Andy Evans has been making UK skateboard videos for a very long time now and with each release, his approach to taking the piss out of the overly serious skateboard universe, (whilst simultaneously foregrounding some of the country's most talented skaters), has evolved into something truly unique. Whether it's recreating inter-galactic D3's, resurrecting the careers of 80's German vert pros or repeatedly using a time travel trope to gently make fun of everything and everyone - nobody needs to be told they're watching one of his videos because quite frankly, there is nothing else like an Andy Evans video.
We caught up with Andy following the release of his latest video 'Just in Time' to discuss Claus Grabke, shape-shifting celebrities, hanging out with PLG and the fact that he has a BAFTA because we assumed that the results would be amusing. Hopefully, they are...
All hail Ev-Dog.
Just in Time is available for free through Power Distribution via your local skate store or at selected Vans outlets across the UK. Go pick up a copy - you won't regret it.
First of all Andrew, what the fuck is a BAFTA award winner doing wasting his time filming idiots pissing around on skateboards? Haven’t you got Melvyn Bragg footage to edit?
I'm done with Melvyn but I’ve got to re-cut Jerry Bruckheimer now…
Sorry, I appear to have dropped a load of names around here. Let me get a dustpan and brush. Cough cough ;)
Joking aside, you were actually editing Melvyn Bragg footage the other day when we spoke, weren’t you? Is this what you actually get up to on an average working day?
Well I do get to do skate stuff in a job capacity sometimes, although not so much recently. Fortunately I met a lady called Lucia through doing a job with Pete King, who seems happy to keep employing me to edit various arts and film-related video things, which have been on the increase in recent years and are keeping me in lattes. The skate stuff has always been an outlet for me really, rather than bread and butter work but it keeps me out of trouble, allows me to meet some great people and gives me an outlet for all my silly ideas so I don’t go too mad. My day-to-day ‘work’ can be anything – it’s surprisingly varied and, to answer the initial question, yes, I was editing footage of Melvyn when you called.
Weren’t you involved in making a documentary about a donkey recently? Was it easier to work with a donkey than a skateboarder?
That was a documentary that my friend Rhys filmed about his partner Hannah circumnavigating the Welsh coast with a donkey. Unfortunately, I only edited it and never met Chico the donkey but it was a really different thing to work on and it was great fun trying to bring out the relationship between Hannah and Chico the donkey who, pardon my French, was a bit of a dick, but ultimately it ended well. If you’re at all curious, it’s called "Seaside Donkey" and is available from all good farriers.
You’ve worked a couple of Cannes film festivals too - deep in the lizard’s nest, right? Did you see any celebs shape-shifting?
I have witnessed five thousand people chase Johnny Depp around the seafront in some kind of celeb worshipping frenzy but he didn’t show any scaly skin that I could see … maybe I need to watch all the footage in super slow mo to be sure though. The Cannes job also came through Lucia, who I mentioned earlier. It is a very weird world though, for sure. Cannes is very fabricated to cultivate the media frenzy and the allure that keeps the film star/celeb culture going really, under the guise of it being a film festival. There are some very nefarious goings-on and lots of people who pretend to be other people and are promoters of make-believe being worshipped far too much. It really is a machine to commodify star value in many ways but within that are some very interesting films and some surprisingly self-aware celebrities, who give me hope sometimes. It's very Yin and Yang. The celebrity worship does get a bit disillusioning but there is always some light amongst the gloom there and some very funny things do happen.
I mentioned your BAFTA earlier on, which I believe you got collectively for working on the Channel 5 TV show with Christian, etc. What memories do you have of those days? Do you look back on it fondly now?
Oh yes, I totally look back on those days fondly. I owe a lot to Christian Stevenson for this path. He got me the interview for that job and I think initially I had reservations but I also had those about the traditional skate media. Ironically, I got to have way more freedom doing the TV stuff than I ever would have had doing something similar within the skate media. It was essentially a show for young kids too, so just mucking about was the perfect tone. Fortunately, I was also working with one of skateboarding’s idiot geniuses Marc Churchill and we had an absolute blast making it. I count being involved with RAD as some of the best times of my life for sure.
Am I correct in remembering that some aspects of the UK skate industry were less than pleased about what you did with Channel 5 and RAD?
