Photography & Interview by Graham Tait
Where are you just now?
Right now I'm in Malmo. I got over to Sweden almost two weeks ago now. I flew into Stockholm then got the train over to Copenhagen for six days. Beautiful weather man, I've never been here with such glorious weather actually, it's fucking banging, really hot. Swimming and skating every day. Then we just got the train, you know how close it is, it's only a 30 minute train. Now I'm staying at my friend's house in Malmo till Saturday, then flying to Barcelona.
What's the vibe been like over there?
So mellow man. I had to mask up in London obviously, and had a mask on the entire flight, which felt horrible. It's just something you're not used to. As soon as we landed and you get into the airport there were no masks and everything was open. They still have social distancing signs and stuff but they're not stupid people, they're quite sensible. A sensible nation.
If you can rely on everyone else taking it as seriously as you, you can get away with that. It's the people that don't give a fuck.
Exactly. I think that's why it's been quite mellow in Sweden, people are relatively sensible.
Are they not quite reserved as a nation? They're super friendly but are they huggers?
Nah, they wave from a distance. Haha!
Is this your first time travelling since lockdown?
Yeah, it is. It felt strange to leave actually, I was quite nervous. I dunno. I just felt like I was going into the unknown. I still don't know what's going to happen you know? I have a few plans, stuff I want to do and places I want to go in the next month or two but everything is so uncertain and you don't know if anything is going into lockdown overnight.
You normally wouldn't even think twice about jumping on a plane and now there seems to be an underlying level of anxiety that was never there before.
Yeah... There's definitely some sort of anxiety going on. I've been kinda trying not to think about it.
If it's there in the back of your head then I think it's fine to try and get on with stuff as best you can.
That's what I've been trying to do. It was quite nuts in Copenhagen I'm not going to lie. All the bars are closed there so everyone congregates at one skatepark in the city, it was honestly pushing a thousand people on Friday night. Everyone drinking, music playing, and it's all types of people. People that would never drink at a park, all sorts of characters all congregated together because there's nowhere else to go. It was quite mad to see, to be honest.
I think things will get back to normal quicker than you think.
All of a sudden it will just fade I think. Everything won't be locked down, it will just disappear and people will stop talking about it. Hopefully sooner rather than later because I have a lot of stuff to work out, like with my girlfriend, which is mad hard at the moment.
I’ve been looking at this spot for 15 years, and over that time I’ve been there multiple times with various people. It’s situated right outside a council building with glass doors where there’s usually 24-hour security, you’re lucky if you get even one attempt. With offices still being closed due to COVID we decided to check it out, and from this visit, I’ve noticed two things while out shooting: some security guards don’t really give a shit and are probably a bit pissed off about being in work during a pandemic, and others have absolutely nothing else to do so are on high alert and are ready to insert themselves into any situation. Thankfully this was the former and the first of the Edinburgh NBD’s. Barney was rewarded a nice can of beer by one kind gentleman who took the time to stop and watch.
You spent some time in Australia at the end of last year, right?
Literally I got back and a week later we went into lockdown.
Is that because your visa ran out?
Yeah, and I came back because I was organising a trip with a friend and I also wanted to skate in Europe of course. I was quite distant from the skate scene over in Australia as you can imagine. But I had been planning this trip with a friend so I came back to buy a van and convert it. That was the main reason, as well as the visa situation. It was just time to come back, unfortunately.
Did you pre-empt this all happening? What was it like in Australia?
There was talk, but it wasn't a massive situation at that time. You know how you always get those random scares on the news, “Something's coming for us” whether it's an infection or disease or something, and it's a big thing for a couple of days, and then all of a sudden you never hear about it again. I just thought that was going to be the case with COVID 19, so I was just like whatever, it sounds ridiculous, it's going to fade away. Then when I was coming back over, my layover was in Doha and it was crazy, everyone was wearing masks but I still didn't really have any knowledge of it so didn't really give a shit. I didn't listen to the news or anything, then I get there and I'm like “shit, is this actually a serious thing!”
It escalated so quickly. I went from not giving a shit to seeing Italy in lockdown with riots in jails. They don't just shut down a country for no reason!
