NEIL KELLAS INTERVIEW

 

Photography by Graham Tait
Interview by Callum Cook

 

 

When did you start skating? How old were you and how did it happen? 

I was around eight or nine when I had a shot on my brother’s board for the first time. It was a while before I got my own board, but when my friend's brother started, we really got into it.  

There were these two guys, Thomas and Matthew, that lived a few streets away and we would skate little spots around our area together. We knew there were spots in town, but my friend's brother told us we couldn’t go and skate them until we could do certain things on a skateboard, so we just stayed close by for the first year or so. Matthew always had ramps and rails out on his street, so quite often we would skate there or a curb up the road that we waxed up. I can still remember trying to ollie up the curb then ollieing down it. It took me a long time to get to grips with certain tricks, I could do pop shuvs but my friend could heelflip, and I was so intrigued to learn how to flip my board. 

 

Haha! What were the requirements? 

We had to be able to ollie down this three-set and be able to do certain tricks on flat like kickflips, shuvs, 180s etc. It was a pretty wild bunch, to be honest. I remember we would do stupid challenges and mess about after watching things like Jackass and CKY, but someone would always take it too far and get hurt.

We built a fort in this abandoned school, and would defend our turf if anyone entered the area! It was like our battleground or something, so we got up to all kinds of stupid stuff there. My friend's brother punched him in the face cause he didn’t want to do an fs 180 down the three-set. I remember thinking that was so unnecessary, but they were brothers and had a different connection. Neither of them skate now though, but I still bump into them now and again when I’m home. 

 

FS Wallride

 

How was growing up in Aberdeen skating? 

It was decent, there were enough things to keep us entertained, but as I got older I started to travel to different cities and skate more places. There are quite a lot of skateparks around Aberdeenshire so I would always try to get out there and skate them as well as spots in town. I missed the real Broad Street era, which looked so sick, but people still skated there and on top of the shopping centre car park too. I think there’s always been a good skate scene in Aberdeen despite being quite a small place. John Rattray is from Aberdeen and when I was younger, we would hear stories of things he'd done around the city.

When I was around fourteen, I was skating with Tom Simpson, Rab Milne, Simie Simpson, Murray Cheyne, Angus Morrison, and Dan Gee a lot, and we would get up to all kinds of mischief, going away for weekends to Glasgow or Edinburgh or going on missions around Aberdeen. It was the sickest times with not a care in the world. Also, when I was a bit older, local skater and VX filmer Campbell Gardiner made a scene video called 'Ah Dinnae Ken'. It was so sick to be a part of that growing up. Tom Simpson’s part in it is amazing, he’s always been the best - classic style and a tattiebag full of tricks! 

 

How old were you when the Indoor Skatepark in Aberdeen opened? 

I was fourteen, and I’m pretty sure I was there from opening till closing on the first two days. Haha! It was amazing that there was finally something to skate all year round and it was a really good park. It was a place that brought a lot of like-minded people together. At that age, a lot of the people I started skating with had stopped, so it was good to get somewhere to skate with other people and I met so many of my friends around that place. 

Before the indoor, there was 'the Jesus park'. Nicknamed because it was run by a Christian organisation or something, but it was wild and had a huge vert ramp with other massive banks and hips. I went to the first one but I couldn’t really skate at the time. I remember seeing people drop in on the vert ramp and thinking it was nuts. The second one closed after only a week for some reason, I went a couple of times, and then people just started hopping the fence until the bowling green keeper kicked us all out. 

 

Noseslide

 

There were a bunch of demos and events held at the park not long after it opened, did you attend most of those?  

There’s been lots of good ones; e'S, IPath, Nike SB. It’s really beneficial when small locations can see things of that standard. You get to see skating on a really high level and it opens your mind to what can be done on a skateboard. It’s also different from watching videos because you can relate and see the obstacles in person. The videos I grew up on were Yeah Right , Sorry, Kids in Emerica, but you couldn’t exactly go see any of the spots in person for scale or anything. There were also lots of video premieres held there and at other places in the city. Lakai Fully Flared was a big one at the time - Pop’s part in that is still really good. Mindfield also had a huge impact on me growing up. 

