The Follow Up: "Blokes"
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen Blokes, so I won’t say anything directly about it. What I will say is that anybody who skates in London will be at least vaguely aware of Jake Snelling and Craig Questions—the two main people doing the skating in Blokes. They’re both outspoken and tornadoes in any situation. They can speak perfectly well for themselves but I want you to read what they’re saying, knowing that whatever you might imagine they’re claiming to be, they are that—though they’d be the first people to laugh at this idea and take the piss out of themselves. The third voice here is Ed Hubert, who put this insane thing together —Jacob Elliot Harris
Photos by Rich West
So, Ed, what was your role in the creation of this video?
Ed: To organize and document a group of the most chaotic, unpredictable, disgusting, hilarious and creative collection of skateboarders I know. I wanted to evoke that feeling you get when you’re a kid and you keep rewinding the skate video to the bit where there’s a fight or goofing around. I always thought, Imagine an entire video like that. Kind of like Ian Reid’s videos but with British humor and homicidal squids.
For anyone who may not have heard the word before, what is a bloke?
Jake: A bloke, to me, is a geezer who has worked in the building trade all his life, has loads of shit tattoos, ain’t got many teeth left, wears loads of gold, a bomber jacket and sits down at the pub every evening. Thats just one type of bloke. There’s millions of different types of blokes in England.
Craig: a bloke is a man of great prosper, a pious man, a very suzerain of this Earth, like the great Paul of Thebes or Captain Ahab of the mighty Pequod. Nah, a bloke is just a bloke—no more no less.
Wall jam to ho ho? Craig Questions says it’s a go go Photo: Neil Brown
Blokes is very different than any other skateboard video but it definitely draws on lots of visual culture. What would you say are your main inspirations in terms of the narrative scenes?
Jake: The 2004 British sports drama The Football Factory was the inspiration for the first scene. All of us love '80s gore shit. I have a massive horror VHS collection so we weren't strapped for ideas for the gory effects. Maybe a slight bit of Tarantino in there too.
Ed: the national treasure that is The Football Factory. There’s also some Only Fools and Horses in there, EastEnders, ‘80s horror and some Tarantino-ism. We mashed together all the stuff we like and this is what happened.
Craig: The rumble of working-class life in Britain mush take oath. It’s a parody of life around one’s self as well as a great homage to our tiny kingdom in the sea.
And can you explain some of the more important British cultural references flying around?
Craig: the whole soundtrack is British TV themes from our youth, a walk down memory lane, a nostalgic nightmare of Grange Hill, Catchphrase, The Bill and loads of other theme tunes that have shaped us as the outstanding citizens of society we are today.
Ed: The British TV themes are from the ‘80s and ‘90s, we grew up on them and I think they instantly throw you back to a different point in time, before the Internet and shit. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and I think that’s why when watching Blokes you can’t help but have a tear in your eye.
Where does the group fascination with EastEnders come from?
Jake: I think everybody in England grew up on EastEnders. It’s on every fuckin’ night. It's just embedded in us. Everyone from my local town in the Southeast of England seemed to watch it and take it as seriously as if it were their life, but we just watch it as comedy.
Craig: We all grew up watching that fucking sewage every night at dinnertime. We’re not fascinated by it, more obsessed with it. It’s sad. it’s ruined our lives. The media has taken over our very minds and left us as limp vegetables, not being to act or think for ourselves. we’re the most extreme cases of PTSD.
Ed: It’s just another gag that adds to the confusion of the video, like, Why do these bunch of wankers keep playing EastEnders? It doesn’t make sense, none of it does, but when you put it all together it feels right.
What is it that groups these bits of British culture together for you? Is it a certain era, is it violence, kitsch?
Ed: I think what groups all the British cultural references together is that they are all thought of as being a bit shit by the majority of the public. But we’re celebrating them. We love it. That’s our childhood.
