010: Peter Hellicar/The Generosity of Skateboarding

Pete in Lewes, May 2017. Photo: Matt

“If you’ve got a glint in your eye and the wood and wheels, then you’re in”.

I marked the tenth episode of the Looking Sideways podcast by welcoming legendary UK skateboarder Peter Hellicar to the show. Pete is a skater, company owner, designer, artist, musician, thinker and all round creative powerhouse who first came to prominence in the early 90s UK skate scene. Since then, he has gone on to have a long and varied career. He helped set up OG British skate company Unabomber, headed to the States to work as Art Director of Sole Tech, before returning home where he works today as an established and highly admired artist.

Pete and friends on a mid-90s trip to Munster. Photo: Kevin Banks

I went to see Pete in Lewes, where we had a hugely enjoyable conversation about art, music, life, creativity, the joy and openness of skateboarding, and much more besides.

Transfer 50/50, Old Street. Photo: Wig

Highlights of our conversation include:

  • Setting up Unabomber, and the story behind the iconic logo.
  • Memories of the early 90s skate scene.
  • Pete describing being ‘out of his depth’ as he headed to the States to work for Sole Tech.
  • Pete on the generosity of skateboarding, and how he’s continually fed everything he’s learned throughout his career into his next project.

It was a brilliant, wide-ranging chat with a great conversationist and somebody who has lived a fascinating, omnivorous life and career. Thanks for doing the show Pete, and huge thanks to Kevin Banks, Wig Worland and Donovan Pennant for the pics.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Pete on the origins of Unabomber.

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Show Notes

  • The Lewes studio we recorded the podcast in –
  • The ethos behind the Unabomber Wings logo – and how it linked to the wider skate community.
  • First time skating at age 6 in Nottingham.
  • First serious skateboard – aged 13.
  • What Pete originally liked about skateboarding.
  • The openness – and elitism – of skateboarding.
  • How your boundaries expand as you’re a kid.
  • Tony the Goth.
  • Leaving college to find your own path.
  • First UK skate magazines.
  • Skating the Rollersnakes mini
  • …and getting first sponsorship.
  • How skating has evolved in the UK.
  • How the focus began to shift from west coast skateboarding. to other scenes such as east coast and the UK.
  • ‘Penny’s release’ – how Tom changed the game.
  • The Northwave phenomenon.
  • How skating the L’Esprit d’Equipe ramp led to the foundation of Unabomber thanks to Ben White.
  • The original Unabomber collective.
  • The Gospel According to Unabomber.
  • ‘Virus/Unabomber/He/She/They’
  • The influence of ‘Manufacturing Consent.’
  • ‘Ultimately Unabomber was an expression of UK skateboarding.’
  • Unabomber’s ‘extinct British animals‘ line.
  • Training through martial arts to gain stamina for skating.
  • ‘I’d been skating long enough to have the time to properly explore it, and I enjoyed that’
  • Travelling to Munster by bike.
  • Speedway’s Liverpool retrospective piece – including Pete and friends in Munster.
  • Unabomber’s Headcleaner film.
  • The influence of Anti-Hero’s ‘Fucktards
  • The end of Pete’s involvement with Unabomber.
  • The creativity inherent in each Unabomber project.
  • Getting a job as Art Director at Etnies.
  • ‘In hindsight I was completely inexperienced.’
  • The importance of having a methodology behind the design process.
  • The intimidating experience of working at Sole Tech.
  • Beginning to use sets and collages instead of computers.
  • The developing importance of 3D objects and physicality in Pete’s design process.
  • Leaving Sole Tech and deciding not to work in the skateboarding industry.
  • The creative importance of the skills learned in skateboarding.
  • The Great Sperm Race’.
  • Establishing Hellicar & Lewis with Joel Lewis – and the lessons learned.
  • ‘Nightlights’ – and the importance of real-time creativity.
  • 24 hour broadcasting with Maroon 5.
  • Interaction design and the importance of giving people agency.
  • The appeal and generosity of open source.
  • ‘Art has no intrinsic value. Neither does money. It’s just what you believe it’s worth’.
  • Pete’s work now – art above commerciality.
  • Working on the House of Vans, and the community ethos behind the entire project.
  • ‘Sunrise Kingdom’.
  • The Slow Art Movement.
  • The 60/40 idea concept.
  • The influence of music throughout Pete’s life.
  • Headshoppe.
  • Hellicar, Crago, Lewis, Lloyd and Friends.
  • Pete’s wife’s film (check) and Pete’s soundtrack.
  • Themes and approaches to recording soundtracks.
  • Soundcloud link.
  • What skateboarding means to Pete now.
  • Buddy’s first drop-in.
  • ‘If you can put positive stuff out into the world, hopefully it’ll make a difference’.

Places/events/programmes/media mentioned

  • Lewes
  • Penzance
  • Santa Cruz
  • Nottingham
  • York
  • Liverpool
  • Nottingham
  • Manchester
  • Croydon
  • Barrow-in-Furness
  • Bury
  • Oxford
  • London
  • Munster
  • Hook of Holland
  • Rotterdam
  • Utrecht
  • Amsterdam
  • Lake Forest
  • Whitechapel
  • Auckland
  • Long Island Sound
  • Nepal
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Connecticut
  • Darjeeling

People mentioned

Rich Crago
Lucy Crago
Louise Hellicar
Graham 100% skateboarder
Sean Keen
Donovan Pennant
Jon Thomas
Andy Horsely
Tom Penny
Rick Oyola
Donny Barley
Mike Vallely
Johnny Robbo
Franklin Stephens
Ben White
Alan Rushbrooke
Mark Channer
Paul Silvester
Ali Cairns
Lucian Clark
Nick Taylor
Mark ‘Snoz’ Snowball
Dan Ball
Richard Hughes (Benny)
Mark Channer
Kris Ludford
Gregg Chapman
Will Sweeney
James Jarvis
Rachel Thomas
Julian Jones
Maroon 5
Henry Clay
Jackson Pollock
James Bentley
The Beta Band
Lorna Tucker
Buddy Rosenfeld
Jared Royles Atkins

Spots mentioned

Films/magazines/shops/brands mentioned