Self Storage: Neil Macdonald

Portrait: Leo Sharp

The original concept for this article came from Slugger Skatestore head honcho Martin Kennelly, who sent Leo a message out of the blue one day that read something along the lines of:

“You know every skateboarder has a shoebox that’s filled with ‘stuff’? You should ask some people what they have in their shoebox and do an article about it; I bet there's loads of interesting stuff out there.”

In order to start satisfying Martin's curiosity, we've got the Self Storage ball rolling with self styled magazine archivist, Neil Macdonald. For years now, Neil has been tirelessly sharing classic, unseen, and obscure moments from his exhaustive personal collection of printed artefacts via his @scienceversuslife Instagram account, and when he’s not scanning and retouching photos from skateboarding’s bygone eras, he can often be found putting almost God-like figures through their paces via the in-depth and amazing interviews he conducts for Slam City.

It goes without saying that Neil would have amassed quite the stash of skate related paraphernalia over the years, so we asked him to present to us a handful of his most prized possessions. After some serious deliberation, here is what he came back with…

A Zoo York tag by Eli Gesner.

I was in contact with Eli Gesner for a while, but after we did the Slam interview last year we kept in touch enough that I didn't feel weird asking him to draw me up a Zoo York tag. Zoo York was definitely relatable to us in the UK, because of the climate and how much of the photos and footage were at night, how those guys all dressed, and how rad they were. I still think this is one of the best logos in skateboarding, and the various changes in ownership of the company hasn't changed that. For me, OG Zoo York from 1993 up to Peep This in 1999, was consistently great. Those first two videos and Eli's ads meant a lot. Mixtape is an absolute masterpiece. Jeremy Elkin's movie about all that, All The Streets Are Silent, is out soon too. If you're into 90s New York City you'll really like it. It's incredible.

Carl Shipman's DC Euro Super Tour shirt, from 1998.

I love this. Carl's the fucking best. I spoke to him for Slam too, and he's just not bothered by 'stuff', you know? He's got his business and his family and he's really happy. I asked if he had anything stashed away from his time as pro skateboarder and he explained that all he had was this shirt, because it had been in a frame at his dad's house, but his dad had since passed away and they'd cleared the house out. It was good to know that he still had this, of all things, but he said that he thought it meant more to me than him and he posted it up a few days later. It's weird to think that it means more to me than him, and I guess it does, but that just shows how much Carl's into his current life and not the things he did 25 or 30 years ago. I definitely am though. I was clear that I'm just looking after it for him. It's safely framed on the wall for whenever he or his family need it back.

Bits and pieces from MBC Skateshop.

MBC was the skate shop that Mick O'Neill did, on Elderslie Street in Glasgow, a little bit after QB closed, and it was rad. The shop was tiny but it was never a problem to squeeze the whole crew in to squint at a video on the TV in the corner, try on shoes, eat stuff out of the fridge, and get something on tick. It was a home from home for a lot of people and Mick was a bit of a positive father-figure sort of guy, when maybe not everybody had that at home. Even if that positivity extended to telling you that the thing you like is shit, it's Mick just keeping you right.

Palace trousers

I'm really into Palace trousers. They're the best trousers out. They're always a really good futuristic material, they're comfy and they sit perfectly. They never bunch up over your shoes and they've got proper zipped pockets and heavy mesh on the inside. And outside too, sometimes. Palace jackets are really good as well, and I don't think that's acknowledged enough. Really good gear, especially when you have to stand outside to drink a pint.

Slam City Skates rug

This is a rug Vans did to celebrate a collaboration they did with Slam. It's the flaming heart logo that Chris Long did for a Slam ad in 1989. Chris Long did the famous block-letters logo too, the one they still use. I only stand on this on special occasions; it's too nice.

Bliss to be Alive by Gavin Hills

Gavin Hills in general, in skateboard magazines and in The Face. From being too hungover to properly cover Münster 1989 for RaD, to winning an Amnesty International award for his coverage of Angola in 1994, Gavin did so much in his life, and he spoke about it all in such a relatable way. Whatever he was writing about, he was in about it, living it. Not like something like Vice now, where there's the massive cultural gap between the people reporting and the people they're talking about.

Phat wasn't a full-on 'skate mag' anyway, but his piece on Sarajevo in the third issue was so far from what any other mags were doing at the time, and that was exactly the sort of thing that made that magazine so great. Being able to seemingly write about whatever he wanted, under Tim Leighton-Boyce or Sheryl Garratt, gave us some of the most entertaining and honest writing in any magazine, ever. Gavin and Simon Evans were really relatable because it wasn't all 'Rarrgh, skate and destroy!', and they spoke to us like real people with real anxieties and insecurities. In hindsight, that was pretty important stuff to see, as a young teenager.

