Josh Arnott Interview – Haunts

"He needs to improve his drinking skills but he is very good at spelling. Everyone is good at something mate."

When CJ asked if I’d be keen to write Arnott’s intro for his Sidewalk feature, I thought,

“Yeah I would but there are two people that know him better than anyone, and they would be Keeeeenan and Kel”.

I was thinking about his best mates since childhood, Chris Gallop and Joe Smith. So I asked if they wanted to do it and of course, they were very keen to rinse their best mate. But before they do, I will say this; although he doesn’t realise it (but he really should), he absolutely kills it on his skateboard and it’s always a pleasure to see an Arnott clip pop up, which is a rarity because he’s not about that ‘gram life. He’d way prefer to put something out that he has put some thought into and worked hard and spent time on, rather than just whacking clips on Instagram for that instant gratification. It’s refreshing to see. I look forward to seeing your next part Arn! So without further ado, here is Breadstick’s introduction, brought to you by Randy and Bollock. – Enjoy

Korahn Gayle

One of my favourite memories of Josh was the time we were in the Warehouse club in Bristol. That night, Josh came to meet Joe (Smith) and I and our mates for some drinks. Josh didn’t really know our mates at the time so just sat there in silence and didn’t really introduce himself, (like always). After a little while, Josh got up and went to the toilet. All of a sudden our friend Nick leans in and says “Fucking hell lads, that’s the tallest Chinese kid I’ve ever seen!” On a serious note though – when he’s not dying his hair orange or watching Fake Taxi clips, (on repeat), Josh is one of the most genuine and nicest people on and off his board.

Not a natural, but doesn’t give in until it’s landed or the board is finished. Over the last couple of years Josh has gone from strength to strength, proving why he is one of the best. Keep up the good work mate.

Chris Gallop

Josh has come a long way since his starring role in The Sixth Sense.

I look up to him, (literally), for how he’s handled things on and off a skateboard over the last few years. The most modest guy ever and would never big himself up. This Hammers fan is allergic to mould, always late, and for some reason cannot burp. The kid lived in Spain for six months and didn’t get a suntan. He needs to improve his drinking skills but he is very good at spelling. Everyone is good at something mate. He knows life’s too short to not do exactly what you want to. Keep doing it Arnott.

Joe Smith

Josh pops a Mayan ollie for the gods of Chew Magna – photo CJ.

First up, how did you first come into contact with skateboarding growing up on the outskirts of Bristol?

I used to play football with some older guys in the cul-de-sac on the estate where I grew up. Some of their brothers skated and as soon as I had a go on their boards I got into it. I did a nose stall on a curb, that was my opener (laughs). Two weeks later I got a board, it was a ‘Hudson’ from JJB Sports. You know the ones, they come wrapped in plastic sleeves and within a few weeks the griptape was pretty much worn through. Around that time my dad made me a flat bar and we had a curb and a drain, that was our gap.

How long after that did you get your first ‘proper’ set up and head into Bristol City Centre to set foot into the wider scene?

I got a Reaction board for Christmas that had some Indy trucks and Ricta wheels. I think I had that for about two years before we headed to Lloyds. This was way before I knew anyone though; I reckon the first time I went there was even on the Hudson board.

Where did the Christmas set-up come from?

I think it was from HSC (Harrow Skate Centre: a long running mail order arm of NUDUK Distro that’s long gone) and I just saw the mail order advert in Sidewalk. I didn’t even realise that there were skate shops (bricks and mortar) at that point. I just thought that you ordered it from the magazine – like how you’d get a toy from a toy shop. I didn’t ever imagine that there would be specific shops that solely sold skateboards.

How long after that did you get to the point where you got in with a crew in Bristol, started filming and picked up your first sponsor?

My first sponsor was Toy Machine through Route One because I worked there. Leading up to that I skated with my mate’s older brother and his mates but they ended up leaving school, finding the pub and girls and just fading out of skating. I had no one to skate with so I went one town over to Keynsham and that’s where I met Jed (Josh’s housemate who skates) and skated there pretty much until I was 17-18, when I started to skate town and really getting to know the crew who would be the next group like Rich Smith (Skateboard Café co-founder and filmer).

High crooked grind on an untouched Weston-super-Mare arthouse table and chair configuration. Photo CJ.

So you worked at Route One and got a flow deal for Toy Machine there, had you started being filmed and becoming part of the ‘system’ of being a sponsored skater at this point?

It was around 2013 when I was at Route One but I was kind of only getting the boards because I worked there. I had filmed some footage with James Harris and bits that were in local scene videos. Not long after that I met George Nevin, which is how I got a trick in his scene video ‘Bristol’s Finest’. Around this time Danny (Wainwright) asked me to ride for Fifty Fifty and Rich Smith spoke to me about getting on Skateboard Café.

