Mortensen & Mortensen in Malmö
What happens when skateboarding culture becomes saturated with the elements that were originally what skaters rebelled against? When the beers and the bros and the burly elbow out the weird, the creative and the individual? Wouldn’t that mean skateboarding was replaceable and it was time to abandon the sinking ship? Well – we’re not quite there yet and this interview is a testament to that fact.
Amandus and Sondre Mortensen are from the north of Sweden and have grown up isolated from any hub of skateboarding culture. Somehow, a skateboard found it’s way to a flea market in Luleå and from there to the Mortensen household. The brothers discovered skating on their own terms.
Come the time for high school, their parents supported Amandus, three years Sondre’s senior, to move to Malmö to attend Bryggeriets Gymnasium. Three years later, Sondre joined him and they are now part of the fabric of the Malmö skate scene. They can be spotted in the oddest of circumstances at the oddest times, waxing something or just hanging out – a quirky duo out discovering new spots when everyone else has defaulted to the park.
As brothers, they are both intrigued by the things that stand out. To them, this seems like a departure from skating culture. To us, that’s about as wrong as you can be. If skateboarding needs anything right now, it’s more people like the Mortensen brothers. Check it.
Interview by Gustav Eden
The following is an excerpt from chats during a garage-session in Malmö. A few stories below ground, we find ourselves in a dumping-zone for the local shopping mall. A loading dock leads to dumpsters and rows of discarded display-items line the walls. The opposing walls are raw stone. You expect Dr Evil’s henchmen to materialize any minute. It’s the perfect setting for a Mortensen session. The conversation drifts to filming…
Gustav: So why do you keep putting out short edits? Why don’t you save up for full sections anymore?
Amandus Mortensen: Well, we don’t really have anyone to send footage to, so we just publish it ourselves. That’s whom we do it for anyways, really. The last full part I did with the powerslide down the Triangeln stairs – well that trick was filmed two years before we put it out. By that time it started to feel a bit shit. You had seen it so much on the computer that you were kind of over it. Then we put it out and I was of course still stoked, but you move on after such a long time.
Sondre Mortensen: The important thing is to be happy with it yourself. You constantly progress as a skater, so it’s best to get it out before you move on.
Amandus is trying a drop-down boardslide pop-up. He has a go and slides out on the fresh wax.
Do you still wax as much as you used to?
Amandus: Hmm… Less making spots from wax now, but… Well, ‘It should slide.’
Sondre: Amandus has stopped skating obstacles. (Laughs)
Is that a kind of principle for you guys? You invent spots as much as tricks?
Amandus: Well, we would never film a backtail flip out on some ledge. It’s more fun to see something different.
Amandus has his next shot.
(To Amandus) I saw you warm up at Svampen this summer and you were banging out thigh-high switch heels and the full flatland register. Yet your parts have less of that stuff these days.
Sondre: It’s really fun to skate that way too.
Amandus: Yes it’s fun. It’s just not something we would film. We would never film standard tricks.
What qualifies as a standard trick?
Amandus: Well if you are going to film something it needs to have that ‘oooh-feeling’. I don’t know what to call it, but something that makes it worth it.
Sondre: ‘Oooh’- Like it’s something intriguing. Something you yourself want to see.
Amandus: Sometimes we start skating a spot that’s not even a spot, just mucking about and then something will evolve and we’ll think ‘hey we could film that this way and it would be cool’.
Right – so it’s spontaneous. But it seems like the filming decides the skating too. Just now you were saying you have 11 minutes of tape and should try and get something with that today, and five minutes later we have disassembled a wheel-cart and waxed the ground.
Amandus: Yes we often have an idea or an image of something we want to do.
Sondre: Right now we want to do a garage-edit of only quick clips. I’m injured now, so I’m mainly coming out with Amandus to film and get ideas. Like yesterday – I was just doing flatground manuals and was rolling over those metal sheets over there – ‘duh-duh-duh-duh-duh’ joking around. And that sparked an idea for a little clip that we filmed.
So you go from brothers to filmers to skate-choreographers?
Amandus: We bounce a lot of ideas between each other. Like I’m not sure the front-board pop-up will work here with the line to the rail. I’m considering a lipslide shove-it. What do you think Sondre?
Sondre: The front board may be hard to film.
After some debate they settle on the frontside boardslide.
Amandus: (talking about filming): You usually have an idea in your head of how you want something to look. And we’re lucky that we more or less see things the same way.
Sondre: Always when I think of something, I see it from how it’s filmed – like either through the fisheye or long-lens, the angles and everything.
Does that mean it is hard for you to film with other people?
Amandus: We are pretty much always on the same side of how to film something. When you’re filming with someone else, though, you may not agree with how they want to do it.
Sondre: Like ‘What are you up to there? You want to film that way?’ No, you don’t want to interfere with what they’re doing. They have their own ways and so on, but it gets harder to communicate and compromise. You know, you don’t necessarily agree.
