Interview & Mix - KRPT Blog

I recently did an interview and mix for the guys over at KRPT about my music as Theoish. Stream or download the mix below and check out the full interview here

Tracklist - 

  1. Nils Frahm - Familiar 
  2. Hidden Orchestra - Dust (Floex Remix)
  3. Roberto Fonseca - Bibisa 
  4. Alt J - Tesselate (Dam Mantle Remix)
  5. Jamie XX - Sleep Song
  6. Nils Frahm - For (Max Cooper Remix)
  7. Theoish - Never Alone
  8. Portico Quartet - Paper Scissors Stone
  9. Bodhi Glitch - As Quiet Can Form 
  10. Capeface - Drownin
  11. Caribou - Melody Day (Four Tet Remix)

Long Live Southbank. Long Live Individuality.

For those that don't know, Long Live Southbank (LLSB) is the ongoing campaign to stop the Southbank Centre (SBC) from turning the historic skate spot (referred to as the undercroft) into commercial retail units.

The Southbank Centre are planning a multi-million pound development to renovate the Festival Wing. To help raise the money needed for expansion and maintenance, they have proposed to demolish the undercroft and create a new skateable space under the nearby Hungerford Bridge, whilst turning the existing area into retail units.

The SBC have pledged to invest £1 million into the new space, which is supposedly 10% larger than the current site. However, it's not clear why the retail units couldn't be built on the Hungerford Bridge site and the undercroft left where it is; if the new site is indeed larger than the current one then surely companies would be very happy to set up shop there.

After Boris Johnson's recent comment supporting the preservation of the undercroft, the Southbank Centre have issued a statement saying they have 'committed to a final 3 month search' to find the funding needed to complete their festival wing proposal. Although this is a very positive step for the campaign, the future of the undercroft is far from secure. 

This is not the first time that the future of the iconic skate spot has been in jeopardy. Over the past decade, the SBC have chipped away at the undercroft, which was originally over twice the size it is today. The smaller banks and extended flat ground (perfect for beginners) were boarded off around 2005, eventually becoming what is now the BeanoTown cafe and shop. 

For an insight into what the space used to look like, check out the great documentary (below) from Winstan Whitter and Toby Shaull (professional skateboarder and artist). The footage is old, but the fight to keep the undercroft is the same. There's also a great section on Southbank in this 1994 video shot by Mike Manzoori.

The Southbank undercroft is the oldest surviving skate spot in the world and for over 40 years it has been the home and hub of the British skate scene. It sits alongside places like Love Park (Philadelphia), Embarcadero (San Francisco) and MACBA (Barcelona) that are famous to skaters everywhere and have compelled people to travel across the globe to skate their hallowed ground.

Without even thinking I could reel off a list of amazing tricks that have been done there, as could any British skateboarder (Andrew Brophy's 180 up the seven stairs and Toby Shaull's nollie cab heelflip down them are the first that spring to mind). 

While skating at the undercroft this week, the LLSB team asked to interview me for the campaign. They wanted to know what skateboarding and the undercroft meant to me, to which I responded: 'individuality'. This is the essence of the undercroft; to each person that uses it, the space means something completely different.

Just as there are different styles of music, fashion and art, there are different styles of skateboarding; different ways of 'seeing' the same obstacle, different ideas about what tricks could be possible on the same piece of architecture.  

To a young kid, the undercroft might be the very first place they encountered skateboarding (helped by it's public visibility) and started to make the transition from pedestrian to skateboarder. To a teenager, it's a place to skate all year round for free, a place to meet new friends, try new tricks and skate alongside professionals.

To pros, it's a place to practice, a place to shoot photos for magazines and film new lines for videos. To passers-by, it's a window into a subculture that they may not have experienced before; an authentic representation of something that cannot be replicated by a purpose built 'urban' space (in fact the very use of the word 'urban' is usually a sign that an organisation has misunderstood the practice of the world that it's trying to replicate).  

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Skateboarding is the single most inclusive 'sport' I have ever been a part of. Compared with snowboarding or skiing for instance (predominantly white, middle-class pastimes due to their cost), skateboarding instantly dissolves barriers between class, race, age and gender.

It brings people together through the shared love, friendship and pain of rolling on a small plank of wood with wheels; something that can be bought fairly cheaply or borrowed from a friend. 

What the undercroft provides is skateboarding's equivalent of going to your local playground and having a kick-about with David Beckham. For an aspiring young skater, going to Southbank not just to witness, but to actively skate alongside your favourite pros is an amazing feeling. Instead of idolising these minor celebrities from afar, skating at Southbank feels like being amongst peers, regardless of any age gap between the beginners and advanced skaters. 

There are few activities I can think of that allow a 15 year old and 35 year old to 'play' side by side, and it is very much 'playing'. Although skateboarding can be a competitive activity, it doesn't have to be, and it's just as likely for the younger skaters to be teaching the older generation as it is the other way round. 