It was quite interesting really as, even though it was a silly kids TV show, it might get a few hundred thousand viewers in any given week, which was quite a platform back then. I do remember some quite prominent industry figures being pretty snide about it. It was a show targeted towards 6 to 10 year olds but apparently it wasn’t "keeping it real" enough for them. I think most of the team found it pretty pleasing that these people thought RAD was stupid and cheesy as this was exactly what it was meant to be so it was validating to a degree. My favorite happening was when one of the staff (Sarah) had rung up Faze 7 to get some roller blades as a competition prize only to be greeted with a monologue from Joe Burlo about how he ran things in UK skating, etc., etc. and what we were doing was discrediting it or something. She looked over at me and said, "just got this guy here ranting at me, saying we're ruining skating: I only wanted to see if he would give us some roller boots." It was quite illuminating and funny. I'm not sure if we got those roller blades in the end either. I think we probably gave away a Sector 9 longboard instead.
Could you ever see something like that being commissioned by a big TV channel again in 2017?
I totally think it could be, yes, but no one really has seemed to have the drive to do it recently in the UK.
Can we get a quick run-down of all the skate stuff you've made/been involved in over the years, please? Either 100% your own shit or stuff you've collab'd on/been brought in to edit, etc.?
100 percent my own stuff:
Skate videos: For Display Only, Every Half hour, Misunderstood, Venturing into the void, Good clean fun, Chillin, As if, Straight to video, Straight to DVD, This n That, Heel toe Magic and Just in Time.
Other skate-related things: Dr Tech’s Freestyle Clinic, The Tech files
Skate stuff for other people:
411 Geoff Rowley rookies, Dope Clothing ‘Solar Powered’, Dope Clothing ‘Life Support’, Day in the City 1, Vans ‘No Home Comforts’ tour video, Vans ‘Are we there yet?’ tour video, Vans ‘Off the Wall’, Mpora Spiked TV series, Death Skateboards ‘Ordinary Madness’ mini documentary, Simon Woodstock mini documentary.
TV: Rad 1999 to 2007, Genex 2001
This is the third video in a row that’s had a strong time-travel theme running through it – are you trying to tell us something? And if so, what?
Actually I think you will find that the theme in Heel Toe Magic was 'alternative realities' but I see what you’re getting at. I think I just find it incredibly amusing as a device as it enables way more scope to get into silly scenarios. It's fun to play with the "what ifs" of skateboarding in that way. I often think about how skateboard culture could have been so different if various potential scenarios had played out in reality - you could either be a legend or a footnote depending on how things went for you. I think my use of this theme might stem from the fact that I think skateboarding could have had a more amusing history generally if the fun police weren't always so heavy-handed. I picture the skate world differently to what's presented to me in various medias and have done for a while. I guess my videos are a way of bringing that perception to life. It's hard to know what's real in this potentially holographic universe anyway and sometimes I've found that the make believe of the themes I’ve used have actually created some ridiculous results in reality, which has been great fun to witness, particularly Grabke actually getting back on Santa Cruz after his reappearance in ‘This n That’.
If you actually pull off the time travel shit (maybe by borrowing Dyrdek’s OG time travel helmet) – which pro’s career from the past would you steal for yourself? Which pro’s career would you sabotage? And which never-made-it’s career would you augment so he became the next big thing?
That’s a very good question…
I would definitely have found it interesting to nick T Hawk’s career, as he got to gleam the cube.
Sabotage-wise - possibly Tony Alva from inventing the FS air - as it’s likely the catalyst to his ego being his amigo.
I would’ve probably stopped all the industry blackballing of Danny Gonzales so that he could become the legend that he should have been.
Lets cut straight to the quick – you make skate videos primarily to take the piss, right? What exactly are you taking the piss out of?
