Saturday, December 9, 2023

Offerings: Chris Jones

by Chandler
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Our latest Offerings interview is with Chris Jones. It was amazing to connect and learn about a selection of creations that have all made an impact on him. Read on for insights from Chris about a variety of Welsh-themed stimuli that have connected him to his heritage in different ways…

Chris Jones captaining us through a Welsh themed Offerings interview
Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Chris Jones captaining us through a Welsh themed Offerings interview. PH: Arthur Derrien

Chris Jones’ skateboarding speaks for itself. From East to Isle or Spirit Quest to Atlantic Drift, he has been on our radar for a long time. His skills continue to refine, baffle, and leave us wanting more. I remember randomly bumping into Chris in my hometown early one damp morning, he was clutching a blowtorch and had a specific mission in mind. I ran my errands and passed back to see how he was getting on with the spot preparation.

He had his eye on a brick bank in Church House Gardens in Bromley and a switch flip over the bar into it was on the agenda. The bricks were wet and the run up was impossible. I waited with him for the crew to arrive and wished him well. Later that evening Jake Harris would drop in a flawless switch flip to close the timeline of his 365 Days On Planet Earth part just before it premiered. I stared at that spot so many times as a kid and Chris casually did one of the best things conceivable there on a wet weekday morning. That will now always be in my mind when I think about skateboarding in the town I grew up in. It was great to speak to him about some of the ‘what if?’ spots which were part of his formative years in Bridgend.

Working on these interviews is always an enriching activity, they have the potential to lead you down many rabbit holes of exploration. However it is rare to receive a selection and be completely unfamiliar with any of the territory we will cover together. Thanks to Chris I have experienced a virtual trip to Trefeurig, there is new band thundering around the headphones, and a new book on the pile. It was also a treat to take in the skate video he selected, the very format of which is a transportation device in itself. This scene video with such deep ties to the beginning of his skateboarding journey is where we start our conversation.

'Destroying Bridgend' a Bridgend scene video made by Mans

Destroying Bridgend – Bridgend scene video by Mans (2000)

Destroying Bridgend came out in 2000, what was happening with you at this point? That is where you grew up right?

Yeah, it is and this came out around the same time as I started skating. It was one of the first skate videos I ever saw, and to see people skating in my local area was something that really inspired me. I had just started so it was all really new to me and so interesting to see these guys. I got some other skate videos like the Globe video Opinion which was released at a similar time. So I was watching this and then watching the Globe video. I put the skaters in Destroying Bridgend on the same pedestal, to me they were like superstars.

Then I started skating more and going down to the skatepark in Bridgend which is heavily featured in the video. It was the Bridgend Rec, a wooden indoor skatepark. It was a bowls hall they would turn into a skatepark in the summer.

It looked awesome.

It was really fun, it opened every summer and they changed the layout. So then I would see the guys from the video skating down there and it was amazing to watch. Their level of skating was so impressive, they were the earliest influences on me. Then I became a lot closer with some of them as I grew older. There’s a guy in the video called Morph and at the end of the video he’s doing a nosewheelie down a multi-storey carpark. I found that unbelievable and spent a lot of time trying to do nosewheelies outside my house because of him.

He does a tre flip nosewheelie in that video too.

Yeah he was incredible at manuals. He was the guy who ran the skatepark. In that video you see people skating a grind box in an underground carpark, it’s where they would skate in the winter. Morph was a part of making all of that happen. He was a key component of the Bridgend skate scene for sure. For me he was more like a mentor, he would give me advice and tips when I was learning tricks.

He was involved in the first ever skate trip abroad that I went on when I was 14. He would organise trips to Paris and take a few of the kids from the skatepark. I went with some of my friends like Caradog [Emanuel] and Dylan [Hughes]. He was definitely a big character in the scene. Without him I wouldn’t have had some of these places to skate when I was growing up. It was actually on that trip to Paris where I first skated with Mans who made Destroying Bridgend, he came along and filmed the trip.

