The spirit of Sidewalk is still alive in plenty of other magazines though
Let’s start with an easy question. What happened to Sidewalk Magazine, the best selling and longest running skate mag in the UK?
It fell victim to the relentless march of capitalism… I don’t know all the gory details, but the publishing company under which it was run was bought by another publishing company, which was in turn bought by another company, which as far as I can tell was in the business of buying companies and liquidating them for some form of financial gain. The original publishing company had already canned print and remodeled us as an ‘online magazine’, which was really when the rot set in. You can’t read a laptop on the bog.
70k followers on IG waiting for a sign of life. Have you ever thought to reactivate the mag with such a huge fanbase?
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that chapter is done – towards the end we were all pretty burnt out from kicking against the pricks, and all of us have other work now where we don’t have to constantly explain to yuppies who ‘used to rollerblade’ why their ideas are shit. The spirit of Sidewalk is still alive in plenty of other magazines though – me and Ben Powell both do a lot of freelance writing alongside our day jobs, Guy Jones is the editor of Vague Skate Mag (which I’m also heavily involved in), Ry Gray is the editor of The Skateboarder’s Companion, and Andy Horsley and Chris Johnson both still shoot skate photos on top of their other commitments.
Alongside Vague and Companion, there’s Free, Grey, North and Gallery all churning out incredible print magazines at a frightening rate and there are a dick ton of banging zines floating about at the moment.
What is Andy Horsley, the founder, up to these days?
Andy now puts together the layout for White Dwarf, which is the Warhammer magazine. His eye for detail when it comes to painting miniatures is unmatched, and he is also rumoured to be involved in the shadowy cabal of industry bigwigs behind Groans Brigade Wax.
The original publishing company had already canned print and remodeled us as an ‘online magazine’, which was really when the rot set in.
As per LinkedIn you are a Freelance Writer, Editor and SEO Specialist? What do you like most?
SEO is the bane of my existence, but it’s always useful to be capable of the boring shit when you’re hustling for work. The act of writing obviously comes first, there’s not much that matches the feeling of a thought coalescing on to a page the way you want it to… well, except maybe a poorly executed layback air, eliciting a smattering of pity board taps and unenthusiastic cheers from the platform. Saying that, I’m a bit of a grammar nerd and get a weird thrill out of proofreading and editing. If writing is heroin, the proper analogy continuation would be that editing is Tramadol and SEO is a bag of fossilised and carefully shaped dog shit you’ve just been scammed with by a feral teenager at the skatepark.
What does a normal day look like for you as a freelance journalist?
I have a regular office-based day job, so really I just fit in the freelance work and fun stuff where I can. The more my Monday-Friday is regulated, the more my brain seems to revel in disorder once the weekend comes. Skating, reading, hanging out with my partner, going to the pub, walks in the hills near my house, going to see bands; somewhere amongst all that I try and organise interviews, transcribe those interviews when they’re done, map out ideas for future articles and work on the next book project. Short answer, a normal day for me looks heavily caffeinated.
I am sure you interviewed a few big names in skateboarding. Which one stands out for you personally and why?
I’ve been pretty lucky with that, and everyone I’ve interviewed has always been sound. Skateboarding is good at cleansing the noxious idea of ‘celebrity’ from its skin, and interviewing some of the bigger names in skateboarding was a breath of fresh air after working in music journalism for a while and never being quite sure whether the person you were scheduled to interview would be an egotistical prick. Don’t get me wrong, I guess skateboarding has a few of them – but they seem to be few and far between, and luckily I haven’t crossed paths with them.
In all honesty my favourite interviews have been with friends, people who I’ve known for years and can ask more insightful questions for that reason. Saying that, Wes Kremer and Josh Kalis were both particularly enjoyable to chat to.
Saying that, Wes Kremer and Josh Kalis were both particularly enjoyable to chat to.
When you look at skate mags and of course other publications, it looks like advertisers become more involved in the editorial aspect. What is your take on this?
I would actually argue that advertisers have less control than they did ten years ago, if only due to my earlier point about the sheer number of magazines available right now. Skateboard media has always been beholden to some extent to the whims of advertisers, but I personally am seeing a much broader range of views and opinions than ever before and it’s fucking great. Look at Kyle Beachy’s Primitive Progressivism article for Free Skate Mag – he may have had to go through a few rejections, but guaranteed the magazines that did are kicking themselves for it now. However if I was going to be a cynical old git who read Naomi Klein’s No Logo with white knuckles, I’d say that the prevalence of energy drink logos in skateboarding might not look that good 20 years down the line; both in the sense of ‘advertising taurine to children’ and ‘absolutely stinking aesthetic’.
Where is the future of printed or digital skate mags heading, you think?
By my calculations Y2K can’t be too far off. While the circuit boards burn and the Silicon Valley CEOs are pursued by mobs of social media addicts crazed by emoji withdrawal, while the clickbaiters, influencers and listicle writers weep into their beer glasses, you’ll be able to hear the laughter echoing from the hills as us Luddites enjoy the fruits of a dedication to the Great God Print.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m heavily involved with Vague Skate Mag these days, so I spend a lot of time working on whatever we have for the next issue and thinking up ideas for further down the line. Whenever I start feeling too bummed out about my day job, this is the stoke that balances things out again.
In between that and my day job, I’m scribbling away in my free time with an eye to a potential future project – but there’s no form or in depth plan to that yet, just a giant meandering manuscript.
When I get any free time at all and it’s too wet or I’m too injured to skate, I’ll put in some graft at our DIY spot Wernside. It’s out the back of the indoor skatepark in Leeds, so we’re in the unusually comfortable position of not being terrified that it’ll get knocked down at any moment. Normally that happens sooner or later, so it’s sick that Ls-Ten have given us carte blanche out there.
…you’ll be able to hear the laughter echoing from the hills as us Luddites enjoy the fruits of a dedication to the Great God Print.
What advice would you give to people that also want to make a career as freelance writer/editor/interviewer?
It’s probably disingenuous for me to describe what I currently have as a ‘career’ in that area – I’d update my LinkedIn profile if I wasn’t so lazy when it comes to the internet. I’m not sure I’m the best person for career advice, but as for the act of writing about skateboarding itself, I’m as opinionated as the next person. I think the most fruitful realisation for me has been to not get stuck indoors too much. You’ll still need to spend a lot of time sat in front of a screen, but going for walks often helps knock ideas loose in your head and the best ideas for me always seem to occur in a non-pixelated environment.
Last question. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
In Central London there’s rumours of a mysterious rollerblader who turns up at spots in the dead of night with a crowbar and liberates them from skate stoppers. It would be great to do an interview where his identity was obscured by a balaclava and some form of voice obscuring technology, we could have a lengthy discussion about the issues surrounding the encroachment of private enterprise on public space and how it acts as a catalyst for social decay – but the whole time, his voice is made to sound like Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
Very last question. If you have to rate this interview from 0 (you are fired) to 10 (you are hired), what would it be?
Find me that mythical nocturnal rollerblader and you’ve got the job.