Well that is partially true of course and maybe more true in recent years. I guess I just have things I really like about skating and one of my favorite things particularly about the UK scene was its self-deprecating nature. When I started skating in the 80s, as a thing, skateboarding really didn’t take it self too seriously at all, which was a real draw for me. It knew it was an awesome activity but utterly stupid simultaneously and that gave it a great energy. As skating progressed and became a mardy teenager in the early 90s it decided it might actually be ‘cool’ and wasn’t so keen on sending itself up in quite the same way as it had throughout the 80s. Whilst that was a bit sad, it did provide a plethora of subjects to take the piss out of, which was great. Some of the things that go on within skating and its industry can be gloriously absurd; you feel like you’re watching Zoolander at times until you realise that, ‘oh my God, these guys are serious’. So whilst I do spend a lot of time taking the piss out of aspects of skateboarding culture’s lack of self-awareness, I also would be lost without that lack of self-awareness. Would The Muska be The Muska if he were completely aware of just what people loved/found funny about him being The Muska? The Muska has to exist in this unaware state or we are all lost.
Your videos have always had a similar vibe I think – you embrace the weirdo’s and film/foreground all kinds of skating – regardless of what’s hot at the moment – is that a fair estimation of your overall view on skateboarding would you say?
Well to me the weirdo’s are often the most interesting and diverse skaters; I feel more drawn to them than the "good/weird within acceptable parameters and have the right shade of sock" skaters, so yeah your estimation is true to a degree. I just think skateboarding would be an emptier place without people like Mike Wright, Darran Nolan, Jussi Korhonen, Joe Moore, Greg Nowik, Alex Hallford, etc. People like these add so much colour to skateboarding. My overall view of skating seems to be that it all complements each other. The first videos I saw had all types of skating in them, which I loved and I wanted to try them all immediately. I think that they can all coexist and complement each other beautifully. Is that too wistful of me?
Talking of being all-inclusive – how does filming vert differ from the standard experience of filming street/park stuff and what do you enjoy about it?
I think the thing I like most about filming vert is the sound. Particularly the sound of wheels spinning for ages when they are in the air. I think generally for the vert skaters as they are on the same terrain, it enables them to actually focus on the tricks a bit more, as opposed to struggling with other external factors. As far as filming it goes, it's not as different as you think really, you just might have to step back a bit more than you think to get all the action in.
You filmed a bunch of mega-ramp stuff with Jussi for Just in Time – what was that like? I’m guessing that scale-wise it’s pretty different from any other kind of skate-filming…
Yes there really was a difference in how you film that kind of skating to anything I’ve done previously. It's just so vast. I've never seen anything like it. It's truly jaw dropping to watch. I found that you would have to hike out right into the sticks to really do justice with a long shot. When someone is traveling 60 feet on a jump and 20 feet out of the quarter pipe then you really need to shoot it from as far away as possible to see just how gnarly it is. Filming anything with a fisheye is also unreal: the skaters go from a dot, to filling the lens, to a dot and they are in the air over 3 seconds – plus the whole time they’re in the air you can hear the wheels spinning and it sounds like a plane coming past you as it whizzes. I've wanted to go and see it in real life for ages and it’s just awesome actually. It was a total trip to film there.
What about in terms of it being frightening to watch? People could potentially die on those things right?
It's oddly not as frightening to watch as I thought it would be. If you’re experienced on the megas then you can get out of a lot of situations reasonably safely but, as a spectator, you’re always aware that it could go wrong very quickly and the consequences are obviously going to be a lot worse than your average slam. The chap driving the jeep up and down the hill said the worst thing he had seen was a chap losing it on the run up ramp and smashing into a tree off the side. That sounded particularly heavy at 40 mph
You mentioned something about the guy who’s employed to drive people from one end of Woodward’s mega ramp to the other in a little golf buggy – about how jaded he’d become and how the experience of doing that had made him hate humanity – can you elaborate?
I think just driving spoiled Americans up and down a hill for three years will do that to you. He had quit skating and had retreated into frenzied texting on his phone to try and escape his present reality of endlessly driving a jeep up and down a dirt slope. It was great to get him on a rant about it all. He also had the interesting low-down on why that mega ramp was even there. Initially the Woodward Mega was built specifically for Danny Way to do a double back flip on. Apparently he only skated it a handful of times and had been trying to learn the dubs backflip into the foam pit but the foam was so tightly packed that he got stuck in it and nearly suffocated once. After that he abandoned it as a stunt idea and the ramp stayed.
How did you get access to all the vert spots you went to whilst filming Just in Time: Hawk’s ramp, Woodward mega etc? Was that through Jussi’s contacts? Or is the vert scene just more closely knit than those of us outside of it assume?
