INTERVIEW BY NEIL MACDONALD (@SCIENCEVERSUSLIFE) / SELF PORTRAIT BY ALEX MOUL
Alex Moul’s entrance to the broader UK—and European—skateboard landscape came at the age of 12, by way of some truly mind-boggling Tim Leighton-Boyce photos and sequences in a 1989 issue of RaD magazine. This was a set of images that remain burned into the mind of anybody who saw them at the time, a solid 32 years ago this month, and with good reason.
For a lot of RaD’s readership, this was a monumental moment. Firstly, Alex was a kid, like we were. He wasn’t wearing the coolest new skateboard company gear, he wasn’t even from—or in—America, and he was killing it. The new, nearly BMX-less direction of Read and Destroy was being defined right here, with this incredible example of the beginnings of the street skating revolution laid out before our eyes over several pages, like we’d never seen.
Even at the time, when skateboard developments were only as regular as the monthly magazines and occasional videos, the NSA vert contest report in the same issue immediately looked dated amongst Alex’s no-comply variations and kickflip sequence. Suddenly a trick done down two stairs was way more important than what was happening over at Raging Waters, and it made us want to skate like him.
A pro deal with Death Box followed, and subsequent parts in their Spirit of the Blitz and Rollersnakes’ 540 and 720 videos cemented Alex as one of the best examples of one of the rarest of things: a super technical skateboarder with style. Impossibles, late shove-its and underflips were properly popped and caught; a sudden and dramatic change from the ‘flip it and hope for the best’ approach of the previous few year of skateboarding’s progression.
When landing on your board the right way up was the be-all-and-end-all of modern street skating, Alex and his friend Tom Penny were redefining how existing flip tricks could look, and consistently introducing more. And those Safeway curbs were in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, not San Francisco. As incredible as their skateboarding was, it was relatable.
It wasn’t really a surprise to see Alex go on to be one of the most creative, innovative people in skateboarding—it was a logical progression—but it was his style that stood out. Especially so when he got to the US, where he lived and skated with his Flip friends before turning pro (again) for Santa Cruz, all while maintaining his role as a respected drum and bass DJ/producer.
Despite what he says, Alex has a great memory. He’s done a lot of interesting things and he’s met a lot of interesting people—most of whom I’m sure he can count as friends—and yet remains as humble, happy and genuine as any little kid who’s just content to hang with their mates and ride a skateboard.
I called him at his home in Huntington Beach to ask him about skateboarding, friends, and everything else.
Stepping it up in the March 1989 edition of RaD Magazine. Photos: Tim Leighton-Boyce. Inset Below Left – Throw On From The Same Article
You had a lot of coverage from early on. What was your first photo in a magazine, and how did it happen?
That would be with TLB [Tim Leighton-Boyce] for RaD magazine. I’d been streetskating with Sean Goff at the time, after meeting the SS20 guys. I was actually sitting on their doorstep the morning they opened, in 1987 or something, and they saw me streetskating so they took me around the spots in Oxford. I didn’t know it but Sean had called TLB from RaD magazine and told him to come and check this kid out… So he did, and he was shooting sequences, and I was failing at some things and thinking how much film was being wasted and what a nightmare it was.
The next month RaD magazine came out, and I wasn’t in it. And that was fine, because why would I be? Then a month after that when the next one came out, I had seven pages in the magazine. I was freaking out. One of them was the kickflip sequence down the two stairs, which sounds funny now but apparently back then there had only ever been a kickflip sequence on flatground. Then there was another sequence of the 180 no-comply down the two stairs, and the still of the kickflip and the still of the jump-on boardslide on the two-stair handrail. Haha!
But apparently all that was quite new and there was about four other sequences of different no-comply tricks. I think one was a half cab no-comply and there was a frontside 360 no-comply, all in some dodgy outfit that my mum had got me – apart from the Powell sweatpants which are still awesome, and I luckily got a pair from Deville [Nunes] a couple of years ago that I wear to bed. And sometimes when I’m skating now too. Haha!
Those sweatpants and that Tommy Guerrero board are burned in a lot of brains.
That was the third skateboard I ever bought.
And possibly the last?
Yes! Haha! I only bought three decks in my life, which is extremely lucky. The first one was an Alva Eddie Reategui, and I met him with Double D [Dave Duncan] at Chicken’s Pool, many years back. I had a six-pack of Heineken and gave him one and told him my first board was his board, and he thought that was amazing. My second board was the Santa Cruz Corey O’Brien, the skeleton with the flaming ball, and then the third one was the Tommy Guerrero with the sword and flames. That was at the end of my first year of skateboarding, and then I got sponsored by Death Box.
How did that happen?
Jeremy Fox had seen RaD magazine and spoke to Sean. I got a call at SS20, him asking if I’d like to be on the team, and I was like, “I don’t really know what that means, but yeah, that sounds cool!” That was the same day that SS20 sponsored me as well.
I didn’t know what being sponsored entailed, but then all of a sudden all this free stuff starts coming to my house, and my dad goes, “Where did you get the money for all this stuff? What have you been doing?” so I had to try to explain it to him even though I didn’t really know what it meant.
So I met with Jeremy, did the ‘on the spot’ skating in front of him and everything, then that was that. Never had to buy a deck again in my life, after that, so I’ve been extremely lucky there.
One foot on a Deathbox Mac (Graham McEacheran). The first free board? RaD Magazine June 1989. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
You were right in at the deep end, with a board sponsor, shop sponsor and all the coverage you were getting. Did you appreciate that that wasn’t normal?
Not really! Basically, all I did was go out skating. I thought it was cool that I could go and skate new places all the time, you know? Those guys would take me to all the new spots and what have you.
Clearly it was probably a bit strange though. Jeremy would call on a Thursday night and say, “Right, you’re going to Belgium tomorrow”, and my dad would be all, “Oh god, son, you’re going to need Friday and Monday off school”, but he was pretty good about it. He said that I was probably going to learn more about life by doing this than actually going to school, and he knew that I was clearly not interested in school. I remember coming back once and my dad asking where I’d been. “Germany”. And he was like, “But whereabouts in Germany?!” and I’m just, “I don’t know. It was a hall with ramps and stuff… I went there, I skated, and I came back”. He told me that if I was going to go off on these trips I’d have to know where I’d been and try to learn something.
He finally got me this big map of Europe with these pins, and I’d have to put a pin in where I’d been. And as the years went on the map just got stuffed with pins. It was a pretty rad thing by the end of it, but I doubt he still has that.
Horizons broadening for 14 year old Alex Moul. Deathbox ad from Rad Magazine, February 1990
A map with pins in it makes me think of the cover of Spirit of the Blitz. Seems quite war-like.
Well, I hadn’t been too many places when I filmed for that. I think we filmed that section in about three or four days. Haha! A bit in London, some stuff from a Switzerland contest and just my hometown of Abingdon, and Oxford.
What did your non-skate mates make of it all? Did they realise what was happening was pretty special?
No, because no-one knew. Nobody knew at school, nobody knew apart from local skate mates that I grew up with. It wasn’t something I went about talking about. It only got exposed when my English teacher went into WHSmith’s and saw me on the cover of RaD magazine and then brought it into school. I was just like, “Oh no… What have you done?” because I wasn’t really a boaster or anything like that. That was my other life, separate from school and what have you. At school I was—hopefully—just a regular kid, but when that got exposed it was a bit mad.
It only got exposed when my English teacher went into WHSmith’s and saw me on the cover of RaD magazine and then brought it into school
There was some repercussions where people thought I was a show-off now, and things like that. I don’t know. I hated it. Haha! I just wanted to go off and skate and do my thing and not have that lot know about that. We went on a skiing trip when I was 14, to Austria, and a bunch of kids from another school showed up and they recognised me. They were asking if it was ‘really me’, so I had to show my passport to them, then there was this weird commotion where they all wanted autographs and my PE teacher came over to find out what was going on. I told him they liked my skateboarding, so that made it a bit worse. All of a sudden, the whole school knew I was in magazines and stuff.
The November 1990 RaD cover discovered by Alex’s English Teacher. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
What was your first meeting with the Isle of Wight crew like?
I think I was 11, and I went to Southsea skatepark. I had my first deck, the Alva Eddie Reategui board with pink and yellow striped griptape, rails, stickers and everything. Jolliffe, Martin Wager, Steve Parnell, Scott Wilson—the Isle of Wight crew—were the best, do you know what I mean? I’d been skating three months, I think, and I learned frontside wallride mute 180 out, off the jump ramp to wall, so they all took me streetskating. I didn’t know them; they didn’t need to. They were a bit older, you know?