Exactly. That was when it really became a thing and people started paying attention to it. That was a big 'wow, this shit's actually happening, this is real'. Even for myself, I was so ignorant at the beginning and thought it would boil over. Then it happened and I even found myself nervous in those first few days. I remember going to the shop and it felt insane and everyone was on edge, it was such a strange feeling.
I don't know what it was like down your way but up here we had crazy panic buying. We went to the big ASDA and had to buy tinned peaches and Ambrosia creamed rice.
Haha! All the unperishable goods.
They didn't have much else! That was pretty scary. When you came back to England did you stay with your parents?
So my plan was to get this van and stay at my parent's house and convert it. My dad has all the tools because he has a trade business so it was convenient.
I guess this gave you the full opportunity to go full pelt and get the van sorted out?
Well that's the thing, you say that, but because everything locked down I couldn't get any materials.
Oh shit, yeah.
So for the first six weeks, I couldn't do anything. I'd just bought the van, it was sitting outside at my parent's house and I wasn't allowed to go outside, I wasn't allowed to drive anywhere. I'd just spent all this money on the van and I couldn't do this trip, I couldn't even start converting it. It was fucked. I was like “Fuck COVID man!” It's destroyed my plans, but then again I can't be the one to voice that because everyone is going through their own shit. What could I do? I just had to take it day by day.
You go back and forth in your head thinking this sucks because I wanted to do this and that. Then you have to remind yourself that it's pretty serious.
People are dying, the economy is crashing, everyone is losing their jobs. People are just trying to survive so I couldn't really complain. I was quite fortunate, there were fields around me, I could cycle down to the canal and swim and we had beautiful weather. Imagine being stuck somewhere else in the world, like a big city where the infrastructure is big apartment blocks and there's no terrace or garden and it's communal lifts and stairwells and stuff like that. That would be horrible. We both know that there are a lot of shared houses where people don't even have a window in their room, imagine that. I didn't want to complain as I felt quite lucky but even still, it made me start overthinking about so many things.
Where do your mum and dad live?
Exeter in Devon.
Is it quite rural then, if you have fields around you?
Yeah, well they live at the highest point of the city so it overlooks everything and behind their house is just endless fields. It's nice getting down to the river and the canals, you can just sit on your bike down the hill and you're there in two minutes. The population is only about 110,000 so it's a relatively small city, it wasn't a bad place to spend the lockdown period.
When the shops opened and you got started on the van, did your dad help or did you do it on your own?
He was busy working, I did it all by myself.
Did you know what you were doing or did you learn on YouTube or whatever?
I definitely was inspired by videos on YouTube when it came to certain things like layouts, and things that I wasn't too sure on. What to do, or how to do it, or the right technique. I'd watch a quick video, but not like a step-by-step, more I'd get the idea and just do it. A lot of research was definitely through YouTube but I already knew how to use the tools as I did carpentry when I left school. I'd never done anything quite like that though and I learnt a lot doing it. I didn't really know anything about electrics, gas, water piping or electric pumps so I had to learn all these things. It was interesting but really stressful at some points, I was so over looking at that van at the end man. Haha!
I was like “Fuck this van man, I'm so over this”. It was perfect for the lockdown, I was putting in a lot of hours as it was the only thing I was doing. I only skated maybe 10 times in those months because I wasn't really allowed to, so all my thinking went on that van. I didn't finish a few small jobs because I couldn't be fucked to look at it anymore, but it's good enough now and I'll do them at some point. I just wanted to get out of there and go to London. I was starting to feel a bit anxious because I felt like I wasn't doing anything. At this moment in my life, I'm supposed to be a skateboarder and I can't do any of that. When I got to London and started skating and filming again, that feeling just left me and I felt content again.
You only recently passed your driving test right?
Yeah, last summer. I came back home to do my theory test and studied for it when I was away. I booked an intensive course but you couldn't book that until you'd passed your theory. I passed that then did an intensive crash course where it was five days of driving for five hours a day, then on the last day, you go directly into your test. It was quite hard.
By today's standards that not a lot of driving time.
I think legally you have to have had at least 20 plus hours behind the wheel before you're allowed to take your test, something like that. Technically I only did 22 hours as my instructor had to dip out because some shit happened with one of the students or something, which was good for me, I was over it by then.
That's a long stint behind the wheel especially when you're just learning.
