Photo by Brian Gaberman

Thomas Campbell on Latest Skate Film, ‘Ye Olde Destruction’

The artist Thomas Campbell has made a skate film called Ye Olde Destruction, and it sounds very different to what we’ve come to expect from a skate flick.

‘When I think of skateboarding,’ says T.C., ‘this is seriously a punk rock activity—it shouldn’t have parameters. Nor should film.’ It’s shot on black and white 16mm, it doesn’t have your standard trick-trick-trick flow, and it features dudes like Evan Smith, Jon Dickson, Jason Adams, Rick McCrank, Max Schaaf, Dennis Busenitz, Tony Trujillo, Caswell Berry, Brent Atchley, Arto Saari, Elissa Steamer, Ray Barbee, Al Partanen, Omar Salazar, Jackson Pilz, Ben Raemers, Chris Russell, Willis Kimbel, Rayne Barres, Keegan Sauder, John Whitworth, Cole Wilson, Jeremy Leabres, Aaron Suski, Mark Suciu, Eli Williams, Nick Garcia, Javier Mendizabal, Raven Tershy, Barker Barrett, Zack Wallin, Chico Brenes, Louie Barletta, Collin Provost, and Stefan Janoski among others.

Sounds amazing, no? We gave Thomas a buzzzzzzzz.

What’s the premise of Ye Olde Destruction? I know there’s two carloads of skaters, but is there a storyline?

It’s kinda loose. At first, I wanted it to have a storyline, like, this one crew and another crew, and there was going to be some kind of altercation. But in the end, it just worked out that it didn’t have to have a storyline, and I like that better.

So, you were going full Stacy Peralta narrative video, and then it changed?

I wanted it to be more or less what it is, with a minor altercation that leads to a smash-up derby at the end. I kind of came up with a different way of bringing them together and it being more natural and fun.

And it’s all shot on film?

It’s probably ninety-five per cent film and a little bit of other stuff.

How long is it?

I don’t know yet–it’s not done.

It’s not finished?

Not yet. I’ve cut together a 35-minute edit and the band No Age is going to be doing the soundtrack to the film. Next week they’re gonna do, like, a live improvisation of a 35-minute edit. They’re gonna improvise to that.

No Age Recording YOD Soundtrack. Photo by French Fred

That’s amazing. So, is it edited together like a modern skate flick, or…

I think that’s probably one of the most interesting features of this film. When I started making it, I thought that it was going to be more of a quick-cut, modern-feeling piece. But, at the end of the day, that’s just not me, and I don’t edit or see things like that–especially when you have this beautiful 16mm film. So, the pacing is different to what you’re getting in modern skateboarding films, and the music will be more atmospheric. I’m not saying I’m reinventing the wheel or anything, but the feeling and experience is going to be different. Probably a lot of people might not like it, they’ll just be like, ‘What the fuck?’

It sounds cool.

Yeah, it feels pretty cool.

Louie Barletta. Photo by Brian Gaberman.

Does it have that ‘skate everything’ kind of feel?

Yeah. Skating (everything) was what I always felt like skateboarding was. I started skating in 1974, and, coming through the 80s, I always just saw skateboarding like that; and it became more divisionary in the 90s. My feeling about it has always been ride everything, whatever. That’s how my friends and I always looked at it.

How do you feel about the current state of skateboarding?

I think it’s at this really beautiful point right now. People’s approach, they’re just like, ‘Yeah whatever, I’m gonna wallie off this.’ People like Evan Smith just don’t give a rat’s ass, he’ll just do anything he wants, whenever, he doesn’t care and I love that because that’s what skateboarding is: freaks just doing whatever the fuck they want.

Photo by Jai Tanju

And that’s how it should always be, right?

Yeah! Anyway, skateboarding is at a really great point, and (this film) is almost a celebration of what it is. There are some throwback ideas to it, and we did some fun stuff; we built a bunch of fun stuff. This one trip, we were down near the Mexican border with a nice crew, and I really wanted to build two quarter pipes on the car. One at the back and one at the front and people could do tricks from the quarter pipe at the front and across the roof. We were trying to go down to Slab City but it just felt weird, and we didn’t really wanna deal with the people there. Al Partanen, one of his friends gave us the coordinates to this, like, reservoir out in the middle of nowhere that no one ever really skates. Basically, we just went down there for two days, camped, built these quarter pipes and skated there for two days. It’s interesting cause we did go skate a bunch of other stuff on that trip, but that thing, that energy and feeling, and inclusiveness of that experience… I’m probably not even gonna put any of the other footage from that trip in the movie–it’s just that. The trip went for six or seven days, and that was just two days, but like everything else just falls to the side because of that energy. We’re making other edits that won’t be in the film but anywhere, it was really cool.

Nick Garcia. Photo by Thomas Campbell.

How did you finance the film? It’s not a branded thing, right?

So, what I did was, my friend Lee at Creature Skateboards, he has been really helpful with the film. He helped me get 50 raw skateboard blanks, like with the veneer sticking up, glue dripping off, no holes. Like big ones, big blanks. And then I gave those to all of my community from the art and skateboard world and everyone painted these blanks, then I’ve been auctioning them off. It’s a really long list and everyone really helped out, such a crazy, awesome group of people.

Photo by Thomas Campbell

Who were those people?

Andy Jenkins, Barry McGeeTodd Francis, Simone Shubuck, Richard Colman, Tim Kerr, Neil Blender, Ed Templeton, Cody Hudson, Ron Cameron, Jenny Sharaf, Russ Pope, Sean Cliver, Tod Swank, Chris Reed, Fernando Elvira, John Herndon, Evan Hecox, Jeffrey Cheung, Shepard Fairey, Chris Duncan, Steve Claar, Mat O’Brien, Natas Kaupas, Lori Damiano, Jason Arnold, Jay Howell, Nathaniel Russell, Max Schaaf, Todd Bratrud, Brian Lotti, Geoff McFetridge, Jeff Canham, Jim Houser…

Wow. And that paid for the film stock and everything?

The film was more or less six years in the making; we did a lot of trips. So, it didn’t pay for everything, but it really helped. I didn’t want to have sponsorship.

Photo by French Fred

Is it all going to be in black and white?

Yeah, all black and white.

That’s going to look beautiful on the 16mm, all grainy and stuff.

It’s interesting because it gives it this nice continuity regardless. There’s this guy name Sergej Vutuc and he’s doing all the type for it, I think he might be from Czechoslovakia but he lives in Berlin. That’s interesting because I grew up making zines and trading them with Tod Swank and Andy Jenkins and Fred Conrad and all those people, and Sergej seems like the modern iteration of that zine idea. It’s cool to incorporate him; it feels like a really natural movement.

So, when is it officially coming out, when can we go watch it?

It’s going to come out in December with a book, and the only way you can watch it is by getting this little book with a download code.

Is it a photo book?

Yeah, people like Brian Gaberman and Jai Tanju, Arto Saari, French Fred, and Anthony Acosta and myself shot all the pictures. Once the book kind of sells through or it feels like the right time, we’ll release the film online for free.

When you say smash-up derby, were you literally smashing the cars into each other?

Yeah! It was really fucking awesome. It was an awesome spot in the middle of nowhere, with hills around it.

Was it dangerous?

It was dangerous as fuck. I’m really happy that it worked out and no-one got hurt.

See more from the Dane reynolds Guest Editor Issue, right here.

Smash-Up Derby. Photo by Jai Tanju

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