So they took me to the Navigator banks and what have you, but they first took me to a skate shop, where I bought a sticker. I bought a Santa Cruz Slasher sticker for £5… And they were all like, “You victim!”, and when we got back to the skatepark they stickered my board up with Florian Böhm crossed-out Converse stickers, much to my dismay, because I wanted my board pristine. But now I think it’s the coolest shit ever, of course. They were a massive influence.
Similarly, that day I went to Southbank to meet Jeremy, they were there, and I got to see them skate. They were way better so I couldn’t understand why Jeremy would be interested in me!
You were the youngest person on quite a gnarly team. Death Box were a pretty manly bunch. How was that?
When they were going in the pubs, I’d be skating the curbs outside. Haha! That’s one of the good things about skateboarding though; you help the younger generation through it. The encouragement is great. That’s the best thing about skateboarding: it’s more of an encouraging thing than people going, “Oh, you’re really good – fuck you” type of thing.
That’s what I learned from those guys, and everyone else from the older generation of skateboarding, and that’s what I try to portray to the younger generation skateboarding now, because they’re the future of it
Everyone wants everyone else to do well. That’s what I learned from those guys, and everyone else from the older generation of skateboarding, and that’s what I try to portray to the younger generation skateboarding now, because they’re the future of it. We were just lucky to have those days that we did and it’s nice that people even looked up to us, do you know what I mean?
I liked how there was somebody that good who was around our age, and from the UK, and seemed like a regular kid. RaD magazine even started doing awards, which you’d win.
Like the UK SOTY or what have you? I got that two years in a row!
Maybe for you. For me, it was just… “Really? There’s loads of rad people out there”. Like going back to when Jeremy sponsored me, I was very, “Why me?” When I went to London, to Southbank, everybody was good! I didn’t realise that I was, I don’t know, ‘ahead’ of anyone. I just always tried to think about what there was new to do. What tricks I hadn’t seen anyone do. Then just try to learn shit or come up with stuff I hadn’t seen and that goes back to the Death Box days with Matt McMullan. Rest in peace mate.
Melancholy Nosebonk at Shell Centre pre-Hibernation Mode. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
I’d go up to London and stay with Matt for a week at a time, and by the end of the week everybody there had learned my shit so I’d have to go back and learn more tricks. They’d call it ‘Mouly’s hibernation mode’ when I’d go home for a few weeks and skate with my friends like Simon Thorpe and Adski and Batesy and Pete Evans and what have you. I’d come up with new stuff and go back to London with a whole bunch of new tricks, and that always made me feel good. Like, “Fuck, everyone’s learned all my new stuff and they’re probably doing it better than me!” so I’d have to go back and learn some new shit.
How do you even come up with new tricks? How do you decide what’s possible, and stick at those tricks until you do them?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. Once you’ve seen a trick, you know it’s possible. When I learned 540 one-foot ollies, which was pretty early on, my friend Scott Wilson—who was sort of on flow for H-Street—had been to America and he’d stayed with Matt Hensley, who was my childhood hero. Him and Ed Templeton were my favourite skateboarders. So Scott came back and told me that Matt Hensley was trying to learn 540 one-foot ollies on ramp, and I learned them that day.
I could already do 360 one-foots the way where you just slip your front foot off like the old school ollie impossibles. I had a sequence doing one on a ramp in Leamington Spa, and I did one in the contest in Switzerland that’s in Spirit of the Blitz. I really got them down that morning, on the ramp outside.
SS20 pride on the tail. Chink-Chink in Rad Magazine, February 1990. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
You came to be known to a lot of people through having big parts the Rollersnakes videos, 540 and 720, but you were very much skating for SS20. Was there any weirdness there?
I don’t think anyone was really bent out of shape. If they were, no-one ever said anything. I’d never really thought of that until now.
As I said, with skateboarding everybody just wants to encourage everybody else to do well, and those videos were good exposure. And they were fun to make!
I didn’t think about it as promoting another shop, just promoting Death Box and everything. Back then there wasn’t a flurry of videos or anything, so the more coverage, and the more people willing to film, is a great thing in itself.
How long did those parts take?
I don’t know… I remember going up North to Leicester or Derby for a week or something, for 540. Or maybe two different trips up there. Back in those days you’d just film as much as you could in a day, and that was it! Video parts nowadays will take three years or something. Haha!
Reluctant Pro Model announcement in Rad Magazine, December 1990
Was there much discussion around you turning pro for Death Box?
I didn’t want to turn pro at all. Jeremy told me I had to turn pro, and I was just like, “No. Nope.” That’s why that advert said “Alex Moul, it’s time for your pro model!” with the “No sir, please no!”
Right, so that ad was accurate? I thought they were just being funny because you were a kid.
No, I thought he was out of his mind. “I’m not good enough for that!”, do you know what I mean? And then he basically said it was too bad, and I had to have a pro board because I’d just won a couple of contests.
At the Nike Air contest Ed Templeton won Pro and I won Am, and Curtis McCann got second in that one. When I went to get my prize at that one, I left my skateboard, and when I came back someone had stolen it. Haha! I don’t know if that flattering or insulting. Hahaha! I used to ride my boards into the ground anyway; it was thrashed. Time for a new one.
Frontside boardslide for a glimpse of Raydale Dower’s popcorn graphic on the Hensley shape. Photo: James Hudson
Did you meet Raydale Dower, who drew your original popcorn graphic? He went on to play in Uncle John & Whitelock, amongst other things. He plays in Tut Vu Vu with Jamie Bolland now, and works as an artist.
I actually had no idea who did both of them. My first board was the mole in the popcorn, and the shape was a traced Matt Hensley King Size board. Just because I loved Matt Hensley. I’d never ridden one, I just wanted that shape because it’s Matt Hensley.
I called up Ray to find out about that board…
Raydale Dower: Back then I used to get boards and wheels from Death Box. I started getting hooked up with boards after the team stayed at my parents’ house in Aberdeen—Sean Goff, Pete Dossett, Wurzel, Mark Van der Eng and Jeremy Fox, the manager—around 1988, but that’s another story.
Anyway, I was a young skateboarder, skateboarding and drawing comics and Jeremy Fox called me up and asked me if I wanted to do the graphic for the new Alex Moul board. Of course, I was stoked to get my artwork on a board but not sure if Mac, who usually did all the Death Box artwork, was busy or Jeremy wanted to get in another younger skateboarder to do the graphic. Either way, pretty sure I drew it at school and was probably around sixteen then. Jeremy came up with the mole eating popcorn concept—I think Alex asked for popcorn—and I drew it. The mole is based on the Penfold character from the Danger Mouse cartoon, so bit of popular television culture got appropriated there!
Actually, at the time I was disappointed with the graphic, the colours were all fucked up. Although looking back at the graphic now, the colours are pretty wild and there is a hint of a ‘Blue Meanie’—the character from The Beatles’ 60s animation ‘The Yellow Submarine’—quality to the blue/purple mole! All the Death Box stuff had a psychedelic quality, those guys were massive heads.
As I remember it, the first pressing was rushed. There was definitely a deadline with an incentive to get the board out as quickly as possible because Alex Moul was blowing up back then. He was aged 13 and doing handrail tricks. Alex had turned up at the Livi Fun Day comp earlier in the year with his whole arm in a plaster cast and then proceeded to session the rail at the top of the bank above the bowl, doing smiths and pivots on the lower rail, with his arm in the cast!? Nobody had ever hit that line before, and there was a photo of that session in RaD.
I did like the sticker they ran of the popcorn box with ‘Alex Moul’s Finest Popcorn’ and stripes printed in red and white and I’m stoked to have a small footnote in this history. With hindsight when Alex’s board was released it was at a turning point in UK, and international, skateboarding when the scene became more street focused with younger riders instead of old gnarly vert guys with big kneepads!
Check out the shape of the board too, the nose is getting bigger and it’s the beginning of the modern pop lozenge shaped board. It’s interesting looking at the picture of Alex doing the frontside handrail—I’m pretty sure that’s the first edition he’s riding because the colours are so crazy—and he’s still got rails on his board! Death Box used to do these massive rails called ‘Cro-Bars’ but think Alex is using the skinny versions. Fast forward a year later and nobody would be using rails.
