Serious Adult, Headcleaner, and Irony: An Interview with Greg Conroy

I thought that your recent Instagram post on ironic bad skating was interesting. Has irony always been a part of skating?

I think irony has always been there. In board graphics and adverts it was quite out there in the 90s and early 2000’s. It’s been hijacked in recent years though and has ended up in vice magazine territory. It seems it’s more about using it to label what’s cool or not, as opposed to a playful pop at another company or a way to laugh at a companies detractors, which it seemed to be more about then.

Now it seems like an excuse for laziness. “I’m skating a certain way/wearing outdated shorty’s tees to make a point of how stale and rigid the west coast scene is” seems to be the theme, but in reality, its just bad skating. I’d much rather watch someone that might not be that great try really hard to put out a good section over someone of equal ability using what they think is a cool, ironic attitude to put out 3 minutes of shitty makes and sketchy landings of stuff they could do better if they could be arsed to re film it a couple of times. It’s not just video parts but just skating in general you see in little clips on the net or at your local spot.

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But what about sketchiness though – objectively that is bad skating, but for me a sketchy trick is often much more interesting to watch than a bolts robo flip?

Yeah you’re right. I should have specified; sketchiness is rad when you can tell the person was really going for it and that’s just how they landed. Like Julian strangers bump to tailslide cum wall bash in sky pager (i think? Its in sf) or quim cardonas skating. Its just that its become contrived, especially in some american pockets. I see footage of people tic tacing when they don’t need to or skating slowly or doing stuff that they are clearly way better than. I think they think they’re doing it for arts sake.

Your drawings often comment on the idea of ‘coolness.’

It’s an essential part of skating, in terms of industry and selling product and always will be in that regard. Every skate company exists to make a profit off their product and the bigger the company the more people watch their videos and see their ads and that dictates what’s cool. So as soon as a company gets too big, people revolt and want something else, so they can feel like they’re ahead of the fashion trend. Every video or advert in a magazine advertising a brands board or clothes has the sole purpose of trying to convince kids to by their product because its cooler than any other company. What’s ‘cool’ is the core focus of skateboarding in terms of industry. It’s interesting and of course, funny to watch the trends shift over time. I’m a product of it and I don’t want my cartoons to be seen as an ironic crack at the way it works, I just find the hole thing pretty hilarious. I’d hope my cartoons are seen as honest, rather than ironic or some sort of ‘cool not to be cool, by making fun of whats not cool’ vortex.

people do break out and make their own scene videos and have their own crews removed from the main skate spots and ‘cool’ hang outs and usually, those guys rip alot harder and have no interest in being a part of that world. In that respect, as long as there are kids that are too busy going out skating to pay attention to the bigger companies there is no need to ‘break out’ of that system. Those are what I believe are real skateboarders, through and through. If a kid wants to buy a 50 pound teeshirt and feel like they’re connected to skating, let them, there’s no harm in it. They won’t have more fun skating in it though. I sell teeshirts though, and would like to expand so I’m no different. I just find the whole thing hilarious, and try to make a funny cartoon out of it.

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What would you say to the argument that even if everyone wears trousers prepped for the flood whilst doing early grabs, they are still doing something that 99% of the population don’t do on the weekend?

For years I was embarrassed at school or wouldn’t bring a board to work because I was worried it would be seen as lame or weird. I’m 28 and I’ve only just got over it. It shouldn’t be weird or lame but it kind of is.

These days I’m more concerned with kids thinking they look cool by carrying a board around. Something in me fumes and thinks “wait, it shouldn’t be like this! someone sing sk8r boi at him from a white van! where’s his rite of passage? He needs to be mocked!” I grew up knowing that it made me unpopular overnight at school but didn’t care because it was just so fun to do. It’s cringey when you hear this said with a californian accent as you usually do, but its true, It is something for the ‘others’ to do. For kids that don’t fit in anywhere else and can form their own culture and identity outside of the norm. It’s supposed to be uncommon and I hope it stays that way.

