Rodney Clarke 'Cover stories' interview from Sidewalk 200

Ayumi Powell

From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

RODNEY CLARKE200-00

Rodney Clarke
Sidewalk issue 94 : July 2004
Cover photo : Leo Sharp

 

 

The cover in question (your second Sidewalk one) is from 2004; what was going on in your life at that point? – I had been travelling quite a bit for Soletech in 2003/2004 and I was keen to get in as many trips as possible, there were loads of events around then too, all the Etnies Opens were in full swing and it was a productive time for me.

So tell us what you can remember from the day that you lipslid that rail. We were on a Soletech trip, it was the last day and the whole deal with actually skating the spot was pretty mental. How do you remember it?
- We were in Portugal on a Soletech trip: the rail was the entrance to a main underground station in Lisbon that we had spotted on our way back to the hotel a few days before and kinda joked about getting something done on it. It was Leo’s enthusiasm that planted the seed for me. I remember saying that if I was going to do anything down it that I would save it for the end of the trip. The run up was perfect and the roll out was smooth but relatively short, and disappeared down an even bigger set of stairs after a few yards. Also it needed everybody on the trip to play crowd control because people were in and out of the station all day.
To be honest after Leo had planted the seed it was all I could think about for the days leading up to it.

Wasn’t this around a year after you broke you neck? Given that you’d been through that, what in hell possessed you to still get gnarly like this?
- I think it was a case of I hadn’t shot that much on the trip up until that point, so I kind of thought I needed to do something worthwhile. By the last day I was sure I wanted to get something down it. I remember thinking that the only way down the stairs was gonna be on the rail as they were way too long to jump down, so full commitment was needed. My mindset after my injury was ‘if I can survive a broken neck then skateboarding probably wasn’t gonna kill me’.

You’re one of a few people in this issue who were known way before Sidewalk started with coverage in RAD and sponsorship back in the TLB days. How much has skateboarding as a culture changed over the time you’ve been involved in it, and what do you think have been the most significant changes?
- Well the main change would have to be the growth of the sport in general. It’s funny to hear skateboarders these days talk about “keeping it real, underground and out of the mainstream” yet so many of the people saying this were spawned from mainstream events like the release of a video game. And just to look at the profile skateboarding has in the public eye these days – it has really changed from my early days.
Time would have it that pursuing skateboarding meant being on a jobless, no-hope path – now it’s the “uber cool” thing to do.

As a St Albans/London local you got to see a whole generation of amazing skaters long before a majority of the kids reading this will have been born: which people from your early days re- ally stood out and why?
- Back then I remember Curtis McCann riding for the shop M-Zone and being the fresh kid on the block, also Tony Luckhurst was also making a name for himself. Paul Shier was around quite a bit and a little later on Danny Wainwright too. I thought they always made the tall guy steez look good, which I always related to. Most of the crew I started skating with have long since moved on.

What was the first photo you ever had in a skate mag and what’s been your favourite photo of yourself that been run (anywhere) over the years?
- My first full page photo was my Intro in R.A.D around issue 75, which was back in 91, or around that time I think. My favorite photo would be from issue 14 of Sidewalk in 1997 – alley oop kickflip melon – that was quite good for me. I hadn’t done anything like it before or for that matter since.

What would be your favourite Sidewalk cover from over the years?
- Ali Boulala has had some of my favorite covers; Issue 78, the water slide cover is my particular favorite – just the spot and how it’s shot, it leaves you wondering did he start from the top or what? Just going fast is something hard to capture in one frame. I was also fond of Shier’s ice cover of Issue 22; I always thought how nice it must have felt to grind something so different. Both covers remind me of the versatility that skateboarding has to offer, not just hammers

You’ve always been closely associated with The Pioneer – what are your favourite memories of that place?
- Obviously some of the contests held there over the years hold great memories: Pritchard’s cock-in-sock routine, Rune’s mental front wallride exploits are just two. Some of the best skateboarding I ever saw went down at those comps. Mike Manzoori going full length on everything from back tails to smith grinds on the mini ramp. Something I will always be stoked to remember.

Given that you’ve been around for a long time: what era do you consider to be your ‘prime’?
- I had a good few years around 97, made a few tricks, went to a few countries. I remember there being lots of opportunities around then.

