From Sidewalk 211 - April 2014
Photography by Reece Leung / Interview by Guy Jones & Ryan Gray
It was one-time Leeds local Robbie Tattershall who coined the nickname ‘Mad Mike’ for Mike Arnold, with the primary, and essentially only reason for this being that his skateboarding skills are ‘mad’. I fear this nickname may have given him a bad boy image as a man who would smash bottles then grind them into sand with his face perhaps, but soon after speaking to this philosophical young man you will learn that this is not the case.
I’m not sure if Mike knew that this was the rather anodyne reasoning behind his nickname and I hope he didn’t misconstrue it as accusing him of having some ‘wavey’ mental disorder, as that’s certainly not true. He does have an incredibly intriguing mind though: in fact, would it be unfair to compare him to a modern non-autistic Rodney Mullen? Working out tricks Physics style is pretty out there! Also has his hair ever changed length?
Mr. Arnold! Reintroduce yourself to the masses please – full name, age, present location, hometown and all that...
Hello again! Mike Arnold, living in Leeds (1 minute from Hyde Park). I’m from Bristol originally and I am moving back there after Uni.
Are you even taller now than you were when your First Light was released?
I think I stopped growing a few years ago... my younger brother is a fair few inches taller than me though. There’s always some confusion for people who don’t know our ages. I think he will forever be seen as the older one...
When your First Light dropped you were still board sponsor-less, and then shortly after you were riding for Pass Port. How did that whole deal come about?
Mike from Keen Distribution saw me skating at Hyde and decided to flow me some boards, which was greatly appreciated.
So when did you wind up making the switch from Pass Port to Skate Café? Am I right in thinking when you lived in Bristol as a youth you didn’t really skate much with those guys? If so, how did that offer come about whilst you were living a few hundred miles north of the West Country in glorious Leeds?
I actually lived a few miles out of Bristol whilst in secondary school and would skate outside my house or sometimes cycle to the closest park in Nailsea.
I had a good group of friends there. Over the last few years I have skated with everyone in Bristol a lot more, getting to know Rich and the crew. With Passport, I was really into everything they were doing over in Aus, but had no connection to them other than Phil Parker. Last year we would go out on duo missions filming each other on Phil’s VX. It worked well and was really enjoyable. Phil sees potential in obstacles others would normally overlook. The problem was I never really felt I was part of what Passport were doing and they couldn’t be based any further away from me, which was obviously a big part of the problem.
Rich messaged me out of the blue while I was in Bristol over Christmas asking if I would ride for Skate Café.
I’m really excited to be part of the team. Everyone seems really tight and I have always been into the graphics and edits. Thanks to Rich and Makepeace for making it happen!
So how has it been riding for Skate Café these last few months? Have you managed to get out with Rich and the crew much?
Rich and Makepeace put me on right before I left to go to back to Leeds after Christmas so we didn’t have the chance to film anything in Bristol since getting on the team. Rich made the journey up North not long ago to dodge the rain and get a few clips, which was surprisingly productive, despite the weather.
We had a day in Sheffield too and met up with Shaun (Currie), which was fun. Hopefully over Easter I will be able to juggle Uni work and filming whilst back in Bristol and get a chance to skate with the crew more.
Rich is always super on it with the filming – are you guys working towards a new video or anything?
I’m going to have some footage in the Skate Café video - ideally a full part if the stars align. Once University has finished I will be focusing most of my energy
on the video. Rich knows exactly what he’s doing behind a camera and makes DSLR footage look really good. He can put up with my habit of thinking aloud and talking nonsensical rubbish whilst trying to work out tricks as well.
You always seem to have a human with a camera in tow when you’re out on a street mission – are you filming for anything else as well as the Skate Café project, or is that the sole focus of your moving image attention right now?
When in Leeds I film with Josh Hallett who is also really good at what he does. I think he actually prefers filming to skating and is always up for making an edit, even if it is at a skatepark and ends up on Instagram...
He is putting together a short video for Welcome called ‘Welcome and the bros’, which is all street footage. Josh is definitely a skate nerd; he always knows what’s up in the skate world. I think GET LESTA has a big influence on him in one-way or another.
Tell us about your background then. Whereabouts did you spend your childhood, and what was the area like?
I grew up in Clifton and then moved to Flax Bourton about 6 miles away right before I started secondary school. Clifton is a really nice area, I wouldn’t mind moving back one day. I went to Hotwells Primary School five minutes walk away; the school with the Big Three, which was rinsed in ‘Bristol in Bloom’ 1&2.
