With 10 GCSE’s, four A-levels, a degree and four Microsoft professional qualifications you’d be sorely mistaken to think that this young – Oh, wait – Chris Oliver. Right…
I don’t actually think there is too much need for an intro to sketch out what kind of a person Chris is. This interview tries to cover a fair bit of history, along with the other usual stuff. I guess we took this route because as soon as we started to ask around, we realised that for someone who shouldn’t be on the fringes of the public eye, he was. People don’t seem to know too much about his recent history and only have the vaguest awareness of the pre-injury Chris Oliver from the first time he went around the block as the obnoxious, hyper-active wonder kid he started out as.
I guess that the best way to start this would be to say that there is a whole lot more to Chris Oliver than the immediate impression that you get in the first five minutes of meeting him. Give him a while to warm up and there’s a clued up character in there, and someone who really seems to look out for his friends.
Mucky hands, clean flips and a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, repeatedly: read on and find out more.
Who are you?
A ginger gypsy from the sticks to da city.
It’s been a long time since your old Haunts. How long?
Well I had curtains back then so, yeah…been a while, I feel my haunts was kind of early anyway…
Yeah, those were the days when you’d shoot an interview over a weekend...
Yeah I rushed it in a weekend in a Dorset primary school. Man, standards have risen.
It was good for the time. Times change, though...and some people don’t get the chance to shoot another interview. Did this occur to you when you were shooting this interview? You haven’t done a full interview for any magazine since that Haunts have you?
Nah I’ve just done bits and bobs here and there from tours and stuff like that, but then again I’ve been traveling a lot in those times a not in one place for too long, and ever since the Alai thing started is was non stop - not to mention contests and stuff.
Yeah, I know you’ve been busy with shooting photos on trips. In fact, I think I’ve seen more photos of you abroad than in your own area...
I think it’s due to living in the cabbage patch for too long and only leaving for trips and tours. I’m surprised I ever got out of Bridport.
Have any of the other people you used to skate with left Bridport or are they just stuck in the nine to five?
Yeah, firmly stuck in the ‘port. I see them now and then and they seem happy, they just look a lot older and have started receding...
Something I want to get out of the way - as it has kind of become another little skate myth - what was the deal with Flip?
Lot’s of people seem to have heard the same story
What went on?
Well there was never any deal of any kind, I think Jeremy Fox saw my bus shelter sequence back in the day and was asking after me based on that, but he thought I was about 14 when I was actually coming on for 17 and puberty. I was quite a late developer, (laughs); I looked 14 until I was about 20….
It has been said.
I wouldn’t want that weight on my shoulders anyway; I’d probably be dead by now.
So, there you were - Heavy hitters sniffing round, an interview shot and a few proper sponsors. I even remember someone saying that you were like the ‘Frontside Bastien’ back at a Radlands comp...It sounds like stuff was happening. Without sounding like a dick – what happened?
Well I had a very low-key couple of years after my horrific knee snap in Australia: I thought that was the end. F**king caveman boardslides now haunt me on a daily basis. I paid £3000 for a private ACL reconstruction straight away, waited a year for repair, started skating again and it felt like I’d never been on a board in me life, horrible, then a month later I severed my ligament completely again, went to the doc and he said to just see how it goes for a while and let the surrounding muscles build up, and still to this day there’s no ligament but it’s been sort of fine. It’s only when I jump off big shit that it tweaks now and then so I just chill on less strenuous stuff. I just never wanna go through that hideous healing stretch again. F**k that.
But you still seem to be skating pretty big rails...
Yeah. I love my mellow rails, the stuff you can sort of play with, but f**k the twenty stair vertical rails that pile-drive you into the ground, you know you’re gonna die!
Does the thought of the knee sit in the back of your mind all the time, whatever you are skating, though? I’ve seen you pull it out dropping off a bench.
Not so much anymore, I guess the muscles have built up enough to take the strain, I can move it out two inches without touching it though, but I just see it as a party trick.
How old were you when you did it?
Well I’m 25 now so I was around 19-20 when it happened the first time.
Two years out for a skater who is coming up isn’t exactly the best thing. 19-21 is a pretty critical age on deciding which way you are going.
Like I said, I could’ve been stuck with the cabbage patch kids for life
Yeah, I guess you still got out of Dorset, but what about taking it further? Do you reckon you kind of missed your chance? By this I mean heading to the US or being one of the bigger Euro names.
Well, I wasn’t aiming high and wasn’t really bothered about U.S. to be honest, I was content just chilling in the UK with friends you know, but getting onto Vans and Billabong pushed me to travel to Europe and stuff which I was all for. Plus I’m banned from U.S. for matters I’d rather not discuss. Next question…
If I am correct, the first trip away after your knee was sorted resulted in a cover on this mag, right?