Gavin wrote about skateboarding, travelling, football, war, style and drugs better than anybody.

Live in the fast lane but always make sure you've got the bus fare home.

Rest in Peace, Gavin.

Phat Magazine

…and RaD. It's just easier to take a photo of every issue of Phat. Carries on from the Gavin Hills stuff, but what those people did with that magazine was years ahead of the times. I'd argue to the death that Phat inspired Loaded⁠ - which was a great magazine when it first started⁠—and, for better or for worse, a lot of magazines that came after that. It already knew what its readers were interested in, and it spoke to us on our level. As well as skateboarding it had good music stuff, Manga, girls, video games, movies and clothes, and 15 year-old kids weren't finding this stuff anywhere else; it was out there across various magazines but not really aimed at 'us' in the way that Phat was. It was great. Unfortunately the daisy in Matt Stuart's water pistol on the cover of the first issue gave the distributor a bit of a shock, and it only lasted for three issues.

Assorted James Jarvis stuff

I probably first saw James Jarvis drawings in the Slam ads he did when Sidewalk started, and then again a few years later when the clothes company Silas appeared. Silas clothes were great anyway, but they created this whole world around it, which didn't seem to cross over into the clothes at all. James expanded on that, and turned it into the World of Pain comic, and the massive amount of peripheral stuff that came along with that over the years. There's this ultra-authoritarian place where heavy metal is their folk music with psych as the alternative, fashionespecially footwearis controlled by the state, and there are all kinds of gangs and tribes roaming the landscape. There's a lot of depth to it with history, myth, belief, folklore and celebrity culture affecting daily life, like it does in our world. Dr. Jives in Glasgow always got the clothes, so I'd pick up all the paraphernalia from there, and then they had the World of Pain stuff. I've still got a few of the t-shirts too.

They're simple characters but their world is incredibly detailed. It's like what James does now, where the characters exist to deliver a message, except his work now is generally about the current, real world.

Insane - Mouse Is Pulling The Key VHS, from 1991.

I got this video for free when I bought a second-hand copy of Hokus Pokus off a mate in 1991. I think he'd bought it because it was only a tenner, and he didn't like it. Which was understandable, because it's not exactly a standard skate video, and was even less of one in 1991. It's got scratchy, effected, looped footage and audio, stroboscopic picture-in-picture-in-picture, cryptic poetry, lots of cruising around Maxwell Fry-looking estates, and plenty of non-makes and chilling. Will Bankhead, Arron Bleasdale, Rob Dukes, Jack Harvey, Ed Gill, Yogi, Matt Dawson and Simon Evans are all in it, and there's footage of the King's Cross mini, Holburn Banks, Southbank, Kennington and both Meanwhiles behind all the analogue effects.

It's cartoonish and sinister and hasn't really dated because it still seems odd and interesting nowadays, and it wasn't really 'of the time' at the time. I'm still trying to get to the bottom of it. The whole thing is a work of art.

The music was from Wiiija Records too, which was out of Rough Trade, and Insane was out of Slam, so it's a good example of how much creative originality was coming out of that Neal's Yard shop.

Anarchic Adjustment t-shirt

I swapped this off a guy for the Spacemen 3 t-shirt I was wearing after a night at a thing called Pure at the Barrowlands in 1994, so probably a couple of years after it came out, but I'm still really glad to have it.

Anarchic Adjustment was the clothes company Nick Philip started. He worked on BMX Action Bike, doing design, and I think Anarchic started around the time that magazine turned into RaD, so 1987. It was quite anti- a lot of what was going on, and miles ahead of the time. You got the impression that they were fed up of skateboard clothes all basically being the same, and they did the opposite. A full-page blank ad, or photocopied paste art, was a bold move amongst ads for Vision Street Wear and Ocean Pacific and all this other American stuff that was completely unrelatable to a young teenager in the UK. Their ads never said much, because they didn't have to; they were more like statements or announcements than ads. Or art.

They gave their stuff to BMXers as well as skateboarders, which was rad because there seemed to be the same divide in BMXing that skateboarding had, where some people were into the 1980s US day-glo version and some people understood the new side of it, with the new tricks and the new companies. And Invert Magazine was really nicely done. I used to get that even though I wasn't into BMXing, mostly to see the spots and the clothes.

Nick's layouts in RaD are some of the best looking pages in any skateboard magazine ever. He took Anarchic to the US, and the ads appeared in the US mags, but it was still all ‘from London'. He didn't try to fit in with the US market.