If you want to start talking about ‘OG’s’ then to be brutally honest, we’re struggling to think of many other British skaters more worthy of that nom de plume than Mark ‘Trawler’ Lawer. Skating since the very beginning in the early 70’s, present at virtually every major skateboarding happening from that point onwards, (including the UK’s first ever skate contest), working for skate mags throughout the dark days and still ripping today in his fifth decade – Trawler’s skateboarding roots truly are as deep as they come.
Over the last couple of years, Trawler and one-time Skateboard! Magazine cohort and lens man Paul Duffy have been working on a project designed to give you all access to a priceless archive of 80’s skateboarding that has, until now, languished inside crisp boxes in various cellars across Devon. Trawler and Duffy were present at, and on documentation-duty for, many of the most seminal moments in UK skateboarding history back then, and happily for us all they’ve gone through the laborious process of cataloguing this archive and making it available to everyone in their Skate-80’s book.
Read the interview below to find out a little bit more about this project, then hit the link and buy a copy of the book – you won’t be disappointed.
This is your history: embrace it.
Let’s start from the beginning then Trawler – for those who are unaware, could you give us a bit of your own personal history in skateboarding please? How, when and where did you and skateboarding first cross paths?
Hi yeah, my name is Mark Lawer and I am from Plymouth, Devon.
I have been skateboarding since the beginning really…since about 1976.
I was at the first contest in UK at Watergate Bay in Newquay and have never looked back. I have been with skateboarding through thick and thin and kinda feel qualified to bring out a book on a great era of skateboarding, as it is something I feel I have just enough authority to write about!
You started working for Skateboard! Magazine in 1988 alongside Paul Duffy who you’ve worked on this Sk8-80s book with – how did the opportunity to work on the magazine originally come about?
I always had a leaning towards journalism although I am painter and decorator by trade. My father was a football journalist and has written two books on Plymouth Argyle, so I just thought, “I can do that too”.
I think that at the time, the magazine was looking for skateboarders who could write credibly about the subject to give the magazine more kudos in the publication’s rebirth after the seventies.
When and how did you first meet Paul? Were you friends before you both worked at Skateboard! Magazine, or did your friendship come about thanks to your work at the mag?
Duffy and I first met in Liverpool at a stop over on a road trip to Scotland with Danz and the Abrook brothers: this was around early 87.
He was really shy and quiet and we all couldn’t all fit in to sleep at Neil’s flat so I was packed off to Duffy’s flat in Toxteth with Paul.
When I got there he had one light bulb, no milk or bread and a blanket on the window instead of a curtain. I realised I had drawn the short straw!
Not long after this meeting, skateboarding really picked up again and Paul got a place at Plymouth College of Art to study Photography.
That is when I realised I had been burdened with “Slack Duffy ” and had to take him under my wing!
I have been with skateboarding through thick and thin and kinda feel qualified to bring out a book on a great era of skateboarding, I feel I have just enough authority to write about!
Paul’s photos have been in a couple of large crisp boxes in various houses around Plymouth
As you and Paul worked so closely together for many years, you must have some good stories backed up. What are some of your favourite memories from the early years of the mag?
When Paul first moved to Plymouth I found myself driving him around frantically trying to get a passport to go to Paris with the magazine to shoot Monty Nolder skating a ramp under the Eiffel Tower: that’s one of the first ones, in terms of our working relationship.
Many times I’ve had to shepherd Duffy around and help him out but he had an infectious personality, very different to my own and we are still chalk and cheese in our differences but it was never boring.
One time we went to Southsea for a big contest and I said that I’d already written the first ever article about the new craze for skateboard-related tattoos and I needed Paul to go around and get photographs of as much skate-related ink as he could. When I returned to the skate house to pick him up, we got in my car and I asked him how it went. It materialised that Duffy got stoned with all the house members and a well know Danish pro and never got his camera out of its bag, I was livid and think I may have given him a slap upside his head and we didn’t speak for half the journey home!
Care to explain the reasoning behind Paul’s nickname ‘Slack Duffy’?
Well for all the reasons above and just Paul’s laid back demeanour. Some people manage to drift through life when they are young and they are on their own gig. Paul was definitely on “Duffytime” all of the time.
Can you give us a bit of back-story to the Skate-80’s book please? When and how did the idea to make the book come about? From first photo scanned to holding the printed book in your hand, how long did the whole process take?
A lot of other British skate photographers and even worldwide renowned ones have their pictures popping up on social media and other platforms very regularly and this seems to dilute their wow factor and importance.
I wanted to do this book for ten years and when we met in 2005 I bought Paul’s sticker collection for my skate exhibition that was featured in Sidewalk mag. I proposed the whole idea back then.
I even said I would take the photos away and curate the slides for a book and he would have to do nothing except wait for the cheque for 50% of the proceeds! That idea never came to anything initially though because we were both super busy. In Christmas 2014 I wrote a short intro to a book and sent it to Paul and this quick message seemed to do the trick and here we are 25-30 years and four months later and it is all done.
Since you left the magazine in 1992, where have the photos been stored? I know you said there were some scans that were damaged when you started getting the material together for the book – are there any specific shots that you wanted to include that were beyond repair?
