MORGAN CAMPBELL INTERVIEW

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I had the pleasure of meeting and skating with Morgan Campbell a bout a month ago in his home turf of Melbourne, Australia. Home is where you get to know people the best… You see their life style. It gives an accurate portrait of who a person is. I spent two weeks next to Morgs and unfortunately I can’t find anything bad to say about the guy and that’s usually one of my stronger points. Morgan is a real skateboarder (a skateboarders skateboarder) first to be out skating and last to head home. When he can’t skate he’s working on a collage or a board graphic or simply putting some shrimp on the barbee. Minus that last part. Apparently they don’t call them shrimp over there but there is a store called Barbeques Galore. In the end all I want to say is Morgan keeps skateboarding alive and well. Enough from me though let’s here from Morgan about how we even got to this point. Big ups to Casey Foley for some images showing what I’ve been ranting about and shout out Morgan! Keep doing your thang.

Hello Morgan, how are you mate? Enjoying the summertime in Melbourne, Australia while we are freezing here in Europe?

Hello Leo! Technically we are in summer, but Melbourne is kind of bipolar when it comes to weather. The start of the week it was 33degrees and then this morning was 10 and rainy. I like living in a city like this though because it makes you appreciate the sunny days. It is easy to get complacent when it is perfect weather every day. But yes, I am really looking forward to proper summer as winter has been long and pretty miserable at times. But nothing compared to your winters. All that said though we have at least 40 multi story carparks to skate here, which aren’t a bust. When the rain comes down we hit the undercover.

For our younger pals, could you give us a little recap about your history with skateboarding, you legend!

No… you are a legend! Anyway, like many of my generation I was first influenced to pick up a board when Back to the Future came out in 1985. My early years saw lots of rocket ollies, kerbs and jump ramps. Around 1992 I went to USA for the first time and had a couple of skates at some of the most iconic spots of the time: EMB, Powell Warehouse and the Santa Monica kerbs. In Australia back then (much like in Europe I imagine) equipment was super-expensive, breaking the paper-thin boards every week led to me investigating to see if I could somehow get free boards. My first packages were from Alien Workshop through a distributor called Kewday, this was around 1994. A little later I started travelling internationally a lot more and ended up on Invisible Skateboards. We toured the states a couple of times but I was also spending a lot of time in Scotland. It was through the friendships I made in the UK that I ended up on Blueprint around 2000. They even gave me a model out here in Australia; to say that I was honoured would be a gross understatement. A few years later I moved over to ride for a small board brand from Montreal before I ended up on The 4 Skateboard Co – who I have now ridden for over 10 years. So I guess all up it has been 30+ years of skating, and during that time I visited around 30+ countries. Pretty much all my international trips happened thanks to skateboarding. I am so grateful for all the friendships that I made and adventures that I have had over the years. Even though on paper there have been periods where I would have been considered a professional skater, I never made a lot of money from skating, but that was never what it was about. Through skating, video and writing I was able to pull together enough funds to survive and travel. Over the decades of my travels I have witnessed first hand everything from Danny Way jumping the Great Wall to you doing high-speed ballet down Rue Sainte-Catherine. I wouldn’t swap this journey for anything.

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So, would you agree to say that your skateboarding has been evolving and changing after all this time? What have been some big influences for you through these different phases? 

In the 80’s I was super into the prominent street skaters: Natas, Guerrero and a little later I found out about Gonz. During the early 90’s like many of us, I was all about the small wheels, massive trousers and kerb dancing. We would flip our board madly, often with more than one rotation and hope to land wheels down. It wasn’t pretty but was heaps of fun. A little later I started enjoying big gaps and rails, but they soon took their toll. I figured that if I was to keep skating for many years I had to pull back a little bit on the high impact. Around 1996 I saw Eastern Exposure, which still influences me to this very day. Stripped back, stylish high speed skateboarding on raw spots. As do any skaters who are out there finding new spots, re-inventing old ones. I look out for people who take on those challenges and skate fast with power and elasticity. I am constantly trying to think of new ways to use the board and our chosen obstacles and have respect for anyone else out there experimenting in anyway, without losing flow.

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Cool! We’re super stoked to collaborate on this guest artist board with you! Let’s talk about your collages a bit. How did you get into them? Why collages?

Man, firstly I would just like to thank you all for this collaboration. I am so thrilled to have this board out. The style of collage I do today I have been doing for about five years now, but if I look back I started a long time ago. When I first went travelling I used to keep a journal. I would write in it every day, but I found I would never read them again. Somehow years later my journals no longer consisted of words, only collages. They were from found bits of paper, discarded photographs, notes, phone numbers, tickets, kids drawings, maps, club flyers etc. I have about 20 of them now. They are all super fat and looking back at the old ones is great as they kind of capture the era graphic design wise, and are an amazing catalyst for memories.

