“Begs To Dhoot”
Words: Alex Klein
Photos: Dominic Marley
Olly Todd's life has picked up quite a bit in the past year. One minute he was working in a skateshop, then, literally the next minute (well, perhaps figuratively), he was off to Japan, shooting the cover of a magazine as the newest pro for the freshly formed Stereo team. To call the rise meteoric is an understatement. Here Olly sounds off about his rural upbringing, life in London and how he's coping with the newfound pressure.
Didn't you go to university?
Yeah, I went to Liverpool. The course was called "Imaginative Writing and Screen Studies," which is another way of saying "Creative Writing and Film Studies." But who cares about that stuff? It's boring. Sorry, man, I'm feeling a bit defensive tonight. I'm nervous.
Did you enjoy school?
I didn't really learn that much, but it was really good fun. It wasn't stressful academic work; it was pretty cool. I didn't get into university life that much because I was skating and stuff, but it was good to move to a city where there was a skate scene. There was no skate scene where I grew up, but I met a load of skaters in Liverpool and we'd always go skating, so it was good.
Are you glad you went?
I did it to get a ticket out of my hometown. If you go to college, you can get grants and loans and things like that. But if I had grown up in a city with a good scene, I don't think I would've gone.
Do you think you'll ever pursue a career as a writer?
I don't know. I do little bits here and there, but I don't really know.
Have you slipped Jason Lee any scripts yet?
No, not yet. I'll have to bear that in mind.
What was it like growing up in such a remote area of Britain as Whitehaven?
It's beautiful. It's picturesque, if you're into that lifestyle. I went fellwalking a lot with my dad. It's not like rock climbing, but you climb mountains. Growing up there was just playing around in fields, climbing trees, playing football. Then I started skating, and you can't skate on the fell. There were a few skaters, like my brother and his friends, but that didn't last too long because they all got into drinking, and so I was by myself. I had to skate for a good three years on my own. It wasn't too good for a while, but I just stuck with it until I moved away.
What's a fell?
Fell is another word for a mountain up there.
Explain the phrase, "I beg to dhoot!"
If you said that to someone it would mean that you didn't believe the person, that they're full of shit. You have to use the hand gesture. Use your fingers to make your nose appear longer, like Pinocchio, like you're telling a lie.
A year ago you were working at a skateshop, and now you're pro for a major company. What's this last year been like?
It just happened so quickly and it was so out of the blue. I haven't had time to take stock of what actually happened. It hasn't really sunk in. It's been awesome, getting to go to places like Japan, getting to go to the States a couple times.
What was your life like before riding for Stereo?
Before I was riding for Landscape. That was cool, but we'd finished the video and there wasn't a whole lot going on filming-wise. I was kind of taking it easy, because there wasn't a project I had to work toward. I was just slipping into skating and not really having anything to aim at. I was working at Slam, the skate shop, and that was pretty much it. When Stereo happened, it gave me the opportunity to do more of what I wanted to, which is to get out there and skate more.
Was there a lot of pressure because Stereo wanted you to go pro right away?
Yeah, there's loads of pressure. Emails to answer, bank accounts to apply for, mobile phones—it's all added stress. I was already pro for Landscape and knew there was going to be pressure just riding for Stereo, so I was kind of expecting it. I just have to be confident and rely on what comes naturally to me. I decided I wasn't going to change the way I skate. I was just going to skate how I wanted to skate and what's fun for me to skate. I've been doing that so far and it's been working out all right.
How is it living with Vaughn Baker?
It sucks. He has cats, and I hate cats, little devils. And he spends all day on the bloody computer and won't come skating with me. No, it's rad. We've been friends for years, so it's good. For people who don't know, Vaughn Baker is pro for Blueprint, and their video, Lost and Found, just came out. We just go out skating and motivate each other.
What's the skate scene like in London?
It's the same as always. It's kind of based in Southbank, but if you get a decent enough crew together, you can go around anywhere and hit up some spots. Today we went to a new spot in Archway, which I'd never been to before. Then it started raining, so we went back to Southbank where it was dry. A lot of people are prepared to just skate Southbank. It doesn't happen every day, but if you can get a crew to skate some other spots, it's amazing. I'm happy to skate by myself sometimes and just go around and look for stuff. I have a lot of fun doing that, because I'm used to it from where I grew up.
