Guilty by Association: Kurtis ‘Cheesestring’ Boyd and Gerard Keane.
A joint introduction to Belfast's new generation - Cheesestring and Gerard Keane.
A duo to rival Beavis and Butthead, Bill and Ted, Cheech and Chong…maybe even Jay and Silent Bob? This, my friend, is the age of Gerry and Cheesestring.
From their humble beginnings in Belfast, over the last five years they have risen through the never-ending ranks of slagging to become two of our city’s most beloved characters, even if you do end up waiting two weeks on them to pay their strap back.
It’s just impossible to stay mad at these two, whether they’re showing up late or not showing up at all. A prime example of their combined brilliance must be when they missed the bus to Dublin airport at 3am and had to pay £200 for a taxi to take them there instead. That’s more than the cost of the flight to Barcelona that they almost missed, but comedy genius of that level is priceless.
I’ll be honest – between all the shenanigans and laughs that are constantly at play, it’s hard to find a dull moment with these two; they definitely help make Belfast a brighter and better place to be in.
Anyway, enough rambling and bromancing from me, you can find out more about Cheese and Gerry for yourself below!
Interview, photography and edit by Craig Dodds.
Dodds: So I’ll set the scene. We’re in Lavery’s smoking area; it’s fucking two degrees…
Gerard: It’s absolutely freezing.
Cheesestring: Drinking beers that we didn’t even buy here.
D: We bought one beer and brought in about six others (laughs). And Cheese is rolling a one skin.
C: What did Rye say about the questions? Is it to do with history?
D: Nah, we’ll get to that at the end.
G: Is it how much we know about skateboard history in Ireland?
D: Pretty much
G: I know fuck all. Paddy Lynn did a few kickflips.
C: Bernard Rea used to skate didn’t he? (Laughs).
D: I think this is all to be expected.
C: That’s what he wants though; he wants us to make a fool out of ourselves for the internet.
D: So how long have you guys known each other?
G: Fuck…I’ve known Cheese for maybe six years. I started skating, skated for nearly a year then I met him, and I’ve been skating with him ever since.
C: Five or six years…five and a half maybe.
D: Where did you meet?
C: The skatepark.
G: I remember the day well. You were wearing a Family Guy t-shirt, you did a nollie variel ship…a nollie variel flip (laughs).
C: A nollie variel ship (laughs)! You were just learning how to kickflip.
D: What sparked the initial friendship?
C: I was doing GCSEs in school and he was in Tech and he was ditching Tech all the time.
G: To go skate.
C: At this time I could ditch school because I was doing my GCSEs. I used to just not go to school all the time to go skating with Gerard. You’re only like a year older. Me and you would go up to Carrickfergus and shit all the time, and it would only be us at the park.
D: Do you often get mistaken for each other?
G: Not really, but people always think we’re brothers or something.
C: We always just say we’re brothers, because if we say we’re not, people always tell us “oh my god, you look so fucking alike!” It’s easier to say that we’re brothers then they’re like “oh ok”, and walk on. What about that time we got into the bar?
G: That’s right. I didn’t have ID but Cheese did, so I told them we’re twins – I know his date of birth and all – so they asked and I told them ‘7th of June’ and they let us both in because they thought we were twins (laughs).
D: How did you get those hilarious nicknames?
G: I don’t have a hilarious nickname.
D: ‘Chicken Nugget’.
G: Nobody calls me Chicken Nugget.
D: Except Plynn.
G: Oh actually, that was Paddy Lynn. He just looked at me one day and was like “you’re a wee chicken nugget”.
C: ‘Cheesestring’ was Danny Glue. When I was a kid, Danny Glue was like “oh that fool looks like a Cheesestring, hurr hurr hurr”.
D: I always thought that was from Denis.
G: Chicken Nugget is my unofficial nickname; nobody’s called me that for years. Everyone just calls me Gerard.
C: I embraced my nickname though.
D: ‘Cheesestring’ has become a household name for most of Belfast.