There is actually a funny story with that trip, as Mans lost most, if not all, of the footage from the trip so we never got to see it. I think he left it at the hostel when we left Paris. Morph is involved in running another skatepark which opened up in Bridgend a few years ago called Ashmore skatepark. When I’m back in Wales visiting I’ll usually go down there and see some people.

So this is an important, sentimental selection.

Yeah there are so many skate videos to pick from but this was such a key feature in those earlier years when I had just stated skating. All of the spots in there are so nostalgic.

I wanted to ask you about that, there’s a guy in there called Dan Wood and he steps to this gnarly handrail into a corner. There’s also a kind of Carlsbad style grass gap. Were spots like that proving grounds on your radar?

Yeah that rail was called Food Giant 8 stair, it was horrible. But that was such a spot growing up, if you could skate that it was really sick. That other spot was outside a sofa shop, I think it was called the BOF gap. Both of those spots heavily featured in my childhood. We would go to spots in that video and see what we could do. But the Food Giant handrail-that thing was terrifying! It was so steep, crappy run up, crappy ride out. I have a memory of trying to smith grind it, missing it and completely eating shit. It was so intimidating but also a kind of rite of passage. People are still also skating it to this day.

“that rail was called Food Giant 8 stair, it was horrible… It was so intimidating but also a kind of rite of passage.”

Dan Wood tackling the Food Giant 8 Stair rail in Bridgend
Dan Wood tackling the Food Giant 8 Stair rail in Bridgend

Dan Wood blunt slides it in that video, so gnarly.

Yeah very gnarly. It’s just one of those things, when you’re going around a small town you just make do with what you’ve got. You’re emulating these American spots but you’ve got versions of those spots that are not quite on the same level. You’re forcing it because there are no other options. There were some terrifying moments at that handrail. You were damned if you fell and damned if you landed it because you may end up hitting a wall.

It looks like that was a fun scene to be immersed in.

Bridgend is a fairly big borough. When I was growing up, and still today it has such a big, healthy skate scene. It has produced some really good skaters, Dan Wood is obviously one of them, and some of the other people in the video also. There was such a good scene at the Rec and the car park. I would go down there every evening growing up. There would be loads of people skating and the funnest sessions. Hours spent skating the grind box. It definitely paved the way for some good technical skaters to emerge from Bridgend. If you see someone like Dylan Hughes now and how he can skate ledges, it’s insane. That is all due to time spent skating Bridgend. Welsh Tommy is another crazy ledge skater with mad technical ability. These spots definitely helped facilitate some of that.

So how does that video make you feel and what are the highlights?

It makes me feel nostalgic seeing all of those places I grew up skating. There is a sense of humour in there too which played a big part in my development. There were so many good characters in that video and around that scene, it will always bring a smile to my face. Things which stand out to me are Ginge’s section, the first section. At the time I remember being blown away by that part. He’s flying around skating to ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler, just on a rampage. I remember when I was younger I would listen to that song to get hyped to go skating hahaha. All of the footage of them terrorising Bridgend is so funny too.

I hadn’t seen this video in years, when you hit me up to do this interview I had recently rewatched it because my friend had uploaded it. It hadn’t crossed my mind for so long but it brought back so many memories that I had to pick it. It reminded me of going to the local skate shop in Bridgend called Bad Habits as a nervous kid and getting my first skateboard. It just sums up a key time in my childhood and it was good to be reminded of that.

The Datblygu album 1985-1985

1985-1995 – Datblygu (1999)

When did the band Datblygu enter your reality? Were they a recommendation or a discovery?

Datblygu are a fairly recent discovery. I only found out about them about three years ago. I found a playlist on NTS Radio. I have had a few periods where I have tried to discover more Welsh music. I grew up listening to Gorky’s Zygotic Minci, and other Welsh bands like Super Furry Animals.

Both of those bands were influenced by Datblygu right?