Oh yeah, the Italy trip, that was sick. Yeah, that rail tickled me taste buds man. It’s a rare breed rail. No spots anywhere and this perfect rail with slight twist on the sea front surrounded by ancient buildings and bewildered tourists/fishermen, (laughs). It needed some TLC, so I gave it some.
So, I guess what I am saying is that for a guy who had been away for two years - to return and bang out a cover photo on a 22 stair handrail isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill. Do you ever think what ‘could have been’?
Nah, what’s the point? Live for the day and all that.
That Italy trip was pretty much the last thing Clown did, right. It seemed like people were into it and the distribution was finally sorted and then it ended. What happened?
I’d love to know, I left before it went tits up. Jeff (Boardman – Owner) was a sound guy as was his partner, (not in a gay way) Vikas. I feel they overshot their budgets and stuff and were taking a lot of jobs on the side and not keeping both eyes on Clown.
Benny Fairfax left just before, too, right? He was one of your little crew from the cabbage patch, eh?
Yeah. AirTax and me go back ten years. I first met him in Bournemouth, back in the bad times of Borstal. So, yeah - I was a naughty little f**ker, booted out of school at fourteen in Bridport for soaking the head master with a fire extinguisher plus other various acts which are irrelevant to anything...He expelled me. The big wetty. It basically resulted in me having to attend naughty boys school forty miles away and only coming home on weekends. It just so happened that there was a skate park within spittin’ distance of the school, which is where I met Benny, Joey crack and the New Milton massive.
So was that where you first started to skate or was it just where you first started to get really into skating?
Yeah. I’d say so, I’d rolled around before that but that was where I ‘got into it’ properly. It was in Bournemouth where I first got hooked up with The Consortium too, which gave me the pulse.
That was with Atomic skateboards. I forgot about that. You were the tiny kid at G97 on the same team as Rodney Clarke, skating with Creager and the likes...only half their height. - Does that make you the OG Sheckler or do you see yourself more as a Nyjah Huston?
(Laughs), neither mate, that was a weird buzz though. It was like being on a moped in the middle of the motorway.
So, back to more recent events - You moved from Clown to Alai and banged out a Puzzle video part in the months following the Italy trip we spoke about. What was going on around that time?
The Alai thing was a blessing - Cheers Powley - Dan Wileman and me got assigned to Alai, which meant endless trips to Spain. That whole era was wicked man. We met a lot of good people and skated some amazing spots.
Did you kind of end up getting the views of a local Spanish guy, regarding foreigners coming to all their spots? Like the inside knowledge?
I wouldn’t say the views, but I know what you mean, like in Barca where foreigners come and kill spots and go again without mingling in. Learning the basics of the language is a must I think, You know, you get English families moving to Malaga for ten years and still it’s “Hello” and copies of ‘The Sun’, everyday. Rubbish.
So, you weren’t looking for the Red Lion pub when you first arrived there?
Nah. The Oak, come on Kev. Ha. I wanna live how they wanna live; getting two days out of one.
Oh, okay – Siestas: you’re feeling them, eh?
Yeah man. It’s just logical, that way you’re never too tired or too wired
So you recently switched up board sponsors again, right?
Yeah man, got a random offer for a place with Blind Europe, which was quite a shock, I was just sort of settling in to Alai. All the guys were wicked but Blind Europe are going places. Plus, the deal financially suited my needs and life ain’t cheap as you know, and I’ve got a phobia of any sort of 9-5 deal.
It seems to be a common phobia.So, what else do you do with your life, which makes you more than some pro skater?
Well, mainly being a hermit living my production pipe dream in me bedroom making beats till 6am and wondering why I’m constantly in a cloud, I’ve got a serious insomnia man, I’m on some Tyler Durden shit. Recently I’ve been handed down a sick touring car from my family so I’m hotfooting everywhere now, I’m ‘loving it’ more than McDonald’s workers ever will.
So the beats are a pipe dream then? Do you have any plans to take them out of the bedroom?
Well, I handed some stuff out to friends and the MySpace trap, and people seem to like them, I’ve had various rappers ask for my beats in London. They just need studio polishing really. It’s something that I’ve always dabbled with ever since the Meatrack started in Bridport, which was a make believe hip-hop crew, which consisted on Sir Loin, Rumpsteak, Miss Steak, and moi, Streaky Bacon. Nuff love for the Meatrack...
What’s with the future, then? Where do you see yourself in a decade?
Looking like a lobster, carving some bowl residing in the Gold Coast somewhere would be a good vision
How do you deal with the heat out there being a Ginger?
I got no heat at all. IT’S STRAWBERRY BLONDE! We were the ‘Golden Children’ back in Caesar’s day. Now were just c**ts…(laughing).
So this isn’t just a history of Chris Oliver, its about to turn into a retrospective of gingers through the ages. Let’s not go down that route, eh?
Let’s talk mini ramp. Rather go skate one.
