Albie Edmonds interview

20.06.2024 Exclusive, Interviews

Photography: Leung
Interview: Kingsford

Who are your sponsors?
Welcome Skate Store, Vans, Huf, Ace and Short Straw, which is a new thing.

Tell us about that.
So Josh (Hallett), Fraser (Doughty) and Izzy (Almond) are starting this thing called Short Straw. It’s going to be mainly boards and some clothes. Me and Connie (Gascoyne) are riding for it. I’m stoked to be involved with some of my favourite people!

Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up in Lewes, a small town just outside Brighton. It’s actually the county town of East Sussex, which I think means it’s the most important town in the county. I don’t know what that means (laughs), but something  to do with the Crown Court or the castle. It’s a pretty old, historical town. It’s quite pretty. There are a lot of middle class hippies, that kind of vibe, which I guess has its pros and its cons (laughs).

How was it growing up there?
It was great, super close to the countryside. It was kind of a nice mix, because I guess I wasn’t living in a city, so I was able to have a slightly slower pace of life and be more in touch with nature, but then I wasn’t completely sheltered either. Not that it’s the most diverse place, but it’s got stuff going on culturally, and it’s only a 15-minute bus journey to Brighton.

Tell us about the bonfire night celebrations in Lewes.
It’s one of the largest bonfire night celebrations in the country. I’m not fully clued up on the history, but I know that Bloody Mary (I) burned 17 Protestant martyrs at the stake in Lewes, and obviously Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the king in parliament in the name of the Catholic church, so that’s why if you go to Lewes on November 05, you’ll see “Burn the pope” banners everywhere and quite a lot of anti-Catholicism, but it’s not necessarily a modern statement, it’s more like anti the Catholic church at that time. Basically, there’s a huge burning torch-lit procession through the town with explosives going off in every direction. It all ends with a giant fireworks display where we blow up giant papier-mache sculptures of Guy Fawkes, the pope and current political / cultural figures who are considered enemies of the bonfire.

Who are some recent examples?
I remember they did David Cameron back when he was prime minister. He was nearly naked in some union jack budgie smugglers, with a pig’s head on his lap (laughs). That was good. They did Donald Trump. It’s usually a British prime minister, but they do all sorts.

Reece (Leung) told me that your grandmother was a successful illustrator. Tell us about that.
Yeah, so my nana, whose name was Celia Berridge, was the illustrator for the Postman Pat books. She did Rosie and Jim too, as well as a bunch of other children’s books.

Shove-it, Thruscross

Oh wow.
It’s mad, I never realised how much of a big deal that was until I was an adult and people told me that they grew up with those books. She was a pretty amazing woman. She was also part of setting up one of the first women’s refuges in London in the ’60s. She was an activist as well as an artist. She had an absolutely crazy life. She actually told me off for swearing too much in my Vague interview, so I was like: “I’ve got to watch my language this time,” (laughs).

OK, that’s good to know. How did you start skateboarding?
I actually had to ring my dad up because I’d forgotten. He told me that he bought me a Batman banana board when I was a little kid. My dad’s mate surfed and persuaded my dad to have a go at skating. I think he learned to drop in, then he might have slammed and decided to leave it to the kids. He bought me and my brother Fracture completes for Christmas one year, and the old Lewes skatepark had just been built, so I just went there after school all the time.

Who were some local skaters you looked up to back then?
When I was just a little kid at Lewes, there was this guy called Liam Kearley. I don’t think he really skates any more – he’s a metal drummer – but he was so sick. He had the best melons; he’d just fly about. There was another Lewes guy called Harvey Dann, who was sick. And in Brighton, I guess like Dexter Daniels, Sam Roberts and Rich West.

How were the Lewes and Brighton scenes connected back then?
Fairly well, I think. There were a few different crews in Brighton back then. There was Sirus (F Gahan) and Al (Hodgson)’s crew – a bunch of the older guys from Lewes were in their videos –   and there was the whole Level Army crew, which was pretty intense. I didn’t dare go into the old Level as a soft little Lewes kid. Hove Lagoon was a bit more welcoming. We looked up to Sirus’s crew because he was putting out videos. He made a video called Lads 3 that we were really hyped on. We watched it religiously. I started skating with those guys more, once I was a bit older and going to college in Brighton.

In terms of coverage, you’re best known for your skateboarding in and around Leeds. How did you end up living there?
I went there to go to uni, to study music production.

Did you choose Leeds for that course specifically?
Yeah. The course just looked really interesting and I had a few pals who were living there, so I’d been once or twice. It’s got good nightlife. I didn’t know anything about the skate scene before I moved there, but I just liked the vibe of the place.

Impossible, Birmingham

Am I right in thinking you were taking a break from skating when you moved there?
Yeah. I was still skating, but just not much. Loads of my pals from back home who I skated with had quit, and I’m not that into skating on my own, so I guess I just fell out of love with it for a bit.

