Your pro career for Panic and then Blueprint spanned a fair old period of time. Of that time span what period would you say was the most exciting? What video was the most fun to film for?
There were so many times to me that were exciting but when I think back to the fondest memories I had so far it has to be the older Summer days when we were skating and filming all the time at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. The scene at the time was so alive and everyone was learning so much new shit that the energy was incredible. We would just smoke weed and skate all day into the night, the crew I can remember, just to name a few was Colin, Baines, Magee, Flynn, Jake, Dominguez, Peter Lee, Ray, Billy, Lee, Skinner.
Regarding the funnest one to film for, it had to be Lost and Found, I was living in Spain at the time and traveling all over filming, it just seemed to come together just right and was a rad time of my life. I ended up visiting so many new places at that time, Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt and it is a time that I look back at my life fondly.
What period of that time was your favourite graphically? When do you feel Blueprints aesthetic was at its height?
I do not have an actual time but my favourite set of graphics had to be the investigation series. I can remember being so hyped on getting those in my box and it still stands as the only full series of Blueprint boards I wish I had held onto. I have my one still but not the series, anyone out there got it? I know that Dan has the original artwork in his house which is real sick. Magee took care of everything aesthetically for the longest time and looking at what he did around the 'Waiting for the World' era no one could fuck with what Blueprint was doing.
Waiting for the world really broke down some barriers and furthered British skateboarding, describe that time and turning point compared to how things are now.
Blueprint was one of the very first brands out of the U.K that was actually willing and able to man up and pay skaters a wage that we were able survive on without having to hold down another job too. Before that hardly anyone was getting paid anything for solely being a U.K pro and at that time it was just the standard over the whole of Europe to just receive product. The skateboarding industry was all about what was going on in the U.S and everyone was strictly buying those brands and if you were lucky enough to be sponsored in the U.K it would usually only be something like a flow deal from a distributor. For us to break that mold and be successful with Blueprint was pretty great. I can still remember when we first started to grow we got hated on pretty hard from people under this illusion that we were just a London based company and not a representation of the whole U.K scene even though we had riders from Bath, London, Sheffield and Edinburgh at the time. It was a funny time in British skateboarding with what seemed to contain a lot more beef and shit talking than there is now, it was a rad era to be a part of.
When we dropped 'Waiting for the World' at our premiere in Sheffield nothing out of the British scene had ever looked or been presented like that which took a lot of people by surprise and made Blueprint a force to be reckoned with. It really helped push British Skateboarding in the right direction and changed the way it was perceived from others outside of the U.K.
The difference between now and then spans outside of just the U.K and onto the rest of the world, everything has just become saturated. Unlike the older days it is rare to actually come across something refreshing, different and something you are stoked on. If you do it is usually forgotten in the sea of other brands, youtube and vimeo within days. Back when WFTW was released there was no such thing as online video content at your fingertips and it was a time when you bought a video and watched it religiously everyday in your VCR until the tape got fucked up, which by that time the next best thing was being released anyway.
Even though It is harder to find anything that really stands out these days there are of course always exceptions and this is why Jensen and I are pushing forward to bring you something that we believe in. I also really like what the guys at Polar are doing and enjoy what they bring to the table. Pontus has a great way of presenting everything he does and I am real stoked that my boy Jerome Campbell found a home there.
You've been able to carve out more agreeable living situations both in Barcelona for a number of years and now the US. What things do you miss about your London roots?
When I think of the U.K and what I miss it stems back to what I have always missed when I was living in Spain or now in L.A and that is my friends and family. With Spain it worked out a lot easier because I had a big apartment for anyone and everyone to come stay at and it was only a 2 hour flight away from London which kept me in good contact with my friends and family either coming or going there.
I really miss the hustle and bustle of London, there is no city like it in the world, the people, the architecture, the spots, the chaos.
With L.A it is a little harder and I miss a lot of my close friends since I moved there but when I am back I try to make it a point to see as many people as I can however long I am staying. Once or twice a year I have Sylvain and Jensen stay with me in L.A which is always amazing and Seth Curtis tries to make it out too. I guess with all the travelling I do it always works out well for me and with the life I have with my lady in L.A I am very happy.
As we have all heard after a terrific innings you decided to no longer ride for the company pre-empting a rider exodus. Knowing your drive and vision regarding the company I doubt this was easy. What contributing factors influenced this decision?
This was something that had really been playing on my mind and it was a pretty rough place inside my head for some time, I tried to keep it all together but it came to a point where I just really needed to work out what I was doing and what I was going to do in the future of my life. For 4 years I had been running a lot of the operations at Blueprint. It was all the way through from skater, salesman, marketing, team management, production, the list goes on and it was too much on my shoulders. I was on a mission to make everything work the way it should have been but with what I was dealing with from above that was never able to happen unfortunately. There were a lot of aspects of what was going on behind the scenes at Blueprint that I could never agree with and when I tried to question, change or keep the same it just fell on deaf ears. When you are working with someone who does not know the history or passion that has been put into a brand for so many years you just get tired and cannot carry on in that moment.