Alex Moul’s board was released right on the cusp of a new era of skateboarding at the end of the eighties, I got to draw the graphic and never got paid! Death Box moved to America and became Flip, ushering in the nineties and everything became oversized and baggy… I ended up at art school, tuned in, dropped out and got into playing music.
That’s amazing. Did you have to relearn 540 one-foots because of that board?
Haha! No, no. Matt actually did an epic one in the H-Street video [Not The New H-Street Video, 1991], the real way with the full one-foot, not the slip-off version.
That’s cool you had full say in your board shape.
They said I was out of my mind too, like, “It’s bigger than you!” Haha! But yeah, that shape was pretty big. For the second one, just the popcorn graphic, that was an Andy Howell New Deal Board. My mate Batesy—Martyn Payne—he had that, and I had a go on his at Budgens’ carpark and I thought it was really good. So I traced around that to make the popcorn board.
That one did really well, and I never kept one of those but luckily I got one through a GoFundMe that Dan Pearce and the Strictly Death Box Facebook group guys did. They found one; some guy had one in a shed from 1992, or 1991 or what have you.
Everyone chipped in and paid for it and they got it sent to me. Complete set-up too! Cro-Bar rails and Gullwing trucks, and barely skated. It was amazing. Thanks to everyone who did that.
Rad Magazine cover from March 1991. Praise be for Cro-Bar Rail graphic preservation
Is it still barely skated?
No, as soon as I got it I did a kickflip on flat, and filmed it. I did a little ‘Reunited’ thing on my Instagram where it just loops. Luckily I did the kickflip first try, then I put it away safely.
Were you getting shoes from Vans at that time?
That was through a distributor… I got two pairs of Vans and that was it. I never got any more. Haha!
Vans got their money’s worth out of those then. You had a lot of photos in Vans.
I used to skate them until there was holes in the sole and on the sides. In the sole I’d put cardboard so that my feet wouldn’t get knackered, and for the sides I’d cut up old footballs and make ollie pads out of them. They must have looked horrendous to anybody walking down the street, but old rubber black-and-white chequered footballs; if you cut them up, they make a really good ollie pad!
No rubber football required. Boardslide into the bank from RaD magazine, April 1990. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
Resoles from Woolworths…
There’s a name I haven’t heard for a long time! Shoo Goo, all that stuff. Jeremy used to get mad that I’d be riding my board until there was no tail left but I didn’t want to ride a new one! New ones were too crisp. When I shot the 50-50 sequence on the Oxpens rail in Oxford there was probably about an inch of tail gone. Haha!
You got on Bench, when they made stuff for skateboarders and BMXers. I was a ‘rep’ for them then, like an Avon lady. That was meant to mean getting the stuff at cost and selling it to people in the area for profit, but it actually just meant clothes at cost for everybody around. How did you get on?
That’s probably due to the 540 video as well. Before then I kind of got some stuff from Anarchic Adjustment. I can’t remember how, but I got two packages from them and I loved the corduroy cargo trousers. When I was filming for 540, I saw the corduroy Bench cargo trousers and I thought they were amazing, and I wanted to get a pair. So whoever it was had a word with them and they were psyched that I liked them, I guess!
We did some advert that was about moleskin pants, which was funny. Whatever that material is, but moleskin / Alex Moul in a little ad. Bench stuff was brilliant; I loved it. Is he still doing it? Send me a package!
James Holder—Hild—who did Bench started Superdry. I saw an interview with him where he said that he realised there were way more regular people who just needed regular clothes, so he did that instead. He’s worth like £200 million now.
Somebody sent me my net worth one time and apparently, I was worth $6-7 million when I’ve actually only got a few dollars in the bank. I don’t have a pot to piss in mate! But according to the internet I’m loaded! My mates were all, “Lend me a tenner then!” and I’m going, “You lend ME a tenner!”
Talking of Anarchic then, you always got on well with people in London, right? What were those trips like?
They were brilliant times. Whatever pocket-money I got, I’d go to London. I’d just show up at Southbank and know that I had a place to stay with someone. I don’t know if it’s still like that now in the skate world. I’d heard about this legendary Matt McMullan guy, and me and my friend Simon Thorpe went to Southbank, probably just after I got sponsored, and we met him.
Whatever pocket-money I got, I’d go to London. I’d just show up at Southbank and know that I had a place to stay with someone
I’d heard about the tricks that this guy was doing and I was like, “That’s him, that’s gotta be the guy!” So I introduced myself and asked if he knew of any other spots around there, and he showed us all down the yellow blocks and stuff, and I remember we went down into the subway and he nose-wheelied down this whole subway corridor like nothing. Just chillin’. He was amazing.
The long and the short of it is that we became really good mates, and every time I went to London I could go and stay with him, so I’d do that. Or I’d stay with Simon Evans or Matt…
Matt Stuart! Best cheese on toast ever after nights of skating. He’d raid his mum’s cheese. I don’t know where they got their cheese from, but it was very posh.
Lost London Landmarks. Nosegrind Tail Grab out of Jubilee Gardens. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
You were at Shell a lot; what were some highlights of being there?
For me, when I noseblunted the Gonz ledge at Jubilee Gardens was one. I had my nosegrind and my nosegrind tailgrab in my RaD magazine interview or whatever. I didn’t skate with Gonz there. I just missed him when he done the ollie down the three then the 180 fakie 50-50, and everybody’s all, “Mark Gonzales was here!” I did get to skate with him at Harrow.
Backside noseblunt slide at Shell Centre (opposite Jubilee Gardens) in 1992. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
And then a few years later when I was on the Bazooka Joe board I had the double-page spread doing the backside noseblunt on the planter ledge, and the sequence of the back noseblunt with the bigspin out on the other side.
What about Gonz at Harrow then? He’d have been here with Jason and Spike filming for Video Days.
Yeah, they were over filming for Video Days. They were already at Harrow when I got there, and it was my first time meeting him, so obviously I was in awe of him. One of the first RaD magazines I ever got was Mark skating Latimer Road.
That’s digging deep, that one! So, Mark went to do an ollie to pivot on the halfpipe, you know the bit behind the shop with the no-platform? And he missed, hung up the back of his legs and he fell back down onto his head and pretty much knocked himself out. But he didn’t quite. And then he got up and dropped in, and did it. I was just thinking, “This fella’s amazing…”, so I sort of introduced myself and told him there were these handrails round the back, said that I liked to skate them, and asked him if he’d like to skate them. He went, “Ahh, yeeahh! Handrails!” in his weird voice and the whole demo kind of got shifted there.
I was the only person who skated the handrail with him, and I actually learned my first Smith grind on a handrail that day, but the stuff Mark did was mental. If I remember correctly, this is how it went… The first trick he did was a backside salad grind, which no-one had ever seen. First try. I was like, “Oh, he did a 5.0, but it was kind of like a blunt?” Second trick, he did a frontside salad grind. Everybody’s just like, “Woah…”, but this was just the beginning of the carnage. I’d done a 50-50, and a Smith grind, and a front board, and I was about to try to learn lipslides, and the session carries on.
It was a brilliant, phenomenal day to witness. Video Days hadn’t come out yet so we hadn’t seen noseblunt slides
Next thing I know he does a switch boardslide, and I’m like, “You just boardslid the handrail backwards!” We didn’t even know about switchstance. Then he did a switch 180 to 50-50. It was like he was skating backwards; it was crazy. And then he did a 180 fakie nosegrind and when he did that he ollied over the top of the rail, to fakie nosegrind all the way down.
Then he tried a frontside 270 to back lip—I’m not sure if he got that or not—and then he started trying to do darkslides, but ollieing into them. I guess the real amazing one was when he noseblunt slid the handrail. He ollied over the handrail to noseslide on the other side! It was a brilliant, phenomenal day to witness. Video Days hadn’t come out yet so we hadn’t seen noseblunt slides, so we didn’t know it was a noseblunt slide, we just thought it was an ollie over to noseslide on the other side.
This Willy Grind in Harrow was a poster in RaD Magazine. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
You must have seen a lot of tricks for the first time at the European contests. Anything stand out from those?
Well, there’s a funny story about Eindhoven with Ed Templeton. I’d just turned pro—so we’re jumping down the line a bit—and it was my second time meeting Ed and my first pro contest. Me and Ed spark off a session on the flat bank, and Ed had shown me half Casper flips before, and I learned backside 180 ones. Kids started calling that one the ‘Moul grip’! Haha! I don’t know why; it was a half Casper flip but backside 180.
