Isolation Station: Darius Trabalza

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Our latest Isolation Station is with Darius Trabalza. See what skate video, book, album and reality TV show he picked for you…

Isolation Station: Darius Trabalza. Portrait by Jerome Campbell

Darius Trabalza Beaming. Photo: Jerome Campbell

Another Isolation Station for you crafted to aim possibly wandering attention spans to some stuff of substance. We are well aware that a version of normal life post lockdown is looming, and some of you may not have the free time this situation could have afforded moving forward. However it is always nice to be pointed towards a skate video you may not have watched for a while or maybe ever seen and to get other recommendations from some of our favourite skateboarders that expand our horizons. My life has definitely benefitted from new music and visual fodder since doing this and the “to read” pile keeps growing. For this reason we will keep this blog feature rolling but it may emerge with a different name as liberation hopefully replaces isolation in the coming weeks.

Darius Trabalza gifted us the goods this week. He has been a long standing member of the Slam team for about ten years now and his skate video pick throws us straight back to just before that stint began. He is also one of the nicest human beings on the planet so it was a pleasure to have this excuse to get on the phone. See what one of London’s finest picked for you. London skate history, eye opening literature, timeless sounds and seasons of reality TV. Four routes of escape from Isle’s newest team addition.

HTL North V South
Where were you in your skateboarding life when this video came out?

The Hold Tight London videos I must have watched retrospectively, I can’t have watched them as they came out. Maybe towards the end of them coming out I was watching them. But North Vs South is almost the feature length release which followed the first 11 videos.

North V South was released in conjunction with Slam in 2009.

Ah okay, I started skating in 2008 so I probably wasn’t that clued up by 2009 and was watching stuff retrospectively.

So this would have been your window into London street skating and what was going on?

Yeah because when I first started skating I think Fully flared came out and that was what I knew about. I didn’t know so much about London skating. You’ve got all the Blueprint videos but the Hold Tight London stuff was just so much content featuring everybody, so many people and so many spots. It was just like the greatest of scene videos.

I suppose also with Blueprint videos, you could possibly see someone on the team on a trip to London but on a visit to Southbank you would see a chunk of the crew in HTL productions.

Yeah with the Southbank footage too it’s relatable.

It’s sick that this is your pick for a video and a couple of years after this you were filming with Henry [Edwards-Wood] for City Of Rats.

Yeah I was so hyped.

What are stand out moments for you in North Vs South?

I fucking love John Tanner footage, he was so good, does all of his tricks so well. The switch varial heel flips he does. He does one at the start of a line on the blue bank in Elephant & Castle and it’s so wild, just at the start of a line. I’ve never seen anyone do one like that, his legs, I don’t even know what his legs are doing, it’s crazy and he just lands it banging. With the classic bobble beanie that was the kit at the time.

I’ve never seen anyone do one like that, his legs, I don’t even know what his legs are doing, it’s crazy and he just lands it banging. With the classic bobble beanie that was the kit at the time

Tanner was amazing. Karim does a fakie hardflip over Big Ben road gap in this video.

Oh yeah Karim kills it in that one, he has loads of good stuff. There were a lot of guys you don’t see that much footage of in there.

Eugene Ochieng has a sick clip in there, the backside flip over the gap to switch manual.

Oh yeah, that’s so good. I really like the songs in it too. One of the transitions in there is the Foreign Beggars “Hold On” song where John Tanner does a front tail heel flip out on the step behind Oxford Street, good song, London life.

Really good stuff from Lucien in there.

Yeah Lucien was always one of my favourite skaters so it was great to see a good chunk of him as well.

One of my favourite tricks has always been Lucien’s front smith to front feeble on those Old Street bike rack round bars.

Unbelievable. I haven’t really seen many tricks on that spot and it’s the perfect spot for that kind of thing but he just shut it down in the first clip I ever saw at that spot. No-one really skates it, what are you gonna do? He picked the best thing and did it so banging. I’d never seen anyone do anything like that, I hadn’t seen anyone do a front feeble let alone after another trick

Jak Pietryga has good stuff and Rory.

Yeah and dudes like Joe Sivell and the random tricks he can do, everyone has got those people who they just like, skaters who have got a banging clip in there. Faris has got a nollie full cab flip over the Elephant & Castle hip, making shit happen. But yeah the Lucien stuff, the backside 180 nose grind down the Moorgate rail, nollie flip off the cheese into the bank at Southbank, I really love that clip.

Why should kids watch this now?

I mean if you want to find some skate spots in London, there’s a pretty eclectic selection. It just comes across as a fun video, skating does get serious sometimes and this video is basically about hanging out with your mates and everyone getting tricks and having fun. Stuff which is quite core to why we started skating which we kind of forget sometimes.

