Issue 6: Push - Max Cotterill

Interview and photos by Lewis Royden.

It’s a pleasure to be doing this with you, mate. Would you like to introduce yourself, for those who don’t know you?

I’m Max, I’m a heritage stonemason, grew up in rural Herefordshire, and hit the road from there.

Hit the road in your van!

Yeah, in my transit at the moment; I made it my home and have been in that about two years now, working in Hay-On-Wye in a little yard and parking up at Hay Bluff, living up the mountain (laughs)! I travel all over really. Just got back from the Avebury Stones in Wiltshire, that was pretty nice. Done some work in Cumbria, Cornwall and Somerset this last year as well; I get all over, wherever the work is.

So tell us what the work is exactly?

Well I trained at Hereford Cathedral as an apprentice, doing restorations on the building and on local stonework. Mallet and chisel stuff. Now that I’m self-employed I’m working on carving a lot of things - gravestones, gargoyles, little bits and bobs, fireplaces, sculpture, restoration and conservation.

I'm working on carving a lot of things - gravestones, gargoyles...

Pretty niche, man. I can’t imagine there are many people around doing what you do.

I’m not too sure, I know they’re out there, but I haven’t heard of any in the U.K. I’m following tradition as a journeyman really, which means to gain your experience all over before settling as a master mason with your own apprentice. I’m kind of in those formative years, travelling to hone my skills. I think it’s good to learn from different people rather than only knowing the ways of the guy who originally showed you. There are different types of stone all over too; it’s about broadening your horizons!

You’ve built skateparks as well, right?

Well I did a little bit of work with Concreate, yeah. Rad bunch of guys. Youngo (Colin Young) said he needed a hand on a park at Woebley; it’s a fun little one. I’d do more for sure. Maybe some charity stuff abroad or something.

So, skateboarding. We have to discuss your part in the AMFAS video (Pentacles). A secret section after the credits, all off road; it must have been loads of fun to make, right? What inspired that?

Growing up in the middle of nowhere it’s not like being in the city where you’ve got smooth concrete as soon as you step outside your door, or skateparks and spots; I grew up on farms, so you just skate what you have, and that’s how I skate (laughs)! My dad was a surfer living in his van when he was my age too, and he did some mountain boarding, so I watched him in the comps and stuff. I think seeing him send it downhill through the woods had kind of set in my mind when I started skating. He’s why I am who I am, I think.
Filming the video off road was something you and I wanted to do for ages though, to just get a big set of super juice wheels and send it through forests (laughs).

If you go down to the woods might just catch sight of Max and a partly camouflaged backside boneless.

We’ve talked about filming something since you were tiny!

I’m really happy that the opportunity finally came up. It was really nice for you to come and have an insight into my way of life as well, mate; tagging along in the van for a week to get footage like you did, living outside, cooking on the fire…that’s my everyday life, so it was nice to share the experience.

It was a real honour to film my friend’s first part in that way.

Well we did film a little friends montage years ago with the Wizards Of Radical, which was like the Hereford scene edit, but that was homies and stuff, so yeah, this was the first time I’ve filmed a proper part. Most people spend months on footage too, but we just went out and had fun for a week with a list of woods to go to! It was just about having fun.

Remember we tried a clip for that Wizards vid the night before you started your apprenticeship as a lad didn’t we? You cut up your hands badly on that concrete staircase and I felt terrible. How did it feel going back to get it this time around?

I was just a kid then (laughs). I’d never tried something that gnarly before, but I got really hyped with the boys there and the camera, but I kept sliding out onto the tarmac. I was still excited to go to the cathedral the next day and hold a mallet and chisel with no skin on my hands (laughs)!
So now, as a qualified mason, all these years later you gave me that look (laughs) - “one more clip?” - in the middle of the night... and the battle started again.

I was so hyped when you rolled away and sent the hill bomb after too. There’s a significant context behind the song you used as well, right?

Yeah, it was Free the Land by The Inner Terrestrials; they’re travellers as well. The song is very topical. There’s a bill passing through parliament at the moment that’s criminalising the Gypsy and Traveller lifestyles, as well as criminalising the right to protest. People might have heard of the Kill the Bill campaigns. It’s serious enough that you can be imprisoned or have your vehicle seized purely for living a nomadic lifestyle, which people have lived for centuries, and is obviously something we won’t stop doing. It’s a disgusting law to take away our human right to roam, and our access to the countryside that we live off; it should be for everybody, not just wealthy landlords. The passion I have to fight that gave me a real drive when we went out filming, because I was being told at the time that my whole way of life could become illegal. I’m a part of these two worlds - the traveller world, and the skateboarding world - and there’s a relationship between the two because we’re both so segregated by the law. They don’t like us, you know. Skaters are resisting anti trespass daily, just like those who are living in a van. If somewhere is beautiful, you want to enjoy that space peacefully, or you want to skate it creatively, so I wanted to bring the cultures together. These awful laws affect us all; we should all care about them. Right now, the Tories are getting away with it, and an ancient anarchic culture could be lost too. Anarchy doesn’t always mean going out in the streets and fighting police and burning stuff; we’re about peaceful anarchy, just go out in the woods and live off the land and that’s a “fuck you” to the system as well. I’m one of many travelling skaters, people like the Carruthers brothers have been on the road and shredding for a long time. It’s a community and I know we all want to spread that word. Free the land!

These dirt jumps weren't crafted with pop shove-its in mind, but with the right wheels, anything is possible.

Very well said; I’m really proud mate. What’s next for you?

I’ll be teaching stone carving at festivals all over this summer, up to Scotland in May for Knockengrroch, then Eden Festival, Glastonbury, Boomtown and Green Gathering. After that, I’ll be converting a lorry into a bigger home and workshop, and hopefully taking that to Italy to study traditional marble carving. Some next level Michelangelo shit!

Just go out in the woods and live off the land...that's a 'fuck you' to the system as well.

(Laughing) Wow. This has been an absolute pleasure, bro! Want to big anyone up before we leave?

Yeah, definitely. The Wizards of Rad - we grew up skating and inspiring each other, I wouldn’t be where I am without the homies. Simon Hudson at Hereford Cathedral, number one dude. The StoneyCraft guys, we work together teaching stone carving to kids at festivals, seriously cool. All the AMFAS gang too - Grant (Peacock) and Will (Berry) are like big brothers to me, always putting a smile on my face. And Royden, mate, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to have you so hyped and so involved in everything. Not many camera guys would commit so much time to my wild ideas.

Best times of my life, mate. Free the land!

RIP T Loves, and Hem as well!

Follow Max - @nomadicstone