You’ve had a whole grip of sponsors over the years – how many pro models have you had and which one is your favourite/ evokes the best memories?
- Dunno about my favourite or how many, but maybe the Aztec Reaction board, or my first one on Crème. I definitely know which range was my least favorite though – the Professor Movie Series on Reaction. My first pro board will always mean the most to me.

 

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 11.05.00

 

You’ve filmed a fair bit over the years and had a bunch of memorable video parts – which is your favourite?
- Gotta be the Raggy video ‘Juice’. That was the first sponsor I had that really wanted to do something bigger with the skaters in the British scene. I really felt part of the team and had so much fun touring with the guys and filming.

A little known fact is that you filmed a lot of Tom Penny’s foot- age that ended up being used in ‘Juice’ – what do you remem- ber about that era and the time you spent in Oxford etc?
- Yeah I remember filming some of the sketchy footage in the car park at the end of the video on a shonky old high 8 camera with no light and a piss poor lens. It was my first real introduction to the Sidewalk mag crew and the flat opposite SS20 on Cowley Road. It was a funny place to be: Horsley, Chris Forder and Jon Robson were always up to no good. The humour that was injected into the mag at that stage was great! Some of the funniest moments I remember were the prank call tapes, listening to Forder wind up certain American companies on the phone, and drinking at the Star Royal with the crew and planning the video, good times!

You were a regular on the contest scene both here and in Europe for years – did you enjoy that whole vibe? What was your greatest contest moment?
- Sometimes when you put a little pressure on yourself it can bring out the best in you. For me the enjoyment derived from that. Hard to pinpoint any one event in particular though, but any of the Mystic Cup comps in Prague were some of my best, I made the top ten one year and for me that was a highlight. It would be remiss of me not to mention the Radlands comps, skateboarders taking over the whole town of Northampton once a year, smashing hotels, starting riots and getting into punch-ups with townie chav types and general skateboarder rowdiness, all of that made them hard to forget.

What’s perspective on the way skate contests have evolved? Do you watch Street League and all that?
- I don’t remember skate comps being that elitist, it seemed as though every type of skater had something to bring to each event, from your Cates’s to your Wainwright’s. Street League seems a little bit like rich boys jollies to me. Although the skating is amazing you don’t really get a sense of the soul of skateboarding from watching it, it seems a little sterile. I catch it when it’s on occasionally.

You’ve travelled an awful lot over the years and have spent extended time in the US, Australia and parts of Europe to name but a few – which destinations have you enjoyed the most and why?
- From a skate perspective the best places for me were Oz, Barca, Japan, and China. From a lifestyle and cultural perspective though, Japan impressed me the most, so many people living in crowded cities but with a respect for each other that I seldom saw in other places.

If I were to ask you to tell me the 5 most influential skaters in your own life, who would you select and why?
- It has changed a few times over the years but looking back now probably:
Mike Manzoori – he showed me that even the most basic of tricks can look amazing with a touch of speed added.
Nick Orrechio – he was the first person I ever saw ride up a wall way back when. How involved he still is with skating inspires me.
Dave Allen – because he taught me the most on a Vert ramp and like Nick is still going strong.
Matt Hensley – I met him as a kid when he visited the UK for a demo. A few years later I had a chance to live on his couch for a bit, he definitely influenced me in a good way.
Graham Baker – because his love for skateboarding is bigger than anybody I know. He reminds me what it is to skate every time we meet. His mantra “keep skating and have fun” makes me smile each time.

You’ve been off the radar for a few years – what have you been up to?
- Not too much I guess.
Skateboard coaching for a bit. Building event ramps for a bit. Raising a family. Oh and skating of course…

Are you able to imagine a life without skateboarding?
- No, but I almost had to a few years back after I broke my neck. It was touch and go for a minute, hence getting back on it and embracing it wholly after I recovered. That made me stop taking it for granted.

Give us the benefit of your wisdom Rodney – why is skateboarding worth it?
- At the most basic level skateboarding gives you good hand-eye coordination, which always benefited me. It can make even the most pessimistic person more optimistic, and give you a positive outlook on everything you do. It taught me determination, which you WILL be able apply to other aspects of your life.
Well done to all you guys at Sidewalk for making it to 200 issues, thanks for the good times, here’s to 200 more.

 

RODNEY CLARKE200-02Wallride rag out. Photo: CJ 

 

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