This is the heart and soul of 40 years of skateboard history and it cannot be replaced or continued anywhere else. Michael Ball, a community planning developer for Waterloo has said: 'It'd be like trying to dig up a garden and move it somewhere else, half the plants will die and it won't really work'. In my opinion, skateparks are great places for people to practice and hone their craft, but it's on the streets that real skateboarding happens. Legendary skater Chad Muska shares the same view:

'Street skating is the backbone of skateboarding […] it's about finding something that wasn't made for skating but is perfect for it. Skateboarding is not the X-Games, Street League, Dew Tour and any of that stuff; it's Southbank, it's the kids coming together, pushing themselves, having fun, enjoying life and doing something positive' - Chad Muska (Pro Skater).

In some ways, I am grateful that the Southbank Centre are offering any alternative at all; it is at the end of the day, their land. However, what they have failed to notice is how closely related the arts held above the undercroft at the Royal Festival Hall, QEH and Hayward Gallery are; to the 'unorganised' arts of skateboarding and graffiti down below.

It shows a literal and physical divide between the high and low culture (organised vs unorganised) on the riverside. To me, skateboarding is much closer to being a kind of performance art than a sport, and has just as much value as anything on offer at the Southbank Centre. Whether upstairs at the Royal Festival Hall or downstairs at the undercroft, I feel that the public should be able to experience different types of art in their natural and intended habitat.

'If you pay money to go and sit upstairs and watch dancers, you're paying money to watch people demonstrate their skill in tricking gravity; in jumping, in turning, in twisting. Skaters aren't actually that different and I'm not sure we should make a cultural distinction between those things' - Reid Smith (BFI House Manager). 

Although I've really enjoyed a number of events put on by the SBC over the years, to me the undercroft skate spot is the Southbank. I first skated there in about 1999; a scrawny 11 year old eager to ride around the most famous skate spot in the country. Inspired by watching skaters like Nick Jenson in Blueprint's Waiting For The World (2000) and First Broadcast (2001), I would regularly make the pilgrimage up from Kent to skate Southbank with my friends; filming tricks for our own low-budget movies. I'll never forget the day I finally landed a kickflip down the seven - an American tourist who was watching even gave me a pound for doing it. 

Since moving to London years later, Southbank has been a place where I've made new friends, learnt new tricks, filmed new lines and hurt myself. I've met photographers, tourists and people who've ended up offering me work. I've given a 6 year old her first skate lesson, posed for photos with strangers and played a game of S.K.A.T.E with a guy from Thailand who turned out to know a mutual friend through skating.

A few weeks ago I managed to break a fairly new board whilst trying a trick. I was packing up my things and getting ready to go home, when another skater who I'd met earlier that day offered for me to have his. He said that he'd injured himself and that my need was greater than his (thanks mate!). Such is the camaraderie of Southbank. 

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I also recently featured as an extra in a scene set at Southbank for the TV series Law & Order - 'acting' with a bunch of other skaters and some guy called Doc Brown (now a supporter of LLSB).

The very use of the undercroft in TV programmes and films is testament to it's unique identity. There's a reason that location scouts for shows like Law & Order and Sherlock are fond of using the brutalist architecture of Southbank as a backdrop - it represents an authentic subculture, one that has naturally grown (up) around the concrete pillars. 

These are the pillars of the British skateboard community. Where skateboarding has risen and fallen in popularity over the years, where different people, styles and trends have come and gone; these pillars have stood strong for over 40 years, and what they have created can never be replaced.

Whereas restaurants along the Southbank riverside (Giraffe, Strada, EAT et al.) offer placid experiences that can be replicated hundreds of times across the city, the undercroft offers something different; something colourful, something noisy and something exciting. Southbank's pillars symbolise more than just a skate spot, more than just the skateboarding community; they symbolise individuality and a break from the mundane. 

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Header image taken from The Operators Long Live Southbank animation. Polaroid photos by Marco Ferrari. Videos by LLSB unless otherwise stated. Group photo by Victoria Camila. Sherlock image from Sherlockology. Video stills from my personal archive.

Interview & Mix - Tragic Clothing

Back in November I did a mix and interview for the guys over at Tragic Clothing.  I took the opportunity to showcase the more ambient side of my influences, including some unreleased tracks from friends and collaborators. Stream or download the mix below via Soundcloud and read the full interview here.

  1. Jon Hopkins - Lost Map / The Hawk
  2. Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Numbers 1-4
  3. Flying Lotus - 1983 (Tjorven Cover)
  4. Rhian Sheehan - Borrowing The Past
  5. The Flashbulb - Kirlian Changes
  6. Hudson Mohawke - Star Crackout
  7. Deru - I Would Like 
  8. Theoish - Cat's Clarinet 
  9. Tom Kilworth & Jeevan Rai - Stasis [excerpt]
  10. Grapefruit Moon - Haze
  11. Arlet - Jesus Mi Amigo (Theoish Remix)