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Frank Stephens 'Cover Stories' from Sidewalk 200

12:00 11th December 2013 by Ayumi Powell
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From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

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Frank Stephens
Sidewalk issue 74 : November 2002
Cover photo: Wig

 

 

So Franklin, this cover is nearly a decade old now – what was happening in your life in 2002?
- Well, if memory serves, that day I was having a great hair day. I can’t really remember.

What do you remember about shooting this with Wig?
- I always looked forward to working with Wig. I’d done this pop shove before, so I was just hoping I could harness some confidence from that. We went to a car park near by and I jumped a salt bin to warm up, then I had a go. To Wig’s and my surprise I landed it in five tries and we went for a pint and a curry… Hooray!

You grew up in Ipswich, which had a really strong scene back in the early 90’s. There were loads of good skaters, people were already making videos, you were travelling about etc – how come? Was there nothing else to do in Ipswich?
- Well Ipswich is much the same as anywhere else of equal size and wealth for stuff to do. When I first started there were a lot of skaters, but within two years most had given up and nobody was making videos until my generation. We started the video thing and as for travelling, London is an hour away, you could bunk a train to skate old Southbank and the rest. I always considered that travelling was big part of skateboarding.

What was your first picture that was published in a skate magazine? What about your favourite picture of yourself over the years?
- The first one was a video grab in the second Sidewalk of a backside 180 flip down Liverpool Street doubles. I really liked a photo Wig took of a frontside 180 over a salt bin around the same time as the pop shove cover. Kingy got some good ones. The 5050 on the red Biffa skip was good too! It’s always a lot of fun with Andy Horsley.

What’s your favourite Sidewalk cover and why?
- Harry at Broadmarsh banks from Issue 3 and Ali Boulala in the street pipe in Bristol from Issue 13: There are just so many great covers to pick from.

How early on in your skate life did sponsored skateboarding become a thing for you and how?
- I guess as a pup I didn’t think about it a whole lot, I wasn’t outstanding and all that belonged in America (1987). You needed to ride comps as well, the pro street skater was only just emerging: Hensley, Natas, Alex Moul, etc. It kind of happened for me because I got into filming skating, making videos for me and my mates, and these early films made it possible to get seen. As I got better it became a bit of a necessity to look for sponsorship as I was going through equipment at an expensive rate. Luckily Rude skate store owner Matt Kerr thought it was a good idea to hook me up a board a month when I was about 18 and it went on from there.

Myself and Rye worked it out and you, Joe Gavin and Baines have had the most video parts out of any UK skaters: how many sections have you had over the years and which ones evoke the best memories?
- I think it is 9 parts for general release and 7 parts for scene and shop releases. My last being Drugstore’s ‘Dreams That Money Can Buy’ by Lewis Ross and Sam Avery. UNAPROMO has a lot of good times and I think that comes across.

You’ve also filmed and edited a fair few videos over the years too – what do you like about that entire process?
- It is really good to work on a project with a group of friends, trying to get a mood across. It’s a rad experience to help people create something that represents them, and that they are proud of. Personally it is good to have control over that shit, as there are some editor/filmers who don’t realise that their role is to represent the rider.

Tell us a bit about Unabomber – yourself, Harry and Vaughan are in this issue and Man had an interview in 199 – what are your most cherished memories of that era?
- Hard to pin it down to one thing really, it was just a lot of fun driving around in the late nineties to see the team. Selling product to get to the next town/city. Breaking down in my shit cars and laughing at our predicament at the side of the road, knowing we were the Bomber, a team of mates and just stoked to be skating with each other.

Silvester told a story about you trying to switch backside flip Lloyds back in the day and slamming so hard that you ended up pissing blood – do you remember that?
- As for pissing blood I think I got very dehydrated and my piss looked like steaming cola! I don’t really try anything I don’t think I can land, I bail like a wuss but know that if I keep trying I will do it in the end, and slamming is just a part of skating.

The backside flip down the big gap during the Vans Warped Tour/ skate riot in Docklands in 97 still gets talked about to this day – right down to the clapping nun getting BGP’s in the sequence: what do you remember about that day and that session?
- I remember that the Vans thing was a joke. It was when Vans had lost the plot! And f*cking Reef were trying to put their hands on our skater holes so we all left. Danny did loads of stuff real quickly. I think Luke McKirdy spotted the up-off line first so all props go to him.