They were, it’s interesting that I listened to a lot of bands who were influenced by Datblygu but I was never aware of them when I was younger. When I came across that playlist I started listening to them. I don’t speak Welsh because I didn’t go to a Welsh speaking school. So even though I don’t understand the lyrics, the sound was something I really enjoyed.

So none of the lyrics made sense?

They didn’t but I’ve cheated and learned what certain songs on the album I have picked are about. I listen to a lot of music in other languages and don’t have a clue what they are actually saying. What’s great about music is that you don’t have to understand what the lyrics are about to enjoy it or even get a sense of what its about, I like bands and songs for lots of different reasons. With many other bands I really take a lot away from the lyrics. What’s fascinating about Datblygu is the interest in the lyrics and the reverence people have for them. Having learned about them it’s crazy just how much that band have influenced Welsh music.

“it’s crazy just how much that band have influenced Welsh music.”

I mentioned Datblygu to Billy Trick before and found out he had been a fan of them for years. He speaks Welsh too so it must be great to listen to them with that knowledge. It’s always nice to discover new music, and for it to be a band who came from not too far away from where I grew up in Wales is really enjoyable.

It’s interesting when you like a song but don’t know it’s meaning. Then you research the lyrics and find out what they are about. It’s amazing when some of the feelings that are evoked from the sound line up with what you felt the lyrics were about.

From reading about them it seems like a lot of the lyrics are politically charged and critical of outdated Welsh mindsets.

Yeah from what I’ve heard and read they were quite controversial. Also political in the sense of taking a stance where they would sing in Welsh while criticising aspects of the culture, and politics of the time.

I really love the song “Y Teimlad” on that album, it’s probably the song I have listened to the most. It’s such a lovely song and one where I read the translation of the lyrics and felt I had correctly intuited them. I think having lived away from Wales for so long that I’m always keen to discover new music and reconnect with things linked to my heritage and culture. When I came across Datblygu it felt quite special.

It seems like they were ahead of their time. One of those bands who are appreciated and acclaimed after there concerted efforts.

Yeah it’s a shame. The lead singer David R. Edwards died quite recently and struggled with a number of health issues. When I discovered them tallies with that. They got a big playlist on NTS close to the end of the lead singers life.

I’m still curious about the band. I wish I could speak Welsh and listening to a band like this is an influence. It reinforces the significance of being able to speak your own language and how that brings you closer to the culture. Listening to this band is a way of connecting to that. It evokes that desire to want to understand. Their songs are powerful and meaningful in their own unique way.

The cover of Gideon Koppel's documentary film 'Sleep Furiously'

Sleep Furiously – Gideon Koppel (2009)

Tell us about discovering this documentary film.

I was recommended this by Charlie Young, probably about five years ago. He told me I had to watch it. It is a documentary focusing on a small farming community in West Wales, fairly near to Aberystwyth. It is full of shots of the countryside, people meeting in the town, the farming and everyday life. All of the shots of the fields, or of a dog barking are very relaxing. There is a library bus which drives around and you’re let in to some of the interactions between the locals. It’s all quite idiosyncratic and it’s edited to an Aphex Twin soundtrack. That makes it such an enjoyable watch. I remember finding it so relaxing when I first saw it.

Like going to visit?

Yeah, and it highlights some of the changes which are happening in the village. I haven’t seen it for a little while but I remember how the shots and the music create a really nice atmosphere. It’s quite beautiful and reminds me a bit of home.

It’s also documenting the journey of a place that hasn’t changed where change to keep up is inevitable.

I took that from it, an old town that isn’t keeping up, with technology for instance. They are still doing things in an old-fashioned way. It feels like a shot into the past even though it isn’t. It’s a rural town stuck in it’s old ways but there is something so nice about that. I should have probably refreshed my memory about this because I haven’t seen it in years. But I remember loving it and showing it to anyone and everyone I could. There are some comical moments in there.

