Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An interview with the 'Doc'

I picked up a call about a month ago from a really genuine geez named Doc from Oz. Turns out he runs the Riptide forum and he ended up conducting an interview with me, firing questions from him, Toinz and some other cats. They ended up writing some stuff that put a lump in this ol' pards gullet and some of the questions were interesting and humbling, and got me remembering once again, man, right now I'm one lucky geez to have lived this life and still be living this way... Here's the link to Doc's piece or here's the transcript below...

Sometimes you come up with someone to interview and there’s an ‘aura’ of talent around them that makes you feel very bloody humble. Sometimes in these situations my own words aren’t enough, so I’m going to default to something Phil Gallagher wrote privately when he knew I was interviewing Mickey. Not intended for publication, I’ve checked with Toinzy and he is cool to share them here. Their power is in this simple and honest expression of respect between mates.

Phil Gallagher:
“I have known Mickey for nearly 10 years, I even sold him one of his first camera housings so he could mess around with his fisheye. In that time he has made the transition from film maker to photographer to musician and is a master to all of the previous talents listed. I was recently talking with a total stranger in the middle of the USA, and after some time we realized we were both talking about the same friend, Mickey of course. He is a great human and a true friend and his skills in what ever he chooses are always blowing people's minds.”

Doc: Mickey, how would you describe your working relationship with Toinzy?

MS: Me and Toinz have been crossing paths for a long time man, in my book the geez is an absolute leg-end. He always has been and continues to be a huge source of inspiration for me. I remember when I first started traveling with him, his work rate, commitment and consistency always went that much further than almost any other lensman. He knows what he can achieve with his talents, but also knows exactly where his role in the rider/photographer equation lies. In this game you see a fair few ‘photographers’ getting caught up in the scene and missing the point a lot of the time. Toinz has always worked a million miles away from that in a league of his own. His approach showed me what kind of commitment it takes to to make sure you’re there for the boys when they’re putting it all on the line. I don’t mean in mindless craziness or just through being ballsy when it’s heavy, I mean having the savvy, know how, preparation and experience to not f@k things up when it counts. Not for covers or any of that bollocks, but for the act itself, to bring home an incredible image from a unique moment in time. His work rate on trips can borderline obsessive at times. In a 3 hour session he will have nailed something insane from the water through three different lenses, nailed ten epic shots through the big lense, and a load of quirky lineups and pulled back gear through other lenses. All the while everyone else with a lense will still be left scratching their heads wondering why they missed that bomb two hours ago. So yeah, when I first started doing this full time, I learnt alot being around guys like Toinz. Everything he’s achieved with DLUX and now Le Boogie is still teaching and inspiring me loads. Outside of all that he is the funniest storyteller around, and somehow manages to end up in completely ridiculous situations on almost every trip, coming out the other end with yet another classic mad tale to tell. Like i said, an absolute geez.

Doc: Just to make this totally random, I’m going to ask our readers who have the internet capacity to go scope this free download of “Powers of Three” on MSW. This provides some great personal portraits of Mickey, and his mates Fergal Smith and Tom Lowe, then I’ll get on with the question stuff: The ‘Powers of Three’ movie download from MSW: ... #pageTitle

Doc: ‘Powers of Three’ begins with this Quote from Vincent Van Gogh:

“The Fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

Mickey, this quote has a fitting tone for you guys. Even on the phone in the West coast of Ireland you’re laid back, you just take things in your stride. Is that what appeals to you, the realness and simplicity of just getting on with things in big waves, just like the fishermen get on with what they need to do?

MS: I do like how everything gets simplified around the waves, so much work and focus goes in and everything else properly dissolves for those few hours. I like the trippy intensity of those rare days, preparing, getting there, floating around amongst big lumps, on isolated parts of the coast, having to laugh about things that can be pretty sketchy, feeling equally nervous and confident, usually being out of your personal league but getting on with it anyway, looking out for each other and coming out of it with something special, its always a pretty cool experience.

Doc: In an interview 6 years ago you said that your inspirations were - Earth, Positivity, imagination and simple acts of kindness and courage; and your hates were negativity, agro, and ego.

How relevant is this now and how much do you reckon this says about not only you as a person, but the art you present in photographic images and movies?

