No Beer On a Dead Planet is a new book written by Jono Coote and we have just received some copies. It’s highly likely you may have met Jono on your travels skating parks in the UK. If you haven’t you may well have read his words for various skateboarding publications over the years. This debut book fuses his natural ability as a writer with his passion for skateboarding, travel, park exploration and beer (not mixed with soy milk). When his previous employer Sidewalk magazine ceased to be, Jono took a year out to travel to Australia and New Zealand. While doing so, he thought he would put the whole experience in a time capsule by penning a book about it. This is available to buy from us now. Before you do we have some background for you about how it came to be, as well as a sample chapter so you know what to expect.
This amazing book captures Jono’s enthusiasm for all that is in front of him and communicates the discovery of a new environment through a skateboarders lens. It has been published by Red Fez Books which is an independent operation Josh Sutton started. You may remember Josh from articles he has written for us like Senior Skateboarding. Although Josh is a writer who has been published by mainstream publishers in the past, he started Red Fez as a means to put out his own stuff on his own terms before the opportunity to publish Jono’s book arose. The two both met for the first time in Leeds, shortly before Jono flew out to Australia and not long after Josh had started skateboarding.
When Jono returned to Leeds a year later he ended up working with Josh on the new skatepark at Horsforth. Josh enquired about his Antipodean adventure to discover he had written a book about the whole thing. Keen to read his manuscript with no initial thoughts about publishing it, Josh said he got three chapters into it and was so blown away by Jono’s style of writing that he realised it was something he wanted to support. He approached Jono about putting it out there straight away and “Yeh, I’d be down for that” was his response. It was after a stint volunteering for SkatePal in 2018 when Josh put together a little book of recipes, illustrations and photos inspired by his experience in Palestine. This project is what launched Red Fez and half of the profits for that book went back to SkatePal. This tradition continued when working out the logistics for proceeds from No Beer On a Dead Planet, some of the profits of which will be dedicated to the Ben Raemers Foundation.
Josh was keen to sing the praises of this unique publication, saying “It’s a travelogue seen through the lens of a skater and takes the reader on an epic journey down the east coast of Australia and beyond to New Zealand. It carries detailed descriptions of all the parks and spots the author hits along the way, but they are descriptions of what it’s like to ride those places, not just a description of what they look like. You get a real feel for what its like to be there. At the same time the book picks up on a number of other themes, cultural, historical and contemporary. It explores issues such as racism, colonialism, environmentalism and popular culture, music and coffee! It’s also laugh out loud funny in places, it’s a book that will make you think as well as ignite a yearning for travel. It’s a perfect escape in these travel restricted times”.
If we have already managed to pique your interest, then immerse yourself in this chapter selected from the book before ordering yourself a copy…
CHAPTER EIGHT: Urb Ex(crement)
Late one summer’s afternoon I leave the house and head up a couple of blocks to Bell Street, the great artery connecting the Northern Suburbs east to west and pulsing with great gouts of commerce, goods and pollution, the traffic thickening into clots then dissipating just enough to allow the freedom to pass through the city without actually seeing any of what may lay beyond the windscreen. A sense of frustration was growing that I wasn’t scratching the surface of the city as far as I would have liked and I hoped that a 15km skate to Bulleen Skatepark, followed by a well earned bus journey home, would help. No headphones so my ears could process the endless traffic, the honking horns, the shouted words between acquaintances, anything that may cross my path on this one long push through dead industrial wastelands, existential screams of suburbia, fume-blighted brushland and brief interludes of social and commercial enterprise. Coburg, Preston, Heidelberg, Templestowe; the overlapping suburbs seemed to divide the journey into manageable chunks. The pursuit of my goal, a 70s snake run enriched with some newer concrete additions, was fuelled physically by cans of Melbourne Bitter and Solo, mentally by the desire to explore for which skateboarding is the catalyst for so many. It wasn’t until I was about 12 kilometres down that, stopping in a 7/11 to top up my travel card, I realised it was in my other shorts. Full realisation of your own organisational shortcomings is never a pleasant experience, but when it doubles an already cartilage-damaging amount of pushing then the feeling is especially acute.
I went on my first skate trip to Barcelona when I was sixteen and have tried to stay there mentally ever since; the pleasure of discovering a spot known only from videos, the exposure to new people, new places, new experiences, the waft of concrete dust, sweat and beer thickening as the day goes on. It was heartening to realise that, on the other side of the world from where I first rolled around down at the local car park curbs, there was still no end in sight. It’s a sure sign that life is going to remain chaotic enough to stay interesting when, at an age when you should really have life’s basics dialled to some extent, you’re too fried to bring along one of the three items essential to your journey. Skateboarding ended up being my mode of transport for the whole journey, just as it usually is, and the fact that I only skated Bulleen’s snake run for half an hour after twenty minutes spent cleaning debris from the deep end was incidental. The camaraderie of a good crew is often essential to what makes skate trips unique, but so sometimes are the lone detours with nothing but your board and a bag on your back. With no good reason other than to see what might be around the next corner, even when the answer seems on the surface to be not much, then the level of communion with your board, your surroundings, their architectural anomalies and the strange behaviour of their denizens negates the possibility of a wasted journey. Maybe it’s heatstroke, maybe it’s mild carbon monoxide poisoning; but when I get home six hours later, lungs petrol blackened and feet road bruised, seething with excitement, I actually feel glad that I forgot my Myki Card. I can’t really explain why, but I know that no one asked me to get a photo in pursuit of social media exposure.
