Isle Vase Interview: Nick Jensen And Sylvain Tognelli

Isle skateboard’s first full-length video Vase by Jacob Harris has been eagerly anticipated. Now it’s here (if you make it to one of the premieres that is; otherwise you’ll have wait just a few more days). So to reduce the agonising wait until DVDs hit the shelves or the download link in the Theories store comes live, we’ve picked Isle’s Nick Jensen and Sylvain Tognelli’s brains about vase research in pottery class, Isle team riders’ equivalents as flowers and acceptable artyness in skateboarding.


Kingpin: While trying to get in touch to do this interview with you, Sylvain and Nick, you were busy with pottery class one time and another time you went to the museum. Has this all been vase research? If so, what’s the conclusion?

Sylvain: Yeah, vase research, fully.

Nick: The conclusion is: I’m making my family their Christmas presents!

KP: So the family is getting a skate video for Christmas?! Why are you guys making a full-length anyway?

S: Because we don’t know what else to do. Well, actually I think we never had a shot at it, and so we wanted to do one.

N: In my opinion, doing full-length is quite old school now, so we thought it would be quite interesting to take this old school approach. Thinking outside the box. Going back in time.

KP: What’s a good skate video for you?

N: Photosynthesis (Alien Workshop, 2000) is my favourite video… wait, no Mouse (Girl, 1996) is even better. I’ve been skating for three years when that came out. Welcome to Hell (Toy Machine, 1996) is another really good one. I’m old as fuck, Sylvain could be my kid!

S: A lot of things make up a good skate video for me… music… I guess you need to be able to relate to it. When you see somewhere else in the world and you get a connection. That’s important for me.

Nick: “Good skaters, good filmers, good ideas, good music, good editing; go out skating, have fun. Simple as that!”

Sylvain: “For me you could do a skateboard video without too much skateboarding – as long as it gives you this feeling of how skateboarding feels like”

KP: How did you try and put this to work in Vase?

S: When Jacob and I started going out to film I couldn’t really film anymore. I felt like I didn’t know why we were even filming; with so many clips coming out… For example we went on this trip to Athens and I remember having a really hard time because I didn’t know what was good. In the end I re-learned that it doesn’t really matter what’s good – but instead you should have a good time doing it.

KP: So, I’m 14, and I’ve just dribbled and dropped my jaw watching Nyjah’s “OMFG” and hit like on P-Rod’s insta-post depicting his 2Pac board series… How would you try and get me hyped on Vase?

S: I wouldn’t try to get you hyped on Vase. If you feel like digging into skateboard culture everything is accessible enough these days I believe.

N: Maybe you would like the music choice? Haha. Hard one to predict, perhaps the atmosphere and skate spots would feel different and inspire you?

KP: Skateboarding as a bunch of pretty flowers: Which ones form the bouquet that goes in your vase? Which Isle rider is the rose, the columbine, the gladiola…?

N: Good question, I would say we don’t like to clash too many flowers, but I would like to think we have a good variety that compliment each other.

S: The rose is definitely Nick, I don’t know what a columbine is and Shier is the gladiola 100%!

KP: How arty would you say a skateboard video can be in this day and age?

S: A skateboard video is a skateboard video. It’s a cultural product. For me you could do a skateboard video without too much skateboarding – as long as it gives you this feeling of how skateboarding feels like.

KP: I’m asking because I read you, Nick and Vase filmer, Jacob Harris, were a bit uncertain of the right direction for Vase, in regards who you wanted to reach.

N: Well, if you’re starting a skateboard company in this day and age, with skateboarding being so oversaturated, you want to make sure you do something original. So, of course we want to do something arty – but we don’t want to be pretentious. We want to be fundamentally about good skateboarding and good videos. And there are simple rules to that: Good skaters, good filmers, good ideas, good music, good editing; go out skating, have fun. Simple as that! I think we do actually have some good ideas. And good ideas have a depth to them and therefore they’ll always be good. Whereas if you haven’t got good ideas, you force them and then they’re shallow. That’s what I believe in.

