NOTE: This is part one, click here for part two!
Now without sounding too insulting, what in the hell are some of the English guys doing with IFBB pro cards?
GT: Yeah, I know what you're saying and to some degree I do agree with you on that point. It all became too apparent to me when I went to this year's British Chemical Grand Prix, our British guys didn't really come close to the American pros.
I suppose when I see physiques like Gary Lister and Steve Creighton on other stages against bodybuilders of a similar standard you can't imagine anyone blowing them off the stage. But it seems while some of the Brit's may compare well on condition and symmetry they are way behind on sheer bodyweight and muscle mass.
In defence of our guys, there were a few Brit's there that day that weren't exactly in top shape, some were over-dieted and others were simply just not in condition.
TS: Okay, let's be serious, Steve Creighton looks like a little boy next to the American pros and Mike King looks like a teen competitor. What are your thoughts?
GT: Well I'd be surprised to see a teen competitor anywhere in the world as good as Mike King, his lower body didn't exactly look that bad next to Ronnie Coleman and his condition was comparable. In Britain now it's gone from one extreme to the other, before they were giving out just one pro card a year which as a consequence lost many great physiques who over the years could well have done something in the pro ranks.
So the EFBB went a full 180 and has started giving them out at a laughable rate. It is a sad joke to some degree, after all, what is a lightweight going to ever do with a f*cking pro card? It doesn't matter whether you are the best 70kg or 80kg physique there ever was, you don't have a chance, end of story. Maybe 10 years ago, but not nowadays.
All this is doing is losing great physiques into a big black hole that is the IFBB pro circuit and bodybuilders certainly wouldn't lose face by going back into the amateurs as some of them should. The situation is getting out of hand and the EFBB desperately needs to find a happy medium or it's going to screw itself. I was speaking to Shaun Davies recently and he thinks it's a joke too.
He tried for years working his way up the amateur ranks finally getting his pro card in 1996 and even such a monster like Shaun hasn't made any impact whatsoever in the pros. It's actually quite ironic that I'm saying all this as Steve Creighton who recently got his pro card from coming second in the WFBB Welsh Open, said to me that he thinks I'm actually the reason that they are giving out all these pro cards.
I wrote an article in Muscle News about two years ago saying how more pro cards should be given out and why, then shortly after the article was published they started giving them out like free condoms at an orgy! I'm not sure whether that's true though, you'd have to ask the EFBB.
TS: I had this conversation with Ian Harrison and I would like to hear your thoughts. I think we are all in agreement that the UK bodybuilders are way more hardcore and train much, much harder than the American pros.
Also, the cost of gear is really, really cheap in the UK and is 5-10 more expensive in the U.S. and the availability of REAL gear is small when in the UK practically everything is real. Why then are the English bodybuilders so much smaller than the American's? I mean aside from Dorian, Ernie, Ian and Eddie Ellwood, why then aren't there more freaks coming out of the UK? Logic would seem to dictate that harder training, plus the more hardcore mindset, plus more available, cheap, real gear would equal a lot more Dorian's coming from the UK and dominating the sport.
GT: Okay, well first of all with all due respects, how many Brit's do you really know of? You're good mates with Ian, and yes he is legendary hardcore and known to be a complete f*cking animal in the gym and then there's Dorian. We all know how hard Dorian trains, let's face it he re-wrote the book on hardcore.
Apart from these few guys there haven't been that many great pros from the UK. Oh yeah, then there's Charles Clairmonte, he kicked Levrone and Wheeler's ass all over the place on the Grand Prix tour in 1993 didn't he? What about J.D. Dowadu, he never get's a fair shake though. He should have beaten Cormier, Coleman and Levrone at the 1996 English Grand Prix. His face just wasn't well known enough then.
Pics from the 1996 English Grand Prix.
(Left to right: (5th) Ronnie Coleman, (2nd) Nassar El Sonbaty, (1st) Dorian Yates. (1st) Dorian Yates, (4th) Paul Dillett.
Let's also not forget that Britain is probably smaller than just one of your 57 states in the US. We haven't done badly considering all of that and we do have some good guys coming through.
TS: Why would then guys want or even accept pro cards when they know full well that they will never be able to compete on an IFBB stage nor do they deserve to knowing full well that there are dozens of amateur American bodybuilders that are better than them that will never have the opportunity to turn pro.
