Kenny Anderson Interview

Kenny Anderson, London, 2018. Ph. Sam Ashley

Sam Ashley hit me up last month asking if I was free, he said that Kenny Anderson was in London for a few days, and needed someone to shoot with. Luckily I’m a freelance filmer, so I’m basically always free. I tried not to nerd out too much on chatting veganism with Kenny between spots, but it was semi-inevitable (sorry Sam) and ended up leading onto some subjects that really absorbed me. By the time Kenny left, I felt kinda bummed I didn’t get to ask him more exhaustive questions, but then this article came about. The topics tendered are slightly synonymous with the affluent, neo-bohemian, white globetrotter archetype, and I admittedly may have excised them as such previously. But earnest in his account of embedding certain life choices into his existence, KA gave to me a sense of tangible legitimacy to these principles. Getting to speak to Kenny has genuinely altered my perspective on eating, breathing, healing and being alive. Nice bs tails too. – Sirus

Photography by Sam Ashley
Interview by Sirus F Gahan

So you just visited the UK last week, what did you come over for? It wasn’t for skating right?
Kenny Anderson: Well, there’s this vegan festival called Vevolution that happens out in the UK. They invited this organisation called ‘Eat, Drink Vegan’, which is out in LA. I was one of the ‘Eat, Drink Vegan’ representatives that was invited to speak on their stage, ha ha.

One of the reps! Were you talking about your own personal experience or were you ‘promo-ing’ them?
It was my own personal experience. We ended up doing a Q & A, instead of me just going up and giving a speech. It sort of ended up just being about me as a skateboarder, and I guess, ahh, more about a conscious mind.

Did you get any weird questions?
Actually no, it was kind of just pertaining to me as a skateboarder and being on a plant-based diet and what that means. Also the speaker asked about how that effects having product in skateboarding and all that, and so I was able to talk about the shoe I put out and the shoe I’m working on. So I guess it’s pretty much just about my life basically ha ha.

‘Kenny Anderson: This is your life’ ha ha…
Ha ha.

I don’t want to talk about veganism too much, because it can get pretty dry, especially for the non-vegans out there, but I do have a couple more vegan questions (sorry non-vegans). I know what it’s like to be a vegan on a skate trip, and in general it kind of sucks actually… I wanted to ask, how do you go about it? Are you always running off by yourself?
It’s definitely a lot easier now actually, because I travel mostly with Converse and a few guys are vegan as well on there. But typically throughout the last years, I’d just do a lot of research on where I’m going, and I’d just disappear and do my own thing. Which is cool because I’ve seen cities around the world that I’ve been to before, but I’ve seen them in a whole different way, just to go to this one restaurant, that I wanted to go to. I’ll break out early and go skate, and be in the zone I’ve never been to before, find a skate spot, things like that.

Yeah, that’s sick.
It’s pretty cool.

It’s kind of a conduit to lead you on new adventures, to places you might not have stumbled on before?
Yeah! I kind of like that. It’s cool that I can eat with people now, but at the same time I kind of like venturing out by myself a lot.

So the guys on Converse that are vegan, did that all happen because of that trick in Purple?
No, it kind of started after this Korea trip we did. It stemmed from a discussion with Mike (Anderson) about the drought in LA, and it just led on to more questions, and I feel like Mike was already going that way. He was also my roommate, so we’d sit there and talk a lot and inspire each other you know?

That’s really cool.
And then Aaron (Herrington) was there at that trick in Purple yeah, the noseslide nollie flip. It was one of those tricks that you know, you stick and you just keep buckling. Then a couple guys said that they’d go vegan for three days if I landed it, and then all of a sudden everyone’s chiming in: ‘I’ll go vegan the rest of the trip’ just to kind of spark me up. Which is funny because that would spark me up more than anything. And then yeah, that’s the one I did. That’s why in the video my hands were up; sadly it wasn’t a joy for myself.

It wasn’t self props.
No, it was about everyone there, probably about 80% of the people in that crew were going to eat plant-based for the rest of the trip. So then that’s when Aaron started, and he hasn’t gone back. I think it’s been two years now.

And he’s sober as well right?
Yeah, vegan and sober, and that’s the thing with Aaron too, we were already having talks, it’s not like it was just like, ‘Oh here’s a trick let me do it, and you can go vegan.’ He was already on that level of consciousness, of shifting his life. And it’s not about just diet; it’s about stress and breathing, and prioritising yourself more you know? And diet just happens to fall in that category. Since then, there have been times when people will just throw it out there during a trick, and it’s kind of cool. I did a Girl and Chocolate trip with Mike Mo and Malto, and they called it out on this trick, and I did it, and they ate vegan the rest of the trip. It was only two more days, but you know it’s kind of a thing now.

For sure, but are these guys actually sticking to it? Ben Raemers told me he said he’d do it once, but would sneak off at night to get Big Macs, ha ha.
I remember some people were cheating, which is funny because I don’t really care. It’s more about the concept of it and the conversations that come about. Even a couple of meals, that means a lot to me…

Frontside wallride, Wandsworth.

