The details of skateboard and BMX culture’s beginnings in our country are somewhat hazy to say the least. An undetectably slow filter of culture made its way across the Atlantic in the 80s from its original dawn in the swimming pools and dirt bike tracks of California to gradually entice a whole section of misfits in Blighty, and of course Liverpool. Despite the fact they were both imported from America originally, the way they took a grip on British alternative society and dovetailed with its music scene was an indisputably organic and practically undocumented process. The punk scene (which was on the wane after its huge boom in popularity during the 70s) latched onto this new underground lifestyle pretty early on and still has huge ties to this day. As Tom Pimlott, a local freestyle BMXer and video producer explained to me; “I suppose grinding the shit out of public property and playing horrible music go pretty well together.” His friend and fellow BMX rider Matt Devine added; “Skateboarding and hardcore were at the time synonymous with the rejection of the mainstream.”
Nowadays, the links between skating and hardcore have grown even stronger; the popular medium of skate/bmx videos is just one example of the perfect integration of the two. Russ, avid skateboarder and member of local hardcore/punk group COLD ONES, describes to me why the mix works so well; “Skateboarding at its most simple is about motion, consistent movement with speed. It’s noisy and there’s a risk you’re going to get hurt.” Good enough reason to listen to equally alacritous and often more acerbic music, then.
All this is not to say however that these scenes are not welcoming to other genres. One more recent trend which has transpired alongside the widespread acceptance of skateboarding is the acceptance of various kinds of music. Tom Pimlott’s recent video, ‘Grindhog Day’ is an ode to Merseyside’s BMX scene featuring some of its best proponents at work and whats refreshing is that it also features an eclectic medley of genuinely engaging music. Russ informed me that this is not just exclusive to Pimlott’s work but is widespread; “I’ve heard everything on skate videos from Napalm Death to The Coral,” some contrast indeed. Alongside this there are sponsors popping up such as Dub BMX whose ethos and style are built upon a joint love of BMX, dubstep and that one beat they use in every song (sorry, couldn’t help myself). After starting in 2008 simply as a name to put out videos and t-shirts its co-founder Jack now proudly tells me the label has, “30 people who represent us in 12 countries,” not bad for a couple of lads from Wrexham.
Further proof of the symbiotic relationship between the music and riding folk are the sheer amount of people who are involved in both locally. As Tom tells me; “Almost every punk and hardcore band in Liverpool has members who ride or skate.” Cold Ones, Nowhere Fast, and seemingly every band that Mr Pimlott has been near are testament to this and are held in high regard by the local community.
As Liverpool’s skateboarding hub, Lost Art also plays its part in the development of grassroots music in the area. The shop was recently featured in a local dubstep video and is constantly not only throwing up the latest skate videos to their blog but music that they’ve been enamoured by. Their recently posted ‘11th Birthday Mix’ sounds like a who’s who of 90’s hip hop so they’ve not only got passion, they’ve got taste. The shop is a regular haunt for Merseyside’s skateboarders and its owners must be commended for making it a cool place to hang and talk music and skating too. Members of Hot Club De Paris, another band who are coupled with the city’s skate scene, are also known to frequent the shop and recently Paul from the band did an acoustic video as part of the ‘Lost Notes’ series which is well worth a look.
On all this evidence it appears the link between music and the skateboarding and BMX culture in the city is getting even stronger, however, Matt Devine did air his worries about the role the internet is now playing in the sustainability of the scene for newcomers. Matt: “The thing is, you can learn all about riding and skating and get whatever you need without having to talk to anyone nowadays which goes against the spirit of what riding, skating, and certain music scenes stand for.” Music fans and riders alike should hope that this does not become the case as the results of the bond between the two are undeniably mutually beneficial. There are certain sections on certain videos that would not have existed without certain songs and there are certain songs that many people hold close that they would never have known of if it wasn’t for certain videos. I’m certain.
The last words of this piece can go to Russ however, as a great argument as to why skating and music’s relationship will always exist in some form or another. “Don’t become watered down. Someone spits in your face, you wanna punch them straight back. Put a soundtrack to that reaction.” I have yet to see a better summary of the scene’s ingrained and boundless energy.