It was really so much easier than I ever thought it would be. Jussi is a veteran of the vert scene so he does know everyone, but they are really inviting to outsiders. There are loads of amazing vert ramps within 30 minutes of each other and they all hang out with each other all the time. It’s a really close-knit scene being quite a niche within skating. It reminds me of what the overall skate scene was like in the dark ages of skating when there really weren't that many people doing it. It’s a very similar vibe and camaraderie. It's actually really awesome.
Filming PLG et al at Hawk’s ramp on a Weds night must be a bit of a trip, surely? Did you fan out?
Oh totally fanning out. It's like watching the X games live. These guys are stupidly consistent; it’s very impressive. When Andy Mac bailed a trick Jussi said in his Arnie voice, "See he is human". That was rather funny. PLG is a total dude by the way - very funny and generous. He even kindly did some moves for the video. I did chat a bit to Tony Hawk (also fan out moment) and from what he said, I got the impression that even over there in the States, vert doesn’t get as much media attention as you’d expect, so if you’re taking an interest in it then they are very appreciative of it.
Where else did you end up whilst you were over in States?
We were mainly in San Diego and at Woodward but we did bump into loads of skate celebs. It's really odd how many people live in close proximity in San Diego: you would look down from the vert ramp and see Josh Kalis warming up at the Black Box park (that and the Monster ramp are right by each other but by the footage you would never know that). At the local skate park we saw Jamie Thomas clutching a small dog and Figgy in handrail training mode. There was even a McGill and Stevie Cab sighting. No Tyrone Olson sighting though, which was a major disappointment
Yes now that was an amazing sight. Jussi has had a vert ramp at his parent’s summer house in Finland for ages but the most recent addition is a 17.5 ft quarter pipe with 25 ft roll in back set from the vert ramp. I think he has had some help making it but he did seem to be doing a lot of it himself. He was always doing something to it. I helped him one day and he dropped an 8 x 4 sheet of ply directly onto my shin, which was a very painful experience but was quite funny as it’s the ultimate shinner.
Funny to think that he’s not really a jobbing vert skater these days but yet is still driven to build something like that and progress pretty much entirely on his own in a forest in Finland…
Yes he hasn’t really made a living from skateboarding for 10 years but he's driven more than ever, it's really quite inspiring. Jussi made the ramp so he could still be used to riding big transition for his mega ramp trips but it’s also opened up a world of possibilities to him. It really was impressive watching him visualize all the tricks he had conceived when building it, and more that he hadn't even thought of until the ramp was up: all at a secret ramp in the Finnish countryside. It's really the stuff skate dreams are made of.
One minute you’re filming Jussi flying 20 feet into the air and then the next you’ll be filming Darran Nolan doing some crazy primo variation – is this how you see skateboarding in your head Andy? As in, both extremes are of equal cultural value?
I think I just see skating as a big mix of things with some awesome characters and some big ‘wow’ moments. I get totally fascinated by certain people and I love seeing things I haven't seen before: I’m equally amazed by a mega ramp stunt or a mind-boggling manual roll trick. I've had a go at most kinds of skating so I have a certain understanding of how hard these things are. I think I just love having my socks blown off by something and I don’t really discriminate: it's all awesome to me. A lot of people like to shut down the extremes or polarizing sides of skating and have quite a beige view of skating I find.
When I asked Darran about people’s unwillingness to accepting the weird and wonderful sides of skating he had a great analogy. Mediocre people will always like mediocre things because that attitude opens the door to it possibly being them in the limelight. As in, "I could be that guy doing that average street line" so they are "backing it" and then the weird or too hard skating is dismissed as "stinkin" or "jock shit." It’s quite a simple method of control really, but is less effective now because of the free flow of the Internet so that people can make their own minds up, which has been way more positive.
As we’ve mentioned him – Darran has some pretty insane tricks in Just in Time – what’s the hardest/most NBD-ish and which took the longest?
Definitely the kick flip manual to late varial heel out. That took 3 sessions but the other tricks in his bit surprisingly didn’t take as long as you might think. The nose Casper up to manual was the one I liked the most and that took about half an hour.
