Mike Arnold Interview
‘It’s sort of like going to see a film but the more you pay the more epic the film gets’ explained Rob. ‘And it’s often a horror film…’ Mike added excitedly. ‘So you feel it. You really fucking feel it.’ Trading crypto-currencies, that’s what these two brothers were on about here. It’s the first topic they really got into when I interviewed them together for this article. ‘I find myself enjoying the possibility that my cryptocurrency portfolio could be down three grand when I wake up. Or up five grand from when I fell asleep! I just like living with that and being okay with it. Because things are so unpredictable in your life anyway, you might as well try to understand that feeling and enjoy it.’ Mike went on explaining. From that moment onwards the conversation just got dodgier and dodgier to the point where they were both left saying ‘oh god, what if mum reads this’ and admitted that last time Mike had an interview in the mag, they had to cut out some of the pages of the copy she was shown. ‘It ends quite abruptly this no?’
So what you’re about to read here is The Mike Arnold Interview, attempt no.2: the sk8 edition.
Funny how it still ended up being pretty naughty…
Photography by Alex Pires
Interview by Arthur Derrien
The first thing I wanted to ask you about is your trip to SF. Not the time you went with all the Drift boys, the one after that. You went out there at the end of a winter when you weren’t really skating very much and when you got back you suddenly seemed super hyped on skating again… What happened out there?
Mike Arnold: Ah yes… That was after the infamous December of 2017. The height of the crypto market bubble, ha ha. I think I just really needed to get away from London, from everything. So I rented an airBnB and stayed with this old couple. I was doing a lot of drawing and writing, I walked around a lot, they would bring me breakfast on a tray every morning… It was really nice; exactly what I needed. That December kind of took us all down a bit and well that trip was kind of my rehab.
When I was out there I also skated with Ryan Garshell and the GX boys quite a bit. Being with that crew at that time really did a lot for me. I’ve never really been around another crew that loves skating as much as they do. If they’re at a spot and the session is slowing down, someone will just say ‘Twin Peaks?’ and they’ll all go and bomb a hill for half an hour, which is like the most fun thing you can do on a skateboard basically. It really felt like with them the emphasis was on rolling around and trying to feel something, feel the city…
So looking for sensations over always trying to make something.
Yeah. Especially Pablo, he really embodied that ‘let’s have fun right now; we’re free’ mentality. Rest In Peace Pablo. Rest In Peace Ben. It just made me realise what a crew can be… Not that we don’t have fun here.
Obviously but if you guys are always working on something specific, have deadlines, etc, that changes things.
Yeah and just having the hills… You don’t really have to put that much effort into having a fun skate with them around, you can be impulsive about it. I think that changes the way you approach it all… And it’s just such a beautiful city. So yeah it definitely rekindled my love for skating.
In London you just never know if you’re going to have a fun skate…
Yeah! You might go out but not even actually skate.
I really want to go back and see more of the ‘routes’. Ryan has got endless ‘routes’, like ‘when this particular light goes red and this particular one goes green then you’ve got this window and you can hit all the green lights all the way down for 20 minutes. And there’s one of these windows every three minutes’ and they know exactly when it is, which is really cool. And they’re proud, they want to show everybody; they want to watch you smile and enjoy it.
And watch you get a little shook too I’m sure…
Oh definitely ha ha. And it is terrifying. Every single time.
Did it not get easier towards the end?
No I actually dialled it back a bit towards the end. When you’re around them you think everything is okay because they are all seasoned but after a while I was a bit like ‘there is actually a high risk here’ ha ha.
And it’s not like you don’t enjoy a little bit of risk… Have you been through other phases where you’ve been over skating a bit? Do you ever question what you do for a living?
For me skating has always been there but there have always been periods when I needed breaks. Especially when I was younger since I grew up in the countryside, some weekends instead of going to Lloyds I’d go mountain biking. Or go to the sand pit or run around the city with all these freaks in tracksuits to do parkour. It was well fun… Parkour is one of the coolest, most accessible things you can do. You’re doing it when you walk out of your front door kind of! You don’t need any equipment apart from incredibly baggy tracksuit bottoms ha ha…
But yeah I definitely do go through phases of not wanting to film anymore… I sometimes get so passionate about trying to come up with ideas and filming tricks that I come up with things I can’t actually do. And it’s tough… It’s that passion that drives me to the point of insanity and ends up killing it for me. And then yeah I have no choice but to remove myself from a particular groove I’ve put myself in… That’s exactly how I feel right now.
