you work with are a good laugh. Usually the stars are proper twats but after being a stagehand during the show for Donny and Marie Osmond he came over and actually said cheers. Most of them just run off and hide; sometimes you aren’t even allowed to be seen by the c**ts!
I remember going skating with you in 2011 and you saying that it was the first time you’d skated in 18 months but after 30 minutes of wobbling you were back to your old high speed self – what do you enjoy about skateboarding these days and how often/where/with whom do you do it?
-Yeah I had a dabble last summer as well. It all sort of came back but my arm is still totally f*cked. Sometimes I can ollie up a kerb and it feels like my shoulder is going to pop out and get a trapped nerve, but other times it’s fine. I can’t really skate much due to the roadie work, if I f*ck my wrist or something then I can’t earn any money. I usually go skating with Horsley. Long Eaton was a good spot for a while as you can cruise around it to warm up but I still prefer a decent street spot. It feels like I’m made out of glass these days so any slam ruins me for weeks.
What was the first photo you ever had in a skate mag and what’s been your favourite photo of yourself that been run (anywhere) over the years?
-My first photo was doing a nose grind down a street course handrail in SK8 action I think. My favourite photo was one shot by Wig on the old minging Meanwhile 1 quarter, doing an indy of all things (laughs)!
What would be your favourite Sidewalk cover from over the years?
-I can’t really say but the ones that have stuck in my mind are the Paul Shier ice block and the Ben Leyden on the spine B&W silhouette that Leo shot.
Your body has taken a pretty intense beating over the years – which was the worst slam you ever had?
-Shattering both bones in my left forearm…
You once described skateboarding as “a dirty street job” – do you think that’s still true – knowing what you know about the US side of things?
-Yeah it’s still dirty and even dirtier over there. Also I was surprised at how illegal it actually is to skate out there and as sunny as it may be, underneath it’s f*cking filthy.
Are you able to imagine a life without skateboarding?
-Yeah I don’t miss it at all. I’ll have the occasional dream about it but I don’t wake up thinking, “I need to skate today”. If the web work picks up then I might get to ride again.
Disregarding the fact that amateur tinfoil enthusiasts have discredited a lot of conspiracy-thinking by being so happy to latch onto ‘truth’ without worrying about ‘evidence’: can you give us 5 conspiracy truths that you still believe/know are true?
-Hmmm I still hate the “Conspiracy” label but I suppose these are true/have happened and should be looked at if you are a bit of a sceptic: MKULTRA, Operation Northwoods, Operation Paperclip, Gulf of Tonkin, CIA Drug Smuggling. The people running shit are dark!
Were you secretly pissed off when the world didn’t end in December 2012?
-Nah it wasn’t supposed to be the end anyway.
Check out the “KRS One- 4th Quarter – free throws” tune http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=IXe3b-7itnM