The following conversation took place between John Rattray and myself quite some time ago. Originally designed as an elongated excuse to redirect people towards Alex Craig’s masterful 2004 Scottish independent skate video H’Min Bam, it, like the recent Jagger interview, ended up getting lost amongst the divergent strands of both of our lives in the ensuing months. Once again, the current lockdown situation has freed up enough time for me to revisit the Dictaphone on which the conversation below has sat neglected for the last 12 months.
If you’ve never seen H’Min Bam before, prepare yourselves for a treat. This is arguably one of the greatest independent skate videos of all time, along with possibly being the first nationally comprehensive Scottish skate video ever made. Its main filmer and editor, Alexander Douglas Craig, has gone on to produce numerous other gems, including the award-winning Macho Taildrop movie and two series of skate-related shows alongside Rick McCrank in the form of the Abandoned and Post Radical shows for Vice.
My intention in speaking to John about H’Min Bam was really just to try and add a little context to this much-neglected classic of the British skate video canon.Released on VHS in 2004, H’Min Bam predated the explosion of Social Media and high-speed Internet that would have no doubt otherwise led to this being rightly hailed as one of the best skate flicks of its era and gathering an audience and view count worthy of this status. Appearing as it did on the cusp of a switch from analog to digital formats and from physical copies to online copies, I feel as though H’Min Bam has been lost to a certain degree and as the archivist-inclined nerd that I am, I felt duty bound to raise awareness of it because, well, just because.
And so, without further unnecessary blurb, it gives me great pleasure to present to you all the aforementioned skate video, some connected ramblings from one of said video’s stars/executive producer and a few photographs of John from the same era kindly donated by Oliver Barton. If this one doesn’t get you reaching for Shazam then there’s something sorely wrong with you.
Big thanks to John for taking the time to do this. Go and read more about his amazing fund raising and outreach endeavours around issues of mental health and suicide prevention here: Why so Sad?
Words and interview by Ben Powell
John Rattray’s part will get you gassed. Photo: Oliver Barton
I am correct in thinking that H’Min Bam came out in 2004, aren’t I?
That sounds about right – I’d have to check to see if I’m mainly wearing C1RCAs or Saviers but there are definitely some Stabas and some BA Saviers in there so yeah, I think you’re correct with 2004.
Is H’Min Bam the first skate video to present Scotland as a nation in its entirety?
Interesting question…there were definitely Scottish skate videos before this; earlier scene videos like Wayne Fenlon’s videos, Va-Va Man etc but those were city or scene-specific so yeah, H’Min Bam might be the first ‘national skate video’ from Scotland.
There are a lot of Scottish cities in there; Carluke, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Arbroath, Aberdeen, etc…
Yeah, in that sense it was very comprehensive: Alex (Craig – who made the video) basically curated it along the lines of, ‘what’s the most interesting, raddest skate stuff going on in Scotland right now?’
The explosion of skatepark construction hit Scotland a lot earlier than the rest of the UK (early 00’s) – H’Min Bam was being filmed whilst that was going on too.
That was definitely happening – Falkirk was already built, Dudhope in Dundee was on its way. Up in Aberdeen where I was living at that point we had the indoor skatepark in an ice rink but that came and went during the process of filming H’Min Bam. But yes, you’re right – the filming coincided with a hell of a lot of parks being built in Scotland…
It’s pretty diverse in terms of the skating – there’s definitely no bias towards a particular type of skateboarding or terrain.
I’d say that was Alex’s concept really – not that he probably had much of a ‘plan’ whilst it was happening but if he was to go back and reverse-engineer the thinking behind it – I’m confident that was his thinking.
Not ‘let’s make a gnarly park video’ or ‘let’s only film street’ – more so to focus on the scene as it was and all the diversity that it contained. At that point Alex was a fairly experienced television producer and a fan of documentary making in general and telling stories in a particular way…
John with a lofty switch ollie in Edinburgh in 2002. Photo: Oliver Barton
It definitely comes across as something different from the ‘timeline a load of tricks in ascending order of difficulty and bang some music over it’ approach…
Absolutely, I think he was one of the first people with a really divergent skill set (because of his time working in TV) who made a full-length skate video, at least as far as Scotland goes. He wasn’t ‘just a skate filmer’, you know? He was definitely thinking about the idea of telling stories and giving a sense of place. I think that’s reflected in the atmosphere of H’Min Bam.
I think he was one of the first people with a really divergent skill set who made a full-length skate video, at least as far as Scotland goes. He wasn’t ‘just a skate filmer’, you know? He was definitely thinking about the idea of telling stories and giving a sense of place
Can you remember much of the non-skate stuff that Alex was doing at the time?
There were loads of things: he’d make internal sales videos for oil firms, worked for Grampian television doing some of their live sports casting, a few TV series here and there. He’s continued to do that as a career in various formats ever since. Alex is also an interesting character within the community of people who’d filmed skating in Scotland in that he’d read a lot of Aleister Crowley and Aldous Huxley and just had a wide range of influences behind everything he did.