You get that from all of Henry’s stuff really.

Yeah you do.
Isolation Station: Darius Trabalza. 1984 by Georg Orwell

1984 is a poignant choice as our reality becomes increasingly Orwellian. What is this book about?

It’s basically about an authoritarian government who keep altering history. Day by day they change what they have said or what they have published to say that they were never wrong and everything they ever predicted was right and they have been doing the best for the people. It’s not that far away from what’s happening, it’s like an exaggeration or elaboration on what happens in the world essentially. A nightmare scenario of what could happen. I don’t really read fiction that much. It’s the first fiction book I’ve read for ages. With nonfiction sometimes it’s a bit of a long slog but this was a nice, enjoyable, entertaining read which for me is a rare one.


I don’t really read fiction that much. It’s the first fiction book I’ve read for ages. With nonfiction sometimes it’s a bit of a long slog but this was a nice, enjoyable, entertaining read which for me is a rare one.


This came out in 1949 but the idea of a totalitarian state seeking to control our minds is more like prophecy than fiction.

It’s scarily accurate as far as predicting methods of controlling people I think.

People would argue that their thoughts and actions aren’t controlled at all.

Yeah but the influence is so subtle.

Things like the Cambridge Analytica scandal prove that thoughts are literally being hijacked on a daily basis.

Yeah people think that we are impenetrable, that we make our own minds up but everything goes into the background, into our peripherals. Things which make you think that you thought it. I think that we can prove that you can take any person from being born and make them believe anything. Through history people have been told the most insane things.

Through to the history we are taught in school. In 1984 there’s a quote “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” Incomplete history being taught is just that.

Yeah exactly, history framed from one side with details left out. To the point where you don’t confirm what you are being taught. You take it at school, someone is doing a job to tell you what is right and wrong. We are never told the whole story, it’s all painted in the best light. We are taught about the industrial revolution but it’s not mentioned that it wasn’t possible without slave labour.

So this book you would recommend as being an easy read but with a lot more to it.

Yeah it’s almost like a good TV Series or a good Black Mirror, that kind of thing.
Isolation Station: Darius Trabalza. Lee Fields and the Expressions. Faithful Man.
Tell us why this album is important to you…

I’m not sure how important it is but I like it. Typically I make my own playlists, I’m not so much an album guy. I was looking through my playlists. I’ve been listening to The Cure a lot lately so I was trying to find an album which contains a lot of the songs I listen to. But really I just pick a couple of songs off each album. But with this, the main song Faithful Man was on the Cliché video Bon Voyage and I really liked the song. I just put the album on and looking back over it that whole album is part of my playlist which is like a real rare thing for me to pick so many songs off one album. He has got such a great voice it’s really raspy and he’s singing about his love troubles, it’s nice. It’s pretty new too.

the main song Faithful Man was on the Cliché video Bon Voyage and I really liked the song. I just put the album on and looking back over it that whole album is part of my playlist

Yeah I saw that it came out in 2012. But if you listened to it without seeing an album cover or knowing a thing about it you may think it was made in the 70s. The word timeless gets used a lot but it really is.

Yeah it does have an old sound to it. It’s nice that you can do that. Make something now and manage to capture what they did back then. Lots of things get recreated and don’t sound as good but I feel this stands up there next to it.

Faithful to the sound. When I listened to it there were snippets of the instrumentals that sounded familiar. I found out that the Expressions who back him are the ones who play on those El Michel’s Affair albums, the Wu Tang instrumentals. Lee Fields vocals are on their version of Snakes.

Yeah they have that influence in there, the bluesy Motown vibe.

Is soul stuff like this on rotation for you a lot?

Yeah I have a very wide music taste. I like a lot of Motown, Blues, I listen to the Cure a lot, Nirvana, The Rolling Stones. I also like Grime, that kind of thing, a bit of heavy metal, a bit of reggae, all kinds of shit really. I’ve really got into Mexican music recently. I’ve just been listening to this Spanish version of “Hotel California”. I love that song, it’s one of my favourite songs but I really like the Spanish version.
Isolation Station: Darius Trabalza. RuPaul's Drag Race
Have you been watching this since it started?

No I probably started watching this a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen every single season but I have seen a good amount of them.

Tell us about what got you hooked on the show?

They’re just so talented. I’m not really into reality TV but it’s just the most difficult competition I’ve ever seen. You get to see people working really hard, being creative, shit going wrong or going really well. Things you think would go well going bad, and things you thought wouldn’t work going well.

