Marcel Veldman. Portrait - Maksim Kalanep
When we received the epic Fluff 1826 release we knew we had to do a little more than just install a window display. We decided to throw a party and invite everyone over to see the book. Marcel flew in from Holland for the evening to be with us. With various Nike SB trips together under their belt Marcel and Dan Magee have become good friends. It was great to have Dan sit in on the interview we managed to put together just before the party began. His added questions appear throughout. Enjoy this interview and make sure to visit either of our stores if you haven't seen the book already...
Hello Marcel. Welcome to London for the day. When was the last time you were here?
This is actually the first time I have been to London without going to BaySixty6. The last time I was here we were there for the London Am. I think the past five times I've been to London I just went straight from the plane to BaySixty6 and then straight back home.
How is fatherhood treating you?
It's the best thing I have ever done. It's too bad that i am on the road all the time but it is amazing but I don't have to tell you that. It is the best thing to come home to!
DM: As if it's affected anything! I go on Instagram and I see you…
Sorry your subtitles are broken, what are you saying?
DM: I see you riding snow mobiles and shit like that. I don't know how you get away with it. Imagine if that was me ah I'm going here, I'm going there...
Somebody has to pay for the diapers and rent and all that shit. But when I’m home I get to spent a lot of time with my family, I can’t complain.
When did the idea for the book first come about. Was it a clear idea from the outset or something which evolved once there was a load of content under your belt?
With every issue of Fluff, whenever there even is a clear idea it always changes towards the end. This idea just came along much later on in the process because it took five years. It wasn't a clear idea from the start it just evolved. You just see what happens, skateboarder style.
Did you decide to hold back on stuff?
No not even so, I didn't hold back on any stuff. It's just basically such a waste not to see some stuff get published. Usually it's just skateboard tricks which get published really big. But I think skateboarding for me is the whole package. Not only the skateboard tricks but also whatever happens around that. That's how I got to know you and how I got to know Magee. That's how i got to know all of my friends and that's what we do.
Explain how the number 1826 ties everything together…
It's 1826 days since the last Fluff and Nike SB collabo, the big grey book and the Fluff Bruin shoe, and it is also 1826 pages long.
How many trips were covered in the book and which was the most productive?
I don't even know how many. I'd have to take a look but a lot, much more than one. The most productive one? That's hard, they were all pretty productive. You just have to put the right people in the right place. I went with Youness and his brother to Morrocco and he got shit loads of stuff and it was basically just him. Shitloads of footage in two weeks. Australia was good but it can be hard shooting tranny. You are chasing the best transition skaters down a massive skate park where everything gets done first go. I mean, I went there with Grant, Raybourn, Oski, Nando and Greyson. Best thing to watch as a skateboarder, a nightmare as a photographer. I loved it though. The most productive maybe is getting people over to Holland, get them in my van and in five days we can get tons of footage.
What was the best and worst experience you had working on the book?
DM:Getting the wrong food in the service station in Australia?
But that was actually really good.
DM: Seeing a man pissing in his own face?
That was actually great
DM: There's no bad experiences then is there? The trips you go on, you have Colin who sorts everything out. Also all the kids who go on those trips are sick so there are never any nightmares. If I'm honest maybe being in a van for an eight hour drive with that same song "Fat Boys Are Back" playing literally on repeat when Grant Taylor was in charge of the stereo. I don't mean a few times, on loop!
But that was great. See if you ask Dan Magee there are bad experiences but his bad experiences are the best experiences for me!
Do you have a favourite picture from the whole project?
It’s hard to pick just one for various reasons.
Was there one shot which was more difficult than any others?
Some of them are more difficult than others. It doesn't even have to do with the skaters. Sometimes the skater is ready to do some shit and the light is the worst possible and i'm really struggling with the lights. Or there are three filmers in my way. Not too mention getting rained out or worse, overactive security cops.
Has this been your favourite print project so far?
Well yes because it's the last one I did. Every single one I put out is my favourite because I'm glad I'm done with it, in a good way! Then I'll leave it for ten years and pick it up when I can actually look at it and say "Oh that's quite nice" or not.
What was the concept behind all the souvenirs which came out alongside it?
The whole concept was that it is basically a gift shop. It's connected to certain tours which were covered in the book. We basically covered all the continents except Antartica.
Did this feel hugely ambitious and overwhelmingly complicated or did your varied past experience mean you took producing the book in your stride? Did you learn anything along the way?
Always, because with Fluff we always start from scratch. Every single issue we make is different. It's never the easiest path to take. We always change printing techniques or the paper so it's always from scratch. It doesn't matter if it's 20 pages or 1826 pages it's always an adventure to see what we will really come back with. We're always surprised, and that can be good or bad. This one we were quite happy with it. So yeah I learnt a lot but I can't really use it for the next one because we will change it again, the format, size, paper, idea, ink. There were a bunch of strange inks in this one.
Where on your extensive travels would you say is the best place you have visited purely from a skateboarding perspective?