Benjie Bateman is another person with a similarly broad interest base, which informed everything that he went on to do in skating. It’s interesting that both Alex and Benjie went on to work in TV and film production when you look at it like that.
What stage were you at in terms of your skate career whilst H’Min Bam was being made John?
I’d need to watch it again in full to be sure but I’m confident that I’d got on Zero by that point – so I was probably feeling like ‘I’m really doing it now…” (laughs). “I’d better get myself a leather jacket and grow my hair long…”
There’s a preponderance of leather jackets in your section actually…
(Laughing), well they did come in handy: quite a sensible jacket choice when you’re trying to backlip handrails on rough Scottish surfaces.
I was going to ask about that – on a performance level you’re skating in a very ‘Zero way’ in this video despite skating handrails on what must be some of the worst surfaces in western Europe. The gap to backlip rail is in Aberdeen, right?
Yeah, on Hilton Rd or Clifton Rd I think. Not exactly Encinitas handrails as you suggest. I think we’d already filmed Dying to Live by the time H’Min Bam was happening so we must’ve been working on the New Blood Zero video too.
In fact, that’s definitely right because there are a couple of tricks which ended up in both videos – I was never too precious about that kind of thing though because back then only 6 people in Glasgow were going to see H’Min Bam, (laughs)…
Which is precisely why I wanted to do this in the first place.
What does ‘H’Min Bam’ mean?
‘Bam’ is basically an insult – a ‘bam’ is an idiot so ‘H’Min Bam’ is basically said when you want to hail an idiot, (laughing). Like ‘here man, idiot!’
Thinking about it now, grammatically speaking, there really ought to be a comma after H’Min, (laughing). I’ll have to ask Alex about that at some point – I seem to remember him always being a bit creative with his punctuation. That was always where he fell down.
Powerful mute grab to fakie in Harrow. Photo: Oliver Barton
A few of the people who appear on the video, (outside those who ended up becoming pro skateboarders), ended up following interesting pathways in the years since the release of H’Min Bam – didn’t Seb Curtis, who has the first section, end up as a pilot?
Seb’s a Banchory kid, same as the Bollands. He went on to work for Cliché Skateboards as their international sales guy for a few years after this video until he maybe saw the writing on the skate industry wall and decided to do something else. He’s a helicopter pilot these days – he moved back to Aberdeen and works as a commercial pilot shuttling people out to the oilrigs in the North Sea.
There’s a lot of Livingston on H’Min Bam, which I guess is the spiritual home of Scottish skateboarding.
(Laughs), it is, I like that idea. I’d never thought of it in those precise terms but you’re right. It’s sort of a Stonehenge I guess, a place you make pilgrimage to – maybe less so these days but it used to be.
Livi was finished in 1980, right as skateboarding died. It’s something of an anomaly in that sense in so far as it was conceived and designed as a ‘70’s skate park’ but was actually completed at the start of the next decade as skateboarding was disappearing.
When you think about it like that, it is pretty ‘out there’ culturally. For a new town in the central belt of Scotland to have a park of that magnitude constructed at that point in history is pretty anomalous. Thinking of my analogy with Stonehenge – the Skate Party always happened around the Summer Solstice too.
Livi was central to the development of the Scottish scene to an extent as well – in so far as it brought all the cities of Scotland together in a central place. I think the amount of Livi footy in H’Min Bam probably reflects the importance of the place to the national scene at that time. Geographically it is central too, not exactly but more or less.
Livi was central to the development of the Scottish scene to an extent as well – in so far as it brought all the cities of Scotland together in a central place. I think the amount of Livi footy in H’Min Bam probably reflects the importance of the place to the national scene at that time
Not that many people knew much about Stu Graham before this video either – he was still quite fresh-faced at this point.
Despite the neck tattoo (laughs). Fresh in Livingston terms perhaps. I did once describe him as seamlessly mixing hesh and bling and the video footage used to illustrate that statement came from H’Min Bam. Livi is definitely central to Stu’s journey…
He’s pretty much Livi in human form I guess.
Yep, which is why he’s been the person to step up and try to organize the Livi Skate Parties again.
There’s some great music in H’Min Bam too – the ‘Maryhill vibe’ track for example.
Ah yes, Uncle John and Whitelock featuring Ray Dower and various other notable skate-related humans (including Jamie Bolland on keyboards at one point). What a great tune. It has a great soundtrack though, which again speaks to Alex Craig’s multi-disciplinary interest in so many things. That Seed track that Jamie Bolland skates to, that was likely picked by Jamie himself, he’s a very eclectic character with equally eclectic taste. That track suited his style so perfectly…
There are a lot of Aberdeen skate spots in this that I’m assuming were important to you growing up right: BT carpark for example?
