From Sidewalk 201 - June 2013
Portrait - Joe Gavin.
Who is Dom Henry?
This is a question that has been on many a skateboarder’s mind for over a decade now. The first I heard was of some kid from Reading that was a lot better than you. He skated for Clown Skateboards (Skipp’s company at the time), sharing the team with the likes of Benny Fairfax and Chris Oliver etc. Retrospectively, all that held him back was his lack of clothing size ratios as he was no stranger to the baggy trousers / tight t-shirt combo.
We both ended up riding for DC and when we eventually met I had no idea who he was, he thought I was a filmer and he also randomly knew my brother. To think that people aren’t that familiar with Dom’s skating is absolutely cray. If he was born in SF around the pier 7 era I’m sure Kelch would be dropping his name along side Henry Sanchez or say...Marcus McBride.
Dom spent the last ten years of his life establishing a global network of BFF’s spending time in New Zealand, Canada, France and London, (Manchester really)! This world tour solidified Dom’s global fame while maintaining his local mystery.
Today Dom is back on British soil and resides in the great city of Manchester where he holds it down on the streets, repping the 90’s, skating hard every day and blowing minds on the reg. He rides for Note skate shop, The Harmony Skateboards and Vic clothing. If you ever meet anyone that knows Dom, let them share a story with you, as it will certainly not be dull.
Dom is a genuine dude and a good friend, there’s just one thing to remember if you have the pleasure to meet this skate gremlin.... Don’t feed him a drink after midnight.
-Tony Da Silva
Note shirt (check), paint dust flying (check), gloved up after-dark front crooks (check).
Dope? (Yes) Photo: Joel Peck.
Right then Dom – lets not fanny about with unnecessary crap – you’re a skate geek, particularly when it comes to videos so: give us the 5 most influential/cultural significant video parts/videos of all time and explain why please...
- Oh man, isn’t the first question supposed to ease you in? I’m stumped already. I feel like you’d have to be at least 40 to answer this properly. I can only talk about videos I’ve known about and been hyped on personally, so obviously I can’t do justice to all the stuff before my time like the Bones Brigade, Hosoi, even the Plan B videos which are amazing, all that stuff. It’s from before my time so I’d feel like a kook trying to talk about it. The five videos that have probably been the biggest influence on me in terms of re-watching over and over have been Trilogy, Mouse, FTC Penal Code, Photosynthesis and Waiting for the World. Those are the ones I’ve probably watched the most since I started but there are so many more. Eastern Exposure 3, Zoo York Mixtape and First Broadcast are up there too.
Which video part would you say you’ve watched the most in your life and why?
- I don’t know, maybe Keenan and Gino in Mouse? I really couldn’t say man, most likely one of the ones from the afore-mentioned videos. Aside from those, Rob Welsh or Joey Pepper in the Aesthetics video, Josh Kalis in Peep This and Rob Selley in Anthems have got to be up there as well. Tom Penny parts and compilations have taken a fair thrashing too...
I know you’ve got plenty of hardcore opinions on this one – why is VX footage ‘better’ than the alternatives?
- I don’t know if it’s better, both are good when done right. I tend to find VX stuff more exciting to watch, I guess because there are more surprises and less distractions: the skater is fully the central focus so you can’t always see what is coming on the road ahead, whilst the backdrop forms a pleasing shell of colour around them. HD can be really sick but because of the wider format it can become more of a postcard of the city and draw focus away from the action. Obviously there is rad HD stuff out there, like City of Rats, my friend Rob Mentov’s stuff with the STREET FEET crew out of Toronto, and any of Sean Lomax’s new stuff. It’s just that sometimes you watch a HD edit of some sun-drenched place and it just looks like they are on their way to a pod race on Tatooine...it’s too glossy. So my theory is that HD only really looks good in grimier environments and under shittier weather.
Ok, with that out of the way – why do you think you’re getting this Haunts and has it pissed you off that it took this long for us to run it?