I remember watching it get built whilst in school and claimed I would be the first person to ollie it. As soon as it was finished I threw my self down it for about an hour and eventually landed it. Saying it was a sketchy ollie would be a massive overstatement but still, NBD! (Laughing)...
Am I right in thinking your parents are artist types, or have I massively missed the mark there?
My parents are very musical. My dad is a drummer and my mum a saxophonist. They have both played in countless bands and have definitely influenced my love for certain genres. My mum also makes stained glass and jewelry, while my dad is constantly building something interesting for their garden: it’s good to have projects to work on.
Tell us a little about the projects you’ve undertaken this year at University. Are you still into still photography, or have you started branching out into film work now?
I am working on a documentary/art film at the moment for my final year show.
I am still massively into photography but have recently stepped into the world of video making, which I previously saw as a daunting creative process. There is usually a lot more work involved although it has always interested me.
I didn’t think I could begin producing videos/films (besides skate edits) before understanding the principles of photography. I am now discovering the depths of film like I did and am still doing with photography. The learning aspect is the most enjoyable part of a creative process for me.
So how close are you to finishing your course? Once that’s ended, what do you see yourself moving on to? Have you any full time work or anything in the pipeline?
I have 8 weeks until my work must be finished, we then move onto the curation of the degree show for the last month. I would like to pursue video/filmmaking but at this moment in time I don’t have any solid future plans.
Will you be staying in Leeds or relocating south in order to be closer to your Skate Café brethren?
I am moving back to Bristol, Leeds has been a really good three years and I have made a lot of good friends. Many of them are moving away from Leeds after Uni too and it wouldn’t be quite the same if I stayed on. I love Bristol too much to move away permanently!
What’s your take on London? Didn’t you only just recently venture to the capital for your first Big Smoke skate mission?
I spent a lot of time trying to work out if the fashionistas of London were dressing ironically or not. I couldn’t work it out, which in hindsight, took my mind off the fact that I was bleeding money, walking for miles despite claims of ‘the next (wet) spot being just up the road’ and not skating. Looking at amazing spots I’d seen in videos soaking wet was a little bit heartbreaking. Props to Chris and co for putting us up for a few days though, Il be back when the forecast is 0% chance of rain and the ground has been confirmed dry!
Tell us about your Leeds life outside of skating then – what do you get up to when you’re not skating or at Uni? Any unusual pastimes report?
Trawling through photography blogs, watching documentaries and films, sometimes obsessively. I have genuinely watched American Beauty over 50 times now, which you could say is an unusual way to pass the time. I go out on solo photography missions too. I went to Gdansk in Poland for a few days on my own to focus solely on photography. I felt like I needed some time away from Leeds and it did me good.
Shall we talk a little about your infamous free-running past? How quickly did you get into, and eventually over, parkour? And why are you still in two minds as to whether you should take ‘that video’ off YouTube or not?
I was part of the group that would do flips into the long-jump sand pit when I started secondary school. There were definitely mixed views in school about our group! Taking ‘that video’ off YouTube would be an attempt at hiding my past, which would show I am ashamed of it. (I refuse to reveal if I am or am not ashamed of it). If it makes people laugh then that’s a good thing: screw my rep.
When did you last dabble in a bit of the old urban gymnastics? Do you ever get tempted to just backflip off a wall or whatever when you’re hav- ing a casual stroll through town?
I thought it might be funny to incorporate some sort of urban gymnastics into the portrait for this interview... Back flipping off walls is unfortunately a rare occurrence these days.
So this Haunts has come together quite steadily over the ten months since your First Light – out of everything that you’ve shot, which one photo are you the most stoked on and why?
The sequence at Lloyds, partly because I learned to skate ledges there when I was growing up: I remember seeing someone ollie to disaster from second onto first and always wanted to learn it. I also love back tails so those three things combined make that sequence my favourite.
You’ve obviously spent a lot of time around the photography machine that is Reece ‘Iceman’ Leung whilst working on this interview – give us your favourite/most memorable Iceman tale that went down during the shooting of your Haunts please...
Despite being so cold, Reece got into a heated racial argument with
a Merrion Centre security guard not long ago. Seeing a glimmer of passion emerge on his otherwise stalwart Iceman face was pretty astounding – the security guard melted the glacier and released the demon within – serves the guy right for being a bloody racist...
Is your favourite skater actually Genesis Evans, or is Guy pulling my leg?
