Barcelona ’05 ’til Infinity

Barcelona ’05 ‘til Infinity

In autumn of 2005 I lived in Barcelona for a few months. Over that time I kept seeing this tall English guy at all the spots filming with different people each time. I eventually met this tall geezer; his name was Greg King. Greg was making a video, and at this point it was a video for the biggest skate shop in Barcelona at the time: Free. (Cool name right? Ha ha!) His video, Barcelona ’05 ‘til Infinity, premiered in December 2005, but by then I had already left Barcelona. Although I had been on some sick sessions with Günes (Özdogan), Javi (Barroso), Marcos (Gómez) and others Greg was filming with, I never got to see the full video. I remember these guys did some savage tricks and lines… Why can’t I watch this? I heard they always used to play the video at the Manolo bar, but even after all these years it’s not online, well except Millsy’s part. Curious to see the full vid I spoke to Günes a while back and he said he couldn’t find his old DVD. So after some enquiries by Günes and a few conversations with Greg we finally got the Quicktime file of the full video. It’s a blast from the past, a window if you will, into the Barcelona skate scene in 2005. So have a watch and read the interview below with Greg about that time in Barca skate history.

Interview by Will Harmon

First off how did you get into filming Greg and who did you film with?
Greg King: I got into it as a kid in Great Yarmouth, skating with Tommy and Jonny Quinn, Neil Crowe. Probably ’94 we were filming each other skating then adding landed tricks to a footage tape. And that was it! Our first ‘video’ was a chronological footage tape, ‘Overdose’ we called it ha ha. By the late 90s we were fully up and running, I talked this guy at the local college into letting us use their editing suite, even though I wasn’t studying. Chewy (Cannon) was on the scene then, Matt Penn, Benny B, Tom Lock… We knocked out seven or eight videos.

When did you move to and how long did you live in Barcelona for?
I had an urge to get out of Gt. Yarmouth; it just felt restricting at that time. It’s funny because I never even considered trying somewhere else in UK. We’d done skate trips all around the UK, to Paris, Prague, and Barcelona… Barca had a pull that the other places didn’t. I knew I was gonna move there after our first trip. I actually tried to move out there in 2004, but after a few months I ran out of money, couldn’t speak Spanish and had to come back. So I worked in Gt Yar and the beginning 2005 I moved out again, lived there four years: 2005 ‘til the end 2008.

Can you tell me how the video came about?
It’s odd – it was never going to be a company/brand video. I wanted to make a Barca scene video but I had no idea if it’d work out. I’d turned up there with a crappy Spanish linguaphone CD, my Bolex and a VX2000 and for some reason people were just down to film and trusted that I was actually gonna make a video. By the mid summer it was taking shape, I was there skating and filming with just about everyone out in Barca, five solid parts on the go, plus Millsy ha ha. Straight outta the blue Juan La Torre, who was the team manager at Free skate shop, asked me if Free could sponsor the video. He said they’d pay me for four months to film and edit, the only stipulation was that I’d add a Free skate shop team section and I’d been filming with most of them all summer anyway.

Would you say Free was the main skate shop in Barcelona at the time?
Yeah it was. They had a big team, that huge shop just off Las Ramblas too.

This video originally came out on DVD right? Were there a lot of copies made?
That’s right. This was a couple years after the Tony Hawk game and skating was booming. I heard 3000 thousand DVDs in the 1st run but that might not be right, they were knocking them out for €25 a pop! I thought they were gonna be a tenner ha. I wasn’t anything to do with that side of it though. Let’s just say I wasn’t too business savvy at that time!

Over what time period was this vid made?
The first clips early 2005 and we had the premier in December 2005.

What happened to Free skate shop?
This is second hand smoke, ‘cause I left Barca in 2008, but from what I heard they got hit hard by the 2008/9 recession; that shit was savage in Spain. They kicked the skate team off and morphed into one of those skate/surf ‘lifestyle’ stores, but eventually went under.