MS: I think its all pretty much still relevant. I’d probably add a bit more to my list of inspirations. I guess what it says about me and my work, is that I value life and the opportunities I have, and that I always want to keep learning from them and progressing, I never want to take anything for granted if I can help it.

Doc: Your first vid release was “Redefynd”. How far have things come?

MS: Hahaaa...classic mate! I guess things have come a pretty long way, I never thought I would be pulling a living together doing this back then, it was all just fun, dreams, and starting to realise I had a little bit of talent. I still feel like my motivations are coming from a similar place though, I find the same things interesting and inspiring. My work has just been refined and focused one hell of alot since, and I’m not so susceptible to other peoples opinions and direction, or to getting ripped off either. I understand my motivations, what I want to do and what I want out of things a little more now. Back then, I was just having fun and figuring things out as they happened. Actually I’m still doing that most of the time now, so maybe not that much has changed!

Doc: You and Tom were born in Cornwall and Fergal in Ireland, yet you all blend together so tightly and you have a real sense of home in Ireland itself. One of your recent vids was a short but powerful vimeo movie from Cornwall, “Home” . What is it like travelling far and wide experiencing what most people would consider to be exotic locations, and then finally being able to settle back to the salt of your own waters?

MS: I think one thing that travelling reminds me personally is to try and appreciate not only where I’m from, but what’s around me, wherever I’m at. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen and experienced parts of the world, doing things and riding waves I only dreamed of as a kid. There’s still a huge world left to experience, but after spending a long time constantly on the road, I realised I was getting tired of chaos, and gravitating more and more towards places that felt homely, and home’s a feeling for me more than anything. For example, it’s easy to look at a country like Australia and think that it’s the best place for anyone to live in the world. You’d be pretty mental not to think that, because it probably is, and I love my stints in Oz. Back in the day I even quietly thought I’d try to move there permanently sometime, but now I think I realise that no matter how much I love being there, it doesn’t ‘feel’ like home. It feels like someone else’s home, and no matter how much time I spend there, I still feel like I’m a privileged guest each season. Its still rad visiting each year, but in Ireland and in Cornwall and a couple of other random places, I actually ‘feel’ like I’m at home, in myself, and that’s the difference I guess. I’ve been living here in Ireland the last 4 years now, bar trips to WA each Summer. Its the longest I’ve been in one place since i was 16, so that must stand for something.

Phil Gallagher has come on board and sent some questions through for you Mickey (thanks Toinzy). Here they are:

Phil G: How does a kid from Cornwall become a big wave guru when the UK’s really not that well known for the surfing side of things?

MS: Hahaa! I’d definitely not call myself a guru of any kind mate, I’m pretty much a muppet! As far as coming from the corn and getting comfier around bigger waves goes, all thats just about spending time in the ocean, in all sorts of situations and scenarios, and learning to understand them little by little I guess. Maybe coming from the UK I was lucky in a way. I’ve always been pretty open to learning something each and every session, never trying to be the best guy in the world, just wanting to get better on my own terms. When I travelled at first I was never expected to know anything or have any experience, which kind of takes the pressure off learning. In Oz people are expected to know everything about the ocean, which I guess could sometimes make it harder to actually learn. On the other hand, at times maybe being seen as a kook from the corn motivated me to work harder to, and I’ve also been lucky enough to spend alot of time around some incredibly talented watermen over the years, and their understanding has inevitably taught me a little to. 

Phil G: Is the current swap over in the DSLR world with your cameras now being able to capture HD video footage a bit of a dilemma for you? Your two worlds are now colliding in your hands, or is it a sweet blessing for you and your camera bag?

MS: I think its nothing but a rad blessing if you can scrape the funds together! No more lugging two sets of equipment everywhere, footage with proper depth of field, a range of insane lenses to work with, no more burning coin on 30 seconds worth of expensive film stock, and higher quality photo’s thrown into the bargain to, insane!

Phil G: Is there any country you’re interested in travelling to for any reason but have yet to set foot in?

MS: I’d like to go to Antartica for a while and maybe find a perfect slab made out of ice.

Phil G: What's next for our vegan eating, pommie jive talkin, sharp shooter?