“I remember loving it and showing it to anyone and everyone I could. There are some comical moments in there.”

The library van did make me think of your van excursions in the not-so-distant past.

Haha, it wasn’t quite a library. It definitely had a few books in it. It was a fucking old van though, that’s for sure. That moment in time ties in more with the book I chose.

How familiar is any of the reality presented in the documentary? Did anything make you think of your formative years in Wales?

I grew up in a small village and although we were speaking English in my school I think the scenes in the school definitely reminded me of my childhood in some ways. Also just the slow pace of life in a rural village. That did remind me of how my village was fifteen years ago, a nice reminder of that.

Did you explore much of the Welsh countryside growing up?

When I was younger we would go on little holidays to West Wales, to Pembrokeshire and a place called Tenby. We would go to the Brecon Beacons and stuff but we wouldn’t venture further up north to places like Aberystwyth or Snowdonia National Park. When I got my van I definitely did a lot more of that. I would go further north and go on camping and walking trips. I’ve continued to do that since. I enjoy it when I have more free time, going to Wales and doing some walking. That part of Wales is so beautiful, it’s amazing.

Unspoiled surroundings.

Yeah, I find it beautiful but I read a book by George Monbiot Feral. He talks about farming and the impact that has had on nature in the UK. He talks about how hundreds of thousands of years ago there would have been tropical forests here and so much more biodiversity. Now you mostly just see fields in the countryside, monoculture, and limited species. It’s all been destroyed by sheep eating everything basically. That being said, that part of Wales is still very striking, it’s just maybe not as striking as it would have been thousands of years ago.

So you recommend this film as a meditative, virtual excursion to Wales.

For sure and it’s great if you are a fan of Aphex Twin. The music combined with some nice shots of rural Welsh life makes for a treat.

The cover of 'The Autobiography of a Supertramp' by W.H. Davies

The Autobiography of a Super-tramp – W.H. Davies (1908)

So this book is a crazy one, like a more extreme predecessor to Down and Out in Paris and London. Tell us where it found you.

This book is amazing. I came across it when I was doing a trip through Europe in my van. My friend Gilbert gave me the book and I had never heard of it. It’s written by W.H. Davies who was a Welsh poet and tramper I guess. It starts with his life in Newport and follows his story of tramping around the UK and then to America, all of the experiences he has. It’s an incredible story,

A real window into another world.

From it I got a real sense of the camaraderie there was among people doing the same thing at that time. It was an alternative way of living. There were hustles for surviving. There was something they would do called boodling, they would make deals with prison guards. This would mean they could stay in the prisons during the winter time and stay warm and well-fed. Or they would wait and get a boat back to the UK. It follows his journey around places in America and the people he encounters along the way. At the time when I read it I was travelling around Europe in my van and that made me enjoy it even more.

He took some extreme Atlantic crossings for those experiences.

Yeah he really wanted to leave Wales, hahaha. I hadn’t heard of W.H. Davies before this but he wrote some really nice poems too. After reading this book I explored a bit more. He wrote a poem called ‘Leisure’ which is a personal favourite of mine. It starts with that classic line “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?”

“Exploring, seeing what comes up, and the freedom that offers. There’s something quite enticing about it.”

What was it that gripped you about the novel?

I think it was that approach to exploring and highlighting that there are alternative ways of living. That made an impact on me, there is always an alternative approach to life. Exploring, seeing what comes up, and the freedom that offers. There’s something quite enticing about it.

People were received differently back then too. From knocking on peoples doors he was able to find work and food, people were quite generous. It sounded very different to how things are now. That’s one of the reasons he went to America, people were kinder there and had more resources to be generous than in the UK.

I found it interesting that he spent so many years living outside of normal society. Then wrote this and became a celebrated part of it.

