INTERVIEW: JAN WELCH, @janericwelch


In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of inline skating, few names resonate with the same warmth and respect as Brian “Barno” Barron’s. I first crossed paths with Brian, his friend Albert Hooi, and the others from the Dublin crew at the 1999 International Roller Contest in Lausanne, Switzerland. We instantly connected, spending the whole weekend hanging out, skating, and filming for my video “Last Call.” The clips we gathered in Lausanne were so sound that I was drawn to Dublin a few weeks later to continue filming.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Brian’s skating adventures from afar through different online edits and social media posts, witnessing his growth and achievements. Despite the seven-year gap since our last meeting in Dublin while Jarrod McBay and I were touring Europe, the memories remain vivid, framed by his kindness and skating prowess. Brian, a beloved figure in both the Irish and European blading communities, has always stood out for his heartfelt approach to life and skating.

Now in his 40s, Brian’s dedication to skating remains undiminished. In this candid interview, we delve deep into his journey, unearthing insights about his early days on skates, the influence of Dublin on his style, and his favorite skating moves. Brian opens up about personal challenges, his evolving relationship with skating as he ages, and the indelible impact of his travels across Europe. From anecdotes about his first meeting with Albert Hooi to memories of our filming days for “Last Call,” Brian’s storytelling paints a vivid picture of a life richly lived on wheels.

As he juggles his love for music and skating, Brian reflects on how each passion feeds into the other, offering unique perspectives on creativity, solitude, and perseverance. His musical journey, deeply rooted in storytelling and influenced by legends like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, mirrors his skating style – authentic, thoughtful, and ever-evolving.

Join us as we explore Brian’s world, diving into the heart of a skater who has gracefully managed to stay true to his roots while continually reinventing his path. Whether discussing his favorite dishes, his future in skating, or his dream projects, Brian’s narrative is a compelling saga of passion, resilience, and the enduring joy of inline skating. – Jan Welch

Jan : When did you start inline skating and how old were you?

Brian : Well, Jan, It’s getting a bit hazy, I must admit! I have a picture from Wakefield rehab Unit E from summer 93, so if I work backward, I think it would have been winter 90/91. Every Christmas, our family would visit my Dad’s friend’s house, Sean & Peggy Larkin. They had two daughters, Jacqueline and Jennifer, and they got me on some rollerskates. I remember holding onto the railings outside their house, trying to stand and pull myself along. I was hooked right away, so after that, my uncle Paddy brought some back from Holland for my birthday, and it went from there. 

Jan : Did growing up in Dublin affect your skating style? Any special memories from skating in the 90s?

Brian : Back then, there weren’t any skateparks, so everyone usually started in their estate, playing roller hockey and then making kicker ramps and grinding our first small curbs. The people I was fortunate enough to skate with during the early days really inspired my style. People whose names are pretty much forgotten in the Irish scene: Fiachra Eviston, Pearse Stokes, and Adam Osmond in particular. I was simultaneously really influenced by the NYC guys like Ryan Jacklone… Dave Ortega and Bryan Bell out in California. 

The 90s was a very special time and place to be alive and skating. We would usually meet up in Skate City in Temple Bar on the weekends, watch the newest VG, and then street skate around the city until no one had an ounce of energy left. I cherish those memories dearly, and it’s hard to pick one, but this just popped into my head. There was a weekend that Johnny Costello, Oisin O’Mahony, and I all did our first Royale on a stair rail. After all these years, I still get that feeling when I do that trick. 

Jan : What’s your favorite skating move and why?

Brian : I’ve always been fond of a sweatstance. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing body positions when done well. 

Jan : Which trick was the toughest for you to learn?

Brian : Without a shadow of a doubt, it would be backslides. I only got to grips with that trick last year! 

Jan : What are the skating spots like in Dublin?

Brian : Dublin doesn’t have perfect spots, but its terrain is unique and challenging. There are obstacles, lines, and opportunities for creativity all around the city for anyone with a discerning eye. 

Jan : How do you stay excited about skating as you get older?