D: So what inspired you to get into skating?
C: My older cousin used to skate and he could flip his board and shit, and I was like “whoa, that’s fucking sick! I want to flip my board!” so I learnt how to ollie. I didn’t actually skate, I just learnt how to ollie.
D: How old were you when this was going on?
C: Nine. My cousin taught me how to ollie, then I moved to England. You remember those boards that turned into scooters? I learnt how to ollie on one of those. Then when I moved to England, I met this crew who skated.
D: Whereabouts in England were you living?
C: Kent. It’s like an hour away from London or something; it’s pretty stinking.
D: How long did you live in England for?
C: Three years. I moved there when I was nine or ten.
D: How about you Gerard?
G: I learnt how to roll about on a skateboard when I was maybe nine or ten as well, then my dad basically was like “aye, knock that on the head”. When I was in third year at school – so I was about fourteen I think – I started again because my mate Daniel Zanker was a skater and I completely got obsessed with it.
D: I’m just trying to think how to piece Bridges Skatepark into this, somehow…
G: Bridges was the first place I properly skated. I used to skate the carpark because I lived in a house right beside St Bernard’s where loads of people used to skate. I’m pretty sure I saw Paddy Lynn and all skate there when I was really young, I remember seeing loads of cunts but I was just learning how to skate, and maybe a month or two after, that’s when Bridges opened. The first time I went to Bridges was with my cousin and his mate – my cousin still skates.
D: Did you two know each other before Bridges?
C: Nah. Me and Gerard actually only met each other a year after Bridges opened.
G: I used to go down with my crew who I skated with at school.
C: I only used to skate with one kid in school; it was just me and this dude Adam, then when we met there was an instant click. It was so weird! Remember winter nights, it would just be you and me, and the skatepark would be empty.
D: So Bridges Skatepark is a pretty mad place at the best of times – what’s the maddest thing you’ve seen happen? Either skate related or general shenanigans related.
G: I dunno, maybe just people shooting up and all. Coming in and seeing loads of heroin addicts just passed out. There’s been loads of fights and shit as well, but you get that at every skatepark.
D: Cheese, what about you getting chased the other week?
C: (Laughing) That was mad! OK I’ll tell you this story now, right. I was getting my bag, all these fucking goons rock in, they all came up to us and one of them was fat with a bottle of Bucky in his hand, his eyes half closed and shit. We were all standing at the bank, he comes up and looks at us and goes “alright mate, what’s happening?” I had everything on me – my hoody, my bag, I had it already on me – so I skated off and went up the bank to where the stairs are. I lifted my board up, looked behind me, and everyone was just sprinting for the gate. I was like “oh fuck, I better run” so I ran with all them out the gate and round the corner. Next thing, wee Alfie and wee James, they were like “they tried to take our bags and one of them tried to suckerpunch Alfie in the back of the head.” They all just split, somehow got their stuff together and left, but I didn’t see any of it happen, I just saw everyone running. There were three people and one of them was fucked up but the other two were bouncing about and going mad and all as soon as they came in, that’s why I had my shit on me and was ready to go, because I could tell they were going to start something.
D: It seems to be a common occurrence down there; it does seem to attract a lot of bad people.
C: It’s because it’s right near the New Lodge.
D: Between Tigers Bay and the New Lodge.
C: You know they still lock the gates and all at night, between those areas? I mean – it’s not as bad today as it was but they still lock the gates, so shit must still go on.
D: Have you ever had any trouble, from either Catholics or Protestants? Because you’re both…no, Gerard – you’re Catholic, and Cheese – you’re Protestant.
C: Fucking Romeo and Juliet right here (laughing).
G: This is part of the Peace Process.
D: Have you experienced any trouble through sectarianism?
G: Nah. Not really.
C: We just sparkle. People see us and they see the rainbow between Catholic and Protestant.
G: I used to have this friend called Tiarnan who lived in the Short Strand. I used to skate there but since I was Catholic, nobody gave a fuck. They’d be like “what’s your name?” and I’d say “Gerard” and they’d be like “ahh, you’re alright, you can do whatever you want”.