- Well I remember I was working with Joe (Gavin) in NOTE one day a couple of years ago and he emailed you asking if you guys were down to do it. The original deadline was more than a year ago though so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that it was still happening, (laughing).
How did a boy from Reading come to be obsessed with late 90’s influenced street skating, adidas shell toes and going backwards when it’s kind of the antithesis of the skateboarding era that you were born into?
- I wouldn’t say that it is the antithesis; I sort of caught the tail end of that era, at least in terms of the influence of the older skaters in Reading. I reckon I started around ’98 and there was obviously the obligatory first couple of years trying to kickflip outside my house after school or whatever, but there was a really solid scene in Reading and as soon as I started venturing into town I had my eyes opened to the realness. You are right that it was the beginning of the dark ages of flexi fit caps and hammers-or-nothing though, but luckily I got my hands on some good videos fairly early on. There was a VHS mixtape that this guy Gian routinely made for local skate youths who he decided weren’t about to give up, consisting of Mouse, Trilogy and, bizarrely, the Up and Smoke Tour. I’m pretty sure Eugene (Ochieng), Laurence Keefe and I all have the same mixtape. As far as shell toes go, they just last for ages, so I tend to just buy them second hand off eBay for a fiver and rag them for as long as possible. Second hand to a civilian is brand new to someone intending to skate in them.
Tell us about the scene back there – who/what was shaping it when you started and how do you see that having influenced your own development as a skateboarding human?
- When I started there were so many good older skaters, some of whom I still skate with today when I’m back home.
People that really blew me away were people like Nick Fone, Simon Lewis and Damean Richardson – anyone who remembers the small British company ‘Players’ may be aware of Damean, he was and is truly ridiculous, such a G. So I ratted round the streets of Reading with kids my age, but we were sort of guided in the right direction by this older generation. My friend Tom Hawes summed it up nicely a few weeks ago, jokingly saying that their generation in Reading felt like they were manning a remote outpost of the ‘World’ empire in the mid 90s.
So you’ve lived in various places over the years and have been living a pretty itinerant life for someone so young: what’s the story there? Where have you lived, why did you choose those places and how did you survive whilst you were living there?
- After I finished my A levels I worked in a call centre for Powergen for 8 months and then did a big round the world trip. One of the places I went to was New Zealand. I was only meant to be there for 3 weeks but somehow I ended up sleeping on couches in Wellington for five months. I guess I had never lived in a city before and was just became totally fixated on this one, I was stoked on the pace of life in NZ and all the people I’d met there and so, when I came home I realized I just wanted to go back immediately.
I managed to blag a scholarship to a University out there, which was only open to students from the UK, probably because hardly anyone knew about it.
So once that was sorted I worked a few temp jobs and before I knew it I was back off to NZ just under a year later. So I basically did an English degree out there, which meant I could stay for 3 years. Whilst I was there I had all sorts of part time jobs. I worked in a skate shop, a weird leisure centre with a crappy indoor park, as a radio broadcast summary writer, all kinds of stuff. Fast forward three years and my visa was running out, I was Skypeing Tony (Da Silva) wondering what I was going to do when I got back to England. I didn’t want to just go back to Reading, all I wanted to do was skate street and be somewhere with a strong scene, and he just said ‘come and live with us in Manchester’.
I’d always liked coming up and staying with Tone when I was younger, so I was keen and before long I was living on the couch at Tony and Kendrick’s and eventually took a room in that house. I’ve been here ever since, give or take a couple excursions. Last summer I went to Toronto and stayed out there for five months.
I definitely got a lucky break with that one: basically my brother lives there and was getting married, and there was no way I could afford to go. Since it looked like my Mum was the only person from our family who could make it, she said she would pay for my flight. So I decided that if I was getting a free ticket to Canada that I was going to make it count, so I applied for a working holiday visa, stayed on my brother’s couch and found a job at a skate shop. I met a bunch of rad people and went on a few megabus travels down into the East Coast of the states, which was amazing. After that I came home broke, worked at Yellow Pages in Reading all winter, and have recently moved back to Manchester.
