Birmingham native Kris Vile has been honoured with his very own guest board on A Third Foot, so Chris Johnson headed over to the ATF factory to chat with Kris and Ken about the project.
Photos and text by CJ.
Growing up in Birmingham in an era when A Third Foot was already up and running in terms of production as well as having a team, how was it for a very young Kris Vile to get accepted into the ranks?
Obviously I was extremely lucky in that sense because A Third Foot was a local company to my hometown, they were a prominent part of the scene in Birmingham and throughout the UK. I was just a little excitable kid and the guys saw that I was keen and started to flow a board now and then, which for me was unreal.
How long did you ride for the company before the Blind Europe deal came through and what are some of your standout memories from those formative years?
I was riding for A Third Foot for about five years before I moved over to Blind Europe. When ATF and myself parted ways it was on really good terms, I mean obviously if you’re just leaving a company it might seem a bit lame after five years of their support, but the new opportunity was understood from both sides.
My time spent with them was amazing, loads of travel around the UK on tours, The Big Push (under Document Magazine at the time) and all with a rad bunch of people such as Ben Blake, Dougy, Tom Brown and many more. I learnt a lot about life on and off a skateboard in those years and have fond memories for sure. I’ve always remained good friends with both the team (past and present) and Ken and Joel.
Having travelled the globe from such a young age and adapting to various homes and opportunities, how did this guest board come about and how does it feel for this to be happening with the people who initially gave you sponsorship?
I've been living back in Birmingham for over three years now and obviously being back in my hometown I was closer to the guys. Board sponsors have come and gone since my days with A Third Foot but I never really found a company that I could call home, always resulting in the parting of ways.
Over my time back in Brum I've been in between companies, bumping into Ken from time to time, and one occasion he suggested to me that we do something together. I thought it was great idea but due to being busy travelling over the summer months it took a while for us to get the ball rolling. We began to plan the guest board in addition to them helping me out with boards in a time in need. I couldn't be happier with A Third Foot being the first company in which I've put my name on a board; I've got the upmost respect for them and their love for what they do.
How has the local scene changed from your perspective over your time skating the city? Has the increase in private security, skate stoppers on everything and the decrease in public space (the city centre seemingly more geared towards commerce than culture), and how has the scene adapted to these changes?
Well over the year that I've been skating in Brum, the scene has gone through dramatic change. I was around for the early days when skaters were pretty much given the freedom to skate through out the city and hit up anything along the way. There were the main spots where people would meet up and hang for hours on end, every day. There were also less skate stoppers! After a couple of years, the council passed a by-law against skating in the city centre, resulting in a massive increase in security and unskateable surfacing dotted around the place. The result of this was that the scene took a massive blow and lost most of the main spots, breaking up and marginalising it.
Over the next few years the scene was small and only consisted of a handful of people, but we’ve always had Ideal Skate Shop and A Third Foot supporting it. Right now there are more kids skating in and around Birmingham than I’ve ever seen before, and although there aren't tremendous amount of skate spots the scene has once again come back to life.
Tel us about the 'Magic Wand' shape that you and the guys at A Third Foot have developed for this guest board. It's the same dimensions both nose and tail right?
Yeah, it skates the same both ways. It’s funny that you refer to it as the magic wand shape, when I rode for A Third Foot years ago we developed a board for me to skate that was symmetrical on both sides. The board also had the symmetrical graphic to go with it because for some reason since my first board I skated it backwards. That board shape that was the only one that I skated until I left to ride for Blind and that’s the reasoning behind doing it once again.
The whole process of this design and manufacture involves a cross section of artistic talents from across the West Midlands with the original graphic by Chris Bourke, top graphic by Birmingham OG Oldie and the board design and production by Ken and Joel. I guess all that's left to do now is for you to go and skate it. What have you got on the cards as far as projects and travel over the winter months?
Me and the guys at the factory are stoked to be able to use Chris Bourke’s eco friendly tree graphic on a board. It’s a piece that he did for A Third Foot many years ago. With a few tweaks the graphic was put together which captivates an era for me, plus we had Oldie's rad symmetrical ATF art as the cherry on top.
As for future plans over the winter months, I'm going to catch up with family and friends up until Christmas, give the body a little rest and be ready for a fantastic 2014.
Thanks to Ken and Joel for all the support given to me and the British skate scene for many years, you guys deserve all the respect in the world!
Ken Gear, A Third Foot.
Although many of the older generations may be familiar, for the younger generations who may not be aware of the A Third Foot story, can you give us a brief insight to the origins, ideologies and methods of production for the company?
A Third Foot started in 1997, setting ourselves the challenge to manufacture the first quality boards made in the UK. With our punk DIY ethos and stubborn determination, we imported small quantities of maple veneers and glue from the States and entered into the crazy world of skateboard alchemy. Paul Schmitt's passion towards great boards made using the cold press method seems the way to go. Now we know why we are still the only press shop in the UK. There are just so many variables to overcome. With the involvement of friends over the years it feels like so much more than just a business now.
Historically you guys have had riders from across the British Isles but have always had a solid grasp on the local West Midlands skateboarding talent. How did the sponsorship of Kris come about and what part do you think A Third Foot played in his initial progression both on and off the board?
Kris was brought to our attention by Ideal, the local skate shop (a good reason to support your local skate shop is that without them, local rising talent could potentially go unnoticed and harnessed). At first, we had concerns about hooking him up so young as this can totally change someone's perception of skating before they've had the chance to enjoy it for what it should be about; having a blast and 'chilling with your mates'. I hope we had some part in developing Kris as a skater and as a person. His parents were definitely cool to let him go on trips with guys like us that were less than clean living.
For those who don't know the ins and outs, tell us the process from start to finish when it comes to a concept like this right through to the board being on the walls of skate shop.
The reason we felt so comfortable offering him a guest board - a first for us as to date as we've never put a name on a board before - is down to his totally professional approach, energy and obvious talent on a board. There were never any hard feelings between us when he left A Third Foot, so we thought we’d do it whilst we have the chance.
Once we started designing the board together, things just fell into place. The double shape needed some serious attention to get it right. We had developed a board called the ‘Magic Wand’ years ago when we noticed that Kris skated boards backwards, using the nose as the tail. So his signature 8.25'' shape has ended looking like the Wand's big brother. The Wand was black, white and gold so we continued the theme for Kris's signature graphic, asking artist Chris Bourke if we could use an amazing vinyl cut print of a tree of his adding Kris's name and signature to the art and using black, white and gold. The multi directional top graphic was done by Brum legend Oldie, using wood stained top ply to compliment the print.
How important is it for you guys to call on the creative talents within the local area on this one as far as graphics and design goes?
Oldie and Chris Bourke being local artists feels spot on, and Kris going out taking photos of local landmarks and skate spots or just things of significance adds a Brummie touch. Plus us making the boards is about as local as it gets. I know it's one we can all be proud to be a part of.
Finally, how does it feel for you guys to come full circle and work on a project such as this with Kris?
It feels great to work with Kris to do this project. We have been proud to be a part of his skate life and I think he is seriously one of the best skaters this country has produced, but it's his approach and attitude that convinces me that we've only seen the start of Kris Vile. We would have him back on the team in a minute but the States are calling you. Good luck mate, go get 'em.