Ah fuck. So you haven’t landed the nose manual yet? (Editor’s note: Mike’s been trying to nose manual up to Big Ben road gap and nollie it.)
No. I think I’m going to have to go to New York tomorrow to remove myself from ‘the nose manual’. I don’t like ‘the nose manual’. Me and ‘the nose manual’ are not friends.
How many times have you tried it now?
Ten. I can’t even believe how many times I’ve been robbed. And you can only go from 7pm because that’s when it starts thinning out, but it’s still always busy. People are still always taking photos outside of the phone boxes. We’ve taped up all the phone boxes over there so people think they’re out of order but people still want to get photos with them despite them being very obviously covered in tape. The other day we had a right argument with a group who had to get these wedding photos in front of the specific phone box I needed to skate right past because it had the ‘best light’.
Funny to think of these two very different groups fighting over a phone box despite neither of them actually wanting to use it for its original purpose.
We saw one thing that was really cool though. There was this queue of people who couldn’t stop laughing as they were taking photos of each other pretending to be calling from one of them. I was like, ‘Why… Why is this still funny to people?! I don’t get it.’ (I’d been there a lot of times at that point) But these guys spent like 20 minutes there so I got curious and went over and it turns out they were all deaf! It was a party of young deaf people and it was hilarious for them to pretend communicating via this object that you can only hear through. In that case I was actually like fair enough, that is really funny. You guys have it, that’s way better than what I’m doing.
Shame I’m not gonna land the bloody nose manual.
So are you done with it now?
I might try one last time. But it’s so horrible; when you’re in so deep you just have to keep trying because you can’t fail. But I might fail… I’ve tried so many different ways of moving, tried with terrex adidas climbing shoes with extra grip and even glue gunned super coarse p40 sandpaper to my board.
Fuck it, just glue your board to your feet ha ha.
I’ve thought about it but that would be cheating I reckon. And I need to push. It’s about how much grip you can get without sticking to the damn thing. Velcro has been thought about though ha ha… It’s pretty funny thinking about all the ways you could do it. I wouldn’t actually do this but if you drilled a hole through your board and shoe to put a bolt and screw that could work… So the shoe is stuck to the board but you can’t see that it in the footage.
So back foot?
So you’d have to push mongo up to it! Ha ha! Actually maybe at this point that doesn’t even really matter anymore…
The way you think about skateboarding is pretty unconventional… What do you draw inspiration from outside of skateboarding? What about within skateboarding?
Surfers… Paragliding… Although it’s hard to draw inspiration from that because it’s just so different. Skiers, gymnasts, dancers…
What kind of dancing?
I’m not that clued up on the different genres of dancing but for instance I’ve found myself watching a lot of ballet just because ballet dancers are so disciplined with the way they move their bodies. It doesn’t look very free but it definitely looks very beautiful. Skateboarding’s funny when you compare it to something like this where they have trainers, a very regimented way of moving and the aim is to be as close as possible to the correct choreography. If you get it slightly off, if it’s slightly different from the prescribed technique; then you’ve done it wrong. With skateboarding it’s encouraged to do it wrong. When someone has their own very special way of doing something and it almost looks like they shouldn’t be able to do a certain thing… That’s the most exciting stuff. I’m trying to think of a good example…
Yeah exactly. That being said I also absolutely love Shane O’ Neill and everything he does is done with the ‘perfect’ technique…
Any other skateboarding influences that that people might not expect? I know we share the same passion for Bob Burnquist footage.
Ah Bob Burnquist… I love that he skates like it’s street but on vert. And all the no grab stuff… Switch as well! I don’t know, it just really looks like he’s rolling the dice on so much of what he does, like the board could just separate itself from his feet but it just about doesn’t. I love that.
You do love a good roll of the dice… So sick that you guys sent him that Drift hoody ha ha. How is the Atlantic Drift clothing coming along? What exactly is your involvement?
