Brothers: The Keegans
Photography: Rob Whiston.
Does someone want to set the scene? Where are we right now?
Ben: We’re in The White Horse, Peckham.
Jamie: Opposite Ben’s work.
Ben: Opposite Hotel Skate Shop; big up.
Jamie: Peckham is the middle of where we all live, really. Ben lives five minutes down the road; me and Matt live in New Cross. I live next door to where Fos (Mark Foster) used to live. There’s still a Heroin sticker on the wheelie bin. Every time Casper (Brooker) comes around, he makes a point of saying, “when I was 14 I used to stay there” (laughs).
Matt: And I live maybe 20 doors up the same road, which is nice.
Tell us a bit about Hotel Skate Shop. That only opened recently, right?
Ben: They had the old shop which was Cheap Hotel, and that was in Nunhead, just up the road, in a coffee shop, and then David (Bray) moved it to a spot a couple doors down. There were all of these issues with the landlord, he was a bit dodgy, he’d wired all of the electrics to a lamppost or something, so British Gas came in and were like, “we’ve got to shut this down”, but luckily the place just on the top of Rye Lane became available, so we took that. We got the keys on April 1st, I helped get the place set up, and we opened the next week. Jams rides for the shop and they’re working on a video, so he’s been filming a lot for that with Emilio (Molave).
Who else rides for Hotel?
Ben: You know Aviv (Gez)? He’s just got on.
Jamie: Jason Goode’s on, and Teo (Palfrey Mangaze) from Cornwall.
Matt: I’m glad Aviv’s on, though. We grew up skating at the skatepark between Kenilworth and Coventry, and we met Aviv there forever ago, since then he’s just got better and better, so it’s nice to see him getting some recognition.
There were all of these issues with the landlord, he was a bit dodgy, he’d wired all the electrics to a lamppost...
For the sake of people reading this that may never have been to Coventry, describe the city. What’s it got going for it?
Jamie: Nowadays, a university, but when we were growing up it was just like any post-industrial town, really. There used to be a lot of industry there, all the car manufacturing, Jaguar, Land Rover had big plants there, they used to build tanks there. All of that moved away when the car industry went overseas.
Ben: I never liked going into town; only when I started skating did it become cool, because we had something to do, but I always thought there was not much going for it.
Jamie: It was just super grey.
Ben: From when I was a kid up until when I left, the city centre never changed. Now it’s won City of Culture so they’ve been making buildings colourful.
Jamie: Tearing down half of the spots (laughs). The whole city was built in a hurry after World War Two, because it got bombed to shit, so there’s a lot of prefab concrete buildings, and hurried 60s architecture, which made it really good for skating, but it’s not very inspiring.
Matt: When Cliché made that video Bon Voyage, I think the team were doing a demo or some kind of signing in Birmingham, and they came to Coventry. Lucas Healey showed them around, and there was Kyron Davis and Lucas Puig, and apart from skating the five stair outside of the bank, they didn’t get on their boards once (laughs). I was really disappointed because I always imagined what could be done at these spots, but maybe skating them wasn’t worth it if you weren’t confined to only those spots, you know?
A popped South London journey from drain to drain with Matt, the eldest Keegan brother
(by all of 13 minutes).
I never saw too much street skating from Coventry, then around ten years go, the Get Lesta crew hit the city pretty hard.
Ben: Get3, that’s when they put Lucas on, and all of them were killing it. For everyone in Cov, that was a huge video; a load of us went over to Leicester and watched the prem.
Did any of you have footage in Get3?
Matt: Definitely not. When they were filming for Get3, that’s the first time I think I saw anybody jump down the three block at Herbert (The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum). I was with some people at the time and we didn’t know who the Get Lesta guys were. Maybe I’d just finished my GCSEs, and I had all of this pent up aggression, like, “let me just ollie the three”. It was such an emotional battle, but really fun. I had Charlie (Munro) skating them with me, they were promising me stickers when I landed it. Callun (Loomes) actually sent me the footage. I ollied it, immediately kicked my board out then laid on the flat with my hands on my head for about 15 minutes, just being so overwhelmed (laughs).
Ben: I ollied the three as well, but it was definitely after you; Matt gave me the hype and made us lot realise it was possible!
How many years are there between you?
Matt: Three between Ben and us. Jamie and me are twins, and I think there’s 13 minutes in it; I popped out first, so I’m just the oldest. Jamie and me got into skating a little bit before Ben, and we would always skate together, but then when Ben was about 13, he was straight on his skateboard, and he learnt so quickly. I remember him back 180ing stair sets without an ollie, just manualling and throwing his shoulders; he was really ambitious in those early years. He’s kept that energy up, and it’s really great to see.
Where did skating come from for you two?
