Interview: Daniel Niles

A high-brow tete-a-tete with Slough’s finest. Photos by Sam, Billy Star, Stiv Nuts and Carmen Alt Chaplin.

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Okay Daniel, what’s been going on lately?

I’m good thanks mate. I’ve been trying to chill lately after the Huscija guys were staying with me and Carmen, the premiere and release of my DVD. I’ve just been working, chilling and exploring London with Carmen, with a bit of riding on the side.

You work on roads or something don’t you? How’s that going? I imagine there’s a lot of late nights stood around in hi-viz jackets. Any good stories?

Not any more mate, that was in 2015. I quit that job when I moved to London. Yeah there were loads of cold nights stood around in hi-viz jackets with a bunch of dudes that had no life other than working 24-7. Most of them lived miles away and came down to work during the week then went home at the weekend.

They were definitely a bunch of weirdos, to the point I almost thought it was a job requirement, but I guess when you travel for two or three hours to stay at the yard in an industrial area in a shitty village in Slough to work like slaves in crap conditions in the arse end of nowhere ten to twelve hours a day all week you definitely become weird. I thought I was gonna lose it if I stayed there too long.

As for stories, I spent most of my first week in the bookies in Hampshire with the guys who were supposed to be training me because the weather was too wet to be able to do any work and they loved bookies with a passion.

One night shift on an A road, when me and the other guy were busy installing stimsonites, the road was getting increasingly foggy on a fogless night. As we inched closer and closer through we eventually realised the fog was actually smoke coming from a burning tarmac truck which ironically wrote off the tarmac and the night for everyone working.

There was one guy who literally worked double shifts seven days a week which might sound weird but allegedly he used to be a crack head, so I’m sure he was used to having no sleep. Anyway the reason he was working that hard was to save money to fix his toothless mouth (which of course made it nearly impossible to understand what the hell he was saying!) and also to fly to Thailand to marry and import his bride.

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Sounds mad. Change of subject… but we might as well talk about your new video. How long did it take you to make? Who’s in it? Who’s not in it? 

Yeah sure, we can talk about the video quickly. It actually took three or four years to do as a lot of people’s life situations changed — people got new jobs, got girlfriends, moved to new places, and some people even quit riding which made it hard to make any progress on the video, as well as me just being plain lazy most of the time.

The video contains some regular faces such as me, Billy Starr, Will Lewis and Adnan Baig. But it also contains the most diverse cast of any Everyday Shit to date with clips from the Murky crew, Infamous/Dusty Lad crews, Timeel Lewis, Sandy, Richie Goff, Clarky and even some international heads such as Lord Leopold and the Boss in Croatia, some of the 90East crew, Tommy Gunn and even a clip of Sanchez.

There’s a long list of people that are not in it that I wish were in it but that’s another story for another time.

You used to work in Maplin. Does your computer knowledge help when faffing around exporting videos and stuff?

Even though I worked at Maplin I wouldn’t say my computer knowledge is that great, but when there is something I want to do or learn I just put the time and effort into learning how to do it.

How was working there? Did you ever lose it at a customer?

It was alright, it really was not that hard work compared to the road marking and bakery/hot food aisle in Sainsbury’s. The customers could be annoying as they never really knew what they wanted, but expected us to have crystal balls and be mind readers to solve all their problems.

I can’t recall ever losing it with a customer, but there was one old guy that I regularly dealt with on the phone. I usually had to spend 30-60 mins helping him get components for his ever expanding list of projects, which was borderline stressful as we never had the ones he wanted and I had to spend even more time trying to find suitable replacements in our ever dwindling inventory. I found out he died a few years ago and it turned out he was the guy who invented the heated jacket.

Rolf Harris came in and I got a signed drawing from him but that was before his legal situation, and Paul Daniels used to come in on rare occasions too haha.

That Rolf drawing is priceless now. I’ve got Fred Talbot’s autograph somewhere. Wonder if there’s a market for that sort of thing? Moving on, what other videos are you into? 

Well these days mostly UK videos like Strangeways, Newrick’s stuff, Marv’s stuff, your vids Mr Waller, the Flukelife crews and the LL’s vids, AM/PM and $kapegoat.

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It seems like everyone’s sort of taking it upon themselves now to make their own videos and stuff these days, why do you think this is? 