 What was the reason behind all the Bristol footage in the Serious Adult edit?

I’ve visited bristol with my mate french before and stayed at our friend Alan glass’s house and again on a non-skate trip with my ex and loved it both times. It was somewhere affordable to get to, with interesting spots and a good scene. I just thought it would be a good affordable trip and it ended up being way better than I expected, the scene is great, everyone was amazingly friendly and welcoming, the spots were rad. I cant wait to go back. Also, Luka Pinto and Jeremy Jones have a bunch of friends that moved there so there was a connection in that regard. I’m trying to arrange another trip soon. Sam Bunton and Will Stradling came and stayed in London a month or so ago and it was great hanging out with them. Bristol was great. I want to go back as much as possible.

Would you talk a little bit about the Blast skates map edit? I really liked the idea of a session linking up spots and following a route. It reminded me a bit of the skate paths at Stoke plaza, that link the spots up.

Matt Bromley who runs blast is a friend of mine and hit me up with the idea, and I thought it was really fun and a good premise for an edit. Everything Blast puts out is really fun and interesting so I was really keen. I wanted to make a point of skating spots that I enjoy instead of the standard london spots. Chalky ledge is in there, but I don’t care, that ledge is the best. The first half of the spots are all within a quarter mile of my house and Places I’ve always wanted to take people but no one bothers to journey out to the sticks. I just thought it would be good to make an edit of spots I actually skate instead of the big ones in london that every edit seems to include. You can skate from one to the other so easily. The same with the second half, in central london, those are all spots i’d enjoy hitting up if i was skating around without a big goal or purpose, Just fun places that will make for a good session.

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Do you have any plans for the near future on how Serious Adult will develop?

I want to expand clothes wise of course but I don’t want that to be the only thing going for it, it wouldn’t survive and it would be boring. I want it to be more of a collaborative project between the guys on the team and release stuff with abit of substance. For example, I’ve been helping build a DIY. The plan is, an edit of the place, a tee, and a zine that comes free with the tee explaining how it was built, interviews with the guys that built it and of course, skate photos. I want to make something creative that people are interested in finding out about.

I need to sell product to pay for trips, but I don’t want to just make a few runs, make a few hundred quid then fizzle out because no ones interested. I want it to be something that people can interactive with, like a co-operative sort of.

The plan for the next year is a return trip to bristol, a small trip to a few coastal towns, the DIY edit and hopefully some short edits to accompany interviews with some of the guys that rep it, about their painting and the art they make and their backgrounds. I want to make something that I would be interested in seeing.

Do you know how the Transworld shout out came about?

I think powell saw it and reposted, then steve cab, then transworld saw his and reposted. I was stoked. I’m always stoked when someone reposts my stuff, especially people I look upto. Jason lee reposted one and I was so stoked, I’ve watched his visual sound section and mallrats more times than i can remember. It was just to know that he had seen a picture I drew about him. I wish my home made iron-on mallrats tee shirt still fit me.

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The Toby Shuall Headcleaner part with the The Apples in Stereo track comes up in your work and so does Frank Stephens… was Headcleaner an influential video for you?

I didn’t watch that section or video when I first started skating. The first few years of skating me and my friends just skated a carpark in lewisham, sort of on the fringe of south east london and only ventured into the city when we outgrew the carpark so i didn’t see that many british videos to start with because we didnt know much about the british scene, we watched yeah right and flip sorry loads. I saw Toby’s landscape section before head cleaner, and that was amazing but as soon as i saw his section in head cleaner i knew that was the epitome of british skating. i could relate, he skated outside his house, like a kid does, or like footage you see of the american pros in the 80s, his grindbox lines are like their jumpbox footage. its just pure skating. frank stephens was my introduction to british skating. whenever i read a sidewalk or document, he had photos in there. plus he gave me a whole pack of bearings at shell centre once. That day I had my mums bob dylan tee shirt on and mike sutcliffe skated past me and said ‘nice tee’. It’s probably to this day one of my favourite days skating, at my favourite spot of all time too. RIP shell centre.

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