A CHAT WITH CHEWY CANNON

I honestly didn’t know much about Chewy Cannon prior to meeting him.

What I did know was that he was a fast, high-energy, quick-footed, grime-fond ripper coming from the other side of the pond. I also knew that despite originating from the North of England, he’s been an influential staple in the London scene for years, as one of the most vocal advocates of the Long Live South Bank Foundation, and an original member of the Palace Wayward Boys’ Choir, which, truth be told, it intimidated me a little at first.

But after Evan Mock introduced me to him in Barcelona, I soon learnt that Chewy is genuinely one of the most down to earth, open and articulate people you’ll find in skateboarding. And while it’s tough to transcribe on paper the language twists and strong Norfolk accent that make him such a unique character, I hope this coffee-fuelled chat will do justice to how safe a man Chewy is.

 Interview & photos:  Yentl Touboul  // Skate photo above:  Mike O’Meally .

Interview & photos: Yentl Touboul // Skate photo above: Mike O’Meally.

Wasted Talent: You’ve been around the London skate scene for a while but you aren’t originally from there, is that right? 

Chewy Cannon: No, I’m from a coastal town on the East Coast called Great Yarmouth. It’s not so great but that’s what the name is.

WT: How would you describe it?

CC: Back in the days it used to be a large industrial fishing town that turned into an English tourist coastal resort. Before people went abroad on holidays, it used to be where people went on vacation in England. So they would travel to the coast and enjoy a bit of seaside. There’s around 99,000 people living there, so it’s still quite small.

WT: Did you start skateboarding there?

CC: Yeah. I had a cousin who had a board and that was that. I was IN. The people that taught me to skate were already quite developed. They had been skating for way longer than I had, so I learnt a lot from them. ‘Cause otherwise at the time I could’ve started skating by pushing mongo, and not knowing anything. It was a small 5-6 skater group, but they had the magazines, they’d seen the videos and they had a strong influence on me. The first videos I saw were Toy Machine’s Welcome to Hell, Eastern Exposure, Trilogy, and the likes. Real skaters’ skater videos. I got schooled well.

WT: How did the transition to London happen?

CC: Basically the dudes had ties with London. They put some footage together with this guy that was working at Hope Skate Shop and sent it to Blueprint. I never knew about that at the time and Blueprint phoned me up asking, “Do you want to come hang out in London?” So that’s what I did – hung out with the boys and moulded quite well with the crew. At the time it was Danny Brady, John Fisher, Neil Smith, and Ben Grove. Nick Jensen was already more out there, but we were the younger guys. And we carried on doing the same thing after that. I was going back and forth on the train a lot at that time – selling weed to get my tickets. I had shitty jobs in Great Yarmouth but I didn’t have time to skate if I had a proper job, and everybody I skated with smoked. So I did that. Stayed at people’s houses and went back and forth on the train a bunch.  

Then I was with a girl at the time who suggested, “Do you want to move to London? It’d be good.” And I was like, “Let’s do it”. So that was that. I then moved to Barcy for a year. I was around 24/25 and went back to London later. 

WT: Do you think about making the move back here? 

CC: Yeah I would like to. Barcelona is really good. But it’s also a bit of a wonderland. A bit of a time capsule as well because nothing really changes. It’s quite easy to fall into the cycle of getting nothing done, even though there’s a lot of stuff to be done out here. It’s so liberal and chilled, and the fact that you can do so much that you can’t do anywhere else keeps people coming back. And the weather is good, the beaches are good, the spots are good, and the girls are good, and the drinks are cheap, and the food is good…the list goes on forever. There’s definitely the possibility of me moving back in the future. But yeah, we’ll see.  

 Photo:  Yentl Touboul .

WT: How is the skate scene in London now?

CC: It’s good. I will say it’s divided though. Not in the sense of how people skate, but in the sense of where people skate. There’s more options now. Before, it used to be a couple of hubs, such as South Bank, Stockwell, and places in East London, such as Gillett Square and stuff. Whereas now, I feel like Canada Water and other new marble plazas mean that people are gathering in other areas. So yeah, it’s still pretty tight, but it has its own little segments too. 

WT: What’s the deal with South Bank right now? 

CC: It’s stable. We’re just pushing for more funding. As soon as we’ve got more funding we’ll be hopefully able to start the restoration of the other spaces. The products manufactured by the Long Live South Bank Foundation are selling quite well and we’ve been receiving some donations to keep it pushing forward. We just received another 200K from the Olympic Trust the other day for the restauration of the space where the old banks used to be. So yeah, it’ll be great for the winter and things are looking promising. Considering that the place was just about to go at the time we started campaigning to save it. I feel like I played a big part in supporting it during that time of need. I put a lot of time into the place and into getting the project out there for the public to notice. So now to see that we’ve come so far, it’s really looking good; things are so promising. Palace, Supreme and these people are helping out as well, and people are taking notice of this stuff. The Guardian did some great coverage of it as well, which I think gave it a lot of legitimacy.