So we’re in Eindhoven and he’s telling me about this new thing that people are trying to learn, and it’s like an ollie but then you do a shove-it. A late shove-it, basically. He was trying to show me them, but he hadn’t really got them down by that point, so we parted ways and I went off down by the bogs and I learned them. I remember learning one-foot ollies at the bus stop before I went to Southbank to meet Jeremy for the first time, in the rain. Nobody had really seen one-foot ollies, apart from Martin Wager who was doing them really good.
And let’s be clear here, that trick is definitely called a one-foot, and not an ‘Ollie North’.
Yes. Thank you. I call people out on that all the time.
So basically, I learned the late shove-it, and I remember in my contest run—which is the only contest run I’ve ever done in my life where I landed every single trick—for my last trick I just tried this out of nowhere. Pulled it out of my hat. There was a jump ramp, and then a channel to the flat bank, and for my last trick I did a frontside ollie late shove-it across the channel into the flat bank and everybody went, “What?” except Ed who goes, “I just showed you the idea for that yesterday and now you’re doing it over channels?!”
So you’ve landed a trick Matt Hensley was trying, and now one Ed Templeton was trying.
I don’t know if it was their ideas… But they were trying those, and I don’t know, I just envisioned them in ways that I could make work, somehow. And obviously late shove-its have been a massive thing for my skating ever since.
Deathbox in the Netherlands. Left to right: Rocker, Alex, Steve Jolliffe, Andy Scott, Jeremy Fox, Rune Glifberg. Photo: James Hudson
Can you remember that Eindhoven contest run?
I can actually, because it’s the only one I landed every trick!
Let’s hear it then. I’m pretty sure there’s no footage of that.
If someone could find that, that would be amazing. Really, really amazing. What was it… It was push-it, push-it, ollie impossible, pushed up to the vert wall—and the stadiums were massive back then so you’d have to skate half a block to even get to the next thing—and did a 360 one-foot on the vert wall, I came down and did a bag lady down the handrail which is a front-truck lipslide thing.
So like ollieing over to a Willy grind on the other side?
Yeah, basically. Like a lipslide but you land on your front truck and grind down. So I did that down the handrail, then a front-foot impossible on the flat bank, then I went over to the right where there was a channel where I did a frontside ollie to tail-bash over that, then I had to go about a mile to the vert wall again, and on the way I did a kickflip on flat going as fast as I could which was probably the scariest thing out of the lot! Hahaha! If you bail that, you’re buggered. I remember Steve Jolliffe saying how he thought the kickflip was mental.
So anyway, I got to the vert wall and did a 540 one-foot ollie on that, then I did a backside mute Japan over the hip, then that trick I mentioned before, the frontside ollie late shove-it over the channel to the flat bank, and that was it. It was best-run-counts and I got lucky and I won.
Japan in Eindhoven. Photo: James Hudson
Ed and Deanna said to me afterwards that they’d predicted that I was going to win. Ed’s really competitive and he pissed off after my first run, and Deanna goes, “Are you not going to congratulate him on such a good run?” and he’s like, “Yeah, alright mate. Good run”. Better than that; the day before, me and Ed went street skating. That’s where I got the cover of Skate Action, doing a nose bonk or something. My childhood skate hero coming second behind me made it a very exciting weekend.
First place vert got $1,500 and a bag of popcorn, and first place street got $500 and a bag of popcorn. So that just tells you what the difference was then, in what people thought of the different styles of skating at a contest. Wurzel said, “Wait, didn’t Ed win the Münster World Championships? Doesn’t that make you World Champion now?” Haha! So in a weird way I was World Champion for a couple of months until I went to Münster and got 24th place. It could happen to anyone.
Can you remember what your 24th-place Münster run was?
No! It was not memorable! Haha! I do remember gapping from a quarterpipe to back lip down the handrail and everyone thought that was pretty good, and I remember noseblunt sliding the handrail, which was pretty big for that time too. Bu I didn’t land everything and on any given day anyone could win and that’s good because everyone should!
Death Box and Flip existed simultaneously for a while, right? It wasn’t just the case that Death Box turned into Flip, was it?
The name Death Box had started to seem a bit outdated, or what have you, I guess.
When it changed to db.
Yeah, when it was just the ‘db’ on the tops of boards. My Bazooka Joe slick just had ‘db’ on it, instead of Death Box. Flip tricks were really coming in, and people being in control instead of with pressure flips when you’re just flinging it. We’ve got Tom Penny to thank for that, pretty much. So there was debate about what to call it, and I believe I was in the room when we decided to call it Flip. I remember names going back and forth and saying that I thought ‘Flip’ was a good name. Then ten minutes later Tom says, “We should call it Flip”, and Jeremy goes, “I know, we shall call it Flip!” That’s how I remember it going down anyway! Haha! In the warehouse in Wellingborough or wherever.
Death Box rebranded to db, then Jeremy and Ian started Flip which ran at the same time, for a bit, right? It didn’t really rebrand to Flip.
That’s possible, yep. I think the main goal was just to freshen it up and just do a new thing, so I’m sure both were co-existing at the same time, for a minimal amount of time. They still had Death Box going when they were starting to make Flip boards, and that obviously was more for Tom and Geoff and Rune and Andy and that. I never had a Flip board, but there we are.
But while this is all going on, you’re getting fully into music as work. DJ residencies and putting records out.
Yeah. There was this weird thing where the magazines were doing captions like, ‘Alex Moul, Abingdon’s techno king’, and there were all these weird rumours going about. Like if I didn’t show up somewhere it was because I’d died of a drug overdose or whatever. I started hearing stuff like this, and I’m like, “This isn’t skateboarding man, this is bollocks. If I’m going to skate, I’m going to skate for myself”.
And bear in mind that I’ve been away every weekend from the age of 12, and now I’m 17 or what have you, and all my mates are getting laid or getting girlfriends and stuff and I hadn’t even experienced a normal teenage life. So when I got into DJing a bit, and music, it was a bit like, “Oh hang on, there’s girls!” There was a bit of normality. I didn’t expect to get any good at that either, but I wasn’t just interested in skateboarding, you know? It was just something fun and usually if something’s fun and I get into it, I usually do OK at it. So when they moved to America I started getting regular jobs.
I wasn’t just interested in skateboarding, you know? It was just something fun and usually if something’s fun and I get into it, I usually do OK at it. So when they moved to America I started getting regular jobs
What regular jobs were you doing?
Terrible ones. Temp jobs, like working in warehouses. One of them was called Bookpoint, and one was in a warehouse for TNT or something and there was a mountain of magazines, up to the ceiling, and they wanted you to peel the backs off stickers and put them on the front of each magazine, but my hands were so cold that I couldn’t move them, so I couldn’t even physically do this job. At 11 o’clock, or whenever the first break was, I just left. I went back to the temp agency and asked them to never send me there again.
Then I got a job at Massive Records, because I was always in there buying records anyway and they knew that I knew about my drum and bass and jungle. I got the job as teaboy and ended up the main buyer for drum and bass.
Gonz inspired picture perfect frontside noseblunt slide. In between regular jobs in 1994. Photo: Wig Worland. Inset Below Left – DJing at a Mowax party a few years later
When you were doing the agency jobs, were you thinking that that’s what it’d be like from now on? Did you think that was your life now?
I don’t know. I was probably just not really conscious of it. I just needed money, and I’d got my first real girlfriend at this point too. After I got the job at the shop I met my mate Graham Fisken—Lucida—who lived in Abingdon as well. He came in looking for his record, Tunnel Vision on Production House—which was a really good label back then—and he thought it was amazing that we had a copy. I asked him if he wanted to listen to it and he goes, “No, I made it”. It was like a J.R. Hartley moment, you know? The Yellow Pages advert. Haha!
I asked him if he’d be interested in trying to make a record with me, and he didn’t really know me or what have you, but he knew that I was DJing around the circuit in Oxford, and luckily he said “yeah”. The first couple of tunes didn’t come out but we got some sort of recognition, then we did one really got one called ‘Chilled’ and that got signed to Timeless Recordings, and that was basically the start of our thing.
Then we did the B-side to that, which was called ‘Spirits’, and Fabio played it on Radio 1. We gave Fabio a DAT tape at Speed, this club in London. Our friend Graham Mew—The Invisible Man—was a big artist from Oxford who supported us, and we had support from Smithy and Quiff of Total Science and DJ Lee of course, who I used to skate with. He’s actually in the first RaD magazine which I got pictures in! There was a picture of us two in SS20 and it says ‘Lee Ching, sticker king’. He kind of got me into DJing too, because he had decks at his house and I’d have a go after we’d gone skating. Oxford boys make some noise!