Ah that’s a shame. Can you describe what a typical day for you was like back then?
Spanish classes in the mornings ’til midday, then head to Macba or Sants depending on who I was gonna meet. No fucker out skating ha ha, so study or skate a couple hours ’til people start showing up. More often than not a crew of us would jump the metro and head out to skate and film out of town around areas like Canyelles, Badalona, or Torres i Bages. We were definitely a good mix of classic plaza heads and people into spot hunting, so we’d meander around the barrios in between the main known spots. In the evenings it was Macba or Plaza Universitat always. Games of S.K.A.T.E. and litre bottles of Xibeca for a euro. After finishing the Spainsh course it was the same except more Manolo bar, more City Hall, Fellini, and La Paloma clubs, less early mornings… I eventually joined the Barca time zone, ha ha.

It seems like you have everyone in the vid that passed through Barcelona at that time.
Yeah I tried to get everyone to film something. Something that’s rad about scene videos is you’re not there to film any specific group or skate style. I was psyched to have Daniel Lebron and Jesus Fernandez in the video, but also that mad Russian dude Igor at Sants, you know what I mean? -He wasn’t gonna have tricks in the Nomad video. I got most people in there, but it was harder with the older Spanish heads, I woulda loved to get couple of clips of Raul Navarro, Enrique Lorenzo, and Pablo Dominguez. I understand it though, they had their filmers and video parts they need footage for. Also my favourite Barca legend Raul Retamal had a broken leg that year. Maybe when we make the sequel…

How were you getting by back then as in making money/paying rent?
I’d saved money from painting and decorating and these gnarly factory jobs in Norfolk to get by the first few months. I was still a sponsored skater at that time by HOAX from East Anglia, so every time someone visited they’d bring over some boards and that helped too. Towards the end of summer when my money had pretty much gone and before Free started paying me I was sooo broke, but somehow there was always a skater visiting me who was even more broke ha ha. After the video I worked in a bar two nights a week, which was sick because I reckon working is how you really learn a language. I filmed bits ‘n bobs for skate companies like Western Edition, Nomad, Dogway, Crème, etc. Getting money from companies was always a hassle but the riders would sort me out. And we all lived so cheap – never paid to ride the metro, never paid entrance to a club, if no-one had guest list we weren’t going ha ha. There’s this supermarket ‘Dia’ which is like Spain’s Aldi… Man I had Dia wired, all prices to the cent, what time they reduced stuff, I swear I could feed three of us for a day for €4 including beers!

Greg King filming the intro with Marcos Gomez. Ph. Damiano Simionato

Always save a little for tea and biscuits! Can you tell us a little bit about the people in the vid? Are you still in touch with any of these people? Any idea what they’re up to?
Ha ha Henry Hill remains in the witness protection program vibe? I haven’t seen a lot these guys for years but we’ve all been in touch.

Vela (David Vela) was the first guy I started to film over there. He’s from a Catalan village outside Barca in the mountains, he was super welcoming, definitely my first homie out there and was the city guide to begin with too. He’s in Barcelona, still skating and snowboarding in the mountains.

I guess everyone knows Günes (Özdogan) now; he’s Turkish but grew up in Sweden. He didn’t come out ‘til we’d nearly finished filming but getting footage with Günes was chill, nothing took him more than a handful of goes. Nothing. Those lines, manny tricks, three/four tries.

Jesel (Ramos) moved to Barcelona on his own from Venezuela. He was hyped on this Cameron track, you know the flamenco band, but Juan remembered this track was used on a, I think, Alfonso Fernandez part… Jesel still wanted to use it, but I was like ‘nah sorry dude that is the law’. He met a Swedish girl in Barca and moved to Sweden not too long after I left; now he’s an artisan chef with a couple kids.

Everyone was so hyped on Dani’s part; I think it was quite refreshing in Barcelona at that time. After the video Free offered to sponsor him but Dani (McCarthy) turned them down, he just didn’t want to pursue that side of skating. I’m still tight with Dani and he still rips if you can get him out. If you’re lucky you might see him down Southbank late at night, he filmed a couple things with Hold Tight Henry and George Toland last year. He’s a wine maker, laying low back home in Kent.