You’ve put yourself around a fair bit but other than a short stint as the unknown name on the old DC team ads – you’ve not really been flossing as a sponsored skater as such have you? Presumably you’ve always had to work etc to fund skating/travelling so much, right?
- All I’ve ever wanted to do is skate and travel, so I just saved up to make it happen in the past. I don’t think there are going to be any big trips for a long time to come now though, I’m only just about getting by trying to find the rent month to month. There are a lot of places I would still like to go to though.
You like to talk and you’re a pretty friendly dude – has this allowed you to kind of sofa surf your way across the globe so far?
- I guess I’ve just been lucky and met some amazingly sound people on my travels.
I truly comprehended the global reach of the Henry when I randomly bumped into a friend of yours from NZ in Tokyo – you’ve been around eh? - (Laughing), yeah that blew my mind seeing pictures of you and my old flat mate Sam from NZ out there on Facebook, that’s skateboarding for you.
You’re a nightmare after a few too many adult beverages – how much booze does it take before you start rapping?
- Quite a few these days luckily – all I can say is that if I start rapping, it’s usually the beginning of the end.
What’s been the worst outcome of boozy Dom to date?
- The loss of multiple valuable items over a period of a few years: other than that, just general embarrassment. I’ve definitely got much better at holding it down though, bad outcomes used to happen a fair bit but thankfully, I’ve got more control over it these days.
As we’re on the topic – you’re something of a hip hop aficionado too; give us some insider tips on the best bars etc.
- I guess I just listen to the same stuff I’ve listened to for a long time, the usual really, Wu Tang, Big Pun, Gang Starr, all that stuff. I also like the hardcore rap approach of people like Vinnie Paz, Ill Bill and R.A the Rugged Man, but usually after a period of rinsing that vibe for a while I’ll have to take a break from it because it’s a bit intense. Vinnie Paz, and Jedi Mind Tricks in general, is like a sort of drug. Paz’s voice has so much power, growl and urgency that it’s hard to get the same hit from anything else, even if he is just stringing lists of unrelated conspiracy theories and contradictory Islamic ideology at you. At times it’s sort of like comedy, but you can’t really f*ck with it because his flow is so powerful. As far as UK hip hop goes I don’t listen to all that much anymore, just the same stuff I listened to ten years ago.
Are you upset by the overall shift in hip hop in general? Towards money-obsessed lying, etc?
- I don’t even know what’s going on in hip hop these days. Not keen for tight-jean wearing rappers with blazers though.
Okay so you’ve been all over the place but you seem to gravitate inexorably back towards Manchester – what’s the draw for Southerner like you?
- It’s just got a rad vibe: Just the crew really. The sense of humour here is on point too; so going out skating is always a good time. There are people keen to skate any day of the week. Plus it’s a good size for pushing around, no transport sagas. I live close to all my friends, can push or bike to work or for the skate, then stop for a pint on the way home, and most people live on the same stretch of road heading out of town. It’s a dream setup.
Who’s your favourite Mancunian and why?
- Probably Morrissey. Aside from his witty and profound lyrics, he is just generally hilarious without meaning to be. There’s a great interview where Jonathan Ross or someone asks him if he has any friends, and he replies, “Yes - I have seven friends" in the driest tone imaginable. Unless I can claim Steve Coogan, since he went to university here.
These are as rare as rocking horse shit. Legit switch frontside no-comply down the stairs.
Photo: Joel Peck
What about your favourite band/song/whatever that’s arisen from the Satanic Mills and why?
- The Smiths. Can’t explain why really, you either like them or you don’t I suppose.
Are you living in a skate house in MCR then?
- I’m not actually, I’ve lived in a couple but gave up my room when I went to Canada last year. I really wanted to move back to Manchester but none of the crew had rooms going, so I just moved in with these three girls, one of whom I already knew, because they had a room to rent. It’s a chill house and it’s near where a lot of my friends live so it’s all good.
You’re working at Note a bit too aren’t you? Any good stories from time spent in there?
