Tonight, the boys will be drinking with and grilling Slater and Occy.
An Interview With Jed Smith Of Ain't That Swell, About... Well, Ain't That Swell
ATS is headed "Down a garden path, lit by a kaleidoscopic strobe light, surrounded by a thick, translucent cloud of bong smoke, into an ever expanding world of laughter, irony, hypocrisy, banter, and taking Le Piss."
Ain't That Swell is an irreverent surf podcast hosted by Jed Smith and Vaughan Blakey. It is also the most adored and entertaining podcast in surfing. We say that earnestly, and we produce an occasional whenever we feel like podcast called The Drop – two different stones, the same surfing bird.
Jed Smith is an occasional contributor to Stab, although once upon a time he was on payroll. We haven't received anything from the gent in a while, however.
He and Vaughan have taken Ain't That Swell on the road; they're selling out live shows featuring the likes of Joel Parkinson, Matt Hoy, Creed Mctaggart, SurfCore2000, Jack Freestone and tonight in Torquay they'll be joined by Kelly Slater and Occy.
Head here for tickets, then shift your gaze below to for long(ish), yet very insightful/worthwhile interview.
Stab: You pitched me the Ain’t That Swell podcast back in 2012. It was visionary call, I was a non-believer and I wrongly thought you needed accompanying video. What made you see the medium so fondly?
I’ve always loved the radio. It’s been on in the background my whole life - from the 2KY Big Sports Breakfast when I was a grom digging holes on my uncle’s building sites, to John Safran and Father Bob, Adam Spencer and Wil Anderson on Triple J, ABC Grandstand’s coverage of the cricket in places like India and Jamaica - keeeeding me?! So mental. I have a real soft spot for community radio.
That’s where my career started, as a 16 year old doing the sports report on Koori Radio 93.7 - the Indigenous radio station - for a Polynesian program run by a crew of Maoris from Bondi, my hometown. I love the crap’ness of community radio, the lack of polish adds an amusing human element and a spontaneity that I love. Massive fan of Triple Rin Melbourne, 2SER in Sydney, and shows like Roy and HG and Fire Up - the rugby league pisstake podcast/radio show by FBI. Fucken love the wireless.
Up the wireless!
Podcasts were around but were only really radio shows re-appropriated. The turning point for podcasts was Serial in 2014. Discuss.
Yeah, and I didn’t listen to Serial till years after it came out. My favourite radio show - John Safran (a middle class Jew) and Father Bob (an old school Commie catholic priest) for example - was being put on iTunes for me to listen to anytime, so it was clear where it was all heading.
Podcasts favour low-budget, DIY operations like the shit show of a media career I run out of my grandma’s garage in Cromer. For me the turning point of podcasts was when Marc Maron, another favourite of mine, got the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to come to his garage and record a podcast! [Laughs] So classic.
This washed-up, raw, ex-coke fiend comedian, alongside the sitting US President. Keeeeeding me?! What a trip. But that really spoke to the power of the medium to give an insight into what people are really like, their humanity, the universal goodness of human beings once forced to sit down and truly converse. There’s nowhere to hide with podcasts. There is a middle ground you inevitably reach with people once you calm down and put egos to the side and take the trip together.
When did ATS really get traction?
When Vaughan [Blakey] and Paulie B – our sound engineer – came on for sure. The early shows, where each episode was an interview with a high-profile surfer was a sick concept that still stands up and is being imitated today, but it might have come a bit too early.
Podcasts barely existed at that point, no one was looking for em, and we didn’t even have it on iTunes. With Vaughan on we’ve combined the old ATS interviews with the new style, which is more in that Roy and HG, Fire Up! Mould. Couldn’t be happier with where it is now.
You are one divisive motherfucker. How important was having a universally-adored offsider like Vaughan to shift perception.
The owner-founder of Stab Magazine calling moi divisive?
Are. You. KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDING ME?!
I mean, That’s the pot keeeeeeding me keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeding me. ARE YOU KEEEEEEEDING ME. Keeeeeeeding me?! WOW. WOW. WOW
Sorry, lost myself for a moment there.
I don’t know what perceptions you’re running off. If I go to a live show I’m universally adored. I’m definitely abrasive, and opinionated, but I think I’ve also shown myself to be malleable and open to changing my ways and views and continue to learn and listening. I know what I know until I learn something new or someone sets me straight. That’s how I was raised. That’s how I roll. I think that’s typical of most working class people although my experience of the world and the social mobility I’ve been blessed and cursed with in equal measure is probably what makes me so opinionated.
There’s no doubt I am a poorly raised, welfare class-working class mucker but that’s one of the biggest strengths of the show. People are sick of hearing from clean skin, polished, fence-sitting bourgeoise nerds. The media, and I’m talking globally here, is universally run by people like that, who are afraid to say something brutally honest because it might cause controversy and lose them their cushy, air-conditioned desk job. These are people who come from families who for generations have managed to avoid being working class and have no connection to the language, thoughts, feelings, pressures and desires of ordinary working Joes and Joannes. And the average working class person knows it and they fucken hate it - have a squiz atRick Morton's pearler of a memoir, 100 Years of Dirt. It's a rippah.
Surfing is no different. The core surfing community is a lot more jaded and bored of how surfing is represented in the media than the media or the corporations would like to admit. I represent that side of the surfing and Vaughan does too, albeit with a more delicate, wise touch.
Ultimately, his involvement, for me, was about bringing in a guy in who has deep, deep surf knowledge and cultural lineage -listen to the episode where we get his old man, Alfie, on the program. Guy lived Barbarian Days…on ACID! - who has a classic sense of humour, who is a fellow poorly raised, working class punk degenerate, and who represents the archetype of that legendary older guy at your local break, you know, the old school punk still living the lifestyle. He’s got kids, he’s got responsibilities now, and he sees the world through a wiser, more optimistic lens then say a younger, bolder brash version of himself - i.e me.
