The Brains Behind the Brand, with Pass~port


Photos by Thomas Robinson

When it came to singling out some of our favourite Aussie brands for MC #58, Pass~port was a no-brainer.

One of our favourite exports in the skate world, they’ve managed to forge an authentic identity and community that’s attracted not only a huge following, but added some of Australia’s best skaters to their roster as well. We were going to bore you with our soppy spiel dedicated to all things Pass~port, but then we decided we may as well give it to you straight from the source. We asked some of the brilliant and ravenous minds behind the brand to interview each other, which they kindly did through mouthfuls of Mexican pub food. Take it away, boys.   

Cameron Sparkes

Sparkes: I guess we’ll start off by introducing ourselves.

Trent: I’m Trent Evans and I’m the owner and director…

Sparkes: You are Pass~port.

Trent: No, that’s you. Ok, I own some of it, yeah.

Sam: My name is Sam Thornton and I work in the warehouse with Trent and do a bit of animation and a bit of everything really.

Sparkes: I’m Cameron Sparkes and I do all of the sale, customer service, blowjobs, that kind of stuff. I do some of the filming alongside some of our other videographers. That’s all I do. So a good starting point would be—how did Pass~port start, Trent?

Trent: It all started in 2009. I was working for other skateboard companies doing graphics… (food buzzer goes off).

Sparkes: Ooooh nachos. That’s my beeper. I’m a drug dealer, too.

Trent: I started the company out of spite for what was going on in the industry at the time, a whole lot of nothing in Australia especially. Kicked things off pretty small with another guy who fucked me over hard at the beginning, but he’s gone now. Alive still, but probably one of the worst humans in the world, and gone from the Pass~port world. Anyway, It’s grown from there and we’ve built a good little team of people who surround us now: Sparkes, Sammy…

Sparkes: And the nachos.

Trent: The bloody huge nachos and a team that spans from Australia to the UK. We had some people in the States, but they lost interest in being our friends. Sammy does a lot of the animation stuff and is my man on the ground every single day. What did you get up to today?

Sam: Bit of warehousing, animation, reconfigured a Greek flag to make it move.

Sparkes: He’s an improviser. When did you get into all the animation and stop-motion stuff?

Sam: When I started interning for Trent, we kinda just made it up. Josh (Pall) was about to put his part out and we thought it’d be a fun idea to muck around with some of the old graphics and see if we could animate any of them. Initially, I just taped my iPhone 4 to a lamp and took hundreds of photos. It worked out, but the rig these days is a lot more professional.

Sam Thornton

Sparkes: Where’s that lamp now?

Sam: It’s in a special section in the warehouse, the archives.

Sparkes: Not that Pass~port was the first brand to ever do stop animation, but… hang on, wait, are we?

Sam and Trent: No.

Sam: Keeping an element spliced with the skate footage always helps to keep it interesting.

Trent: Oh, indeed because it’s some pretty mediocre skateboarding.

Sparkes: And some pretty mediocre filming. Would you say that Alien Workshop has been one of your bigger influences in how the brand has come together aesthetically?

Trent: Definitely at the start it was, I was a huge fan. But it’s more about it not just being about skateboarding, it’s about being creative and expressing the brand and the idea behind someone’s personality through graphics, animation, whatever.

Sparkes: God, these nachos are good. If we plug the Courty [pub in Newtown, Sydney] for doing good nachos, I wonder if we can come back and get free ones or something.

Trent: A question for Sparkes—he’s our guy on the ground in terms of filming most of the boys in Sydney, can you tell us one little story about one of the boys?

Sparkes: Oh man, I’ve got heaps, spicy numbers. I haven’t even been filming for that long which is kind of a half-truth. I used to do it back in the day, but not really that seriously, I never really released anything or whatever. (Phone rings) Oh my god. Cuba is calling, Trent. The country of Cuba wants to stock Pass~port right now. Put Fidel on the phone, I want to talk to him. Pass~port is now available in Cuba, worldwide G. Yes, we will accept cigars as payment. Anyway, I used to film Richard Jackson a lot when he had a VX 1000.