Amandus: Filming with others can be good, but it’s a little harder than with each other.
Amandus is checking the spot out, waxing, and giving it a few tries.
Sondre takes out a big bag of wine gums.
Sondre: 13.90SEK (€1.40) at Willys. Good stuff. Amandus doesn’t eat sweets anymore though.
How long have you been off sweets?
Amandus: Since last my year of high school. I just think your body feels better without it, really.
How about your health, Sondre? You ok on the sweets-programme.
Sondre: Yeah I feel pretty good.
Amandus is starting to have proper tries, sliding and popping back up, aiming for the drop-down rail.
Do you read much?
Sondre: Not really, but I just ordered a book, actually. I showed my friend Lulach at school my music and he was like ‘Oh – Orange Juice’. And I was like ’What?’ Well he is from Scotland and that’s an eighties post-punk kind of band from there. So he told me about the bands Orange Juice and Josef K. And as you may know, Josef K is the main character from Kafka’s book The Trial, and they put references into their descriptions from that book. That’s why I ordered it.
You’re into music, obviously (Sondre makes some of the soundtracks to the brothers’ edits)?
Amandus slams and nearly falls headfirst down the drop. We all stop as we try to figure out what just happened. Amandus then gets up and tries to shake the adrenaline.
Sondre: That looked really strange.
Amandus lands the next try, full focus.
Maybe it’s time…
Sondre: You let me know when you want me to get the camera out, bro?
Back to music…
Sondre: I suppose I always thought it was fun to see how other people made music. You know – behind the scenes in the studio. Then I kind of thought that if I make music myself, then it is I who is behind the scenes. My friend Joel is really into music and would learn loads of stuff. Everything he learned he would teach me.
And you have built your own guitar?
Sondre: Well my dad used to work in Lund when I started the Bryggeriet high school. Loads of the people at his work were really into building guitars so they decided to start a workshop every Wednesday in guitar making. I just came along with dad to learn a bit more about guitars and how to build them. It wasn’t an official course, but more like a gathering. In the end I built a guitar with help from my dad and we used the wood from old skateboards to make it.
And you use it to make the music for your edits? Do you have any fancy pickups and stuff?
Sondre: Yes these days it’s the only one I use, pretty much. I have some pretty mysterious pickups, actually. We bought them from a dude, Lloyd, who had the shop across the road from our house. He had some pickups that he said were Di Marcio pickups that were a bit older, but we later found out that those are usually marked in a certain way and these weren’t. They sound really good, though. Very low ohm. That means they have lower output than new ones and you need to turn the volume up. The dynamic and frequency changes too – it’s a whole science. I made a blog about it for school: skateboardingguitar.wordpress.com
What music are you into right now?
Sondre: Right now on my phone I have… Actually, I should say it like this – John Maus, Ariel Pink and Matt Fishbeck – they make up a trifecta I always listen to. Right now though, I’m listening to, Orange Juice and Josef K. Also a band called ‘The Scientific Research Institute of Cosmetics’. That’s Google-translated from Russian. Hum La is also a favourite; great things from one of my all time favourite humans. Much love!
Amandus and Sondre discuss how to film.
Sondre: Should I walk below? It’s hard to show how high the drop is.
Amandus: Filming from up here would be odd, though. Hmm. Sometimes when you start thinking about these things it gets more complicated. You have a clear idea and then it gets muddled.
Sondre: It’s a real downer when you have a certain thing in mind and come home and the footage doesn’t correspond to how you saw it in your head. We never watch the footage back because we don’t want the VX to chew the tape. So you always have to be prepared that it may not be what you had in mind. We have some Hi-8 cameras too, though.
Amandus: We would watch Hi-8 footage back – those cameras feel more reliable than the VX.
The session is on. Amandus lands the line third try and then does three more in four goes. Mission accomplished. There are still a few minutes left on the tape.
How important is it to have fun when you’re skating?
Amandus: It’s pretty important. It usually doesn’t work out so well if you don’t. (Laughs)
Amandus and Sondre have found a box of empty water bottles. They decide to film a wallie, scattering them. Done. We pick up the bottles and wind the session up for the night.
(The footage above was filmed whilst Gustav was doing the interview)
How are you most similar?
Sondre: It feels like we are both, well it is hard to put into words, but perhaps we are a bit more open to other things.
Amandus: Yes like we both appreciate the odd and different.
Sondre: Yes like ‘strange is not bad’. That’s kind of goes into everything we do.
Do you get bored by the predictable?
Amandus: Well bored may not be the word for it, but we value the things that stand out.
Sondre: Bored… Well I have a hard time thinking about myself as ever being bored.
What inspires you in skateboarding then?
Sondre: Not skating. (Laughs) But seriously, when I don’t skate I get stoked when I skate. Before when I went to a school where no one skated, in a town without many skaters to hang with, I learned loads about skating and loved it. I progressed loads and it was really fun. It’s really fun now as well, but when you find yourself too deep in the scene…
Amandus: …it’s not as pure.