How hard did you have to try to convince him to pretend to be Julio De la Cruz? Not very, I’m assuming?
He accepted it as his destiny I think.
You mentioned to me on the phone that getting the skits filmed was the hardest part of making this video – why?
It just seemed to take ages to get everyone together. Partly because they have more going on these days - jobs, kids and life. Oddly the "legit chat" section took a whole year to organize to get 4 people in a room with 5 canceled shoots but that turned out to be one of the best bits. Another problem was that I was trying to do something a bit more elaborate than in previous videos so there were lots of different bits I hadn't done before and was having to learn a load of new After Effects stuff, which was very time consuming, not to mention sourcing and making all my bad props...I mean ‘state of the art’ props…
Tell us about doing the green screen stuff in a sea of spores – didn’t you set everything up in a flat that’s been unoccupied for 3 years or something?
Yes the weird flat behind me has been unoccupied for 3 years and is getting moldier by the month. My neighbor gave me the keys so I could check on it from time to time and when I asked him if I could fashion his front room into a green screen studio he said, "go for it" which was awesome of him. Bob Sanderson was a bit worried about being attacked by the spores either from that or the leather jacket that’s starred in the last 4 of my videos. I've really got my money’s worth out of that prop.
Do you ever worry that some of the people you take the piss out of might see the skits and get pissed off?
I do a bit, but the temptation to do the skits is too great and I put it to the back of my mind and think, “no they will find it complimentary surely"…
Claus Grabke saw his skit from ‘This n That’ didn’t he? Was he stoked?
The Grabke one was really weird as I thought I was on safe ground with him. Nobody in skating had seen or heard anything about him for over 15 years and then as soon as the video came out he was everywhere. His band was playing at events, he had an art show (of course he did), people were sending me photos of them with him, etc, etc. Pete King told him about the sketch but he said, "but this is impossible I have not filmed anything for years." Pete tried to explain that it was a sketch but he kept saying, "no it's not possible" almost like the caricature we did of him. You really couldn’t make it up. I know he saw it though and I do picture a stony, unimpressed German silence in response. Someone put it on YouTube and people were asking if it was the real Grabke and there was this reply:
"That’s not Claus and plus I would know because he's my cousin" Ron Grabke 6 years ago
I remember Ian Deacon phoning me from Germany where a load of people who knew Grabke wanted to see it. I'm really not sure what happened with this sketch but somehow we tapped into something, it really threw up some strange happenings. But you know what's even weirder? He actually got back on Santa Cruz. I reckon we totally made that happen, he probably should have cut us a cheque really, but I let it slide
How did you manage to get Tom Penny involved in Liam Teague’s section? Is TP ‘first try’ when it comes to acting, or did he need to re-do it a few times?
This was also random. Liam had asked if I could help organize Ian Deacon to get the Flip riders to sign some boards for the skatepark crowdfunder in Brighton. One evening Ian called me and said, “I’ve got Tom here, could you film him signing it for Liam?" and knowing Tom was Liam's favorite skater I thought it would be perfect. I showed him Liam’s slamming ability, which he was impressed with so he only took a few takes with that kind of visual inspiration. I think Liam's a bit bored of the "slam man" comments now, but it’s not every day that Tom Penny dubs you with a nickname, so hopefully on the sly he’s stoked.
The ‘slam man’ thing, although it’s obviously an exaggeration for the sake of comedy, has more than a kernel of truth to it. What was the worst one you saw him take whilst you were filming? Were you there when he had a fit at the double set?
I'd really like to say it was an exaggeration but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. Liam really does put himself on the line. His disregard for his own safety means sometimes he does really "pay to play". It’s impressive to see him push so far out of his comfort zone. He has hands-down skated some of the gnarliest stuff around Brighton. Stuff that a lot of big name sponsored skaters looked at and went, "he did what!?" He can just will himself to try anything it seems with a lot of success. Being willing to take a slam is a big part of that success but sometimes it can get a bit much: Chris Johnson still talks about "The switch flip" like it’s a Vietnam war story. I guess he and I have seen a lot of skate battles over the years but this was really something else. Having switch flipped the double set once, Chris then asked Liam if he could do one more. That’s when it all started to go wrong.