D: The Short Strand is a Catholic area.
G: We used to skate on Bryson Street right where the Peace Wall is, but nobody gave a fuck if you were Catholic.
D: It seems that the more the years go by, the less it all seems to matter.
C: When I was younger I was round Glengormley Park and it got an Orange memorial built but it had a perfect curb so I waxed the fuck out of it and started skating it. This is no joke – I was skating it and I got told off by a bunch of dickheads, talking about how they died for our country and all. Two weeks later, all the wax was gone and it had a square metal gate around it and you can’t skate it any more. That fence is there because of me…and maybe Alfie (laughs).
D: Do you find it hard street skating in Belfast?
(Roars of laughter from everyone).
C: Fuck me. Lack of spots…
G: I think everyone in Belfast is unmotivated to go street anyway since the skatepark opened.
C: The problem is, all the spots look alright on camera but they’re not – there’s always something wrong.
G: Every spot has its little problem.
C: Then when you do find sick shit, it gets knobbed, or it’s just being built, or it never lasts. There’s some sick shit; remember near the skatepark we found the marble ledges? They’re all amazing, we went when they were just being built, but now you get kicked out.
D: There are so many amazing spots being built but you get maybe a two-day window. The problem is there are no real spots that you can go to, to skate on your own, where you can get warmed up, have some peace and quiet…
C: Another massive problem I think is, when you go to any spot in Belfast, you’ll never see any skateboarders. I’ll go to Custom to meet you and Gerard, but there’ll be no one else about. Whereas in other countries, it seems like you go to any spot, there’s usually skateboarders there. And I love that shit, I think that’s so sick.
D: There are more people about.
C: You can vibe with different people, whereas over here, everyone goes to the skatepark because everyone knows that’s where people are gunna go.
D: We’re all guilty of that, to a certain extent. But every time we try and do a street mission, we never meet up there.
C: But even when we do meet at the skatepark, we still leave. And then no one comes with us. Shit gets real when you’re around, Dodds. Shit gets serious. Otherwise we don’t leave the skatepark, unless it’s to go to New Spot (laughs).
G: New Spot or the Titanic Quarter, but we wouldn’t just go for a street skate.
D: So I’m a massive fan of your skateboarding, obviously, I’m sure most people in Belfast are.
G: Awk, stop! Stop it you (laughs).
D: Where do you get inspiration? Who inspires you? Whether it be Belfast skaters, or footage on YouTube or wherever.
C: Grant motherfucking Taylor!
G: Grant Taylor! Paddy Lynn when he skates.
C: Paddy Maguire.
G: You know ‘Paddy Maguire at Bridges on Sunday’? You know that video? I used to watch that every day before going skating, no joke. Everything he does in that video is insane.
C: P-Mag in his heyday, when he used to live here, when he lived with Plynn, he used to come down the park every day and fucking slay it. Kickflip nosemanny nollie tre – first try, every try. Everything was in a line too; he didn’t stop, he just kept going.
G: When I used to go to the skatepark and see him skate, that was next level. I was like “fuck, I’m never going to be that good”. He was literally the best in Belfast; I remember that really vividly.
C: Conhuir Lynn, when he used to come down…
G: When I started skating he was about for a few years.
C: He used to pop really high kickflips. Denis as well, watching him skating about gets me fired up.
D: So nearly everyone who has a talent in skateboarding wants to ‘make it’ to a certain extent. There is no doubt that you both well and truly fit this category – does it bother you that skateboarding in Northern Ireland general goes unnoticed a lot of the time in terms of sponsorship and so on?
C: Yeah, it’s kinda whack.
G: I don’t know how to answer that.
C: There are so many people in the past who have deserved to be sponsored.