He is enjoyable to watch due to his complete disregard for the conventional way of skating and for filming lines that seem completely unplanned. He’s looks as if he’s improvising every line and pulls off overly sketchy landings. Small doses of what could be seen as an ‘anti street league movement’ in skateboarding is refreshing.
Throw some names out there – other than the mighty Genesis, which other skaters have been a massive influence on you over the years?
Dolan Stearns, Leo Valls, Youness Amrani, Ted DeGros (best varial flips), Suciu, Brian Delatorre, Jimmy Lannon to name a few. Korahn when I was growing up was a big influence, which he probably doesn’t know, (now he does). I used to religiously watch Bristol in Bloom 1 and Bristol Warriors...
Who’s your usual crew whilst out skating in Leeds then? Which locals do you enjoy skating with the most and why?
The Welcome army! Hyde locals! But really there are too many names to mention... Everyone! (Laughing)...
Do you know the true origin of your ‘Mad Mike’ nickname is actually because Robbie Tattershall said you were just mad on a skateboard? Have there been any Chinese whispers as to what people think the reason behind it is? What are the most absurd reasons for ‘Mad Mike’ you’ve heard?
I’m assuming that this question was from Guy (Jones): since he left Leeds the name has died out a little... I haven’t heard it in a while.
In your opinion, what are the waviest lines and/or trick combos that exist in skateboarding? Boardslide to hurricane must be pretty out there...
Anything alley-oop: preferably with a grind in there. Suciu’s Alley-oop back 180 fakie nose grind revert/over back noseblunt thing is pretty damn wavey.
So you’re a man known for his outward love of Leeds’ Hyde Park - what are the main appeal points of Hyde Park to you? You do skate the place like it’s going to be demolished the next day...
Like a lot of people, I didn’t have much to skate when I was younger. Relative to a single wooden grind box outside my house in Flax Bourton, Hyde is like heaven, (laughing). I understand some of the hate aimed towards the place due to its ‘vortex’ effect where it becomes almost impossible to leave. If I had Hyde on my doorstep when I was younger I would have been over the moon. I have always loved skating rails and ledges; Hyde has both of these things. It’s that simple. Moving away from Leeds will definitely push me to skate more street in the near future though.
What’s the maddest thing you’ve witnessed at Hyde? Both skate and none-skate answers please...
Fights. Non-skate AND skate-related fights have both been witnessed... that’s always mad to see.
You spent a stint in Australia prior to relocating full time to Leeds. What did you get up to there, and is it somewhere you’d like to return to?
I was there for 9 months and worked a lot of different jobs. I used to work in a factory full of people who could barely speak English for 12 hours a day. I then went on to cleaning swimming pools in the sun. $150 for an 8-hour shift and free lunch! That trip was full of extreme ups and downs that taught me a lot.
I saw some unbelievable things and met some outrageous characters. I still speak with friends I made while in Australia who are from all over the world. I will definitely travel more but it will be a while before I return to Aus: there are so many more places to see.
Your haircut never seems to increase or decrease in length.
Is this something you’ve ever noticed, or do you get your wig trimmed every day?
It rapidly transforms into a mullet if I don’t keep it under control, but I really only get it cut every two months or so...
You’re hooked up by Welcome Skatestore in Leeds: it must be pretty rad having the most laid back, nicest guy ever as your TM (Tom Brown). How did that come about?
It’s always a pleasure to see Tom in the shop and skate with him on his days off. Tom is one of the nicest guys ever as you rightly say, always trying
to help everyone out! I don’t want to jinx it, but I have never seen him angry or stressed, ever! He asked me while we were at Hyde if I would ride for Welcome - that was a good day! Shout out to Welcome and the team!
So looking further into 2014, what are your plans for the rest of the year then? Any big projects coming up, lifestyle switch ups or plans for world domination to report?
Moving back to Bristol and not skating College Green. Learn Suciu’s BS over noseblunt thing. I want to continue with my photography and filmmaking. Something in that field would be an ideal career for me.
And lastly, anyone you’d like to thank?
All my friends in Bristol and in Leeds: Ashleigh! Hallett, Tebbs, Jack, Rich and Reece for skate related camera work. Josh from Indcsn for the clothes. All the lads at Welcome for being lads! Makepeace and Rich again for all the Skateboard Café goodness. Everyone at Sidewalk for wanting me in your magazine. My housemates for being good housemates and my family for putting up with my obsession with skateboarding and helping me out so much through University.