This must have been around the early stages of Café, right?

Yeah. Shaun Currie was on already. He was the only one who had been on for ages, he was like a lone soldier. Well saying that, Harry (Ogilvie) was always on but not with any big announcement or welcome clip or anything. So yeah, Harry, Shaun and myself were on at this point.

I guess it was at the time before what we’re used to now with everything having a big online reveal or strategy…

Yeah, we just put it out. I guess Instagram was around but it wasn’t massive, (nor did it host videos at this stage) and it was just before the boom of loads of UK board brands, like all the bedroom ones. I got on Supra through the shop around this time.

I always think of you and Andy Coleman in the same boat as far as shoe sponsors: getting on various companies through your respective shop sponsors.

Yeah, Supra and now Emerica. Before that I used to just buy Vans and Nike. The Supra hook up was around the time that Syd (Justin Sydenham of Fifty Fifty) did the Go Skateboarding Day and the Bristol residency in 2014 with them. Syd called me up and said that they wanted a shop flow dude for both brands. That was alright ‘cause it was Supra and Kr3w and that was when Coleman was getting the same deal but through Decimal (skate shop in Cirencester). This didn’t last very long though as I think the company was getting sold at that point.

So, when this came to an end, were you without shoes for a while between Supra and Emerica?

It wasn’t very long. When I got on Emerica was just after the Café video (Alfresco, 2015). Mike (Arnold) skates for Welcome (skate shop in Leeds), Sam Barratt from Emerica in the UK is a part owner of the store and I think they’d spoken about me getting on. The Alfresco part was sent over and three or four months later I was getting shoes again. I was quite lucky to not jump around because I think that’s a bit weird and I really like Emerica.

I guess it’s a situation where they’d seen you out there doing it without needing too much guidance, so you were kind of a sure thing to some extent in the sense that you were already doing things the right way and without needing to be micro-managed?

Definitely. Sam’s said before that if there’s anything they can do to help, if I want to work on something, to just hit them up and they can help me out. Like with a project we’re working on with Theobalds Cap Co. Craig at Theobalds spoke to Sam about helping out on my travel costs to London on filming missions for it.

Top shelf frontside bluntslide on the gift that keeps giving – Lloyds, Bristol. Photo CJ.

I guess being from a scene like Bristol where there’s so much industry and so many generations of sponsored skaters, you kind of know how it all works and you’re a safe bet as far as a shoe hook ups go.

Growing up seeing a local like Danny (Wainwright) taking it to America and making a name for himself definitely shows you how to ‘get sponsored’ to an extent. And now with Korahn, they’re both the perfect example for anyone to see how it’s done on a big scale and we’ve all taken bits from both of them along the way.

It seems like you’re doing the kind of skating that you want to do and not chasing things that you maybe don’t want to try just to keep someone else happy, which is rad. Kind of like being sponsored for how you skate rather than how the sponsorship system is used to dictating the way you skate?

I guess so. I know if I wasn’t on Café and my other sponsors that I’d still be skating as much, but maybe not at the same level. If that were the case, I’d probably have a well different job and lifestyle.

I think it’s different generations being influenced by different things. When I first started, I was watching Menikmati and Sorry which were just loads of handrails and huge sets of stairs. But there’s not one style of skating now, it’s so broad. Most of the spots got rinsed by past generations and that shit’s not accessible over here now if your coming up. If people aren’t getting money and have a job, if they jump down something it’s all on the line. If you break your wrist you can’t go to work. Luckily I work in Fifty Fifty and can work if I’m injured. I did that when I broke my arm last time, ended up working in the shop. I can be in there dealing with customers and sales with my arm in a sling.

Maybe if you’re getting a bit of money off your sponsor and not worrying about working as well then that could be a factor in pushing yourself a little harder I guess, but then with that comes the pressure from those sponsors at that level.

When you first started thinking about sponsorship, what did you think it would actually be like? And, what do you want now? Do you want a pro board on Café or are you a dick in skateboarding if you say that that’s actually what you want?

It depends who you are. After I won NASS (the amateur section of NASS 2017) a few people have kind of taken the piss a bit. I don’t know, it’s weird because I don’t even like watching my own footage, let alone wanting all eyes on me for winning a comp. When it comes to what I expect from it, I never want to be the best but free boards and free shoes take the pressure off needing to work as much to pay for that stuff. Sponsorship kind of just gives you a platform and a crew to belong to.

I think kids now just want any sponsor they can get for the sake of having a sponsor, they will just take anything that offered. I think people blow it out to be more than what it really is, they want everything right now. I had a DM from a kid a few weeks ago who said he’d been skating for about two years and did I think he should send a sponsor me clip out and who to. It’s like they just need to see what happens and not worry about it so much. I didn’t want to shoot his dreams down but I was skating for about ten years before I got on Café. Dunno, it’s just so in your face now.