G: I think it’s on them. If you’re not filming all the time or taking photos all the time…
C: Marc Beggan, for instance – if he grew up in England, he’d be hooked up, because he’s doing fucking unbelievable shit. Paddy Lynn as well, if he grew up in England, he’d be hooked up. Over here there are no skateshops, everything seems a bit dead. But we all try to keep it alive, and all the boys keep it alive.
G: I’m not wanting to get sponsored, I’m going to skate for as long as possible and see how far I can take it. I’m not hoping to get sponsored but if it happens, it’s sick.
C: That’s the same for me.
D: Even down in Dublin it seems to be that High Rollers are hooking it up for everyone and showing the love.
C: That’s all you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re sponsored or if you’re getting free this, that or whatever, so long as there’s someone there, a shop or a ‘higher power’ – Derek Sloan – you want that one person who…
G: Major shout out to Derek Sloan! We thank you for everything you’ve done.
D: If there’s one person in this country who has gone out of his way…
C: …to make sure that people have a board under their feet at all time.
G: …to make sure all the rippers are still ripping.
C: He makes sure that everyone is rolling.
D: Even if it’s people who have just started skating, he does competitions, he does everything. He shows the love on so many levels.
G: I have nothing but respect for Derek.
C: That’s what you need, you need someone like that, someone who’s going to show the love, otherwise it gets kinda stale and boring. Don’t get me wrong, if it didn’t happen I’d still skate, but he gets people trying to do harder shit. If your board is dying and he posts a competition saying there’s a board going for third place, if he sees you’re trying, he’ll do something for you.
D: That’s why he’s a legend, a really good man.
D: Ok so this is the last of my questions, then it’s quiz time. You were the first generation to grow up in the skatepark, which has obviously benefitted you both – is there anyone to watch out for in the Belfast skate scene right now?
G: James Ferris.
C: James fucking Ferris!
G: I tell you what, Alfie Carleton.
C: Fucking Goat Man!
G: Ethan Campbell. Goat is the best transition skater to ever fucking do it!
C: Five years time he will be swinging in transitions. He’s only 16.
G: It’s sick to watch because we were older when we started to get good, but Goat, James and Drew started to get good a little bit younger than when we did, then the generation that’s starting now – Chris Petrie and Luke – they are going to be fucking sick because they started so young and they’re already doing shit. I think the generations are going to get younger and younger and better and better.
D: Since you’re technically the future of Irish skateboarding…
C: What? We’re dying off!
D: …it’s only fair that you have to answer questions about the Irish skate past.
C: I am ready to lose!
D: OK, so question 1 – which two Belfast skaters rode for Unabomer?
C: Bernard Rea and Conhuir Lynn!
G: Bernard Rea and Conhuir Lynn!
D: You got that one! This one might be a bit tougher – how many MonkeyBird videos can you name?
G: On YouTube?
D: There have been three, and they’re all on YouTube.
G: ‘Not The New MoneyBird Video’.
D: That’s one.
C: ‘It’s Belfast, Mate’.
G: ‘Six Counties’.
D: That’s two. One more…think about it.
G: Is it not the last one he put out?
D: I think it was the first one, around ‘Six Counties’ time.
G: I actually don’t know.
D: If I said ‘What’…
C: ‘What’s The Point?’
G: Does that mean I win?
C: You got two, I got one.
G: What? (Laughs).
C: This isn’t a good time to get me to think, Dodds; I’m about six beers deep.
D: So there was an Irish skateboard magazine that only lasted one issue – it was a very rad magazine.
D: No (laughing).
C: Irish skate magazine that lasted one issue?
D: It wasn’t meant to do one issue, there was meant to be more but it didn’t work. It was skateboarding 100% – owned by skateboarders, done by skateboarders.
C: I’ve got no idea.
G: I don’t know at all.
D: The Wizard.
G: The Wizard? I’ve never even heard of that!
D: You’ve never heard of that? I’ll have to get you an issue.
C: Does Paddy Lynn have an issue of it?
G: Give us it Plynn!
D: He doesn’t even have the issue of Sidewalk with his first photo in it. The first ever photo, and he doesn’t have the issue. And that’s what I love about him, he just does it for the love.
