Issue 1: The Charlie Birch Interview

"Charlie's skating is fast, stylish, and so Scouse. Nothing will stop him, he doesn't give a f*ck!" - Andy 'Evz' Evans

Photography by Leo Sharp.

Set the scene for us Charlie; where are we?

We are sat outside McHugh’s pub in the lovely, beautiful city of Belfast, drinking a nice pint of Guinness with the lads.

Where have we been skating this week?

We’ve been all about Belfast, we went down to Dublin for a few days as well; that was sick. It’s been nice to see Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland before so it’s been banging. I love it here.

Who have you spent your first week in Ireland with?

Denis ‘Big D’ Lynn, Sox, Sam (Beckett), Leo (Sharp), Jess (Gilliland), and yourself.

It’s been a weird summer for everyone because of lockdown and COVID-19, but luckily we’ve still managed to get things done. How many of your original plans for the year ended up being cancelled?

I had quite a few trips planned for this year, but obviously we’ve had to put them off ‘til next year, and hopefully we’ll be able do them then. It’s worked out kind of banging though, because it’s meant that I’ve been in the country to do stuff here, and I’ve been able to go on these trips that we’ve been going on. Even though we’ve not been going abroad, we’re still getting out and going on trips with the boys.

360 flip into the Hayle rough, performed like a proper Nassmaster.

The first trip that we did for the magazine was to Cornwall earlier in the summer, which got dubbed ‘Nassmasters’ by the crew. Can you explain to us what Nassmasters was?

That was like a reunion. Me, Cam Barr, Salar (Kooshki), Sox and Jordan (Thackeray); that used to be the crew at events like NASS and Boardmasters, and that ended up being the crew for the Cornwall trip. The last time we’d all been together before Cornwall was NASS 2013, which was kind of funny.

What was the highlight of that trip to Cornwall for you?

Surfing every morning, that was the best thing in the world. That was the highlight of the trip for sure. I haven’t been surfing in years, since I was a kid, but Leo the legend hooked us up with surfboards and wetsuits. I just want to go back and surf again as soon as.

Howard (Cooke), mate. He’s just 100mph, and that’s how you want to skate

Do you reckon they’ll let you stay on that campsite again?

Oh, I don’t think so (laughs). I don’t think we were that bad, we were alright. The people who owned it were sound with us you know, but I think the family that left weren’t too happy (laughs). Every single night we were up ‘til all hours, playing music and smashing cans.

So NASS 2013 was the last time that entire crew was together; do you remember much from being at NASS that year?

I remember brief flashbacks of me trying to stay in a caravan, but being dragged out by Denis, trying to cling on to every corner or anything I could reach. “No Denis, no! You can’t!” And then he made me fight Cam Barr over a set of wheels outside his caravan, but obviously I banged him out (laughs).

You seemed to go to a lot of the bigger events back then.

I used to go with our Oliver (Birch). Our Oliver would drive us there, and then he’d go chill with Denis and everyone, get p*ssed with them lot, and I’d go running around causing chaos with Cam and Salar. That was the funniest sh*t.

A 'straight from the airport' 5050 in Bangor, County Down.

It must have been about ten years since I first met you. You were tiny and full of energy from the get go. How did you find your way onto a skateboard?

When I was a kid, me and my dad used to play ice hockey, but the ice rink was quite far away so we couldn’t always go there to play. There was a roller hockey rink at the same place, so we thought, “we could just do that outside the house”. We got rollerblades so we could play roller hockey in the front garden, then there was a festival in the park by ours. Rampworx (longstanding indoor skatepark in Liverpool) brought some ramps down for it, and we went over for a skate on our rollerblades. We met a guy who told us to go blading at Rampworx, so we did, and my oldest brother Oliver started skating there.

I was into rollerblading for another year after Oliver stopped, but I was hanging out with all the skaters so I started having a go, and I found skating well fun.

How old would you have been when you finally retired your rollerblades?

I was ten.

What did you do to pass the time before you started rollerblading?