Javi (Barroso) had been killing it in Barca for a while before I came out. He is from Gran Canaria. There was this buzz around Javi, that uber contemporary style, like a G Wenning, crazy pop… He’d been talking to Stevie Williams about getting on DGK… After I left he had a ton of video parts, got flowed by DC and Blind I think. He’s good, still skating; he’s back and forth between Barca and Gran Canaria.

I should definitely mention Juan La Torre and Tim Wildes. Juan was the Free skate shop team manager and he hooked the whole thing up. Juan’s sound, he’s one of the original Barcelona skaters, skating since the 80s. There woulda been a video without Free I’m sure, but the shop gave the video a platform, sorted out this mad premiere in City Hall nightclub, all that was down to Juan. Tim’s my mate from Norwich and we used to skate together back in the day – he came out that summer. Tim sat through the edit with me and helped find all the music.

Please tell us about Matt Mills. What’s his story?
Man. So many stories… Mills is from Leicester but I think he skated a lot in Bristol. Joey Pressey told me he used to absolutely rip at Radlands when he was just a tiny kid, and Jeremy Fox told Mills’ dad: ‘keep him skating, I’ve got my eye on him!’ In 2004 Mills got hit by a van at work and suffered head injuries, after that he was diagnosed with epilepsy and narcolepsy and put on incapacity benefit. The weirdest coincidence, for me anyway, is that the week before I moved to Barca, Mills and his dad moved to Gt. Yarmouth! I’d skated with him at Radlands but I didn’t really know Mills ’til that week. A month later I find Millsy asleep at Macba. Everything’s been robbed: bag, board, money, cards, passport, the lot. It was chaos from then on – you can try sort him out, try to get him to skate, try get him to stop drinking, but there’s no controlling Matt Mills! Mondays were bonkers because his money went in on Mondays, his bank card was at mine because Mills can’t keep hold of anything. He’d go straight to a toyshop and buy a plastic machine gun and a fake gold chain, then all day he’d be at MACBA making everyone laugh. This whole thing could be crazy Mills stories from Barcelona, but I’ll tell you one that had us laughing for months.
So a couple of guys tried to rob Mills on the Las Ramblas and these guys chase Mills into a kebab shop, Mills jumps over the counter and grabs the big kebab knife and then chases these guys back down Las Ramblas. At this point some skaters see this – Mills running down Las Ramblas, laughing, kebab knife above his head. A few hours later we’re outside Manolo bar, everyone is talking about it, I mean we knew he wouldn’t actually do anything but he could easily get nicked. Millsy turns up in a brand-new white shellsuit, now bear in mind this is 2005, and this is probably 1am, how the hell you gonna get a shellsuit? And he’s got the kebab knife inside the shellsuit jacket over his shoulder like a samurai, we’re laughing our arses off, trying to get him to go home, ‘cause the police are probably looking for him, but to Mills it’s just a wind-up, he’s practicing samurai moves in the alleyway.

What is Millsy up to now? You still in touch at all?
Millsy moved back to his dad’s in Gt. Yarmouth. He does seaside paintings of pigeons with chip forks in their heads and he writes absurdist literature… Millsy is Gt. Yarmouth’s Bukowski but I’m not sure if he’ll ever finish his book.

Ha ha sick. When was the last time you went to Barcelona?
Ah it’s been years. Me and Chewy are looking into getting a gaff there. I’m trying to sort it out to work in UK but be in Barca for the winter, but at the mo’ with Brexit we’re holding tight, see what happens…

Is there any reason you never uploaded this video online?

Na no reason, I’ve not got a big online presence. I’m stoked you guys want to put it up.

So what are you up to these days?
Been in London 7 years now, I work doing film lighting, which is great. I have a skate documentary project I’m working on too but it’s early stages. It’s funny man, when I came to London Chewy and Lev (Tanju) were talking to me about filming for Palace but it was the early days of the company, Lev couldn’t afford any kind of day rate or footage rate. I can’t remember exactly what the deal was – boards, some product to sell on, maybe a few quid here n there – I was thinking ‘should I? Should I?’ Basically it was gonna be a hustle; I couldn’t be arsed with that any more. Mad though, with how Palace worked out – if I did it I might still be in the game. But I’m glad, I’m still psyched on skating but I’m glad I’ll never need to make money from it again.