You kinda mentioned it there, veganism in itself is just about being plant-based, but it’s part of a bigger outlook and awareness on your life as a whole. Being conscious, having a greater understanding of yourself as a being, as well as other beings, right?
Yeah, it’s like I said about Aaron, and myself too. My transition was more about, yes I didn’t want to hurt animals, yes I learnt more about not hurting the environment, and that’s great you know. Here I am, eating this way and trying to help as much as possible, whilst my own stress was hurting me. You can be a vegan, and help animals, whilst you’re killing yourself with your own stress. You can look at it, and be like ‘well at least save the animals’ ha ha. But to me, it’s more about, connecting to the animals, to earth and to ourselves, all as one. I think when you have that theory that we are all one, then it’s a lot easier to align your actions with those same values you know. Because at that point, you’re not going to do anything to hurt the environment, the animals, ourselves, your friends…

When you realise everything is connected?
It’s about a higher consciousness, of all of our actions and the consequences of those. I always feel, especially with having kids, if we were taught about that more, about all of our actions, where all our food comes from, the consequences of purchasing stuff, even purchasing fashion sometimes, like where that came from. If everyone knew exactly where things came from, and what they’re doing to your body, and mind, then I don’t think the majority of us would be making those same decisions. And if you do, fine. I’m not one to judge, I’m just more, on my own life, being a little more conscious of that, and trying to align all those actions.

Because you’re the one you have control over…
Right, and I got to the point where, I’m not ever going to consciously hurt our earth, hurt animals or hurt myself. There is a point of that where, man, you realise how much stress, or negative energy, or eating certain things, can do to you. Like when you’re really aware of what that does to your own body, and other people, you start taking steps towards a better option.
And eliminating those things.
If something’s going to hurt me it’s not going to be by my own choice, it’s not going to be by the food I put it my mouth, or the thoughts I put in my head. It’s like: if something’s going to hurt me it’s going to be skateboarding, a sucker punch, a car accident. Something I can’t control. I think that’s the biggest thing: being aware that we actually have control over our lives.

So it’s like the more you are aware of your own responsibility in effecting that trinity: yourself, the earth and other beings, the greater your sense of actually having control can become?
Yeah exactly, and the fact that we’re all one. Some people don’t care about that, and I don’t judge for that. Like some people don’t care one bit about animals, only themselves. It’s just for me; I look at it this way.

So I remember my housemate Jamie (Platt) got in touch with you a year or so ago. He was recovering from a badly broken leg, and at the time I didn’t realise why he was getting in touch with you for health tips. But it’s because you had posted about healing your own ankle is that right? Would you be able to tell that story?
I had multiple tears in my ankle and knee, and I saw three sports doctors, and all three said I needed reconstructive surgery, or I needed to stop skating. By the third doctor, and you know these are sports doctors, they work on athletes here in LA, like The Kings and Lakers and stuff, I was like, man, I guess it’s that bad you know. But then I found a natural doctor, went to him, and right away he did an ultrasound, he checked my X-rays and MRIs. He said he understood why they would say that, but he had seen worse, and he thinks we can do it naturally. So right there I just went full gung ho, like alright let’s do this, let’s tackle it like this. So we did this procedure called PRP, which is where they take your blood out, spin it, clean it and put it back in, they don’t add anything, they just separate the plasma and the platelets. It’s a natural procedure and it basically just speeds up the healing process and gets your healthy blood cells to work to heal the injury. It’s more than just that though, it’s not like some magic potion, it’s like, well how am I dealing with stress again? Am I drinking? Am I going out and skating too soon? What am I putting in my body to eat? We heal on a cellular level, and everything we put in our mind and body, effects our cells. So I started obsessively studying, researching cellular structure, and how our bodies work. I was already eating plant-based, but when I was in my healing process, that was when I really just flipped into like – if I’m going to prioritise myself and my health at this point, it’s going to be one thousand per cent.

Backside noseblunt, SouthBank.

You’re going all in.
Just go in on every single level to heal. I think every skater will agree; we don’t ever do that. We heal as much as we need to just to be out pushing, and then we’re out skating again. That’s what happened to me for 30 years of skateboarding, yes everything caught up and my ankle’s about to fall off.

It was basically dangling off because I rolled it so many times, and never really took care of it. But then during that time, I prioritised myself more than everything and I was able to heal myself. In about seven months I was skating again. It was kind of scary at first but within a few weeks, I felt better than I’ve felt in ten years.

That’s crazy.
So I took a video of the doctor giving me the shot in my knee, and I posted it, and I just said my story really briefly, just saying like, ‘Hey, if anyone’s considering surgery, get 3-4 opinions, I was able to heal myself naturally with breathing, meditation, diet. If you have any questions, hit me up.’ I put my phone away, went to sleep, woke up to a hundred DMs the next day, and that turned into two hundred, three hundred in two or three weeks. That was a trip because some were about my knee, some about a vegan diet, some about meditation, some breathing, some depression, which I didn’t talk about. All these things, from teenage kids, to people in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, everyone asking questions about something, and some topics I didn’t even talk about. That kind of opened my eyes up to how many people just need to talk to someone, or are just searching for answers.

