JEFF THORBURN PORTFOLIO
Make a few moves in your adult life and you’ll inevitably end up with friends and family all over the place. Such...
I was sent a DVD. John Rattray sent it to me. That’s where it started. It must have been around 2004 or 2005. Alan Glass and I were working on (the Heroin video) Live from Antarctica, and along with the Infection video that our friend Hamaji made, the Barrier Kult HORDE video became a huge inspiration for our own video. It was a refreshing break from what was currently happening in skateboarding at the time. We liked black metal and their entire soundtrack was made entirely of that. We actually made a hidden version of Live From Antarctica called Live from Carpathia with an entirely black metal soundtrack and all black and white and inverted. It’s on the DVD.
It wasn’t long before we were in contact with this mysterious sect from the Great North. —FOS
An interview between FOS and Mike McKinlay, a Vancouver-based filmmaker currently involved in directing the upcoming Barrier Kult HORDE 2 video.
Thanks for taking some time to speak with me about the Kult. Firstly, how did you meet up with the Kult and start filming with them?
I actually grew up in the same town as a couple of them. I lived in Kelowna, BC, and I would see them skating barriers way back when. They knew of me through strange ties and knew that I was trying to make nature films at the time. All of these years later they approached me randomly. I actually didn’t really know them on any personal level.
I really feel like the Horde DVD stands alone as an incredibly unique and diverse piece of skateboard filmmaking. It was such a step away from what was happening in skateboarding at the time. What were your thoughts when you first saw it?
When I first witnessed the video it took me a while to process what I had watched, but it definitely stuck in my head for days after. After speaking with them finally in person, I learned that a lot of the ideas came from the brain of Depth Leviathan Dweller. He’s sort of the man behind the curtain in many ways. He wanted to make something that would “interrupt” the flow of what the classic skateboard video was at the time and still is. For the Horde 2 project, he was clear that we make a video that “isn’t meant to entertain” necessarily.
Am I right in thinking that there was actually a ‘zine before the Horde video came out which was almost a precursor to the DVD?
This is true. They made a couple of ‘zines back in early 2000s and they would just black out their faces in Photoshop to stay anonymous. That’s how it all started. From there they decided to make the original video and the balaclava seemed like the only way to continue their anonymity. The video medium was always just an extension of their ‘zine.
The problem I have nowadays is that half the people want to film in HD and everyone else is still on VX. I guess at the time that they made the Horde video it was all VX, but moving forward, what can we expect the Barrier Kult videos to look like?
It was tricky with the Horde 2 video. I normally work as a Director of Photography for larger budget productions, and so my instinct is to always try to make an image look as clean as possible. When we began shooting Horde 2, I jumped at the idea of shooting it in high def (naturally) and try to find a way to showcase the Kult in a higher resolution than they’ve had before. After doing a few tests with Deer Man at Leeside DIY, we realized quickly that it didn’t work. The rawness of the original aesthetic got lost in the glossiness of HD and it was too much. The second we started filming in standard def (VX style), the feeling came back to what it was like in the original video. They always wanted me to pay homage to the original video from 2004 and I agreed wholeheartedly.
Did you ever imagine that their first video would have the impact that it did? I mean, we reached out to Deer Man and wanted him to ride for Heroin, and I know a lot of other things happened like collab shoes with Emerica and Gullwing signature trucks. Deer Man was also in a video game.
Yeah, it’s crazy for sure to see how far they’ve come. I’ve spoken to them about what it was like when they made that first video and they really didn’t give a shit about what people thought when they released it. They didn’t care what would happen with it, and if it wasn’t for a small core group of dudes like Ryan Smith and John Rattray who were down with that video, it never would’ve gotten around to the masses like it did. They just wanted to make something that fulfilled their own interests and their own beliefs. Beyond that, they didn’t have much interest in the skateboard world itself, and this mentality interested me when I took on Horde 2.
So your day job interests me a lot. You’re a documentary filmmaker essentially, right?
Yes, I come from documentary mostly. I work on a lot of social-related documentary films as well as wildlife films. A pretty far departure from skateboard videos for sure. I’ve never really been interested in making skate videos as they often lack story as compared to true documentary. The Horde 2 video has been a nice break from the norm for me; as I was hired on to pay tribute to the original Horde video and all of the propaganda that comes along with it.
Mike, you’ve always skated too, right? I just wanted to get that cleared up. I mean, you’re not some nerd who just shoots nature film and films the Barrier Kult; you’ve been sponsored and had a pro board for a while even.
Yes, I’ve always skated. It’s been cool to work on a skate-related production in that I know everyone so well in the scene, and so it’s comfortable in that way. Skateboarding has been a pretty big part of my life growing up and still is.
