When we first began thinking about our collaboration with Dickies a few things were clear. One was wanting an artist with a strong affiliation to Slam to lead the collection and tie it together. Mark ‘Fos’ Foster came to mind instantly and was keen to be involved as soon as we explained the project. The Slam City Skates text on the combined branding throughout uses his handstyle. One of the key pieces in this collection is the T-Shirt, the backprint of this is one of Fos’ amazing illustrations of our old Neal’s Yard address. We hit up Fos with some interview questions to give a little background on his involvement with this project…
You spent some time as a Slam City Skates employee. When did you first start working for Slam?
I think it was 1997. I graduated from Goldsmiths that year, I started out doing the odd day in the shop here and there, then one day Russell called the shop to ask if anyone could help at the warehouse unloading boxes of DVS off a lorry the next day. I said I was up for it, so I started out doing that.
What was your role throughout?
Well, taking boxes of shoes off lorries at first, then worked with Chris packing orders for the stores, then he left shortly after I got there, so I ended up doing his job, doing sales to all the skate shops and working with the companies in the U.S. doing orders. I suppose over time I became a sales manager of sorts, at least thats what it said on my business card.
How many years after beginning working for Slam did you start Heroin and when did you leave to focus on that?
I started Heroin in 1998. So one year at Slam before I started that, me and my friend Hiro had a tee shirt company before I started Heroin Skateboards, so I knew a little about business and production and dealing with stores from that as well as my role at Slam. I left in 2002 to focus on Heroin and Landscape.
Your illustration immortalises our old Neal’s Yard address. What was your favourite thing about the old shop?
It was the mainstay of skateboarding in London, other shops came and went, but Slam was always there. I actually met Seth in 1996 when we were both on holiday in San Francisco, so he was working there and was one of the members of staff that skated a lot, so that changed the dynamic of the store I think, I always got on with everyone else from the store, but Seth being there was an important factor. Someone (Maybe Andy Hartwell) described Slam as a “bar that doesn’t serve alcohol” I think that hit the nail on the head as far as the service that Slam provided, it was a meeting place.
Tell us a good story from the shop and from the warehouse?
Wanna hear my Morrissey Story? I was waiting in Slam for my friend Pin, and I see Morrissey coming up the spiral staircase from Rough Trade records downstairs, I look at everyone behind the counter to see if they’ve realized, Jake, you were reading Thrasher, Brophy was looking at a set of wheels, and Henry was folding tee shirts or something, so he’s walking towards me, and I manage to mutter “er hello sir” he says “Hello” and walks past me, I say “How are you today?” and he says “average” and walks out of the store. Ha ha!
So many tales from the warehouse. Paul Sunman the managing director bought a Lotus Elise sportscar, and one time these guys came to pick up a skip that we hired, now I’ve had mates who’ve worked on skips and driven them around and he told me they’re pretty ruthless and would do anything to make a bit of cash, usually in the form of a tip for something or other. These blokes picked their skip up and basically hung it over Pauls car, making out that they were going to drop it on the car unless we paid them a tip of some kind, they would shake the thing around over Pauls shiny sportscar, expecting us to get all worried, when we all started pissing ourselves, they realized they were wasting their time and drove off.
The idea for this illustration appearing in this Dickies collection was thought up after seeing some of your cabin illustrations. Have you been spending a lot of time at yours?
Yes, as much as we can, my wife works for the schools so she gets the summers off, which is nice, so we get to spend a fair bit of time up there. Its only an hour and a half out of Los Angeles too, so not bad at all.
People know you for the artwork you have done attached to skateboard companies, an instantly recognisable style. This illustration and the cabin ones mentioned are a departure from that. Have you always kept this style of sketching keen or is it a rediscovered joy?
Its definitely a rediscovered thing, I’d done drawings and watercolours of the town that I grew up in (Rawtenstall) when I was about 17, and its a harken back to that in a lot of ways. Its interesting to me to see the evolution just from the first cabin drawing to the latest, they started out as rough sketches and I’ve gotten much more detailed now, trying to bring out the wood grain of the cabin even.
You have a good pace of life in LA now. What 5 things would you import from London to enhance it even more?
Stockwell skatepark, that Porteguese cake shop next to Stockwell, Poppies Fish and Chip shop, Goddards Pie and Mash shop, Nugget.
What Fos illustration projects should we keep our eyes peeled for in the future?
Heroin is 20 years old next year! So working on stuff for that. Always working on different projects, I’m doing some brush and ink watercolour style pieces based on song lyrics that I’m quite into right now, probably try to have a show of those somewhere.