CAN I GET SOME OF THAT?
The Lucien Clarke interview from Kingpin issue 103, July 2012
Interview by Suart Hammond
Photography by Sam Ashley
If you live in Europe and you’re into skateboarding (hey, Kingpin readers!) then you probably already know about Lucien Clarke. Born in Kingston Jamaica, raised there and in Jamaica Queens, NY, Lucien landed in London at eleven years old, where he discovered skateboarding, got steadily shit-hot at it, then went from little grommet to long-limbed worldwide cool-guy in a smooth couple of years.
Now Lucien Clarke is one of the best skateboarders out: insanely laidback, dumb-stylish, always chilling, always nice, super talented and all like, brave and shit. Watching him skate recently I’ve been struck by the idea that somehow Lucien makes skateboarding look even cooler than it already looked. And I think we can all agree that it already looked pretty cool. How does he do that, skateboarders of Europe?
I’ve spent loads of happy time in Lucien’s fine company (PWBC) and we live in the same city, twenty minutes walk apart, so it seems perfectly fitting that when it came down to it, we had to conduct this interview over the phone. Lucien is the King of hard-to-pin-down. Don’t expect to meet him in an appointed place at a precisely appointed time, as a general rule, is all. Anyway the thing is; wherever, whenever he does show up, Lucien is universally beloved and I salute him. Get a load of this guy: everybody likes him. Because he’s cool as shit! Have you seen Tres Trill? Helloooooo!?! On Sunday, March 28th, 2012, while I was in bed at the Palace, Lucien phoned me from an unknown number, from a loud place, laughing, several hours after the appointed time of our interview.
So where are you right now Lucien?
I’m in Shoreditch House [Jazzy east London members mega-club], man! Some girlfriend birthday-dinner thing. It’s funny! Mad fun out here.
Did you have a nice time back there in New York?
I had a banging time man. I had the fucking best time.
Lev had talked about us trying to curb your partying too much out there, so you could get those Supra clips…
Yeah he did that a bit. One night he was all like, “No getting too fucked-up for you tonight mate…" And I was like, “Aaaaw yeah, fair enough." Only one night I went in really hard. The last couple of nights I was there, when I didn’t see you guys, I went skating at night with Rob [Harris] and I got some stuff. I got a few tricks, it was fine man!
Flip back tail
You did go pretty hard though eh? I mean you’re the only person I’ve ever seen fall asleep in the street outside Max Fish…
Yeah! I didn’t even remember! Lev sent some Palace group email the next day, and he had a thing at the end saying, “Yo Lucien! Are you alright? You fell asleep outside Max Fish last night man!" I didn’t even remember it. He got a cab for me and I had no memory of it at all. Got back to the Green Diamond house at six in the morning, and Rob’s flat mate Zach [Malfa-Kowalski] was walking out to go to work. I said to him that it was perfect timing: “You’re going to work, and I’m just getting in." New York’s just one of my favourite places to skate man. I love it there.
It cracked us all up how in your old Kingpin interview you said you loved New York because you had your “First kiss there…first grabbed some titties…"
Where I used to live in Queens, it was on this block, and there was like a dead-end where we used to live, and I was in the middle. And in the flat at the end there was these two girls, called Melissa and Marrissa; these two banging black girls. And, next to them, there were these two dudes, and one of them was into basketball or whatever – we all went to the same school. It was me and my brother, and next door was some crazy African kids, and we’d always play baseball outside or whatever, and every now and then we’d get around in a little circle and do a game of truth or dare. So one time I was like, “Yeah DARE." And one of the older kids said, “I dare you to touch her chest." And I was like “YEAH! I’ll touch those motherfuckers!" She had big tits man. I was like “Yeah, this is going to happen, right now." I couldn’t believe it, man.
Happy memories. How old were you then?
Fuck man, I think I was eight or something? Young, man! And she was a bit older too, I think she was thirteen. And she had massive boobs. It was good.
Why did you get into skateboarding in the first place?
Well my Mum’s boyfriend at the time got me my first skateboard. I went past Hyde Park, you know the Albert Memorial bit?
Yeah that’s where Lev started skating…
Yeah loads of people started skating there. I don’t remember seeing Lev there, but loads of people skated there. I just walked past, on like a daytrip kind of thing, with the new boyfriend, and I was like, “That looks amazing," and he bought me a skateboard. You know Slick Willy’s? From there. And I started skating in sandals man, I didn’t know you had to get like proper skate shoes. I skated in sandals for a good couple [of] months, until someone came up to me and was like, “Get some fucking skate shoes man!" So I got a pair of Duffs and then I haven’t really stopped since then, pretty much.
Did you have any idea that skateboarding existed when you lived in Jamaica?
Nah man, no idea at all. I lived in Jamaica till I was five. The last year I was living there I got mauled by six German Shepherd dogs. I was at the tree trunk, and then all of a sudden I’m trying to fight these dogs off, like kicking and punching at them, and they nearly killed me, man. I’ve got scars all over from that shit; big one on the right side of my head, at the back. And I got one on my belly and one on my leg. I nearly died though man, seriously.