I was living in a place called West Derby in Liverpool; it’s next to Croxteth and Tuebrook, by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. We did a lot when we were kids; we played ice hockey, played football, played basketball, did martial arts and stuff. We went canoeing. We were always out doing stuff. My mum and dad were never in the house, we were always out doing something, and when we went on holiday we’d been going skiing and that.

Leo: Who is your all time favourite Liverpudlian skater?

That’s’ got to be (Dave) Mackey, you know what I mean? He’s a legend, literally the best.

When I was growing up in Liverpool, there was a big older scene, and that feels a bit different now.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen Mackey do?

On his skateboard? We went on a Lost Art trip to Nimes recently and he did this ollie onto a ledge, then ollie up to front crook onto this other ledge, and that was f*cked. I shot the photo too, through the trees, and I’ll give myself the props there because that photo was banging (laughs). I don’t think I’d ever seen him do a front crook before, and he popped out as well.

Leo: Who is your favourite Liverpudlian skater, apart from Mackey?

Probably Howard (Cooke), mate. When I was younger in Liverpool, I’d go down to New Bird and we’d see him skate there. He’s just 100mph, and that’s how you want to skate. It’s the best sh*t to watch.

Looooong boardslide to Glasgow traffic avoidance.

Do you think it helped you skating New Bird with guys like Howard and Russ (Longmire) from such a young age?

It was always sick, going to New Bird and skating with all those boys. That was the thing about when I was growing up in Liverpool, there was a big older scene, and that feels a bit different now. Back then it was banging to have so many older people there who you were chilling with. It helped to have them say, “these are the skaters you should be watching, these are the brands you should be backing”.

Mackey naturally had you involved with Lost Art when you were quite young; then it seemed like you picked up a handful of sponsors pretty quickly.

Leo was hooking me up with DC Shoes when I was a kid too, back in 2012. I was on the My DC Crew flow team. That was my first ever sponsor, apart from Lost Art. Me and Ryan Rebotis were getting DC Shoes through the shop, then (Nic) Powley hooked me up with Vans

You were sponsored by Flip Skateboards back then, through Shiner Distribution. How did that come about? Did it have much to do with Geoff (Rowley) and the Liverpool connection?

Yeah, I guess it was something to do with Geoff. I don’t really know too much about it, but I think Mackey had spoken to Geoff about me, and that’s how it happened. When I was a kid I thought Geoff was the sickest, so I was obviously keen to be involved with what he was doing.

Did you ever have any expectations as to where being on flow for Flip might lead? Did you think you might eventually be visiting California, skating with Geoff and those guys?

I guess as I kid I thought that would obviously be sick, but I wasn’t really trying to think about all that. I was just having fun, having a laugh, and seeing what happened. I was gassed I was getting sent boards; that was banging enough for me.

A kinked Cowdenbeath fella survives his first (and probably last) Scouse lipslide experience.

Leo: Do you remember going to the 2015 comp in Bristol, at Lloyds? The Big Three Jam.

Yeah, my dad drove us all down, and Evz absolutely terrorised it. He did everything down the three. I skated in the comp I think; I probably attempted a front bigspin knowing me (laughs). That was my ‘go-to’ back in the day. My comp trick. Leo, didn’t you shoot a sequence of me doing the front bigspin down the MACBA three block in Barcelona?

Leo: I did, yeah! On the Lost Art trip.

I rolled my ankle doing that, then we went back to shoot it on the last night. In the nighttime, with the flashes and a rolled ankle (laughs). Didn’t stop me, lad (laughs). That was a good trip, that. Everyone was on it. Chewy (Cannon) was on it, Karim (Bakhtaoui) was on it, Morph (Dane Crook) as well. I must’ve been about 14 or 15.

How was it being so young and being in the spotlight and skating with guys like Chewy and Karim? Did it ever feel like you were figuring out how to skate, but everyone was watching you whilst you learnt?

I never really thought about it, to be honest. I was like any other kid skater; ‘hungry’ isn’t the right word, but I wanted to get out and skate. I would always watch skate videos, so I would always want to be out with my mates filming and that. At the time I wasn’t thinking, “to be productive”, but I did like to be out skating and doing stuff.

