Despite our many Ludditical tendencies — like an asinine reverence for a MiniDV camera that was born the same year as Meatball — skaters can all agree that the internet has been a great thing for us. You can argue about megapixels, what to call a nollie cab (the correct answer being “nollie cab”), and which tricks do and don’t deserve Renaissance; the globalized culture of skateboarding has benefitted as a result of our generation’s interconnectedness. From the ease of recording it, to the ease of uploading, sharing, and seeing it, makes it feasible to peek into any scene to see how people skate, dress, talk, and talk shit.
For a person from the eastern United States, one thing that I’ve come to terms with is how little my peers and I actually know about the scenes and histories throughout Europe and really, much of the world outside of the U.S. I thought I knew a little something about the U.K. from watching Blueprint videos, liking Tom Penny, and retaining a handful of shit that’s gone down at Southbank, but in recent years of following dudes like Science Versus Life, I’ve been shown myriad photos from mags, photographers, skaters, and spots I had never heard of.
This sense of cluelessness is heightened when sitting down to watch Palace’s first video. Palasonic, a seemingly authoritative report on what’s going on in London, was logged camcorders of the cavemen, captured digitally on a tripod from a VCR, then edited on a twenty-year-old Macintosh. Convoluted as this may be, it gives the vid a sense of timelessness and intertextuality with a regional past that, frankly, I know very little about. So, I talked to Lucien Clarke, the man with the video’s seven-minute ender, whose rumored to be able to singlehandedly sell out even the most flamboyant Triangle-stamped kits just by filming an Insta line in them.
What’s the last trick you learned?
Switch back noseblunt. Actually stoked on that one.
How old are you?
Thirty now…turned thirty in June. Big man ting now.
How did you get into skating?
I was just strolling through a park, Hyde Park, in London. I was fourteen. I saw someone skate, did a kickflip, just tankin’ around, and I thought it looked cool. Just bombin’ it around, flip your board around, it looked fun. So my stepdad got me a skateboard the next day and I haven’t stopped since. They used to take me to the park before I knew what skating was. It was really close to where I lived. But then after a while, I figured out all that other stuff. Southbank, all that shit, was close to my house as well, so I ended up going there instead.
How did you start to figure out what was up?
I had a friend from school who skated, but he didn’t know fuck-all about skating — he was on the same page as me. Me and him would skate around and kind of figure things out slowly. Southbank was where I really started to see how real shit was. I remember leaving my jacket underneath the beams right by the seven, and Femi [Bukunola] sat down on my jacket. I pulled my jacket out from underneath him and he just stood up and phlegmed on me; spat on me. I was like “oh my god, what kind of shit is this?” Not knowing that the guy’s an actual psychopath. But yeah, that’s when I started to figure it out.
Was it a dodgier scene back then? It seems pretty mellow now.
Yeah, mellow now, man. I kind of just got into it to see the last leg of how mental it was. When everything was opened up, before they put that wall to basically halve the whole place. That’s where I met everyone. Lev, Rory, I met everyone down there.
Who were some of the dudes that you looked up to growing up?
For me, it was Nick Jensen and a lot of the Blueprint guys, from when the Waiting for the World video came out. That Vicky benches spot is where they all used to skate. In that video, everyone’s got at least four lines there in their parts. I’d go down there and it’d be Mark Baines, Nick Jensen, Scott Palmer. But really, the only people I spoke to or would speak to me were Nick Jensen and Channon King. I’d show them around that area because I lived there and knew some shit, crusty spots they were into. They’d be the ones who would talk to a little grommit and just be like “yo, what’s up?”
Do you think that London, over the past couple of years, has been having a moment?
Yeah, I would say so. I reckon music is definitely blowing up with that. In general, I think England’s on the map a lot more than when I was growing up. It was on the map even still, but I just feel that people are paying a lot more attention to it now, with everything that Palace has been doing as well, it’s helped with the skate industry and the skate scene for England. Not even just London, but for England.
Tell me about your relationship with your mother? Were you raised just by her?
More or less man. She basically raised me and my brother up. We used to live in New York, my dad had a jewelry shop there. We lived there for like six years when I was really young. They sort of broke up, and then we moved here and he kind of just kept doing his thing. Strong woman ‘n that. I owe it all to her.
Who was your first sponsor?
My first sponsor was Cide Skate Shop. Greg Finch had a skate shop right next to Waterloo, around the corner for Southbank. After three or four years of skating and being at Southbank every other day, I got to know Greg a little bit. Then he opened up a shop, started a team, and asked me to skate for it. It was like the best thing that ever happened. I couldn’t afford anything, shoes and stuff. I used to get hand-me-downs from Nick, but his feet were like three times smaller than mine. My feet would start to turn into like a claw, bunions and all that. Greg asked me to skate for that and I was on a hype. Greg set the shop up with this guy Badger. He was doing Unabomber with Allen Ruschbrook.
Actually, no wait!
I was skating for Science Skateboards, a guy called Chris was doing it out of London. My friend Mike Wright was skating for it and he kind of put me on. But then after that, I mean, Unabomber was bigger and better. I skated for Unabomber for a bit, which was banging. Got to go on these mental trips. I remember going on a trip to some random town in North England. It was at a demo and the guy who owned the skatepark had a tank. We all went in the tank afterwards, after the demo, like drove into the sea a little bit, going along the shore in this tank.