Trent: Name droppin’.

Sparkes: Yeah, just gotta pick up all the names. When we first started filming, Trent got the VX and it was like, “Ok, let’s go out to these gnarly spots with the guys who’re making career-making moves, and you’re going to be the guy that films and you know what you’re doing right?” Meanwhile, I have a wet patch around my groin area. There’s probably a bunch of times where I really fucked up there.

Trent: But you know how skateboard filming is, it’s not always just about the filming. It’s about motivating, driving somewhere there, mentoring them. There’s a lot to the whole thing, and that’s something I think you bring to it that’s not really just about filming. It’s more about getting cunts out the door and making things happen.

Sparkes:  Well thank you very much, I personally don’t think I do any of those things. But especially filming someone like Josh Pall who’s constantly motivated to go out and push themselves. I think the best thing about Josh—and this is not meant to be said in a detrimental way by any means—it doesn’t come as easy for Josh as it does for the other guys who are at the top of the pack there in skateboarding. Josh works his fucking arse off every single trip that you see and never gives up. That in itself just gets me motivated, even just in life, seeing what Josh goes through. Fuck, what was the question again?

Trent: On that filming thing, what motivated you to incorporate Super 8 16mm really heavily into the edits?

Sparkes: I guess it came from the videos I grew up watching, but as well I think that Super 8 and 16 brings that side of graphics and art direction that I’m into because it looks like a moving painting. That, with all the animations, makes it exciting for me… aesthetically pleasing. And you shoot photos, Sam?

Sam: Yeah, I do a lot of the product shots.

Sparkes: (Whispering) Aside from that, talk about the cool stuff.

Sam: Ah yeah, my side hustle. I like taking photos as well, not so much skate photos, but whatever I find interesting.

Trent: That’s what excites me about everyone who’s involved in the brand, everyone’s got kind of a DIY element to them. Sammy making a zine, Sparkesy out on the streets, I’m still trying to skateboard myself somehow and shoot clips. Everyone has a passion and there’s a lot of community within the brand and the skaters, and that’s a good feeling.

Sparkes: It’s always been a team decision before putting anyone on as well.

Trent: Exactly. Even recently, we put on Jason Rainbird from Melbourne, we put the word out to the whole team and got a positive response from literally every single person involved in the company. It was a no-brainer to get someone like that on board. We’re trying to build up the new gen. We’ve got a few fat old cunts on the team, we’re trying to replace them with beautiful skinned 21-year-old bodies…

Sam: Marketable.

Trent: Marketable, exactly. Board sellers. We’re trying to do things as organically as possible—it’s one thing to put on a couple of young kids, but it’s another thing to put on a kid that sits with the brand, sits with the older dudes, the younger dudes, the people within the company.

Sparkes: It’s harder than you think though, getting the right person to fit in with the brand, it can be a real challenge. But every choice that’s ever been made has been a wise one, definitely no regrets ever. Trent just crushed a schooner glass in his hand.

Trent: They’ve all been pretty good.

Sparkes: We’ve been blessed with a really great group of people, ’cause I’ve worked with some fuckwits previously.

Trent: Name them, name them.

Trent Evans

Sparkes: If these nachos could talk. But really, everyone knows that you get stuck with people who you really have to be on and be like, “Hey, are you out skating? You need to be getting this, everyone else has a part ready to go and you don’t have a thing.” I don’t think we’ve ever really had a major problem with that.

Trent: Oh, there’s been some ups and downs, smiles and frowns, but all in all we’ve been very lucky as a company and as a team. Very, very exciting things to happen very soon, some cool collaborations. I was gonna spill the beans on some other stuff but…

Sparkes: Spill the beans! This isn’t even gonna come out until… I dunno when this is coming out.

Trent: Well watch this space, really. Or rather, watch the internet. Keep print alive! Watch this printed space is what I meant. We’re working on a video, some projects, lots of fun stuff happening. And lastly, we recommended the large nachos from the Courthouse.

Sam: Can you hear that crunch?

Sparkes: That’s the crunch of a satisfied guy.

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