Words: Alex Klein
It’s an impressive feat to have cultivated a professional skateboard career anywhere outside of California. It’s particularly impressive when it’s done from one of the wettest corners of an already damp island, Scotland. Colin Kennedy has done just that. Here he talks about making music, the trouble with Neds and where to park (or not to park) should you ever attend a Livingston Skate Jam.
How many hours of daylight do you get in Edinburgh during winter?
Let me think. It probably gets light around 8 o’clock, up till half 3 at the moment.
How many days out of the week are wet?
In summertime it might be two or three days, on average. In wintertime you’re looking more at seven. It’s not been dry here for about two weeks because even if it’s dry, the frost condenses in the morning and it’s just wet.
How do you cope with that as a skater?
It’s pretty much been the norm for me ever since I started skating. When I was younger, we used to make do with the indoor carparks. At the age I am now, I don’t even bother. But I’m in a fortunate position because usually in the wintertime we’ve got some trips lined up.
The Blueprint team usually heads to Mallorca in January. How do those trips work?
Ollie Barton maybe initiated the first one. Ollie thought there were some good spots. We just got one of those cheap package deals that a lot of older British tourists use, where you pay 250 pounds and get a week’s accommodation and food and a car hire and everything. That was the first time we went and I think we’ve gone every year since. Last year I think we went three times in the winter. It’s a good time. I’m sure we’ll probably be back in January or February.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Glasgow, which is about 50 miles west of Edinburgh, where I live now. It’s the other central city in Scotland.
What was it like being a skateboarder there?
When I started it was the late ’80s boom time, so pretty much everyone my age was interested in skateboarding. It wasn’t such a freak show as you might imagine. At that time, I think it was the biggest it ever was. It was actually a really cool time because there were so many people doing it. All in all, it was good; it was a good vibe. The Bones Brigade came on a big tour. In Public Domain you can actually see the footage from when they came to Scotland. I think that was one of their biggest turnouts ever. They came to a skateshop in Glasgow called Quarterback that originally sold American sports stuff, hence the name. They sold skateboard stuff as well. I’m sure most Americans would find it quite funny because it was full jock stuff alongside skateboard stuff, which are polar opposites. It was huge at the time, to be honest, so it just seemed like the most normal thing to do. I think that’s why I got into it, not because I particularly liked the look of skateboarding. I just picked it up because everyone else was at the time.
I didn’t realize you were just a mainstream jock, Colin.
Ha! Yeah, I was going to get a new pair of shoulder pads but I just picked up a skateboard.
Did that attitude toward skateboarding change?
Yeah, it definitely died a death. It had that boom period for maybe five years, and then it just died. It was actually really f**king depressing, to be honest. I think it died during the year of pressure flips and massive trousers. That kind of made things a hundred times worse because not only were you the only skateboarder, but you were wearing enormous, green, cut-off 40-inch-waist trousers as well. I think everyone was probably feeling that worldwide.
For the American skater growing up, the enemies are jocks and cops. But Scotland doesn’t really have them, so who’s the enemy?
It’s not so much like that here. A lot of the policemen here are actually quite helpful. Not to say I haven’t had bad experiences but, compared to American policemen, they’re a lot less authoritarian here. It’s not a police state here like it is there, if I dare say that.
You gotta be careful. You might get put in one of our secret prisons if you keep talking like that.
In Cuba! I know. But what was the question?
Who’s the enemy?
The enemy would just be Neds. A Ned can start from 10 or 12 up to 18. It’s a young chap but it could be a girl, and you call them a Senga (the name Agnes backward). They’ve basically got a lack of attention for anything except causing trouble and hampering your daily enjoyment. They’re not always poverty-stricken kids, either. It’s kind of a trend here in general, to be a little shit. A lot of kids here these days are causing trouble with just a lack of respect for anything, basically.
Did you ever have to battle the Neds?
Not really. I usually just avoided any trouble. There was never anything to gain from it. Usually at skate spots you don’t want to start any shit because you want to go back there. At the moment, though, there’re lots of problems with Neds at Bristo Square. They’re just coming there every day, hanging out, fighting and whatnot. It’s a bit of a pain in the arse. They’ll come in and take over the area, then they’ll get bored of it and move on.
Did you attend university when you were younger?
Yeah, I did. I went to uni straight out of school for two years. Not because I particularly wanted to, but it was the path my sister had gone down. I basically found a course a couple days before it started. I went into this course, regrettably, and went for two years and got my Higher National Diploma.
What did you study?
