Forte is a new semi-regular feature on the momentum site. It is a place where we will be profiling riders who have a tonne going on other than skating. A place to show the the true colours of their multiple talents. Whom better to begin the “Forte” series with than Flage (Cameron Owens) – a man who has proved himself a great in multiple mediums. From aerosol to sketch pad, from tattooing to raw street shredding – he rules at anything he tries. We caught up with the legend in wake of his new artist board release on The 4 Skate Company. – MC
First of all to set the record straight, how did you get your nickname?
A lot of people ask me this, even people I have known for a long time still never figured it out, but it’s actually really simple. Cam-o-flage.
Who gave it to you?
I think it was my friend Richard Grover, it was when I was pretty young, maybe 15 or 16. I was doing this trick and we didn’t know what it was called, so he was calling it the ‘camouflage’ grind. Later on we learned that it was actually a Losi grind. Anyways after that, it just kinda stuck.
When and where were you born?
Kalamunda Hospital, Western Australia, 1984
What kind of adventures did you used to get up to prior to skateboarding?
Nothing too exciting. I played a lot of team sport, football, baseball, cricket, and hockey. I was never really any good at any of it though, and as soon as I realised I had the choice between team sport and skateboarding, it all went out the window…
What year did you discover the magic rolling board?
Although I remember having several old school boards when I was real young; it was Boxing Day 1996 that I got my first double kick, modern style board. I feel like that’s where it all began.
Do you remember your first mag? Yeah it was a copy of ‘Australian Skateboarding’ from early 97.
Who was on the cover? It was Brett Margaritis, with the 50-50 down the rail against the wall in Claremont, we used to call that spot Underground 7. It was a west Aussie special, I still have it but it’s pretty thrashed cos I cut out a bunch of pics to stick in my wall when I was young, also its 20 years old… ha ha
Ha ha… we called it Underground 7 too. Not a bad spot for a rainy day huck. Who did you initially get inspired by on a local level?
Mostly the guys from my suburb, that I started with. Dwayne Robinson lived five houses away from me, and Rodney Knight, another five from him… we skated a lot and pushed each other when we were young, When I got a little older and started skating the city, I met Adam Morris and started skating with him a bunch. Adam has always been one of my all time favourite skaters.
Internationally who were your favourites?
I was always into the guys that knew how to make it look good… it wasn’t necessarily about what they were doing, but how they were doing it. Penny, Reynolds, Welsh and Carroll are at the top of the list.
What were your skate spots of choice in the early years?
The Forrestfield Shopping Centre carpark was our spot, every day after school… there was a shitty bowl that we would skate sometimes, and God Park if we could get someone to drive
Were you always that kid who was drawing and painting in their spare time?
Yeah, I guess so, more like I would be drawing when I was meant to be doing other things. I would always draw in my school files in almost every class, art was the only class that I actually did my work and I aced it, but failed everything else.
What are your favourite things to draw?
Hard to say, as it always changes. Lately I’ve been drawing a bunch of dragons, but I’m sure I’ll be over that soon and all about something else.
When did you first realise the potential of the aerosol can?
I think it was around 2001 – 02. Dwayne had already been painting for a while, and I used to go along sometimes and hang out and watch. One day I was just like “OK, I wanna have a go now”. Then I was hooked.
Who were your local influences on that front?
Definitely Dwayne, he’s the reason I got into it in the first place, we painted a lot and we were kinda just making it up as we went along, then around 2003 – 04 I became friends with a guy named Chris Cable. He was a little older and was already been painting for a long time, he showed me a lot about being a writer, what good style was, and about good art in general. He was a massive influence.
You left Perth for a while in the late 00’s where did you go exactly?
Yeah I moved to Melbourne for a year in 2007. I skated a little, but mostly did graffiti and other ragbag shit.
Had you already copped some ink by the time you decided to get into tattooing?
Yeah quite a bit, by the time I had got back from Melbourne Chris had already done his apprenticeship, and was doing some some nice work. I started getting a bunch of work and hanging out at the shop with him, and that was really what made me fall in love with it.
What was the duration of the apprenticeship?
Hard to say, as there is no real official apprenticeship and it’s different for everybody, but I was tattooing my friends after about 3 months. You start off slow and work you way up. There was never a day where I was told I had finished.