MS: Who knows brother! Defo still trying to make better films, trying to improve my photography, arguing with mags to up their game and pushing things musically with Strays

Doc: Mickey, on that note let’s head over to some music stuff mate. First let’s make sure the crew have seen the main” Lives of the Artists” clip: ... er-gallows
Gallows lead singer Frank carter is a pretty loose fella, how would you describe him through the film?

MS: He probably seems pretty bonkers at first glance, but as the film unfolds you realise he’s just an intelligent geez, pushing himself as hard as he can to make his point about music and life.

Doc: Stu from Gallows contrasts “Orchestra of Wolves is more chaotic — a sporadic burst of anger and energy vs Grey Britain is a much more controlled beast.” Man, any form of control and Gallows just don’t seem to fit into the same sentence really – your thoughts Mickey? Haha

MS: Yeah they’re a pretty damn full blast live act man. We saw them at Reading festival this year, their set was finished, people were leaving and the drummer was still smashing things up on stage. They’re proper punks, and they really believe in what they’re doing, best of luck to ‘em.

FYI: The full version of “Lives of the Artists” has been released for free download courtesy of Relentless Energy. For an amazing cimematic documentary journey which will blow your mind and every emotional sense you have, put 80 minutes of your time aside, put your phone on silent and goto: ... he-artists

Doc: You’re a lead guitarist in your own band ”Strays” . How would you describe the general vibe you want to get across in your music?

MS: We want to push ourselves as hard as we can to write dark, intense, guitar driven, edgy rock’n roll music lead by epic, conscious vocals.

Doc: Boogs, one of our forum members riding some sick breaks down in the Phillip Island area of Victoria (along with his bro, mates and another bloke around the place ‘Swoodle’) said to me: “I reckon you've gotta ask him about shooting Iceland with Brandon Foster, the water temp, those photos of them climbing over glaciers and stuff is pretty insane...” so we’re askin’ ya Mickey…

MS: I love Iceland. It is bodyboard heaven. Crazy wedges, thick slabs, the maddest locations and proper isolation. Even the cold adds something special to the whole scenario. If you ever get the chance, go explore without hesitation.

Boogs again: I thought maybe one question could be "What's the craziest situation he's been in OUT of the water?"

MS: Ah man there’s alot of different tales i could tell here. Police chases across rooftops. Getting lost in mountain ranges. Escaping a gang of psychotic brazillian surfers baying for my blood. Theres to many tales to pick one but I’d say Hezzy jumping off a massive cliff onto rocks was one of the craziest though, it was all so hectic at the time, kids a legend.

Doc: Mickey, what does Bodyboarding mean to you?

MS: Therapy, happiness, gratitude, motivation and inspiration. It’s taught and given me pretty much everything.

Doc: your Blogspot is titled “The Dead Are Dying of Thirst” How did your creative juices come up with this title mate?

MS: Well this might spin some folk out but I’ll try and explain anyway. I was up at Gnaraloo a couple of years ago, tripping out after a couple of months of desert time and reading ‘The Fight’ by the late great Norman Mailer, (a wicked read on the infamous Ali/Foreman Congo fight in ‘74). The first part of the book is called ‘the dead are dying of thirst’. It’s an old african saying that originates in Bantu philosophy. From what i can understand it sees each person as a unique vital force, and a karmic sum of all not only their past lives, but the forces of the living and the dead currently surrounding them. This force is called N’golo, and throughout life a person does his best to increase his N’golo - the amount of life inside him, in harmony with those forces acting upon him each day. If we are the sum of our own force, we are also subject to the forces of the dead - or the past. So we have to be bold enough to live through each day with all the forces at loose between the past and the present, and live responsibly despite our ‘thirst’ to increase our current life force through any means. I thought it was interesting, acknowledging that we’re constantly dealing and learning from the past we carry inside us, but are still trying to move forwards each day without letting that baggage from the past influence life negatively.

