Vaughan Baker 'Cover Stories' interview from Sidewalk 200

Ayumi Powell

From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

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Vaughan Baker
Sidewalk issue 41 : Oct / Nov 1999
Cover photo: Wig

 

 

The cover in question is from issue 41, Oct/Nov 1999, what do you remember about nosegrinding that God-awful piece of shit handrail and the process of shooting the photo?
- Seems like a lifetime ago to be honest! That spot was at the University in Birmingham. It was on the day of one of the jams Ideal used to hold at the Custard Factory when they had that big ramp. Wig shot it. I’d skated it few times as the run up was real good but the landing was shitty, but it was easy to just train up on I guess. I wanted to nosegrind it, Wig was around that day so I went and shot it. Don’t really remember it being that much of mission. We went back to the Custard Factory and skated the rest of the day!

That’s from the last century – as crazy as that is to say – so what was going on in your life back in 1999?
- Like I said before mate, it was another lifetime, (laughs). It was around the time I got back from Australia. I’d had a really good time there and was on a hype. I was getting a little bit of cash from Converse, living in Worcester and skating Birmingham a whole lot, travelling to London a bit to skate with Hellicar and the Unabomber guys. Pretty mellow, just good times mate.

At that point the original Unabomber was two years old, Unapromo had come out and you were filming for what became Headcleaner – did you have a plan as to what you were doing back then? Or was it just kind of happening?
- Just kinda happening I guess. We were pretty stoked on what we had so we’d be trying our best to get sections together. Pulling it out of the air really, as Frank and Channer were the main filmers so there was always a DIY aspect as we would just film each other. We would drive around in whatever beat up, broke down piece of shit car Frank would be driving, sleeping on floors and skating. When not doing that I was getting drunk in Worcester.

How did you find yourself involved in the original incarnation of Unabomber?
- I was at a skate comp in Liverpool and Johnny Robbo asked me to ride for them. He told me who was going to be on the team and I tripped out! Originally it was Frank Stephens, Harry and Alan Rushbrooke – all of whom I really looked up to: Rushbrooke killed it on tranny, Harry was a massive powerhouse and Frank jumped down shit. So sick!!
Then as the idea grew Pete Hellicar and Mark Channer came on board closely followed by Paul Silvester. It kinda took me a while to get used to it as I guess I was the unknown guy and wasn’t really used to getting free boards and shit! Everybody else had been getting coverage for a while and were pretty big UK names at the time. Kinda did my best to catch up with them all!

You were doing a lot of travelling at this point without (I assume) making any money at all from skateboarding – how did you manage that?
- Well yeah I mean for a bit I had a little from Converse until they jumped off, but after that yeah, I had nothing. I didn’t even sign on for two years so yeah, I literally had nothing. Everything was way gyppo. But, I know skaters still roll like that these days that are sponsored. But compared to guys that are getting hooked up… I guess yeah, it’s way easier these days. I remember shit like, one time Frank’s car had broken down on an A road out in the f*cking middle of nowhere in the middle of February for about 3 hours, nothing around, no mobile phones, and just being like what the f*ck happens now? And ending up having to eat raw potatoes and broccoli because I was so hungry. Frank eventually found a phone and managed to get the AA out to fix it and drove to Worcester only to have the thing break down on a slip road just on the outskirts of town. We then had to push it 2 miles back to my mum’s house. I remember Channer had some crazy meltdown that night, he just stood in the middle of the road screaming for about 2 minutes because he couldn’t handle it anymore, (laughing).

What was the first photo you ever had in a skate mag? What’s been your favourite photo of yourself that been run over the years and why?
- It was a check out in Sidewalk. I had a sequence of a kickflip grab to fakie in Birmingham. My favourite… actually it was probably the last photo I had: that pop shuv-it that CJ shot.

What would be your Sidewalk favourite cover from over the years and why?
- Erm tough one, there’s two that stand out the most for me and it’s really clichéd! Penny, flip grab at Radlands on the first cover and Shier’s ice crook! Pretty bone answer, sorry! Good covers though!

You’ve produced a lot of video parts over the years since emerging from Worcester – which ones do you still enjoy watching and what is it about them that make the associated memories good ones?
- I don’t know to be honest, as I haven’t watched a lot of them for a long time!
I guess First Broadcast always will be the one though. For a lot of reasons, but mainly as that was the one that changed a lot of things going on in my life at the time. After that part I knew I had to move away from Worcester and get out there more. A lot of new doors opened for me after that one for sure!

You left Unabomber shortly after Headcleaner came out and joined Blueprint – what inspired that move at the time and, looking back on it now, are you glad you did switch?
- It was at the end of the summer of 2001, I think. Shit with Unabomber had gone really stale. It was actually not too long after I’d got back from the US. I’d come back with a lot of expectations of myself and where I wanted to be but the reality was 6 months of being stuck in Worcester and having a pro board on Bomber with nothing to show for it. For the most part there wasn’t even boards for us to skate. This also meant there was no money for me to travel about either. So just I got way over skating and was just hanging out at the bar drinking for the most part. Eventually I questioned skateboarding as a career so I decided I was going to quit Unabomber and go to school again to get a degree and just skate without the pressure. About 4 days after that I was at home watching Shier’s section on WFTW with Toddy one afternoon, the phone rings and Shier is on the phone: such a weird coincidence. I remember it vividly, anyway he asked me if I wanted to join Blueprint as an am. I tripped as I was so stoked on WFTW at the time and now I was going to get the chance to be part of what they had going on. It was kind of a step down but I obviously agreed.

