From Sidewalk 200 - May 2013
Sidewalk issue 07 - June 1996
Cover photo: Wig
So then Mark, this cover is from June 96 – what was going on at this point in your life?
- I would have been 17 and this will have been around the time Blueprint started I believe. I was living at my parents in Worksop but was never there. I was travelling around the UK all the time - London to stay with Magee and go on filming missions and spending a lot of time in Milton Keynes with Rob Selley and the locals there. I would stay at Rob’s and we would skate all day, everyday. The bus station and the train station mainly: just non-stop travelling, which was brilliant. If there was an opportunity to go somewhere I was on it. Mega Bus every time.
What do you remember about shooting this with Wig?
- Wig was the best to shoot with because he was and is a brilliant photographer. I always felt a little nervous when shooting with him because he was older and I knew that he knew what he was doing so I didn’t want to let him down. That day we were just out skating like regular and we headed to the Beige and there was a session. I remember doing a tre flip and the switch frontside flip. I don’t remember too much as it was like any other day around that time, just skating all day. At the time I had no idea it would be a cover either, it was just going out skating. I had a Nike tee on and some Etnies: cross branding right there.
What was your first ever published skate photo and what’s been your favourite photo of yourself printed over the years?
- The first one I think was from Valley School, which was the school I went to in Worksop. I think it was a 270 nollie heelflip over the hip but from the photo it could be anything. Alvin shot it and it’s not the best but again I didn’t care too much. It was just cool to be doing stuff and people wanting to shoot photos. It really pushed me.
A favourite photo is a tough one. I liked the frontside noseslide in Leeds, which was a Blueprint advert and shot by Oliver Barton. It kind of summed up the Blueprint feel in a way, the spot, the nice photo and the trick even though it wasn’t the hardest thing it looked ok. It’s also from a period where we were doing a lot of skating and filming in the North of England and the focus was away from London a little bit even though we had some guys living down there.
What’s your favourite Sidewalk cover from over the years and why?
- That’s so tough. There’s been a lot. I really like Boulala’s cover in the little fullpipe. I saw that today and thought it was sick. There’s been a lot and all have been good but I’ll say that one for now.
You’ve been sponsored for more than half your life and kind of became ‘known’ really early on in your skating life – do you ever wonder whether or not you might have gone onto to do something else if that hadn’t happened?
- I sometimes wonder that. It’s been a blessing and sometimes a burden but I wouldn’t change it. I kind of missed out on some things because I was never in one place too long so it can be a bit unsettling and a lot of my good friends were scattered around the country which is a weird one. I suppose I always wonder if I could have done something with football maybe as I was really into that. It’s impossible to know for sure but skating definitely has given me a lot of joy as well as some rough times so I try not to dwell on that thought because I am pretty content with where I am now. The first free things I ever got were some Etnies and a Big Spin board I think. I won a Radlands comp back in the day and Piggy came second and from then I was hooked up through Faze 7. I think I was 13 or 14. It was pretty weird but I just went with it.
People associate you with Sheffield but you’re actually from Worksop – home of the Shipman brothers – was it Carl and Lee who originally influenced you and do you think that growing up around them maybe pushed you to progress quicker than you would’ve done otherwise?
- Yeah Worksop is close to Sheffield but I actually used to go to Nottingham years before I started coming to Sheffield. Sheffield came after years of hitting up Nottingham every weekend. Carl and Lee were like legends. Carl just killed it, so stylish in every way. As a kid I looked up to them so much. If they were at B&Q skating it was a treat. It was like you knew you were in the presence of someone special. Some of the stuff Carl was doing was amazing. Lots and lots of good memories and I can remember so many tricks he did on certain things back then. It was weird as I have always been the youngest wherever and who ever I have been around, but it was good to be around the Worksop guys back then. They definitely pushed me and a lot of those guys were amazing skaters. Guys like Nunny, Hirst and Piggy were amazing and you could learn from them. Nunny was like Ron Knigge. For a small town it produced a lot of good skaters.
You’ve always been a strong advocate of sponsored skaters having a work ethic and as a result have put out probably more video parts than any other UK pro (aside from maybe Frank Stephens/ Joe Gavin) over the years: which parts do you still like and what particular memories do they evoke?
- A video part is fun to do, from the first trick you film to the last. If you ride for someone then it’s your way or giving back to that company I would say. It’s you putting a piece of yourself out there through your video part. I think it’s a big part of skateboarding because we all grew up skating and watching videos and it’s important to remember that those videos don’t just happen, it takes work and time and effort.
My favourite part would be the ‘Waiting for the World’ one. It was filmed in a very short space of time with a kneecap in two bits. The music was the best tune and I was happy with everything I filmed pretty much. That was a good period for Blueprint and it appealed to so many people all over and helped us get it out to other coun- tries as well. It was a good representation of British skating at the time. I don’t watch my own parts much but when I do they bring back so many memories, which might be why I don’t watch them very much. I have some very fond memories of Blueprint and the people involved before it got Americanised, which was one of the saddest days for me. Without those videos Blueprint would have had much less substance and each of us on the team would have had less exposure and in the end less opportunities.
As far as parts form other people go: Shipman’s Stereo parts were amazing, Rattray’s part in Waiting for the World was incredible, Brady in Lost and Found. Snowy’s part, I forget which video but he skated to the Stone Roses, was sick (Landscape ‘Portraits’ - Ed) - there’s been a lot of really good parts from people over here.
Given that you’ve been sponsored since 13, had pro boards, video parts, been an integral part of Blueprint and now Fabric, filmed videos yourself, shot interviews, lived in the USA etc etc: what’s your perspective on the current state of the UK scene/industry?