Did you ever skate with DJ Die?
I did, actually! Briefly, once, in London. I remember him doing some really good wallrides. We didn’t really stay in touch, but yeah, fair play to him as well! Another one who skated in London a lot was Jason Maldini, from Bad Company and all that. I used to take my records to his house when we’d plan on going skating and we’d end up just spinning tunes for the weekend. I remember his sister braided my hair once.
Frontside bluntslide Shove it from System Mag in 1993. Photo: Wig Worland
So while you’re doing this, your other mates have gone out to Huntington Beach. How did things change for you?
I got a call from Jeremy Fox saying, “We’re really doing quite well, and the lads want you to come out for a couple of weeks, just to check it out”. I’d never been to America and I’d always wanted to go, and I’d still been skating here and there but just undercover on my own. So I was obviously rusty when I got here and saw those guys. Haha! But they paid for everything and I went out for two weeks. My boss at Massive, Jo, was really nice about it too. I flew out here and Geoff picked me up from the airport, then we immediately went to Ed Templeton’s house, which I was excited about.
“Hey Ed, me again!”
Ed and Deanna were watching midget porn or something weird but it was amazing getting to California and seeing the red curbs and the yellow hydrants, and all these amazing spots. And just to be staying and skating with them. Tom was amazing. Geoff was amazing. Being there for the stuff in the Toy Machine Welcome To Hell video where Ed’s 50-50ing the UCI rails and Muska’s there… It was a full group thing, just the coolest shit ever.
And with skateboarding then, you could do whatever you wanted. It’s not like if you did a boneless you wouldn’t be ‘cool’ and if you’re not doing this trick you’re rubbish. It had gone from ‘That’s lame’ to ‘Anything goes’ again and I was thinking, “Rad! This is skateboarding again, and I’m into it”.
The time when you were off doing music was definitely the time when the rules got strict.
If you weren’t wearing the right gear, you were lame or what have you. Do you know what I mean? For me, anything like that makes me go the opposite way. If you have to do this or that, I’m like, “Fuck that. I’m doing something else, I’m doing my own thing”. I didn’t like that. That’s sort of what it was like when I came to America as well. I had to learn to catch kickflips properly again, and all that. I was at the Huntington Beach park, and did a front foot impossible and all of a sudden all the kids come over to ask who I am and if I’m pro or whatever. I’m just like, “Nah, I’m no-one, I’m just friends with those guys over there”.
Fifteen years after his flaming sword kickflip catapulted him into our consciousness. Kickflip catch for Thrasher magazine. Photo: Michael Burnett
As time went on and as I kept coming back, I realised that with some of these old tricks, if I started doing them down bigger stuff, that could be my little niche in skating. As well as learning how to frontside flip good and doing some handrail shit and what have you, but I always tried to put my own spin on stuff. And in that respect, I guess people liked that. It was inventive and I was trying to be different. Ed says in my On Video that I was thinking different and doing something different. “It’s exciting, you know”, he said.
When it was at the point where somebody doing the same trick down an extra three stairs makes them ‘better’, I would rather do a different trick and inspire the mind. Now everyone’s doing all of it and it’s great. Skateboarding’s in a good place and it’s more creative than ever now, but at that point in time it was stagnant and boring and I just tried to be a little bit different from everyone else. As usual. Haha!
Skateboarding’s in a good place and it’s more creative than ever now, but at that point in time it was stagnant and boring and I just tried to be a little bit different from everyone else
What was your living arrangement when you went out there?
I’d come out a few times before, but when I was actually going to stay, me and Boulala were staying at Geoff’s, and Geoff [Rowley] was living with Luke McKirdy and Tria at the time, and Steve Jolliffe. Isle of Wight massive!
Was Steve [Jolliffe] working for Jeremy [Fox]?
He worked at Blitz Distribution. The first time I came out, I stayed with Jeremy, and that was for two weeks. The second time I came out, I stayed with Reynolds and Greco and Ali Cairns at the place they call ‘The Barrio’ because it was more fun than the Flip house. It was always the same sort of vibe; basically, we’d go out skating all day then have a laugh at night. Everyone got on with their skate missions, then at night the partying would commence. So at Geoff’s, I was sleeping on the floor and there clearly wasn’t enough room at the inn. That created a bit of friction so then Ali [Boulala] and me ended up staying in The Breather, which was the Flip van.
Why was that van called The Breather?
The Flip van was dubbed The Breather by Jim Greco because I drove them all to San Francisco in it once and all the exhaust fumes came in from the front. It was called ‘The Shit Breather’ first and Jim actually made a funnel-like thing from empty water bottles and stickers from the dashboard to the window because I started hallucinating from the fumes on the way home. Haha!
Me and Ali lived in that for about two weeks before they finally got us a little apartment, which was Ocean Breeze Villas in Huntington Beach, off of Warner.
Sidewalk Surfer approved ollie. Photo: Andy Horsley
Had Blitz just rented up a load of apartments in the same place for everybody?
No, I think it was all just a coincidence! And the more friends we made, the more people moved in. That was where Andrew Reynolds lived, as well as Jim Greco, Erik Ellington, Tony Da Silva and Shane Heyl, all the Warner Avenue crew. The Piss Drunx crew, that was all born there.
How long did you stay in that place for?
Four months! Then we got evicted. Oh man. Me and Ali had a one-bedroom apartment but the living room had a sliding door across it so he could have his own little space. We had a kitchen but there was no fridge so the bathtub would just be filled with ice and ninety cans of Budweiser on any given night. Haha! There were multiple parties there, but there was one in particular… I’d just started seeing this girl, so when I came back home in the morning and opened the door there were five girls sweeping the floor of our apartment—which was carpet—but all it looked like was a sea of glass and apparently, I’d missed the best party at my house ever.
I went into Ali’s half of the room behind the sliding door and his bed sheet was over his closet door because the whole door had been smashed in. There was a dent on the cooker, right on the corner, which isn’t possible. They’d lined up all the bottles, then decided they were going to throw skateboards around, and see who could hit the target or whatever. Needless to say, that led to one of the warnings we got stuck to the door.
I guess the regular people who were living in Huntington Beach for other reasons were starting to get a little bit pissed off.
Yeah, and it’s an apartment complex too; you’re right next to everyone. If one of us managed to somehow possibly get laid, the whole fucking strip would have heard it.
Was there ever any talk of Mark Baines getting on Flip?
Nah, but while we were living there, Bainesy came out because he was about to get hooked up with New Deal, so me and Ali ripped up his ticket home, so he couldn’t go back. So he basically got stuck with us for a while and ended up going out with Elissa Steamer for a bit. That one went a bit wrong, and there were some weird ones where Elissa was a bit mean to Mark. One time she was really drunk, and I said to her that she needed to be a bit nicer to Mark, and she spat in my face and then punched me in the chest. All I said was, “Ooh, who’s been in the sun then!” which she didn’t like very much either. She was just on a bit of a riot. Love you Elissa mate, you’re alright. No harm done.
The 411 Flip ams section came out pretty quickly after you went out there. What was filming for that like?
That was a pretty wicked time. That was when we lived on Warner Avenue. Me and Ali, and Brockman was staying with us as well. We just went out filming with Wing Ko all the time, and hit up spots. That’s pretty much when Ali turned pro. I remember the morning; I got up and he’d gone already,for a change, which was funny. He’d gone to UCI—without his skateboard—and that’s the day he did a switch tail and a switch lip on the UCI rail, which was massive for back then, on someone else’s board.
We were buzzed about that when we heard it, and I was like, “Yep, you just turned pro today!” And he certainly did. So well done Ali on that one. I do know I did the scariest rail of my life in that part, when I did the frontside boardslide down the drop-down rail. That was sketchy. We went there about eight times to try and get it because it was right next to a police station and we kept getting kicked out. The day I landed it, I remember shouting at Boulala because he was doing cartwheels or something in front of the rail, fully distracting me and driving me mad. Ha! I got the trick that day and that was my part wrapped up, but that was one of the scariest handrails. People destroy it now, I’m sure. Big shout out to Wing Ko for doing all the 16mm footage, and everyone else who filmed.
Heelflip Varial back in Oxford in 1996. Photo: Andy Horsley
So that was in 1998, but the year before that, your Playing Fields part came out. How did that fit in?