Jake: The love for '80s England, pub culture, cocaine and skateboards
Craig: It’s a tongue-in-cheek piss take really. These are the blokes that we work with and are around all day every day. We’re all from working-class backgrounds and proud of it, but sadly the working class is looked down upon even in skateboarding. Skateboarding’s a piss-take with the boys so really the chaos and madness should be completely celebrated. Too many young skateboarders these days are trying too hard to look depressed and look like some extra from a fashion show that never happened. They should be putting all their energy into having a blast with the boys.
Photo: Glenn Kitson
Though the video obviously parodies these British stereotypes, there is something very loving about the depiction. How much of these stereotypes actually exist in the characters involved?
Jake: We’re all fuckin’ solid geezers, grafting and working every fuckin’ day. We get fucked, then just find enough time to skate and film shit. It’s “our life.”
Craig: Easy answer: Jake Snelling. Look at the state of him. Ha! What do you think?
Ed: I don’t think it was hard for them to get into character. If anything, they had to tone it down
Some of the people involved, especially Jake Snelling, do really gnarly things in real life like chew glass. The choice of medium seems important here—it switches from high-production values to documentary style and back again. Was it intentional to blur the lines between the jokes and the reality?
Ed: It wasn’t really intentional, I just couldn’t get ahold of the expensive cameras all the time. I love that we used these £100,000 camera setups to film such stupid stuff. It definitely wasn’t necessary, but again, it’s another gag. How did they pull that off?
Craig: We all have a pretty up-and-down reputation in skating for all our fucking antics so a lot of it is a blur. We’re like it all the time. If there is a house party to be smashed up, we’re there. If there is a skateboard event with free beers that needs a group of narcissistic assholes to completely ruin, we’re there. If there is a student gathering where YDI gets put on full blast, tables get thrown through all the windows, the carpets are covered in vomit, there’s blood everywhere and we all get thrown out, we’re there. You get the idea—hell raising, fast grinds and fat lines.
Photo: Glenn Kitson
Do you think Britain has a particularly violent culture?
Craig: Colonization of half the world, knife crime top of the continent, mindless football violence, bare-knuckle traveler fights deemed as culture—I guess so. It can be violent but then we don't all think we should own a gun for protection. War is ingrained in man.
Does this crew exist because of Blokes or does Blokes exist because of this crew? How did everybody meet?
Craig: We have all been close mates for about 11-or-so years now just through being into skateboarding and punk. Me and Dan were really good mates that grew up in the coastal town of Whitstable in south England, then Jake and Jack were good mates that grew up around 400 miles away around the South Coast in a town called Worthing. We all met one sunny day at Stockwell and the world was changed. Some say the meeting was as influential as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, others say Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone, but one thing was for certain—the world was braced with four world-renowned virtuosos. Oh yeah, then Ed just turned up.
Photo: Glenn Kitson
How did the idea for the video begin? Was it supposed to be on this scale or did it snowball?
Jake: It first started when we all met and made the Yeti videos, taken from the 1989 British classic The Firm. We were skating, filming shit we thought was funny and we always wanted to do a Yeti movie. Then we went to New York and Jack Lammas thought of making a parody of Kids, which was basically a group of British blokes who skate and go on a trip to New York and all get AIDS. We didn't get around to filming much of that due to the drinking and drugs involved—and a bit of skating—so when we got back to England we started making Blokes. It took two fucking years but that’s because all of us were working and can only skate on weekends. Life’s a fucker sometimes.
Craig: It all started as a joke on the back of a bus going skating. We have made a few videos before—Yeti 1, 2 and 3 and Bootlegged 4. It was never really like we were making a video and it took longer than it should have. It’s hard to get everyone together. Jake was working as a mercenary in the Congo, Dan and Craig have a pretty hefty logging operation going on, Jack was writing a National Geographic journal on biodiversity in the jungles of the Amazon and Ed has spent the last six years trying to follow and make a documentary on the members of Musical Youth. So it’s been hard, not to mention all the booze in between. Some just haven't got the time to skate because were too busy fucking around
Ed: We shot the intro fight in Millwall about two years ago. We‘d been filming a few skate clips before that, but kinda half arsed. I never thought it would turn into the monster that it is now. After we shot the fight I was. like, Whoa, we got something here.
