MAT£S ITALY - Interview with Will Smith, Sparrow Knox and Joe Allen

They’ve known each other since they were kids on the UK circuit, but this is the first time that Sparrow Knox and Will Smith have been responsible for putting together their own project. They roped in the assistance of friend and skate filmer Joe Allen, and have fittingly titled the project ‘Mates’.

I jumped on a train down from Innsbruck to join them in Sestriere, Italy, and this interview was conducted over an Instagram video chat several months later.

Interview & Photos: Theo Acworth

© Theo Acworth Mates!

What’s up gents, nice to see you all! Let’s get straight into it, what was the motivation to start this project?

Sparrow: No one else wanted to film with me *laughs*. Nah we’ve been chatting about doing it since we were 14 but never got around to it.

Will: We wanted to do it for a while now. We’d do the Vans First Layer trips and just wanted to do more of that sort of thing together.

S: The vibes would always be so sick on those trips. And having two English people together was always good. So off the back of that we thought it would be sick to do our own thing.

W: We’d planned it the year before but I had XGames Real Snow and Sparrow had just had Iris (ed. his daughter). So we just postponed it a year and actually had the chance to organise it a bit better.

© Theo Acworth Will, blunt popover.

How’s the overall vibe in comparison to other projects you’ve worked on?

W: It was different because we were actually in charge and had to organise it.

S: Decision-making is a new thing for is.

Was it fun being in charge?

W: It was… different. Usually Sparrow and me just show up on trips.

S: Yeah that’s the dream innit? Just show up and shit’s sorted. Or you’ve paid for it but someone else has sorted it.

W: It was pretty mellow to do though.

© Theo Acworth Sparrow Knox

S: The vibe was very British though. It was me and Will, then Joe as the filmer. Then you (Theo) came on one trip, James North came on the other, and we had Angus Leith, Andy Nudds and Jake & Joe Simpson. It wasn’t planned to be a British thing though.

I guess it’s called Mates, so it doesn’t matter too much. And the name does make perfect sense for you guys, because that’s what you are.

W: I was about 12 when I met Sparrow.

S: Yeah that’s about right, at that first AIM Series in Edinburgh?

W: Yeah. It’s just nice that we still snowboard together.

S: Yeah man. It’s fucking sick that we actually made it happen. I think there will be more of these in the future. It works and we’re both keen, and I think that the sponsors are hyped on the fact that we’re taking charge and doing our own thing.

W: I feel like we just get to snowboard on whatever we want. Not that that’s not always the case, but there’s no outside pressure involved. Just us there.

© Sparrow Knox Will Smith, wallie.
© Theo Acworth Sparrow, switch roof drop.

So the sponsors have been behind it the whole way?

W: Yeah Vans and Monster, and Lobster just got involved.

S: So we actually had some pretty good backing for a first-time project, we were gassed on it. The second episode that Will’s cut is sick. It’s 10 minutes long and we’ll release it mid-October.

Speaking of filming. Joe, you come from a skateboard background and had actually never filmed or even been snowboarding before. What was it like jumping into our world?

Joe: It was pretty interesting seeing how different it was to a skate trip. The ratio of riding to filming was definitely not the same. On a skate trip, you’re just skating the whole time. You skate to and from everywhere. Whereas with snowboarding you’re just driving around and can’t ride until you’ve set up this really intricate inrun and landing and stuff. But it’s cool, I enjoyed it.

© Theo Acworth The Sparrow takes flight.

Were there any differences for you in terms of the actual filming process?

J: I’ve only ever filmed with a VX-1000 before this trip, not these fancy HD cameras, so I had to quickly learn how to use them. But I got there in the end. We tried one VX shot but it gave up on me and didn’t even record in the cold.

Did you blow any shots?

J: I don’t think so.

W: He didn’t blow any. Even the fisheye stuff, it’s way different than skating.

J: The boards are a lot bigger and the overall dimensions of things are much bigger.

S: I blew one, this 50-50 FS3 shot of Will. He got it so nicely and I filmed it sick, but I double tapped record, classic. Joe fucking smashed it though. He didn’t fuck up one shot.

© Theo Acworth Will, rock-to-rock wallie.
© Theo Acworth Will, fs wallride.

Sparrow, are Joe and Will ever mean to you because you’re from the South and they’re from the North?

S: Nah, never. It’s usually the Southerners giving them shit anyway!

W: We told you to stop speaking French to people who were kicking us out.

J: You definitely didn’t make the situations any better.

I remember you trying to convince a homeowner that you were a ‘member of the national team’ in bad Italian in the hope that he’d let you ride on his roof.

S: Ah yeah. We went to Quebec after this trip and I have actually forgotten a bunch of stuff, can you remind me what else happened?

My standout moment was when that lady tried to take the camera bag hostage and you went into full beast mode and practically ripped it in half to get it off her. I think she threw your mug of tea at you as well.

W: Oh my god I’d forgotten about that.

S: Oh yeah, that lady. She was psycho.

W: That was funny.

S: We hit so much stuff in that area. Not the craziest stuff, but just whatever we found.

I re-watched the edit a few days ago; I forgot how many sick shots we got.

© Theo Acworth Sparrow, ollie.

W: I’d never really filmed in that sort of environment before, in a mountain town. It made me snowboard differently, not only looking for big stuff.

S: I noticed that about you too.

W: You’ve just got to make the best out of what’s there.

That’s a very British attitude Will.

S: And that’s exactly what we did. We didn’t complain, we just rode things that we might not have done if we were with a bigger crew. Just do it man. We’re just there to snowboard, don’t overthink it.

W: I mean we grew up riding dryslope so we’ll make the best out of anything, you know?

© Theo Acworth Will, drop 50-50 to BS180

Ok, I think we can wrap things up there, unless there’s anything else we should talk about?

S: It’s kind of crazy that were in Northern Italy in late January, right when Corona started to hit. I had to go to the hospital too when I smacked my head on the fence.

W: Do you remember how ill you were when we went to Canada a few weeks later?

S: Oh god, yeah. Didn’t make that connection until now. Wow.

Any closing words for our readers?

W: Shout out to Joe for jumping straight in at the deep end, and yourself for coming and shooting photos.

S: Big up to Joe and Will for being down. Not like it was my thing, but we were all in it together, so big up to the boys and big up to Vans, Lobster and Monster for putting their trust in us. And big up to Covid for shutting it down early.

That was a surprisingly professional ending right there Sparrow, remembering to mention all the right people.

W: The least professional interview with the most professional ending. He’s had the phone in his pocket for the last twenty minutes and is doing this interview while he’s at work.

S: I’m building a gaming chair right now, working in the art department today on the film set.

Ok Mr Art Department, we’ll leave thing there. Thanks for your time gents, looking forward to the next trip.

© Theo Acworth Mates.