Chris 'Avi' Atherton 'Cover Stories' interview from Sidewalk 200

Ayumi Powell Ayumi Powell

From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

CHRIS ‘AVI’ ATHERTON200-00

Chris Atherton
Sidewalk issue 117 : June 2006
Cover photo: Leo Sharp

 

 

So your cover is from June 2006 – what was going on in your life at that point Chris?
- Around that time I was at the closing stages of editing and releasing the Avit DVD. I was working a full time job in the day to earn enough cash to pay for the DVD printing costs, and editing a plethora of ideas late into the night. Crazy times.

Where the f*ck is that spot? Is it in Canary Wharf?
- That spot was near Burnley skatepark. I used to street skate around there a bit and spotted the gap as an idea for filming initially. Andy Mac was driving us around with Silent Will to do some other photos and we stopped off there. Paul Silvester has the footage.
I had to clear the path into the rough road. It’s a shame as I was so hyped on the straight make at the time that I wanted to do it one footed too, but by that point a gathering of youths were looking sketchy around Will’s equipment and a look from him said to leave it at that.

Which were you more stoked on? The fact that you got a cover, or the fact that it came with a free Snickers bar?
- The cover without doubt – that was a happy arrival in my life. Stood in a queue in WHSmiths sliding a Snickers bar about trying to see if I looked cool or not.

You and your brother Dennis were both first generation Manchester street skaters, both appearing in RAD and Skateboard! long before Sidewalk existed. Tell us about your favourite memories from that era.
- Dennis was a legend. He was keen to skate all day everyday and everywhere. Dennis always had a car as well so we pretty much went to everything worth chasing up and went to places on the way there and stopped off at places on the way back for years. Happy days. No cameras and skating solid seven days a week. I could fill pages on this one.

Weren’t you sort of sponsored by Deathbox early on? What happened? Did you not want to chase after sponsorship?
- I won the Barrow-in-Furness ‘street league’ competition for my age group with the promise of sponsorship for the winner. As a kid I was hoping for flow off anyone I respected at the time but as I remember a few sponsors pulled out at the end or something. This led to the guy from Zorlac Skateboards (bless him) offering a last minute gesture as he felt sorry for me I think. Refusing this offer at the time was a bold move for a kid, but I felt I didn’t represent the graphics being an upcoming street skater. I stood my ground and held out for a better deal that never came. I remember being at the Deathbox factory and Andy Scott giving it plenty, “offer to go to the fag shop for him!!!” as a means of buttering Jeremy up…and me going to the shop to buy Jeremy Fox fags. Everyone I skated with was sponsored, which at the time, with me being in those circles, was a blessing enough.

You grew up skating with Andy Scott, right? How early on was it obvious that he was on some Jedi shit?
- Skating with Andy shattered all my dreams right away. He could skate vert, he could handplant, he could 540, he got packages off H-Street, he could ollie blunt on vert padless while looking right in your eyes. It was possibly skating with Andy Scott that pushed me into new fields with my skating ‘cause there was no living up to his standards. I personally couldn’t even drop in on vert, the only edge I had on him really were street tricks.

After getting a fair few photos in the late 80’s/early 90’s it seemed like you just disappeared from the skate radar. Where were you? I think I remember asking where you’d been in a Brothers thing we ran and your answer was ‘psilocybin’. You were still skating all that time, right?
- During the period to which you refer, I’d got my first video camera and was learning to capture and edit for the first time. I tried many different ideas for edits, from mainstream feeling ones to extreme high-energy drug induced videos. There was a lot of high creativity going on, not just in my life but also with all the people surrounding me at that time. So yeah, I was skating a lot and trying to finalise a finished project video wise, which took a cross fade into ‘Shit on the Lens’.

Tell us about the Karma trips you went on with young Eddie Belvedere and Sean Smith – that was when you re-emerged into the skate-scene nationally so to speak. What memories do you have of that era?
- Road trips with Karma were great; we had some fun trips, Barcelona being the best one. Looking back now I had rose tinted glasses on throughout that period though. My board was coming out, my video was being released but it was all too much too fast. It was like a dream and a nightmare rolled into one really. Products and sponsorship kind of zap artistic merit from things I think.