It is. Now I can drive five hours a day and it wouldn't annoy me at all, it wouldn't be as tiring. But when you start it's a mental thing, I'm thinking about changing gear, which way I'm pushing the gear stick, the clutch, the timing, reading signs, my speed, the instructor telling me what to do, all of these things in my head at once, it's exhausting. But I ended up passing first try. I did that test purely because I wanted to do the van trip this year. If I didn't have this van trip idea I probably wouldn't have my driving license, so I'm happy that it pushed me because it's about time, I'm 29 now.
Are you filming with Kevin Parrott for Etnies?
Yeah. There's this new guy Eetu Toropainen from Finland who's getting introduced so they want to do a joint part thing with me and him and Nick Garcia. He's really sick, he's young and got a sick ass style. You check his social media and he's doing new tricks every week, proper as well, it's really sick.
That reminds me! How did it feel blowing up and going viral when you were in Scotland? Haha!
Haha! Oh yeah, that was funny as. That was unexpected!
That was number one on QuarterSnacks, that's a big deal!
Yeah, what the hell! I didn't even actually follow Quartersnacks until that. I knew of it obviously, I just like, I dunno, you know how it goes...
There's too much to keep up with.
Yeah, that's it. It's not like you're not interested it's just that certain things somehow just go past your head.
5000 new followers overnight though! Kevin was hyped, he got 1000 odd new followers from that.
What made you want to come up to Edinburgh?
I've been wanting to go back up to Scotland for ages now. I thought where's the furthest away from my home I can go and feel like I'm on another trip in another country. And it's really pretty up there. Edinburgh is by far one of the prettiest places I've ever been. I came up there years ago when I was younger but you don't really take it in, I didn't appreciate it. It's so much nicer going up there now when I'm a little bit more mature. Driving up here on my first trip through the winding roads was really epic. I do wish we had more time to go through the Lake District on the way back down. I'd had months off skating so I was trying to get my skate legs back.
It was a good time to come up, you got to experience Edinburgh with no tourists.
I guess that photo we shot on The Royal Mile off the road must be hectic always.
You can't even walk down there never mind park a van or skate. Where you did that gap to crook there are street performers all day with big crowds. We definitely got lucky with spots.
Well, that's been the thing hasn't it with all this COVID situation. None of us want this thing to be happening, but here in Copenhagen it's been kind of nice with no tourists anywhere. I feel extremely lucky to be out of the country right now, the streets are a lot calmer. It's kind of amazing for a skateboarder.
For me, it's been a chance to enjoy the city I live in without it being too busy.
It's funny that you were saying about getting kicked out of spots you never usually get kicked out of.
That was frustrating! Security guards must be sitting there with nothing to do all day now. That rail at the back of the museum, for instance, I don't think the security guards would ever have noticed us as it's so busy in there. But they were out pretty quick.
So quick man.
What are your plans now? Did you say you're going to Barcelona?
I was supposed to stay here till the end of the month and had a flight from Stockholm to France for this Indy trip, but it was kind of a loose plan and they had already been here a couple of weeks, so they want to head to France this Saturday. I'm going to change my flight and save some time and head to Barcelona from here. We'll see what happens with this trip as I'm not really sure what's going on with all the COVID stuff over in France. The rules seem to be changing a little bit. By the time the trip comes at the end of the month, I might have to isolate for two weeks there, and then that's the trip done, isn't it? Or if I go back to England now I might miss the trip because I need to isolate there for two weeks. So I can go to Barcelona now where I don't have to do two weeks of isolation. It is mandatory to wear a mask on the street at all times though, and it's going to be high 30's. Only in the streets though, not in a bar or cafe or at the beach.
So wear a mask when you're on your own, but don't wear a mask when you're in crowds?
Yep, it's backwards. The Swedes have been telling everyone not to wear masks because everyone touches their face a lot more if you've got a mask on.
Weird times for a skater who travels a lot.
Yeah. Right now everything's going to be spontaneous, hence why I'm randomly going to Barcelona now. You can't really have trips planned so you've got to just go for it I think.
I'm doing it off my own back so it makes it a little easier, but if it was a company planning a trip then it would be a lot harder. Right now I think you've got to try and do your own shit. Fortunately, it's been a lot easier for me seeing as I don't have a standard job or anything.
It's good that you can go with the flow.
At this moment in time, I feel very fortunate to be able to escape a little at least.