I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lewis Spencer from Coventry art zine Secret Knock earlier this year. Lewis is a long time Cov skater and grew up surrounded by the Wyken crew in the city, that comprised of shredders like Henry “Swampy” Moore, Alex “Moose” McGhie and Kyle Smith – he’s deep ingrained in the scene, and has taken his skills as an artist to some impressive heights. Secret Knock is one such accomplishment: a zine that exposes the often overlooked arts scene in Coventry, and raising the profile of much better artists than myself. I was super stoked that Lewis wanted to talk to me about The Terrible Company, graphic design and skateboarding in general. So without further ado, here’s what happened when I was on the other end of an interview!
Terribleco! Thank you for letting us interview you for this issue of Secret Knock Zine! I’m sure there’s people reading who don’t quite know what Terribleco is, so… what is Terribleco and how long have you been about? And why is it Terrible?
The Terrible Company is a skateboarding blog that I’ve run since 2003. It started as a way to document the scene down at the War Memorial Park Skatepark. I learnt to skate down there and a few of us who used to skate together just started filming each other and making videos, and then we’d post about it on a blog. As I skated more I just made friends down the park and got to meet loads of skaters in Coventry skating street.
The blog kinda grew into this place where I collated all of the clips and photos from skateboarders in Cov & Warwickshire. Over the last 5 years I’ve been less involved with the Coventry skate scene because I moved out of the city, but I still use the blog to showcase skateboarders that I’m stoked on, and document videos, photos and words about skateboarding – and more often than not that involves Coventry in some way.
The name just came out of my nickname, Ade The Terrible. It was a username I had on several websites like the Sidewalk forum and the Enjoi forum when I first started skating, and I also use it as my Xbox gamertag, so people who knew me from those areas just began referring to me as Ade The Terrible. The blog went through a couple of name changes before I settled on Terribleco, and it just came from people using my online username to refer to me. Despite the name I am not actually terrible!
Our aim here at Secret Knock is to focus on DIY culture and Style: do you think that this is something Terribleco also embodies?
Most definitely – The videos, T-Shirts, stickers, the blog itself… Everything around Terribleco has always been made with no expectation of profit, trying to achieve the best quality I can with very little resources. The blog’s philosophy is all about what I can give back to skateboarding, and to show people that they can get out there and do rad stuff with tools that are available to anyone. I like to encourage people to do anything creative through skateboarding, whether that is filming, writing, drawing, or just skating – getting everyone to do something creative for themselves.
Over the course of Lockdown, Skateparks were pretty much shut down. You set up an online game of skate that people could take part in at home, which was pretty rad! How did that come about?
I became a Dad last year, so there’s been a lot of changes in my life. I don’t get the chance to skate and film as much as I used to, so I started posting more stuff on the blog and Insta to keep a connection to skateboarding. Then Lockdown happened and everything ground to a halt. It was hard to get out and skate, and many other people I spoke to were also just feeling super depressed and bummed out over it.
I had got a load of tees and stickers made for a skate competition that was put on indefinite hold because of lockdown. Because I had the prizes already, I wanted to do something to get everyone stoked and fight the lockdown blues. I messaged around and put a call out for people to get involved and found 16 people willing to film themselves doing tricks for the comp. Most of them were super stoked on it, and Lucas Healey threw in a super exclusive t-shirt he’d done for (Cov’s skater owned shop) Ride, and sponsored the comp through his screen printing business Inkside Out.
It was a bit of a mess when we started because I was literally figuring out the logistics as we went along, but by the end it was super fun and everyone pulled out some rad tricks. At first we were all super locked down, so we had people doing tricks in their living rooms or on their driveways. As time went on and places began to open up again you saw more tricks at street spots – the tricks definitely got more crazy once people were back skating places they were used to. It was this weird time capsule of lockdown that gradually transitioned back into something resembling normal life.
How Long have you been skating?
As of 2020 it’s 19 years!
Favourite Skater and Why
My favourite skater is Mark Gonzales – he embodies creativity, has fun with skateboarding and always does his own thing.
Favourite skate Company and Why
It’s a tie between Krooked and Blast Skates. I love the graphics of both companies! Krooked has Mark Gonzales’ signature art style all over it and has a great team featuring my second favourite pro skater Dan Drehobl. Alternatively, Blast really dial into that big, bold, uniquely British 1970’s comic book style like The Beano or The Dandy. Blast have also done some really awesome creative projects with their brand, like toys, junior sized boards and collaborations with some awesome partners like PlayStation!
If you know me, you know the answer is obviously THE SWEEPER. This is my go to trick on any ramp.
Favourite Spot in Coventry
My favourite spot in Coventry no longer exists – Brickies AKA the old council house building in town. It was a series of mellow brick banks you could grind or pop out of. You could practically do any ramp trick on them and I could spend hours there.