I won’t be searching for a Pro board as I don’t consider myself to be on that level, skill or personality wise, as you have to be marketable on and off your skateboard. Of course it’s great to have ambitions and goals in life, but in this day and age you would probably get called out for saying that you wanted to be ‘Pro’. Maybe I can have a retirement board one day ha ha ha.

Frontside boardslide and then some through the kink at Keynsham. Photo CJ.

Yeah, when I saw that you’d won the AM part of NASS I thought it was pretty out of character having known you for a while.

It was a weird one because I was going anyway to see Method Man and I’ve gone for years, but mainly just worked there on a stall or done some driving for them whilst I was there. Craig from Theobalds put me down as an athlete just to get me in this year, so I just entered the street comp. I showed up half an hour before it started and I was pretty stoked on some of the parts of the course this time. The bump to bar was rad! The Southbank section was really good as well. There was stuff that was actually street and fun to skate. After the event, someone just came and found me and said that I’d won. I’ve never entered a comp before and I ended up winning. I didn’t even know there was money on the line for it. I probably wouldn’t enter one again though as I’m 27 and I don’t want to be the dude entering an AM comp when I’m like 30. Winning a bit of money was rad though, it all helps pay the rent.

Whilst we’re talking about making rent – you work in Fifty Fifty and you’ve done a bit of screen-printing with Tidy Mike alongside it. I guess the whole thing is a balance against how much time you want to be able to skate at this level right?

The love of skating is keeping things how they are for the time being. At the moment I’m self-employed working three days per week, living with my mate. It took me about two years to get to the point that I’m at now and that gives me enough time off to skate as much as I want. My mum told me to go for it and just do things that I wanted to do.

Learning to screen print was rad and has opened up a whole new world and income stream, if Tidy gets a big order in and I’m not working in the shop. This worked out well through last winter for sure. I can be busy when I need to be and then have the time off when I need it. If I worked a 9-5, that wouldn’t be the case… I’m still broke pay-cheque to pay-cheque but I’d rather be doing this than have a more stable job and no freedom.

(Photo above – frontside tailsliding through Burnham on Sea’s wax reserves. Photo CJ.)

You’ve got a lot of good examples around the Bristol scene when it comes to balancing working life and sponsored skateboarding of varying levels.

I guess there are loads of good examples. Coming from Bristol, you can’t be that big ego person anyway. You get grounded early on and you know you’re going to need to work alongside getting product. You’ll still see Flynn (Trotman) around now and again and he still kills it. He’s still a part of the Fifty Fifty family but has a career and other responsibilities, a good example of balancing things long term for sure.

Bristol’s always been really grounded as far as sponsorship goes anyway. I used to go down to Lloyds and all the Jus’ Foolin’ (Fifty Fifty Video from yesteryear) lot were down there skating and they’d all be super mellow and talk to you. So, the lessons of how to conduct yourself as a sponsored skater were taught for sure.

The whole thing now is about being approachable and reachable for direct interaction through social media, it doesn’t pay to be that elitist dude. That kid messaging you may end up being the next dude and you’re on a trip with him.

Yeah, you never know.

Crab dodging switch front 180 into fastness under the sunny skies of Clevedon. Photo CJ.

I guess sponsorship and the expectations of it have changed over the last few years.

What are your thoughts on social channels and what can sometimes come across as self-hype via Instagram for example?

Skating has changed over the last generation for sure, it’s almost gotten a bit softer in the sense that it’s so much more varied and accepting of different styles and looks. Anything’s okay now, whereas before when I was coming up, if you didn’t do a back tail at Lloyds in big grey joggers and Nike Dunks you may as well not bother going. Kids now don’t give a shit if you don’t like what they’re wearing or doing now, it almost helps them stand out that bit more rather than blend in. I’d rather just blend into the background.

I’m not one for too much self-promotion. I see a lot of people posting up product when they get it and maybe sometimes that comes across to kids like a flow deal is more than it really is. When I get some shoes from Sam at Emerica, I tend to just email him and tell him I’m stoked rather than telling everyone who follows my Instagram.

If you really dig deep into the whole putting something out there on Instagram thing, it is an ego boost to an extent. You put it up there because you want people to see and like it. If I wasn’t skating for Café and my other sponsors I probably wouldn’t even film or circulate any footage because I’m not that type of person naturally in or out of skateboarding. There’s no link in my bio…no blue tick athlete or ‘sponsored by’ section on there (laughs).

Maybe you should do that now you’ve won a contest?

