Anthony Van Engelen – Interview re-up

Here's the second re up relating to a UK filming trip that AVE, Geoff Rowley and Greg Hunt undertook back in the summer of 2011, right at the start of filming for what turned into Vans 'Propeller'. This interview was originally published in Sidewalk 184 (Jan 2012) and was conducted back when Anthony was still on Alien Workshop, nearly a year before he and Dill announced their departure for waters Fucking Awesome.
Anyway, Propeller premieres in 8 days in the US, with global premieres following straight afterwards (keep your eyes peeled for dates in the UK), so read this, check the photos and get excited...

Is Dill still staying with you?

No he’s moved to a friend’s not too far from where I’m living recently. He was staying with me for a year or so, which was super good but I think for the both of us it was time for it to change. I mean we’re boys but we travel together and skate together so living together as well was a bit too much for us both in the end. I think we needed a break from each other you know? (Laughing), he’s working on getting his own spot right now…

It seems as if he is on a pure skate mission at the moment, which I guess was good for you too as you’re working on the Vans video as well…

Absolutely, him being here and getting his shit together kinda helped me to do the same thing really. It was definitely the best year of skating I’ve had since finishing Mind Field and that whole deal. It was good to have somebody here who was hyped to go skating all the time.

How do you stay hyped and focused on filming for a project with this much expectation riding on it after so many years punishing yourself for the video camera?

Hmmm, fuck I don’t know man to be honest, (laughing). It changes, my drive I guess or whatever you want to call it. At times I need to find new ways to look at that whole process because the things that used to drive me to go out filming when I was younger aren’t the same any more. I mean obviously I love skateboarding, we all do, but the reality of actually going out and filming for a big video isn’t really ‘just skateboarding’. People always says things like, ‘Oh wow you get to go out and do the thing you love for a living’, which is right, filming and pushing yourself like that is awesome: I like the challenge and the abuse and the pressure but there are other times when it’s purely not fun at all. I mean yeah I know I’m skating and it’s a blessing to do this for a living but it takes a lot to put your self through that after such a long time. It’s ‘work’ basically and sometimes it takes a lot to put yourself through a situation where you know at the beginning that you’re going to get hurt. And when you’ve been doing it for over 15 years and you’re really deep into it, it can be difficult to find the drive to move through it. I’ve had my long periods of time, especially after Mind Field, where I’ve been in the mind set of, ‘I don’t want to do this, I don’t feel like hurting myself today, or a month from now, or six months from now.’ So I take breaks from it, and then I find that that urge to go out filming comes back eventually. The one thing that never goes away though is the love for skateboarding, I can always go down the street on my own or with friends and skate a double-sided curb and it is always fun, just as much as it ever was. But that’s because that is just skateboarding with nothing attached to it, not the work side of skateboarding.

This is the reality of what you do for a living though right? And the side of your lifestyle that people watching the end product as either a video part or as photos in a magazine don’t see…

Yeah totally, it’s like when you go to the premiere and you watch three years of your life pass by in a matter of minutes. It’s cool though because it takes you back to those sections of your life that were happening as the footage was being collected. That’s especially true for me with Mind Field because the three years that went into putting that part together represent three pretty crazy years of personal stuff that I went through. It’s a trip…but it’s the same for anyone who sits down and watches three years of their life condensed into three minutes.

Above – Deep in the heart of Belper, AVE opened the account on this one with a gap out to boardslide

Do you consciously approach each video part with a preconceived idea of how you want it to look in terms of spots and tricks, or do you just let it happen?

It’s more dependent on how I’m feeling about skateboarding at the time really and that kind of translates into the sort of things I end up skating. Kind of spontaneous really, it’s always been that way for me. Obviously there are some things that are planned out in advance, or I’ll work on certain things at the park and then want to go do them at a certain spot, or maybe spots that I have to go back to because it didn’t work out the first time. But for the most part for me it’s more to do with how I’m feeling about skateboarding that determines what’s going come out when I’m skating on trips and whatnot. That’s kind of why I try to put myself on virtually every filming trip that’s going on during the process of working on whatever video – that’s what it takes for me to make a video part. I try to make myself available to see just about everything there is to skate during that three-year process, I can’t just do it at home really. That tends to be my inspiration, just putting myself in a position where I can check everything out…

I guess this recent UK trip kind of working well for you in that regard then, seeing as we didn’t really have much of a plan and ended up in some pretty random places…

(Laughing) yeah that’s the great side of doing this for a living, some of the random places you end up visiting. I’ll skate places that I have no recollection of, then someone will randomly come up to me and tell me how this rail or whatever is right by their grandma’s house in fucking Cyprus, Atlanta or wherever the fuck, you know?

That’s part of the beauty of skateboarding though eh?

Absolutely, I love the randomness of it all. That’s why I love being in the van, on the road, travelling round the States especially, you end up skating stuff that nobody skates or has skated ever. I much prefer that to the whole flocking to famous spots thing, I’m past that now, I can’t be fucking bothered with that any more.

You were obviously deep in that whole Barcelona exodus a few years back – do you have good memories of that place or do you think it maybe contributed to some of the problems that you later encountered on a personal level? Barcelona is kind of a dangerous place to be if you enjoy the whole nightlife/booze/etc deal, right?