GT: Let's face it, America exactly hasn't produced any Dorian's of it's own in the last few years has it? Lets take look at a few of them, Titus? Eddie Abbew kicked his ass at the Night of the Champions this year. Tom Prince? Could be good, I'm not quite sure what he's doing wrong. Jeff Long? Doesn't get in condition and too small. Melvin Anthony? Garrett Downing? Sylvester Soloman? Aaron Madronn? Rod Ketchens?
Have any of these guys exactly made a massive impact into the pro scene? No! Dennis James is the only one that has the ability to crack top 6 at the Olympia, that's it and he's from Thailand. As for this hardcore thing all you Americans seem to feel about us Brit's I would say is swayed mostly by Dorian who gave you this image of all of us Brit's training in dungeon-like basement gyms in the freezing cold.
It's not all like that, some of the gyms are quite plush and well equipped like most American gyms. Hardcore is a state of mind, a lifestyle, it's not all about training in the shittiest gyms and living on nothing. Hardcore is all about sacrifice and to me personally that would mean living in California and not being out in the clubs checking out all the babes on the weekend in the clubs. That's sacrifice! In Britain, most guys bodybuild because there's simply want to f*ck everyone! As for the gear situation, well I feel you're a bit misguided on that as well.
For one thing, there is a hell of a lot of shit on the market over here as well and as for the cheapness of it, well that's relative isn't it? The overall standard of living in America is much higher. You pay less tax, property is cheaper, cars are cheaper, food, you get paid more, shit, everything's cheaper.
In fact I'll be moving over there one day because UK is a rip-off! So, the gear situation isn't vastly different over here, there's just a heavier penalty if you get caught by the authorities in America. Let's not forget the ability to make money if you're a bodybuilder.
In the UK, it's virtually nill, in the USA any old chump amateur can sell his skid marked undies and make money or pose naked for rich gays or wanking off or whatever shit they do. Over here you'd get taken to the nut-house if you tried to sell your poo-stained spandex or probably get your head kicked in! The only hope for any British pro is to move to America if there's any hope or forget it, it'll be a long, needlessly hard struggle all the way. Dorian was the exception in many ways and will probably be the first and last to do it this way by staying here in England.
TS: First, why don't all these guys all compete in the Nabba pro division then? Are there many Nabba pro shows? If not, why doesn't somebody organize a series of Nabba pro shows over in the UK and Europe?
NN: 'To anybody who doesn't know Nabba well that's an excellent question. The Nabba that used to exist sadly isn't the same one that exists today. It seems to be a steadily dying federation that is mostly run by a load of grumpy, out of touch, world weary, cynical old boys that seem to get a power kick two or three times a year by wearing their 'official looking' blue blazers.
They don't seem to give a shit about the athletes of today, all they f*cking talk about is how good it was in the old days and how great Arnold was and Steve Reeves. Yawn, borrring! It really f*cking bugs me yet I can see that so much could be done with Nabba, it's potentially an incredible organization. When I was just starting in the magazine game mostly doing everything for less than nothing, I was actually banned from the Universe in 1996 for being accused of not sending a load of free photographs for the President to use after the Nabba Britain which I actually did send out of courtesy and knew nothing about anyway.
It's no wonder all the photographers and writers have given up over here in Britain when we get treated like shit when all we are trying to do is help the federations gain publicity! I get the same attitude occasionally off some of these 'world owes me a living cos I'm Mr who gives a shit' bodybuilders. It's pathetic and I couldn't care less for this kind of bad attitude but still, I covered the Universe again this year for Musclemag and I'll do all I can to help publicize it as a federation. Besides, it's the bodybuilders I do it for not for some of the people that run it.
Europe has so many fantastic physiques on offer but when they come to Nabba it's no wonder they switch federations as it's sometimes so badly judged. As every year I do the photo-report for Musclemag I get to see the state of the judging sheets. It's appalling yet nothing is ever done about it.
There are some great people involved in Nabba though I feel it just needs a bit of a spring clean in some areas! Eddie Ellwood is now the UK chairman and seems to have some great ideas to push the federation forward. Good for him I say, I just hope he gets the chance to implement them.
