For the latest in our series of Visuals interviews we had the pleasure of speaking to Jack Brooks. Jack has been filming for Palace Skateboards for over a decade now. We connected when he was already three days deep into lens-wielding for a recent squad excursion to Spain. We are stoked he found the time to further romanticise some epic moments in skateboarding history including some he played a part in…..
words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Jack Brooks in front of the Palace video archives
We have been friends with Jack Brooks ever since he relocated to London for his university studies, and enjoyed working with him when he put in the hours for Slam. He has always had a hunger for the latest media, and a deep knowledge of, and reverence for, videos. This passion has inspired, informed, and enriched his own work for a company whose appreciation for our culture is unsurpassed. As well as filming for Palace, Jack is also in charge of the video archives. He has diligently sifted through numerous tapes, meticulously cataloguing the footage. This has made him an invaluable resource with a comprehensive memory of some serious skateboarding history. He delved into those archives for this, and we greatly appreciate the insights he shared into the process behind the ender to one of our favourite parts of all time.
As soon as Jack agreed to do one of these interviews we knew he would come back with an interesting selection, and he settled on what he wanted to talk about quickly. This interview spans different decades and the impact specific moments have made on Jack, and how he looks at things. He talks about the importance of William Strobeck’s formative work capturing Josh Kalis, Stevie Williams, and Kevin Taylor at Love Park. While Strobeck’s footage is perhaps better known as parts of bigger projects, when presented cohesively in Pigeon it takes on a new dimension. Jack describes this as being definitive, and having a timeless influence that continues to shape his creative endeavours today.
Jack also plucked a photo from 2005, something released in the digital blind spot of the noughties. The impactful nature of Oliver Barton’s photo of Kenny Reed, coupled with the fact it was a free poster in a UK mag has given this an enduring appeal we are still talking about today. You can’t say that about many Destructo adverts. We are pleased to have a good scan of this, it took place in a different time where Oliver sent off the photo and never laid eyes on it again, so we’re happy to further preserve this moment in time.
Palace Skateboards visuals fittingly play a core role in this interview. As mentioned previously we delve into the day some St Paul’s history went down following a Lucien Clarke impulse from left field, with Brooks behind the lens There is also some further Josh Kalis appreciation tied together by one of our favourite graphic homages to date. This wraps things up with a nod to the past, nothing but love for the continuation of things, and gratitude for getting to do any of this in the first place. We hope you get a kick out of soaking up some visuals that have played a part in Jack Brooks’ life, and enjoy learning why they hold such significance for him.
Pigeon by Bill Strobeck – featuring Josh Kalis, Stevie Williams, and Kevin Taylor (2008)
This is literally the first video part that came to mind. This video played a big part in me wanting to film with a VX1000. I reference this video so often for different reasons, the way at the end Stevie [Williams] points mid-line, iconic stuff like the [Josh] Kalis’ tre flip out of the kicker over the can. For me, for that period of skateboarding, this is a time capsule that represents exactly what I like. I feel like the East Coast was always dealt a bit of a bad hand when it came to recognition and visibility. The way they pushed it out into being seen was just by doing the illest shit and that continues on today with everyone who has carried that plaza torch on.
The Philly scene reached us because of hard work and a good filming ethic. That’s the same today, people out there aren’t filming stuff on their phone, they’re usually always working towards a project which is kind of rare these days. That’s a core part of that scene, and the plaza culture is so strong because of videos like Pigeon, this video is the embodiment of all of that. I think the first time I saw this was when Bill Strobeck put it out randomly on YouTube, that’s the only place I ever remember it being, he put out Smile on Wry Boy and this, the best Love Park footage. He just edited together all of his footage, even if it had been used for other projects. Those guys had been filming for different things but his footage works way better as a part, all together.
