Charlie Munro Interview
When you get older, as a skateboarder, you think fondly of your early years starting out. You think about those first times venturing into the city without parental supervision, the first time you landed a kickflip down some stairs, your first boardslide on a handrail, hours and hours in a car park spent with your friends trying to learn backside tailslides and so on. Chances are these were your teenage years and those were the times for most of us where we learned the majority of the tricks we still do today. So when Charlie Munro told us he’d quit skating from age 13 to 18 I was shocked. Like, for real?! How can this guy be this good whilst missing out on those vital years of skateboarding development? Charlie told us (Nick Sharratt, Justin Biddle and myself) this lesser known fact about his life as we sat in London Fields on the warmest March day of the year drinking beers and listening to stories in what was to become Charlie’s interview. A few days later I saw Charlie and he told me he had been skating for 30 days straight. Again I was floored… I guess he’s making up for lost time. -Will Harmon
Photography in London by Sam Ashley
Interview by Nick Sharratt, Justin ‘Juice’ Biddle and Will Harmon
Nick Sharratt: Alright then Charlie, you grew up in Cambridge, how did you get introduced to skating?
Charlie Munro: My older brother introduced me to all the homies that lived on our street. When I was like seven I started going out with my brother and the homies that lived opposite us had a skateboard, a BMX and all that stuff and I just thought skateboarding was the sickest thing. My brother was into it for a few years…
NS: So he stopped and you just carried on?
Yeah I just carried on with his mates actually.
Justin Biddle: That’s what happens when you get better than your brother boet!
To be honest I think I was just that annoying kid that wanted to use everybody’s skateboard, because I didn’t have a skateboard and I used to hassle people and then after a while I got a hand-me-down from my brother. Eventually I got a proper board too.
NS: And you stopped skating for a little bit right?
Yeah for like five years. So I would say I got my first board at eight and then skated until I was 13 and all of the guys I was skating with were going to Uni, as I was skating with all the older guys, and then it was just me and my mate Kizaa (Saito) who were left. He was my best mate back in the day and we’d go skate like every day and then slowly it turned to three days a week and then to once a week and then eventually nothing at all. And so I just didn’t skate for five years…
NS: So you started again at 18?
Yeah, towards my 19th birthday actually.
Will Harmon: And how old are you now?
WH: That’s pretty incredible.
JB: Those years are crucial!
Yeah it’s kinda fucked.
WH: Thirteen to 18, that’s when skaters learn like everything! So what brought you back into skating?
So I was thinking about it all the time. I was working full-time; I was doing seven days a week to be honest. I was going to college three days, working with my dad for two days and then I was working at Halford’s for two days a week. So I was working seven days a week but constantly talking about skateboarding to my girlfriend at the time and she was like, ‘just buy a skateboard! What are you doing? You talk about it all the time!’ And I told her I didn’t have time for it, but she convinced me to buy one and then eventually I started skating so much that we actually broke up because I just wasn’t hanging out with her…
WH: She convinced you and then…
Yeah it’s kinda gnarly; I was just so into skating when I picked it up again that I just
blew her off all the time. It’s kind of sad, but it’s whatever you know, I was 18 and that’s what I was into at the time.
NS: What standard had you gotten to at 13 when you quit?
I nollie heeled London Bridge at 13 before I quit.
JB: Yeah you should see the clip!
WH: Ah wait I did see that on Instagram!
JB: He was better then than he is now ha ha!
I was 100% better then for sure dude!
WH: Griff (James Griffiths) said he heard this story where you turned up to the skatepark after you had quit skating… You turned up as a little chav and you had Air Max’s on and you took someone’s board and you crooked a big round handrail or something?
They were adidas Nizza’s actually; they were sick. But I did crook this rail that I would never try now. It was this really long low rail with a kink at the end. It was like four metres and I just had no fear. It was the first time I skated again. It was at this skatepark near Cambridge in Arbury. It’s kind of weird to think about how I’d approach stuff back then, I just wasn’t scared at all.
NS: So that was when you were 18 and then I think a lot of people found out about you (who didn’t know you) through Get Lesta.