WT: What’s the set up?

CC: The Foundation is set as a non-profitable organisation, so nobody is getting a pound out of doing this thing, it’s more to do with the love. What’s epic is that all these people have barely enough to pay their rent and eat, and they’re just motivated to do it and to skate. There’s a lot of youngsters mixing with people that have been there for a long time, and I’m glad because it’s a hard task to do. You have to grind out and speak to these official government heads to keep it all going, and it can wear you out, because they’ll put you through the mill. It takes time to do stuff like that, and there’s been a lot of good people doing it, innit!

South Bank gave me my career really.

When I think about South Bank and who I met there, which is pretty much all the Palace boys, especially Lev… When we started fighting for it some skaters were like, “It’s impossible man, you’re not gonna save it”. But the place is so much more than a skate spot; it represents a whole generation. A big moment in time. So it’s epic for us if we manage to keep it.

WT: The place is definitely a piece of history…

Talking about London – Evan told us you were bummed about missing the Notting Hill Carnival. You’re into Caribbean culture? 

CC: Yeah I’m into it. I’m into the sound system culture and all that stuff. London is a big melting pot now really. There’s a lot of racial mixes in other places too, but London’s got people from everywhere. I’m super into it though. Everyone is in the same place, so you get to realise that there’s shitheads and good people from everywhere. A person who’s white, black, or Asian might be the one holding the door open for you one day, and the next day, that same person will slam it in your face. You know what I mean? I’m from quite a small place and there’s not many people from anywhere else who live there. And on a whole, it’s naïve about a lot of other people’s cultures. A lot of people there think that they’re different from others when they’re really not. Every culture’s got its good people, bad people…Living in London kinda teaches you that. Whereas coming from where I’m from, you never learn anyone else’s culture. Travelling and skating also broadens your horizons for sure, as you’re always hanging out in cities. And cities are good, as they’re way more liberal than outside, where nobody’s meeting anyone and they all become fucking nazi a-holes.

WT: About Barcelona… What are your first memories about coming here? 

CC: I was 16-17 or something and I came with a bunch of skaters. We just heard the stories and decided to come. It’s funny because I saw Raul and Rodrigo and they were at the spot skating then already, and now they’re my teammates, you know? And that’s 20 years later. Who’d have thought it. It was so different then though. The first time I came, Macba ledges were barely waxed. Sants had the whole of the picnic benches and all the wooden ledges ran alongside the road too. There was no board on the roof then. People were killing it already, way before we knew how to skate like that. Coming from England, I was like, “Damn! People can skate here”. Raul and Rodrigo were killing it already.

WT: What about your little business venture? Talk us though the Jet Lag Brothers? 

CC: It’s doing well at the moment. I’m starting to get people coming to me being like, “I like the new stuff!” and that makes me realise that we really have a brand going. So we’ve been pushing that forward, and trying to keep it progressing naturally. We just want to carry on doing cool trips and gradually build up enough steam to make some quality goods for travelling.  

WT: How did it all start?

CC: The saying “jet lag brothers” started a long time ago. A couple of the boys were already in California and me and Günes turned up later and we were rooming together. We would wake up jet lagged at like 4 or 5 am. So because we couldn’t wake the filmers up, we would just go out and skate. Then we would come back to the hotel we were staying at on Hollywood Boulevard, one of these shitty ones, it was too funny. And we would get back and knock on the filmers’ door. Then do it all again. And the German filmer started saying, “Oh nooo, it’s the jet lag brothers!” And that was that, we’ve been calling ourselves the Jet Lag Brothers – or JLB – ever since. Then we started making some travel stuff together because that’s what we do. We all come from different countries and all travel around together. I’m trying to make a little edit happen in London soon. And towards the end of the year when it’ll be a little colder in Europe, we’ll try to go somewhere good. At least somewhere where we could get our passports stamped.  

 Photo:  Yentl Touboul .

WT: What else have you been working on? 

CC: We’ve got something coming up with Palace again. We’ve been going back and forth to the States, filming with a Betamax camera. After we did that Hawaii trip, we loved the way the Betamax looked. It’s fucking hard for filmers though, man. I just think they must have one massive arm because that thing’s heavy. I think some time before the end of the year they’ll have something ready.

