Simon True Interview
What made you get into skateboarding?
I just liked the way it looked,,, the object itself I really like it the way it looked,,,
So was there someone you used to go and see?
I was three years old! Howma gonna go and see someone when you’re three years old?! It was 1976 and everyone was wearing Dunlops and flared trousers…
I was on holiday in Colwyn Bay at a skatepark, I was on holiday in my buggy watching and thinking “worra these people dooin with these objects flyin around in the air?” Flying around on them objects I thought ‘Thats fantastic’ what could it be? What could they be? Where can there be? These magnificent objects flying around,,,
And then when I was five I was on the street around the corner from my house and there was my mate Carl and he had one, one of them fantastic objects and I just looked at it and it was there in front of me and it was fascinating!
More than anything it was the object, the item itself.
But when did you actually start skating?
There and then when I was five years old an I was stood on this board and I didn’t know if it was regular footed or goofy footed. I didn’t know which way to start so I did a moonwalk on the top of it like that.
Did somebody show you?
No, I just did it there and then on my own. When I was older I use to go to the library and get 1970s skateboard annuals.
You mentioned before Thrasher magazine had a big influence on you?
Yeah that was a bit later when I was 11 or 12.
So who did you start skating with first as a sort of skating buddy?
There wasn’t anybody! It was just me on my own really and then… I’d be sort of on the lookout for anyone else who was doing it and then when I was at school when I was about 12 this kid in my maths class, this Asian kid, he had the same BMX mag as I did he’d brought it to school and I said “I’ve got the exact same magazine as you” I said “I’ve bought it not for the BMXing but because it’s got some skateboarding at the back”. It had one or two pictures of lads skating in the back and he said “me too, that’s why I bought it” so we sort of started that generation of skaters in Rochdale. That was about ’84 or ’85
So how did you know what equipment to buy?
From just looking at whatever was in BMX Action mag. They started featuring skating a lot more so we had reference points. There was information about boards and products in there. Then we found out about MB sports in Manchester the American sports shop that used to stock boards in there so we used to go there. Mid-eighties.
What was the first board you bought?
The first board I bought? It was from Zodiac Toys in Rochdale… 4.99
One of them plaggy ones?
Yeah, one of them plaggy ones (laughs)
Could you do any tricks on them?
YES! I could fly all over the city!… I could JUMP over a pigeon!
Over a midget?
Over a pigeon! Yeah a pigeon when it was flying in the air back to it’s castle!
Aha…. So you and this kid skated together for a while…
Yeah! We lived in a pigeons castle! No, yeah me and this kid wallsey(?) we used to go out on missions and that.
What’s his name Moseley?
Yeah Mohsim but you can call him Moses if you want!… Yeah we could say it like that. I started skating with Moses the boy they found in a basket in the bullrushes.
(Laughs) In Rochdale?!
Yeah in Rochdale on the river SPOD!
Yeah I started skating with Moses!
And then… When di you start skating with Foz? Was that a lot later?
Not a lot later. That was in Manchester like because Foz is from Rawtenstall. He used to go to Manchester on Saturdays on the bus and I did as well. He used to go down from Rawtenstall then come to Rochdale, then we all went down to Manchester together and I got to know him then.
Where did you skate in Manchester?
Deansgate banks, Deansgate Manchester just off Deansgate Law Courts in Manchester.
Was it a proper skatepark or just a spot to skate?
Nah it was just a spot – a top spot – yknow it was a Mecca from the mid to late eighties. That was the place on Saturday nights. It was either that or Oxford Road banks.
Did you go every weekend?
Yeah pretty much every weekend. Sometimes we’d twag school on weekdays too, although you couldn’t really skate it as much cos people would park motorbikes and that in front of it.
What did your Mum and Dad think about you skating?
They didn’t really show any interest at all. They were just like ‘Oh he’s off out again’
So when did Heroin Skateboards start? Was that something you and Foz started together?
That was when I moved down to London. Foz was in London at Playstation park and he’d fell over and broke his wrist. He had to have metal pins in his wrist, just temporarily I think, and he was in a lot of pain, he was on Morphine, which is basically Heroin and I was sitting with him on the top of primrose hill and he had his arm in a cast and he was having big arguments with his missus and he said
“I’m starting a skateboarding company called Heroin”. So I said “right, I’ll help you” because I was signing on at the time. He sort of took off with it. I wanted to keep it super raw with hand painted boards and that but obviously that wasn’t going to make money so Foz kind of took it to the next level using all his contacts working at slam city skates and he sort of took off with it like that.