C: My ma would have the issue framed!
D: You’ll probably get this one – recently we saw the unfortunate closing of Loko Skateshop, but how many years was it open for?
G: Eleven years. No, thirteen years, right?
D: No, counting the Bangor shop…
C: Counting the Bangor shop wasn’t it fifteen years?
D: That’s right.
C: Boom! I did used to ride for them so I should know that.
D: Which late 2000s skatepark camping trip, organised by Jay Dords, attracted the likes of Div Adam, Paul Silvester and Aaron Sweeney?
C: Oh my God, I know this!
D: There were loads of them, maybe three or four. They went all over the place.
C: I can’t remember the names of the videos but they were all in it – Plynn and shit.
C: Was it the Big Push? That was here in 2012, with James Bush.
D: It was Van City.
G: Oh fuck! It’s in there, but I can’t access it.
D: Who was the first pro skater from Belfast?
C: Conhuir Lynn.
G: Denis Lynn?
D: Yeah, Denis.
G: Fuck you (laughs). Everybody thinks it’s Conhuir, but didn’t they both have boards for Bogginzine?
C: Yeah but they weren’t real pro boards.
D: I like to think they were. Conhuir had the Led Zeppelin bro Bogginzine board, one of the sickest graphics ever.
C: We just went to watch the ‘Saint Denis’ thing yesterday too.
D: How did you find that?
G: It was good, like. A solid five out of ten (laughs).
C: Where’s all the new footage, Denis?
G: It was in the video. It was good.
C: I want to see the tranny ripping. He just needs to film a full tranny section.
D: What year did the original St Annes plaza get pulled down?
D: Oh! Really?
C: That was a guess (laughs)!
G: I’d have said 1998 or something.
C: All the footage in that ‘FullCircle’ documentary looks like it’s from around 2000. I didn’t even know that plaza was a thing until that documentary came out.
C: It looked sick. It looked like there were ledges everywhere; ledges in the way of ledges.
G: It would have been so sick to skate it. It looked amazing.
D: Then they buried it and now it’s just crackhead central.
C: With a big ten stair and a huge handrail.
D: The gnarliest thing in Belfast that very few people go near.
C: Denis front boarded it. A front board is the last thing I’d want to go for. Clynn kickflipped over the rail as well. Each stair is really big.
D: It’s not a ten stair, it’s like a fifteen stair.
G: Shout out Plynn, switch ollie!
C: Shout out Dee Collins – heelflip! Shout out Josh Pearson – he landed on tre flip, nollie flip and heelflip down it!
G: If you don’t know Josh Pearson, you will do. Josh Pearson can do any trick down any set, then you take him to a ledge and he can’t do anything.
C: He can just about crooked grind (laughs). He comes out once every three months and destroys it.
D: What is a Bogginzine?
C: A magazine? What do you mean? ‘A Bogginzine’?
G: There was a magazine and some videos and some boards.
D: What was it originally?
G: It was trying to push Irish skateboarding.
D: As what?
G: What do you want from me?
C: I don’t understand the question!
D: It was a website, a forum. It got taken down some years ago. Jay Dords, for some reason you stopped it and we all wish you’d bring it back please.
D: Any famous last words.
G: Franky Villani is the best skater in the world.
C: Antwuan Dixon – back in the day – is the face of skateboarding. Andy Roy replied to my Instagram! Me and Gerard sent Andy Roy a video of us when we were out partying one night…we were just saying different shit at the same time, like a big mix up of words, and we sent him it…
G: He replied, he was like “thanks dogs, you guys rule!”
D: Anybody to shout out in Belfast?
C: All the boys that we’ve already mentioned.
G: Shout out to anybody who skates in Belfast.
D: Any skate crews out there, we’re calling you out – come to Belfast. Don’t just go to London, come to Belfast…
G: …and be pleasantly disappointed.
C: You’ll see the worst spots you’ve ever skated. You’ll be lucky to do any of that tech shit you’re pulling.
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