 

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What happened between you leaving Bomber, joining Cliché and now – what have you been up to?
- Well, after Cliché I joined Bomber again. Rollersnakes had bought it and Rob Johnson (rad chap) asked Harry if he could run it. I wouldn’t have had anything to do with it if it were not for Harry being in charge. After it had been going rad for a good while and a sick team had come together, things started to f*ck up, trying to get us to sign non- negotiable contracts whilst someone kept knocking up pro boards with our names in huge letters so we laughed it off. Ever since I have been a member of the hobo society.

I’m sick of people asking me, “When’s the Playing Fields DVD coming out?” – so for my sake if nothing else – what’s the story there? What are you doing? And when’s the provisional release date?
- Well, I got hold of the master copy at the end of last year and I now have a nice digital shiny version. I am adding a couple of bits as extra chapters on the DVD and it should be out by the end of June/beginning of July.

You’ve done some seriously heavy shit over the years and have a back catalogue of banging video parts/interviews/photos but you never made any money at all out of skateboarding – what’s your take on that from today’s perspective?
- I enjoy trying to get a good photograph or line on video. It’s an extra dimension, something else to the whole experience. I’ve always been able to do most of the things I have wanted to do in my life. I like to think money hasn’t controlled my decisions. I never started skateboarding for money or fame.

If I were to ask you who had been the most important/ influential skaters for you personally over the last twenty years, who would you say and why?
- Personally Harry has always delighted me. He is not a role model but his take on skateboarding and life was always inspiring to me. Him, Mark Channer and Alex Moul showed me how to be a UK skateboarder.

What’s the pinnacle moment of UK skateboarding in your opinion?
- The pinnacle of UK skateboarding for me was last Tuesday when someone made me the best cup of tea I had ever had. Honestly, I don’t think we’ve had it yet.

You had a part in First Broadcast which is arguably the best independent UK video ever made – what do you remember about that process? That video was kind of Playing Fields but ten years later eh?
- I wouldn’t really compare the two films I have to say, but it was good to work with Chris Massey: I liked him and his filming. Adam Mondon did me proud and got some classic Ipswich spots covered and Dan Magee was an absolute gent.

There’s a story about you and Mouly skating in Ipswich years ago whilst Jeremy Fox watched from the sidelines as a kind of ‘audition’ – is there any truth to that and what do you remember?
- Very much true, Jeremy wanted to see what I could do so Alex and I skated some half wet benches in a churchyard whilst he sat and smoked on a gravestone. It all worked out in the end, we travelled about together and skated some parks, in the end neither of us were very impressed with each other and went our separate ways at Radlands, but at least I got to skate with Alex.

You’ve just recently joined John Cattle’s Wight Trash – what happened there and, are you stoked to be riding for the same team as Flynn, Nowik and Avi etc?
- Yeah I’m stoked, you know everyone is on it because of John and what he is about: he’s got the wight attitude, (laughing). He wants input from the riders because he cares about what it means to have a board out. John’s giving me a board and he really, really, really wants me to choose a shape and a graphic, this is a first!! I’ve had nine pro boards already; this will be the tenth.

I know that you’re pretty much disconnected from the Internet and the whole Social Media octopus so I’m interested to know what you see: what was the last skate video that you paid attention to?
- The last Death film was good, it’s a bit old but I really like the $lave film ‘Radio Television’ too, but really I am happy to just watch my old videos a lot of the time. The Internet is good for buying stuff but I am not that bothered with it. When I was a kid you weren’t considered a proper skateboarder if you didn’t know the latest shit. To keep up cost more money than I had as a kid so as an adult I am happy to say it doesn’t matter. Skateboarding is for doing ultimately: it’s not football.

Can you imagine a life without skateboarding Frank?
- Yes, and it’s weird and scary.

What do you think are the most important things that you’ve learned along the way with the 20 years of skateboarding passion?
- Bones Swiss with the shields off are the best. Travelling and new terrain are at the very core of skateboarding. Contrast bathing works really well.

Anything else?
- Big thanks to Evie Janssens and Molly Southgate for looking after me after my knee broke.

 

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Ollie. Photo – Horse

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