I love the part that appeared in The Reason, but for what Love Park is that was almost too polished. I’m not hating on it because I love The Reason, that era of Transworld videos was amazing. Pigeon is just raw though, no frills editing. That solid Black Moon beat, clips edited properly one after another, and it just makes sense. One thing that stands out for me in this part is something that Lucien tried to do later at Victoria benches, in Palasonic he does a fakie nosegrind and then a switch crook on the next bench immediately after, Mike Fox filmed that line. Kalis does those same tricks in this at the part of Love where the two ledges are close together. You can tell how ingrained in people’s heads that footage is. Lucien did those tricks at Victoria benches and that was paying homage. Much of the footage in that Pigeon video is part of our psyche, things you will reference forever. There are some clips that must have fallen through the cracks I hadn’t seen elsewhere previously. You can always trust a filmer who has everything, to eventually put it all out there.
I think that these skateboarders, with Strobeck filming, define a whole era for me. The East Coast didn’t get as much love as California, people were moving out there to make it but these guys did it their way. It reminds me of Southbank, there was a period of time where the best skaters in the UK were locals there but none of them were being put on companies when other people were. It was an unspoken thing, there were skaters like Clive Daley who was incredible. I always remember hearing stories from my friends like Biko Dadzie, and Karim Bakhtaoui about that era, the OG heads and how good they were. It reminds me of that time in Philly, and New York, and I think there are a lot of similarities between the East Coast and London. Also if you’re from London, or the UK in general, you’re drawn to a crustier side of skateboarding which was happening on the East Coast.
“I think these skateboarders, with Strobeck filming, define a whole era for me”
I managed to go to Philly for the last weekend you were able to skate Love Park. The city was officially getting rid of the spot, and the mayor said he was going to let skateboarders skate there for one more weekend. It just so happened that my mum had booked a family holiday to New York which coincided with that. I got there and got straight on the Chinatown bus to Love Park and met Jamal [Smith] there. It was the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life. The weird thing is that skaters in Philly reference those last days at Love as being the coldest thing ever too, so if someone from Philly is explaining the cold they have experienced, I have a good reference for exactly what they’re talking about.
They had a trashcan fire in one of those iconic Love Park bins. It was so cold that peoples bushings were freezing up making turning impossible. At that point in time everyone was skating a big curvy bit in the middle of Love Park, around the fountain. They had to grab their board and leave it by this trashcan fire for five minutes which would buy them five minutes of skating before the bushings froze back up and they had to do it again. Everyone ended up stinking of bonfire smoke, they had built a wall around the bin from random pieces of Love park debris. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, people everywhere. People were trying to do lines across the levels, at the same time loads of out-of-towners had travelled in to have their last huck down the big four. It was anarchy but that’s what skateboarding is sometimes.
“When I think of how I like to film, this is one of the videos I think about”
Pigeon really influenced me as a filmer, this part embodies that VX MK1 lens aesthetic. It’s not all fisheye either, there’s some good long lens stuff that mixes it up. That fisheye filming for the lines, with that distance from the skater, that’s still how I try to film now. When I get to filming HD I find it a little tricky sometimes, there’s all this extra space on the sides and I’m so used to that 4:3 format over the 16:9 aspect ratio. When I think of how I like to film, this is one of the videos I think about.
Lucien Clarke – Palace Skateboards Palasonic (2017)
This was an easy pick for a couple of reasons. For an ender, that ends a video, that Lev decided to play five times in a row or whatever it was, how it came about was mental. At the point where he did this, I think we had only been filming for Palasonic for six or seven months. We were just skating around St Paul’s. Lucien was hungover, he had a flight to Cuba the next day to skate with Andrew Reynolds, and Ishod [Wair] on a trip. He was excited but I think he was also maybe a little anxious about it too, we decided to go skating anyway. He had been trying a couple of things and then he just turned to me and asked if I wanted to go and check this thing around the corner. We skate over there and it turns out the thing around the corner he wants to check out is the ten set outside the Cathedral. Without really saying much he walked up to the top and I think he ollied it straight away and then asked me if I was ready.