I think for a few reasons. Most things out there these days are shit and if we don’t create the content we want to see, then who will? Besides, it’s actually a blessing that the individual scenes are able to be self-sufficient in terms of media and not allowing a shitty magazine or corporation choose how to show you city/scene/culture.

Yeah definitely. Going back a bit now, how did you get into riding? Was there anything in particular that set you off?

I actually wanted to skate first because of the X Games and Tony Hawks Pro Skater which I believe was around 1999/2000. My two brothers Melvyn and Phillip both rode and I would try and tag along with my skateboard which was a waste time and effort as there was really nothing to skate in Slough at that time.

One day when walking home with Phillip he decided to see if one of our cousins had a spare bike he could give me. The cousin did have a bike and quickly passed that bike on to me. It was a complete pile of shit with a one inch shaft headset and one piece cranks. Everything possible on the bike was loose and could not be tightened up, which I guess set the standard for future set ups I ride.

Anyway, from there I would cruise around with my brothers and try and copy them hitting box jumps and trying to learn feeble grinds. The thing that set me off was when I saw a few BMX videos for the first time such as Criminal Mischief and Road Fools 7.

The first video I ever bought was From Love to Hate. Man, when I saw Amos Burke and Dan Price’s section in that video I was well on the way to being hooked, and then seeing the Animal videos and seeing Butcher, Bob, Edwin, Vinnie and Vic Ayala — that was when I was fully hooked.

You’re from Slough, who was riding round there when you first started? Were there many people riding?

When I first started riding I’m sure it was just me and my two brothers in Slough but there were people in Maidenhead and Windsor who rode so we used to go to those two places a lot to ride with them back then.

Do your brothers still ride?

My oldest brother hasn’t ridden since the early 2000s. My younger brother rarely rides as he is busy working on becoming an animator which is very time consuming, plus he also fractured his foot last year the last time he rode, which does not help.

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What else is there going on in Slough? I can’t say I know too much about it if I’m honest.

Not Ricky Gervais for sure! Never seen the Office but that building in the title sequence is not too far from where my mum lives. Slough’s an industrial town, although not in the sense it used to be. It also has the biggest trading estate still under private ownership in Europe which also accounts for the ethnic diversity in the town as it attracted many immigrants here looking for work and a ‘better life’ (my family included).

These days, Slough is almost like any town outside a big city. It could be anywhere, it’s got the same shops (McDonald’s, JD Sports, Foot Locker, Starbucks, just the usual chains), and due to the internet, fashion and people’s mentalities have all blended into one big organism that is hard to escape.

You live near Stockwell now. What are your thoughts on riding in London? There’s loads of mint spots round there, but it’s pretty disorientating.

Yeah man, and it’s funny because I never really liked Stockwell park as I only used to end up there on a Saturday sometimes when I used to come up from Slough, so the park was always busy, but now that I can ride the park at quieter times I’m starting to like it.

Riding in London is awesome and there are loads of gems to hit up, just depends on how much pedalling you want to do to hit the spots up I guess. It can feel disorientating and I feel like I’m finally now starting to get the hang of navigating around after living here for a year.

You ride some pretty avant-garde spots. How far do you think you could go with this? Is litter a spot? And do people ever get confused when you take them to a spot?

 Yeah I do. They seem to be the type of spots that I enjoy riding these days although they are harder to find than one would think. I think it’s endless how far it can go to be honest, I look forward to seeing what I find and ride next mate.

Of course litter is a spot haha, probably the most accessible spot one could ride… unless it’s glass, then you and your tyres are fucked! Yeah I’ve definitely confused a bunch of people when I’ve taken them to a ‘spot’ and it’s a bit too Thelonious Monk for them, but it just means more spots and fun for me hahaha.

What’s the best spot you’ve ever ridden?

Probably the prison wallride in North London.

Which is that? Will I recognise this from any media productions?

Holloway women’s prison and yeah, there is a clip of me riding it in Scott Barker’s 10000 Cans DVD and probably in photo form on various social media sites and whatnot.

What spots suck?

Any spot at a street jam or a spot with the run up going through a main road, or generally any spot that is too busy to ride sucks to me these days haha.

I think I only clocked on to you maybe through the internet. Maybe when everyone had Tumblrs or something. What do you think about the internet and riding? Is the internet good or bad?