The kerbs and manual pads – we skated there a lot as kids. That’s where Christoper Zee used to hold the White Cider Olympics back in the mists of time. I still speak to Zee and Baz (Barry Lyndsay) most days as we have an Instagram chat going. Baz is a Michelin-rated chef these days – travels the world. He lived out in Bangkok for a while, learning the intricacies of Thai cooking. He moved back to the Highlands and works in a restaurant there now.
Denburn banks – another classic Aberdeen skate spot (and another carpark) feature heavily also.
Aye, what a spot: I was lucky enough to have James Jarvis redraw me in pivot fakie position on those from a photo taken many years ago. The banks are still there but it’s overgrown and pretty dystopian-looking these days. That’s one of those buildings which I’m sure looked fantastic in the architect’s renderings back in the 1970’s. Unfortunately the reality of it was slightly different but whatever, it made for a great skate spot.
Vertical Backside disaster warehouse memory. Aberdeen 2002. Photo: Oliver Barton
What about the warehouse with all the coloured ramps in it?
Due to the decline of the oil industry in Aberdeen, there were a lot of disused or abandoned warehouses that would pop up from time to time. Andy Dobson found the warehouse you’re referring to. Andy had also been instrumental in the construction of the original Dundee Factory skatepark back in the early 90’s. That was a similar deal – a reclaimed piece of dead industrial space repurposed as a skatepark.
In the same spirit when Dobson was living back in Aberdeen years later, he found the place with the vert wall in and reclaimed that around the early 2000’s. A full hijacked space utilizing another Aberdeen OG’s electrician skills to hack the electricity supply etc: a great era.
Do you have fond memories of this period? It almost seems as though H’Min Bam acts as a punctuation point in your life between living in Scotland and travelling a lot to moving full time out to the States.
Yeah it definitely bookends one chapter of my life looking back on it now: I was already living in California at that point but I was still coming back to Scotland every summer for a few months.
I always considered myself as the executive producer of H’Min Bam too; as it was me that bought VX1000 and the Death Lens that it was filmed on. Bought it and gave it all to Alex to use. We’d be sitting around in his flat and mess around with edits – that was the genesis of this as a full-length video really.
Crazy to think of all the back-stories related to a VHS tape full of skateboarding really…
Yeah, and all the pathways that people followed in the ensuing years. Alex Craig’s story is an interesting one. Maybe 8 or so years ago he directed the Macho Taildrop movie with Corey Adams from Vancouver who Alex and I met originally in 1999 when we did our van trip around the West coast of the States.
That right there is another example of how skateboarding connects us globally. When I was living in Glasgow there was an Element video, which came out that had Kris Markovich closing it, back when he was still absolutely ripping… Kenny Hughes was in there too – maybe it was called Third Eye View (it was – released in 1998). Anyway I was walking through Kelvingrove park one day and I saw these guys skating the fountain in there surrounded by big camping backpacks.
I asked them where they were from and they replied, “We’re from Canada! We just got here. We’re gonna sleep under the bridge over there…” “You’re planning to sleep under the M8?” (Laughing). At that point I think I said, “Well I’ve got the new Element video, why don’t you come back to my house and watch that and we can discuss whether sleeping under the M8 in Glasgow is a good idea or not more thoroughly?”
Well I’ve got the new Element video, why don’t you come back to my house and watch that and we can discuss whether sleeping under the M8 in Glasgow is a good idea or not more thoroughly?
They ended up staying with me, with Gary Brown and then going up to Aberdeen for a while with our recommendation behind them. Following that, there was an unspoken agreement that, ‘we hooked you up so we’re coming out to Vancouver next’. That trip created the connections that led to Alex Craig eventually moving to Canada and doing all the things he’s done since leaving Aberdeen.
Since then he’s worked with Rick McCrank on a bunch of TV projects for Vice: ‘Abandoned’ was first then most recently they did that show ‘Post-Radical’ together. I really enjoyed that one. Vancouver just had a huge creative community and all these opportunities that Aberdeen just didn’t have unless you did a full Pontus Alv and just made it happen your self. Even then though, Malmo is definitely a bit more progressive than Aberdeen. Maybe Aberdeen has changed though – I haven’t lived there for 20 years….
Do you know much about what’s going on in Aberdeen skate-wise these days?
Kind of, just through Instagram and what not – I still have strong connections to a few old friends in Aberdeen. They keep me abreast of things…talking shit mainly.They’ve still got their indoor park running which is an excellent community resource – definitely a bit more than we had growing up skating in the city.
Is there anything else we should talk about here? My main motivation really was just to create a bit of context to direct people to go and watch H’Min Bam again as the one sketchy upload I found only had about three thousand views which seemed shameful to me…
Aye, well my Good Egg video from 2018 has a shamefully small amount of views on YouTube as well so let’s direct people towards that as well. Other than that, no not that I can think of: I feel as though we’ve successfully chatted about some of the context around H’Min Bam here. Will it be of interest to anybody but you and I? Who knows? Regardless of that, it’s an excuse to go and watch it again so that is justification enough…