Have you got any favourite photos or pieces of footage from back when you were a kid?

I think there’s a photo that CJ (Chris Johnson) shot of me, and there’s a funny back-story. It was this ollie in Liverpool, in the uni. Basically I was ollieing this gap, and just kicking it away, bailing and hurting myself. The security guard comes round to kick us out, and it’s just me, Oliver and CJ. He looks at CJ and says, “is this what you like doing? Taking pictures of little kids hurting themselves?” (laughs). That’s a funny one.

When did riding for Flip come to an end?

I think Geoff left and they stopped being distributed through Shiner around the same time. I was working at Mwadlands (the temporary Palace skatepark in Peckham) and literally the day after I found out I wasn’t getting Flip boards any more, I bumped into Ben (Raemers) and told him what had happened. He was like, “f*ck, no way”, and he got me some boards from Enjoi. I got a package off them, but that was when I started skating with Dan Kreitem from Yardsale, and started going on all those Yardsale trips.

270 to pivot as the Glasgow heavens open.

You’d moved from Liverpool to London already by that point, right?

Yeah. As soon as I moved to London I got that job, working at the park.

What prompted the move to London?

I’m studying finance. Or I was…I deferred my last year, but I’m thinking about going back to uni to finish it up.

Leo: What’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between Liverpool and London?

A lot more is happening in London I guess. There are loads of events happening, and because you know so many people down there, it seems like there’s someone’s birthday every weekend. Skate wise, Liverpool is quite a small city and there is only one skate scene. Everyone knows each other and everyone skates together. But in London, it’s so big, and there are so many different groups of people skating, but I think that’s sick.

So Dan hit you up to get on Yardsale when you were working at Mwadlands. That was when you filmed that clip blasting around the park I’m guessing?

Yeah, and I think I was on about a year.

Everyone goes through hard times, but it's not going to be like that forever.

Was it hard to leave Yardsale?

Definitely, yeah. It wasn’t easy because they’re the boys, they’re sick as f*ck. Dan did so much for me; took me on loads of trips, helped me out, and made sure I was always good for product. He’s my mate, he’s a legend, so when I was leaving, we spoke as mates, and he understood it.

Three bales high frontside hay stall pull-in. This is also Cam Barr's only photo from the Cornwall 'Nassmasters' trip.

You definitely seem settled on Palace now. How did that connection come about?

I was skating with Austin (Bristow) a lot. I’ve skated with him for years, and when I was coming to London from Liverpool, I’d be filming with him. He was doing a lot of filming for Palace, and I guess him and (Danny) Brady spoke about whether I’d be down to ride for them or not. It was a ‘if I’d be down, they’d be down’ sort of thing. We talked, and I told them I’d be fully down to ride for them. I think that went down in July 2019.

I see Lev (Tanju) has got a new ramp that you’ve been skating quite a lot recently.

That’s so sick that, lad. It’s in his back garden, now he’s moved to the countryside. He’s got a banging brick wall extension too, and because it’s out in the country, it’s in proper picturesque surroundings.

Moving on, can you explain to us what Passion is?

Passion is what everyone needs in their life, man. Me and Lloyd (Hodgson) are making some t-shirts and that. Lloyd is so sick at making graphics, and we both like clothes, so we’re making t-shirts for now, but we’d like to try start making other stuff.

It’s not like it’s too much of a serious thing, it’s just a little project that me and him are doing. We’re not doing it to try and make money or nothing.

The first release we did, we gave money to MIND Charity. The next release was after Ben passed away, and the nature of the t-shirt was a light-hearted message about mental health, so we wanted to give money to The Ben Raemers Foundation.

Me and Lloyd, we’re open with each other about our mental health, and we talk about it in a way where it’s less of a thing, and we can put more light-heartedness in it. Obviously we want to do everything we can to help out The Ben Raemers Foundation, because what they’re doing is amazing, so we thought that would be a good cause to help. Mental health is something that we both care about a lot.

In the shdaow of Flavour Skateshop, Charlie introduces this Newquay gem to a frontside bluntslide transfer.