So there is no official qualification?
Your qualification is your photo album, or these days, your Instagram account… but I have been tattooing full time for 7 years.
Where do you work now?
I work at ‘Tattoo Central’ in Cockburn.
My friends who tattoo all seem to do a lot of hours. How many hours do you average a week?
Yeah, I dunno… for the first 5 years I worked a lot. work, eat, draw, sleep, repeat. The work days blended into the evenings to draw for the next day and so on… after a while it felt like I actually didn’t do anything else, and was a little unbalanced. These days I have cut my hours back, so I still have time to do other shit… mostly so I can go skating.
Now I hear you have a gust artist board / series coming out with 4. Is this true?
Yeah, it is. I’m hyped.
How did this come about?
I dunno, I was just hanging out with Harry (Clark) one day and he was telling me about the artist series they have been doing. They had already had one done by Robert Jenkins, and it turned out sweet, so he asked if I’d be keen for the next one… I was keen.
Did it take you long to get the direction for the series sorted?
Yeah, it took me a while actually. Once I was given the template, I had to work out what to do with it. If I’d had a blank canvas, I could have done anything, but I had to try and figure out a concept to work with the logos. I knew how I wanted it to paint it, but I had no idea about subject matter. So I did a whole bunch of mock designs and sent them to harry to show the guys at 4, anyways long story short we ended up going with the first thing I drew. Then I had to paint it, which took a while too… ha ha.
Have you ever thought about doing board graphics before?
Yeah, I’ve actually done one before this: it was a collab board for momentum and Luke Thompson’s Curbside project, the one with the two rats drawn like a yin yang. I’m super keen to do more in the future.
You guys have been shredding a lot recently. Who is your usual crew?
Usually I’m out with Dan Morris and Ben Wills. Dwayne still comes out sometimes, when he’s not fishing. Been out with Harry and Glocks (Ben McLachlan) a bit lately, and Chip (Clinton Walton) comes out on the rare occasion. That’s always rad.
Damn that’s a pretty OG posse. Some Perth pioneers in that mix for sure. Did you ever think you guys would all still be skating at this point in your life?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would say no. When I was in my late 20’s I was so dedicated to tattooing and my knee was jacked, I pretty much didn’t skate for like 5 years. It’s sad to say but I actually felt as though my skating days were done. When I finally got my knee fixed, I felt amazing and started slowly started skating again. I immediately fell back in love with it. Then a few days before my 30th birthday I fractured my ankle really bad. It should have ruined me, but I had just got a taste of what it was like to be skating again, and how it made me feel. So I promised myself I would do whatever it takes to be able to skate again.
You filmed a bunch of footage recently… is this the most committed you have ever been to the filming process?
Yeah, I wouldn’t say I was ever really that commitment though. I’ve never actually had a good camera. When I was 16/ 17, when I had this bunky old camera I got from cash converters and we would just take it out and film whatever happened, then make little edits out of what we had. From about 18 onwards I didn’t have a camera at all. Then, for my 30th birthday I was given a go pro. So when I started skating again about a year later I pulled it out and was just doing the same thing as when we were kids, just film whatever was going on and make little edits. Of course the old VX is still the preferred recording device, but Cameras and editing technology have evolved so much since then that you can film on whatever and it still looks ok. Lately I’ve just been filming everything on my phone, I’ve just finished a clip that I filmed 95% on my phone, and edited the whole thing on there too. I think because it was so informal, it all came together very naturally, and nothing was forced. Maybe one day I’ll get a ‘real’ camera and actually dedicate myself…
Have you enjoyed filming in 2016/17?
Yeah I’ve loved it. At first I was just filming heaps because my ankle was still really sore, and I loved still being a part of what was going on even if I couldn’t skate. Then as I got better, I started to skate heaps myself, and we started to get a bunch of footage piling up. I decided to make the Beer O’clock clip, and during that I really enjoyed the filming/editing process. So I’ve just kept it going and made another clip time/ city of Perth.
What is next for Flage?
I’ve been filming a bit with Glocks, to put out a little clip with the board, and have been loving that. I have a bunch of things I want to do, both artistically and with skating, personal goals that I normally keep to myself. I guess I just want to skate as much as I can while my legs still work.