Plus Adidas are doing an event in Paris, so that should be fun. And we’ve also got something coming up in Japan with Palace, so I’ll be over there too. We’ll also go back to Detroit to finish filming over there. It’s a crazy city man, really cool to skate. It’s random because half of it is fucked and half is really nice. So even moving from street to street there’s a big contrast. I think it was bad 10 years ago but the city is coming up again now. It seems like people are buying houses there a lot now, and locals told us that rent has almost doubled over the past two years. But yeah, concerning the edit, Lev’s the genius so I’ll leave that to him. I feel blessed to have him personally putting my footage out. Because there’s a thing about how people present skate footage. You can have someone putting your skating to shit music and edit it poorly and all the hard work you put it is just gone. So I feel blessed to have him as a Guru. A little guardian angel in my corner.  

WT: Is Lev still editing everything? Is he not too busy with other parts of the business?

CC: Yeah he’s editing all the stuff still, with help from a really close friend called Steve Amond. A lot of mates are involved helping with the music and stuff.  

WT: In terms of filming, Adidas & Palace are very different in their aesthetic. Torsten’s work has that really clean high-end HD feel, whereas Lev’s VHS footage has that super raw quality. Is there one you personally prefer?

CC: I’m not ever taking away from the way Torsten films or the way anyone else films, but I really do like the way Lev’s footage looks. I guess it’s because it’s more nostalgic. All the old videos I watched when I was a kid – that’s what his footage reminds me of. It makes me feel like I’m back there. Whereas clean-cut edits are a bit slower and look like movies most of the time. It takes away from all the griminess of skating, which is essential to me. Skateboarding is in the fucking streets. It’s dirty, it’s sweaty, it’s bloody. And sometimes, watching these clean cuts doesn’t work for me. LA footage on HD kinda works for example. But if you’re trying to film cutty stuff in back alleys, I don’t think it’s the same.

I like the way Torsten has done the last few Adidas vids though. I feel like the last one that Benny and I had was a little more ‘Palacey’. Adidas saw that this style worked and it was for the collaboration with Palace anyway, so it made sense.

WT: Who inspired you growing up and which skater inspires you nowadays?

CC: Damn. Growing up there’s shit-tons…loads of classics like your Gino, Mariano, Hufnagel, Bobby Puleo…old-school heads for sure. Kalis, Stevie and all of those people were amazing skaters. Style for days. I don’t know nowadays! I still get dazed watching Busenitz’s footage. To be honest, I don’t watch as much new stuff as I should. I mean I do, but I get lost because I don’t watch it as regularly as I used to. Everything’s so quick! You watch a video at a premiere, and maybe you’ll watch it once or twice again after that, but when we were kids we would watch it twice a day! Back in the day, you used to study everything, all the way to that tiny crack in the floor. I quite like watching the bowl footage to be honest. I love watching Raven, Grant Taylor and Oski. That gets me dazed. I guess because they’re going fast. I love all the VX1000 footage and the Dime boys are good too. Supreme makes some good videos. Tyshawn is amazing. I get inspired by lots of different things really. Chilling with kids at Paral lel and watching them grow older and skating with them gets me as inspired as watching a video.

WT: Tell us about Hawaii? 

CC: Hawaii was amazing. I swam with sharks! Big up to Evan Mock! Haha.

WT: Were you in a cage or something? 

CC: No! Fucking shark bait mate! Evan’s family does that stuff. His family is very connected with nature, the land, its animals, and being a part of this whole system. So the fact that you’re calm and blessed makes you relaxed so they know everything’s gonna be fine. But it was still fucking scary. It was scary until you’re in, and when you’re in it’s actually alright. I smoked a massive joint beforehand so I was tripping though.

WT: How did you do at surfing?

CC: Surfing is hard man. I went one time in Sri Lanka and the waves were mellow so it made it shit-tons easier to learn. Out in Hawaii it was just whitewash, whitewash, whitewash… trying to get out. I used to have a bodyboard when I was in Great Yarmouth. I was a dick dragger mate! I did have a few goes on a surfboard but never managed to get good at it.

WT: Who’s the best surfer on Palace?

CC: Lucas probably! He hasn’t been surfing for that long but he’s been doing it more intensely for the past two years now. He’s really into it. Benny can surf, but I think he likes to talk a good game more than anything. Haha! Who also surfs on the Palace team… let me think. Jamal! Jamal Smith! Just kidding! 

WT: Last one. We’ve seen you’re pretty fond of gold…what’s the history behind the links?

 CC: I like a bit of gold, me. Haha. It’s funny as I didn’t use to wear any gold. I was more into silver when I was younger. And this one time in LA I was messing around with Blondey and his chains. I asked: “Hey Blondey, let me try the jewellery on!” I put it on, started skating around and it got me into it. That was 4 or 5 years ago and since then I decided to get myself some bits. I’ve got one that I bought in LA, and the other one is the Palace sovereign one. Then I got the pinkie. Pinkie finger with a bit of sapphire. Keeping man safe, you know what I mean. And this other ring has got moonstone from Sri Lanka in it. The wave of life. Surfer shit, haha. 

 Photo:  Yentl Touboul .