Primitive’s new production DEFINE. was released earlier this month to the general public, but prior to that, Paul Rodriguez, Miles Silvas, JB Gillet and the U.K.’s very own Charlie Munro came to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square to give the lucky ticketholders of London Town an early preview of the video. Before the premiere that saw skaters invade the liminal space between a bustling China Town and a packed Leicester Square, I was invited to speak to Charlie and Paul at a more calm location - the basement of the Route One skate shop in Covent Garden. Above us, the queues for the Primitive team signing event at the shop were out the door, with people coming from as far as Shrewsbury and Manchester to meet some of the best in the game. Despite the commotion of the day (especially with the afterparty), speaking with Charlie about being a U.K. rider on a U.S. based company gave a great insight into the power of diversity of nationality and personality within skateboarding; given that P-Rod himself backs up this claim, I think the idea that diversity is strength is solidified and well merited.
Intro and interviews by Robert Delaney
Photography by Ben Larthe
It’s always hard to ask people about a video they’re in that hasn’t been released yet, but to kick things off, what’s it like to be a U.K. rider filming with a U.S. team?
I haven’t seen the video yet either (laughs)! But yeah, at first it was definitely a bit strange. What helped me through was the fact that all the Primitive team are really decent humans; for me, the more I hung out with the team, the easier it got. I definitely felt nervous before the first trip I went on with those guys, but the more I hung out with them, the better we got along, and now we’re all really good mates – it’s nice.
Yeah I can imagine skating in foreign places with those dudes is good fun – have you got any good stories from filming, skating or just hanging with the Primitive team abroad?
Oh yeah for sure, I’ve got a great story! So, from the first Primitive premiere, it was for the Encore video, I was with Manny (Lopez) in Los Angeles. At the premiere, Manny ended up meeting his now wife (Natalie Lopez) on his first night he’d been in LA; it was crazy! The best thing about it was the fact that seemingly Natalia couldn’t get into the afterparty. but Tiago (Lemos) could see that she was having trouble trying to get in. After seeing her struggling, Tiago went to the bouncers and told them that she was with him so Natalia got through. I’d say a half-hour to an hour later Manny and Natalia met for the first time and now they’re married, which is just insane to me. I guess Tiago was playing Cupid that night!
That’s insane, Tiago is a man of many talents haha! Just on the topic of Tiago and the wider Primitive team, there’s obviously a lot of diversity. The team has loads of different backgrounds with regards to nationality and gender – what does that mean to you to be on a team that is home to such a range of great skateboarders?
I think it’s important to bring everyone into skateboarding. Skateboarding is for everyone, it’s not necessarily just for the guys. I think it’s important for everyone to get involved and Primitive accommodates that really well.
Also with the diversity in style on the Primitive team, with the likes of Frankie Villani skating alongside Miles Silvas, do you think that adds another dimension to Primitive beyond it just having ‘really good skaters’?
I think that Paul (Rodriguez) does a really good job at picking the team. There’s really someone for everyone on there, which is kind of unheard of in skateboarding at the moment. Other companies have their own pure direction they want to go, so it’s nice that Primitive is so diversified in its riders’ styles and personal characteristics.
I think it’s a breath of fresh air for sure. Going back to the U.K. - U.S. conversation; you evidently have your U.K. skate world but you also have all those people you skate with out in the States too. Are those two skate worlds separate to you? Comparing something like BLIPS to a Primitive video, they seem very different in their attitude and filming processes.
It’s definitely a different process when you’re in the States. You’re in the van the whole time. When you get out the van you are expected to perform – that definitely changed things about skateboarding for me. In London you can just skate around and by the time you get to the spot you’re already pretty warmed up. I do find it difficult getting into the van and driving to another spot and having to warm up again. I guess you do adjust to it; filming in the U.S. is just a different process compared to the way we film here in London and the UK.
In the same topic area, do you find that there are different attitudes and cultures towards and around skateboarding when comparing the U.S. and U.K.? Here in the U.K. we have videos like Blokes and that sort of comedic, funny side to skating – is it very different across the pond?
