Interview: Seb Carayol
"Monsanto kills," said Spencer Hamilton's first graphic when he turned pro for Expedition in early 2013. What's Monsanto exactly? Earth's most controversial multinational food corporation, that's what. Was it just a random coincidence that Spencer, a Canadian activist, got handed this message to tell the world? Well, not at all. Below is Spencer's explanation about the board and why it bared the name of the controversial private-sector behemoth. Read on and see how a 23-year-old pro skateboarder can have impressive style and a political conscience to boot.
How did you get so deep into the anti-Monsanto movement?
I can't think of the exact instance. I was reading so much stuff about food – at the time anything I looked at had something to do with it – and Monsanto’s name kept popping up. I was always talking about it, too. It got to the point where Chany and these guys even started calling me "Monsanto" or "Mons," or something like that.
Were you raised in this kind of awareness?
No, not at all. Moving away from home was a big factor actually. The second you move out by yourself you're faced with the issue of buying your own food and taking care of yourself. You want to put every dollar you make toward something good. Which didn't happen overnight for me by any means. I was 18 when I moved out and I lived off a shitty diet for a long time… It’s a process. When I first moved out, I swear I was drinking coffee and eating just tuna melts for a fucking year and a half pretty much.
Was there a specific event that made you drop the tuna melt habit?
Actually, I was lucky enough to meet certain people that helped along the way. One of my big influences was Geoff Dermer, he owns a skate company in Canada called Kitsch. I met him when I was 17. He was like, "Fuck, we're doing a little skate tour, do you wanna come?" He just kinda invited me super randomly. On that trip, we just smoked weed and talked about crazy shit. I was kind of already into it, but not nearly as much as him. He's not vegan or preachy or anything, Geoff is just a knowledgeable person. Because of those conversations I started reading books on the food industry certain diets. I was like 18 or 19. I really stopped eating a lot of meat then too, so I enjoy it more when I have it now. I was grossed out by it for a minute.
Ollie. Photo: Shad Lambert
What would be a good read on these issues?
One author in particular is Michael Pollan. I honestly didn’t grow up reading anything. I read my first fucking book when I was in high school, literally. The second I found shit I was interested in I couldn’t stop. I was baffled by what they give you to read at school, it's bullshit!
So yeah, a good one by Michael Pollan would be The Omnivores’ Dilemma. What’s cool about him is he doesn’t approach it like a scientist. He’s just a normal person who wants to know what’s going on, and he happens to be a journalist. The way he writes is factual and interesting at the same time, not boring or dry.
During that whole phase of reading intense books like that, I’d double them by going to the internet and watching hours and hours of lectures by all the authors I had read. It's not really something you can watch with other people, like: "Oh yeah sick, let’s watch this three-hour conference about food issues!" But I was into it…
Did it drastically change your daily life?
In a sense, because it also addresses the way people think. I used to have crazy anxiety and go through little bouts of depression or crazy rages or things like that. I never understood why I was like that because I had no reason to be pissed off. When I moved out I was all about learning about the way you think and what’s going on, and more generally the way you treat people.
When did you see the super scary documentary "The World According to Monsanto," showing how the corporation is pretty much holding the planet's food supplies by the balls?
We went to China in 2009 when I was around 19. The really good thing about it is that it gives you a real overview of everything. It's basic, comprehensive, easy to understand and the director's talking to you like a normal person. You start to see where food is coming from and what's really going on.
So you were super militant about having "Monsanto Kills" as a graphic, I'd guess?
Not at all! To be honest, I didn't put one piece of input on my graphic at all, I swear. That's the funny part, it’s just the way I was towards everybody at Expedition, talking about Monsanto all the time – they thought it was perfect. All I knew is that I wanted something that was real, not some random graphic. It takes a certain someone to have something like that. It’s a risky thing for me – I mean, I could have just put out a weed graphic board that would have been a sure sell. But the really cool thing is that some people actually look at it. I got so much feedback. I hope it plants a seed in people’s head, too. I got kids hitting me up on Instagram asking, "What's Monsanto?" I’m like, "Look it up if you want to know!" That's really cool. Now if some dude is all into video games or something, who the fuck wants to see a graphic of some dude by himself playing video games? Maybe people do like that, but me personally? I’d rather say something.
Special Thanks: Chany Jeanguenin and Matt Daughters
CLICK HERE to watch Spencer’s Pro Part!