Brian : Over the last few years, I’ve relied almost exclusively on self-motivation, as very few people are consistently street skating here. There are many reasons why that’s happened, but I’ve had to accept and try to adapt to it. The options are pretty limited, so I skate by myself now. The drive comes from not wanting to leave anything on the table and understanding that the time when my body still feels capable is finite.

Jan : Have you ever had a big hurdle in skating? If so, how did you handle it?

Brian : I broke my right arm very badly at the first spot on the first day of a trip to Amsterdam in 2016. I was staying with my friend Cavin, hoping to film a part. I have huge respect for him for taking care of me then. That’s something I’ll never forget. 

I snapped the radius and ulna right through. I decided after that to focus on music, and I thought I had to choose between the two. Maybe I still do. I had to start skating a little differently then, less reckless and with more focus on incrementally moving forward rather than amplitude. 

Jan : Tell us about the first time you met Albert Hooi. Are you two still close or skate together?

Brian : I think it was at a competition in Lucan the first time I saw him skate. He was already doing Royale to Ao-Topsoul like Lurch. That was incomprehensible to me at that time, like watching a magician. Properly meeting him was a little later when we were both skating the Sandyford industrial estate. From that point, the north side crew of myself, Johnny, and Conor Manweiler started mixing with the south side crew. Albert and I still speak together from time to time, and I think we had a skate together at a park near his area about a year ago or slightly longer. Life gets in the way, so to speak. 

Jan : You’ve traveled around Europe for skating for over 20 years. How did these travels shape you? Any favorite places or memorable experiences?

Brian : They made me the person I am; without adventure and travel, I stagnate. It’s as essential as lifeblood. Truthfully, one of my favorite trips occurred the summer before last when Jon Lee, Blake Bird, and James Keyte came over, and we traveled around the south of Ireland. The weather was sensational; we were camping in some breathtaking spots, and the atmosphere was invigorating. It was a perfect balance of skating and rugged nature. I’ve wanted to do something like that here for a very long time and appreciate that experience. 

As for other cities, Copenhagen stands out. I love the Red Square with all the ledges. There’s such a great crew there, and that was captured so beautifully in ‘Spokes.’ It’s the one place I could see myself and Ania living aside from Ireland. I was there in April, and one of the nights, we went to a ‘freehall’, which are places provided by local councils that people can use for all sorts of activities. There was a small skatepark, table tennis tables, a basketball court, hockey nets, and a kitchen with lots of utensils, anything and everything! We played different skate games, took lots of hilarious falls, and had a great laugh. I genuinely had not had so much fun blading in forever. The lad’s energy is infectious; you can’t help but be swept up in it. 

Jan : Do you remember meeting in Lausanne and filming “Last Call” in Dublin? Any stories from that time?

Brian : Of course! Myself, Josh, and yourself spent most of that Lausanne trip together. Funnily, a memory I always remember is Chris Garrett (Fiction) was at the after-party talking to a really beautiful woman, and Josh and I were kind of geeking out and burning his ear off after a few drinks. He was really gracious, though, and didn’t get mad we were messing his chance with this lady up. This was my first time meeting Angie Walton, too. She was a blast to spend time with, and I’m pretty sure we convinced her to come to Ireland then and there for the Daily Bread European tour.

Jan : Was Lausanne your first skating contest?  How was it different from other contests you’ve been to? Any other unique or memorable moments you want to share?

Brian : I was there twice, but to be brutally honest, both occasions are blurring into one! 1998 and 1999, I’m thinking! Lausanne is a stunning place in Switzerland on Lake Geneva, aside from the competition. Location-wise, I can’t think of a more picturesque venue. The course was situated right there on the water. I think it combines everything that made it so special in those years. It would certainly not have been what it was without all the extraordinary individuals that attended.

How could I forget the hill bomb that started it all off, through the steep hills into the bay and the arms of a huge opening party? I recall Richard Taylor (God bless him) initiating a group of us to go back for seconds when the roads were reopened and the cars were in motion again. Terrifying would be an understatement!  Also, flashes of fish nibbling on my feet when we went swimming at a small natural pool, me freaking out and you in tears laughing, which initiated collective hysterics! Running on the pier spraying each other with hoses!