First Broadcast is clearly one of, if not the best UK video ever made, and you have the end section. People still refer to the London Bridge backside nollie flip as being one of the greatest ones ever documented – what do you think about that and what memories does First Broadcast evoke for you?
- Erm yeah, it’s weird that people still mention to that trick to me. Trips me out, I feel like that was another person and not me as it was so long ago now.
First Broadcast was a great time! I think I pretty much spent that whole time on the road sleeping on floors and skating. It was rad because I’d just joined Blueprint and I was making what was to become a group of lifelong friends and just having a good time with them skating. Also having Toddy and Frank around too was sick as f*ck, and all the other skaters that were involved in that project. It was sick! I guess at that time Magee’s vision for what that video became changed a lot of shit!

 

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You’ve had a lot of injuries/awful slams over the years – which was the worst?
- Yeah, pure ragdoll shit! I dunno, I guess the most challenging is blowing my knee out! The rest was minor.

Aside from Doco and Sidewalk covers, you’re also one of only a few British skaters to have had the cover of a US magazine – what was the story behind the Slap cover?
- I knew Joe Brook from skating and shooting with him whilst he’d been in the UK the previous summer. He lived in SF around the time I was there, we’d spoken and he was keen to shoot with me whilst I was in town. I remember that day I met with the crew that had been in town with Joe shooting for Slap. It was Danny Wainwright, Rodrigo TX and a few others. We drove to San Jose to skate with Louie Barletta and a few of the locals that were around at that time. We skated round town all day and ended up at that spot. Danny and I both sessioned it until dark, we both shot photos and then drove back to SF via some dope Mongolian BBQ spot!

At one point in your pro career you were actually making pretty good money (relatively) –were you still living day-to-day or did being pro actually allow you to plan for your future?
- I guess along the road a lot of shit changes. I think around the time I was doing the best financially from skating. I’d already been under the knife a few times and was struggling to get back from that, alongside a few other things and the pressure to have to knock out video parts etc was getting at me. With this in mind I was most certainly not making any future plans – it was a day-to-day thing for sure. I was blowing it pretty hard! I feel that right now is the first time in my life I’ve kinda looked towards building a secure future for myself, everything is set well. I have my girl and my dog, and a really great job. I can skate again, I’m really thankful for all these blessings.

Which of the following do you regret the most and why?
1 – Kickflip indy down Southbank 7.
2 – Switch heelflip indy outside Worcester Youth Centre.
3 – A ponytail.
4 – Mongo push.
5- Re-filming that front nose for Magee.

(Laughing), that’s f*cking great!!! You’ve really been watching me. – No regrets!

After leaving Blueprint, you had a short stint on The Harmony before retiring yourself from the whole deal – what prompted that? Was it injury-related? Or did you just not want to milk it?
- Both: most certainly. I mean the injuries I had held me back a lot and I became really frustrated at one point. But mostly I never wanted to be that half-arsed fossil that doesn’t kill it! I always promised myself that if I couldn’t skate to my best that I would drop the whole game and just skate. There are too many people that milk that shit man, get off it! (Laughing). I mean that too.

You’ve been through knee torment numerous times – do you have any advice on that one?
- Don’t jump when you’re a pile. Stretch before you skate!

What did you do during the time between quitting sponsorship and starting work for Supra/Kr3w?
- For a while I was jobless, then I worked a few kitchens and did some set building, then I managed a coffee shop at the front of the East London Rough Trade shop. A majority of this time was spent in and out of hospital with my leg though. Then I eventually landed the best job out there!!
ONE Dist is the best and both the KR3W and SUPRA teams are the shit. Plus now I get to create a good EU presence, the guys I hook up are the ones that I think are the best. Once again, like I said before, I feel really, really blessed.

What’s it like being the team dad for people like Chewy, Lucien and Tom? Does your previous experience of being the person being catered to by a TM help you deal with the responsibilities of your current job?
- (Laughing), it is challenging at times for sure. No, they’re all the shit! Best skateboarders out there! Everybody on board are f*cking legends man. Yeah, I’m well prepped for this shit man; it’s all I know. I live for skateboarding!

As somebody who has been heavily involved in the skate industry as both a pro skater and an industry head – what’s your perspective on the current state of the UK skateboard scene and industry?
- First I’d like to say that it’s really a shame what’s become of Blueprint! Not hyped on that one bit. You guys blew it hard.
That aside, everything seems the same to me man. Always will be I guess! We still have heavy skate brands being produced here, there’s some good talent coming through… And then there’s Chewy Cannon!

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?
- Yeah of course it does. Magazines and physical videos need to be here. Like you said everyone can get their piece of fame on the Internet but to me that physical finished product is the one that lasts! Sits on your shelf or next to the TV to be looked at, watched again and again Anything that goes on the Internet eventually gets swamped by all the thousands of clips that follow. There’s barely any longevity there.

Are you able to imagine a life without skateboarding?
- Most certainly not! F*ck no! I don’t even think I knew anything until I first got a skateboard. It opened my eyes up to the world as I wanted to see it, it was a lot more interesting out there with a skateboard under your feet that’s for sure. Throughout all the ups and downs that go on in life I feel that the one staple thing out there for me was always my skateboard, my best friend and worst enemy! Best shit EVER!

 

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Wallride nollie out. Photo – CJ

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