Haha yeah it’s crazy. There’s that film too inspired by that way of being called Into The Wild about a guy called Christopher McCandless. He escapes into the wilderness to get away from society in the early nineties. The difference between the two stories is the community which surrounded W.H. Davies’ experience. There were times of course when he was on his own but many evenings were spent with other people tramping too. There was company there and it wasn’t this completely isolated experience. Trying to do it completely on your own as this guy later did didn’t really work out for him. I recommend people read this though, it’s a really nice book.

Chris Jones takes immediate advantage of a resurfaced Stockwell to launch this switch flip over the wall. Photo by James Griffith
stockwell’s new surface propelled this Chris Jones switch flip over the wall and onto the cover of Grey. PH: James Griffith

Thanks for these recommendations Chris. Let’s catch up with where you are at right now. You are on the way to becoming a counsellor?

I’m currently doing my diploma in counselling yeah, so I’m training at the moment. I’m essentially a trainee counsellor. This is the second year of my diploma so I’m working on that alongside skating.

How is it all going?

It’s going well, it’s definitely very challenging. There is a lot of self reflective work to be done and it’s quite demanding. I enjoy the work though and it’s really rewarding. I love learning, going to school and doing something outside of skating, I really enjoy. I’m just taking it one step at a time.

Do you find working with other people is helping you at the same time?

Definitely, you learn a lot about yourself in the process. Such a crucial aspect of the work is having an understanding about yourself. Understanding how you relate to others, knowing what things can potentially be triggering for you. Learning how to help maintain neutrality during sessions. Through it I’ve learned a lot about myself and it’s developed my self-awareness.

Seeing clients and being in that position can naturally bring up some anxiety. It’s quite strange at first so I’m adjusting to my role, it’s a slow process but I’m taking it as it comes. Life is happening to us all the time. Whatever is going on you need to be able to show up and be very present with another person and give them your full attention. It’s definitely pushing me which is a good thing.

It was amazing to see your involvement in Rattray’s Why So Sad? mission. How was your experience working with John on that over at Nike SB?

It was great. We first chatted together at a Pushing Boarders event years ago. Then he got in touch and asked if I wanted to be involved in a talk he was organising up in Glasgow. John is an inspiration and he’s very knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to mental health. I learned a lot from him and he recommended a few books which I have read since. It was a super positive experience, it’s really great how much he cares and the effort he is putting into that.

Obviously he is also a bit of a hero of mine. When I was younger I loved his skating, his part in Waiting For The World was always one of my favourites. It’s weird when you get hit up by someone who was your hero as a kid to be involved in something they are working on. Having that chance to hang out and get to know him a bit better was great.

How is the balance now with studying. Are you finding less time to skate or is the time you are finding just that more precious?

When I have all the time in the world to do something it takes me ages to get around to doing it. I’m that kind of person. So when I have other things going on I just manage my time better. I feel like I’ve been skating more than ever and I’m really enjoying it right now. I think the time is just that more precious and I find it hard to skate everyday anyway. Having those other things which slot in during my week gives me more inspiration when I can skate.

Is there anything on the horizon that you’re working on?

I’m filming for this video that Will Miles is making at the moment. Filming for that has been my main focus. That will be coming out next year. We just had a little trip to Croatia a few weeks ago which was amazing. There are plans for some more trips next year hopefully so I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, there are also some Isle Skateboards projects around the corner.

Do you have any last words?

Be kind to yourself x

We would like to thank Chris Jones for taking time out of his busy schedule for this one and for the banging recommendations. Thanks to Arthur Derrien for the portrait and Henry Kingsford for the Grey Skate Mag cover.

For more Chris Jones related reading and visuals be sure to check out his Free Skateboard Magazine interview, his SMiLe interview for the Ben Raemers Foundation, his SkatePal interview, and the Five Favourite Parts Farran Golding put together for Quartersnacks.

Previous ‘Offerings’ Interviews: Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long Helena Long, Tom Karangelov, Bobby PuleoRay Barbee, Zach Riley, Ryan LayCasper Brooker

This post was originally published on this site

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