And you were into snowboarding at this point.
Yeah. I did a few ski seasons before I went to uni. I took a few years to figure shit out. I got really into it. I was like: “This is better than skating,” for a while. You basically just get to bomb an infinite hill and get a free lift back to the top (laughs). What’s not to love about that?

Are you still snowboarding?
I haven’t been snowboarding for years, but I still love it. There was a proper dump of snow in Leeds – I want to say three years ago – and obviously Will Smith is a pro snowboarder…

I didn’t know that.
That’s what he does, more so than skateboarding. He’s on trips most of the winter. He does street snow-boarding, so huge rails and shit. But yeah, there was a huge dump of snow in Leeds, and I went out filming with Will, which was actually so fun. He had a spot album in his photos that he’d been saving for 10 years. Like: “If it ever snows enough in Leeds, I want to hit all these fat kinked rails and shit.” It was pretty sick.

Did that footage get released?
Yeah, he put it out. It’s called Mates UK. I’ve got one or two clips. 

What / who inspired you to get back into skating in Leeds?
Just the scene. There were loads of people to skate with and my first year house was a two-minute skate from Hyde (Park Skatepark), so I just couldn’t resist going skating all the time.

How did you find the skate scene in Leeds?
I was shocked by how active and connected the scene was. Not to throw shade on Lewes or Brighton – obviously it’s just different – but the skatepark vortex is so strong at The Level – at least when I was there – and in Leeds there are just multiple crews and filmers, all actively working on projects, skating street. Then combine that with a skate shop that does loads for the scene, plus Reece (Leung) doing Vague there… I think that all just stoked me up to get involved.

Tail ollie, Castleford

Was there a period of getting your feet again before filming with Joe Allen, Will Smith and Josh Hallett?
For a while I was just skating Hyde Park all the time, then I slowly met those dudes. I think it definitely took skating Hyde before I was like… I’d never really skated street much before.

You were prolific while you were in Leeds in terms of video output. Which project are you most proud of from your time there?
I think probably Mush, the Vans video with Will. We just had such a good time filming for that. I was able to have quite a lot of creative input in the video as well, which was cool.

What were the other projects? There’s obviously Welcome
2: Hell
by Josh Hallett…

Pétanque, which is a video by Joe Allen, and then Assembly, another video by Will.

How did you find working with these various filmers?
I love them all for different reasons. They’re all quite different to film with I’d say, but they’re all legends.

Do you want to say a few words about the importance of filmers like Joe, Will, Josh & Hilda (Quick) to the skate scene in Leeds?
I think it’s massive, really. Like I said, I love them all, so I’m definitely biased, but it’s like there’s a filmer for every type of skater in Leeds, no matter what level you’re at, which I think is pretty rare and pretty cool. So yeah, huge respect to all of them.

You touched on this already, but can you talk a little about Welcome and its contribution to the scene?
They do so much. They put on so many events. They’re super in touch with the scene. I mean it’s in the name, but they definitely put an emphasis on having a shop and staff that aren’t intimidating. I think it’s a really good first impression of the skate scene when you go in there. And Tom (Brown) and Sam (Barratt) are obviously legends in their own right.

I read in your Vague interview that you’re into wild swimming. Tell us more about that.
I’ve always loved swimming outside. We used to go on holidays to France. My parents had this book that was like a wild swimming guide to France. I can’t remember what it was called, but it took you to all these beautiful rivers and we sort of based our holidays around that. Other than the sea, there aren’t that many places to swim in Sussex – the main river is pretty dirty – so I was really hyped when I got up to Leeds because the Yorkshire Dales are full of beautiful swim spots.

Wallride pop into bank, Leeds

There are some really interesting skate spots at reservoirs around the UK, often close to great swim spots. You have a photo in this interview at an epic-looking reservoir spot. Tell us about that mission.
It’s a place called Thruscross Reservoir. Me and Reece both spotted it without each other knowing. Reece sent it to the Vans chat and I was like: “Ah yeah, I’ve seen that before.” We intended to go when we were filming for Mush, but ended up going when Will was away, with a guy called Peach – John Petras – who’s from Pittsburgh.

Oh yeah, I saw some footage on Welcome’s Instagram. I was surprised to see that footage pop up in a Pittsburgh video.
He was meant to come over with another dude – I can’t remember his name – to stay with Reece and shoot and film, but the skater he was coming over with lost his passport, so he just came over on his own. He was down to have a holiday and film some of us. So we went there. That spot wasn’t really a swim spot – there were some gnarly currents – but there’s another spot there, a bank next to this little river, and he was just sat in the river for ages, filming me and Blinky. He was just in his boxers, sat in a freezing river, putting his circulation on the line for the angle. He’s a legend.

Music is an important part of your life. Tell us about the music that you make.
Let me find what I wrote about this because I’m awful at talking about my music. I feel like no matter what you say, it sounds pretentious. I’m looking at what I wrote and I’m like: “That sounds so lame,” (laughs). This is what I wrote: beat-based songwriting music with a bit of folk and a bit of trip-hop.