It was fucking nuts man. I couldn’t believe it. In this grim town up north somewhere, in a tank, going through the ocean.
What’s the deal with Unabomber? I’ve never heard of it.
It’s an old English company. Back in the day, Vaughn Baker used to skate for it, Allen Ruschbrook, Franklin Stevens. There’s a video called Headcleaner. It’s really sick man. After that, I skated for Enjoi for a little second, but just on a flow. Some distributor called me up, or someone got hold of me. I was on a hype because it was an American company. Obviously, I knew who was skating for it, knew the history, watched all the Tilt Mode videos. But then, Element Europe hit me up. They started offering me money so I was like “fuck it.” They were like “we want you to come to Portugal to see how you get on with everyone.” So, I just ended up doing that for a couple of years.
Looking back on it now, do you think that you had less of an advantage in making it in skating being based out of Europe?
Dunno. When Element Europe hit me up, that’s when I was starting to be able to travel out of the country — going to like Sweden, Portugal, Greece, all these mad places I’ve never been, and probably would never even go. I didn’t know anyone from those countries so there wouldn’t be a reason to go unless it was like a random holiday. Unlike England, a lot of those places had mental plazas, perfect ledges, so it was definitely great to be able to do that for a couple of years when I was skating for them.
After that, Chocolate wanted to sort of help give me boards, but I just thought that ain’t gonna happen, just because I’ve seen the amount of people that were getting flowed boards for years and not getting hooked up because they ain’t American or they ain’t hangin’ out with the boys or whatever. At this point, Lev had just made a couple t-shirts and was DJing, doing his thing with Stuart Hammond. Just wearing a t-shirt, and obviously everyone’s like “what’s that?” and he was like “Palace.” This is when he was starting to be serious about starting up a board company. I remember having a meeting with him and he was like, “I’m literally just going to be doing this for the rest of my life.” At this point, it was Toddy and Charlie Young. It was Toddy first, and Toddy was like “Lucien and Charlie.”
Tell me about the early years with the company, when it was just that weird news show on that weird website.
He made a platform for himself to basically start Palace from. That shit was just fucking hilarious. Calling people out. There was nothing like that, literally. Unless it was face-to-face, word-for-word sort of thing. This was literally just like “you’re stinkin mate.”
I think that, what it did for me and for a lot of people in the States is that, while there have always been sick dudes from Europe, you don’t really have any idea of a personality, or what that culture is like really…how people talk. So to have people talking and being critical, you get a look into a culture that’s not that common in skate shit otherwise.
It’s true, yeah. You definitely get a feel of what London was about.
Tell me about the process of making the video.
In the beginning, it was just filming. We didn’t have a deadline at all. Didn’t think we were even going to make a video. This was before we started even going on trips really. But then, once things started getting into the swims and the company got bigger, everything sort of fell into place. Further down the line, we started paying friends to film so they could skate with us all the time, that was happening for a while, and then the good stuff that everyone was filming started getting stacked. Then it was like “alright, let’s make a video.”
That wasn’t originally the idea, to do an all-London video?
No, not at all. I think just as time went on it just made sense to do an all-London video. Nowhere else. London, this is where it all started, the first video, it should be filmed all here. I don’t even know what his real reason is to be honest.
What kind of shit happened filming VHS?
Footage getting lost, camera not working. When you’ve landed something and the shit just didn’t record. Battery would pop out mid-line. Those cameras are ancient man. They look so bangin but…
It sounds like the hardest thing to try and make. One of the harder places to make a full-length with the hardest camera.
Basically, yeah. Everyone was just on it toward the end. Everyone watched their footage and was like, this actually looks alright, let’s get more. But it was more toward the end of it where everyone was like “alright alright bangin bangin bangin.” It did feel like forever; it did feel like it wasn’t going to come out at all at some points.
Yeah, that’s a long time, especially for something that you don’t know is going to exist. But, you got curtains…how do you feel about your part and the response that you’ve gotten?
I’m happy with my part man.
You had like three parts.
Yeah, the Vicky Benches part, that just happened on its own. I didn’t even know Lev was going to do it like that. I basically de-knobbed that spot, the spot where I grew up skating, maybe a couple months before the video was going to drop. Then I ended up filming so much shit there that Lev was just like, “I can’t not use all of it.” So he just came up with that idea. Toby’s track, that Apples in Stereo tune, so banging. That got me gassed the most really, having the homage to Toby Shuall.
Who’s Toby Shores?
No. Toby Shuall. He skated for Unabomber back in the day, and Landscape. He built the Palace shop in New York and the one in London, and he built the skatepark. He’s a banging carpenter and does all this crazy shit now. But he’s got a Unabomber part, and he skates to that tune that Lev used for that Vicky Benches part before my actual section started.
Best style man. He liked the homage part. It got me hyped. But the whole thing, I’m hyped man. I’m happy with it. I’m glad that it all came together nicely.
You’ve been on a hype.
I’ve been on a hype man.