Get Lesta is a bunch of homies from up north who are keen to skate and film stuff. They link up every weekend. So when I got back into skating I went to Milton Keynes and met (James) Bush, Swampy, (Rob) Selley and all of them boys and then that linked me into meeting Callun (Loomes) and all the Leicester boys. I didn’t really come to London much, I dunno, I was driving at the time and so I just started meeting up with those guys all the time. At the time it made sense: I’d go stay in Milton Keynes or I’d go stay at Callun’s in Leicester and we’d just skate all weekend. I was working five days a week then so I’d drive to MK or Leicester on Friday night, skate all weekend, then drive home Sunday night and be up at seven the next day for work. Sometimes I’d drive to Sheffield on a Sunday morning, which is a three and a half hour drive, skate there all day, then drive back.
WH: Sounds like what I used to do in America.
Sounds like a nause up, but I used to do it every weekend and I was so fine with it.
NS: So all those Get Lesta parts you had were filmed on a weekend?
Yeah, Saturday and Sunday mostly. I was working full-time. But yeah, great times with the boys for sure. I haven’t seen any of them for a long time to be honest.
JB: We snatched you. We took Charlie bro…
Yeah I didn’t have any homies in Cambridge that skated anything other than skateparks. I just wanted to skate, so I would just go down to Milton Keynes; it made perfect sense.
JB: But I remember when we first met and then that’s how you started coming to London isn’t it?
Yeah we met in Copenhagen.
JB: My man had tight jeans, some silly Lakais on… I’ll never forget it!
WH: Tell us the story Juice…
JB: Shaun (Witherup) and I were on a Levi’s trip in Copenhagen and we knew Mikey (Patrick) as he’d just got on Levi’s and he was like, ‘I’m gonna go watch my homie skate this rail,’ and we knew this South African guy going to skate the same spot, so we all just went. It was kind of like set in the stars if you can say that? So we went with Mikey and my SA homie Brendan was there and I saw Charlie there, said what’s up, we got the introduction and Charlie was backtailing this 9-stair rail…
I was just so hyped to be out of the UK and skating…
JB: And then boom he landed it and I could just feel like there was somehow this naughty vibe with me, him and Shaun…
WH: You saw the glimmer in his eye…
JB: Yeah ha ha… When I’d come through customs I had bought a litre bottle of whiskey and I brought it to the hotel Levi’s had gotten us so I told Charlie to come back to our hotel room later that night after he’d finished skating. He did and we just drank that litre of whiskey and then it was over!
I mean from that day we’ve been inseparable since then basically.
WH: This was 2017 right?
JB: Yeah and then Charlie and Mikey started coming up to London every weekend. They came for like eight weeks in a row…
It was more like six months!
JB: Yeah well it was a long time; it was chaos!
And then eventually me and Mikey moved here (to London) together. But Justin you kind of built the bridge for us to make that happen. I was never going to move to London if I didn’t have mates here already, so you made me feel more comfortable…
NS: So you didn’t just move to London to make it in skating?
No, I moved here to be with friends.
JB: We were egging him to come move here.
WH: And then when did you finally move here Charlie?
May 2018. Nearly three years, that’s crazy!
WH: But in that time just before you moved here you already had some good sponsors no?
I was riding for Lakai when I would visit and stay with Juice. I would also sometimes stay with Nick the Bastard (Nick Richards) and then I ended up going to Hong Kong with him. There in Hong Kong I met Anthony Claravall and long story short: if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have gotten on New Balance.
WH: Was it hard to quit Lakai?
It was hard because Matt (Anderson) is definitely a good friend of mine. He’s a great dude, but there were a few promises made to me and so much shit that was spoken about that never materialised. We went on a Lakai trip with the US dudes and it was kind of a mess. But the silver lining of riding for them is that’s how I met Mikey. After that Lakai trip we became best mates. He’s from Kent and I’m from Cambridge and we had this amazing connection between ourselves. I’d call him like every week and we’d talk for at least an hour about whatever, and then we’d meet up in London together. It’s kind of nice how it all worked and then in a few months Mikey and I are moving in together, I don’t know if you know that.
WH: Mikey was saying that yeah, sick.
Yeah I’m stoked.
NS: I mean it’s hard to spend an hour talking on the phone with Mikey and not fall in love with him ha ha.
He’s the best.
NS: So maybe the diplomatic way to say this is that the way you wanted to enjoy your skating was kind of going in a different way than the Get Lesta boys’ way of skating.