I don’t think you need to worry. Who are some important influences?
Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Thom Yorke and a newer guy called Dijon, who makes some really interesting stuff.

I heard that you recently got signed. Congratulations!
Thanks! Yeah, about two years ago. The label is called Well Overdue. It’s a small independent label based in London Fields. They are specifically into like underground alternative hip-hop, or indy kind of stuff.

What name do you perform under and where can people listen to your music?
My solo project is called Bert. I perform with a live band. The best way is probably through Instagram:

Do you want to talk about your new studio? We chatted about that before we started recording…
I’m living with and caring for my grandad at my grandparents’ house at the moment, and my grandma… she was a painter and she had a studio, but then she got breast cancer, and once she got ill, it became a storage room. So since I came back down here, I’ve been converting it into my studio, which has been quite a task, but it’s really getting there. It’s a really nice space. I feel very grateful to have it.

Pole jam, Leeds

What are you working on at the moment?
The plan is to put out another EP. I’m not sure when the whole thing will come out, but I’ve got some singles coming out super soon.

How does your label release music?
They do vinyl releases as well as digital. I haven’t had a vinyl printed yet, but I would really like to, maybe for this EP.

Nice. How do your interests in skateboarding and music sit together? Fraser told me that they are equally important to you.
I’d say it’s pretty 50 / 50 most of the time. Sometimes one takes priority if it’s near the end of a project or some-thing, but I try to keep it fairly 50 / 50.

Is there much overlap between those two worlds in your life?
There’s very little crossover. I think it’s really hard to merge skateboarding and music without getting close to the Heaven is a Halfpipe zone (laughs). It can become deeply cringe very quickly.

Interesting. Have you used any of your music for skate projects?
Yeah, that’s what I was saying about Mush; I did a lot of the sounds for that. I did the intro and the outro songs for that and I did some stuff for Welcome, when they did a New Balance collab. I really enjoyed that. I definitely want to do more stuff like that, like sound design and composition for videos. That’s a way that they cross over. I hadn’t really thought about that.

Do you have any ambitions to make a living from skateboarding?
I really like working on video projects and I’d love to go on more trips and stuff… I’d love to make a living from it, but I think it would be unrealistic to expect proper income when there are so few in the UK who actually have that.

So your goal is to live from music.
That’s definitely the goal, yeah, to do freelance music stuff as well as my own, and then I think I can enjoy skateboarding a bit more.

Fraser told me you are learning German. What prompted that?
I’m in the process of applying for a master’s degree in creative music production in Berlin, so I’m sessioning Duolingo on the off chance that I get a place.

Why Berlin?
Partly the course – it just looked really interesting – and partly the city. I’ve never actually been,
but I feel like I already love every-thing about it. I’m going to try to do a weekend there soon to check it out.

Backside 360, Brighton

You recently moved from Leeds back to Lewes. What prompted that move?
I’d been in Leeds for nearly five years and I was kind of getting itchy feet. I’d gone to uni, then I was teaching for nearly two years and I had very little… I felt a bit Groundhog Day, I guess. It was actually Sam Barratt from Welcome who said: “Sometimes you just need to rip the Band-Aid off,” (laughs). And the timing has worked out well because I’m able to have this space that I have right now at my grandad’s, plus I’m caring for him and get to have that time with him, which feels kind of finite.

How are you finding skating back home?
The weather hasn’t been great, so I haven’t skated loads. I’ve started filming with Harrison (Woolgar) for a video he’s working on, so that’s the main skating I’ve been doing, as well as some sessions with Ben (English) and Diggs (English). I’m also in a Whatsapp chat with all the older skaters in Lewes, so I have some sessions with them sometimes, when the kids are at school.

There’s a nice photo of you in Brighton in the interview that Reece shot quite recently.
Reece, Blinky (Sam Hutchinson) and Wapo (Paul Watson) came down to stay a few weekends ago. The Saturday was dry and super productive and the Sunday was wet, but they’d come down from Leeds, so we went to try and make it work. That wavy roof spot looks perfect, but it’s super bumpy and hard to skate, especially when the roof is covered in wet moss.

Whose skateboarding has inspired you / inspires you at the moment?
Heath Kirchart and Bob Burnquist; they’re like my all-time favourites. I’m really into that Lucien Genand guy – he’s sick – and Blinky is my hero.

Good selection. Who are some up-and-coming younger skaters in Leeds, Lewes and Brighton people should look out for?
I think the obvious answer is Diggs, but he’s barely up-and-coming – he’s better than everyone else, of all ages (laughs). Evan Johnson… he’s a really talented lad from Lewes, as well as a kid called Phoenix (Hounsell), who rips. Leeds has loads of younger rippers: Fred (Ryan), Jazmine (Lematy), Logan (Riley) and Naidan (Glover). They all kill it.

What are your longer-term plans for the future?
We’ll see about Berlin. If not, I have no idea really. I’m enjoying being back here at the moment and being connected with home again.