We represent an archetype that exists at every beach the world over and which is totally unique to surfing - the older guy and the younger guy, both borrowing and learning from each other, keeping each other in check and keeping each other connected. It’s beautiful. I love surfing for giving me the opportunity to connect to various generations. It’s been the biggest gift in my existence and I cherish it more and more by the day in this increasingly warped, short-sighted, capitalist, beauty-obsessed, age-ist regime we live under.
What’s the goal of the podcast?
To follow this journey, this social experiment, to its complete and unpredictable end, is one goal. The other is to document and piss ourselves laughing about the surf culture we all grew up in and remain a part of – the foul-mouthed, anti-establishment, drug-fucked, tube-pigging, hessian, brown-rice-and-bean-eating, core surf lifestyle. Every single one of us has experienced it at some point and every surfer will tell you the best days of their lives have been spent in some jungle losmen or on a boat in buttfuck nowhere listening to some legend gasbagger telling mind-blowing anecdotes after a day of getting completely fucken drained.
Surfing has diversified and become ultra-polished but the foundation of the culture are its eccentric, forward-thinking characters who just wanted to get pitted and not cause anyone hassles - guys like the late great Baddy Treloar, Peter Troy, Peter Mccabe, Matt Hoy, Andy Irons, and the current crop, Mick Wright, Italo, The Gosford Grug, JJF etc.
What have been the highlights for you?
The lols, man. The lols. Absolutely losing my shit on air to the piss-your-pants funny anecdotes Vaughan tells ya.
Fuck, he’s a funny cunt.
And the never-ending support of The Swellians, you know, getting to connect with so many hilarious degenerate surf punks, some of whom happen to be world champions, like Joel Parkinson, or freesurfing freakazoids like Ozzie Wright, the first ever guest on the program. The Live Show at Newy was a highlight. It was hilarious and a bizarre social experiment that veered into incredibly-torched territory but left everyone so tripped out and frothed out. Universally adored. Not a single complaint and it was a messy controversial shit-show of epic proportions.
Given the candid nature of the show, how does that affect sponsorship? And, do you care?
Good question. Dunno man. If you’ve got a bit of integrity, a bit of concern for the planet and your fellow humanoid, if you’ve got thick skin and a sense of humour you’re a good fit for Ain’t That Swell.
If surf brands are so precious that they can’t handle having the piss taken out of em a bit or a bit of foul-mouthed banter, well fuck ‘em. Youse don’t deserve a place on the show anyway. I’d rather dig holes than take ya money. Me and Vaughan are pretty lazy, shambolic characters so we’ve never really courted cash all that hard. It’s more of a joke the whole courting sponsorship thing but yeah obviously we need coin until this Universal Basic Income arrives.
Tell us about the recent tour?
Yeah, it’s fucken loose man. Like, LOOOSE. After the first show I lay in bed fitting with laughter because I couldn’t shake this image of Jughead - the Cenny Coast core lord, slab freak, all-time legendary tube pig - on stage with us completely unable to answer questions or string a sentence together because he was fucken piss-the-bed drunk. WOW.
I don’t think Hoy had listened to the show before either because the look on his face when I asked him about the Bolivian Etherwash Cocaine his old mate and longtime Newcastle shaper, Peter Mccabe, had packed into condoms and stuck up his bum hole was priceless. Come along. They’re a fucken pisser, man. We have as little idea of what’s going on or where it’s going to go as anyone else in the room.Next stop The Goldy, with special guests, Joel Parkinson and Surfcore2001.
[This interview was conducted prior to the “Next Stop”, listen below]
Where's Ain’t That Swell headed?
Down a garden path, lit by a kaleidoscopic strobe light, surrounded by a thick, translucent cloud of bong smoke, into an ever expanding world of laughter, irony, hypocrisy, banter, and taking Le Piss.
What are the best podcasts in the world?
Marc Maron’s podcast is classic. The guests he gets on are mental. Joe Rogan and his podcast is one of the greatest gifts to humanity. It is bringing us together as a species and making the world a safer, more optimistic place. Russel Brand’s Under The Skin is a doozy. Listen to his yammer withScottish Houso intellect, Darren Mcgarveyif you want to get to the heart of it all in way you’ve never heard. I won't seem so out there after you cop that one. Sucks that I don’t have any female podcasts in here. Also, Reverberation Radio if you want the smoothest, most tripped out tunes in history. Ol’ mate Rickery Snowden, Stab Magazine’s finest, put me onto that one.
The barriers to entry are small for podcasts, how do you feel about the thousands of new podcasts out there? What’s your stance?
It’s epppppic. The beauty of podcasts is that the cream will always rise to the top. I used to think that about the media in general but having now worked in the mainstream news world I realise it’s a crock of shit. There’s bourgeoise gatekeepers and rancid commercial interests and agendas fucking everywhere. Podcasts have completely skirted that and are taking over the world, bringing us together. I really believe that.
What else have we missed?
One point: everything we say is to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s carpark banter, you know, comedy, satire, entertainment, not journalism. We’re doing it for a laugh because surfing is fucking hilarious, it’s soooo tweaked, and that’s the best bit about it. It's me talking but it’s also a turned-up, Spinal Tapped version of me, a caricature, an alter-ego I think of it as and encourage other people to do the same. There’s Jed Smith and then there’s Smivvvvvy, the two-time gold cone piece award winning surf journalist and host of Ain't That Swell. I'm nothing than a product of my environment and a conduit for the concerns of my community. With that in mind...
UP THE FUCKEN SWELLIANS!