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The London Vandal: Interview with Kilian Martin

Monday, May 14th, 2012 by

Sports journalist Jonathan Hooke, a guest poster on The London Vandal, recently did an interview with Kilian Martin who is featured in the film Concrete Circus.

In Concrete Circus, Channel 4 brought together the world’s hottest names in urban sports, plus their extraordinarily talented, viral filmmakers, and paired them all with Mike Christie – the director of the critically acclaimed, globally successful documentary ‘Jump London’.

The feature length documentary brings together an extraordinary cast for the very first time: Danny MacAskill, Scottish Urban Trials rider extraordinaire; Kilian Martin, Spanish skateboarder (and his LA filmmaker Brett Novak); Parkour legends Paul ‘Blue’ Joseph, Phil ‘Professor Longhair’ Doyle and Mathieu Ledoux (working with director Claudiu Voicu); and Keelan Phillips, the amazing British BMX Flatlander.

Christie worked with both the ‘performers’ and their directors on four brand new, breath-taking and beautiful films. These films formed the centrepiece of the documentary and in a remarkable first, Christie brought the sports stars together in one space to create a breathtakingly choreographed sequence as the finalé of Concrete Circus.

Read on for the 411 on how the mind of this innovative skater works:

‘’There are thousands and thousands of skaters. You need to work outside of the box to be original.’’

‘Original’ is the perfect word to describe Kilian Martin. The 24-year-old has come a long way from the childhood gymnastic practices in his hometown of Madrid, which shaped him into one of the most innovative and talked-about freestyle skaters in the world today.

The Spaniard shot to fame over the past 18 months, appearing in British documentaries, ads for Lucozade and promotional vids for the fashion chain Man About Town, before signing for American company Powell-Peralta in August 2011.

In a stark contrast to the backgrounds of many other skaters, Martin started gymnastics at the age of 10 and took up surfing at a similar age. The centrality of Madrid had its limitations though, as it made practising the latter difficult and subsequently the youngster had to make do with the concrete that surrounded him, until moving to California at the age of 21. Nevertheless, Martin believes that the skills that gymnastics and surfing gave him aided his progression to becoming a pro skater. ‘’I put a lot of demand on myself. I get really determined to do tricks and both sports massively helped in my strength and balance.’’

‘’I was 16 when I started to skate. I had a friend who used to skate occasionally and one day he brought his board and let me have a try. I initially thought that skateboarding would improve my surfing skills and balance.’’ he recalls. However, he was soon addicted to the excitement of the sport: ‘’Later on, skateboarding started to mean much more to me. It was so fun that I kept skipping gymnastics classes to go and skate.’’

After becoming engrossed in his skateboarding adventures, Martin started seeking out skate videos, and was captivated by the invention that many skaters showed: ‘’When I saw the old Powell-Peralta videos, I found skaters like Kevin Harris, Per Welinder and Rodney Mullen doing things differently. It just looked so new to me, I was hooked. Anyone trying to be original inspired me.’’ This is a motto he lives by, effortlessly managing to incorporate similar imagination into his own skateboarding. His fluid style, technical ability and focus to the more detailed aspects of his tricks has lead Martin’s skateboarding being compared to Mullen’s, a man who is credited by most as the most innovative and influential individual in the history of skateboarding .

It could be argued that the recurring theme of spontaneity that runs through Martin’s skateboarding comes from the fact he grew up in Spain – a country not famed for its skateboarding – but whilst football and tennis continue to captivate the Spanish audiences, he insists that skateboarding is becoming more popular in his home country: ‘’The interest for skateboarding in Spain is growing.’’ He explains. ‘’It is getting a lot of attention compared to years before. New skate parks are being built and the scene is getting bigger. Everyone pretty much follows major sports but that’s good in the way you can feel more like an outsider.’’

He started to gain exposure with his video ‘A Skate Escalation’ – filmed in Barcelona and released in May 2010 – which has since gathered nearly 2.5 million hits on YouTube. The video is an exciting fusion of freestyle and street skating in which Martin effortlessly manages to create an incredible visual spectacle amongst the beautiful architectural surroundings of the Catalonian capital. This theme is continued in ‘A Skate Regeneration’ and ‘A Skate Illustration’ – his second and third releases respectively. His control over manuals and nose-manuals is painstakingly precise, his handstand flips are extraordinarily acrobatic and his penchant for innovation – including a primo slide which culminates in a transfer from one board to a one-foot double-board daffy…via a tree – is simply something you have never seen before.

Clips are slowed down to truly show the intricacy of that Martin is doing on the board and the delightful backdrops – from the beaches of Brighton and Hove to the urban jungle of the Pallasades Shopping Centre in Birmingham, England – promotes the idea that he is giving freestyle skateboarding a makeover, away from its old-school roots. All of this, coupled with the lo-fi soundtrack, creates a smooth, tranquil, atmospheric experience to match Martin’s style. This is partly courtesy of director Brett Novak – who Martin met at a skate contest in Inglewood, California in April 2009 – and who the Spaniard simply describes as: ‘’an artist, we have completely the same mindset.’’

Despite his three videos accumulating just over five million views – propelling him to worldwide skateboarding fame – Martin insists that the his satisfaction comes from being creative and riding his skateboard. ‘’The videos are getting a lot of exposure and it’s always great to hear about people who have been inspired by the videos and have since started skating or got back into it. I am just having so much fun, trying whatever my mind comes up with. People get to understand that skateboarding is all about enjoyment.’’

The first bit of television exposure for Martin came in the form of a Lucozade ad– which was aired in the UK in June 2011. This was followed in August by the critically acclaimed Channel 4 documentary ‘Concrete Circus’ – which showcased the talents of the Spaniard, as well as the unique skills of four other ‘urban athletes’. Later that month, in a bizarre twist of fate, he signed for Powell-Peralta. Former pro-skater and company owner Stacy Peralta went onto shower him with praise, saying: ‘’He is the most impressive skater I’ve seen in decades’’, whilst ex-Powell-Peralta skater Mike Vallely also weighed in with: ‘’Kilian Martin is the skater I’ve been waiting for, for over twenty years. He has gathered up his influences and inspirations, and then taking from the best of them, unchained himself from tradition and any social justification, completely reinterpreting skateboarding on his own terms.’’

That’s some serious props.

Martin is modest about the critical acclaim: ‘’It’s amazing and it all seems unreal at the moment. They are legends and I find it hard to believe that they are saying those things about me. I don’t really like to take myself too seriously and I feel like I have a lot to learn.’’

What does the future hold for Kilian Martin? ‘’More projects, more tricks…and more fun’’ he smiles. I can’t wait to witness the next instalment of his career.

You can see Kilian Martin in Concrete Circus, coming soon to the DVD and Digital stores of IndiePix Films! Stay tuned for more information on this and other releases this year.

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