That was an excellent time. The first time I came out was for two weeks, and that would be 1995 or 1996. I was skating for Raggy, and when I came back I filmed for the Raggy video and we went on a trip to Montpellier with them, with Danny Wainwright, Joe Habgood, Rodney Clarke and Ali Cairns. So after that video I’d been skating with Frank Stevens a little bit, and they were on about doing this video, and that just organically happened from mates going out skating and having fun. Some of it was fun anyway, some of it was fucking scary!
When I 50-50d that kinker rail at King’s Cross in London, I was shouting at myself and getting all worked up for it, and Frank said in an interview afterwards that, “Sometimes you gotta convince yourself that you’ve gone temporarily mental like Alex Moul does when he approaches a handrail he’s fucking scared of”. So cheers for that Frank! But sometimes you really gotta put your balls in your back pocket before you go for something! Once you’ve got the first couple of tries out you think you’re alright but you’re still worried about it every time.
Gnarly 50-50 from Playing Fields featured in video review in Sidewalk. Photo: Andy Horsley
That’s probably my favourite part of yours. Have you got a favourite part of yours?
Oh wow. Don’t know! I think the one I’m really sort of happy with was my On Video part because they didn’t give many of those to people so to be included with the likes of Rodney Mullen and Danny Way etcetera, was really quite an honour. I want to thank Frank Gerwer for being my wingman while filming my On Video part. He was filming for the Firm video and we would go out every day with Kurt Hayashi—RIP mate.
How did Flip end for you? How did you go from Flip am to Santa Cruz pro?
It got to the point where Jeremy had got Arto and Mark on the team, and they were the gnarliest new fuckin’ kids on the block and I wasn’t about to start back lipping twenty stair rails with a rusty spoon sticking in my neck, you know? I was just trying to be creative and do whatever I could do to stand out in a different manner. So I totally understood it. They were saying how they’d always help me and they’d give me boards forever, but I’m just like, “It’s alright!”, you know? I was upset, because I’d been with them since I was 11 or 12 years old, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Also, I had a really knackered back and I wasn’t really skating much at that time so that was a hinderance.
Anyway my friend Pete Evans came out from England and he’d showed me all these stretches and after about eight months of being locked sideways—and various chiropractors—within three days I was getting straightened out a little bit, in four days I was doing a little bit of flatground, and by the end of the second week we were skating three stairs and I was relearning all my flip tricks. He went home, and six months later I was pro for Santa Cruz. I was still skating with Arto [Saari] and Mark [Appleyard] and Geoff [Rowley] and all them guys, but I was logging footage. So I started doing a sponsor-me tape, which is quite funny.
by the end of the second week we were skating three stairs and I was relearning all my flip tricks…six months later I was pro for Santa Cruz
I shopped that around, and my girlfriend at the time, her dad got a phonecall from Stacy Lowery—I don’t know how he got her dad’s number—but Joey Pulsifer had heard that I was showing my tape to Maple, before they went under, and he told Stacy about it. And then when Santa Cruz were having a board meeting in their big boardroom, they opened Thrasher and I had a double-page spread in that and I had the back cover for an Indy ad. I’d skated with them a bunch, and they were like,”He’s a nice bloke, he rips, he’s ripping again, what about him? We need some fresh blood”.
So they called me up and asked if I wanted a pro board. Just like that. Right now. And I had nothing, I had no money, nothing. Just the odd photo incentive cheque. But I didn’t know what to do because I was so used to being in the Flip camp with all the lads I grew up with. I called Geoff and Geoff was all like, “Why are you even asking? Take that, man! Take that deal right now!” So I said yes and they started me off on a pro salary, and told me that as soon as I got the board shape I wanted, they’d make it, so I was like, “Here’s an F14 Flip board, just copy that!”
Frontside 180 Waiting For The Ferry home from Munster in 1997. Photo: Andy Horsley
Did you have a shoe sponsor at that time?
I’d be getting flow from one company or another, but I almost got a pro shoe deal from Link footwear, which was a new thing, kind of from Australia and the Cliché group in France. It was backed by Salomon and adidas or something. I was about to get my pro shoe—it was getting designed and what have you—and then adidas and Salomon pulled the plug on it. All the promotion we’d done for it over a couple of years just went away overnight. Luckily, they paid out my contract, which was nice, but I was about to start making an actual bit of money rather than just getting by, so that’s a shame. Max cheers to Al Boglio and Brett Margaritas!
You were still doing music in the States, and the drum and bass scene in California is pretty different to the UK, so how was that?
I was still doing a bit, yeah. In 2002 when I was doing the On Video thing—and all the music in that, I made myself—every time I got a rolled ankle or something I’d sit down and start writing some stuff, and then the next thing I knew I’d written quite a few tunes. I sent a CD to Record Basement in Reading, just to an old mate, and thought nothing of it but they called up and said, “We think you should have a label immediately, and we’ll fund it”. All I had to do was come up with a name and some ideas, and then they started up Sapphire Recordings, which had one release and I don’t think I got any money for it but apparently it paid itself off and was it was kind of an exciting time. I also got a release on Renegade Recordings at the same time, with ‘Fall Into You’ and the B-side, ‘Hangin’ Out The Back’, so that was cool as well. I had my thumb in a few pies at once!
Tell me about the shooting.
Oh shit. Ewan Bowman, who I was living with, drove me to a gig that my mates Smithy and Quiff from Total Science were playing in LA, because they wanted me to warm up for them. We went there, and Ewan—who’s always a bit paranoid anyway—went, “Aye, it’s a wee bit dodgy round here”, and I was telling him it was fine, and that I’d been to this club a bunch of times. It was a sick venue, you know? This is a horrible story, but I’ll do it…
So I spin my set, Smithy and Quiff go on and do a brilliant set, and there’s this one guy at the front just having the best time. At the end of the night I go outside to wait to get paid and all of a sudden there’s people letting off firecrackers across the street, which was a bit weird. Then the next thing I know there’s a scuffle next to us, like about six foot away from me and Ewan, and then all of a sudden this fella pulls out a gun and shoots the guy who’d been dancing down the front in the face two times and then unleashes the rest of the clip into his chest… Yep.
then all of a sudden this fella pulls out a gun and shoots the guy who’d been dancing down the front in the face two times
You know how in movies how it goes all slow-motion and you’re shouting “Run, you idiot!” at the screen? It was just like that. I couldn’t even move. We were so close I could physically feel the muzzle flash going off as well, which was mental. If he had turned this way, we’d have been dead too. It’s as simple as that. Ewan ran—the wrong way—and I went running across the street. A car drove past and I dove down onto the floor, which Ewan still laughs at me now for… Like, “What, did you think there was going to be a drive-by as well?” and I’m like, “I don’t know! I just saw someone get murdered!” Anything happens at that point and I’m getting down!
Trying to stay alive, I think that’s fair enough…
You know what I mean? So we drove back in complete shock. We missed about four exits past our house on the 405. We drove way past home, but we went back, and we were pretty fucked for a while. Any guns on the TV and we’d be like, “Turn that off!”
Did you have to go to court and all that?
No. The terrible thing was, when we drove out there was no-one there apart from the guy, and you could see what looked like a ponytail hanging off the curb but really it was his innards. It was never on the news and it was never heard about again. That’s LA for you. I’ve never spoken about this in an interview, I don’t think.
You described it well, but it’s probably pretty firmly stuck in your head.
It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to get over, seeing something like that. There’s all the stuff in America that you’d seen in the movies, but when you’re reminded of it or you see it first-hand you definitely know that shit’s real. And it happens every day. It happens every day and it doesn’t get documented and people lose people every day. It’s fucked.
Injuries aside, have there ever been times when you’ve just felt fed up of it all and you want to come home?
Nope! I have no money, but I got to travel the world for free and I got to see things that most people from my town haven’t seen. Most people from there haven’t even left, or seen anything, and I’ve been extremely blessed. I’ve got friends all over the world—or I like to think so anyway—and I’m amazed that I was lucky enough to have people enjoy my skating… It’s hard to put into words. The fact that people like yourself would like to ask about my ‘story’ is extremely flattering every time. That’s properly heartfelt. Thank you skateboarding, and everyone that’s helped me along the way, because I don’t need millions but I definitely need these memories.
Reunited with his penultimate board purchase. Switch Frontside Bigspin Heelflip on a Santa Cruz Corey O’Brien reissue. Photo: Andy Horsley
How did your time with Santa Cruz come to an end?