People in the UK seem to have a love - pre ‘Cheese and Crackers’ for mental mini ramp skating. Aside from the obvious weather issues, what kept you coming back to the ramp?
I’ve always loved mini man. I grew up on it and I reckon it’s got to be up with one of the most fun things any man could do. You just lose yourself in the tranny for hours, learning the same amount in thirty minutes as you would do in a month on street…Love it.
You seem to have settled back into the UK scene recently. You were at War of the Roses and the Crossfire Xmas Jam. You seemed to not be able to put your board down.
I’ve always been like that, not been able to put it down I mean, but since living in London it’s been fun skating on the motherland a lot more.
What do you make of those events? Compared to say, some more ‘pro’ attitude ones?
A lot more down to earth and fun to skate with everyone you know. I don’t get people who say comps are shit and artificial. Are they afraid of getting shown up or something?
Ha ha. Is that a sly dig at video skaters?
They know who they are.
A lot of people are bringing up the comp/demo situation as a good example of how to show up the people who shouldn’t be pro, etc. Is this something you are feeling?
Didn’t think of it like that. Nah, I just think there are a lot of different types of skaters who all like different styles of skating. It does tend to attract some odd balls from every angle, so defining a pro is a hard one.
Yeah, I can agree with that.
So, what makes a ‘pro’ for you?
Someone who looks comfortable and happy on board and can tear on any terrain effortlessly with plenty of creativity.
It’s funny - For a guy who confesses that he can’t put down a board, you always seem to switch off as soon as conversation heads towards skateboarding - or at least towards anything other than going skating right now.
Yeah I’ve never really had a high concern for who rides for who and who’s doing what, I just go skating in my own little bubble.
Do you reckon that has helped you along the way then?
Yeah in some ways, plus there’s a lot to remember if you’re into politics of skating, and I’ve got about as much memory as a ZX81.
Ha - Let’s get on to some random questions.
A solo session at your dream spot or a session with mates at an average spot?
Slades Farm with Wayne Kelly and Ginger James
Was Slades Farm where you found your knack for getting covered in dirt after skating for less than three seconds?
Yeah I never did really care about how clean I was. I was having too much fun, skating’s a dirty sport.
I think people are just amazed at your uncanny ability for finding dirt in the cleanest of situations.
It finds me..
Which trick eludes you?
Switch Tre, I’d say…Bloody fashion tricks.
Can you talk to a stranger without mumbling?
- Well, when you’ve been faithful to Jah for a while you start speaking in tongues. Jah understands everything.
I’m guessing that skateboarding helped stop you becoming a serious retard, especially given the borstal stuff you mentioned?
I wouldn’t say serious retard, maybe, maybe some sort of pikey peasant. It could have been a very opposite episode if it weren’t for skating.
What is the most ‘ghetto’ situation you have found yourself in?
Probably the other day: you don’t want to know though, seriously...
Sound like it could be pretty gnarly - You are up as a witness in a murder right now, aren’t you?
Oh yeah, the Aussie incident. Well basically me, Josh Roullion, Will Stoyles and your good self were driving back from a skate when we saw a guy dressed as a Samurai swordsman. Anyway this guy started hacking up the lamppost for no reason, obviously a meth-head. We stopped on the side of the road to check it out, as you do. Soon after, the feds roll up, gun out the window pointed straight at him. The Shogun then decides to start hackin’ up the Police car, absolutely mental behavior, so obviously the cop shots him dead then and there, and as we were the only witnesses who bothered to stop to watch, we were all dragged in for witness statements. We didn’t hear back for over a year, and then a random email shows up from the Melbourne police just the other day saying that we were needed in for court in a few months in Melbourne. The actual words he used were amazing. “I’M AFRAID we’re gonna have to pay for you to come to Oz and stand up in court, sorry for any disruption.” Ha, in their summer, too. Yeah, right. Bummer…
Benny wants to ask for a good story of you pissing someone off in your youth?
All water under the bridge now, but this one time I was pissed up at a skate after party somewhere, when apparently I was obnoxious to Ian Passmore, a good mate of Craig Smedley’s, which was soon followed through with a fist clenched slap by Craig. I totally deserved it. That was a definite wake up call to realise I’m a rude bastard. It did me good in the long run I reckon; is it weird to say ‘thanks’ for a smack? (Laughing)…
The brutal honest truth always seems to slip out of your mouth before you can stop it.
I reckon that is us just about done. Who’ve you got to thank?
Well, in current times I’d say cheers to Pete King for putting me up. I know I’m a handful, but see it as a handful of joy, ha. Everyone at Blind, Billabong, Vans and Shiner. St. Albans massive, SB Army, Glastofarouts, Brissszoo Massive, all the Ozzy heroes, RollingLikeKingz, Bridport Brigade. Can’t forget Da Meatrack. Everyone who has helped me along the way. You know who you are...peace