It was Quality Management and Technology. It’s about installing quality systems and fabrication processes and whatnot, if that makes any sense to you.
In the manufacturing industry and whatnot. Some parts of it are interesting and most parts of it aren’t. All in all, it was a farce of a course, I must admit.
What kind of music are you making these days?
I’m not doing any specific kind. It’s mainly electronic music. I’m not really keen on genres and that stuff. A lot of sound design is what I’m doing. Whatever I make, I make. I’ve been dabbling with it for eight years or so. The technology fascinates me, just working with sound in the digital domain and manipulating sound is really interesting. I definitely want to get some stuff out pretty soon. I’m trying to, anyway.
What would be your ultimate goal with music?
I don’t think specifically to make a living from it, but I’d like to release some music or play music live. That would be the ideal scenario, hopefully on a cool, different label. There’re a few local opportunities here in Scotland.
What’s your favorite movie that took place in Scotland?
I’m inclined to say this film called Restless Natives. It’s a silly comedy about two bank robbers who aren’t the most professional of bank robbers. I used to go to Scouts and one of the leaders was the star of the film. It’s quite amusing.
How often do you dress up like Begbie from Trainspotting?
How often? Probably once, once in my lifetime. Before Blueprint there was a company called Panic Skateboards. God forbid I should mention its name and drag it out from the cemetery. We did a concept ad that was basically a takeoff on the Trainspotting advert. It was quite funny, actually.
How did the Scots get a reputation for being an excitable people who like to glass each other?
Yeah, I don’t know, but in some respects it tends to be true. Although the Scottish people are friendly, they like to enjoy themselves too much and sometimes it can end up in violent outbursts. I think they get it from their past, from their battles with the English back in the day, how they were a small band of warriors taking on the battles that they did and how vicious they were. That stereotype kind of perpetuates itself in the Scottish culture. They’re proud of it and have to maintain their forefathers’ legacy of being ferocious warriors.
What kinds of events occur at the Livingston skate jam?
It used to be a lot crazier back in the day because there used to be a lot more fights. There was always this big gang of punks who used to come down and fight with the skaters. But these things have changed now with a lot of so-called punks looking like skaters. It’s actually a really well-organized, good-feeling gathering. But I remember one year it was pissing down with rain, and everyone had just got steadily more drunk. At the end of the night they always have the “2 Minutes To Midnight” jam, which is when they have as many people carve the bowl at one time as they can. There are these four guys who always bring a coffin with trucks and wheels on it, and this year they rode down into the bowl in the coffin all naked. It was mental. The coffin eventually broke into pieces and they got taken down with it.
Doesn’t a car usually get rolled?
Oh yeah. The amount of people who come to the skatepark fill up the car park and the car park for the nightclub nextdoor. The nightclub is pretty strict about getting everyone out because it’s Saturday night and people are arriving to the club. The guy Ali who organizes it says, “Everybody has to move their car! If you don’t move your car, it’s going to get rolled over!” One year this guy wasn’t listening at all, and they were like, “We’re gonna give you a half hour!” He didn’t end up coming, so everyone just rolled his car over. He was probably up at the supermarket across the street getting something to eat and came back and his car was rolled over. F**king lame, actually. I don’t know that I agree with that local tradition.
How often do you get away to the Highlands?
Not as much as I’d like, to be honest. It’s not really that far to drive somewhere that’s Highland-like. Usually once a year we’ll go up on a holiday to the Western Islands up the west coast, which is beautiful.
What do you do up there?
Just drive around, taking it all in, just appreciating the landscape around you. It’s quite awe-inspiring. Eating, drinking and standing on cliff edges and hills. It’s great.
You recently had a daughter. What’s her name, and what’s that like?
Evie Rose. I don’t really know if I can give you a good breakdown so far. I can give you a breakdown of four weeks of having a child. At the moment I’ve just been adjusting to this different lifestyle. I haven’t really had time to reflect on it all. It’s overwhelmingly difficult and time consuming and tiring, but you’re definitely doing it for a reason. She’s learning from you; you’re learning from her. It’s pretty weird, but it’s great. It makes me appreciate how much spare time I had on my hands up until this point.
What’s easier, changing a diaper or gripping a board?
Oh, changing a nappy is much easier than gripping a board, much easier. I hate gripping boards. It’s not so much changing the nappies but how often you have to do it. It’s insane. With parenting there are all these things you have to learn how to do, but you learn them all in the first day because you do them so many times. But changing nappies is easier, without a doubt. You don’t end up skinning off your knuckles.