(Featured: Sidewalk Magazine, 4th June 2015.)
If you’ve been paying attention to the company since the early days, or more recently, caught our Skateboard Café in Copenhagen article back in Issue 219 then you probably know that the Café video has been underway for a couple of years. If you were also one of the skateboarders to attend any of the premieres of ‘Alfresco’ during May, then you were probably treated to booze, laughs, rad atmosphere, loads of cheers and a lot of incredibly good English skateboarding. Finally if you’re yet to know anything about, or to see the Skateboard Café video, then here’s your wake-up call. We highly recommend grabbing a copy as soon as it reaches your local skate shop, which should be very soon. You’re in for a treat.
At the Leeds premiere of Alfresco I got introduced to Rich Smith, the main barista behind the brand who prior to the premiere had just spent a few hours filming the Café boys smash Hyde Park.
I had a brief chat to Rich who was keen to talk all things Skateboard Café and Alfresco once he’d got the rest of the premieres underway. So without further delay, check below to get Rich’s thoughts on full-length skate videos over web releases, filming for ‘Alfresco’, seeing the brand grow to what it is now and most surprisingly; how a drunken Mike Arnold ended up one upping Jake Johnson.
The Skateboard Café video is finally finished and will be hitting skate shops soon. Is it a relief to have it wrapped up, or do you enjoy the process of constantly working on a project like Alfresco?
Ah man it’s such a relief! In the way that now I can actually go skate without lugging a camera bag around every single time. But yeah I do enjoy the process; I like being that busy and always having a project to be working on.
Everyone was so productive around the deadline time and I really want to try and keep that flow going. It doesn’t really stop now either, we’ve got the new line dropping real soon which includes Korahn’s first pro board on Cafe and a Danny Wainwright guest board which I’m super excited about, got a short edit to make from our premiere tour a few weeks ago, got a few edits lined up with Wavey Mike (Arnold) and I’d like to do a Day In The Life type edit with Shaun Currie – who wouldn’t want to see that?
Obviously, there’s a lot you could have played around with for skits and moments between parts based around the ‘Skateboard Café’ idea if you’d wanted to; like you’ve dabbled with for the ads in the past. But aside from the intro that was fairly absent from the video. With Alfresco being the first video, was that because you wanted to let the skating speak for the company rather than the theme or image?
Yeah, exactly. I try not to box myself in too much with the theme; I can imagine it would get a bit repetitive and predictable if every other shot was sipping a coffee or an ice cream Sundae. It’s all about the skating, filming, tunes and keep the theme/branding subtle.
How has it been seeing the brand grow since it started? Though Café has been going for nearly five years; do you consider this video as the first big milestone for the company?
Yeah it fully feels like that. For sure it’s not the start; the first video I made in 2007/08 was titled ‘Skateboard Café’ – shit that’s like seven or eight years ago! Then a few promos, adverts and stuff but they felt more like scene videos in a way. This definitely feels like the first video as a board company, with a team.
Rich filming Korahn Gayle.
Why do you think it’s important to keep up with releasing quality footage, and do you think it’s easy for you and the team to put clips together as you’re all so friendly and tight knit?
It’s important because it expresses the company, it’s soul-less without characters to represent it. I don’t really see how a skate company would work if you don’t film or are good friends with someone who films to be able to put content out, it’s crucial in my eyes. It definitely helps that we’re all pretty tight and go skate all the time anyways yeah.
What’s the filming and editing process been like for the video? Was there a set date to stop filming so you could get your head down with the editing? Or did you just finish parts as you went along, when the team were happy with what they had filmed?
I was pretty much filming right up until the premiere! There’s a trick in Mike’s part where he pops the stair gap at Lloyds, tre flip then super quick wallie crook off the step – that was the last thing I filmed, I remember squeezing that into his part about three or four days before the premiere.
We actually had two deadlines this time around which was weird, originally we were gonna drop the video at Christmas. Looking back I’m so glad we didn’t! It got pretty intense trying to finish parts up in November; I really don’t recommend it… Then January/February came and it was still kind of hard to film and it was like, ‘shit when are we actually gonna bring this thing out?’ We’d already had a few ‘dropping soon’ ads about and I hate to build things up too much so in late March I booked the Cube Cinema for the premiere – May 9th, a real deadline. Since then a lot of shit in the video was filmed in those last few months.
As far as if people were happy with what they had filmed, I think generally yeah. But it’s always a hard one… There’s always something more you can add to it so I just felt the time was right to call it. Nothing worse than footage gathering dust… Get it out!
You’ve spent a solid two years on this video and have done a fair bit of travelling in the process. Where has the best Skateboard Café trip taken you all to and can you give us a good story from it?
We rinsed Barcelona quite a bit, as it’s the perfect place to escape the winter. Visited Prague, Berlin and a bunch of places around the UK but the best was easily Copenhagen! We stayed in the raddest AirBnB right next to Fælledparken. Got super lucky, we were there during a banging heat wave, cycled everywhere and swam every day. After ten days of skating and filming solidly, normally my back would be fucked! But the swimming and cycling in-between skates made it fine. It’s just such a rad city, everyone’s super active and friendly.
A specific story… So Korahn (Gayle) was shooting a flip fakie on this weird metal boat thing shaped like a quarter pipe which was over hanging the river, his board shot out and just sank down to the bottom of the water. Korahn jumped in and tried rescuing it, with a hilarious holding his nose and hoping to sink to the bottom technique! So I decided to jump in, swam down to the bottom and retrieved the set up… There are not many things that Korahn can’t do that I can, so I was stoked, (laughs).
Who was on it the most with filming when you started out, and who took some motivation to get going? Also, did you have any idea of what order the parts would run in, or did that become clearer as the video progressed?