Shit on the Lens contains footage of the infamous ‘Zen-flip’ – explain that one to us: it looks like you do a no comply 360 flip onto a bench and then just will the board to do a flip on its own and jump back on at the end. What the hell was going on with that?
- Yeah I was trying to sproing it up there, let it ride and jump on afterwards. The flip was a fluke – I’ll be honest. It just looked so heroic on film.

Are you surprised/stoked by the reaction to A Golden Egg?
- Yeah I’m fully hyped on that as one of my highest achieving moments ever: I’m sure Jesse feels the same. For the year leading up to its release it had become apparent to me from watching it that it was looking rather special, but in no way could I have anticipated the reaction to it. Crazy.

You’re a sponsored skater but you work a full time job Chris – what do you do for a living and how does it connect to your life as a skateboarder?
- I get boards and represent Wight Trash but that’s the extent of my sponsorship these days. I’m a joiner/roofer/handyman, you can also catch me as an artist, an avid gardener and allotment owner. Doing as much as I possibly can in life from all angles only seems to enrich the thought processes in other fields. It’s knowing how to separate these things in your head that’s difficult, but being trapped in the closed mindset for long periods can bring rich outbreaks of open mindset behaviour.

There are always lots of references to Lancashire folk culture in your videos – weren’t you working on making a documentary about local folk culture too?
- Yeah you’re right, once upon a time I was trying to make a Lancashire based documentary thing, too many skate edits swamped it down though I think, and the realization that you can’t stalk men with flat caps on constantly and make movies of them without their consent, (laughing). I’m currently filming and animating some Lancashire based projects in my studio (bedroom) with a more serious tone to it, it could be many years before they come to light though. My dad was always into Lancashire folk music. I play a lot of stuff on guitar and banjo myself, I’m down on modern music as much as I am modern skating, too much of it and all the same.
To anyone into furthering their interest I suggest finding Blaster Bates, Samuel Laycock, Brian Dewhurst, Harry Boardman, Bob Williamson, Keith Roberts, Roger Westbrook and The Bluewater Folk, to name but a few. Don’t be expecting to have all your fun at once though.

 

CHRIS ‘AVI’ ATHERTON200-01

 

What was the first photo you ever had in a skate mag and what’s been your favourite photo of yourself that’s been run over the years?
- First ever photograph I had in a magazine was a melon fakie on a quarter pipe at Silverwell Street in Bolton. Favourite photo of me ever run would be a toss up between the front cover of Sidewalk (due to its grittiness and the fact I’m actually in motion) and the poster I had in Skateboard! (due to my age and the size of the gap) or the spring onions shot Leo took (for its comedy value). I wouldn’t like to pick.

What would be your favourite Sidewalk cover from over the years and why?
- I liked the one of Andy Scott jumping the hip in Manchester with its blurry circle motion effect going on, always good to see him out street skating. Another would be Ben Grove jumping the rail in Newquay, I witnessed that first hand, it was sick.

Sidewalk has been going since 1995 so obviously skateboarding as a culture has changed massively over that time – if I were to ask you to point out the 5 most important events or developments that have occurred over that time, what would you pick and why?
- In my world the most important occurrences have been:

1. Landspeed (the first CKY video) had a big impact initially, granted it all gained Mickey Mouse ears, but I can’t deny that the VHS video brought a lot of newfound energy within my circles at the time and made people skate and film with passion again. That and the ‘Diamond Wizard’ tape playing loud, certainly led to creative beginnings.

2. H’Min Bam, the Scottish video, was an inspiration to my skateboarding world and filled me with positive energy and things to aspire to as opposed to belittling my very existence, so that would have to be in there. I still watch that to this day. Amazing.

3. The arrival of the Internet being the obvious one, chatting on forums and masses of footage on display meant people skated less and less as talking and watching skating can be nearly as good as skating. It’s also made us all hyper critical of everything we see which has been both bad and good for skateboarding.

4. Street League and The Berrics have put their stamp on the situation for sure, crafting skateboarding to new standards. ‘No no-complies’. CRUMBS, that’s pretty much like eliminating me as a person. I used to be hot at that SKATE game, or a cheat, I’m not sure.