“then he just turned to me and asked if I wanted to go and check this thing around the corner…”
I set up to film, I was thinking of how those stairs had always been filmed before, I wanted to change it up so I climbed up high in order to capture it from the top angle. I wanted to show how long those stairs are. He started to huck a nollie flip but he was getting on it straight away. Usually when you see someone begin to skate something that big they aren’t exactly close to doing it at the start. The second Lucien tried it for the first time I knew he was going to do it that day. It only took him five tries, he was putting them down and sliding out. The problem with that spot is that when you land, there are a row of heavy duty marble pillars. You have to land between two of the pillars. The one he landed came out of nowhere, one of those things that catches you by surprise. He threw down and got there at a ridiculous speed. I think it’s one of the speediest nollie flips I’ve ever seen. He flung it out there, and landed it, and you can see how everyone is shocked. In the clip you see Rory [Milanes] throw his hands to his mouth in surprise as he’s rolling away.
“We skate over there and it turns out the thing around the corner he wants to check out is the ten set outside the Cathedral”
Lucien was hanging from the night before, and he had a flight the next day. I don’t know about you but when I have a flight the next day I’m getting my things together, and not exactly doing much but taking time to prepare. Certainly not doing this, it’s almost like he was on autopilot. It wasn’t planned out, it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. He just said “I think I can do this today”, and he did. Never in a million years could anyone do it any better down that set of stairs. Lucien had the most footage for Palasonic out of anyone in general, but throughout filming I always thought in the back of my head that he was going to get last part, and that trick would close the video. It was always in the back of my head. When it came to Lev [Tanju] cutting it all together and making it, he put it at the end of the video, but also slams it to you like five times. What Lev will do sometimes is send over a cut without any music to double-check that all of the skaters tricks that are in there should be. I’ve uploaded every bit of footage, and I’m like a library for that stuff so we can double check that everything is in there that needs to be. But Lev will sometimes mix the parts up, and mix the part order up when he sends me that to leave me a surprise still when I first see it. He did that for Beta Blockers too, he moved the parts around so I had no idea who had last part for that as well. With Lucien it was a sure thing, I knew he was getting that last part.
I definitely think this is one of my favourite things that I have ever filmed. Part of the reason is that I think I am the first person to have filmed the stairs from that angle, from up above. The most iconic bit of footage I can think of is Nick Jensen’s switch ollie filmed from the side. Anything else I can think of was filmed fish from the top of the stairs. I just like tricks like that filmed from above, so I tested out how it looked. It turns out years later that most of the footage I see filmed at those stairs now is from that up top, eagle eye angle. That kind of stokes me out, I’ve not really had stuff like that before, to see I have made a small footprint on skate culture like that even if no-one knows. It stokes me out when I see that angle in a video, and to have been part of that evolution.
Kenny Reed. 360 Flip. PH: Oliver Barton (2005)
This photo speaks more than anything I could ever say. The height off the bump, where his feet are, the fact it’s Kenny Reed. I think this was a fold out poster in Document magazine and I had it on my wall for years. It was one of those posters that moved with me, every time I changed room. One of those where the corner came off with the Blu Tack. By the end of that posters life it was tattered and ripped. It’s just the best tre flip photo I have ever seen. The footage of this is amazing too but with Kenny Reed’s casualness, he flows it way more than anyone else would, and it makes it look way easier than it is at that spot in Berlin. It’s an occasion where I think the photo is better than the footage. That freeze frame in time, those perfect Kenny Reed arms outstretched. It’s a unique spot too, you’re used to seeing gaps, stairs, hubbas. It’s a dream spot, this massive bump you can fly over. But it’s sketchy too, no driveway edge to aim for, you’re landing in this weird hump.