Doc: ~ Rohan Inglis on the Slut clothing website talks about one of the bigger shoots you worked on saying:

"It was pretty damn funny seeing the film crew out there, but definitely a bit worrying at times too. It was blatant they were all used to doing jobs on dry land. At one point they were casually taking turns in being sick over the edge of their boats, when only moments later, one of the biggest sets of the day came through, breaking out loads further than the rest, and making their life flash before their eyes for sure. I was sat real far out and just managed to paddle over the biggest one, but as I looked back I could see the same boat, loaded with six people and over £200K worth of equipment, scrambling on full throttle to the channel to avoid being completely smashed. Whilst at the same time Lowey came flying past on the ski, towing a slightly psychotic Fergal, who then somehow managed to hang on as he freefell over the ledge into one of the heaviest barrels yet to be ridden in the UK. Ferg and Tom have definitely got a screw loose, but in a good way. Amazing stuff to watch..”

The looseness just follows you Mickey – or maybe you follow it – how does the power of the ocean affect you personally?

MS: That shoot was a commercial for AIB bank in Ireland, and it was pretty interesting trying to organise and supervise people with no oceanic experience around big waves. Everyone pulled together and made it happen, but I did feel for the guys being sick and spinning out, it must have been terrifying for them being used to dry land then suddenly being on a boat around big waves with no understanding of them. I guess it just shows that as waveriders we get used to relaxing around the power of the ocean, but it’s never something you can take for granted, as it always has a surprise up its sleeve for even the most experienced geezers.

Doc: Lunas – here is the clip: 

That session is over 6 years ago now Mickey. What makes the clip for me is the hectic story you write underneath it. Two questions 1.How does it feel to be apart of iconic booger history? And 2. Going to waves like this breaks down psychological barriers for people – the barrier that these waves can actually be surfed. What feeling do you get when you crack a mean mother of a wave like this before anyone else?

MS: Being a part of that Lunas session, well I’m stoked to have been lucky enough to be there at all really, it was Kingy and Tobes rewriting the history books not me. What a pair of legends. Somehow I’ve been around quite a few epic moments in time and I just feel lucky to have been around and played a small role in the incredible feats guys like that have achieved. King and Tobes, Brendo and Crashy, Hughsey Chad and Mitch, Ben, Danny Wall, Lowey, Ferg, Morgo, Walshy, the Longs and Twig, the list goes on and so do the memories, they’re all legends I’m honoured to call friends. As for the feelings involved in pioneering different spots, when everything comes together it has to be one of the most exciting feelings of anticipation, nervousness and focus, dissolving into relief and stoke when it all goes right and works out well. It’s alot of work but there’s some incredible memories and experiences to be had out there. 

Doc: The Analog Clothing site states:
“Fergal Smith, Tom Lowe and Mickey Smith are more than just athletes, they are Artists driven by obsession, and prepared to suffer and sacrifice in pursuit of their art

and further in describing the West coast of Ireland:

“This is the place of choice for these Artists of the Oceans, those who will never choose the easy route. During winter, a small stretch of Atlantic-facing coastline provides an unpredictable selection of waves with the scale, power and weight that can comfortably compete with what the rest of the world has to offer. That they are named Aileen’s, Lauren’s, and Riley’s conceals their brutal nature behind a veil of charm.”

Artistry and brutality are rarely mentioned in the same paragraph, yet your work and attitude constantly interweave these concepts through your lenses and the music you choose to accompany your moving creations. Where do you see your life as an artist mastering his craft with such a brutal, yet beautiful, palette leading you?

MS: Well I dont know if I’d call myself an athlete or an artist, and i definitely haven’t mastered anything, I’m only just beginning to get somewhere near a level of competency that I’m comfortable with, but as long as I continue doing this for the right reasons I’m sure it’ll lead me wherever I’m supposed to end up, it’s been one helluva ride so far anyways. 

Thanks so much for your time and all you have given Mickey.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me Doc, legend pard.

To be visually blown away, be sure to go to Mickey’s website:

While this interview has been underway, “From Shadows” DVD has been released for sale through the UK’s majicseaweed site. Sick trailer and purchase details are available at: ... Item/2756/

Also check out Mickey's mate Fergal Smith's site and when you are there mouse over the little pic frame hanging from the rafter for some epic travel photos filled with mood.

1 comment:

rawmeyn said...

lovely! mickey I love your stuff! I love the soul you put in!!!