How about when you got to Jamaica, Queens, did you see any skating out there?
I had no idea about skating at all until I got to London man, none at all. I used to skate with these two friends, Matthew and Jack, and they lived just a couple of blocks down the road from me [in Victoria, where Lucien’s lived since age 11] and we used to skate everywhere. Everywhere being like, all over Victoria. Just skating around there; we didn’t know anything, like where to go or whatever. We were hopeless, but we just skated round there and that was it. And we’d shoot little videos and shit. The first person I ever filmed with was my Mum, actually. Just at Victoria benches. I’d do like, ollie up, one foot scooper thing off, and get her to film it. She’s sit out there for a good hour or two, and I’d be like, “Please Mum! Just another half hour, please!’ I just wanted to have a look and see what it looked like, you know? See what it looked like on TV, check myself out, ha ha.
Did you have mates at school who skated?
Yeah, I had this friend called James – he still lives down the road from where I do now. But back then he used to lie to me man, we used to lie to each other, tell each other like, “I can do this, I can do that." Like back then he was telling me that he could do melons and I’d be like, “Aw shiiiiiiiiiiit really!? Woah!" And I knew I had to retaliate, so I’d be saying that I could do 180 melons and shit. I don’t know. Just being fifteen and just lying about tricks and stuff. It was cool.
Do you think Southbank has had a big influence over you?
Yeah man, definitely. Vicky benches [now-knobbed, legendary Victoria bench spot, ruled-over by Toby Shuall] and Southbank. I miss Vicky benches a lot, man. But when it got knobbed I was like eighteen or something, so by then I’d just be hyped to go skate somewhere else.
Who was dominating Southbank back then?
Mike Wright! He used to come down there loads. He used to come down with his Dad and he’d just kill it. Him, P-Nut, Joey and Snowy… Lev as well man – back then, he was doing like, good tricks on blocks and shit.
He’s still doing them, man! Was there a point back then when you suddenly realized you could make a proper go of skateboarding professionally?
Um, yeah, a little bit. I was done at school, and I was at sixth form, and Element said they were going to pay me to skate, and I was like, “Oh shit, I can really do this, and earn some money from it." I was finished school, and doing waiting jobs, silver service and shit.
So when you realised you could skate for a living, did you let your studies fall by the wayside a bit?
Yep. Straight away. Straight away I was like, “Naaaaaaaa!" I hated school anyway. I really didn’t ever like it. So I was like, “Fuck it, I just wanna skate and make some money and give some money to my Mum," and that.
Oh you. You’ve done pretty well to avoid getting any serious injuries, haven’t you?
Yeah, I know. Touch wood, man. I’ve never had a properly serious one. I’ve broken my left wrist twice, when I was fourteen, and I had to get two metal rods going through it. And then I broke it again, a week afterwards. I was out with the cast on, trying to crooked grind the ledges at the Shell Centre, and I just snapped it again. That’s been it. And like, maybe a few sprains or whatever, but that’s about it. Touch wood. Touching that wood right now, man. The table.
Are you looking forward to the Palace trip to Denmark and Sweden tomorrow?
Yeah of course I am! It’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to it – it’s going to be good.
Lev says you're not allowed to smoke weed on tour. Do you think that’s fair?
Yeah. Yeah, that’s fair. I prang out a little bit sometimes, when I smoke it, so I prefer not to in some situations. Especially on a trip. Now and again, it’s fine.
It’s weird that there are certain skaters, like Chewy [Cannon]or Karim [Bahktoui] for instance, for whom weed almost acts as a kind of performance-enhancer, isn’t it?
Yeah well not me man! Not me. It doesn’t help me skate at all. Every now and again – but I ain’t trying to do that too much, you know? It does what it does for Chewy, but not me.
I wanted to talk about the way skate-fan-girls tend to gravitate towards you like they’re magnetised. Why do you think that is?
Oh, okay… I don’t know about that. I think Supreme might have helped out with that. Palace and Supreme. I mean, that [Supreme] look-book thing [Lucien modelled in it], all of those streetwear people, all the trainer freaks, all those weirdoes look at it, see that shit out there.
You were supposed to work in the Supreme shop weren’t you? What happened on your first day?
Oh man! I was two hours late! I was two hours late, but only because I actually thought I started then. I spoke to James [Jebbia, Supreme] in the party, the night before; Ghostface was playing, and it was really loud. Obviously, in retrospect, he said, “Nine." But I heard him say, “Eleven." I honestly thought it was eleven. So I showed up at eleven and there was already a massive line of people walking in. I was like, “Fuck! What’s going on?" I walk in, and I see James’s face, downstairs, and he looks up and it’s just the look of death. And then I walk into the back, taking my stuff off, and Jagger’s [Dan Ball, Supreme] there and he’s just like “Na. Sorry man. See ya later."
So you got fired before you even started?
Yeah, pretty much.