Jamie: Our dad claims he used to BMX with Jim (the Skin – Coventry legend and owner of Ride Skateshop) way back in the day, so he knew about Ride, then one day when he came back from work he said, “we should get them skateboards, that would be cool”. We fell in love with it straight away, and because both of us were doing it, we could track our progress off each other. We both learnt to ollie at the same time…
Matt: It was mentally competitive, to be honest, but it was quite funny. Our dad used to turn up at the skatepark and announce miniature contests.
Jamie: He’d be pitting us against each other.
Ben: You’ve got to thank him for that, because he was always pushing all of us in a way. If we dropped in this ramp, and there was a bigger one at the skatepark, he’d be like, “oh, you should do that one now”.
Matt: He’d say, “Jamie’s done it, so you can do it” (laughs).
Ben: He did have a go occasionally as well.
Jamie: One time he hurt himself quite badly. We were all in Cornwall. You know those Hayle bowls? We were young and afraid to drop them in, so he was like, “oh, it’s not that bad. I’m sure I can do it”. He has a go, slams on his keys, then gets stuck in the bowl for a bit. I don’t think he’s touched a board since then, but definitely in the beginning, he wasn’t having any of it; we were going to do it properly if we were going to do it.
Jamie: We got into loads of stuff through skating; me and Matt used to play in bands when we were growing up.
There’ll be Ben bailing a boardslide at Southbank with a roll up in his mouth, and it’ll be printed out in black and white, in a frame.
I saw you put a tape out recently. Are you in any bands at the minute?
Jamie: Yeah, I still put some music out. I just joined a hardcore band called Layback. I wouldn’t say that music is my first love, but that and skateboarding for me are on the same level; it’s all subculture. I love anything that’s a bit different. A lot of our music taste came from skating. I remember really early on, Matt got into Dinosaur Jr because of Alien Workshop videos, and one of the first videos that Jim gave us from Ride was (Flip Skateboards) Extremely Sorry; there was a Lemmy song on there, and that had me Googling what Motorhead was. Jim put out a video for Ride and all of the songs on that were Oi! style punk; we heard that and thought, “shit, anyone can start a band if they want to”. We ended up getting a bit emerged in that culture; we played in a covers band from when we were 13 until we left Cov, and we used to play scooter rallies, mod shows…
Matt: Again, that was our parents who really propped that up for us. They were the ones taking bookings, driving us from show to show. We would go to school Monday to Friday, then play gigs Saturday and Sunday, that our mum had organised on our Facebook page (laughs).
Jamie: I played guitar and Matt played drums.
Matt: Every year we used to play a VW festival on the Isle of Wight, and John Cattle would always have a ramp there, so we got to know John, skating six or seven hours a day at this festival with him.
Ben: He kills it man, Wight Trash is sick.
Matt: He put us on to a lot of great skateboarding as well, like A Golden Egg; he’d been on tour with the Fancy Lad guys.
Jamie: We skated with Jesse James one of the years. He was doing a demo at the festival.
That was a John Cattle detour I wasn’t expecting (laughs). Matt, do you still play drums much these days? Must be hard finding space to house a kit in London.
Matt: Yeah. I was rehearsing with Billy (Trick) the other night, actually, just messing about. I have a kit, it’s just on top of the washing machine, so that’s about the only time it rattles, when I put a mixed wash on (laughs).
Out of the salon and into the streets, Jamie grinds his way over a lonesome London bike rack.
Is it fair to say that your parents have always been supportive of your skating, and other endeavours?
Matt: Yeah. Skating scares my nan a bit, she always used to tell us that she’d have a heart attack one day. My mum doesn’t like rails; she’s ok with everything else, but she finds the concept of balancing on a rail very scary. That’s why I don’t skate them, you see (laughs).
Jamie: I think the thing they like the most is the community, the friendships and contacts we’ve made. She can’t believe that we’ve got jobs through skating. I only met the guy that I apprenticed with in a hair salon through skating.
Matt: It is funny, some of the skate photos we have up at home though, because it’s all stuff my mum has taken when she’s come to visit us. So there’ll be Ben bailing a boardslide at Southbank with a roll up in his mouth, and it’ll be printed out in black and white, in a frame (laughs).
Our dad has a go, slams on his keys, then gets stuck in the bowl for a bit. I don’t think he’s touched a board since then...
Ben Voyage! Ollie over the block to frontside 5-0 on the neighbouring rail. Sorry Mel...
What can you tell us about Yellow Skateboards?
Matt: That was something I did when I was maybe 16, 17. I got a screen-printing kit for Christmas one year, then would design graphics in my bedroom. I even got some boards made once. My mum and dad lent me some money to get those boards and it took me like a year and a half to pay it back.
Ben: Everyone in Cov had one at some point.
Jamie: The A Third Foot guys printed them, when they still had their factory in Birmingham.
Matt: I didn’t do anything with it, mind. There was never a video; it was just something that I enjoyed drawing at the time. Who was it that used to skate The Boardroom a lot?
