Colin Kennedy 'Cover Stories' interview from Sidewalk 200

Ayumi Powell

From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

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Colin Kennedy
Sidewalk issue 107 : August 2005
Cover photo : Leo

 

 

You’ve had two covers with switch handrail tricks but you’ve also had a cover with two black eyes – which out of all your Sidewalk covers is your favourite and why?
- My favourite would have to be the switch front board photo that Horsley shot in Nottingham. I loved the composition of the photo and the way the cover was laid out, it was simplistic and clean. We shot it in my more organic days when I would simply step into my Ford Fiesta and drive down to the North of England, sleep on someones floor and spend a week shooting photos locally. This particular time I spent a week or so at Horsley’s place and I always appreciated that I would break out of my more traditional ‘scene’ with the Blueprint guys and skate with different people, visit different places and not to mention the carefree fun Andy injected into every session or day.

Give us the backstory to the ‘two black eyes’ cover please.
Backstory?
- Well lets just say we had been identified as perhaps having too much of a good time night on night in one bar in Magaluf, Mallorca
in the off season, and an ex-pat pundit who worked for the local bars in the area just didn’t like the cut of our cloth, but of course inevitably we would bump into him every single night. Baines was really hammered, I mean mortal drunk one particular night, and had offended the geezer in question by remarking on the size of his ears after they both got lippy with each other outside the bar. We consequently left that place and regrettably continued to another, in the interim period this guy had assembled a team of thugs to interrupt our fun and this ended in a violent confrontation. It was pretty distressing at the time yet the whole scenario was somewhat of a blur with punches flying left, right and centre. ‘Boom’ there was the left eye, ‘biff’ there was the right…Joey Pressey got his nose broken, Baines got a good clocking and I had a nasty black eye. We got a licking, so the next day we all gingerly tiptoed to the local store to pick up pairs of sunglasses. It was pretty embarrassing to be fulfilling that ‘Brits abroad’ look in Magaluf of all places. We were mindlessly drunk and involved in a fight but truth being told it was completely one sided. Two days later when my eye had opened up we ended up shooting that switch flip, and as you might expect Horsley was so stoked on it; the photo was nice but I don’t think the actual trick was so impressive, but I guess the whole narrative behind it was.

Can you remember the first ever published skate photo you had in a magazine? What about your personal favourite photo of yourself from over the years?
- I can, it was in R.A.D. magazine. It was a fakie nosepick to fakie on the Barrow in Furness Skate Shack ramp. Personal favourite was on ollie into the Mississippi Banks in Glasgow, a photo that Andy Shaw shot in black and white; I actually have a mounted print of it somewhere in the attic, it was published in Document. For me it sums up everything about those years we all spent on the Glasgow streets. Those banks were a classic Glasgow spot and it was quite a challeng to do something there so it became a spot that John and myself would regularly try tricks into. I think Andy managed to capture the mood of the city and skateboarding there at the time, all this derelict and broken space everywhere. It sounds clichéd but that’s what really makes me so fond of it.

Tell us about your infamous appearance on the early 90’s Saturday night TV show YouBet. How and why did that opportunity come about and what are your everlasting memories from that day?
- Well that came through Panic Skateboards. Joe Burlo, the owner, was trying to garner as much exposure as he could for the brand, whether that be in the magazines or on Saturday night television. The whole experience at the time was in all honestly just a lot of fun; we didn’t really concern ourselves too much with how we would be perceived or how authentic it was or anything like that. If anything I am most embarrassed about how I was wearing my hat all off kilter trying to look like Josh Kalis; however I did get some laughs from the audience when I used the word ‘knackered’ to describe how I felt after the challenge. Best memories are Joe Pasquale proving that he was as much of a cretin as I had suspected, John Cattle just about bailing every attempt he made at the ‘circuit’, and the driver who picked us up at the train station giving me a mason’s handshake.
I thought this had been buried in the vaults but only recently someone uploaded it to YouTube.

You’ve definitely put the hours in at Bristo Square over the years – what are some of the more memorable things (both skate and non-skate) you’ve seen go down over the years?
- Skate wise, the locals Benjie, Fuat, Bowman, Tattie, Rennie and Cully just tearing it to pieces on a day-to-day basis. Nostalgia perhaps clouds my judgment but I am pretty sure at that time these guys were holding their own with any other scene in the country and this magnetised us to the square at that time; every weekend we would drive through from Glasgow to session there. Non- skate? Every other day something would happen, it was such a transient space so there was all manner of trouble. There were (and still are) a lot of homeless (due to the close proximity of the shelter across the street) who would hold the spot down alongside the skateboarders. More often than not there was a happy balance but there were some territorial disputes there between different fraternities. One day I saw somebody being knifed in the neck, that was pretty alarming, and also I remember one of the big lads – Tam, I think – that always used to cut about there was so buckled drunk he tripped and stumbled for about 20 feet before falling forward and stoving his forehead into this small crack between the surfaces; there was a huge flap of skin that was hanging down from his head. Just raw street life day on day.

