Jason Caines & The No Comply Network - Interview
Jason Caines and the No Comply Network have been putting together events, ('happenings' is probably more accurate) for some time now, along with promoting many of the UK skateboarding community's more creatively minded members via his numerous Social Media tentacles. Following the success of his recent Beyond Skateboarding event at Fastlands in Birmingham, we figured it made sense to sit the always-hyper man down for 5 minutes to find out a little more about The No Comply Network itself, its events arm under the moniker 'Beyond Skateboarding' and Jason's general perspective on all things skateboarding related.
Read on and get inspired to do something similar for yourselves.
So Jason, to start off with – can you give everyone a bit of the back-story behind the No Comply Network please? When did you first start with this idea and what was the inspiration behind setting it up the network?
I started The No Comply Network in September 2014 after working for Long Live Southbank as a writer/researcher and spokesman for the campaign. I worked as an editor on the Long Live Southbank book and it was my job to choose which artists, writers and creative material would be featured. Creating that book cemented my opinion that skaters take creativity to another level.
Skateboarders create fresh artwork that's different from nearly everything else because of our unique perspectives and attitudes to traditional and commercial art, music and film. Skaters like Fos, Nick Jensen, Wig Worland, Dan Magee, Mike Manzoori, Lev Tanju and Toby Shaull were SB locals who are also now recognised artists and creatives beyond skateboarding and I wanted to make something of that.
A month before we won the campaign, I went to Lyon with my mate Arthur Derrien and great people like Will Harmon, Jin Shimizu, Jake Harris, T-Bone, Daniel Clarke, Chris Jones, Luka Pinto, Tom Knox, Mark Suicu and others. It really stoked me out on skateboarding and the creativity of the people on board. I got home inspired by the trip, wrote out the general idea of No Comply and have worked on it ever since.
You are the driving force behind the idea but you have a bunch of different advocates who are part of the network too – how does that work and how do you work with these people?
I'm the curator of No Comply; it’s a window into the world of our members and their creative output that I capture by doing interviews, graphics and videos.
I also maintain the website which automatically updates itself with each Instagram or other social media post any No Comply member makes. Basically the intention was to create a platform to enable a clearer way to see recent work by creatives based in the skate community. In terms of who gets involved, it’s usually people who I know, have met or just respect as a creator.
"We celebrate the creative, wild and weird shit in skateboarding and beyond. If you got it, let's geddit!"
The only thing that members have to do is their own thing and to let me know what they want me to put up for them on No Comply, that's it. I have also worked with Si Peplow, Eloise Dorr and Sophia Bennett to create tees that you can get in shops in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
My mate Trav Wardle, who was the first person to join No Comply, helps out a lot with graphics and occasionally makes his own No Comply Video series called ‘Trav Tapes’. I think as things grow more No Comply members will start to produce and release stuff for No Comply. It is a great platform for amazing work and skaters that can't seem to find coverage anywhere else. We celebrate the creative, wild and weird shit in skateboarding and beyond. If you got it, let's geddit!
Is this a ‘job’ or is it more of a voluntary exercise to promote skateboarding that you do on the side of doing a regular paid job?
I work at an advertising agency in Soho right now, 5-days a week. I do No Comply before work and when I get back home. I've never been paid to do it and I don't do it for that. It's not a job because it is fun to me. I feel like I'm just doing what should be done and what I want to do, so I'm hyped.
How do the Beyond Skateboarding events sit with what you’re doing with No Comply Network? They’re connected, right?
Beyond Skateboarding is the events arm of No Comply Network that helps to promote the creative aspects of skateboarding, art, music and film by connecting them all together in one live experience.
For the first jam in Giffin Square, Deptford, which was a two-day event, we had an art exhibition at a skate shop called Curve that featured forty artists, illustrators and photographers over two locations. We had over eighty pieces of work and did five film screenings and a DJ night on the first day. Due to that hectic schedule, which somehow went flawlessly, the skate jam on Sunday felt like a relief and people busted out. We also did a skate school taught by Dave Chesson's Learn to Skateboard UK and had about 30-40 kids who showed up which was rad.
Nine months later I decided to do another one at Canada Water Plaza in London, which also went really well - everyone told me they had a good time and that I should do another event, so I did. It was natural to do Beyond Skateboarding in Birmingham where I grew up and have some fun with the people who were there from the start.
The main idea of Beyond Skateboarding is that everything in life is in some way ‘beyond skateboarding’. There's too much going on. The events provide an experience for people who are into skating, creativity or a part of No Comply to drop whatever they're doing and meet some new people, skate some rad shit, have fun sliding on a flatbar and not feel miserable on the daily grind.
How do you go about the logistics of them? They’re pretty much just ‘happenings’ right? There’s no interaction with local authorities of permission as such I’m assuming…more just a case of creating hype around a pre-existing spot and making something happen on a particular day?
I've done three events so far. I invite everyone online, do all the promotion, approach the sponsors, MC the jam and also skate in the events. In terms of the logistics it’s just emails and phone calls really. For the first jam we had seven different brands that sponsored the event whereas for the last one we had twenty, including Vans who were the official footwear sponsor and Pabst Blue Ribbon as our official drinks sponsor.
"We do events at plaza spaces as they have the space and versatility of spots and lines to make sure some creative shit happens"
For the first event in Giffin Square, I did work with the local authority group but it was not that hard. They were stoked as nobody ever did anything like that in the area and they said we could have one every Sunday that month if we wanted! Their enthusiasm was paramount to me, as I knew they were hyped that I was doing something different in the space then the norm.