Paul’s photos have been in a couple of large crisp boxes in various houses around Plymouth. They were all in correct plastic slide storage boxes and transparent pocket sheets. You have to remember that these photos were all pre-digital and there was none of this ‘look at the screen on the back of the camera and delete the rubbish’ that you have these days. No, you had a roll of film and 36 chances to get it right. Photographers didn’t know the outcome until they got their slides back from the lab.
With this in mind… we had a lot of sorting out to do. Many slides were slightly damaged from age and damp and our initial findings were not good. The emulsifiers that make up the slide can either get specks of mould on them or moisture can make them flower up and the colours bloom together. There were some photos from an Abrook Brother’s interview that had been badly damaged, which was disappointing but the black mould spots and dirt were removed on many by a transfer system called Digital ICE. We held our breath when they were sent to Spectrum photo lab in Plymouth but we were stoked at how well they cleaned up during the raw transparency to JPG and TIFF process.
How is the finished book structured, and how did you go about sorting all of the material you’d gathered into chapters?
We met at Paul’s place once a week and sorted through the photos with an ancient brown plastic Kodak hand-held viewer enduring repeated neck strain from holding slides up to the ceiling light bulb!
We then paid out for a push-in battery-operated slide-viewer, which was better. I marked up A4 brown envelopes with chapter names, and photos that were deemed good enough were thrown into each bag.
We soon had 11 chapters taking shape including Brit pros, Visiting pros, Freestyle, Mini Ramp, Concrete, etc, etc.
I mentioned our project to an elderly lady while painting her house and she lent me a cool old cartridge slide projector that meant we could view 35 shots at a time on Paul’s living room wall. This machine really helped us hone down the mother load!
Out of all of the photos you scanned for the book, which would you say stand up as your favourites and why?
Oh there are so many. We have Caballero at Birmingham wheels, Mike Vallely at Livingston, Natas at Bedminster plus all the pros who visited Southsea, including the late, great, Jeff Phillips.
We are proud of the finished article and hopefully a copy will be around longer than both of us
Were there any moments whilst you were sorting through the photos where you had to do a double take? Maybe someone you’d forgotten about, miniature versions of people who went on to become global superstars, photos you wish you’d have run at the time etc?
This is really the reason I needed to be involved in this book because I am such a nerd!
Who else could I.D. a young Andy Scott or a 15-year-old Bucky Lasek?
We found a young Alex Moul and a fresh-faced Jimmy Boyes too.
We have killer photos of an up and coming school kid called Danny Way spinning through the first 900’s in the Munster mastership back in 1990.
We definitely struck gold!
Through the process of putting this together you must’ve re-encountered various people who you’d lost contact with? That must have been a really gratifying part of this process, surely?
Through the power of Facebook I have good contact with most people and old friends. The British Pro’s chapter captions tell the reader what each person has gone on to do in their lives.
It is pretty amazing to me to read what most of my spotty cohorts have made of themselves in later years and it really reinforces what we all know; that skateboarders are great people.
As proven by things like Grosso’s Loveletters, the vast majority of pre 90’s skate history is contained solely within the pages of old magazines – most of which are not accessible to anyone aside from the people skating during that era. Was this part of the reasoning behind doing this book?
Well we do have a rich history in the short life of this sport/lifestyle of ours.
It all needs to be documented. We didn’t do this book to make a shit load of money. Books last a lot longer than magazines as my own skate book collection will attest.
I have had this book in me for years but without Duffy it wouldn’t exist.
We are proud of the finished article and hopefully a copy will be around longer than both of us. My dedication in the book is to my wife and two sons and talks about having a burning passion for something: I think both my boys have that already.
So since you and Paul both left the magazine in 1992, what have you been up to for work? And what were the reasons behind your deciding to step down in the first place?
Well, in 92 skateboarding slipped back underground for a few years and the magazine folded, we went our separate ways. I started my decorating company and had a family.
I never thought Paul would do much but he has used his talents to the full. The name ‘Paul Duffy’ can be seen in the credits of a lot of mainstream TV shows. He is the lighting guy on programmes like Casualty, Holby City, Torchwood and that show Episodes with that Joey dude from Friends. Currently he is doing his second or third series of Call the Midwife.
He also drops paper snow on churches in London’s East End for the Christmas TV scenes in April and May!
From a personal point of view, how happy are you with the finished product?
I am super happy with the book mainly because I asked Ian Roxburgh who used to lay out the pages of RAD magazine to work with me.
We had a meeting and went through my rough storyboard for the book and figured out a look for the pages that was a bit 80’s style but cool, and every chapter has some themes in the border that you have to look out for.
Ian has been very easy to work with, imagine how difficult it would be to collaborate with a non-skater designer! When I am on the phone and say, “the ho-ho plant on page 45” he knows exactly what I am talking about!
We wouldn’t have done anything differently but we are on a roll now and next winter we hope to compile a second volume with the working title “SK8-80’s Rebate- The black and whites and more”
Where can people go to find out more about the project and/or get a copy for themselves?
You can get the book via our shop only because the book is totally self-published at the best price we could turn it out for.
We have made 250 numbered copies, it is A4-sized, 212 page, colour, soft back and it is available from June 1st but we may do a second run in the lead up to Christmas if there is enough interest.
It is only available here http://sk880s.bigcartel.com/
Any final words, thanks to give or anything you’d like to say to end this on?
Paul and myself would like to thank everyone for the enthusiasm and support and the trust in making pre-orders with us.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.
only available here http://sk880s.bigcartel.com/