He proceeded to take 30 or more of the hardest slams I’ve ever seen a human take; it started to rain, pigeons were looking anxious, but Liam kept trying. Finally, Chris got a good enough photo and he stopped only to lose his ability to speak and started to shake rather strangely. It turns out Liam has a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy and the slam trauma had possibly set off his fit. Happily he calmed down eventually and went off home but it was a gnarly scary thing to watch.
Was there ever a point in the filming of Liam’s Just in Time part where you felt like you need to intervene to stop him dying?
Yes during the switch flip...it was intense.
Alex Hallford – space cadet or idiot savant?
Alex is both of those things simultaneously if that’s possible. The first time I went to film him (and the first time I’d ever met him) he had lost his wallet and was stranded in London with no money. He asked if I could possibly lend him some money when I came up to film him. I remember thinking, ‘now this could either be a disaster or the catalyst of something very fun’ and I’m glad I decided to go and meet him as he is a 100 percent dude, a genuine one-off and has a spontaneous skate ability that one could only dream of having. He really is so eclectic - you never knew what he was going to do from one moment to the next. It’s a magical skate quality.
How much of Mike Wright’s footage in Just in Time was first try?
He's another magician. In fact Mike must have studied at Hogwarts School of Skate because in a rough count nearly 60 percent of the tricks in his section were first go. I have a great memory of calling out tricks on a quarter pipe at The Works in Leeds and him doing every one I requested. It was bonkers, almost like playing a computer game with a real human character.
How long did you film with Mike for and how many of the tricks you filmed had you ever seen anyone else do?
I think probably for that section it was about 8 or 9 session’s worth of filming. I just wanted him to skate what he wanted to really, I find that’s when Mike really shines. There are tons of tricks he’s done that I hadn't seen in real life before: 540 flip fakie, frontside shuv to blunt late body varial out, bs nollie flip to tail 360 revert out…the list goes on. Mike still remains probably the most unbelievable skater I have ever filmed for so many different reasons. I might be OTT’ing the praise but he is truly a bit of skate magic.
You have to wonder don’t you? Well if you’re in it for the money then you have definitely chosen the wrong industry, particularly in the UK. I guess the answer is that it’s worth it for me for the experience of making it alone. It's such good fun and the interaction with the fantastic people I get to hang out with/watch skate when I do it is something that you really can’t commodify. This could get very wistful pretty quickly but I genuinely think it's simply about creating some very good times in this funny mixed up world. Making a silly skate video is just a great vessel to travel through skate life in and if people enjoy watching it and have a few laughs too then that’s a very pleasing thing to have contributed towards as I remember just how much I appreciated those things myself.
What kind of reaction have you had to Just in Time now that it’s out there in the ether?
It seems to have been pretty positive and I’ve noticed how different areas of the country will laugh at different things, which is interesting. People still seem a little confused that it's free but hopefully they will have fun seeking the DVD out at skate shops. It feels much better to give it away; it was always my least favourite part of making videos - the selling of them - hopefully some SOS shops will get a bit more custom off the back of it too, which was another underlying intention.
Whose videos do you enjoy watching in terms of contemporary skate videos? What was the last DVD/video you actually bought with money yourself?
I think the last DVD I bought was one of the Get Lesta ones. I really am impressed with the amount off effort Callun puts into those and the skating is of a really, really high standard and he focuses on loads of skaters that I like. As far as other things go, the Internet is the place you go to watch skate stuff now but it is very over-saturated. I do enjoy a crazy Cody Mac clip and I often find myself watching the comp coverage as live skating has always been something I’ve been most impressed by. The Internet means we have a wider window to things like that where I can watch Bucky Lasek impossible tail grab round the corner on the other side of the world from my sofa live. That’s pretty awesome.
Where do you see skate media headed in the future Andy? Maybe tapestry lines might not be out of the question after all now that video is so throwaway eh?
I mean that is a really good question. With so much access to making media there are definitely Yins and Yangs. I guess what you’re getting at is that the Internet has made it way more disposable and it’s much harder to produce anything iconic as it gets lost in a sea of HD montages. I think it might end up on the Hollywood big screens a bit more in the future as it charges into the mainstream. People do tend to get bored with things after a while though so I trust that skateboarding will find its own natural path somehow.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I think I've left the cooker on...