I’d say Arnott was on it most from the start, he had loads of ideas of what he wanted to film plus he films shit super quick so he helped kick things off. But everyone’s been hyped man; we all wanted this to be a dope video. Korahn definitely goes ham as soon as a deadline is mentioned, it was the same for his Bristol’s Finest part – the deadline just sets him off on some next level shit!
The order I kind of decided as we went along, however I knew for a while I wanted to open with Shaun (Currie). He’s just the best guy to start with, you’re always gonna want to continue watching after seeing a style like that! Mike having last part was a last minute switch up, just thought it would be too predictable to be Korahn as he always has last part in everything, (laughs), plus Mike is the new dude, so it seemed fitting.
Korahn had some heavy tricks in his video part; did he or anyone else have any notable battles for tricks whilst you were filming? Were there any particular clips for either the whole video or each rider you were really stoked with yourself?
Oh my days yeah, Korahn tried a trick over a hundred times in two sessions. Gap the stopper to back tailslide kickflip to regs at Little Lloyds. Some of the attempts he landed on were insane, proper sucked up tweaked out kickflips but the one he actually made was kinda soggy so it didn’t make the cut. At least technically it’s ABD now aye Korahn? Big ups to (George) Nevin for filming the majority of that onslaught!
One of my favourite tricks in the video and one of the favourite things I’ve ever filmed is (Harry) Ogilvie’s thread-the-needle hippie jump. We didn’t have a clue what we were going to skate that day and it’s always hard to find something new in your home city. We were skating a kerb next to it when Harry and Mike started fucking around just trying to jump through it, then it was just like ‘hippie jump?’ and somehow worked. To me that clip has so much character, style and spontaneity. The spot was made for it!
Another one is Mike’s wallie crook in Barcelona, we skated past it in the day time and were all tripping on Jake Johnson’s wallie over.
A good five or six beers later when we cruised back that way Mike just started toying around with it and was fully getting over it. We had to feed him a few more beers during his battle then he eventually got it, fucking insane! Definitely make sure you check it when you’re next in Barcelona if you haven’t already, it’s HUGE.
How involved were the team in editing their parts, or did they just trust you and leave it up to you?
It was pretty much left in my hands. I like to edit stuff by myself then get a second opinion which was usually Mike. He was a fresh set of eyes and ears for me during the editing process. We grew up watching similar skate video’s (mainly Bristol In Bloom) so he shared the same sort of vision with how we wanted shit to look. He was a big help when I was losing my mind after watching stuff one thousand times over. It got to the point where I was like, ‘is this good? Is this shit?’ (Laughs) He helped loads with finding tunes as well, which was a mission this time round! Pretty tricky to find a tune that suits the skater, the brand and ideally isn’t too rinsed. I chatted to everyone on the team about the vid all the time; they all had their own influence on it in their own way.
It’s no secret that full-length skateboard videos are becoming rarer. Why did you want to produce a full video for hard copy release as opposed to an online-only project?
I guess it came at a good time where not many people are doing it, but honestly I hadn’t given it much thought, just knew I wanted to make a full length video. Online stuff is cool and a great way to get shit out there, but it just feels a little bit soulless at times, all about views and ‘likes’ or whatever. The best thing I can hope for from this video is that it inspires kids to put more time into shit and bring out full-length videos.
You premiered the video across the country too which is always great for different scenes and brings a better awareness of the brand. But there’s also a sense of community at those types of events. Would you agree there’s a lot more power in hard copy release videos as you’re able to do things such as that and bring skateboarders together?
Yeah absolutely, again it wasn’t something I’d spent a great deal of time thinking about, we just did it and it worked out. It adds that personal touch, getting to go skate that city, hang out with the locals and stores that support the brand. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Do you still find that Café gets labelled a Bristol brand at all and if so, do think this video will change that? How has it been seeing the reception that the company gets in different areas of England over the last few weeks?
Yeah it does, not as much as it used to. Don’t get me wrong I love Bristol, the skate scene here is tight and I’m proud to be a part of it but I don’t think it helps the brand to be labelled ‘Bristol’s Skateboard Café’. I wouldn’t want anyone in other cities thinking that Skate Cafe’s not for them because it’s a Bristol thing you know? It’s for everyone!
It was fun seeing the reception in different cities; each one had a good response in a different way. Up north people seemed to be feeling the wallie/wallride kinda tricks then the further south we got the tech tricks got bigger cheers, (laughs).
As Danny Wainwright is just about as OG Bristol as it gets, how important was it for you to have him in the video? Did it take much persuading to get him on it or was he pretty keen right away?
So the first trip filming for this video was Barcelona, winter 2013 and Danny was living there at the time, so we hooked up every day, he showed us around the city and ended up filming loads. Originally he wanted to put an independent edit out with the clips we’d filmed but as soon as I suggested it being saved for the Café video he was down. It just felt right; we were all skating together, same spots, through the same lens… It was only fitting. Danny and his generation paved the way for us lot, so I was really stoked to add someone of his age into the mix.
What’s next for Skateboard Café? Are you gonna start working on another video straight away or just take it easy for the time being?
Just the stuff I mentioned earlier. Also, been chatting to Big Wave about this… If I can, get hold of a VX1000 and MK1, maybe a little Skate Cafe VX edit could be cool.
How about you? I’d guess that resting your back up from two years worth of filming abuse is a top priority?
Pretty much! I just want to skate myself for a bit. I miss it! Find my feet, take a few slams, loose the fear and remember how to kickflip (laughs).
Thanks Rich, anything you want to end this on?
Big thanks to the stores that support us and people that like and buy our shit!
Thanks to Korahn, Harry, Mike, Danny, Shaun and Josh, you guys all smashed it. WE DEEEED IT!
Mike Arnold, backside 180 fakie 5-0 revert.