Ben: Shumba (King).
Matt: He had a board somehow, and I was so excited about that. I still love making shirts; Lucas Healey actually has a printing company now, so I’ll do a lot of printing with him, I made some shirts for Hotel, and I’ll do stuff myself.
So what prompted the Keegan exodus from Coventry?
Jamie: I moved for uni, straight out of sixth form. I went to Goldsmiths to study music. These guys would come visit and stay on my floor. I started skating with a load of lads down here at Queens Road, and we put out a load of videos together called Esse; these guys saw all that and thought, “oh shit, there’s loads of spots”.
Ben: I remember seeing them Esse vids and thinking that they’d levelled up so much in their skating.
Matt: I’d come down and film Saturday and Sunday and sleep on Jamie’s floor; same with Ben as well, he would come down too. He’d come down on his own as well, a little later, when he was 15, 16. I still remember feeling really bad sending him off. We were at Mile End skatepark one Sunday and he had a train back to Cov; it was the first time he’d got a train on his own, and I watched him skating off out of Mile End, and I was like, “I should at least take him to the station”, but I didn’t (laughs).
Jamie, how did you end up cutting hair for a living?
Jamie: I met the guy that I did my hair apprenticeship with at Queens Road. He was an older guy that I’d always known, and when I finished uni, I was working at a burger restaurant, and he was like, “why don’t you come through to the salon and see if you like it?” Instantly I was like, “oh sick, this is a bit creative”, so I did my apprenticeship with him. It was in Chelsea, the Kings Road area, it was mega posh; the poshest thing I’ve ever been a part of, for sure.
And now you’re the hair stylist of the South London skateboarding elite.
Jamie: In January I left the salon and went freelance, and now I work on fashion shoots, and do my own thing with it. I always had that skating connection, so if people wanted a haircut they’d get in touch, especially in lockdown; in lockdown I cut loads of people’s hair. Same with Matt, he got lots of his early tattoo clients through skateboarding.
Coventry’s finest skiving hotspot gets served a nollie backside flip by Ben.
How did you progress from studying Fine Art to tattooing, Matt?
Matt: A lad that I went to uni, Finley Stewart, with was tattooing by hand from home, and he would freehand everything. At the time I thought I had a decent level of drawing, I watched him do it, he tattooed me a bunch, then I started tattooing by hand like that. He moved to Berlin in 2019 and all of a sudden I took on all of his regulars, which were friends, or friends of friends. I used to work at an art gallery at the time, called the White Cube in Bermondsey, and I worked with a lad called Bora (Akincitürk), who’s a Turkish artist, but he’s covered in tattoos, and very early on he let me tattoo his face.
Oh damn, that’s quite the responsibility!
Matt: I just went in with confidence I guess, from somewhere. He had more faith in me than I had in myself, I think. He was pally with Morgan (Myers), who runs the studio I’m at now, called New Language. He must’ve gone to get tattooed there one day with a brand new spider web on his face, and Morgan started asking about me. She was great; she taught me how to tattoo with a machine, gave me a place to work, introduced me to a couple of people, then I’ve been finding my way from there, and learning the history of it.
So Ben, you’ve been getting Huf clothing recently. How did that hook up come about?
Ben: I’ve known Cass (Doig) for ages, and he’s been on Huf, but I never knew Jimmy (Silver), but one day he just added me and Isaac (Gale) into an Instagram group chat, and was like, “yes boys, I’m fucking with your skating, I’m trying to hook you up and send you some clothes, what’re you saying?” We were both obviously like, “fuck yeah! We’re trying to get some Huf clothes” (laughs). So we went through to the Huf showroom in Shoreditch, and he passed us loads of clothes, let us pick some bits, which was a pretty surreal experience. Then from there, occasionally I’ll have to do a little shoot for them, go out and film some bits for them.
Any last bits you want to add?
Ben: Big shout out to Jim for putting me on Ride, support my skating from early and hooking up boards and whatever I need to this day! Shout out Jimmy Silver with the Huf thing. Big up Sumo, them boys are doing bits. Big up George Hardiman, he’s helped me a lot; he’s always got his camera there when I’ve needed it.
Matt: I want to shout out Andy Clare, the original skateboarder from Coventry. I don’t know how old he is, I don’t want to offend him but he’s probably touching 50, still at the square every day. Also Ryan Stanway, another shredder from Coventry with the front 5050 varial heel out on lock. JJ, Moose, Ryan Bradley, Pip, and Lucas Healey for putting Coventry on the map with the Get Lesta stuff.
Jamie: Rhys Davies was the guy at Queens Road who I met who taught me to cut hair. Lucas for sure, and Jim the Skin.
Follow Matt - @big.sainsburys
Follow Jamie - @kitchen.scissors
Follow Ben - @b3nkeegan