Morocco is amazing. The skate spots were incredible. We found one of the best street spots ever maybe. All of the kids there were just so fucking nice. It was great, really really good. I definitely want to go back there.
Are new Fluff formats and future projects in the pipeline and already underway. Can we expect another epic project like this?
Of course! Every time we publish a new Fluff I'm already working on something new. Sometimes I don't even know it or I do. We will just see where the ship strands as we say in Holland.
DM: How long do you think you can do it? You're 42, how much time do you think you have left in your hourglass? You shoot kids from someone who is really young like Oski through to Danny or Lance. Do you ever feel like you are too old to be doing this? How do you maintain a rapport with these younger kids?
I would definitely quit this job if I ever felt not connected or fakely connected to any of these kids, young or older. I still do the same stuff as when I was 16 or 18. It might be smart, it might be stupid but it's definitely me. We are still on the same lines apart from the fact that I have to run certain businesses. I would say i am a part time idiot. If I ever felt unconnected or too old for some reason or out of place or worse like an outsider looking in I would definitely quit and do something else. Because then it's not working anymore.
DM: One thing you always bring with you at all times on trips is a skateboard. I wish i could say the same thing myself. You always have a lot of camera kit you have to pack and weigh but you always bring a proper skateboard. Even though it's your Christmas set up it's a board and you skate…
Yeah of course. I like to skate, if I don't like to skate any more I will do something else. I'm not going to pretend to be somebody that I'm not. You could only do that for a few weeks and then everyone will notice you are a fake fuck.
DM: Another thing i've noticed with you being a vegetarian. You are a lot more mellow about it than a lot of people. Although you do complain about it a lot, it's quite hard for you to eat in a group of meat eaters. Especially young kids who want to go to McDonald's. Sometimes that's really frustrating, how do you hold it down?
I get frustrated only really if we get somewhere and it's the sixth day in a row and the food is shit. I'm definitely able to hold out for a couple of days. I don't mind just eating fries and salad or whatever, bread and cheese, but you can only do that for so long until your body starts to revolt.
DM: What's the worst trip you've been on where that was an issue?
Russia, it was impossible to get something vegetarian. Maybe it was the language barrier. Sometimes in the South of Spain when all the normal restaurants are closed and you're in a bar situation. I just end up eating tortilla and fries and salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two and a half weeks straight.
DM: For me personally a good photo is a good photo. It doesn't matter to me whether it is film or digi. You always shot a lot of film in the past. Was it mostly film for this book?
I would say it's half and half, it just depends. I have a digital Leica now as well as an analog one. If some people need things quickly i will use digital and if they don't need it so quick I will use the analog one. I still really love film, but times they are a changing.
DM: What would you say is your niche as a photographer? What is a Marcel Veldman photograph?
I like to shoot skateboarding, I love it but I like the other stuff even better, it's timeless. You shoot an era, I don't even look at it that way but I have come to realise it over the past decade and a half. You are just documenting a time frame. It's easier if you are really connected on an honest level with any of these guys, I can shoot anything I want. That's not the reason I do it, it just happens naturally really. I love crazy, I love people and people tend to do crazy stuff and I happen to be there.
DM: When organising trips do you like to always take someone like Lebron who is a bit older and then a bunch of the younger kids so there is a bit of a fall back or would you go on a trip where it was literally everyone 25 and under?
I've done that and I don't mind because all the guys are still young. If you are still skating it's just a mindset. All of the older dudes who still skate for a living or for fun they are still kids you know? Some have more responsibilities than others, more bills to pay, but they are still kids, they are still on the same level. Especially the street skaters, or grown up street skaters because now everybody can skate everything. They are used to sitting on the street. All of these guys, I don't see anybody who is too out of place to be honest. For instance Koston, Koston is not 21. We were in Berlin half a year ago maybe and Koston came up to me, shows me a photo on his Iphone and says:”This spot’s in Holland right?” I told him it was. “Do you want to go?" It was right after the soccer finals in Germany, and I was like "What now? Yeah let's go!" We packed our shit, got the rest of the crew like Staba, Karsten, Scuba, Kevin, Jason and drove straight to Amsterdam and we were sleeping on my friend Benny's wooden floor for two days straight. It doesn't matter, we were skating street spots in the middle of the night and eating the shittiest fast food from the worst snack bar with flies flying around. No complaints whatsoever. I'm just trying to say that all these guys are street rats. It doesn't matter if they are young or more wealthy than others. They are still in the game and nobody complains about any of that stuff. In the end it all comes down to whether they want to skate or not, in their heart and not because they have to. Every single one of these guys from the pros to the new amateurs wants to skate. I like to see that fire, it brings a great vibe, and I’m happy to be around it able to document it.
Daniel Lebron - 360 Flip
Thanks to Marcel for taking the time to visit us, to Nike SB for helping to make it possible and Dan Magee for help with the interview. Thanks also to Lebron/Koston and co for constantly maintaining "that fire".