Yeah for sure…
WH: And you saw more of a future with your type of skating at New Balance than with Lakai?
Yeah 100%. (Dave) Mackey and (Mark) Baines are obviously the best humans and it just felt right. Also it made sense as Manny (Lopez) and I were becoming good friends and he was already getting bits.
NS: It sounds like all of the sponsors you got and all of the things you’ve gotten through skating have just been organic.
I guess yeah…
NS: You’ve not chased anything.
I’ve never asked for any sponsor… Actually, other than you! (Nick owns/runs Palomino skate shop)
NS: Yeah but that’s basically how people skate for the shop: I just get bullied into sponsoring people!
JB: Nick’s the only dude you have to ask to ride for! Please let us ride for you bro! Ha ha!
It’s just like the best shit and I wanna represent my boy you know!
NS: Cheers mate. So how did Primitive happen? There are not really teams that are much more stacked than that and would be a more intimidating thing to say yes to.
Originally it came from Wes (Morgan) at Rock Solid. I think they were looking for a dude in the UK and they hit me up. And I was skating for my homies’ board brand Milk at the time, but people were leaving for whatever reason so Wes hit me up and I said I was down to try and see what the boards were saying and then as soon as I said that he was like, ‘Ok cool the boys are going to come over.’ This was in like 2015 or 2016 I dunno, and the brand was so new at the time I didn’t know what to think.
WH: But it was just a UK distro deal at the time right?
Yeah UK distro; not much pressure. Then when Wes spoke to the dudes at Primitive they must have been hyped as they ended up sending Devine (Calloway), Diego (Najera) and Trent (McClung) with Kev Perez over on a week filming mission with me and the Get Lesta boys. And that was within a month of saying yes to getting boards from Primitive and then they were over here skating with us so I was like, ‘fuck, that’s amazing.’ And because they made that much effort, that’s the reason I was down. And everyone I’ve ever dealt with in that brand has been so fucking rad and generally a really nice human.
NS: Well it seems like with Primitive they’ve really looked after you; you’re not just the UK flow dude.
There was a period of time when I wondered if it was the best option, because think of the dudes that are on the team you know! I can’t compare to that shit…
JB: Yeah but when we were out in LA they took us to the parties and all around; they’re the fucking best dudes man.
Yeah, as everything goes, I owe so much to those dudes man. Oli (Oliver Barton) is always there if I want to talk to him and he always makes time for me. Oli is a huge driving force as to why I love Primitive so much.
NS: So in a way having Oli there and speaking with him kind of took the intimidation away from riding for Primitive?
Yeah for sure. I had a call with him a few months ago that really resonated with me. He was like, ‘everything you’re doing is exactly what we want; don’t change anything. Just do everything that you’re doing right now and that’s perfect.’ And from January they started paying me; it’s banging!
NS: So are you making a living now from skating, a liveable wage?
I am. I mean there are still some contracts that I haven’t signed from other sponsors, but it’s looking good yeah.
NS: Do you think Primitive are going to put out the first all ginger dual part with you and Giovanni (Vianni), ha ha?
Fuck I hope so ha ha! I’d be so down; Gio is the sickest! Would be a nice little transition too: UK and then Brazil. It’s completely different.
NS: Three of your main sponsors (New Balance, Primitive, Levi’s) are ones that some people might be sceptical about their motivations and yet these three really hook you up the most and look out for you. And Levi’s we haven’t talked about, but as far as the European team they seem to have the best crew and you can attest to this too Justin… It’s a gang!
JB: It’s a good squad man.
Yeah we’re all friends and they’re all great dudes man.
NS: And all those companies deserve credit where credit is due as they supported you throughout this last year, even with no real trips, through the pandemic. Because we all know some of the bigger companies out there have just dropped people last year like, ‘ah sorry it’s tough times…’
For sure yeah. I feel super lucky.
JB: Gents I’m sorry I have to go sort something for work on my work laptop at home.
All good mate, you gotta do what you gotta do.
JB: Charlie bring the boys to the yard after!
WH: In a bit mate. Later Juice!
