London's most exciting skater told me how he wound up naked in front of one of his idols.
Lucien Clarke. Photos by Carl Wilson
British street skaters have always had it a little rougher than American skaters, if only for the fact that their “plazas” aren’t polished concrete utopias—they’re industrial parking lots covered in broken glass and bits of rusty metal piping intent on giving you tetanus. Compare any Cali tape with, say, Heroin’s Everything’s Going to Be Alright and you’ll see what I mean.
Lucien Clarke has been a fixture of this scene since his first section in 2004’s Hello Coco, but is increasingly being flown all over the States—and the rest of the world—by his list of sponsors, which includes Supra, KR3W, Palace, and Supreme. I caught up with him recently at Hackney's Frontside Gardens skate park ahead of the Supra demo to talk about skating and finding yourself naked in front of your idols.
VICE: All right, Lucien, how’s it going?
Lucien Clarke: I’m good, man.
You’ve said before that wherever you go in the world, you always like coming back to London. You're back.
Yeah. I grew up here; I started skateboarding here. This is my roots! The spots here are a lot more rugged, and it’s an old city, so the buildings are really cool.
I'm guessing you have a strong connection to Southbank, then?
Yeah, man—Southbank is the heart of London, pretty much. Old Boris saying that it’s cool for us to stay there is great news, innit. It’s been under threat for years, but we’re safe for now. I’ve been promoting it and spreading the word as much as I can—it’s one of my favorite skate spots, man.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I skateboard all the time. But when I’m not, I’m hanging with my mates and going to festivals and that sort of thing.
Have you done any festivals this year?
Not yet. I haven’t been home for a full month yet—too busy touring. I’m going to Croatia to a house festival called Dimensions. I love Croatia, but I’ve never skated out there, because every time I go it’s just a total mash-up with my friends.
You've been too busy touring? Is that an unbearably harsh reality of being pro? Or actually one of the best things in the world?
Yeah, definitely the second! I never thought I’d be able to do this for a living and travel the world with all these legends. I feel blessed to be able to do this. [Members of the Supra team] were people I looked up to. I’m so hyped to meet all these legends, see how safe they are, be able to skate with them, and become mates. It’s great.
Nice. How have previous tours been for you?
Oh, on a tour a while back we all had our own rooms, and you know how it is—you bring a lady back [laughs]. Anyway, we partied all night, and in the morning we were crashed out, totally naked on this bed. I opened my eyes and there’s this skate legend in the room. I won’t say his name, but he was skater I loved who I hadn’t met yet. He was just sitting there eating fish and chips and having a smoke in the corner of the room. I was like, “All right?” It was surreal.
That kind of answers my next question—you must have had moments where you stopped and thought, How the hell did I get here? right? Because you're still relatively new to touring with American teams.
Yep. Another one of those was in Fresno. It’s basically like Breaking Bad—there was just meth everywhere [laughs]. It was on a Supra trip that we were filming for, and I woke up there like, What the fuck? How did I get here? It was amazing, though.
Have you had a different response—as a skater—in the States compared with here?
Yeah, it’s like skaters are fucking pop stars over there! It’s massive. Some of the skateboarders over there think they’re rappers or something [laughs]. It’s sick, though. I’m going back over in October for a few months when the weather stars getting shit over here. Supra are making a video, so I’m going to go and film a part for them.
You've had hip-hop in most of your video—what do you listen to yourself when you're skating?
I listen to a lot of Detroit house and loads of hip-hop when I skate. I like grime a lot too, and my friend FKA Twigs is really blowing up. I don’t listen to that when I skate, but it’s good stuff. I also like some psychedelic hip-hop stuff.
What’s the worst thing about skateboarding right now?
When egos fly through the roof when people get a bit of money. That’s the worst.
And what’s the best?
How free it is, the people you meet, the places you go. It’s just fun, innit. It’s a great thing, and it keeps you young.
Do you like being interviewed?
It’s all right. I’ve done quite a few for skate mags, so it’s cool.
What would you have liked me to ask you?
Hm… "What are you up to now?"
What are you up to now, Lucien?
Well, Supra are making a video, which I’ll be filming for—hopefully that'll be finished by the end of the year. This whole team hasn’t made a video before, so it’s really exciting; everyone having a part is going to be bangin’. Also, Palace are filming a video, so I’ll be doing that. I think it’ll be out in the beginning of next year.
Cool. Any closing words or advice?
I just feel stoked to be able to do what I’m doing. I have a little reflect from time to time and think, "This is actually pretty fucking sick." I’m always up. I’m just happy. My advice to young skaters would be to just keep skating and having fun. Always have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, then there’s something wrong.
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