John Rattray Interview

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John Rattray has been a friend of Slam City Skates for years. John spent a fair amount of time in London while filming for WFTW, the seminal UK video from Blueprint Skateboards. We were recently in Portland were John now resides and we were stoked that we managed to catch up with him to speak about the Good Egg Project among other things…

Where does this interview find you?

I’m in my house in Portland, Oregon right now. I’m sitting in bed in the attic, it’s Sunday morning and the boy is still asleep downstairs.

How long have you been living in Portland for?

I’ve been here for around 5 years.

What’s the best thing about living out there, are there any drawbacks?

It’s an amazing city. It’s got walkable neighbourhoods, it’s pretty well set up for cycling, there are a bunch of skateparks dotted around all over the place. It’s in the Pacific Northwest, which is beautiful. It’s still rapidly expanding and it has the problems of any city really.

What we got to see was really beautiful, do you spend much time out in the mountains?

We try to get out and hike as much as possible. The summer is prime time. That’s when we’ll be hitting the Columbia Gorge and floating the rivers and heading to the coast the most, but through the winter and spring there are spells where you still get out there.

How long have you been working at Nike SB for?

I worked specifically at Nike SB for a little over 3 years. From late 2013 to the start of ‘17.

What’s your role there?

I was digital brand manager, so coordinating all the creative across all the online channels. For the last year I’ve been out of SB in a marketing innovation roll working across all of Nike. It’s been an interesting experience.

It must be nice working with Colin Kennedy again, we met a solid crew out there on this trip…

The Nike SB crew are awesome. I haven’t worked super close with Colin so much as he is strictly Europe. Hopefully things can evolve in that direction.

It was good seeing you do a backside air in Sandy Bodecker’s bowl. You’re still managing to keep skateboarding keen?

I manage to skate once or twice a week at this point. I skate mainly in the weekend mornings with Ivor at either the Nike warehouse or the eastside warehouse that Silas and that crew run. My friend Phil has a key there. Occasionally I get an evening session in at Nike and try to catch an air on the extension, skate the ledge and the euro gap and maintain muscle memory as best I can. It’s still the best to get deep into a session so your mind can switch off for a while.

Do you ever miss the life of being a pro skater or is dad life just as challenging?

I do miss it. Kind of. It’s a weird one. It seems like such a different life to now. It was just me and Philippa, living in California. I managed my own projects, traveling, skating, working towards video and editorial deadlines. It was a dream really but I sometimes feel like I could have done more to set myself up better to deal with…life after skateboarding. Not sure what steps that could have been. Long story short, I’d say dad life is way more challenging than pro-skater life, so yeah, I miss it, but there’s no reverse gear in life, so onward we charge.

Could you imagine yourself living back in Scotland one day in the future?

I totally can, I’m just not sure what I’d do there. Right now I just want to get as much work experience as I can so I can remain employable and moving is realistic. It also gets interesting with Ivor. He’ll be graduating pre-school this summer and we live round the corner from a k-5 school he’ll be going to.

Can you recommend us a book and a film that will enrich our lives?

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to devote to books and film, which is a bit of a bummer. But if you’ve ever had chronic back pain, check out Healing Back Pain by John Sarno. If you wonder how evolution works, check out The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Film-wise, I just saw Coco in the cinema and it had me crying. It’s a good one.

It’s good to catch up with you after many years, we wanted to speak more about the project you just put together. Before we start we want to say that we were very sorry to hear the heartbreaking news about your sister. Lots of love goes out to you from all of us here at Slam.

Back at you.

Did it take long to put together the Good egg Project together?

I started the campaign in around early May ‘17, so about 9 months ago. We did the ride at the beginning of July, so it took a couple of months to get the crew and plan together. But I suppose it had been in the back of my mind for a couple of years before that.

What about getting other people on board?

That just naturally happened. As I put it out there that this was a real mission, friends hit me up to come with and support. It’s another example of the internet as a power for good. A tool that we can choose to use for our betterment.

Had you ever done anything like that for a charity before?

I have not.

Can you tell us a little more about the charity this was for?

I did this in support of the Scottish Association for Mental Health. My cousin started working there after Katrina died and they were there as a registered organization on the Just Giving app that I used to get the campaign going. So, it was a no brainer for me. The SAMH organization specializes in outreach and education around suicide prevention and mental health support in Scotland.

You mentioned filming pieces of this on your phone. Did you have a clear idea of what you needed to capture before you set out?

Capture the ride as best we can. Kurt Hayashi and Jon Humphries did a fantastic job on that. Scott Pommier helped shoot the skate session at Lincoln City. And beyond that it was writing and delivering my own pieces to tell the tale and get some of the points of view of the other crew on the ride. That’s where it gets more improvised and you collage it together based on what people come back with.

Did you edit the piece yourself?

I did.

Was the editing process a learning curve?

Learning curve was not too much. I’ve been consistently working on video projects of varying complexity for a long time. Not on the daily, but enough that I have a decent comprehension of the fundamental principles and can navigate premier fairly quickly.
The main difference with this project was the workshopping.
Sending work-in-progress versions around a select crew of friends and getting professional feedback on the various iterations as I built and refined the timeline. That process was vital to getting it into a watchable state for someone with not much context. That’s one of my main rules of thumb. Can someone who knows nothing about this, as well as someone who was literally on the trip, both sit and watch this and understand, sentence to sentence exactly what’s going on without getting lost or bored? It’s the same as writing an essay, except with moving images and audio to wrangle.
There’re still things I’d do stylistically differently on a future project – I still feel like there’s a little too much straight-up piece-to-camera segments – but for now, I’m happy with how it came together.

What advice would you give to anyone else who wanted to put something like this together?

Make a to-do list. Get started. Go for it.

Was it gnarly physically? You must have had jelly legs when you started hoisting that egg plant out there…

The egg plant was the next day after the ride, so muscles were worked pretty hard, but I think it’s slightly different muscle tissue that’s used for riding distance as opposed to the quick reflexes for skating. That said, yeah, I was not exactly feeling the loosest I’ve ever felt. Definitely tight, but in the bad sense of the word haha.

Photo: Joe Brook

Are you going to throw one into every session now?

I wish. I want to get a good session going soon where I can get to the point of throwing myself upside down. Those sessions are too rare these days.

It’s great to see something positive like this arrive out there. How important do you think things like this are?

I think it’s super important or I wouldn’t have made this thing happen. I’d love to be able to be working on projects like this full time. That would be awesome.

What message do you hope is taken away?

That there is help out there for people with depression. That it’s way more common than we think. And that there are things we can do to help. Raise awareness, talk. I hope that it makes a tough subject a little more accessible by painting it into a positive context. I hope that it shines a little light into a world that can sometimes feel pretty dark.

Can you recommend any reading or support for anyone going through difficulties both suffering from depression or supporting someone who is?

Reading: In Scotland there are resources on the SAMH website. Support: family and friends. I know when you’re in the throes of it you can feel like you have no support, but I’m convinced that everyone has someone. Sometimes it’s luck. Get to the doctor. Chemistry can help symptoms.

Any last words…

I suppose it’s like Cardiel says in the video, there’s a little bit of light, if you can see just that little bit of light, grab onto that, and don’t let go.

This mission was in aid of SAMH who do a bunch of community work, suicide prevention training and mental health outreach around Scotland. In 2016, they carried out 177 suicide interventions and their work has been integral in reducing the suicide rate in Scotland by 17% over the last ten years. Find out more about the charity this was in aid of HERE