What skateboarding or skateboarders inspires you?
Jake: Venice Beach from 1987 to 1990, Tim Jackson, Jeff Phillips, Craig Johnson, Ken Sigafoos, Don Hillsman and Chuck fucking Dinkins. Also, I take a lot of inspiration from that company Pitbull Skates. They were a small company from South London in the ‘80s. They had the hardest geezers skate for them. They were all gnarly. I actually heard one of the old riders recently stabbed someone and got sent down for murder. It’s gnarly how skateboarding ruins your life.
Craig: The list is endless but here is 20 in no order: The mighty wall master Tim Jackson, Neil Blender, Jim Gingery, Craig Johnson, GSD, Wade Speyer, Scott Stanton, Thronn, Jess “The Mess” Martinez—in fact all of Venice, Lance Mountain’s Fall Guy at Gotcha Grind, Peanut Brown’s flying Egg. Oh my! The weirdness of Jeff Jones, Ken McGuire, in fact, we’re all skateboarders and we love it all—from the late-70s ’til now. Powerhouses and weirdos, the ‘80s East Coast vert scene, just like England, Cardiel all the way to Don Hillsman, all of you. Thank you, skateboarders.
What’s the story with the naked guy?
Craig: We’d need about three days to explain that degenerate who is Ross Brunton. Ross is the best. It all started as a joke—when Ross and our friend wrestled naked, then Ross shit everywhere. Once Jake threw a Black & Decker drill with the battery attached right in Ross’ face, point blank, and nearly killed him, but that's another story. Ross has had loads of near-death experiences but he's indestructible. He’s the only man to fall off the White Cliffs of Dover pissed and survive. All you yanks Google them!
Can you explain to me the process of creating the narrative scenes from start to finish?
Ed: No scripts, just concepts. For example, a group of blokes meet up, fight, weird shit happens—the rest is ad-libbed on the day. Pretty shoddy filmmaking but it’s the bloke way. An it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night approach.
Craig: We do it all on the spot. Blokes will be blokes.
How big are the crews for the shoots?
Jake: Ed works on all these music videos and films so he's got loads of contacts and called in favors.
Ed: I called in a lot of favors in the industry. Thank you, everyone, that came and worked on it. I hope you weren’t too disgusted.
How did you manage to pay for all of this?
Ed: We didn’t. We had no money. It’s an independent video. It’s something we wanted to make so we made it off our own backs. That’s why I wasn’t too bothered about if people would like it because we made it for us more than anything.
Craig: Easy! Just put it on my tab; we’ll sort it later. But seriously, mainly ransom money through kidnappings we do and human trafficking. Sometimes drug money.
How has the response to the video been so far? Any different to what you expected it to be?
Craig: It’s been good. We did a showing in Southeast London and everyone went mental and loved it. It’s good as it’s just fun. Skateboarding is far too serious at the moment. Instagram has ruining everything. People’s attentions don't exist so I think it’s important to stir it all up and make a video that just takes it back to the roots of skating—fun and having a laugh. Don't be afraid of making a tit out of yourself.
No fancy hairdos allowed! But nosepicks? Yeah, those are cool. Jake Snelling goes nasal at Stockwell
Stockwell skatepark is my favorite skatepark in the world for so many reasons, but can you explain exactly what it is for somebody who might never have been there?
Jake: The best skatepark vibe ever! Only when we are at the park, though.
Craig: Everyone there is well alright. The energy is like no other skatepark in the world. Fact! If you’re a skateboarder, everyone is down. No moody wafty haircuts allowed! Everyone is super friendly and down and that’s how skateboarders should be to each other. We’re against the world together, not against each other.
Are there real plans to follow through with Blokes 2?
Ed: Yes, if there are any billionaires out there who are up for having a laugh then why not invest in Blokes 2 and we can go bigger and better. We have endless material.
If there’s anything you’d like to talk about that I’ve missed—
Craig: I don't think I could answer any more questions about this monstrosity of a video.
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