How is the skating scene in Japan compared to the one back in the UK? Is there Any difference?
There’s not a lot of differences really. They speak a different language!
When did you start getting into the artist side of things?
I did a good foundation course in Rochdale, did a lot of shit there photography, printing, sculpture… You know that’s what foundation courses are, you go there and you get to experience all different mediums and ways to achieve, to accomplish creative things and then you get chance to specialise in a field you like and I chose painting.
What did you paint on?
I did a couple of canvases but mainly painting on paper just getting to grips with using the paint itself. I really enjoyed it but didn’t really see any career in it so then I thought maybe I’d like to be an illustrator and illustrate children’s books. I applied for the illustration course at Manchester MET which was a pretty hard course to get on. At that time I think there were only about 15 placements for the whole of the UK. Somehow, by the skin of my teeth I managed to get on it. It was an elite, renowned course but when I got on it I was like “wtf is this?!”. The tutors there were super traditionalist and I was like you know… Fuckin…
And at the same time I didn’t have a particular style myself. I didn’t know which way I was going myself. I didn’t know how to do my own artwork
You were still just learning right? Trying new things out?
Yeah, it was an experiential stage but I had these very very traditional teachers and I didn’t really like it.
I could draw well, I could draw realistic kin of stuff but it just didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere but then in the second year a new student came to join and he was called Nick Lowndes and he was an amazing illustrator.
You’ve mentioned this chap before. Tell me about him.
Yeah yeah he was from St. Helens which is towards Liverpool area and he came and he would do these life drawing classes with oil bars, these thick oil bars. I’d be there with my pastels trying to get creative and that. I was into Van Gogh at the time I was into the naive energy in his works. And I’d be looking over at my mate Nick and hed be drawing like that … With thick black outlines really mad. Not even resembling the model more like his own style, totally his style and I’d never seen anything like this before and I thought “Is he retarded or is he a special student allowed to be on the course because he’s a bit of a madhead?”
How did the tutors react to that?
They were good. They sort of acknowledged a real strength of character within his work. But Nick wasn’t a really in your face guy he was really humble and really friendly down to earth lad.
His work was solid. He had his own way of working. At the same time when I was in second year Michael Shaunesey who used to work two and a half days at Liverpool John Moores University and two and a half days on our course. He saw Nick’s work and thought he might like John Micheal Basquiat so he went to the library and got his drawing book, not his painting book, his drawing book – it’s a really rare book and now if you find it on EBay it’s worth a fortune. It’s just called Basquiat Drawings. I saw it and the first time I looked at that book I sort of fell over. All stripped to the bone. I did see the resemblance to Nick’s work. Also we went to Barcelona on a college trip the whole of the second year went and got mashed up and went to the Picasso Museum there and looked at all the Picassos in there… Seeing all of Picassos works was very liberating and I remember drinking and drawing my mates in the bar and all the bullshit I just dropped it I just thought “I don’t give a shit anymore I’m just going to draw what I want”
You’re style is hilarious. After I finished painting Kevin Bacon and you added Radvan and his body language it was sooooo funny! I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breath. Is that style you and your character or an aesthetic you are trying to achieve?
I like to utilise and absorb you know, stuff that has happened to me throughout my life whether it’s from TV or magazines or friends. I think being British growing up in Britain with the British sense of humour but at the same time being exposed to all the American TV you know Knightrider and all the American movies,,, we had all that and the cartoons and that and then at the same time we’re in Britain. So I’ve had that mixture and I feel blessed for that. You know British people are good at taking the piss out of themselves so I’ve never had the opportunity to get big-headed because your friends, you’re real friends will bring you right back down to earth. In England it’s real and that’s the way it is and that’s a blessing as far as I’m concerned. I’m not interested in impressing people with Art or with skateboarding, I’m interested in having a chance to let out all the bullshit. You know it’s like a valve isn’t it? You know what I mean? Just to let it out and do something and if it makes people laugh or it makes people think “I could do that” then that’s all good isn’t it? I’m not out to impress anybody I’m out to do something that’s not necessary but just to do something to combine all these random ideas and make someone laugh like you today.
I honestly haven’t laughed that hard in ages seeing that being painted.
It is a funny thing isn’t it? It’s funny isn’t it? You know it’s a real chance to release… to release some of the tension.
Simon True’s Flickr is here http://www.flickr.com/photos/92497462@N00/