It’s nice how, even after you dealt them that par [LDN slang being used here as ‘unprofessionally’] , they used you as the face of the gear in the look-book that season…
Yeah, I guess so. And James was cool afterwards, you know? He was just like, “Everything’s fine. I just didn’t want to have a reason to fire you." That’s cool, coming from James – quite gnarly. I gave him quite a good reason, straight off. Oh man... Fair enough.
Nollie frontside flip
You’re living back at your Mum’s now, what’s your average day like?
Yeah I’m back at home now. So usually I’ll wake up. Erm, eat. Call some people up, see who’s around. Call Steph [Morgan], usually – Chewy or Rory or Lev or whatever. See if Sam [Ashley]’s around to shoot photos. Then just go out and skate; see what happens.
Is Smasher your favourite skate photographer then?
Yeah Smasher’s my favourite, man. Even though he’s mental. I like how mental he is. He’s mental innit? He’s taken all the photos for this interview, so I’m stoked. He’s definitely my favourite, man. I love how crazy he is. He’s just straight-faced, emotionless, Bobby Know-it-all. Mental.
Are you stoked on getting on Supra?
I’m fucking hyped man! Of course I’m stoked on it. I just went to New York to film a thing for them. I can’t wait to meet them all man. Hopefully they won’t think I’m weird, or like, gay or some shit.
Who do you really admire on the Supra team?
Oh man… Stevie Williams! Penny! Penny is sick. I’ve met him once, we got mashup one night; everyone beatboxing towards the end of the night, and he was rapping, ha ha. This was in Copenhagen. I like that kid Boo Johnson as well. Ellington, obviously. It’s such an amazing team.
What about when Supra first came out, did you like it back then?
No, actually I didn’t, no. They had some weird shoes and that in the beginning but now they’ve really established themselves, and the shoes look sick now man! I’ve been skating them, they’re fucking banging. The team’s banging, and they want to support me, so I’m like, “Fucking yeah man that’s amazing."
What do you like about being on Palace?
It’s just the best, best shit. It’s the dream. It’s the dream team. Everyone involved is just friends, like proper good mates. You go on trips and it’s all just more comfortable – you know everyone. I’ve known everyone on there for years and years. Everyone’s PWBC [Palace Wayward Boys Choir] as well: there’s no strangers. Proper PWBC.
You’re the most recent member of the gang to get the PWBC tattoo, aren’t you?
Fucking prison tattoo, man, yeah. Got a prison tat at a party. I was on a high, at a house party. There was a guy…I can’t remember the dude’s name, man. You might know him, I think Lev knows him [I don’t know him]. So he’d just got a new tattoo kit, and he was just giving out tattoos, so I was like, “Fuck it, yeah, let’s get it." I drew it out, I made sure – I mean I was fucked, but I drew one out real quick and…then he just did it. I got it in a nice little place on my right arm. So I can flex my muscle when I’m showing it off, you know what I mean? Rory, Nugget and Guy Riza need to get one, man. I can’t believe Guy doesn’t have one.
Agreed. Have you got any parting words of wisdom you want to impart to the skateboarders of Europe?
Fucking hell, I don’t know. Just skate and be yourself and whatever. If it happens, it happens. Don’t try and be someone you’re not. When you’re young, there’s so much other shit that you can get into that’s bad. Bad shit’s all around, especially when you’re growing up. So skating helps a lot. I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for skateboarding. I’d probably be a shitbag or something. I’d probably be a cunt. I’d probably get into something stupid. Skateboarding’s given me the attitude that I have now, to everything. I don’t know where I’d be without it.
How was the Omar S rave in Peckham the other night, by the way?
It was really good, man! We were all pretty mashup, we were all on a good level. We all had a good time and it was really fun. All the DJs before Omar were really good as well. I don’t know what happened to Joey, I didn’t see where he went after the first two hours or so. You know what: I don’t even actually remember how I got back to Rory’s house! I just walked into his house in the middle of the night. All the doors were open. He left maybe an hour before I left, and then I just walked into his house hours later. Front door was open, I walked in – his flat’s door was open, and I walked in. He found me in the living room and was like, “What the fuck are you doing here? How did you get in?" Your door was open mate! Shit was open.
How do you do that shit Lucien? Me and Lev came back to our hotel in New York one night and you were in there, passed out on the bed in your cap and trainers. You’d never even been to that hotel before, and you never had the key…
Ha ha! Yeah, that. I just walked up to the desk and was like, “I’m Lev Tanju motherfuckers!" They even asked for ID and I was like, “Yeah it’s in my room mate. I’m Lev Tanju!"
Ha ha. You’d better give some shout-outs now…
Big shout out to PWBC. Thanks a lot to DVS for sorting me out for all them years; big-up Supra, because it’s sick. All my friends, Steph, Mum, Brother and all my other friends who’ve helped me out. And all the people I’ve forgotten, as well. The people I can’t remember now, because I’m drunk.
Lucien is supported by Palace, Supra footwear, Slam City Skates, Altamont, Stella Supply Co., Autobahn wheels.