5. If we’re reaching present day I’m uninspired by anything that bears a logo and contains stuntmen really so the new Fancy Lad ‘New Hell’ video is pulling some strings on my de-tuned banjo; the idea of ‘anti tricks’ and ‘just about makes’ in filthy circumstances has always appealed to my very nature. Not only does it make me laugh and feel like I’m watching a worthy cause, but it makes me want to go out and skate (which very little if nothing else does these days). So to me it’s the gateway to going skating at the moment, the next pot of inspiration, the tarnished holy gourd.

Why does traditional skate culture still matter at a point in history where Social Media and the Internet can grant everyone their 15 minutes of fame with minimal effort?
- It matters as the editing process can clear the canvas and build upon it, thus creating a world in the eyes of the maker, usually to the tune of their intention at that point in time. People take the Internet with a pinch of salt but the thought and passion that goes into making a magazine or film brings more value to it through its longwinded thought structure, editing process and means of presenting it. It seems to resonate with people much deeper. Not to mention it’s a material object one can hold, touch and show people.

You’ve always taken a different approach to the mainstream of ‘sponsored skateboarding’ – why is this?
- Money is a factor for sure and sponsored skateboarding in the UK was never going to pay the bills for me, so it was a choice for my skating between ‘work and have artistic freedom’ or ‘wear as many logos as I can and chase everything available’ and maybe ride the wave a while.
Artistic freedom has always meant more to me than success and money. I could go out and skate in an orthodox way right now for six weeks solid no problem. I could put all my best, ironed clothes on and re-lace my brand new shoes, stop doing fruity stuff and get to it. Getting sponsored leads to paths that some people love but I personally couldn’t think of anything worse than wearing head to toe logos and stickers representing things I’m not sure about, travelling to places I would never usually go, doing things I would never usually do, whether it’s free/paid whatever, that’s not the point. Inevitably you’re feeding ‘the wheel’ and I’ve always felt the passions available beyond it are worth chasing tenfold. In short, doing exactly what I like on a skateboard is way more essential to my being than regular performance.

Is anything impossible on skateboard?
- To my knowledge a ‘180 no-comply fakie grind’ down a large handrail seems to have them all stumped. That must be impossible, I’ve been awaiting advancements on that for years.

Are there any particular skateboarders that you feel have contributed more than others to this sprawling multi-million dollar culture?
- Steve Rocco had all the power moves in that game.

What’s the pinnacle moment of UK skateboarding in your opinion and why?
- Toss up between ‘Penny at Radlands’ and ‘first skating with Animal at Crown Square’ due to the fact they were both a complete inspiration at the time.

How do you see skateboarding evolving from this point? Have we exhausted the possibilities yet?
- The possibilities are endless: I can’t express that enough.
I think mainstream skateboarding and creative skateboarding will separate in time and become two completely different things with little green eyes and fluffy gold feet feathers that swish about in the wind. Pete McNeil once told me he could see a future of “skateboarding down tracks”. TRACKS: dark tunnels with banks and vert sections within them, bowls, street obstacles, steps and handrails with neon coloured coping and laser guns you shoot to activate gates and open bonus tunnels if you’ve scored enough points. Sounded a bit like combining Tron with pinball where the skater is the ball. This was 20 years ago and still remains the most creative concept I’ve borne witness to, the way ‘he’ described it and the depth he’d imagined it to was second to nothing in this world. BIGMACMEAL.

Give us the benefit of your wisdom Chris – why is skateboarding worth it?
- Like music and art, skateboarding can be a direct path to the open-mindset, to be respected and cherished. Be sure to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, some paths are long and negative. Negative vibes will counteract your open-mindset. What are YOU skating FOR? I PLAY ONLY THE END GAME. Time and tide await no man. Please take ‘all this’ with a pinch of salt from the pepper pot. If you would like to financially support my work e-mail me. Hahhahaha. www.slugworth.co.uk buy a t-shirt or I’ll go mainstream. Peace and love @{<

 

CHRIS ‘AVI’ ATHERTON200-02
No Comply. Photo: Leo 

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