- Always good times in Note. Recently I arrived to find that Tone and Joe had set up a ‘quest’ for me, which involved following a paper chase of clues which were hidden around the shop, written in mystical and cryptic language, until eventually reaching the end of the quest and finding a prize. Other than that, just the usual stupidity you catch off of trendy idiots and scallys chasing the latest hat craze – like a kid telling his mate that Nike SB stood for ‘Nike Snapback’. The thing that makes me cringe is when someone comes in trying to sell you their new ‘street wear’ brand. These two guys came in on some proper Nathan Barley shit the other day, explaining that their company credos was that they ‘skate in the summer, snowboard in the winter’ – get out of my face.
So you recently joined the Harmony, which is a small-scale skater-owned brand with some heavy roots in the North as well as in London – how did that come about and what’s your take on what the Harmony is doing?
- Well Ali Drummond took over the reigns around the end of last year after a few years where I guess he felt that the company took a bit of a dip in terms of direction. Obviously a lot of heavy hitters have come and gone since The Harmony’s inception so it’s definitely a challenge to try and reboot something like that. Ali’s got a fairly focused idea of where he wants to take it and I think he’s doing a great job, slowly and steadily trying to put something fresh and interesting together with the backbone of Tone, Jak and himself who have been smashing it for the Harmony for years. Ali and Tone both asked me if I wanted to ride for them, and I was stoked on the opportunity to be involved with something with my friends. Tone was the first person that I knew in Manchester and is one of my favourite people to skate and chill with, and I’m hyped to be part of something where I have the chance to have input and work on projects. There are some people that I am really stoked on getting involved in the near future too, so it’s all looking good.
Why are fakie heelflips better than forwards ones? Is there an objective reason?
- They have a higher value because the market is yet to be flooded with them. They are more risky and therefore more satisfying to witness. Plus, they are often wild and lend themselves to a bit of a swerve on the roll out.
Who’s your favourite fakie specialist and why?
- Brad Hayes’ part in Baker 2G is pretty damn specialist. Watch it and discover or remind yourself why...
You like going backwards in general don’t you, rather than switch...where did that come from?
- Nah man, I’m equally keen for all four of the popping options. But I guess I am a sucker for a fakie manny, I can’t deny it. They are just pretty satisfying.
So imagine that you’d perfected cloning and we’re breeding the ‘ultimate skate warrior’ in a Petri dish – what culture would you influence them with to make them next levs and why?
- I’d probably start with a south island New Zealander, just because their quality control is so high. It’s a pretty ruthless vibe down there, where people will give you shit for doing stinking moves. It’s why dudes like Geoff Campbell and James Wright have developed into such excellent skateboarders to watch, because they only do the satisfying shit.
So yeah, maybe that vibe, cross-bred with powerful East Coast street skating, like your Donny Barley, Mike Maldonado, Quim Cardona, Jake Johnson, that kind of energy. Throw into the mix some of the Japanese approach, for example the vibe of the Tightbooth Production guys from Osaka, who have the ability to figure out something to do on literally nothing and make it look really fun. So you’d end up with an ultimate rogan warrior with excellent trick selection, who could seek out and destroy all manner of rugged and improbable spots.
You hooked up with Magenta lot whilst they were in MCR – I know you dig their whole deal so, hype up the skidding Frenchies for us.
- I guess that’s for you to decide. I reckon they are doing just fine generating their own hype! They are just really genuine people who want to do something new and distinctive within skateboarding, and put time and thought into ensuring that their edits bring plenty of energy that truly connects with the feeling of excitement that comes from riding a skate- board in the street. The only one who really skids all that much is Leo,
but that seems to be the thing that sticks in people’s heads and seems to divide opinion for some reason.
I have two things to say on this.
Firstly, I know from first hand experience that anyone who doesn’t ‘get’ what they are doing and wants to talk shit would probably be too intimidated to put their board down at a spot where Leo is skating. He literally screeches and bounces around a spot at such high velocity that you actually have to get out of the way. He skates faster than you and
his flip trick game is deep. Secondly, if you are dividing opinion then you must be doing something right. Vivien and those dudes really helped me out by flowing me boards through NOTE from a year or so back until I got asked to ride for The Harmony.