NS: OK I feel like when Cover Version came out it was like a little marker in the history of British skateboarding. It was purely independent…
WH: All filmed in the UK…
Mostly all in London too…
NS: And it was pure motivation too. Motivation for skating and creating something…
And we all just fed off each other too. (Dan) Magee being Magee, you know what he’s like, he’s such a little bastard, but in the best way. He motivates you in a way that’s different to most people you know? But within that the whole crew just kind of fed off each other and it was sick skating with Korahn (Gayle) and (Sam) Murgatroyd – I love that dude; Sam’s the best.
NS: And again, totally organic. No cynicism in creating the crew, the crew just created itself.
100%, and the only reason I was included in the video is that I randomly met Manny who was filming with Magee one time. I hadn’t even said hello to Magee yet and we are at this hotel in Vauxhall and Manny tried this rail. The security guard ran out and tried grabbing his board and I just snatched the board out of the security guard’s hand and I just laughed in his face like, ‘good luck mate!’ And then after that Magee was like, ‘yo, that was fucking sick! Let’s go film a clip!’ And then we filmed a clip that same day and after that he was just like, ‘let’s get it!’ And then I wasn’t in London at the time, I was driving to Epping, an hour and 20-minute drive from Cambridge, then jumping on the end of the Central Line to head into central. I’d hang out with them boys all day, go skate and whatever, and then go back to Cambridge. I was still working full-time then. I eventually quit my job as they (Dan Magee & Kevin Parrott) kind of forced me to, ha ha.
WH: What was this job?
I was an estimator for a building firm. I was going to Uni one day a week, studying construction management, which could lead on to surveying and all that’s stuff. Sort of like an apprenticeship thing: working four days a week and then one day studying that stuff at Uni. I’ve always… I mean I’ve been working on site with my dad since I was 13 you know? It’s been second nature in some way; it felt natural. So I was kind of leading into that stuff but the whole time I was just thinking about skating. Whenever there was a sunny day I’d just be staring out the window like, ‘fuck this work!’ you know? So I had finished my first year at this Uni and I ended up getting this award or some shit and they contacted my workplace and told them that I had done so well in Uni and then I got called into the office and they put a contract in front of me to sign with them for seven years. And I was like, ‘dude I don’t know what I’m gonna do tomorrow let alone in seven years’ time!’ and I ended up quitting my job that day and I think they were kinda bummed.
NS: Has your dad supported that journey you’ve taken?
WH: Yeah has your family been supportive of you just skating now?
Uhh… My mum’s always been super supportive, but my dad it was only lately that he was like, ‘oh shit he’s actually surviving on his own in London with skateboarding.’ So until just recently he was always really sceptical. In hindsight the best decision I ever made was quitting that job, but at the time, I was unsure. And then within six months from then I moved to London.
WH: And into the Zol Mansion!
NS: Yeah do you want to talk about the Zol mansion and explain it to people that don’t know?
The Zol Mansion was this old derelict building in Holloway that… To be honest if it wasn’t for that maybe I wouldn’t be in London right now. It was a live-in guardianship, super-cheap rent and a way for me and Mikey to get into London. The building was an old Army barracks and it was like a full skate house. We had so many homies stay there; we had all the Texas boys (Roger crew) come through, John Shanahan and his mates… It was a complete shithole, but there was room for everyone. At the time it was amazing, there are some very fond memories from that era, but I’m so glad I’m out of that place now.
NS: Any good stories from that place?
It had a cover (in Grey)! We actually shot a Palomino ad on the roof as well! As for stories there’s none that spring to mind that are safe for here, but I know Trizzo (Tristan Rudman) is working on some bits for an article somewhere along the line.
NS: How many people actually lived in that place?
There were 23 rooms I believe, but I mean fuck there were four people living in my room at times so who knows how many people were actually there.
WH: What about the impromptu parties on like a Tuesday night?
Ah man it was kinda hectic. I’m definitely guilty of initiating a weekday wave at times, but you know when you’ve been out skating all day and when you get home you just wanna chill, have a cup of tea, smoke a spliff, watch some TV and go to bed, but then I would walk in and there would be a bunch of homies in my living room listening to music and drinking or whatever, and it’s not like the walls had any acoustic value, so yeah you’d just have to get yourself involved or sit there one door away pissed.
NS: I feel like Mikey got picked on the most there.
WH: I remember seeing some Instagram stories of you guys going through this bag of his shit and just rinsing him, ha ha!
