Tracking back to the early ‘90s, Morgan Campbell has been an active ingredient in the fizzy sourdough starter that is Australian skateboarding.
He has worn many hats—editor, filmmaker, artist, activist, and archivist—but above all, he’s a ripper, and one of the most stoked and motivated humans you’ll meet. To celebrate the release of Plant in the Desert, a brand new Josh Roberts production introducing Morgan and Casey Foley as joint Australian ambassadors for the esteemed French house of Magenta, I had a chat while Morgs was driving home from work—hands-free, of course.
You’ve lived through quite a few eras of skateboarding, and things are very different these days. But when you’re in the middle of filming for a part, does it feel the same as ever?
The process is exactly the same. If I know I’m working on a part, I’ll still try to round it out with things I want to do, and there will be things I’m sad about if I don’t get to do; it feels identical. It’s just a different outlet now.
When you work on a part, do you have a finished product in mind, or do you just want to get to the finish line?
Luckily, I film with Josh and he makes things look way better than I could ever imagine in the first place. I’m not skating big rails anymore obviously, and some of my spots are really puny. I try to skate fast, so that makes things look better, but most of it is Josh’s wizardry. For this project, the most amazing thing was seeing Soy Panday’s artwork overlaid at the end. It was like, oh right, I’m on Magenta, that’s crazy!
It’s a nice match.
I’m thrilled, I can’t believe it. The funny thing is, and I think Casey put this on record when he spoke to you, that we got on completely separately.
Yeah, it sounded like a story you guys made up.
Basically, it was quite a drawn-out process, and then there were a few months where I knew I was getting on but nothing had really happened. I hadn’t spoken to my teammates at 4 because I wanted to speak to the owners first. Then out of nowhere, Casey was like, ‘Yo, are you leaving 4 to ride for Magenta?’
‘Yeah, it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to tell you, but it’s happening.’
‘Yeah, cos so am I!’
Casey just happened to get in touch with them. I like how we just honed in on the same destination without consulting each other, you know? So it was literally a coincidence. No bad blood, no common reason for leaving, it just happened. The way I look at it, it’s sad in a way to lose two guys at the same time, but it’s also a great opportunity for 4 to get two other people. Adam Davies is on there now and they’ve got some great ams.
That new 4 video is sick.
Exactly. I think it’s going to benefit everyone.
So is this Magenta video a shared part?
It’s a shared project, and it’s about 12 minutes long. One of the main pieces of feedback we got when we sent in the first round of footage was they wanted footage of our friends. I was at a point where I had about four minutes of footage, so I spent the last couple of months messaging my mates to come film a trick. Some of those sessions were amazing because we went from me and Casey with Josh being focussed on filming just the two of us, and all of a sudden we were with 10-12 close friends trying really hard to get a clip they were proud of.
It’s the perfect formula for a good vibe.
Totally. All my friends rip in their own way, and their tricks are all so rad and have that homies clip feeling to them. Like it might not be the cover of the next Thrasher, but you know they had a lot of fun and possibly pushed themselves pretty far to get it. You feel the stoke.
I feel like that might be one of the good things to come out of this high turnover of footage. There’s more of a focus on feeling good when you watch the clip, and that makes it more relatable and ultimately memorable. The cover of Thrasher approach, by definition, turns over every month.
For sure. You can really zone out watching a section of just hammers, and it gets ousted by the next hammer thrower. Another thing about this pandemic and even the past 5-10 years is skateboarding has become a lot more localised. I’m at the point now where if I’m filming a part, I want to film it where I live. The furthest I’d go would be my hometown in Perth. If I’m on a trip, they’re the times of my life, but that’s for a separate project, a travel video. Now I’m so into skating what’s under my nose, and just working out how to skate it.
I’ve noticed you’re deep in the wallies, slappies and not ollieing stuff, which is really cool at the moment, but is also super fun.
I’m fine now, but there were two years where I could ollie but it hurt. I had some kind of impingement in my knee, like a flaky bit of cartilage. I’m not sure what it was, but it rectified itself. I think I might’ve just pulverised it, to be honest. I went from feeling this sharp pain when I ollied, which led to not ollieing. I even deliberately filmed a part where I didn’t ollie. Now, it’s convenient that it seems to be a thing that people enjoy watching. At the same time, I really don’t enjoy doing the things that are trendy at the time. I prefer to be doing something that’s forgotten, or figuring out what’s yet to be trendy. So I’m saddened but happy to see all the wild slappie and wallie variations, and different ways people can propel themselves in the air without doing the standard ollie.
It’s cool to see people get into a groove with it and push it in different ways.
For sure, it’s super entertaining. You and I are lucky because we have 30 plus years of skateboarding to reference. So many things came and went but they’re all still in our body’s memory somewhere. That’s one thing that really fascinates me, how you can rediscover a feeling and a motion that you thought you couldn’t do anymore. I’m always joking around, like, ‘I haven’t done one of these this century!’
Do you ever wonder what you’d be doing now if you’d never discovered skateboarding? It’s formed our whole lives.
It really has. To be honest, my teen years would’ve been way more difficult. I did stop riding a BMX to skateboard, so I’d say there would be something physical going on. I’d like to think I’d be making art or playing music, but I think primarily I’d be riding a BMX or surfing.
I better let you go Morgs, I can hear you indicating.
I do actually have to leg-it in a minute.
What about the music in the clip? How did you choose it?
The music was really fun. One night Josh came over here and we played music to the raw footage. My song was the first song we played and this one lyric just happened to fall perfectly on a slam and it was like, this is the song. I think she sings got me falling, and then I fall. It was a dumb, obvious line-up, but it was pretty good.
Sometimes the universe just hands you one of those.
Especially when you’re editing, it’s the most beautiful thing. If you start laughing when you’re editing, you know it’s going to work. You get goosebumps.
Is there anything else you want to say about the clip?
MC: I guess my favourite part of this whole thing was we started this at the end of our stage four lockdown and we finished it as we went into a stage three lockdown. In between, there was a ‘circuit breaker’ five day one, but the most beautiful thing about it was seeing Melbourne go from completely empty to having a CBD with people in it again. There’s definitely some shots in there where you can tell the streets are very empty. City footage doesn’t look right without people; a lot of the post-pandemic footage doesn’t really hit me in a good way. But Melbourne set the precedent for how hard you can lockdown a city with so few cases, and it was definitely a rough trot last year for everyone in this city. We definitely deserved that summer, and we relished every moment we were out skating and filming again. It was really nice, man.