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The collages I am doing today are a fair bit different and I think I discovered them by accident. I used to keep a little stash of National Geographics handy for making birthday cards for people. I love the way the old ones are printed. I love the photography, the space photos, the city pics and the animals. For me National Geographics are all about a bigger world than we are in today. The world used to seem much bigger. Travel used to be much more difficult. Information used to take a long time to travel across the world compared to today. There were undiscovered races and species. There was of course no internet. Our internet used to be encyclopaedias, books and magazines. In one of my National Geographics there is a photo of Walt Disney. One of the main assets of his reference library was a complete set of National Geographics.  As little as I like the Disney Foundation, I respect the fact that he also saw them as a valid reference set. I only use ones that are pre January 1990, but I primarily focus on 50’s 60’s and 70’s ones. Rupert Murdoch bought National Geographic somewhat recently, which is very ironic. But I still think the old mags are rad, you wouldn’t catch me buying a new one though.

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Once I started having fun with them I became addicted. Doing collage helps me relax, and I (like a lot of people these days) often spend my working day at a computer. The collages are a way of getting away from the screen and turning off. I decide what I am doing, and then my mind wonders off I can think about anything while I am doing them. Music also helps. Music actually helps most things now I think about it.

How do your collages come about and what are you expressing through them?

I am usually having a lot of fun making them, so often they are satirical. I like putting animals in human situations and vice versa. Sometimes I point blame at world leaders, war or deforestation. Sometimes I will just want to illustrate the beauty of certain lands, planets or spirits. I like to also play with perspective and colour.

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Are there specific themes you follow and do you have a direction or do you mostly go with the flow?

The process is usually an organic one. I often make them for presents. So if that is the case I’ll try to do one about a subject that relates to the person. If they have a love for dogs, I’ll look for dogs, if they like cosmos Ill go for a space theme. If they are into carrots… ill try use some carrots. The other ones, like « Otis Reading » that you guys used for the board, usually come about pretty fluidly. On that one I remember cutting out the gaps in between the columns and seeing what would work for the inside the building. Once I stumbled across the kids reading I knew it was going to work. I knew the kids who were researching to tower in size to their non-reading elders.

Sometimes I will go through a period were ones have a similar feel, and as I progress I will do different themes for sure. I look forward to working on a black and white set of works. I also am looking forward to travelling the world to find rare mags to chop up.

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How would you describe the city of Melbourne and its skate scene at the moment?

I love Melbourne. In 2004 I went around the world looking for a place to call home. At the end of the lap my hot favourites were: Melbourne, Berlin, Barcelona and Montreal. I ended up here though. My family is also here. We all grew up in Perth, but moved here around the turn of the century. There is a massive skate scene here, the authorities are pretty chill with us skating, and the surfaces and architecture suit us fine. Even though there are loads of skate stoppers, we are always working around them. There are even a couple of guys who go on endless rampages ripping out all the stoppers. There is always a new building getting built somewhere so there are always new spots popping up too. I tend to skate with some close friends in a kind of small crew, but what I love about Melbourne is that everywhere you look you will see someone skating for fun, transport or profession. I particularly like the inner north of the city, even though it is getting gentrified, the streets are beautiful here and it still has a lot of soul. Melbourne is great. I think you will love it Leo.

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You’ve been travelling quite a lot and especially in Europe. What are some of the main differences you noticed between European culture and Australia? 

I have been to a lot of countries in Western Europe, and have loved most of the places I have visited. Australia’s real culture lies with the indigenous heritage, but it isn’t celebrated. What we have instead is a pretty bland version of American culture, with a little bit of an English soccer thug vibe mixed in. This is a gross generalisation though, there are lots of amazing people here too. Luckily though we are only becoming more mixed culturally. In our cities of course everything much newer than in Europe. Most of our buildings are under a hundred years old! I think people are less historically aware as a result.

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Skating around Bordeaux together, I was amazed on how strong you can push and how fast you skate. Knowing you’re not a newcomer, what’s the secret behind your longevity?

Wow that is something pretty amazing coming from you. I noticed your speed and power right away. I don’t know about having a strong push, but I do try and skate at least for transport every day. I love pushing as fast as I can in traffic. The A to B skate is always the highlight for me. « What’s next? » « What spot is next? » « Is there going to be a banana skin to nollie off or a squished rat to ollie over? » I just love it; especially with a strong crew. As far as longevity goes: well to put it simply. I can’t stop. It feels the same as when I started in 85. The hunger has never faded for me, it is my favourite way of getting around the city. Walking is nowhere near as fun.

What’s next for Morg?

Well I am about to go to the Botanical Gardens with my amazing partner Emily. But beyond that… I have just done a series of 4 collages for the 4 Skateboard Co. So that will come out some time next year I imagine. Working on a series of shows for next year. Would like to try and do one or two in Europe if possible. Skate-wise I will be filming a bunch I imagine. Just finished up a few projects, but still have heaps of ideas for the city, so I may as well keep it going. Got a road trip coming up in a couple of weeks to the South West of WA with my OG shop sponsor Momentum Skate Shop. I also do their website so it will be a great way to get some awesome content whilst being on the road. Summer is round the corner. So we are all pretty stoked.

Cheers mate! Thank you so much for doing this interview and shooting some exclusive photos for it with Casey! Much respect!

No mate… than you. Hope to see you in Melbourne or France in 2017!

Intro by Ben Gore

Interview By Leo Valls

Exclusive photos by Casey Foley