My fondest memory is seeing Dustin skate for the first time. I was big on rough grinds at the time and did one across and down the box and got a high five from my childhood hero. It was like shooting hoops with Jordan! That exchange kinda broke the whole illusion of ‘stars’ and was a huge benefit to me in later life. Mostly especially in the music industry. I have never felt the need to be intimidated by another human being’s presence since that moment.

Jan : What goals did you have as a young skater? Did you achieve them? Did you get sponsored?

Brian : I never really had any ambitions growing up; I tended to go with the flow of it. I feel fortunate and blessed to have traveled the world, met some fantastic people, and formed lifelong friendships. Skating has always been a very individual thing for me; I don’t work well in large groups, so competitions were always nerve-racking. I did okay occasionally, but street skating is all I know. I did skate for k2 way back and BHC later, around 2005.

Jan : When did your love for music and songwriting spark?

Brian : I’ve always loved storytelling and lyrics. Even as a child, I read tons of books so initially Hip Hop appealed to me, especially what you might call the ‘conscious’ side of it. Nas, to begin with, then Kweli and Mos Def, Tribe, Krs One…

Josh’s mom, Claire, was a huge music fan. One night, we were listening to ‘Memory Lane’ for the thousandth time, and she came in and handed me the NY tapes version of Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks.’ She said, “If you like that… you might like this!’ As soon I heard those songs, nothing was ever the same.

Jan : Does skating influence your music?

Brian : No, it’s the other way around. Through writing, composing, recording, and performing, I’ve learned that if you want to get something done, you must embrace solitude. Forget about what anyone else is doing or saying and how they sing or skate. Run in the opposite direction. That has fed back into the way I skate now. I’m happy alone, and I can go to any part of the city to any funky, weird object and try something for as long as I need. There’s no outside pressure to go to a ‘session’ spot. 

Jan : How do you write songs? Do you start with melodies or lyrics?

Brian : Usually, lyrics come first. Once the words are in place, I hunt for a structure and a melody. Sometimes, I’m humming an old Hank or Carter Family melody, and I’ll write to that meter. A lot of times, I’m basing things off an older song. That’s the folk tradition—new stories on old rock-solid foundations. 

Jan : Are there any musicians who really inspire your music style?

Brian : Once I discovered Dylan, it wasn’t long before I found Woody Guthrie and read ‘Bound For Glory.’ Then, all the great country artists like Cash, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson. That led to old Chicago blues, Howlin, Muddy, and Chess Records. Before long, all the Rock and Roll pioneers like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Buddy Holly. I started back at the earliest records and worked my way through. Not forgetting all the outstanding women pioneers. Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Jan : If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would it be?

Brian : I would have loved to sing a few songs with Liam Clancy. My uncle Paddy was his good friend, and before they passed, there was an opportunity that I was too shy and undeveloped to pursue. I have very few regrets in my life, but that would be one.

Jan : How do you balance skating and music?

Brian : With difficulty! Both take time and focus. I’ll probably put skating on the back burner until spring, now that this is wrapped up. Winter is pretty brutal here, so I hope to utilize the next five or six months to get my next record done. I hope to do it at home on a Tascam 8 track and play all the parts myself this time.

Jan : Do you have any hidden talents?

Brian : I love to cook, especially Guinness stew, Indian korma, and homemade Pesto Pasta. My wife grows wild herbs and veggies in our small garden.

Jan : Any song or album you’re hooked to currently?

Brian : Paul Clayton’s ‘Sailing And Wailing Songs Of The 19th Century’ 

Jan : What do you think is the future of inline skating in Ireland and elsewhere?

Brian : It’s impossible to predict the future. Inline skating is so broad and diverse that I really couldn’t say. I feel it’s moved into a very positive arena as of late. Especially style, execution, and innovation wise. It’s never looked better to my eyes. 

Unfortunately, I feel there’s been a huge regression here in Ireland. I’ve gotten angry and sad about it and fallen out with many people because of my views. That can’t be helped, though. This country has produced some world-class skaters over the years, so embracing mediocrity is hard. I do see some reasons to be hopeful. 