I’d had my pro career stint or what have you, and then when Jake Jones, the Team Manager was parting ways, the team voted me to be the Team Manager. So I ended up standing in that role as well as being a pro skater for a while. That was a good stint, but in 2008 when the credit crunch happened and everyone was getting laid off left, right and centre, unfortunately I was one of them.
I had a great run with Santa Cruz and they’re still very nice to me, the hook me up if I need something. Thank you, Paul Merrell! It was all just part and parcel with that time. All the Team Managers got laid off that year. It was like, “Why are we paying for a Team Manager? The team should be doing what they’re doing anyway”. From skating with Geoff and those guys, basically your job was to call the photographer yourself and set up a mission. I never had to do that, because I could just go on their mission and then if I landed some shit? Brilliant! There’s no pressure. But after a while when there was stuff to do I’d have to call up Mike Burnett or someone, and then living with Ewan, he was filming everybody all the time anyway so I’d just go out on their missions.
How did you end up with a board on Wight Trash ?
John Cattle was part of that crew, and he used to come up and stay at my house and come skating with me in Oxford. He’d come up and film and he’s got lots of rad old footage of us messing about. Probably a ton of stuff that’s never been seen before as well. He just asked if I wanted to do a guest board, and I said that of course I would. He’s my mate. I’d be honoured. I’ve done a couple of guest boards; I did one with my friend Mike O’Grady up in Pittsburgh, for Play Skateboards. I get to ride for people who still care; it’s good.
Who else has got a good impossible? Blondey? He skated the Oscar Wilde memorial too.
Did he? That’s amazing. I wouldn’t say I skated it though, I think I just did a quick crooked grind and that was it. Obviously Ed Templeton’s ollie impossibles! This is a funny story—I think—but Dylan Rieder ollie impossibled over the barrier in the SLS contest, to just get out the course—which is mental because it’s four-foot high—and I said something to him about that before he passed away—rest in peace mate—and he said he was thinking of me and Ed Templeton when he did that. And I’m just like, “I’m sure you weren’t but thanks for the flattery!”
We are all in the gutter but some of us are crook grinding through the kinks. Photo: Wig Worland
Do you keep up with what’s happening in the UK?
With Instagram I’m able to keep up with stuff, but I wouldn’t say I’m fully on it. I mostly just skate for myself, like I probably have done most of my life, but If something stands out, I’ll give them a shout out and if they like that great, and if not, at least I said hello.
Can you remember first meeting Tom [Penny]?
I met Tom at Little Clarendon Street in Oxford when I was probably 13 and he was probably 11 and it’s so different thinking about how he skated then compared to now. We used to call him ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ because he was sketchy and would just slam and roll around on the floor but never get hurt, type of thing. I could see that he was starting to get really quite wicked really quickly, and I wanted to take him to Southsea. So I went and knocked on his door and told his mum I was going to take Tom skating for the day, but she didn’t know we were going to Southsea or anything like that.
You knew your way around Southsea thanks to the Isle of Wight crew.
Yeah. So we get the train down and we skate Southsea skatepark and we’re having a good sesh. This is the jump-ramp, ollie-grab era, but most people were still doing early grabs but we were doing ollie melon grabs super high, 360s and stuff. Then we went out streetskating to this eight-stair thing, with a square handrail on each side. I remember we both did heelflips and kickflips down the stairs, and the other guys were just like, “What the fuck?” I did a 180 stalefish to fakie nosegrind down the handrail but Tom was just ripping. This is when I knew I had to get Tom on Death Box. This is years before that happened, mind.
So we go back to the skatepark, back to our jump-ramp session, and of course in those days we skated our boards down to razor-tail… All of a sudden Tom does like an eight-foot high melon grab off the jump-ramp and his back foot slips off and he comes down and does a full meat popsicle. From eight foot up in the sky. Tom being Tom thinks it can’t be that bad, and he walks up onto the bank and all of a sudden his white Hi-Tecs just get flooded with blood.
I’m just thinking, “Oh no…” because I’m looking after this kid, and I’m just a kid! So he ends up having to go to the hospital, to the emergency room, and he has to get about thirteen stitches in his no-man’s-land and I have to go home because I’ve got school the next day. There’s no cellphones, no-one’s remembering any phone numbers so I had to go home before I could call his mum to tell her he’s down there. I can’t remember how he even got back but what a trooper.
Magic of Mouly’s own on one of those radlands sessions. Backside nollie heelflip bigspin in 1992. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce
What was it like skating with Tom in general?
Anything I could do, he’d be doing it better than me the next week. Haha! When Dougy built the Cowley Road ramps, I was on tour most of the time, and when I came back Tom was just phenomenal on the ramps. He was mental. He could do everything. That’s when we’d call him ‘Bunch of Grapes’, because he used to skate with his hands up like he was eating a bunch of grapes.
Skipping from there onwards, to somewhere in Germany, where I first saw someone be able to manipulate a kickflip in mid-air really properly… Hips back then were fully transitioned so he was blasting frontside flips five-foot out, catching them, turning them and coming into another quarterpipe. All the shifty ones too, all the catches were just perfect. That’s when I really realised we were witnessing something here that had never been seen before. And that’s before Radlands or anything.
With the Radlands sessions, the whole park would come to a standstill while he skated. To him, he was just pottering around between spliffs, but for everybody else it was completely amazing. I’d be stopping too! I had to watch. Three-minute lines of just landing everything. Then he’d be like, “Oh no Mouly everyone’s looking at me let’s go smoke a spliff behind the pool table upstairs”, and I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t smoke like him, it fucked me up. I couldn’t move, man, and he’d just drop in and switch flip the pyramid or something. It was fucking mental. There was one time he was on the platform of the vert ramp and he did a backside nollie flip to nose, and dropped in switch!
There was one time he was on the platform of the vert ramp and he did a backside nollie flip to nose, and dropped in switch!
What about Geoff [Rowley]?
I’ve got a Geoff story for you. When Geoff would be ready to shoot something with Dan Sturt, it’d be like, “I’ve made the call. Will you come with me?” This one was the sixteen-stair lipslide apartment rail on Alabama Street in Huntington Beach. There’s a two-push run up and you have to move plants and all sorts. So we get there and Dan Sturt’s set up the tripod to get the sequence, and he filmed it 16mm at the same time as taking the sequence! Which for starters is crazy. So we pull up and Geoff goes, “Here’s my keys, here’s my wallet. You know where the nearest hospital is, right?” And I’m just thinking, “Oh dear…”
There’s a rusty barbecue chained to the bottom of the stairs that he has to sort of fold over too. Then the homeowner comes home, and we’re all like, “Ah well , that’s the session busted” but he goes, “Do you want me turn some music on for you? Get you amped up?” which never, ever happens. A couple of tries later and Geoff knocks on the door and goes, “Actually, could you turn the music off? It’s putting me off”. And then he lands it.
Can you remember what the music was? Was it Motörhead?
I think it might have been! Or AC/DC or something like that. He asked Geoff for a request, but then he had to ask to turn it off anyway because he couldn’t concentrate on the trick with it on.
Making Abingdon BMX Track look amazing. Photo: Wig Worland
What was Abingdon BMX track like to skate? The videos made it look amazing.
It maybe wasn’t as nice as we made it look. Haha! I remember being there with Andy Horsley when I ollied my bird’s Jeep, at the time. We drove it up and I said that I thought I could ollie the Jeep off the bump. I was telling him that I could, it’s just that we can’t get it in there, and he went, “Oh yes we can” and he fucking boots the fence in and we drive it in and park it up.
I wish we had footage of it but in those days you either took a picture or you filmed it, and it wasn’t like we were getting it in there again. I wasn’t about to fuck up my misses-at-the-time’s Jeep.
Renegade return to Abingdon BMX Track with a jeep in 1996. Photo: Andy Horsley
What other photos stand out?
Wig shot a photo of me 50-50ing the bridge with the swans, the Thames bridge, right?
The wooden bridge.
Yeah. Now what everyone’s got to realise, is that the photo was a jump-on 50-50. Not an ollie. I did get onto an ollie one, but the floor is all slats so it’s just “bump bump bump bump’, so I never landed the ollie one. It was just up the road from Abingdon, where the Sidewalk offices were, so I went there with Wig. I was trying to get it—and it’s bloody high—and then all of a sudden I saw the swans coming, and that got me psyched. I knew I needed to land it because I had to have the picture with the swans.