I’ve got nothing but admiration for those guys. Vivien even managed to get boards to me in Canada literally the first week they had a distributor there. I’m really grateful for all of that and just for the fact that I’ve got to know and skate with them. Its always a pleasure to see Vivien, Soy or Leo, as they are all really sound and fucking funny to hang out with, and it was rad to meet the rest of their crew when they were over here.
How often do you watch skate clips on the Internet and wish you’d got into golf instead?
- I try not to watch anything that’s going to bum me out. If I can see Monster logos in the freeze frame then I’m probably not gonna watch it. Same for anything called ‘throwaways’ or ‘warm ups’. The disclaimer has already put me off.
You’re off to Sarajevo on a skate trip pretty soon – what do you know about the city and its history and what expectations do you have?
- Well it’s coming up pretty soon and so I really want to get a bit more of an idea about it, as I have nothing but a general inkling about the fact that the former Yugoslavia has a dark recent history. I’ve started watching a BBC documentary series on YouTube called the Death of Yugoslavia to start to get my head round it, and have also started reading, ‘The Fixer’ by Joe Sacco, which you tipped me off about as a starting point.
How come Joe Gavin can put out three video parts a year, with each one better than the next, whilst some can’t even manage a minute of park footage?
- Because Joe is a skate phenomenon with a ton of energy, pop and love for skateboarding that doesn’t diminish. In terms of filming video parts, Sean (Lomax) has a matching work ethic of constant keenness, so together they are unstoppable.
How deep are you into the Facebook conspiracy?
- I literally know nothing about it. I kind of hate Facebook but I’m too much of a sucker to fully pull out of it, I feel like it would be too much hassle to try and get every one of my foreign friend’s email addresses so I have to keep it lingering so that I can hit people up.
Do you still buy physical skate vids? What have you got recently?
- I do from time to time; the most recent physical vid I acquired was the Japanese Strush Wheels video ‘Cityscape’. I still like to buy UK videos; ones I remember buying in the last year have been Brass Monkey and Ox-Fam.
The cover line on the new Thrasher is “People are going to start dying", which is from a Jaws interview: what do you think about this and what it implies about a certain direction that skateboarding is going in?
- I think that is retarded. There will always be people who are keen to be the gnarliest. It doesn’t seem like skating that way has much longevity to it though, unless you are Reynolds who seems to be able to just keep on hucking forever.
I love skating way too much to destroy my knees on a heelflip Indy attempt down a forty.
I also don’t really think danger makes a trick look that much better. Above a certain level
of gnarliness I tend to switch off and just think, ‘what the hell is this guy thinking?"
I’m not writing off hucking, it definitely is fun to do a trick down some stairs from time to time, but that macho, near death shit is hard to look at. Where’s the fun?
Do you place bets on Street League?
Top five most intrinsically stinking tricks and why?
Five o to switch crook – too busy.
Nollie smiths – clambering up like that is pretty saggy... Nosegrab-assisted blunt fakies on mini – it’s like seeing an adult cyclist with stabilizers.
Lazer flips – high score bro!
Willy Grinds – see ‘nollie smith’.
But the Gonz could probably do any of these and make them look good so who am I to say....
What about top five most intrinsically beautiful moves ?
Kickflips – satis’ to do and see.
Backside tailslides – just a classic shape.
360 flips – they are just nice. Think Shier, Jason Lee, Kalis, Mike York...There are lots of different ways of doing a good one, and the way different people do them sticks in your head.
Five-o fakies on transition – see ‘kickflips’.
Backside nosebluntslides – because they look like they require so much focus but are so graceful: I hope one of these days I will be able to do one.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Don’t plan so much, it may not come out right". – Tommy Wiseau
Okay let’s get away from skateboarding for a minute – aside from the stuff we’ve discussed already – what else are you passionate about and why?