Sondre: Yes, like you are expected to try and fit in and people’s contribution can be about other things. You’re supposed to put all this other stuff into the skate equation so that it’s not skating anymore. It’s like ‘Skate Life’ or something.
Amandus: ‘Skate Image’ or perhaps not ‘skate’, but well….
Sondre: Well maybe that’s just that there is so much talk and vibes with school. Well not ’vibes’ but…
Amandus: …well the more you are away from skating…
Sondre: …the better it gets. It may sound extreme, but…
Not at all. It seems like a pretty natural relationship. How do you handle it when you feel overexposed to skating?
Amandus: It’s not that it’s too much skating as such. It’s more that it’s too much stuff other than actual skating. Like Instagram is a good example: You’re expected to do the latest tricks and all that. It’s too much of that stuff. You have to watch the right videos, do the right tricks and wear the right clothes.
Sondre: Yeah when you’re in the skate-circles skating is not about actually skating. Skating becomes about watching the right videos, wearing the same clothes, using the right language.
But isn’t that part of the whole skating world? The clothes and all the rest of it? Like fashion – how do you decide what to wear, for instance?
Sondre: Well I like shirts. That actually comes from a clip I saw of Raymond Molinar. He had two shirts on. From that I started liking shirts. That was in seventh grade. Now I don’t think I necessarily wear clothes that have that much to do with skating though. But there’s really cool things coming from the whole skating world thing too. And I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s funny because Pekka who works at Bryggeriet always says ’What’s up, Jeremy Klein’ because I wear big shirts. And I get somewhat happy cause I think Jeremy Klein is a cool dude – although I don’t really see myself as cool as Jeremy Klein. (Laughs)
So what do you do to avoid too much skating?
Sondre: During our break, I prefer to talk to friends at school, there’s so much more than skating at Bryggeriet. And it’s interesting to talk to different people. There’s so much to learn from everyone and everything around you. But I always carry around my Gameboy in my backpack and right now a book of classic Swedish poetry. (Laughs)
Amandus: Well I do watch skate clips, but the good ones. The ones that present skating in a good way.
When you go skating, how often do you go out just the two of you?
Amandus: Particularly in the autumn and winter we go out more on our own. It’s because we are not usually here in the summer, we go back home then, so when we are here we want to skate spots. Most people from here default to winter-mode and only skate the skatepark. So we go out just the two of us.
So Sondre is 18 and you are 21 Amandus. Stereotypically, that’s the age when partying and girls have a big part in competing with the focus on skating. Are you into all of that?
Amandus: Actually not really. The whole party scene is not that tempting for me personally. I have a better time when I don’t party then when I do.
Sondre: I just see myself more as the type of person that would rather play a game or hang out than party. I’m not that drawn to it. There’s nothing wrong with partying, and sometimes it’s fun, but I’m not that into it, really.
These days, that seems pretty rare.
Amandus: Well that’s one thing with norms. People don’t really question the things that are moulded into the culture.
Sondre: Yeah it’s really funny about the whole normative culture. It’s so strange that that is even a question, you know – ‘Do we party?’
Exactly, and that’s the point, of course. What would you say your relationship with norms in general is?
Sondre: Hehe. Well if something doesn’t feel like it happens naturally or…
Amandus: …if you don’t feel like something, there’s no need to do it just because others do.
Are you guys ‘comfortable in your own skin’?
Sondre: Yeah sure. Maybe being used to being the only skater in school makes you comfortable with being different. I don’t know.
Well how does going from being the only skater in school to being in a school of only skaters work?
Sondre: Well, maybe I was never a real skater, if you understand what I mean. Because I’m really not one of those guys, and really don’t want to be either, if that’s what it’s about. So…. Well… Maybe I was never a real skater.
So is a skater to you someone who follows the norm or breaks it?
Amandus: Well these days, I would say it’s someone who follows, but also, these days there are many different types of skaters. It’s hard to categorise. One should just avoid trying to feel like you deserve something for whatever reasons.
Sondre: Well I feel like the more I think about all that stuff, the more blurry it gets. If I start thinking about ‘hmm… Am I confident?’ then perhaps some good thoughts will come from that after a lot of thinking, but also the other way around. It’s easy to overthink things.
So do you take seriously what you stand for and who you want to be, Amandus?
Amandus: Well I don’t believe in trying to be in a way you are not, just to fit into a certain social group or situation. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.
Sondre: Yes that’s funny isn’t it. Whatever you do, someone will love it and someone else will hate it. Like music: some people like a band and others hate them.
One time I asked you what your plan was for the day, Amandus, and you said ‘Well first, we are going to make sure we are having a good time.’ Is that usually your day?
Amandus: Oooh… Well yes, actually. That is usually a pretty good start.
Well what happens next?
Amandus: Well if you are not having a good time, you make changes so that you do have a good time. And if you are having a good time, you keep doing what you are doing so you keep having a good time.
All right. That’s a good place to leave you, then. Cheers, guys.