We do events at plaza spaces because they are sick and also have the space and versatility of spots and lines to make sure some creative shit happens. We are not going to be doing a Beyond Skateboarding event at a skatepark or pre-fabricated place. It’s more about places that allow your imagination to run. If it’s iconic within skateboarding culture too - even fucking better.
You used to attend a lot of events when you were younger, lots of the skater-run, chaotic jams and whatnot back in the early 00’s that used to go on with Bob Sanderson and everyone – it seems as if your approach to doing this is influenced by some of those experiences as a kid – is there anything to that?
Yeah, as a young dude I used to skate at events like War of The Roses and StokeaPalooza with Bob Sanderson and they always felt like jams to me because he was so funny on the mic. I hated skating in comps. The idea of dropping in and doing a planned line on a skateboard does not really interest me so I wanted to make something that's just a free for all that kind of favours skaters who do mad, creative wildcard shit. As they say, consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. That's not what I'm about and that's not what skateboarding is all about to me.
What about the 3 Cities SOS city-takeover events – were they an influence?
I didn’t actually ever skate during the 3 cities SOS city takeover events. I started skating a few years later in 2001, so I missed out on those sessions. They were definitely an inspiration for this event and Beyond Skateboarding in general though. It was mad that guys like Damon Leventhal made it to our event and actually said how it reminded him of those old events back in the day. So stoked about that.
How do you balance ‘chaos’ with not blowing the spots out?
We didn’t see or hear from any police or have any complaints the whole day. We didn’t blast tunes overly loud and just kept it low-key the entire day - except when people landed sick shit of course and we all screamed our heads off. Let's face it; organised chaos is chill for us. Skaters know when and how to push the limits but we keep it civil. No Comply is all about doing your own thing but you've always got to stay positive and look out for others. That's how you truly build real connections.
"Organised chaos is chill for us. Skaters know when and how to push the limits but we keep it civil."
It’s funny really, there can be all these levels of red tape involved for any big brand trying to do something like this but really all you need is a megaphone, some product and hype, right?
Brands can't do what we do because their inbox would explode before they even wrote the subject line – ‘Skate Jam in Birmingham City Centre Under Motorway Flyover’ - and tried to send it to their bosses. Also, a lot of brands are not bothered about the more niche aspects of skateboarding and culture in general, or they are too indecisive/not properly informed about skateboarding and how most skaters want to interact with them. The product we received definitely helped but we all do this for fun and I think the footage and photos will prove that. I need a new megaphone though, I sounded like fucking Pingu on that thing.
Initially it seemed as if this Fastlands event was tied into a ‘safeguard the spot’ aspect too but there’s no likelihood of Fastlands being removed, or is there?
Fastlands is all good. It is the treasured WHSmiths 7 and 9 Rail that has been demolished and is currently being refurbished. A sad story for locals, as it was a classic Brum spot and an undercover one at that.
In 2005, Birmingham City Council promised Fastlands to the skate community with a view that it would one day become a skatepark. Plans were drawn up and dates were agreed but the council didn’t go through with it at last minute it due to some miscommunication, misunderstandings and their lack of general enthusiasm. As time ebbed on, it was dropped and that sucked.
"It’s proof that the spot is still used and loved and should be turned into a skate space for people in the city to use and enjoy"
However, by the looks of the jam, they need to dust off those plans and get back on it because Fastlands was filled with hundreds of people at our jam. It’s proof that the spot is still used and loved and should be turned into a skate space for people in the city to use and enjoy. I hope they do that as they said they would over ten years ago...
What was your stated aim in doing this particular event? Obviously you’re from Birmingham yourself and that spot will have a lot of associations to you personally because of that I guess…
We set up the skate jam to inspire skaters in Brum to come, have fun and see some great skating in the hope that other rad, creative shit would go down. It did, it really did. I hope it helps to fire up the skate scene and also pushes the city council to realize that they are missing a trick down at Fastlands, that it deserves proper curation and management for the city's skate community.
In terms of pre-planning – was there any? Or is it a case these days of creating hype online and then just turning up?
I just organically promoted Beyond Skateboarding Birmingham as best I could and when I could, as I could, using found footage and photography and my personal knowledge of the city; I hoped people would get it, and they did.
Who helped you to make it happen?
Aside from the sponsors and media partners and the people who came, there are a few people who deserve their shout outs.
"Over 250+ people came over the course of the day. We went to multiple legendary spots and everybody smashed it"
Ideal Birmingham stored all of the prizes for the jam and built all the hype we needed. A Third Foot Birmingham built the Cigarette Hippy Jump that looked amazing and inspired people to go off. My friend Ross McCabe laid down some fast-drying resin on the stairs to help people get down at the event. John Vile, Kris's older brother, helped me to keep things organised and locked down; he kills it on a board and can do kickflip front blunts on ledges whenever he wants so how was he ever going to go wrong?
From your perspective as the organizer behind it – what’s your take on it? It was a success surely? How many people were there? Did you get any negative feedback from any one?
The event was fucking next level. It was a sick celebration, I'm hyped as fuck. Over 250+ people came over the course of the day. We went to multiple legendary spots and everybody smashed it. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
What do you have planned next?
There's a lot on for No Comply at the moment but I just want to skate, do more events, add new No Comply members, promote more creatives in skating and continue trying to make more rad shit - that's it basically.