- This question makes feel like a pretty boring guy to be honest. I’d love to tell you that I paint, shoot photos and play an instrument but I don’t do any of those things. I guess one of the things that I’m most into aside from skateboarding is comedy. Partridge, Brass Eye, anything to do with Armando Iannucci, Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring podcasts, original and unique stand ups like Tony Law and David O’Doherty, just all that kind of stuff. Mainly UK stuff but a bit of American, Canadian and Australasian stuff too. I like to film and make edits from time to time but at the moment I don’t have a camera. I also like to travel with a skateboard, mainly because it is mind blowing the people you can get to know in such a short space of time. I guess at the moment I’m still trying to get skateboarding out of my system, which will probably never happen.
Tell us something we don’t know about Dominic Henry please...
- My great grandfather was a famous detective who was called in to solve serious mysteries. He even published a book in the 40s called ‘Detective-Inspector Henry’s Famous Cases’. It’s got lots of fascinating black and white photos in the middle of the book - you know like in old movies where a mafia don is getting taking down and there’s a photographer on the scene with a massive flash, snapping the scene? There are all these photos of him bundling haggard-looking underworld London kingpins into cars. My dad has a copy.
Here’s a few culled from your existence on the Internet: I just Googled your name and followed the links so... - There’s a thread about you here - http://forums.sidewalkmag.com/ showthread.php/2450-dom-henry - is this you speaking? If not, what do you think about it?
- I’m not really bothered. To be honest that varial flip manual was pretty stinking, Leo made me do it! I had a pretty severe small T-shirt, baggy trouser game going on at that time too. I wish someone had told me to sort my ratios out sooner.
On your ‘Welcome to the Harmony’ part TheMastakilla4201 says “Wak remix og beat_ was hotter" What’s your response?
- (Laughing), I was stoked on the Doom tune Nano used, I’m happy with it. Maybe TheMastakilla4201 is correct. I’m not even sure if I’ve heard the original of that one so I can’t comment.
In the Youtube comments on your Visual Ketchup part rhymezgalore comments, “Doms a good c**t that’s why his skating is so rad... gotta have the attitude too_ or ur gonna get nowhere. Props brathas." What’s your response to that?
- It’s an honour to receive such high praise.
Okay – enough torture – thanks for getting involved Dom. Any final words of wisdom or thanks you need to throw out there?
- Not sure I’ve got any wisdom to give, other than that skateboard- ing is the best thing in the world so don’t stop doing it. I suppose if you have any inclination to travel then I would say just commit and get a full time job for a few months and just go somewhere far away at least once, get out of your comfort zone and see who you meet, it’s definitely worth it and inspiring to engage with different skate scenes and make new friends. I’d like to thank:
Ali Drummond at The Harmony Skateboards, Calis and Emily at VIC along with Mike at Keen Dist for supplying me with dope clothes and hats, and Splodge at NOTE skate shop for keeping me rolling and living. My Family, Joel Peck for lying in the gutter again and again for this interview, Leo Sharp, Sean Lomax, Tony Da Silva, Mark Kendrick, Joe Gavin, All the NOTE family, workers, lurkers, ghurkas and burkas. The Harmony heads, Rock Solid Distribution, Vivien Feil and the Magenta heads, 7 Eston. Adam Mondon. Rob Mentov and the Street Feet crew. Blue Tile Lounge. Sidewalk Mag. Simon Skipp. Kevin Parrott. James Terry. Colin Evans, David Read, Jake Mein, Adrian Vercoe, Georgina Matthews, Big Red, Russell Laird. Kevdawg and Jo Whaanga. Palmer and Marriott families. Stoobs. Jacob Harris. Neddy. Henry and Lex at Grey. TMH. All my friends in Reading. Everyone I skate with in Manchester. The Harbour City Lurkers, Skulls Gang and Vibe Seekers. All my friends across the UK, in NZ, Canada and Worldwide. Gunner, Rob Selley, Shaun Graham, Sidewalk heads, everyone at Sole Tech UK. The crew. Everyone I forgot. Cheers.