Studio Tour : Blast Skates

Studio Tour : Blast Skates

Bridging the gap between collectible art and the London skate community, independent label Blast Skates have one simple mission… to make you smile. We sent our Menswear Design Assistant Jake down to founder Matthew Bromley’s Brixton studio to discuss board graphics, pinata parties and favourite skate spots… So where did your ties with skate culture originate? I grew up in a small village, which was obviously really quiet and shit, so I was always looking to waste my energy elsewhere. I would mission from Bedford to London every weekend and kill two birds with one stone, dropping into exhibitions and independent shops in Carnaby Street. Lazy Oaf was definitely on that list. I’d spend all my weekend money on your reversible crew necks, some James Jarvis vinyl toys from Slam, then go skate around Stockwell. What came first for you? Drawing or skating? Drawing definitely, I was trying to like football so hard but my natural interest was books. Even now i spend a lot of time appreciating children's illustration, the naive drawings and story arc, the different uses of raw materials . I mean what skateboarders going to admit they like children’s books, but it’s interesting when you find something and make it your thing. Like when you’re young and you’re the billionth person to “discover” The Misfits. You’re like “This is rad! This is mine!” It defines you and you want to show off that your interests are more obscure than your friends. And then skateboarding comes once, and never goes away right… Yeah it’s an obsession. I remember my dad saying everything doesn’t have to revolve around skateboarding ! Which is true, there’s so much else to explore. But every suburban kids dream is to see their doodles become a skateboard graphic, and make it in your own bubble. Was there a particular image that inspired you to illustrate? I found this book called “All About Scabs” that I’m obsessed with. The whole thing looks like it took no longer than a day to make, someone just made the text and they bashed it out with felt tip markers and paint. It’s just pure. As a creative you’re always trying to discover your creative voice amongst house styles and trends, and you cant help but mimic those sometimes, but it made me realize you can draw something really crude that still conveys a truthful message. I also love Mark Gonzales work, it has a similar flavour,  its just like brain to paper. No holding back, even a mistake that’s wonky, that’s the beauty of it. That’s your visual language. What was the turning point that made you create the concept for Blast Skates … I guess when you really care about something, and you see cracks in your culture or community, you’re often thinking “how did that get made!?” yet people are still buying it, so you feel provoked to make a change. If people are still willing to pay forty to sixty quid for a decent board, just to serve a purpose, then maybe skaters will seriously value a board with considered graphics and shape. I just want to make something me and my friends are stoked on. Where are your usual London haunts? Stockwell aka Brixton beach, right next to the academy. Its sort of wavy and bumpy, like the people! South London’s mad, a whole crew of local guys will just turn up and film a grime video right there, lip syncing to their phone recordings while you skate. Why the little yellow dude as the logo? It’s the first impression, and the first thing you ever do on a skateboard. You push down the street and the moment you can control it and you don’t fall off and eat shit, it’s a rush. Some people will fall off first time and never try again, they’re not going to get it, but it encapsulates that first joy. He had to be yellow, it’s a happy colour, like the classic smiley face, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Do you have a specific aspiration or is the creative enjoyment itself enough motivation? Just to keep pushing! Nah seriously, I think just for people to notice Blast as an authentic independent brand. When I see someone picking up their first skateboard and it’s my design, or strangers in my T-shirts uploading Instagram videos from their local shitty skate park. They might think of Blast in the same vane I worshiped brands when I started out. It’s so important to keep that youthful mentality, like when you’ve got your first copy of Sidewalk magazine or Thrasher, and you're hooked, its escapism. I think that’s where the internet changed things, ‘cos we remember taking those skate magazines into school and turning the pages over again and again for months... Yeah sure, cutting out all the logos and Pritt sticking them to your sketchbooks, that’s what I want our little logo to be. You can’t not smirk at it ! That engagement with a lifestyle label, where it becomes almost like a badge of honour, you can cut and stick and repurpose it in your own way. Can you talk us through the process of making a Blast board? Is the graphic informed by the shape, or visa versa? I’ve skated lots of different shape boards, bigger, smaller, bumpy, different concaves, but I think I come up with the visual first, probably the same with you guys … It just falls off my brain into my hand to be honest, but sure yeah there’s a general idea or attitude we know we want to convey… Exactly, I mean I usually like laying graphics on plain maple wood so the colours really pop off the wood grain. I design it all by hand, then we separate layers on the computer for screen-printing. The shape of the board is custom designed and I try to keep the production in the UK. For instance our chronological series was pressed by A Third Foot in Birmingham. How did the artist collaboration series come about? Well as a freelance illustrator I was meeting so many amazing imaginative people then looking at the current state of board graphics and thinking this is all bullshit! There’s so many talented young artists in London alone not to mention the rest of the world UK and world! but because those artists aren’t necessarily embraced by the skate community its really limited, but if we just look outside the parameters there’s so many visuals that would look sick on a board, so I think I found my niche. There’s also a crossover with the notion of collectibles, you know a screen printed piece of paper can go for £60, so why not a limited edition actual object for your wall? I met James Jarvis through Beach London gallery, and obviously was a bit of a fan boy! So along with Jon Boam and Marcus Oakley we created the Chronological Series, with every artist illustrating their take on a specific time period. Who are your key childhood heroes or cultural references ? Its kind of obscure but I’m going to mention Mr. Blobby, I mean he’s not even a cartoon, he’s a physical character. If you YouTube his stuff its that distinctly British madness and energy. He’s just 'aving it! Goes in, eats shit and gets back up. Time of his life mate! I would love to see him on a board. Yes ! Like have you ever seen a film called Beez 2 Swarm? They video themselves throwing cardboard cut outs down hand rails ... Yeah once they sellotaped a cardboard cut out of Geoff Rowley to a skateboard right! Actually another weird influence is The Moomins, the cartoon was so silent and the stories were weirdly deep for children. One episode comes to mind where this grumpy old guy is bummed out because he’s completed his stamp collection, he’s done it all, he’s achieved the final goal and there’s nothing else to finish. As a kid it deals with some really human matters, in such a dark, dark way. You guys throw some great events too right? Well nobody on this planet is born to be an events organizer or whatever, we learn as we go. So I was like, well I know I need a place, and loads of people to turn up. I wanted to exhibit the boards like an art exhibition, and do the collaborators the justice they deserve, but its pretty daunting! I spent so much time visiting galleries, but I was at Mile End skate park one day and gave some guy my stickers, turns out he owned Hoxton Gallery. That’s the beauty of the skate park! You’re chucked in with all different characters and ages… Yeah, it was too good to be true. Then from all the freelancing bits and bobs I've made a lot of decorations in the past, like a goblin head for a Vans Halloween party one year. So I stuffed a paper mache pinata version of our mascot full of sweets and confetti, then we beat it to shit with our boards!  Apparently the guys at Save The Southbank have one of his legs in their window now! It was hard to watch the little guy get destroyed, but making a skateboard is the same kind of thrill, creating something beautiful and stylized, knowing its going to get wrecked. ---------------------------------------------------- Check out Blast Skates website and follow their Instagram for regular updates! Alternatively rep the "zombie life" in our new Mens Winter collection here.