“This photo speaks more than anything I could ever say…It’s just the best tre flip photo I have ever seen”
This came out in 2005, at this point in time I would have been buying iPaths in TK Maxx. That shop was a goldmine for éS, C1rca, and iPath during that period for some reason. This trick was in the iPath Preview video, I still have that DVD, it came free with a skate mag and it’s one of my favourite videos still to this day. That whole video, that era, the team as it was, and how the shoes looked. This was a high point for that company, after this it changed. They put Ben Raybourn on who is sick but didn’t really represent what I envisioned that company being. It’s the same with a company like Alien Workshop. I think they have an insane team and they’re coming into their own, turning it into their own thing. The new version is cool but doesn’t hold the same feeling that built it. Inspired by this photo and that video, I would have been buying the I-Path Grasshoppers from TK Maxx with the stash pocket in the tongue before I had even started smoking.
I was living in Margate at this time. It was a couple of years after this when I moved to London for university and started coming into Slam for the first time. Kenny Reed was always a favourite. His Seven Year Glitch part was incredible too, that long noseslide down the massive long hubba, where he has the same L-shaped arms as the tre flip photo, those Kenny Reed arms. The way he throws his body out is so iconic, it makes you remember anything he does. Kenny Reed is one of those people who burns himself into your retinas.
Palace Skateboards ‘Palis’ deck (2015)
Some more Kalis celebration, why not? This board came out a couple of years after I started filming for Palace. I remember seeing the original graphic this was based on from [Josh] Kalis skating the board in things like Pigeon, he’s skating it when he does the tre flip over the can. It’s one of the graphics I can remember seeing from his parts. When I saw the faithful recreation, and Lev told me it had been okayed by Kalis, and Don Pendleton, I knew I needed it. I try to get pro boards when my friends have them, I don’t get all of the boards Palace put out there but with this one I had to. I came back off a trip right when Kalis was doing that kicker to can event at Southbank with DC and Slam. I managed to get down there with this board and got him to sign it. I got him to sign my piece of Love Park as well.
With everything I have picked, they are all made up of images that are just ingrained in my mind. They are things I can never forget that make up skateboarding to me. I have a spare one of those boards stashed. One day I really want to film a line with Jahmir [Brown], at a Kalis spot, skating that board. Jahmir for me is the continuation of what Kalis laid the foundations for. You can see it in a lot of Jahmir’s skating, I saw him do a tre flip the other day and it was the most Kalis looking one I have ever seen. He leans into the style from that era, the aesthetics, it all just makes sense.
“I have this board on the wall in my office, the one Kalis signed, it’s looking at me, right above where I upload all of the tapes for Palace”
I have this board on the wall in my office, the one Kalis signed, it’s looking at me, right above where I upload all of the tapes for Palace. Photosynthesis has been one of my favourite videos for the longest though so I was always into Alien Workshop and what they were doing. One great thing about this is that when Lev [Tanju] delves into skate culture he does his due diligence. He’ll make sure that everyone who was a part of whatever he’s referencing is appreciated. I think that Palace have a great appreciation for everything that came before it, and everything we like.
That’s what’s tangible about the company, the skateboarding era I grew up with is present in the DNA of Palace constantly. Just the other day I was editing a Kareem Campbell interview for the Droors collaboration. Before that I was sent all of the raw footage from the Aesthetics Ryde or Die Vol.1 video to make stuff for the Aesthetics collab. I’m really lucky now that when Palace delve into that side of skateboarding I often get an extra peak through the curtain at some of the things I remember growing up watching, and loving.
We want to thank Jack Brooks for his time. For further exploration of his role as filmer check out Auteurs: Jack Brooks, an interview by Ben Powell that hit the blog back in 2019. For further celebration of Lucien Clarke’s part in Palasonic read our Ode to Victoria Benches article and watch Quartersnacks- Favorite Spot With Lucien Clarke. Other related reading: Josh Kalis ‘Memory Screen’ Remix, DC x Slam City: Southbank Kicker to Can Jam, Josh Kalis Interview.