Well I was probably like 21 when I first went there, spent a Summer out there skating all day then partying all night because back then I could handle that lifestyle. It was cool back then, all the spots were amazing and still kind of new, it was awesome but like everything it kinda got burned out in the end. I remember me, Dyrdek and Dill did three months there and it was rad, like the classic Barcelona experience, but then when you go back and try to re-live that initial experience it just doesn’t happen. It sort of fizzled for me after that first time. I went back there at a time when my own personal situation was darker shall we say and I brought my darkness there, (laughing). Like you said Barcelona isn’t really the best place to be if you’re already having a dark time. I went there for a week a couple of years after that first time to try and pull my life together, I can’t remember if the Workshop flew me there or if I did it myself but I got there, was on my own for a week and had to call my mom and have her fly me home. I think I skated one day that whole week: it was hideous basically. I just brought all my demons there and got stuck in a hotel room with them on my own, (laughing).

With Greg Hunt being in charge of both the DC video and Mind Field is there a kind of continuity now that you’re working on the Vans video together?

Oh yeah, I couldn’t be more blessed than to be working with that dude again. The way I’m looking at the Vans video is that it will probably be the last actual video that I’ll get to film for, like the last proper section of my career kind of, so to be able to work with Greg again is amazing. Thing is, a lot of people, like the Girl and Chocolate dudes, they work with Ty who is amazing and they work with him over and over again because he’s in-house. Whereas Greg has ended up working for a few different companies and yet I’ve been involved in most of them too. I mean there’s really only a couple of guys who could pull off a project like this one anyway so it’s definitely nice because a) I know he’s always going to do his best behind the camera and then b) because everything else, the editing, the music, his ‘vision’ I guess is something that I completely trust.

I spoke to Greg about the positive side of the current economic situation being that a lot of big US skate videos seem to be venturing inwards again and discovering new spots in the USA rather than flying people out to skate either futuristic Chinese plazas or Spanish marble. I’m assuming that your recent visit to the UK on this Vans mission won’t be the only overseas trip you’ll make – is the Vans video likely to mean more international travel for filming or are you going to stick mainly to the ‘get in the van and hit the Midwest’ approach? Which do you prefer if either?

I hope we carry on exploring the States, with the Mind Field video we did a lot of long US road trips to gather footage, but that’s something that Workshop always does anyway, but it’s always proven to be a good deal skating-wise. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t give a fuck about going to China and skating some Lego-land computer city, (laughs). I just think it looks like shit. I like vans, I’m over airplanes; I mean I’ll get on them if I have to but I much prefer just getting in the van. So yeah, I think the approach to doing this Vans video will be a lot different to most other US videos.

Above – Although these Derby banks look fun, they’re actually shit. Backtail

Geoff’s already talking about coming back over here to film more in the New Year – are you keen to come sample some more too?

I’m totally down to come back to the UK, I liked it there man, it looked like shit, (laughing). I’ve been there before but this time we got to see a whole different side of the country I guess. I can deal with the UK, I can deal with flying back there because it looks good on video and the spots are interesting. It’s like what I said already about China, it’s just like the Barcelona thing: like “of course that guy did that there” – he was living down the street from that spot for a month, the spot itself is perfect, etc, etc. It’s almost like watching someone film a part in a skatepark to me. Don’t get me wrong though, people go to these places and do amazing shit, this is just my personal stand point on it but for me to get inspired to film I want to skate some different shit…

You are involved in your own private TF/park over in LA, which seems like way less of a media jerk-off that certain other indoor facilities – what prompted the decision for you all to club together and set the spot up and do you feel like this is kind of an inevitability these days for any serious professional skater?

To be honest it was pretty much just wanting to be able to skate: In LA there are no more spots any more, you can’t just go out and skate really. So at first I’d go to the Berrics a lot until that kind of progressed into what it is now where it’s always really busy and everything’s being filmed or whatever. So five of us; me, Marc Johnson, Dylan, Biebel and Guy just got together and rented a place out purely so we had a place to skate whenever we wanted to. We have no plans to do anything with it though, other than it just being a place for us, and our friends, to skate at.

The set up in there looks as if it’s all concrete – is that right? Who built/designed it?

Yeah most of it is concrete, every hubba and 5 feet before each hubba is concrete, the long quarterpipe and bowled corner is concrete – all of it was poured in there into wood frames. It just seemed pointless going to the effort to rent a place then not build from concrete. We got the guys who do the Maloof contests to build it all, because we wanted it to be done right, (laughs), and that was it really.

Above – AVE dons the big softies to get up and out of a Nottingham carwash via wallie

Do you still have favourite video parts that you watch to get you hyped before you go out skating?

To be honest it’s kind of gotten to the point where I’m kind of freaking out sometimes about ‘do I not care any more?’ Actually that’s not true, I have been thinking recently that I need to restock my little library of things I like to watch that I’ve lost over the years so I guess I’m not as jaded as I think sometimes. Towards the end of Mind Field I was watching a lot of Eastern Exposure stuff, Jerry Fisher and Fred Gall and a lot of Brian Hansen footage just to get hyped. Things that I was watching on my phone in the van on trips to get me sparked to try stuff. My staple has always been Guy Mariano’s Mouse part though, and Geoff Rowley’s first Flip part – the classics I guess. Those are the video parts that still stand up today and still have an inspirational effect on me. I’m not as over it as I think. Like I say, I’ve been thinking recently that I need to get my shit together and start keeping up with some of the newer videos out there. I’m definitely not like I used to be where I’d get every video and watch them repeatedly before going out skating. That ritual side of it has changed for me at least but that’s probably down to the Internet and just the amount of shit that’s out there now more than anything else…

Finally, have you quit smoking yet?

I did dude! September 27th was the last cigarette I had. I did the book, got to the last page and that was it. I was supposed to go to that anti-smoking seminar that I told you about but it got cancelled so I went back to the book and told myself, “You know what motherfucker, you’re going to stay home and read this book and you’re not leaving until you’ve finished it”. It took me about a day and a half, I finished the book, put my last cigarette out and that was it, done. It works man; I recommend it to everyone, if it can work for me then it’s good.

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