NS: The one with Mikey trying to go to bed and his bed is filled with Monster drinks!
Ha ha yeah! I used to work for Monster… Ok this is a good story: we used to have this blag towards the end of our time working there, and depending on who you were working with… So we were working for Monster and we’d have to go give samples out throughout London, but what we’d do is I’d drive to the office from Holloway, fill the van up with loads of Monsters, drive into central London and for the first hour drive to like four different spots and just get photos of giving out drinks to just a few random people. Then we’d drive back to the house and literally sit there all day smoking weed, playing PlayStation and every few hours just send photos to our boss like, ‘ah yeah we’re here giving out drinks. This is how many we gave out…’
But we’re at my house, smoking weed playing video games and chilling, ha ha, and then by the end of the day I live right by Camden and people there go crazy for Monster. So we’d go to the office in the morning at 10am, send photos like every two hours and then head back to the office at five so high, probably shouldn’t have been driving, and then we’d pull up in Camden and in like ten minutes 1000 drinks would be gone. People were so pumped! Then we’d drive back to the office, gave them the keys back for the van, and we were like, ‘ah yeah it was a good day, people were happy,’ and just talk complete shit to them and fucking yeah, they never clocked on.
WH: That’s so good, ha ha!
Yep! But I should also add that having that job at Monster was the reason I was able to live in London at first. That was my income at first; it was like £100 a day or something. That job is what kept me afloat for the first year here.
WH: You’re working on a part with Kev (Parrott) to accompany this interview right?
Yeah a Free x Primitive part. It should drop sometime in the summer after this interview is out. We just want to try and film a vibey part. It’s something we’ve obviously worked hard for, but just skating you know… Because I feel like Cover Version was amazing, but you watch one clip and you miss the next trick, do you know what I mean? It was edited so quick as that’s the vibe they went for, which was amazing, but I definitely don’t want this part to be like that. I just want it to be different.
NS: Again it comes back to what we were saying before; you’re doing a part for this huge company (Primitive), where you might imagine it’s like, ‘you need to do this; you need to do that’ but you’re allowed to go out there and just do a vibey part and that’s what it is…
Yeah maybe it’s because they know I’m out doing stuff all the time, but I’ve never felt any pressure from Oli or Taylor (McClung) or none of them guys. They just seem super happy with what I’m doing, which is a blessing really. I feel better than I ever have done…
NS: If people could see your work ethic… I mean I suppose it speaks for itself.
I haven’t had a day off for ages. I mean yesterday was my day off but I still went skating…
WH: You skate every day?
Now I do, but in the Holloway/Zol Mansion days no way; I was skating three days
WH: You had to recuperate from the party…
Yeah I was partying too much. Now I’m on a schedule. I just skate… Especially because if skating is kind of what I’m doing, I’m gonna focus on that. You know what I mean?
WH: Yeah totally. I think someone mentioned you were learning coding?
Yeah obviously it’s been a bit hectic trying to get this interview done. I’ve been out with Sam (Ashley) and Kev or Sam and Quenno (Quentin Guthrie) like every day that we can so I’ve been super focused on this, but I was studying coding for like a month during the second lockdown. My girlfriend actually just got onto this coding camp course, which she’s done super well on. It’s like a seven grand course and she managed to get a scholarship to get on the course. So she motivated me to want to learn. Just everything that comes with it… It’s basically just problem solving. I mean there’s a lot to it; I don’t know fuck all to be honest, but it’s interesting. But as soon as I feel like I have a bit more free time, I’m definitely going to jump back into coding.
WH: Do you feel like this is something you’d get into years down the line after skating?
Maybe, but to be honest I’m learning it just because I find it interesting.
WH: Tristan said to ask you about the Haggerston fight.
Oh that was fucked up…Yeah so this was the Zol Mansion days, we left the Haggerston pub, walking back home, super drunk, and I remember walking past this bunch of people and for sure they called me a wasteman. They said something, and me being me, and especially because I was drunk, I turned around and said, ‘what the fuck did you say?’ And then they were like, ‘oh we weren’t talking to you.’ And then I was like, ‘oh ok, fair enough, sorry,’ and then I walked off and then the next thing you know I hear footsteps coming from behind me, I turn around and then someone started punching me. And then there’s six dudes trying to beat the fuck out of me.