Is there any truth in the rumours that Matt Hensley lived in Glasgow at one point back in the day? Did you ever have any first hand Hensley sightings?
- Not that I am aware of, but Neil Blender and Steve Claar stayed in Glasgow for the best part of a month, which was just magical. Imagine seeing Neil Blender on your local 66 bus!

 

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You pretty much took every opportunity offered to you and ran with it – how many scenes do you feel you have been part of over the years, and how did the scenes all vary?
- Yeah I was in some respects an honorary member of many scenes. I would say Croydon, Sheffield, Milton Keynes and Cawdor (that’s Magee, Massey and Marshall’s house in West London) were the four ‘scenes’ I was a mainstay at over the years. Sheffield was really rootsy and homely but super progressive with Sumo being there and I connected to that scene through Ches originally; I’ve known him since I was 17, that’s 21 years! Croydon was a straight up geezer scene – Fairfield Halls, Black Sheep Bar, fruit machines, carnage parties at Shier’s, adidas fleeces and slick back hair. MK was bus station ledges by day and by night driving around dangerously fast in tricked out VW Golfs, North Face jackets, weed smoking, sitting in cars and listening to hip hop. Cawdor was the latter formative Blueprint WFTW days, basically a halfway house where everyone would roll through and stay when we filmed for the video, hitting up mainly West London and the fringes a lot, not so much central city lurking.

What was the story with 411 denying Blueprint’s ‘Build and Destroy’ promo back in the late 90’s? Why do you think the edit got knocked back?
- The skate industry is pretty incestuous, it’s who you know and perhaps we just didn’t know the right people at the time yet people are still de-crying our current internet age of immediate self publishing of content. Go figure.

You’ve filmed more than your fair share of video parts over the years
– which one would you say you are the happiest with and why?
- In hindsight I am most satisfied with First Broadcast. We filmed it in such a short space of time and the process was genuinely spontaneous so it did not become as protracted as Lost and Found, but despite the short window we had to film it I was really happy with what we turned around and how the section came together. Dan and Mondon did such a great job with that whole project. I recall just filming it and before you knew it we were sitting at the premiere in the Prince Charles watching it. I recall the first line I filmed was in Barcelona and at that point I was working in the Post Office and that was a serious turning point for me; this project was the catalyst to make a proper concerted effort at what I was doing so I went all in to make this part as best I could. I remember Vaughan was unstoppable at that time; he brought so much new energy to Blueprint and the project. I am proud to have been a part of it, great memories.

As well as scoring a fair few UK covers, you’re also one of a handful of UK heads to grace the cover of an international publication. How did your Skateboarder cover come about?
- When I began to ride for Savier direct from the US I was making a concerted effort to be in the US magazines as much as possible, and at that point I was shooting a lot with Oliver Barton; we had just spent a month in the US and then not long after that we did a week in Barcelona. Ollie’s photography is stunning, not to mention he is a pleasure to spend time with. He always had this knack of inspiring you to work as hard as he does on the image. It just so happens between us one day in Barcelona he managed to capture something with the right composure that managed to make it to the cover, it just so happens it was myself. I actually have a framed copy of the cover that Aaron Meza (who was editor at the time) posted to me; needless to say I was blown away to get a cover at Skateboarder at that time.

Was the seamless transition from ‘professional skateboarder’ to ‘industry dude’ something you always had planned out?
- I planned it but it was never a given. As I was coming into my later years I started to enquire about doing some part time work by way of team management with Seb Palmer, who was at Nike at the time and who I owe a helluva lot to. By that point we had our first daughter and we were at the point of planning to have another child. Skateboarding for a living is great fun and in my mind gives you some of the best experiences you could hope for, but unfortunately it doesn’t look too good on paper when you dedicate 10 or more years to it so I knew I had to start making appropriate moves before it was time to call it a day in the game.

At a point in history where Facebook and Hellaclips can grant literally anyone their fifteen minutes of glory, why does traditional skateboard media (interviews, video parts, photos etc) still matter?
- Traditional skateboard media is still out there, and in huge abundance. We might consume it differently but as far as I am concerned, not a whole lot has changed. I get buzzed on what I’m feeling and skip what I don’t; thankful- ly fast-forwarding and rewinding is a lot more convenient.

When and why did you decide to retire as a professional skateboarder? It was way before Blueprint’s mass exodus late last year, right? Was there going to be an official announcement made at any point or did you just want to step quietly into the shadows, so to speak?
- I considered myself retired the best part of 2 years ago because I felt I had nothing more to give at the standard I would expect someone with their name on their board to operate at, and also I didn’t want to be that team manager still in the team where I could avoid it; I had witnessed that scenario myself before and I didn’t want to become a hypocrite.
We did discuss releasing a final board to close the chapter so to speak as for me it was to some degree important that people knew at the time Blueprint was moving forward and the older guard were retiring and making room for the new breed coming through. But also from a personal point of view, it would have been nice to have that final pro model as we had intended to have my good friend Toby Paterson design the graphic, but alas it was just not to be. Family and everything else took precedence over such fanciful and nostalgic ideas. I’m quite happy to have stepped out of the game when I did, it’s been liberating. I really enjoy skateboarding.

 

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Back 360 from quarter to flatbank. Photo – Tait 

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