In much the same way as regularly touring musicians become better suited to life on the road than off of it, skateboarding too can act as a stimulant for eternal restlessness; a craving for constant motion that makes it hard to stay in one place for a long period of time. After a couple of months in the city, settling into work routines and getting comfortable with the area in which we lived, we headed out to the Dandenong Ranges for a couple of days worth of bush walking. Stopping in the village of Sassafras for a pint, we are devastated to find the its only pub closed until evening. Thankfully the owner Marco happens to be on the premises, relenting to pouring us a beer on seeing the despondency written clearly on our features by the news. A storm of manic energy, he is conducting a lengthy business discussion on the phone whilst getting our drinks and setting up the bar for the day. Explaining that the nearest open pub is a few kilometres down the road, he offers to drive us down there before taking us on a rally driver’s tour of the hairpin curves which make up the Dandenong’s roadways. This is accompanied by a stream of consciousness monologue espousing his hatred of city centres, and of London especially, juxtaposed with the peace of mind offered by life in the mountains. I’m finding this peace of mind hard to grasp as we overtake a slow moving vehicle into oncoming traffic (“Bloody tourists can’t deal with these roads!”), but when he takes a detour to show us his property I begin to understand. His five acres have been used to build a large, modern house, a separate gym, chicken coops and play areas for his kids, amongst other things, but my mind is wandering back to a trip to Oregon and the various backyard ramps and bowls which I was lucky enough to skate a couple of years before. Thoughts of the skateable terrain that could be built in a property of this size makes a powerful case for putting down roots in the countryside and I think even the most grizzled road warrior would be tempted by the sheer sense of space offered by this spot nestled in the Dandenong foothills, only an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s CBD.
My own personal picture of Australia growing up, as is arguably the case for most of the Northern Hemisphere, was shaped largely by Crocodile Dundee. As such, the impact of where I am hits me hardest during those parts of the trip spent out in the bush, hiking to lookouts and waterfalls, spotting roos and wallabies and experiencing a strange sense of satisfaction whenever we pass a sign warning of snakes. “Melbourne is a great city,” people will tell you all over the world, “very European.” It is undoubtedly both things; but sometimes it can feel like, in its self conscious striving to become a metropolitan, cultured Antipodean response to Paris or London, it has lost touch along the way with the rough and ready nature which is such a part of Australia’s draw.
After three months without finding a single pub selling stubby coolers, I begin to crave those dusty roadside taverns with sports on the tv, bad mainstream radio on the speakers and cheap schooners for the thirsty traveller. That being said, we catch the Cosmic Psychos one humid Thursday evening in Brunswick and it feels as if all of a sudden we’ve tapped into a major artery of Australiana; getting in a session at Brunswick clover bowl to start the evening off, with a six pack of lager for dinner followed by a night of songs about tractors, schnitzels and booze, topped off with booze-fuelled breakdancing and fights in the pit? All of a sudden we could be in the depths of rural Queensland rather than a city whose economy seems to be driven by expensive coffee and kombucha, a feeling enhanced when Slim Dusty’s ‘G’Day, G’Day’ plays the band off the stage.
It is an echo of old Melbourne, the gritty, working class Northern Suburbs of the 1980s and 90s when industry still outweighed vintage clothing businesses and the vibrancy of which echoes stronger the further north you head on Sydney Road. This is the point at which the wine bars and vintage stores are replaced by Greek and Lebanese restaurants, shisha bars, mechanics and falafel joints, where a strong immigrant community continues to make its presence felt and the working class vibrancy which once encompassed the majority of the Northern Suburbs still shines through. Just as South London wouldn’t be South London without its West Indian flavour, New York wouldn’t be New York without Little Italy and Bradford wouldn’t be Bradford without its curry houses and mosques, this small stretch of Sydney Road will be much more my abiding memory of Melbourne than the young professional hangouts twenty minutes walk down the strip.
The skate scene is also a reassuringly hard drinking, chain smoking, bad decision making organism thriving on impulse, weed and bottle-o purchases. Skateboarding is in a strange place right now and the position of ‘skateboard journalist’ is potentially as unsound as it has ever been; the first Olympics to include skateboarding looming, the internet driving a new nail into the coffin of print media with every new social media site to rear its head and, out of the blue, one of the totemic figureheads of our subculture passing away. One of the most noticeable traits about the glut of online obituaries to former Thrasher editor Jake Phelps was in relation to how absolutely dedicated he was to skateboarding; whether giving out boards to kids or alienating an entire skate scene with some speed addled moment of bad behaviour, both light and dark were in some way connected to a plank of wood on wheels. A few people touched on comparisons with Hunter S. Thompson; Phelps’ style was rougher, easier to read with semi-amused detachment than the full immersion demanded by Hunter’s work, but his embracing of the Gonzo ethos was if anything even more total than that of the Good Doctor. He revelled in an outlaw mythology which he himself helped to build around skateboarding and for many his passing will be the end of an era, another few stones rattled loose in skateboarding’s slow landslide from lifestyle to sport.
A couple of days after his passing, two of us with a day off head to a ditch spot in the depths of Fitzroy, battling kinked natural transitions and armies of small but vicious biting ants before hunting down a plaza spot we’d heard rumours of around the corner. It turns out to be almost as rough as the ditch but we get stuck in anyway, starting to get the feel for it when I suddenly notice that the bump I’m attempting to wallride over has a temporary skate stopper; every time I bail out, later and more confidently with each attempt, my board is landing ever closer to a trail of human faeces splattered down the wall and across the landing. It is a timely reminder that, however skateboarding’s public face may change in the upcoming years, as long as people are willing to get out of the skatepark and onto the streets then it can never truly be gentrified. Jake Phelps’ contribution to skateboarding, and one of the major reasons for the respect he garnered even from those who didn’t particularly like him, was that he never once seemed to doubt that.
Thanks to Jono for allowing us to publish this chapter from the book for you to enjoy. Photo of Jono Coote by Josh Sutton. Illustration by Lewis Brownlie. Purchase your copy of No Beer On A Dead Planet