Iannucci Made Me Hardcore

Illustration by James Jarvis. Words by Ted Barrow.

‘Something that is even trivial, or ephemeral, or even crassly commercial as a jeans label could be vested with a kind of meaning, a belief, a symbolism.
Hardcore means that you’re a believer, you believe in the truth of this thing, even if the truth of this thing is essentially inauthentic, it’s just more crap, but you’ve said that crap is worth something, in a kind of alchemical way. You turn shit into gold, that’s kind of what that means.’

–Mark Leckey, artist talk at Haus der Kunst, 2015.

Was it Napoleon Bonaparte who said, ‘to understand the man, you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty?’ The truism has survived in some form, regardless of attribution. I was twenty in 1996, and I saw the end of a once major cycle in skateboarding, and quickly saw the next take shape, leaving an indelible mark on my life, constituting the luminous lens through which I see the world to this day.
Let me explain: in 1996, the three best skate videos of that year — arguably the decade — were Toy Machine’s Welcome to Hell, World Industries’ Trilogy, and Girl’s Mouse. Dan Wolfe released Eastern Exposure 3, 411 #19, and Thrasher’s Skate & Destroy were also released that same year. In the US, it was a great year for skateboarding, perhaps the best year for US-released videos featuring American pros ever, the height of the nineties. The inevitable fusion of east coast plazas and west coast schoolyards all forged this powerful and stylish form of street skating, often set to absolute bangers in hip- hop. On this latter note, it’s nearly impossible to hear certain songs from that era and not be able to name the tricks, in sequence, that were edited to them. Consider Gino Iannucci skating to Method Man in 101’s SNUFF, Mike Carroll skating to a B-side Heiro single, ‘burnt’, in Questionable, or, hell, Gino’s whole part to that ‘Motherless child’ instrumental in Trilogy, where he does the hardflip at Lockwood at the beginning and ends the part with a nollie 180 switch back nosegrind shove it behind him on a table, a trick so mind-blowing that, in the same video, Joey Suriel remarks ‘oh shit’, as they’re re-watching the video so
far, before illicitly popping their tape into the editing dock, showing footage which was set to, of all things, a little-known rapper named Jay-Z’s song ‘Ain’t no n****’, (another song that will forever be connected to those skaters and that era).
A year that began with Eastern Exposure 3 and ended with Mouse, in which both Biggie and Tupac died, 1996 seemed like the fullest expression of one style of music and skateboarding, and I was twenty. Then 1997 happened. What made the following year so different? Well, after Tom Penny swept Radlands in 1995, he and his cohorts had then moved to California. A Flip Industry section intimated things to come, a crack in the wall of the edifice that was the US skate industry. Towards the final few years of the last millennium, the shift towards European and Brazilian skateboarding was set on its inevitable course. Cliché skateboards was founded, the European video magazine franchise Puzzle began and, arguably, the ‘Euro gap’ made its debut in, of all places, Wembley in 1997.
After the manufactured and real coastal beefs and hard-knock posturing of the early nineties, hip-hop split in two directions after 1996: mainstream and independent. Puff Daddy and Bad Boy led the mainstream camp, with ostentatious shiny suits and simplified tracks about luxury, while the backpack mixtape movement became its own sub-industry that manifested in things like Brandon Turner skating to Company Flow in 1998’s Guilty. Not everyone enjoyed the bounties of this shift. In his book ‘The Tao of the Wu’, RZA describes the shift that happened in 1997: ‘The year 1997 was very important in the Wu-Tang Clan’s history. It was the year of 9 and 7, the year of Born God, 9 and 7 is 16, and 1 and 6 is 7. This was a rare year, rare chance. I felt like we were being called to reunite for the good of the world.’ But things did not go as planned. Wu-Tang released the double LP ‘Forever’, and the group imploded on an over-extended summer tour. His girlfriend left him for someone else and, as he describes, ‘on 9/7/97 I became humble. Ever since then, people have met a humble warrior named RZA.’; in skateboarding, Andrew Reynolds would soon acquire a bowl cut (like Tom Penny). Things would never be the same.
Rooted in the Greek word for home (nostos) and pain (algos), roughly translating to ‘homesickness’, nostalgia is what usually happens in periods of inevitable change. By the turn of the millennium, skateboarding had entered its own nostalgic phase, with the On Video series, premiering in 2000, that offered documentary- style stories on skateboarding’s history. The millennial fear of the future triggered a deep dive into the past. Videos took on an archival turn. We are mired in nostalgia today.
Around this time, in 1999, the artist Mark Leckey made a video called Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a montage of found footage that traces homosocial dance subcultures from the Wigan Casino, a legendary Northern Soul club, and then moves through the Casuals scene, to culminate in the early ’90s rave culture. The work offers an eerie parallel to skateboarding’s own development through the seventies, a link between the two subcultures that has already been explored in these pages by Ben Powell. Leckey’s re-mixed video montage echoes what we do in skateboarding videos, almost resembling Alien Workshop’s Timecode (1997), where unexpected imagery evokes a subconscious narrative. Mapping his own autobiography onto other people’s footage, Leckey captures how certain moments in videos, and how we experience them on our own, consti- tute a shared collective experience over time, linking skaters on different continents, over different eras.
But of course, there’s nostalgia and there’s nostalgia. There’s a healthy, accommodating nostalgia and that has to do with accepting that this never-ending search for home can teach us to be more compassionate. Call that ‘reflective nostalgia’: using the past as a backdrop to locate ourselves in the present. And then there’s the despair-filled, reactionary nostalgia that can’t accept things the way they are and wishes for things to return to the past. We also risk conservatism. Skateboarding is a form of home-coming, a way to find balance through leaning into the flux of inevitable change. Perhaps the truth in the dictum about what was happening in the world when someone is twenty is less about the specifics of, for me, 1996-97 (though it really was the best year), and more about the notion that at twenty years old, nostalgia creeps in. It can be good, or it can be bad. Whatever made you hardcore, be it Fiorucci or Iannucci, keep that close to your heart, but don’t stay stuck in the past. As the hours of bland khaki cargo- shorted skaters that filled the chaos sections of 411s will attest, not everyone was as cool as Gino in 1996.