Who’s your favourite to film with in the Barrier Kult?
I would say my favorite guy to film with has to be Luther, Moss-Covered Witchmaker Candlemas. He’s from San Diego, so I’ve had a blast going out there when I can to film with him. He knows he’s going to get first part in the video, so he’s been eager as hell. His devotion to the Barrier Kult is genuine and he kills it. Definitely one of the hardest-working Kult members.
Tell me a bit about Deer Man, when and where did you first meet him?
Like I said before, we actually grew up in the same area so I kind of knew him in a way. Socially, though, the Barrier Kult members are what you’d expect. It’s very rare that they speak to many people, so it’s hard for me to say that I know him. Filming for the video though, I’ve had a chance to at least connect with him from a production point of view as there is definitely a connection that you make with anybody that you film. Most cameramen can attest to this.
Was it intimidating filming him the first few times you were out?
I guess so. He’s had a lot of video parts, obviously more than the other Kult members, so there’s definitely a pressure to live up to how his other parts came together. All I really have to worry about though is not missing the trick or pissing him off. I’ll be happy with that.
Has there ever been any weirdness with anyone because of the hidden identities or people taking offence to the ski masks?
Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much weirdness at all while I am out filming them. Obviously there are some interesting reactions to the masks but on a whole it’s been more normal than you’d think.
Any rad stories about filming with those guys?
One time a cop rolled up out of nowhere in his patrol car and Deer Man literally turned around to the police officer (face to face), who was leaning out of his window about two feet away from him. He looked around at what we were doing and all he said was, “Whatever you guys are doing, it’s pretty fucking badass.” And then he just drove away.
Speaking from personal experience, it grates on me when people say things like, “Who is Deer Man?” It’s like they’re missing the whole point of the whole thing. The way that he described it to me once was that it’s not about ego. I thought that was a really good breakdown of the Kult. That it’s not about who they are in real life, or anything, and the trappings that go along with that—it’s just about the skating—and the anonymity strips that other stuff away. So, to me, anyone who asks over and over who it is or goes, “Deer Man is McCrank, or Haslam, or Chalmers,” doesn’t understand the concept of the Kult or their intentions. Would you agree?
It is a bit crazy for sure. I understand that many kids just want to unlock mysteries all day long, so when I see the Barrier Kult bombarded by these questions, I can imagine that they are used to it by this point. When you hang with them, though, you can definitely feel the lack of interest in “personalities.” They truly do it for the sake of barrier worship and care very little about “personalities.” I think as years continue to go by, kids will slowly understand more and more that it’s not about unlocking a mystery, and more about ideas around the “anti-ego” and the act of barrier worship as a whole.
Moving forward, how are you staying true to the original motivations of the Kult in regards to filming the new video?
It’s been an adjustment in terms of sticking to “less production value” but it’s been liberating in ways. I’m dealing with a “client” that is merely interested in paying their respects to the days of old, the early 80’s skate movement, nature worship, jersey barriers, and the penetrating sounds of black metal. I completely appreciate that these guys have been doing the same thing since 2003 and have never budged in terms of changing their aesthetic or style for anybody. It’s a rare sight considering that these days you see company after company following trends likes fucking lemmings. All I can do is attempt to put out a video that carries on the Horde tradition for them and I’m honoured that they’ve put their trust in me to document these rituals as they’ve always been documented.
The Barrier Kult is such an interesting phenomenon, because its spread worldwide, there are Kult members all over the place.
Yes, they have members worldwide: Japan, Australia, USA, and of course here in Canada. I’ve had a chance to travel a bit for this video so I’ve filmed members from all of these places. The sickest part is that every city has different barriers. Much like how surfing has different waves wherever you go. That’s the one thing that’s stood out to me and it’s been sick to see how guys like Deer Man, Muskellunge, and Witchmaker can adapt to all of these different barriers around the world. It’s not easy—trust me, I’ve tried to skate some of them and I just don’t understand how they do it.
I’d like to thank the Barrier Kult for letting me in on this video. It’s been a raw experience and I hope I’ve done some justice to their cause. I’d also like to thank Timebomb Trading, Emerica shoes, Skull Skates, PD and Sam McKinlay at PD’s Hot Shop, Sam Hitz, the Jaks skate gang, Satoshi (Skull Skates Japan), SBC Restaurant, Heroin Skateboards, Skeleton Key, Sheldon Barr, Tyler Holm, Garret Louie, George Faulkner, Judah Oakes, Brian Shamanski, Jeff Cole, Jon West, Carlos Longo, and everyone else who’s helped to get this video done.