- I think it’s cool now. There are some good companies around. I try and not get too involved in what goes on anymore. I had my fair share of hating skateboarding because of industry stuff so I try to keep away, it’s full of contradictions and everyone’s got their opinion. I do think there are some amazing skaters out there doing some good stuff too. Time will tell how much longevity they have. A lot of dudes pop up and then put one part out and that’s kind of it. I think the scene is good though. I tell you what gets me, the Get Lesta dudes and how much they get about. They seem to do so much: fair play to them. As far as how strong the industry is, I don’t know. You hear stories of shops and brands struggling so I am not sure. I think people should get out and support their local stores, that’s really important but I think at the moment everyone is doing what they can to survive the tough period we’re having. People can hate on people who sell scooters for example but if it keeps the skate stores open then is that so bad? Turn those kids onto skateboarding then we all benefit in the long run. Everyone ploughing their money into certain shoe brands that have no background in skating is hardly supporting skater-owned brands either but people can turn a blind eye to this because it keeps stores open and that’s a good thing.
I am not anti any brand by the way, it’s just another example of the contradictions in skating. If people were that ‘core’ they would only be pushing Lakais and brands like that. I think when you try and see both sides it’s hard to slate anyone for trying to keep their store open.
What about globally? What stuff gets you hyped at this point in your life?
- I don’t watch much skating if I am honest. If I do it’s generally people I enjoyed watching as a kid: Mariano, Carroll, Howard and people like that. There’s too much skating out there so it’s impossible to keep up. It’s changed massively. Alien videos are always a treat.
I watched the new Blueprint clip and nearly cried. What a crock of shit, but I called it that that would happen and was shot down. How’s a guy who’s never been to many parts of the UK going to understand what a brand like Blueprint is about and why will he care enough to be honest and treat us with any kind of respect?
- That was frustrating to watch happen and that clip is possibly the worst thing to be put out by anyone. I am sure they’re sound people but that shit is scandalous on many levels.
You’re a traditionalist in a lot of ways Mark: so why does tradition- all skate culture still matter in an era where Facebook etc allows everyone to get their 15 minutes of fame with little to no effort?
- I guess kids have always put parts together but now it’s easy to have hundreds or thousands of people see it. It can seem like a kid is the next big thing because they got a 100 likes but I don’t think that’s the right way. Working with photographers and filmers and being somewhat professional about it all is pretty important I think. There’s more to it than just being good at skateboarding. It helps if you can work with photographers, which a lot of kids can’t because they don’t get it, they make a part, get some likes and then it’s like they’ve done it. I suppose it’s a quicker process these days so you have to take that into account. Personally I think you should be getting stuff in the mags monthly and working on video parts for the companies you represent rather than putting stuff out for the instant likes. That’s just me though and I know many people would say that I’m talking shit. There’s a lot to be said for putting the time into stuff. I think if you’re happy putting stuff out with your friends on those sites then cool, but if you’re riding for a brand you should be working towards putting your best stuff out for them and work- ing hard at it rather than just doing it for some kudos.
If you could go back in time and change one thing in your skate career – what would it be and why?
- I wouldn’t try a nollie 5.0 down the hubba at the Vans park in the hellish shopping mall in Orange. That’s how I split my kneecap and the doctor told me it was fine when it wasn’t. The NHS isn’t that bad that’s for sure. When a doctor is only interested in your insurance that’s when you have problems.
If I were to ask you who the most influential skateboarders have been to you in your life, who would you pick and why?
- Mariano, not that I really know him, but as a kid I watched his parts in awe and I still do now. His Mouse part is probably the best or one of the best of all time. I would also say Gino, Keenan Milton (R.I.P) and Dill before he turned super jazz. They just skated in a way that looked good and put thought into the tricks they did rather than tricks everyone else was doing and that stands out. I guess I would say the Blueprint dudes as well but in a different way. We all fed of each other.
You’ve been busy over the last couple of years – re-starting Story as a clothing brand, building bikes, organizing Fabric stuff, skate camps etc, etc – where does all this energy come from?
- I had many years of just having the act of skating as something I did. I always played football or tennis or cycled but skating was my only real responsibility. It does get boring when you have nothing day to day going on and if I am not travelling then I am in Sheffield and it’s not like you can film and shoot everyday and be productive. I also got cut from DVS so needed to either get a job or create something for myself within skating which I love and wanted to be involved with. So I decided to start Story as a small clothing brand and also the camp, which gives me plenty to do. With skating on top there’s always something that I need to be doing now. The bike thing is more of a hobby, which I like. It’s wheeling and dealing which I like as well. I enjoy working on bikes although I have a lot to learn with it. It’s not my priority but a nice hobby to have. I would say the camp takes a lot of my time up but I have plenty of time to skate as well so it’s not affected that.
In your opinion – what’s the best trick every done in Sheffield and why?
- Ben Grove’s ollie over the rail into the bank at the big roundabout: it’s ridiculous.
Can you imagine a life without skateboarding? If so, what are you going to be doing?
- Not right now I can’t, I’m here for a while yet I hope. I love it too much even if I hate it sometimes.
Anything else that you’d like to say?
- Just thank you to all the people I’ve had the pleasure meeting along the way. Thanks to DVS for the years of support they gave me it allowed me to travel and film and do what I need to do and for that I am grateful. WeSC for what they do for me, it’s appreciated massively. Fabric Skateboards for giving me the chance to be involved.
Skating starts out as being fun and should always be fun but it’s easy to forget that.
I think we all need reminding of that from time to time.