Before the indoor skatepark I remember going to that Ethos event at the exhibition centre. It was a two-day thing with Steve Cab, Karl Watson, Mike Rusczyk and a few other pros. I can remember getting a poster signed, it was sick, just like a small Downtown Showdown type comp but in Aberdeen, pretty mental. Haha! 

 

Would you say after the indoor skatepark got built you spent more time skating there than going out to skate street? 

Yeah, definitely for the first year or so. It was just so smooth, good for learning tricks and skating different obstacles, it’s so important for somewhere that has rain, wind and snow for half the year to have somewhere good to go and skate anytime. I’m so thankful to my parents for being down to take me there whenever. Boarderline had a wee shop there too so we would hang out in there a lot. There was a really good concrete bank to curb with a ledge outside the skatepark too, which meant we could go outside if it was nice, as well as the empty paddling pool just across the field. Also, a lot more people would come through to skate the park, and we would go out street skating. There was an event that 'Kaplank Kapow' would run called 'Queen of the Deen' which is like 'King of the Road' with a trick list of challenges and certain spots to skate. It was always so much fun getting people together for a night of chaos.

 

Hurricane

 

You went on to work there and got a job in the local skate shop at the same time, right?  

Yeah it was so sick! A big part of it was getting to skate the park for free when I wasn’t working which helped out so much. Also, to go from being a wee snotty kid to getting sponsored by Boarderline and going on trips was a real dream come true. We would get hooked up with some shop boards, get free things from time to time and also get to go on trips, it just kept us stoked. I want to thank everyone that helped and encouraged me growing up.

 

That’s rad. And now we have Seed as the local skate shop. You’ve been involved and on the team from the start? 

It’s amazing, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of something with all my friends. It was great to work with you to then see you open a skate shop when there was no longer one in the city. I think it came at such a good time too, I mean it’s essential for a skate scene to live and thrive if there is somewhere good to go and interact with people. Especially when you are young and you don’t really know much about it. It’s not the same getting something online as it is going into a physical shop, you get real interaction and advice which makes you feel a part of something. You meet new people, find out where all the spots and parks are, you can watch skate videos and chill whilst you wait for your mates. Sometimes I’d spend half a day in the skate shop, it’s like a community centre or coffee shop for skaters, in a way. It’s also come full circle now that we are older and can provide opportunities and continue the hype for the younger generation. You’ve definitely provided stability for the community, affa fine loon and keep up the good work. Support your local because you won’t know how good you’ve got it till it’s gone. 

 

FS Smithgrind

 

Aberdeen is a harsh city when it comes to skateboarding and spots. Would you say it was difficult to skate? Or did it make you try to skate things that wouldn’t usually be classed as a spot? 

It is for sure. My Dad’s from Banchory and my Mum is from Portsoy so I spent a lot of time in those places as well as a kid. It was nice to get away from the city and appreciate those quiet towns. I feel like Aberdeen is such a nice place and has everything I enjoy about a city, with good beaches, hills and countryside all close by, but they just constantly build new houses or office blocks that are the same as the last ones they built, and they aren’t even being occupied due to a downfall in the industry.  

In terms of skating I don’t think I saw it too much of an issue, there were definitely enough places to go skate and keep us entertained, there are also a lot more spots than you’d expect from a small Scottish city. I used to watch “H’min Bam” all the time so we’d go to those skate spots like Denburn Banks, Pumping Station, Wave Wall etc but they are all really rough now and probably were back then too. I remember going on missions when I was maybe about 12/13 to try to find the full pipe that’s in the video but I think it’s long gone. But the missions were fun, and that’s the whole point. Even thinking about it gives me the same excitement of exploration, which is something I think is so special.  

In Aberdeen, like most British Cities, the streets are all small paving slabs that make even riding down the pavement a challenge sometimes. You can get thrown off at any point from uneven slabs but once you learn to navigate them, doing nollie bonks and tail scrapes is the best fun. I feel like you learn the layout of the pavements so well, I could skate back home in the dark and be like “oh I know there's an uneven bit here", missing slab here, drain there, it is a universal language.