So there were all these questions on subjects you hadn’t even necessarily broached?
Yeah and that was kind of an epiphany for me. Because of everything I’ve gone through, I had the space and was available to answer these questions, because I was able to heal myself mentally so much as well. I think a lot of time we just don’t have space for these things, because we’re going through our own stress and stuff. I’m not saying that I’m stress free or just floating around the world now, but there was a point where I suddenly could begin to handle everything better. That kind of brought new life to me as well.

And that all stemmed from allowing yourself to take that time, to heal properly, and give yourself space to think, whilst coming to a greater understanding of how you’re treating your body?
That goes back to your original question, like it’s not just about eating a plant-based diet. If it was just that I could have been eating fries and soda, it’s not about that. When you truly connect with yourself, and prioritise yourself on a health level and make sure you take care of yourself, then food and diet will just follow. If you really care about yourself, inevitably you’re going to start putting healthier things in your mouth.

Of course, because you can feel it, you don’t even need to know about the nutrition side of it. You can just feel how it affects you.
And that’s what happened with me. I wasn’t like manifesting it by thought. I was feeling a certain way and was like, whoa what’s happening to my body!? Why am I so high right now ha ha. It sounds pretty pretentious, but yeah I just speak from experience. All these lethargic feelings and all these things that you think are so normal, that you’re raised with, that’s not how you’re supposed to feel.

OK, so how does this greater understanding and greater awareness of your own self, affect you as a skateboarder? When we were filming in London, that old guy was getting aggro with you, getting up in your face telling you not to skate. That was ultra stressful, I was stressing! I could see you taking a second before each try after that.
Some people feed off that, some people feed off that stress. It can be a good stress, where you’re about to get kicked out and someone’s getting mad at you; it’s like you use that for a positive thing right?

That affects me, when I can see someone in pain, or like that stressed. Like at first when they guy came at me, he pushed me and he put his arm on me, so I grabbed my board and I got in his face, and then he backed down, and I went for the trick. Then those next few tries I was flailing all over the place. Then I saw him shaking, he came up to my face again and he was fully shaking. So I told him to breathe, I was like, ‘calm down, relax, take a breath.’ Then I’m on the run-up also shaking, but like you said I just started taking time to breathe for each try, and I got the trick in like four or five goes. That was like the ultimate test for me, we always get put in these situations. Like I said it’s not like I’m just floating around, like nothing will ever get to me, it’s more like when it does come, how far you gonna take it, where you gonna go and how much are you gonna let your body suffer from it. Stress will start to deteriorate your body. So for me, simple breathing techniques can get my mind exactly where it needs to be at any given moment.

Simple breathing, like how?
Deep breaths, abdominal breathing… Focus on only breathing, like before those tries I was focusing on my breath coming in and my breath going out, and it circulating through my body. Then I’d open up my eyes and it would just be like, now there’s the trick. It sounds pretty crazy to talk about like this ha ha.

Yeah but I watched it happen!
Yeah you saw it, but for someone else reading you can only relate to when you’re in that moment. It’s not about just getting the trick; I don’t want to have that stress running through my body. Then there’s that disconnect, I want to connect with that person that’s still coming at me, that’s why I told him to breathe and calm down. Then after that, maybe not for that reason, but you saw after that he did calm down, got on his phone then slowly walked away.

He certainly did.
He wasn’t attacking us anymore, is there something to be said about that? Either way the energy was there, we both calmed down, then he left, we got the trick and we left. That’s one thing I’ve learned so much about myself, you don’t have to go to a class, you don’t have to go to the top of a mountain to meditate, you don’t have to set aside an hour. Wherever you’re at, just sit, and stop and give yourself time to breathe through something. I don’t care if it’s 30 seconds or a minute, I think about life in present moments, each moment in life can either hurt you, or help you. That’s how I’m able to bring myself back to make a little more of a conscious decision.

And then you just get the trick, easy really.
Yeah then you land every trick you want ha ha.

What’s your opinion on the rich, white, yoga mum paradigm? They strive to embody a lot of these principles, but potentially as more of a surface aesthetic. Is that to the detriment of the integrity of that way of living?
Honestly I’ve never really thought about that, but if someone is moving towards helping his or her own life out in anyway possible, and even if it’s something that’s a trend or a movement, or something that makes you think you’re doing it – you’re not even doing it from a deep place, I think that’s life. Without something to attach yourself to or connect yourself to that, it’s hard to even get to that deep place. Like it could be surface at the moment, but in a year from now that person becomes a yoga teacher on the mountains, because they’ve connected with themselves so much deeper. So to me, any steps someone’s taking to better themselves, or our earth, or animals, or us as one, I’m all for it. There’s nothing negative about that in my mind.

That’s a good perspective on it; it’s a way to spread positivity.
You never know too, someone can be having so many issues in their life, surrounded by negativity, but they have these positive moments that inspire them, and all of a sudden that snowball effect happens. For me personally, I don’t see where judgement even comes in, would you want to be judged on everything you’re doing? Especially if you’re trying to do something better. If someone is judging me, I’m not going to let it affect the way that I’m moving forward in my life.