Maybe I should; ‘NASS comp winner’. Gold medal emoji!

What are your thoughts on the pace of sponsored skateboarding now when it comes to social media, online clips and the constant need for ‘the latest’? Do people have to work harder now for less longevity in what they put out?

Look at Mike’s (Arnold) Lloyds part. If that came out on a VHS or DVD it would have been on repeat until the player burnt out. His part went up on Thrasher and within a day there were so many other parts on there pushing his further from the headline news. I know how long that part took and how much mind fuck went into thinking of new tricks for that spot.

Back to Bristol for a switch ollie of R2D2 proportions. Photo CJ.

More people see it and there’s no real geographical or distribution boundaries but everything has about a day or so in it these days…

There’s no longevity in it. Since the new way of how it’s done, I no longer remember the order of tricks in section like used to do. I don’t really remember anyone’s parts from the past 5-6 years unless I’ve watched it on a DVD on repeat like I used to.

Supreme’s ‘Cherry’ was the only thing that I didn’t get a physical copy of that I’ve watched enough to really take it in like I used to. But hey, it’s not 1999 and the world moves on to some extent.

I just don’t remember things as much because of the way things are done now. You don’t remember the last big part before Mike’s because there’s so many and there’s no real timeline when it’s this frequent.

Yeah, the difference between the frequency of physical full-length releases and the day-to-day solo Internet release.

It’s hard to keep track of. That’s just the world we live in, it’s not skateboarding’s fault. There’s so much new stuff that the time frame is muddled. I can remember what shoes certain pros were wearing in a line from a DVD 10 years ago but I can’t tell you half of what Mike was wearing in his Lloyds part. That’s just due to the repetition of watching a DVD as a kid and watching an online part on your phone.

Who are some of your favourite skaters that are coming up and where do you see some of those guys going with it?

As for skaters coming up, probably just Sam Nobbs from Bristol. Most people won’t have heard of him yet but when this Café edit that’s due to drop comes out then people will see how rad he is.

(Photo above – Josh and his 12 siblings hammer through a bluntslide 270 at Chew Magna. Photo CJ.)

In a fantasy football kind of way, if you could put together a group of eight skaters past and present to create the ultimate team for an edit, who would it be and why?

Manager: Jed Coldwell

Goal Keeper: Matt Field (big man, big tricks, big style)

Right Back: John Igei (solid style and bag of tricks, that Static 2 part!)

Left Back: Jake Rupp (power, style, grace)

Centre Back: Billy Rohan (your Gazza type of skater, but fucking amazing!)

Centre Back: Ricky Oyola (East Coast powerhouse! Solid, reliable, street and smart)

Left Midfield: Christian Maalouf (explosive pop, bendy legs and style for miles)

Centre Midfield: Brian Wenning (you know his ability mid block so you want him in the midfield)

Centre Midfield: Anthony Pappalardo (same as Wenning; mid block abilities, East Coast dream team)

Right Midfield: Josh Kalis (right wing, explosive tre flips down the wing, cant fuck with them!)

Striker: Bobby De Keyzer (the Messi of skateboarding)

Striker: Gabriel Rodriguez (pure flare and style upfront)

Subs: Andy Makepeace (he would kill me if I didn’t include him in this fantasy football team, but he’s not good enough! Plus his tree legs have gone!).

What do you have planned with Café, Bones Wheels and Emerica over the next year? Are you working on any video parts that we need to be looking out for?

I have footage in the new edit by Phat Jim called ‘Island’ that I’m really stoked to be a part of as it’s not going to London or my regular go-to spots. I like going to spots in middle of nowhere that are hard to skate and a bit more rugged, stuff that you really have to work for. Island is through Grey and Emerica so should be a zine as well as an edit. I’m also working on some stuff with Theobalds that involves going to London a fair bit too. With Café it’s hard as Rich and most of the other riders don’t live in Bristol anymore, which has slowed my footage down a bit. Also, Rich and I never seem to have the same days off. It’ll come together in the end though.

Time to give shouts outs to anyone and everyone!

My amazing girlfriend Anita Ce Faci, my mum and sister, everyone at Café, Syd and Danny at Fifty Fifty for everything, Craig and Hold Tight at Theobalds, Alan and Danger at Shiner, Sam Barratt at Emerica, everyone at Sidewalk for this, CJ for putting up with my madness, Nathan and Sam at Stance, my cat Ralph (legend), Tidy Mike, James Griffiths, Phat Jim, Reece Leung, Leo Sharp, Henry at Grey, Ollie Lock’s burrito addiction for keeping me broke, Ganj Wax Jed, Rags Gang , Bruvver, Heineken, Bollock and Randy for the horrendous intro words! Thanks for Fake Taxi!

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