 

Where would you say your inspiration for skating comes from? 

Other people for sure, all the homies and just a general love and nerdy obsession with it. There’s nothing better than going out skating with a good crew of folk. I have so many people’s tricks ingrained into my brain, it's like a library of the homies doing what I would say are their classic manoeuvres. Each style is different but all done so well. The hardest part of skating for me, is allowing your mind to overcome its battles and boundaries, maybe the only thing holding you back from doing things is a lack of confidence or self-doubt? I mean, I say that but skateboarding is obviously also very hard. Me and Muzz used to say, you had to do the trick three times before you said you could actually do it. Andy Dobson and Callum Barrack told us that and I think it’s a pretty good rule.

 

FS Nosebluntslide

 

You studied art at University. What made you choose that route? 

At the time I felt like it was the right thing to do, which I don’t regret but now I understand that there is no rush to do those things or not need at all. I had done an HND in Visual Communication before I went to live and work in Canada, and I enjoyed the illustration/printmaking side of the course a lot. I continued to go to the local printmaker's and  really enjoyed the whole process, especially screen printing because I think it was so closely related to creating skateboard graphics, and I enjoyed making multiples of the same image.

When I got back from Canada I got a job building a local concrete skatepark ten minutes from where I grew up, which was amazing, but after it was finished I knew I wanted to go back and study art. I got my jobs back at the skatepark and skate shop and I managed to get into 2nd year doing Communication Design but quickly swapped it to Contemporary Art as I wanted to make use of the workshops. That was my main reason for going, to have access to printing equipment. It was harder than I thought it would be to get access to the print rooms so I ended up doing a lot of my work at the local printmakers instead of university - they allowed you free reign if you knew how to use the equipment. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and experience but I believe if you’ve got an interest or passion for something you don’t need to be told to do it, you just do it - and it’s the same with skating. I mean, I had a great experience and did lots of cool projects/commissions with great people but to get a job as a Printmaker is pretty difficult. I now have a studio in Edinburgh which is great and three part-time jobs to go along with it which is fine, I just struggle to get time throughout the summer as I just want to skate when the weather is nice. Also, with the recent COVID situation, I have had no access to a print studio, so I’m painting and drawing a lot more, which is nice, but I would love to have an etching press and screen-printing bed/exposure unit. Maybe if I can make a large sum of money and get a big space, I could get these things to own, but right now I’m in a good place making work purely for myself and my mental well being. It’s such a nice process, and I can’t emphasise enough how much this and skating has done for me. There’s been both torment and happiness, but I have learned to experience and appreciate all of these feelings. 

BS Flip

 

How long did you live in Vancouver for, and what did you do while you were over there? 

I lived there for just over a year and it was unreal, like everything I’d ever dreamed it would be. I was nineteen and I really wanted to go there since I was a little kid. I had finished college and worked for a while saving up money to buy a working holiday visa and flight, and my friend Andy McGhee who worked at the skatepark also wanted to do some exploring so he got one too. We got a hostel for a week and managed to get a room to share in this big house for a while. It was so sick! Some older friends from Aberdeen had been there previously so they helped us out heaps with contacts etc. My friend Andy Dobson who helped build and design the original indoor park in Aberdeen was now living there and had known us both since we were kids. It was so sick to meet up with him again despite being so young the last time I saw him, and he helped us both out so much. He has his own skateboard company 'Folk Skateboards' that he had started in Aberdeen. I remember skating some of the decks when I was younger and now he has his own factory and is pressing boards.

My friend Andy is a qualified welder so he got hooked up with a job across from the factory and I got a part-time job making skateboards whilst doing other work for money. He let me move in upstairs and I didn’t have to pay any rent as long as I worked there which I was more than happy to do. It was so rad getting to learn the process and making boards for different people, as well as riding for the team and getting free boards to skate. We were doing Folk boards but also pressing boards for local shops and skate companies. 