One thing that has always drawn me to skateboarding is the creativity involved in all aspects from tricks to board graphics, is this something that you also work with outside of skateboarding in your day to day life? Do the two worlds ever collide?
Being creative is something I have always aspired to, and I always have some ideas buzzing around in my head for projects. My day job is creative – I work for a games studio as a UI Artist. I create in-game menus and produce graphic design for game features and social media, so my job balances a lot of the skills I use running the blog as well. For many years Terribleco has been a testbed for different ideas in graphic design that I want to try out or improve skills I need for my job: I find it hard to separate being creative professionally and being creative within my personal life/skateboarding. I think if you’re creative it’s hard to switch it off, or switch “modes” – you’re creative all of the time.
Skate spots come and go and as Terribleco has been around for awhile, we really want to know what you think has changed about Skateboarding in Coventry over the years. What trends have you seen?
The skate scene in Coventry used to revolve solely around the War Memorial Park skatepark, so a big change I’ve seen over the 17 years I’ve run the blog is that the scene now revolves mostly around street spots like the Herbert Art Gallery. It’s likely a reaction to the poor quality of skateparks in Coventry: people will gravitate towards interesting places to skate that can offer a challenge, and Herbert offers that kind of terrain.
The scene is also noticeably much bigger, and in many ways there’s a strong reaction to global changes in skateboarding. I think it’s more accepted now, so there’s a bigger cross section of people who are skating. Women’s skateboarding has taken off big time and I’ve seen this reflected in the local scene with groups like Femskate, and that’s a great thing for the scene and the city. More people skating is always a positive.
The change in technology has also radically changed the scene – back in 2003 apps like Instagram weren’t around, so the means for filming and sharing content fell onto websites like Terribleco. I used to be one of the few people in the city with a camera filming and documenting skateboarding, and now every skater out there has a HD camera in their pocket. There’s no shortage of fresh clips coming out of the city, so that has changed the exposure to awesome skaters in the city.
Every crew, regardless of time skating or ability, has their own insta, which is super rad – I think before it was a little bit elitist and exclusionary, where you had to “prove yourself” to be worthy of being part of the scene, and being the person to document stuff, which was exhausting and kinda kept skateboarding hidden and closed off. Social Media has broken that barrier down, and I think people realise that if you’re skating, learning and getting stoked on the local scene, then you are definitely part of the community. The positive outcome of this is that there are several Insta accounts that document the scene on a far grander, wider scale than someone like me ever could!
You’re pretty on it with creating fresh content on Instagram and Vimeo, is documenting skateboarding culture something that is important to you?
I think if skateboarders went in thinking there was any assigned importance to what we create it would lose some of the charm or what makes it genuine.
I have a close friend who makes legitimate, proper films and we often have conversations about my skate videos and how he would improve them. He doesn’t skate, so I don’t think he understands just how wildly unorganised and spontaneous skate videos are – I have to explain that these things aren’t structured like a traditional film, they aren’t necessarily trying to say anything other than “here’s some rad skateboarding” (although you can sometimes try and weave a little bit of social commentary in there), and they don’t usually have a huge amount of planning involved.
I don’t think anyone goes into filming skateboarding or running a zine or blog with the intention of documenting the culture of skateboarding for posterity or something grander. These things start off as just messing about with your mates and a means to create, and I think part of skateboarding is the almost unofficial, free form nature of how we interact with our surroundings and document what we are up to. What I feel is important when I make these things is that I’m having a good time skating with a crew, and want to create something everyone can be stoked on.
Lastly, how can people support skateboarding in Coventry and Terribleco?
You can find the blog at theterriblecompany.wordpress.com – I post regular blog posts each week. You can also follow me @theterriblecompany on Instagram!
Skateboarding in Coventry is great – it’s a great scene full of rad people who are always stoked, and I’m super proud to come from that skate scene. If you don’t skate, and want to learn, the skaters in Cov are super friendly and welcoming, and will help you get started. You can always find a session going off at the Herbert Art Gallery on most weekends.
You should go to Ride in Holbrooks for skateboarding hardware and accessories – Ride is a bike shop co-owned by the godfather of Coventry skateboarding Jim The Skin. They have a whole area of the shop dedicated to skateboarding, with tons of boards, hardware and clothing.
Finally, show your support for the War Memorial Ramp Renovation campaign – this is a campaign run by a rad family who are local to the War Memorial Park, campaigning for the skatepark to be massively improved. I started campaigning for the skatepark to be improved back in 2010 originally: the build quality and design is really poor by modern standards, and the WMRR campaign is continuing this work to get the skatepark updated. It’s the kind of facility that Coventry badly needs, and with youth services all but absent in modern times, we need more places for young people to go which are accessible for them.
Thanks to the whole Coventry and Warwickshire scenes for supporting Terribleco this long, thanks to Secret Knock for wanting to interview me, thanks to my wife Emily and my daughter Olivia for being awesome and inspiring me to stay creative.
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