What do you look for in a photo spot?
If a spot is really good, I get the feeling I got when I was a kid walking into a skatepark for the first time: I get really excited and want to skate everything straight away. I get impatient; it's really weird. As far as a photo spot goes, I look for something that hasn't been skated before, something that has something weird to it, like a block with a bank to it, or something like that, something different and quirky.
Speaking of quirky, I like that scarf you wore on the Transworld cover.
I wore that scarf because I had impetigo, a skin rash, on my neck. It was really gross, so I had to cover it up.
So it was purely functional, not fashion?
Pure function! I got it at a 99-cent store in Tokyo.
How do you avoid going to Candybox [popular nightclub among London skaters]?
Because it's full of 15-year-old girls. I was walking there one night and looked around at the droves headed there. All the lasses were about 15, and all the lads were in black leather pouring cider on themselves.
What's the perfect night out for you?
Just me and the missus in the kitchen, drinking, playing all our favorite songs, taking one too many trips to the all night off-license, then going to bed when it gets light. Or just going to the local pub, not a club or anything, one with a good pool table. Just me and my girlfriend, a couple friends, just drinking quite casually. Occasionally, you can have some wild nights, and that's cool, but lately I've been trying to chill on the booze. My dad told me I have to. He thinks it's too much, but he doesn't really know. He thinks I drink more than I do.
You're a professional athlete, dude. You've got to take care of your body.
That's where he's coming from.
How do you survive in such an expensive city as London?
Well, there are a couple things you can do. You can wait outside a sandwich shop for them to take out their trash, give a few of the bags a little kick, and occasionally some of them will be filled with pre-packed sandwiches they have to throw away because they're not going to meet their sell-by date. You can take a few of those home, freeze 'em, and have them whenever. That's one thing you can do.
Really? What else?
Apart from that, it's good to take the bus rather than the Tube. That's one thing I definitely try to do. It's cheaper, and you can see spots from the bus; you can't see shit from down in the Tube. A lot of the spots I've found have been from the top deck of a bus.
You've been spending some time in California as of late. What are your impressions?
I saw a homeless girl with a skinhead touching herself on a park bench in Berkeley. I wasn't expecting that. There ain't a lot going on around Huntington and Long Beach. I quite like downtown LA, even though a lot of people don't. It's got quite a cool vibe to it. It didn't seem to have much soul to it before, but now I think it has. A lot of cool writers came from there and took inspiration from the place. And if you're prepared to look for a bit of flavor, you can find it.
Is California how you imagined it when you were younger?
Yeah, because people had told me so much about it before I even went. Growing up in England, you get fed Hollywood movies and television shows the whole time, so you know a bit about it before you go.
Do you feel pressure to move there?
Not necessarily to move but definitely to spend a lot of time there. I'm coming back out for three months soon. I'm going to see how those three months go. My girlfriend's coming with me, so we'll come to a conclusion after that.
interview and said that you had one of his favorite skate styles?
Just blown away, man. It's just a huge compliment. I was stoked.
Did you call him up afterward and ask for a Zero box?
No, but there was something that was going to maybe happen with Fallen, but I have a really strong relationship with Vans UK, so that didn't happen.
You briefly worked at famed London department store Selfridges. What was that like?
I was just working behind the till, selling trendy guys really bad shirts for a whole year. It was…I don't know how to describe it, but it wasn't too cool. They had a little skateshop where I ended up working, and it was awful. If I hadn't worked there, no one would know how to put on the griptape or set up the board.
What's it like not working a real job anymore?
It's just like being on the dole, but the money's not as good. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted. I'm currently experiencing the longest time without having a job. I'm coming to terms with all this free time.
Is 2006 going to be your year?
We'll see. We've got the Stereo video scheduled for some time in 2006. This year's going to be busy, and next year—when the video comes out—will be, too. Hopefully it'll be a year of traveling and skating.