Yeah it’s going well. I do the designs basically. It’s fun; it’s good to have another project on. It stops you going mad with skating, helps you not feel like you’re just some trick monkey that has to do stunts. It helps me remember that ‘the nose manual’ doesn’t define me ha ha.
And having several things on helps you come up with ideas across all the things you’re involved in rather than being trapped in this one thing you can’t stop thinking about.
Completely different subject but might bring us back to where we started: this front flip over the car… You showed me the original. Tell me a bit about that, why it never made it online and then about redoing it for your welcome to Isle ad.
I actually got sent such a funny message from these guys in Brazil when we posted that one for the ad. It was like ‘hey hey we tried to do your trick!’ and a video of this guy driving towards his mate, the guy tries to do the front flip over it only he doesn’t get very far and just smashes his mate’s windscreen. It didn’t shatter it, it kind of just bent in and they’re all laughing about it. No one got hurt or anything, it’s just quite funny.
I guess that’s kind of a hint of the dangerous trend you could have started if you’d put the original one online…
The original one was fucked. We were in Portugal on a night out and the idea came from the barrel roll over the bins in the hippie jump Atlantic Drift. I started thinking: ‘What about if the obstacle was moving as well?’ and then you have a car, which is perfect. But then you had to find the right car, one with a smooth body, low and ideally short so you don’t clip your legs before you get onto the roof… Like a Peugeot 206 is perfect ha ha. Also ideally you’d want it to be driving uphill so you take off higher and don’t need to jump as high. And yeah I just tried it on a random car on a night out.
So gnarly… How did it go down?
We sort of waited for the perfect conditions… Like 20 minutes or something. We had Jake Johnson spotting, Ryan (Garshell) filming, Rémy (Taveira) was there, Alex (Pires) was there… I remember being like, ‘Alex, come with me, I really want to try this!’ And him being like ‘no way man, I don’t want to be a part of this’ but I reminded him he’d fucked up my photo that day and he had to be like ‘uuuurgh… okay’. So yeah I tried it and it kind of worked but also sort of looked like I just got run over.
Then the guy stopped right?
Yeah and we all had to run away…
It’s a very good thing you didn’t put that one on the Internet…
Yeah it was a little bit like ‘what are you doing…’
Just a little bit yeah, ha ha.
In my head I still feel like it was much safer than it looks, but maybe just because I spend quite a lot of time upside down.
And then the one you did in ‘controlled’ conditions, the one that made it online, that was actually Jensen driving the car right?
Yeah it was him and his wife’s car and obviously they have a kid so they need this car to drive baby Gene around. I remember we gave Nick a fedora or something so that it would look like a random person… I don’t exactly remember what but it was definitely a rubbish disguise ha ha. On the way up on that one I hit my hip really hard on the top of the windscreen. So I smashed part of the windscreen and dented the roof in. You can even hear me as I walk away going ‘aaargh’ because I bruised my hip pretty bad. But it flipped me so good!
Did you practice going slow and stuff first?
Yeah I practiced loads going slow and figured exactly how many miles per hour I needed him to drive for it to work best and just went for it. Thinking back to it that was really scary… I’d set up this whole situation where I’d got Jake (Harris) down there to film, Sam (Ashley) was there to shoot and I kept thinking ‘I don’t even have my board with me, what the hell am I doing?’
If there was ever a time to question the vision I’d say that was it, ha ha.
I’m still questioning it now I think. My parents definitely didn’t like that one… I mean it was a controlled, calculated risk.
That’s you in a nutshell.
Emphasis on the risk ha ha.
And I’m guessing Nick had to call Fran (his wife) to explain what had happened to the car? Did he explain how it happened?
Yeah we all went to the pub after and he called her straight away.
I bet that was a funny conversation.
Yeah ha ha. I think she was fine with it just a little confused… That was a fun day.
That was right at the end of that same winter we spoke about earlier right? Because to me it also kind of felt like a turning point for you and skating and being in London and stuff. Like it sort of marked the end of that phase of not skating as much etc.
Yeah it was… God knows what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to SF to reset. I wonder what I’d be flipping off now? Maybe I shouldn’t have gone…
No no no no… Ha ha.