Back to the bridge with Alex and the Swans. Jump on 50-50. Photo: Wig Worland
So I landed it with the swans, right? And then Wig goes, “Fuck…” And this was film-camera times. I hadn’t come out right, even though the swans were there and everything. He asked if we could go back, and guess what? The swans came back, and I landed that one that day too. Then we went back again to try and do the ollie 50-50, and that’s in Viewfinder. Where my board went in the water and landed in dogshit.
What about when you were out with TLB?
Well one that was a surprise was the Shell Centre 180 fakie nosegrind 180 out. I’d just started trying it when Tim showed up, and I got lucky and landed one. I don’t think anyone had done that before. I’d never seen anyone do one before then so that was kinda cool. In the Wear & Tear shirt too. Shout out Don Brider!
More Shell Centre History and Video Days Continuation. Photos: Tim Leighton-Boyce
Your Sidewalk cover was out there in the US.
I finally got a Sidewalk cover when Andy [Horsley] came out here a few years back, just before the mag went. We were at Lance Mountain’s house and Andy was asking if there was anywhere good round there for a sunset photo, and there was this ditch, so we went there and I did a kickflip to fakie and Andy just went, “Yep” and didn’t say much else. They were out here a few months later for an adidas trip with Chewy Cannon and all those guys, Lev and all that, and anytime Andy would come out he’d just kidnap me and I’d sleep on the floor in the hotels and we’d just skate and then at the end of the week I’d go back to whatever real life was at the time. But yeah, when he came back he gave me this print of it. It was wicked to get that cover.
Alex’s cover of Sidewalk 185. Photo: Andy Horsley
Have you got a favourite photo of yourself?
That’s a weird one… I’ve got one on the wall that Arto shot, and it’s a frontside flip over the church eleven-stair rail. Arto had got his first Hasselblad, Ewan was filming and I was with Luke McKirdy and Bastien. I went to try and kickflip it and with my back being fucked at this time too, it felt like too much impact, then they told me that Rodrigo Tx had kickflipped it last week for the éS video so I knew I couldn’t do that. Anyway, I’d flung out a frontside flip, just bullshitting, and I got a really good catch on it, and I thought, “Fuck, this might be possible!” And this never happens but four tries later I’m riding away just as Arto had set his flashes up, and he got the photo.
It was a double page spread in The Skateboard Mag, or Skateboarder. Can’t remember which. It’s on my wall and you can see my shoelace is undone.I like that one because it’s Arto, and we were on the sesh with the mates.
Alex’s favourite frontside flip photo shot by Arto Saari in the frame
What was doing Bam’s movie like?
He came and stayed with me in Abingdon for two weeks in 1997, just before he turned pro for Toy Machine. We went to Generation ’97 together. My mates still remember skating the Toys ‘R’ Us curbs on a Tuesday night with Bam before he was famous.The movie bit was just a quick thing; me and my mate Clifford—who’s Geoff’s mate from Liverpool—had this little quick bartending scene and I had to say some speech, but it was an exciting week, that’s for sure.
This was at his first house, in West Chester, but it was full-on keg parties and limos and CKY events and all this stuff. I was really hungover the day we shot the stuff in the bar so I didn’t even want to smell alcohol, and it’s weird doing acting because there’s a bunch of people there and everyone goes quiet and then you have to say your speech. Because there were only a couple of cameras, we had to do eight or nine takes of it. It’s pretty nerve-racking really.
When did you first meet Jimmy Boyes?
In Livingston I think. I had my arm in a cast and I was doing one-foots to pivots on the round bar at the top of the bank, and he did a hurricane down the wall at the end where you die if you go over the other side. Jimmy’s an amazing human. Completely nuts but amazing. I remember coming home one day and he was in my living room. In America. He’d managed to climb through the window and my dog hadn’t freaked out and he was just sat there. He ended up staying on my sofa for two weeks.
What are you up to right now? What’s going on?
Well I’ve got my website up now, it’s called Backyard Bandits and it’s at bybsk8.com. Backyard Bandits is a thing that came about when Arto was still in LA and I was staying with him. I’d go up and stay with him a lot and we were skating so many backyard pools that I said we were like a bunch of ‘Backyard Bandits’, and that kind of stuck. So drew the logo on a pizza box and started spraying it on my board, and so did a bunch of other people. I guess it’s like anything, if you show it enough or say it enough people catch onto it.Then people started getting tattoos of the logo. I was actually the eleventh person to get one. Haha!
We started it a while ago but it kind of fell off, but now I’m mainly doing it on my own and it’s mainly t-shirts, stickers, coozies, badges and things, and it’s just for people who like the vibes, who are still searching for Animal Chin. Or just whatever you’re doing. It’s just supposed to be fun. I just had my first year wedding anniversary. Just over a year ago I got married to Erin Michelle Oldaker, now Erin Michelle Moul. We got married on 2.2.20 at 2pm. I think she got that specifically so I could actually remember something because I’m rubbish with dates and names anyway. Ha!
Christmas with Mr and Mrs Moul
How did you meet Erin?
It’s actually a funny story. I was in a pub in Huntington Beach called Gallagher’s with my friend Lyndsey. Lyndsey Marie Graver; she’s like my sister from another mister or whatever you wanna call it. She’d come out for six months and loved all the skating vibes and all that stuff.
So, we were down there when I met Erin—this is thirteen years ago now—and we were all getting on really well. Basically, I called Erin over and went, “You’re a really nice bird, aren’t you?”, and for some reason she took offence to that and slapped me in the face really hard. I went, “What was that all about?” and she said, “I find that offensive”, and went, “Why? Because I called you a ‘bird’?” and she went WHACK and slapped me in the face again. I went, “Is that worse than calling you a ‘chick’? Like a chicken or something?” But I guess so.
The funny thing was, on the way home, Lyndsey goes, “Wow, there was something there! You’re gonna marry that girl one day”. I was like, “You’re out of your mind! I can’t stand her, she slapped me in the face!” Lyndsey had predicted what would happen, thirteen years prior, and what happened was that Ed Templeton was having an art show and Bam called me up and asked if I was going to the art show, because he was going to be in town and wanted to see me. I went and met up with Bam there, and saw Ed and what have you, and then Bam said, “Why don’t you come and stay with me at the hotel for the weekend? I’ve got this nice hotel and you can eat what you want and hang out go swimming”, and that was better than my living circumstances at the time so I went there.
Then the next morning, I saw a picture of Erin, with Bam, on Instagram. In the hotel lobby. It was crazy because I hadn’t seen her in years and I randomly still had her number, and by chance she answered. Because nobody answers numbers they don’t know. Anyway, we got chatting and I asked if she was in town, and she went, “Yeah, I live down the street”. I thought she was in Hawaii, because she’d moved to Hawaii previously. I asked her for a drink and she came out, and we had a very nice time. Me, her, Bam and he friend Christina hung out, and we’ve been together ever since.
Josh Phillips, Andy Roy, Alex, Bam Margera and Ryan Hall
I think it’s amazing that there was a prediction thirteen years prior from Lyndsey, that we would get married. And we actually did. I love you very much, Erin Michelle Moul. Cheers to Josh Phillips and Ryan Hall for coming to our wedding reception and taking pictures. There’s a cool picture of Josh at the altar, looking like he married us.Big shout out to him and Blaq Out skateboarding.
That’s awesome. What about music?
I’ve been writing some more music, and some of it’s got signed up to a brand new label in the UK called Senzeru that Dan Hicks is doing. He’s signed two things and there’s a possible album that we’re talking about. It’s just about trying to fit it in, really, with the Covid and everything I’ve had a bit more time to do some extra stuff. It’s gone full-circle and I’m trying to keep my thumb in a few pies. Still trying to skate, getting the curb vibeage back! I broke a rib seven weeks ago so I’m just about to get back on the board again. That’s what you get for learning backside noseblunt slides again at 46!
Still paying to play. Alex Moul backside noseblunt slides. Age 46 3/4. Photo: Ryan Hall
Massive thank you to Alex Moul for speaking to us, for everything he has done for skateboarding, and for continuing to inspire.
Thanks as always to @scienceversuslife for the scans and the love and reverence for our culture. Thank you to Dan Adams at the Read And Destroy Archive for scans. Thank you to James Hudson for sending photos. Last but not least, thanks to Wig Worland for scanning negs and sending photos too. It was amazing to receive the Oscar Wilde shot at the last minute! Be sure to check out Wig’s SHOP where you can buy beautiful prints from his archives.