I watched one episode last night from Season 9 with Lady Gaga judging. They had to pick outfits from her career it was pretty epic. What are the challenges like, do they have to create outfits ever?

Sometimes. There might be an acting challenge, or singing or dancing and a catwalk challenge at the end of the show. It’s such a wide discipline. Different drag queens may be a dancer or do a lot of comedy so it’s good seeing them on the weeks where the challenge is suited to them. Or you get to see people out of their comfort zone. There might be a really shy person who is really good at the fashion and catwalk stuff then they’re forced to do a comedy skit and it turns out good.

And they are mentored throughout?

Yeah RuPaul is probably the most famous drag queen ever, he is really good at all of that stuff. He kind of mentors them. He clearly cares for them too because he has done the journey that have done his whole life, he is always trying to help out and he is quite sassy as well.

Drag culture is as punk as it gets for instantly challenging conservative belief systems.

Yeah and you hear a lot of their stories. Some of them had parents who were their biggest supporters and some people say they no longer speak to their parents. Or their parents don’t know that they do this and are terrified their parents are going to find out because of the show and it will ruin their relationship. They have a real tough time.

It’s nice when you see someone who has felt like that doing well, to see people who you think deserve to do well doing well having had a tough time. People are just trying to be themselves that’s all. Some of us get a real easy time being ourselves and some of us have a hard time.


It’s nice when you see someone who has felt like that doing well, to see people who you think deserve to do well doing well having had a tough time. People are just trying to be themselves that’s all. Some of us get a real easy time being ourselves and some of us have a hard time


Do you have a favourite season, what do you suggest people do start at the beginning?

I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of it to say that but they do these All Star seasons. They get drag queens from previous seasons who maybe didn’t do as well as they should have or did really well and put them all in one season. It’s called the All Stars. Those ones are quite good to see the best of the best going at it.

Thanks for this selection Darius. Some London skateboarding history and entertainment to be getting on with. How has the Covid 19 lockdown affected you personally?

Initially I went to stay at my girlfriends dads house just outside of Guildford. It was just me, my girlfriend, her brother and her sister. It felt like a weird retirement commune. We didn’t see anyone and just hung out for two months. It was quite nice to feel a bit of a slow down from the pace of being n London. It’s very easy to get used to getting up really late and having a leisurely time, I was also stuffing my face constantly. I quite enjoy me time so it hasn’t affected me too much. I couldn’t go and see my family, it was a bit painful to be away from them for so long but we spoke on the phone so it’s fine. Everyone I know is in good health.

Following the tragic senseless deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of the police this year the Black Lives Matter movement can no longer be ignored and conversations that wouldn’t happen are happening. Are you hopeful a change can come and systemic racism can become a thing of the past for future generations?

I am, I am. I think the difference now is that we have the internet which basically means that people can talk to each other. Almost getting back to 1984 where you just believe what governments tell you to believe and governments just look after their own interests and tell you that these people are bad or those. Now we have a way where we can just talk to each other and see what each others lives are like and not just go off stereotypes so there’s a chance. It does feel a lot more intentful than before so I am optimistic but I think there need to be big changes in the law for certain things.

Education for me is the biggest one. I think kids should be taught about global history, not just white history or black history, the whole rest of the globe. Everything we have in society has come from around the whole world. We’re basically under the impression everything came from Britain or that Britain made everything to a degree. Another thing I think is that there is a lot of over representation of minorities attached to violent crime stories. If you live in all white place and you watch the news every day, it’s black people murdering, they always say black or if it’s another person of colour, wherever they are from they shove it in there. They will never say this white man did this.

It’s the association thing, our brains will then always associate black people with murder if that’s the only exposure and information you have. If that’s only information you’re receiving that’s what you will believe. It will weave it’s way into your brain and leave you with biases. You will think they are more dangerous and have more fear. You are more likely to be killed by your wife than a strange black man but you’re not scared of being near your wife yet you might be scared walking down the street near a black man you don’t know.

If newspapers keep telling you that these people are the problem, do you not expect your readership to lash out at those people. They are told this for years and years and years, their whole lives, of course they will believe that. Education is the key hopefully.

Any advice to readers at this point in time?

Take time to educate yourself, the history is so interesting. Be curious, go down rabbit holes and find out what happened. We get taught history in a completely random order which gives it no context at all. People don’t even know why there are black people here. They presume people have come to take things from the white people. If you don’t specify peoples imaginations go crazy and they don’t actually know. First of all slavery, then Britain is destroyed inWorld War II, then people came from overseas to rebuild it. It’s rebuilt but left over are these old emotions of hatred for no reason
Interview By Jacob Sawyer
If you enjoyed this selection be sure to check out all of our previous Isolation Station posts.