Morgan and Spud down in Cork have been filming for a full video. They are taking the time and dedication to make something well. A booming roller skating community brings together many immigrants and people of all races and backgrounds. 

Above all from my perspective, there’s a blader by the name of Robin Marillier who has the most potential of anyone I’ve seen here in at least fifteen years, maybe ever. Whereas Dano and others were a logical extension of Albert, Robin is an entirely different type of skater. He comes from a parkour background, and his influences seem broader and more varied. If he stays on his current path, he’ll go far, and I wish him every success. 

Jan : Can you tell us about your decision to leave Dublin, how it led to your European adventures with Dano, and eventually to settling outside of Dublin? What were the key moments and feelings that influenced these life changes?

Brian : I was done with Dublin a long time ago. It started to feel repetitive, like ‘Groundhog Day’. Always the same crowd, the same bars, and those deep, existential talks in a random person’s kitchen at 6 a.m. every Sunday. That’s what spurred a three-month European trip with Dano. I had no intention of going back. Right at the end of that, I returned to Copenhagen (it had been my first stop) and miraculously ended up living on a boat and trying to find work. That was right in the early days of Dom & Quinny living there. I ran out of money and couldn’t secure a job, so I flew home intending to return in a few weeks, but then I met my wonderful wife, and that was that.

Dublin has one of the worst housing crises in the developed world, but even back when Ania and I were first looking for somewhere, it was virtually impossible. Blessington by the Lakes was the first viewing we got. It changed my life completely. A small wooden home with a garden, a good gal, my piano, and the passage of time slowing down to a manageable speed.

We were able to rescue Gaia, our dog, and we spent years with her exploring all the mountains and trails. Wicklow is called the ‘Garden Of Ireland,’ so it’s genuinely one of the most spectacular places in the world. I find most of my inspiration up there in the wilderness, far away from everyone, the hustle and bustle, the grind of a city in the midst of a war for its soul.

Jan : What’s that one skating dream you’re still chasing?

Brian : To make an entire section set to ‘Freebird’ with my good friend Jon Lee, haha … half joking! 

Jan : As someone in their 40s, how do you deal with joint or muscle pain from skating? Any tips or routines?

Brian : Back in my late twenties into early thirties, I had a lot of problems with my knees and inflammation. There was a point where I couldn’t even sit in the cinema for an entire movie without either being in an aisle seat or getting up to stretch several times.

I’ve always done a lot of cardio, but once I started to take care of eating, I noticed I had more energy and recovery times were shorter. The typical Western diet is highly processed and full of refined sugar and seed oils. Taking those out or using them in moderation has really helped me anyway.

Since childhood, I’ve supplemented Omegas and Vitamin D, but I added in an amino acid called N-Acetyl-Cysteine, high strength Curcumin, Zinc, and magnesium. NAC is an extremely potent antioxidant that detoxifies the liver and rebuilds enzymes. It has many benefits; I’d highly recommend looking into it.

I’ve come to believe that you can feel as good physically on the blades into the forties with proper nutrition and an understanding of what the body needs daily. Everyone is different, but tons of water, high-quality, unprocessed food, and the right supplements have worked for me.

Jan : What’s your go-to comfort food?

Brian : In the morning, it’s orange juice, banana, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, chia smoothie, and pizza in the evening! I also love a flat white with maple-flavored CBD shot from Little Collins in Dublin City. It keeps me both alert and calm.

Jan : Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Brian. Is there anyone that you would like to thank?

Brian : Just wanna say a massive thanks to Alessandro (Souza) for reaching out to me. Initially, we were just gonna shoot one photo but it grew from there. I gotta a lotta love for Irish Skateboarding and punk music so this made perfect sense in a litany of ways. Also high five to my old pal Jan for interviewing me and for all the great memories together. Thanks to my parents, sister Susan, and my wonderful wife Ania & our dog/best mate Gaia, because dogs > people! Special mention to Jon Lee, Brady, and Broy for always being real ones. The kindness doesn’t go unnoticed. Last but not least, cheers to Kevin at Be-Mag! God bless!