I think the internet and riding is a double edged sword as it allows you to find the gems and the bullshit at the same time, it’s how you choose to spend your time and energy looking at riding on the internet that determines your opinion.

I do think it has made it easier for like-minded individuals to connect, share and keep each other posted on what’s going on, and it has essentially allowed lots of little isolated scenes to form like Voltron to protect ourselves from the whack shit.

How come you can hop dead high? Have you got any tips for achieving high hop enlightenment?

N**** pop….. but seriously I don’t know. I was bored one day at the skatepark and wanted to hop higher so I started practicing. It probably has something to do with physics, preloading and energy transfer and all that bullshit to get maximum pop I guess, but I’m sure Sandy can hop higher than me so maybe you should ask him?

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You’ve got some good clips in your video from America. What did you think of it over there?

Thanks man, it was a good time there for sure, I met some awesome people out there. I honestly spent more time shooting photos of the east coast than riding and filming. I’m hoping to make a little zine with the photos I shot while there and also include some interviews in there too.

You stayed there with Gunn didn’t you? Haven’t heard from him in ages. What’s he up to these days?

Yeah I did stay with the Gunn and a big shout out to him for the hospitality and taking me to Philadelphia and Boston to meet and ride with so many good people! Last I spoke to him he was chilling in NYC.

If I remember right, you don’t drink. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but I remember when I was young and I used to drive into town sometimes so I didn’t have to walk five miles home, a lot of the pub dwellers found it really hard to deal with the fact I didn’t have a drink in my hand. “Not drinking tonight Sam?” Do you find this sort of stuff annoying?

Nah, not anymore. I might have the odd drink but I really don’t enjoy it and I don’t really give a shit about peer pressure so it’s no problem to me.

Do you think you’ll ever buckle to peer pressure and crack open a cool canister of Carling?

I won’t buckle to peer pressure and I definitely won’t have a Carling, I would rather have a JD and Coke if I had to drink anything.

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What is Supermalt? I remember trying some once from a petrol station and I wasn’t sure what was going on with it… is it sweet? Is it savoury? What’s in it?

According to the label on the front of the bottle it’s a non-alcoholic beverage with B vitamins and it’s hard to describe the taste as it’s pretty unique. I’ve heard people compare it to Sugar Puffs and Shreddies but of course I like it otherwise I wouldn’t be the lord of it haha.

What other soft drinks are you into?

Other than water just mostly smoothies and peppermint tea these days. I’m trying to look after my health mate haha.

You’re a pretty positive guy. What don’t you like?

I’m actually positive with a pinch of salt. I don’t like a lot of things but would rather keep them to myself, but since you ask… I can’t stand purposely ripped jeans, neon coloured trainers, dynamic haircuts, messing up developing rolls of film, the cost of living in London, shit weather when I want to ride, always feeling tired and sore, Nike, Apple, knife crime, modern rap music, Brexit, politics, football, badly done fisheye photography in BMX, energy drinks… the list is long and ever expanding.

What’s your problem with fisheye photos?

The lack of creativity or ideas when the fisheye is used, the same boring compositions, when tricks and spots are unnecessarily cropped when a different or better angle can be used and when the fisheye is used to make something really small look big and epic.

Haha, I like the fisheye blag. Certain things need hammed up. You’re into taking photos yourself, and have a pretty extensive collection of ye olde cameras. What photos are you into? What do you reckon makes a good photo?

Yeah I really got hardcore into photography a few years ago and really enjoy shooting film and developing, scanning the film and even making prints. The collection is not that extensive, but I had a serious Ebay problem two years ago and somehow managed to find all my cameras for cheap haha.

The simple answer to what makes a good photo would be composition, but it can be a lot more complicated… subject matter, focus, sharpness, the way the colours look, or the tones in black and white etc. As far as people’s photos I’m into, I really enjoy the photos of Carmen Alt Chaplin, Billy Starr, Timeel Lewis, Marv, Benson, Tonash, Mike Morgan, Taimore McDowell, Orlando, and yours and Clarky’s stuff.

I think that’s all I’ve got now. Cheers for answering these questions. You got any wise words you’d like to add? Ancient proverbs or anything?

Not sure if these words are wise or even an ancient proverb but my Grandad hit me with this gem one day… “If you can’t dazzle them with excellence, then baffle them with bullshit.”

Get Daniel’s new video, Everyday Shit 6, here.

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