Joey Pressey Cycled from England to Scotland to Save Southbank
We had a chat about his 874-mile cycling trip with his dog Stella, being pro for Heroin and Landscape, and living in the home of Palace Skateboards.
Illustration: Rob Mathieson
Joey Pressey is one of those supremely enviable skaters. He's got the kind of nonchalant style where you know he's skating for love of it, while also being super productive, filming multiple video parts for Heroin Skateboards in the early-2000s – and later its sister brand, Landscape – while also finding the time to shoot some bangers for NY-based filmmaker Josh Stewart's iconic underground classic Static II.
I met Joey at his Waterloo house, The Palace – where the London brand got its name – while working on the Long Live Southbank campaign. Around that time, Joey left pro skateboarding to focus on playing music professionally, but that didn't stop him from helping out every day with LLSB's efforts to restore the original Undercroft. Last summer, Joey announced his plan to cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats with his dog Stella – of Stella Supply fame – to raise funds for LLSB's new campaign to restore Southbank back to its original size and state.
We had a chat recently about his 874-mile cycling trip, being pro for Heroin and Landscape, playing live guitar for Stewart Lee and life in the home of Palace Skateboards.
VICE: You skated for Heroin with Fos, who's also a No Comply member. How did you get on and how was it skating for them?
Joey Pressey: I'd just moved to London and had a flat to myself in Ladbroke Grove. I was really straight – had stopped drinking and smoking – and was on a mission, skating every day at the then-PlayStation skate park. One day, Fos offered me cheap boards on the tube on the way home, and it went from there. I met Snowy [Daniel Kinloch] and we clicked, then I was on the team. I loved skating for Heroin, skating with Fos and Alan Glass, Pizzer [Chris Pulman] and Snowy.
What about Landscape? Are there any stories from those days you want to share?
Landscape was a natural progression, really. Toby Shuall had started showing me around town and my skating changed. I was a park rat before discovering new spots, and adapting changed my skating, so it felt more suited to a team like Landscape. I have fond memories of those times, and we had the best team – a really rad inspiring and creative bunch.
What are your thoughts about the relationship between skateboarding and music?
Skating and music both give me relief from negative feelings and make me feel good. Skateboarding is my release, so when I got into it, I went in 100 percent straight out of the gate. The pure chaos of skateboarding silenced the constrained thought patterns I felt from going through the education system as a kid. For me, personally, music is the thing that was attached to skateboarding from the very first VHS skate video that I watched, so the soundtracks of those videos were a subtle steady influence on me.
How did you come up with the idea for the John o' Groats trip, Joey and Stella's Bare Long Mission?
I was a food delivery courier in London for a bit, then I met an amazing musician who one day decided to just do his music without compromise and has made a success of it. I thought 'fuck it', and I bought a trailer for my bike and put my amp and Stella in it and begun cycling from town to town, busking. With that and the courier job I was getting really fit, so one day I decided to do the cycle trip. I called Long Live Southbank and the plan was hatched.
How did it go?
It was amazing travelling with the bike trailer and Stella. We got taken in by random people on the way. I lost Stella for almost 24 hours in the Cleish hills in Scotland – the weather was bad and I was exhausted, and I looked in the trailer and she was gone! It was a harrowing experience. I was cycling back the way I'd come, screaming Stella. She was found ten miles away. She'd been to the vet, the police then the dog warden and finally a boarding kennel. I was so relieved when I saw her. I knew there was going to be some kind of breakdown on the trip, just didn't know what it would be.
What was the reaction to the journey like?
Really good. I've had some really touching messages about changing people’s lives and inspiring them, which is all I really want to do. And we rose over a grand for the cause.
When did you first go to Southbank?
Christmas, 97. On a Sunday. Got to Slam City Skates and Seth [Curtis] was there two hours early for work, so he took me and my friend to Southbank. It was really quiet. Did a backside heelflip on the bank. I like that there's loads of girls skating there now; there's more of a balance there. I really want the space to be restored for the kids ASAP.
What is it you love about busking?
Always having an audience and being paid for my practice motivates me. Whether you realise it or not, you have an audience over time, which allows for rapid growth. When I was living at the Waterloo Palace, everyone there was watching Stewart Lee stand-up. I wasn’t too into him but, I liked the vulnerable guitar songs he would do at the end of his show. The first time I went busking he came walking by just as I started, beamed a massive smile and gave me a nice tip. I knew then I'd be loving it for a long time.
Another funny one happened in Portugal – my first busk in Europe and I'd run out of money, and was quite nervous to play my first European gig. On the way to find a pitch there was €60 on the ground. Little magic things like that keep it going for me.
You lived in the Palace house in Waterloo – how was that?
It was fun, usual skate dude-type behaviour through the twenties. Lots of parties, women, drugs and not much housework. I hope I never see as many people as I did leaving the house every day; living that close to Waterloo station is sensory overload. We were punks out to have a good time and skate, but we had good manners. There are a million stories, which I'm sure Stuart [Hammond] will tell one day.
You told me you got some pads and were keen to transition to transition. What's inspired this new passion for vert, and where are you skating these days?
I got some pads off Tom Murray. I want to learn backside airs on vert. My middle-aged skate plan is 50-50, a backside air, a frontside grind and a rock’n’roll slide and repeat!
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be creative on and off their boards, and those who want to play music and do live gigs?
Go for it. Push yourself harder than you ever thought possible by breaking your body down this way; it will remember and come back stronger. Same with music: it will hurt, it won't be like what you imagined, but you will grow and get good over time.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I’d just like to say that even though the world seems crazy and hopeless sometimes, trust in the invisible and trust creation that it will respond if you interact with it.
This interview has been edited for length.