Skateboarding is way more serious in the States, that’s for sure. Obviously it depends on the person, the time and the place, but some people can take it very seriously. I mean that’s all good, but at the end of the day it is just skateboarding. I guess with some people in the U.S., when you’re so involved with something it is important to make sure that you’re not dossing about, but at the end of the day it’s always good to have that balance of funny and serious to get stuff done.
Yeah for sure, that’s a good skateboarding philosophy to have! Around the same U.K. – U.S. topic, perhaps a bit more localised and personal to you this time, could you tell us how you got on Primitive in the first place?
Yeah, I got hit up by Wes (Morgan) from Rock Solid Distribution because he was distributing Primitive boards at the time. When Wes started sending me Primitive boards the whole team actually came over to England. We did a few things and after a few months of getting boards, my relationship with the company snowballed from there, especially after we did the Europe tour. I guess Paul wanted some U.K. representation on the team, so yeah, that’s the story. We’re all really well knitted together now I’d say.
Nice one. Just to round things off, what’s happening next for you? Any trips lined up for the summer?
It’s kind of gotten a bit crazy for me recently actually. I feel like I’m never in London anymore, I’m on trips all the time. In two days I fly off to Athens, then I’m in Warsaw and after that I’m off to the Copenhagen Open. I’ve been back in London for a minute to be fair, but now I’m going on all these crazy trips. It definitely takes a toll on you; travelling so much and skating a lot is really tiring. When I’m back in London I chill with mates more; I don’t really have the time to be properly filming when I’m here.
Does all that travelling have an effect on you?
Kind of. I think I’m very well adjusted now. At first it was very difficult. I don’t get so homesick now but there have been times when I have been; when you’re so far away from your friends and the people you see every day it can get hard sometimes. I find it easier by making friends everywhere I go, that way I can make the most of wherever I am at the time and not feel isolated and homesick.
Halfcab flip in, slappy 5-0 out.
After speaking to Charlie, I met up with Paul as he was signing pairs of his new signature Nike SB Dunks, also in the Route One basement. Paul, signing the shoes at lightning pace, solidified the sentiment of the value of diversity in skateboarding after my conversation with Charlie.
Thanks for speaking to me Paul. First off, what elements does Charlie bring as a U.K. skater with a different background to the Primitive team?
Charlie brings a totally different, new, vibe to the team through the way he looks on the board, the way he skates, his energy. We like to think of Primitive as a worldwide team and we want to highlight skateboarders from all over the globe. We saw Charlie as the perfect fit for our ‘English guy’. He’s a great dude.
Staying on the topic of Charlie, what does he bring to the table as a skateboarder and an individual?
It’s hard to put into words. I like the way Charlie skates; it’s real clever. I like the things he chooses to skate, his trick choices, his style, the way he dresses; it’s really hard to articulate what’s exactly so good about Charlie. There’s something about him that’s just so right for Primitive, you know?
For sure, man! Just speaking of Primitive, going onto the DEFINE. video; from filming or just hanging, do you have any good memories with Charlie or the rest of the team? Any funny stories to share?
I unfortunately didn’t get to skate with Charlie that much for the filming of DEFINE. but I do have some good memories from the Primitive Euro Tour in 2019. I was telling Charlie last night about the time, on that tour, he gave me a pair of glasses at some party after a demo in Berlin. The glasses looked like they were digital or pixilated or something. I remember I somehow ended up wearing them for the whole night. They looked hilarious.
Just to round things off, off the back of completing your new video, is there anything in the works, skateboarding or otherwise, for you or Primitive?
Yeah, for us there’s always stuff in the works. Alan (Hannon) and I are looking at this new video as if it’s not done. We want to keep the momentum going, keep filming, keep skating. I’d like to put out a solo part. My goal for the part is to release it by the end of the year but, you know, if I don’t feel like it’s ready I’ll postpone it to early next year. With Primitive, we always have new projects in the works with different collabs and additions to the team. It doesn’t sound like much but there’s always something!