Being in that environment made me so happy. Some nights Andy or myself had to get up every 4 hours to take boards out the press and put other ones in. I have so much respect for people that continue to do things they are passionate about and try to make it work in those industries. I never thought I would get the chance to make skateboards or build a skatepark, but it has all worked out somehow. As well as pressing boards I worked a bit upstairs screen printing T-shirts/doing vinyl work, then at another place pouring plastic moulds, as well as various craigslist jobs which got me by. We skated so many different spots and parks, I would go to the plaza a lot at night and also go skate Hastings/Leeside a lot. It’s insane how many things there are to skate and I still can’t get over the sheer size and scale of the country. I would love to go back sometime to visit more places, it’s such a beautiful country. I would like to thank everyone that helped me out when I was there and for being so friendly and welcoming, I have so much love for you all.

FS Blunt

 

You recently moved to Edinburgh - How are you finding skating there in comparison to Aberdeen? You definitely have more spots to skate now! 

It’s been amazing so far, there are definitely more spots and it’s been nice to experience Edinburgh without the busyness of the festival due to COVID, although it's still a lot busier than Aberdeen. There’s still so much for me to explore here. I feel like you need to spend a bit of time in a city to really see its full potential for skateboarding, and even then you come across things that you might not have seen before. Edinburgh’s not massive, but there are quite a lot of newer university buildings in different locations that are good, as well as old cobbled alleyways and crusty spots.

My brother lives in Edinburgh too, so it’s nice to be closer to him and spend time together, he’s such a kind and considerate human, it’s nice to be around him more. Also, a lot of my friends are here, which makes it so nice. It was pretty strange to come a few weeks before the lockdown’s started happening, I just ended up skating myself a lot, which was good for exploring when it was quiet.


What’s your favourite park in Scotland at the moment? 

I would have to say Westburn first of all just because it’s provided years of good sessions and better now with the extension. If we’re going on design, I would probably have to go for Inverness, that place is insane – it has so many good bits, and the location is unreal. All the Inverness homies are so sick too.

 

FS Lipslide

 

You got on Garden at the end of last year, which is rad.  

It’s actually been unreal to be a part of something that I love, I can’t express how thankful I am to those guys for hooking me up and making me a part of it. I’ve known Miles [Kondracki], Cameron [Lenton] and Rory [Muirhead] for a long time and we are all similar ages. They are people that I’ve always enjoyed skating with and being around. I’ve also gotten to know Keiron [Forbes], Kyle [Bremner] and George [Horler] a lot more too over the last year and it is like one big family. I got asked if I wanted to go on the Zaragoza trip last year and I was so hyped to be involved. On the first night they asked me if I wanted to skate for Garden and I was very down, it was a no brainer. They had given me a board at the premiere of their first video so I was juiced just to be there skating with the brothers. These things mean so much to me as I continue to want to grow and keep on getting bread. I already thought the whole direction of the company was so sick. The way they work with artists and create high-quality products with so much love and care is amazing. Keiron, Kyle and Miles are all in charge of the business side of things and they do so much for us all, and really make it feel like a family. They take such good care and involve us all when it comes to making decisions on graphics etc. Also, when we got to Zaragoza, Keiron and Miles had pinned way over 100 locations on the map of possible spots to go to, they were just on google maps scrolling through streets and alleyways to find spots. I want to go on more trips like that, it felt so productive but we still had so much fun in the evenings.

 

What are your plans for the future? 

I just want to try to skate as much as possible and continue to have more good times. I’m trying to concentrate on being productive as well as having fun. I'm working on filming things for Habibis and Garden for future projects, and at the same time, I want to fill my days up with the best friends and humans. I also want to spend more time in the studio over Winter too and probably concentrate on eating tasty food and more good time!  


Gap to BS Lipslide

 

Any up and coming skateboarder’s to mention from Aberdeen? 

Bass, Nutty, Woody, Sam, all the Cubs, Skink, Daz, Six and Zee. 

 

Any further Thanks or Shout Outs? 

First and foremost I’d like to thank my Mum, Dad, Brother and family for everything they have done for me. Garden, Seed, Habibis, Kyle & Jerome at Converse, Grahumsk, Focus. And then all of the Homies, the list is long and you know who you are, I have so much love for you.

 

Published in North 27