WH: Who else was with you?
Shaun (Witherup) and Tristan were there, and bless them they fully stuck up for me, but we all got fucked up to be honest.
WH: Six against three yeah…
I mean at times it was six of them against just me. I remember running around cars thinking, ‘ok I can’t fight six!’ So I’d run around a car and fight two and then I’d run off again and then after five minutes you’re so tired…
NS: You said it went on for a long time?
I mean I was so drunk and I remember it being so wild. There were all these garbage men on the road I remember as well it was like that early in the morning. I was running around cars trying to fight them and shit and then I remember all six of them just on me at one time and I just gave up. And then the next thing I know I wake up in the hospital. Or I woke up in the ambulance sorry…
WH: Fuck! That’s gnarly…
And then I remember we went to the hospital, me and Tristan were there I don’t know where Shaun went, and they were taking so long, so we were like ‘fuck this!’, discharged ourselves and we went straight home and there was blood all over me and I was like over it. And weirdly enough I was supposed to meet Steve Douglas for the first time the next day. And he calls me in the morning and he’s like, ‘hey man,’ in the nicest way, as he is, ‘hey man you alright? What time you want to meet today?’ And I’m like, ‘ah dude… Today’s not a good day. I got myself in trouble last night.’ And he’s like, ‘where are you?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m at home.’ Then he’s like, ‘send me a location, I’m coming!’ So I’m like alright, so he comes to my house and as soon as he sees me he goes, ‘dude, I’m taking you to a hospital right now.’ So Steve and I got in an Uber and got to the hospital…
WH: I’m sure Douglas is no stranger to brawls…
You know the beautiful thing with that is? It was that Ben Raemers came and joined us in the hospital. It was me, Steve and Ben and that was one of the last times I saw Ben and he sat in the hospital with me all day waiting for me to get stitched up from the bullshit that happened the day before. I had to get some stitches in my chin… I still have a scar. But them two being there helped so much… You know what I mean?
It’s a weird thing to think about. I’d never met Steve before and the only connection I had to Steve was Ben. It was such a weird scenario to happen, but such a beautiful one at the same time. So the silver lining of that is: yeah I got fucked up, but I wouldn’t take it away because I got to spend the next day in hospital with two great individuals… That’s a memory for me you know!
NS: Do you think Ben taking his own life and everything that’s happened in London skating, and skating in a wider sense, in the past 18 months… Also skating seems so less macho now with so many more women and trans people skating and it not being just white dudes… And the terrible thing that happened to Ben, well people are prepared to talk about their feelings much more right?
It opened up all of our eyes. There’s no good in being silent about something you know? That’s one thing we learnt from that situation. If there is a silver lining it’s that if you have something going on then talk about it with your friends no matter how hard it is. Ben definitely, whether he meant to or not, brought the whole skate industry closer. And it’s a sad thing, but a beautiful thing that happened. Skateboarding needed that change, but it didn’t need that to be there to make the change.
NS: Well that’s not ‘if there’s a silver lining’ that is the silver lining.
Yeah 100%. I openly talk to my friends about anything, you know… I feel so open with my friends now and I think it must be the same with everyone else or I’d like to think it is. All my friends are very open. If you’re not open with your friends then who are you open to?
NS: And everyone has experienced this past year in a different way. People ring each other up just to like, ‘how you doing mate?’
Yeah just to chat, check in and see what’s going on. It’s been a difficult year for everyone of course. I’ve had my moments for sure. But my friends are the reason I’m still up.
NS: Yeah boy! (Nick and Charlie give each other a fist bump.)
And you have to be that person for your friends too you know, even if you’re feeling shit or whatever, talk about it. Definitely me and Juice, we’re so there for each other. So many gnarly things have been going on in both of our lives and if we weren’t there for each other we’d probably be losing it. Obviously him and his family and I’ve got shit going on with mine, but us having that connection helped so much and it definitely keeps us on the right path. He keeps me on the straight and narrow but also, ha ha, he keeps me on the straight and narrow but also fucking hell he gets me into some shit ha ha!
WH: That’s a good friend right there!
He gets me into some shit but also I know he has my back 100% and that’s everything. How about a toast to my friends!
Cheers to Benny Boy, we love you.