KP: I think this shows and I admire that. I also think this is allows you the freedom to do cool things. Not only looking at numbers, but rather believing in what you’re about.

N: Exactly. Because if we do a set of boards, and they don’t sell very well, we don’t think: Oh! Don’t do that again! Because then you would always chase something short-sighted. Because maybe in time people might look back and think: Oh, those were the best graphics…!

Sylvain: “The rose is definitely Nick, and Shier is the gladiola 100%!”

Nick: “Good ideas have a depth to them. Whereas if you haven’t got good ideas, you force them and then they’re shallow. That’s what I believe in!”

KP: Would you see Vase in the same line of rather sophisticated Isle CI? Do you see yourself as preachers or ambassadors of arty skate aesthetics?

S: Preachers is a strong word and even stronger is “arty”. Isle comes from Nick’s studio and Nick is an artist. There is a lot of thoughts and energy put in graphics and what we put out in general but I think that most of the time it comes down to finding a good balance or a certain feeling, not respecting an “art intention”. Also every skateboard graphic is art, even the plan B ones. We are art amateurs so yeah we do go to museums and galleries, read and discuss about it etc… if that’s what you mean. But that doesn’t make you an artist.

N: I definitely don’t like to preach, I think we just follow our instincts and not to ignore the influences of art and culture outside of skating.

KP: So are you pleased with the result as far as Vase is concerned?

N: I am so excited, I’ve got up at five in the morning the last five days! I’m really happy to be involved in it, and to have such good friends along with me. I can’t wait to get this video out there.

KP: What’s the most exciting thing about Vase for you?

S: Chris Jones section because he really went in! He might not be so known outside the UK, but this should definitely change after people see this.

N: Yeah, I’ve seen him get up at 6:00 just to be able to skate a spot, putting his back into this project, quite impressive. Inspiring. For me starting this company and having people dedicated as him on makes me really proud. But I could say that for everyone on the team, that’s why it’s so good. We joked at like we’re the boring team that do their homework on time and we tuck ourselves into bed before ten on trips… not very rock’n’roll!

KP: What’s your fondest memory from filming?

S: Just spending time with these guys. This might sound cliché, but we’re such close friends, we know each others girlfriends and so on… So being on trips was the best time.

KP: What gets you most stoked about skateboarding these days? Which motivation went into making Vase?

S: What gets me the most stoked these days is when I see kids skating without filming, or putting it on Instagram. I believe few of the kids in Berlin deleted their Instagram. I think they stopped skating too, (laughs). In a way I tried to put this in the video. I found it hard to film at first because so much is coming out these days, I didn’t know what to bring and how. I had a really hard time on this first trip in Athens, talking with Jake I realised that the only way was to try to keep having fun and stop filming as soon as I was getting mad. So yeah, I tried to do that through the whole thing. Have fun.

N: It sounds a bit cheesy but I seriously believe because were all good friends and get stoked to skate together that motivates me the most.

KP: What did you personally try to achieve with your input to Vase?

S: Well, for me it was a bit weird because I had some family issues in the middle of filming. So, I didn’t really try to achieve anything, I was just running after something. But I didn’t really get to it. But it’s fine. It triggers my imagination for the next project as well, and I can say I’m happy with what I did.

N: I guess some people might not know this: But we don’t actually have the money pay a filmer to work for us or do loads of trips. So, Jacob living close to me was my opportunity – and I wanted to rise to it. I wanted to do something that wasn’t shit! I didn’t want people to think: “Man, he’s obviously spending too much time doing his graphics!” I wanted people to actually care about it and be inspired.

KP: What’s the best reaction you got from the first premiers so far? What did you not foresee at all?

S: The reactions are really positive. I don’t trust this much positivity, I think people are not being honest (laughs). It’s funny to see what tricks make people cheer on different premieres, it’s always changing.

N: People are really liking the music which is a bonus.

KP: Thanks guys and good luck with the next premiers!

The Isle team will continue their Vase premier tour through the UK, then on to the US, and mainland Europe at some point. Look out for the DVD’s to hit your skate store soon, or download your copy online via Josh Stewart’s Theories store. Should be available for your viewing pleasure in early December.


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