It is important to remove the stigma around mental health issues and ensure that more people are opening up about these things. And anything right now that helps do that can only be a positive thing, especially in skating.

Exactly. I mean, sometimes people try and talk about how they’re feeling, and they might think that how they’re feeling right now is how they’re going to always feel, that that’s just how their life is. You’ve got to realise that everyone goes through hard times, but it’s not going to be like that forever. You can change how things are, even if it takes time. And if everyone can help each other out then that’s obviously a really good thing.

That’s one of the main things since Ben died, people are more willing to honestly say, “I don’t feel good, I need help”.

Before, people might not have been subconsciously looking out for signs that their mates are feeling down, but I feel as though nowadays you’re more aware. Sometimes you might have been with your mates and you don’t even realise that someone might be down, or you might see them being down but you don’t really think much more about it. But now you think twice, and think, “I should ask him how he is”. That’s the positive that’s come out of Ben’s passing, for sure.

Do you remember first meeting Ben?

I was pretty young, like. Maybe I met him when I was going down to London and going out skating with Kev (Parrott). Obviously Ben was part of the shop, the Lost Art family, so I’d see him when he’d come up to Liverpool sometimes as well.

What is your favourite Ben memory?

When he was frontside airing over me whilst I was back smithing the quarter at Tottenham Hale (laughing). Nah, only messing. My best memory of Ben is just being in the pub, having a pint, chilling, chatting about nonsense. Those were always the best times with Ben. But also, him frontside airing over me, and us getting a doubles clip…that was sick.

Because you’re on the streets skating, you get talking to some random people, and I think that’s the sickest sh*t, you know what I mean?

It had been a long time since anyone from over the Irish Sea had touched this. Fontside smith, St Annes, Belfast.

Right before you came on this trip to Ireland, you had the pleasure of spending a day with the Happy Mondays. That must have been some experience…

Palace had just brought out the clothing collection collab with the Happy Mondays. Me and Austin went to Manchester one day to do some filming around the city, then the next day we went to this golf club somewhere in Manchester to meet Shaun (Ryder) and Bez, and interview them. It was banging. We were just on the pints with them.

The night before I was doing a bit of research, and I watched this old documentary about them. In it Shaun says, “I’m sober me, but seeing as it is a Friday, I will have a little bit of vodka in my smoothie”, then he tips this bottle of vodka in his strawberry smoothie (laughs). I was expecting him to be pretending to be sober at least, but as soon as he walks in he goes, “go on, give us a whiskey then”. It was a funny day; we just had a laugh. (Ben) Grove was there as well. I think Grove knew Shaun and Bez anyway.

I bet you’d have never thought a few years ago you’d have ever found yourself on the pints with the Happy Mondays. Who is the most interesting person you’ve met through skateboarding?

Denis Lynn, obviously (laughs). Without a doubt. I didn’t even have to think about that. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through skateboarding, but you meet a lot of interesting people who aren’t skateboarders too. Because you’re on the streets skating, you get talking to some random people, and I think that’s the sickest sh*t, you know what I mean? People are so much more open to talking to you because you’re a skateboarder. That’s the best thing about going on skate trips to different countries; you see all the different areas, explore back allies, meet the locals. If you were to go on holiday somewhere, you wouldn’t experience it the same way that you would if you were to go there on a skate trip.

What does the future hold for Charlie Birch? Where would you like to be in say, five years time?

Who knows, mate. Let’s see. You’ve got to embrace the future with open arms, but I don’t have a clue. In five years time I’d like to be on a yacht with glass of champagne and the tunes blaring (laughs). Nah, I’m only messing. In five years I’d want to be doing what I’m doing right now, being with the boys and going skating. That’s all I can ask for because I’m having the best time of my life right now, and I’d hope I’d be doing the same thing in five years.

Denis, have you got any final questions for Charlie?

Denis: Make him explain, word for word, why he is such a f*cking legend.

(Laughing) Nice one mate.

"Are we actually going to that ramp first, yeah? Sick! I've always wanted to learn frontside airs on vert". Charlie ticks one off the bucketlist to end...

Follow Charlie - @charlie_birch


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