I was sat looking at it and there was no sense for me to carry on all this work for the brand, team or myself. The team and I were unhappy with Blueprint for some time and for a brand to succeed it needs to be striving right there. Everyone who was part of Blueprint until I left were out there smashing it daily and had seen no benefit for far too long and I could not continue to support a brand that was not supporting the people who build it to what it was.
Will a different version of the company continue to exist?
Apparently the owners of Blueprint have decided to keep the brand alive and start fresh. No one from the team wanted to be a part of it after I cut my ties and that loyalty meant so much to me and I thank everyone for everything they did for the brand and I love them all. Although I am slightly intrigued in what will happen to Blueprint I wish they would just let the name die. I know I can speak on behalf of everyone who was involved over the years when I say this, Blueprint as you once knew it is dead.
Managing the DVS team must take up a fair amount of your time. Will the Blueprint team all be finding new homes or do you have other projects in the pipeline you'd like to talk about?
I am really hyped to be a part of DVS, they have had my back since 2001 and now to be able to skate for them and also help out behind the scenes is perfect. It does take a lot of time but there are a lot of hours in a day. I am in the process at the moment of building something with Nick Jensen, I have been fortunate to become good friends with Nick over the years that we rode for Blueprint and I really look forward to what is coming next. What I have seen so far on the creative side, the brand is forming fast and coming together so sick. I am excited about getting everything rolling and the product out there to you.
What direction do you feel British skateboarding is headed? It seems like an exciting time, a fresh batch of companies, a new generation coming through, who do you think we should look out for in the years to come?
It is always an exciting time in the U.K, I am hyped on what has been going recently and stoked to see friends starting and being a part of new brands, this is how it should be and it promises a good future for the scene.
In regards to the skateboarders in Britain, it has never been better, there are so many people that I watch and am stoked to see what they are doing and how they do it. To name a few that I am hyped on right now it has to Nick Jensen, Rory Milanes, Joe Gavin, Chewy Cannon, Jerome Campbell, Tom Knox, Chris Jones, Lucien Clarke and Luka Pinto. All those guys are what i want to see and how I appreciate skateboarding.
You've managed to maintain a good level of enthusiasm whilst being immersed in skateboarding for so long, the business side as well. How do you manage to do that? Most people emerge a little more jaded.
The main reason for this is that I love skateboarding, whether it is doing or watching it. Of course there are aspects of it these days that I think are pretty mundane but that does not take away why I am into it and have continued to be for so long now. As long as there are skaters such as Vincent Alvarez, Nick Jensen, Stevie Perez or Maders Apse for example I will always be stoked on skateboarding. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to be paid to skate and travel the world should feel so lucky and never take it for granted. The past 17 years have been incredible, I will never forget it for the rest of my life and that keeps me positive and stoked on the future. Most people work their whole lives without knowing what is outside the box of a regular 9 to 5 and being a skateboarder allows you to experience so much more.
What trips have you got on the agenda? Can we expect your next video part to have a decent amount of UK spots?
I am coming to London to sort out some visa paperwork in January so I will be skating there which I am really looking forward to. Hopefully try to get a few more clips for the upcoming Grey video which is sure to be amazing. Following that it is trade show in Berlin and then a short trip to Valencia with Grey for something me and some others are working on. Next video part! Not sure when that will be but I hope to get something going and as always footage will be from all over the place.
Your UK trips always include a decent stint spent in the Slam Covent Garden store, I think you've even done a full day before. Explain how the shop figures in your daily plan when you're here. Do you have any good Slam stories?
I have spent more time in Slam that a lot of places in London that's for sure. For one reason or another it just became my destination when I arrived at the airport from the U.S. I would get off the plane and head straight there and then off to the Cross Keys to catch up with everyone and drink Peronis. It is always good to see whoever is in there from Jake to Paddy to Sam, friendly faces always. I ain't never done a day of work there (well they did not pay me for it) but for sure I have spent a lot of full days talking mad shit while it rains outside. Slam has been like a community centre for a large percentage of the London scene and with it being so central makes for a great meeting place to start any skate day.
What are your favourite memories of skating the City and who stands out for you as a fully fledged London skater both back in the day and in most recent years?
When I first started coming to London from Croydon we used to meet up at 8am at East Croydon station and head up to South Bank and London Bridge skate park. Back then the scene was way smaller than now and being a skater was something that was looked down upon and we were hated by most people in society. This made it special to me at the time and it was really rare to see any sponsored skaters, but when I did I would be hyped mostly on Curtis Mccan and then a little later Simon Evans, these guys were way ahead of their time and no one came close to what they were doing in my eyes. Even though neither one of them skates anymore they to me are what personified the London skater of the past. In regards to who I think are the most legit fully fledged actual London skaters today are it has to be Nick Jensen, Lucien Clarke and Tom Knox. Born and raised in London, still living there and heavy representatives for years to come.
Explain Curtis' influence in days gone by, what was it like watching that first hand?
He looked like he was born to be on a skateboard, his style stood out above everyone else.
Thanks to Paul Shier for taking time out of his holiday schedule to answer these questions for us, much appreciated. We look forward to things to come. Happy New Year!
Questions-Jacob Sawyer, Photography-Sam Ashley