TS: In terms of the 'word on the street' among all the other British bodybuilders... who was the most ferocious trainer? Was it Dorian? Was it Ian Harrison?
GT: Well, I can only speak from personal experience as I tend to pay more attention to the up and coming amateurs that I have given publicity to over the years. As for the hardest training, there a few bodybuilders that instantly spring to mind that train with what I would call psychopathic levels of intensity.
Steve Creighton trains like his very life depends on it, Mike Sheridan is scary to watch and 1998 Junior World Champion Stuart Cameron and Universe competitor Chris Sneddon from Scotland give new meaning to the term Braveheart! They make William Wallace look like a pussy! I've also trained myself with a guy called Pete Spencer.
Pete came 2nd in the light-heavies in 1994 at the EFBB British and then won class 3 at the 1996 Nabba Britain. He hasn't competed since then but is still a monster weighing about 270lb lean at 5' 8". He used to train solely with power-lifters and he seriously left me for dead!
A chest workout with him was like the hardest squatting session I'd ever had. He was doing incline flyes repping easily with 170 pounders, then doing triple drop sets till he puked. Eddie Ellwood is another phenomenally strong man. Just half an hour after we had done a heavy leg training shoot, I asked Eddie if we could do some posing shots. "Sure", he replied, "just let me pump up first". First up was bench press to pump up his chest. 2 plates a side for 20 reps, then 4 plates a side for 12 reps and then 5 plates a side for 8 unassisted reps (500lb).
Remember this isn't a workout, this is just to get a pump! Most guys use a few light dumbells and a few pushups! Then it was straight over to the pushdown machine. The whole stack for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Then Smith Machine close grip benching with 4 plates a side for 10 reps or so, and then he was ready for a 'few' posing shots!
Whooahh! I've seen him deadlift with 700lb as a warmup like it's nothing! 860lb went up like it was easy, he even laughed at the top when he got it up! I published the photographs in Muscle News to prove it, I remember my palms sweating and my camera shaking when he was about to do it. It sent shivers up my spine when he did it. I've told Eddie to give me a ring when he decides to do 900lb. He'll do it soon believe me.
TS: Who is the biggest mass freak NEVER to compete on an IFBB stage in the UK?
GT: Well going back in the early nineties there was a guy called Billy Payne who at the time was more heavily touted as the next big thing than Dorian. He was thicker, freakier, stronger, more genetically gifted and had a better shape, But! He disappeared into oblivion and hasn't been heard of in bodybuilding circles since.
He was one of these 700lb squatters and 500lb benchers that looked like he could lift even more. A dense, rugged physique that simply faded away. Dorian on the other hand kept going and surpassed everything and everyone as we all well know. Then there's Mr Mass himself, Andy 'Stumpy' Raynes. He was both a European powerlifting champion and a Junior Mr Universe. Very short like Mohammed Benaziza but at the second short class Nabba Universe title he won last year he easily packed more beef on his frame. You've never seen thickness like it, it was gross but cool.
My best memory was at the 1998 Universe when Steve Reeves was there for the 50th anniversary watching the first few minutes of the show. Onstage before Stumpy was a French competitor called Oliver Ripert, a big Nabba name. Great shape, lovely aesthetics, classy Lee Lebrada-type posing. Then out stomps Stumpy posing to some just what sounded like a loud heart juddering, thumping bass line. You should have seen the look of horror on Steve Reeves' face when Stumpy came right to the edge of the stage and grimacing fiercely hit one of his awesome most musculars, it was hilarious. Now I know for a fact that Stumpy takes less gear than some figure women and has squatted 385kg for about 4-5 reps.
It gives you a pretty good indication of this man's sheer brute strength and potential. It's a real shame he didn't go for his pro card this year as he's recently started competing in Britain's strongest man. He was on TV and walked the qualifier beating everyone else by a mile but didn't quite do as well in the finals.
He'll be back but will he ever come back to bodybuilding? I hope so as he a real character and still pretty young and it would be a shame to lose him even though he still weighs 280lb on his 5'4" frame off-season. Gary Lister who's he good friends with tells me Stumpy eats 10 big meals a day, apparently it's shocking to watch as he shovels in the food seemingly without even chewing. And I mean this guy eats anything and everything that isn't nailed to the floor!
TS: Man, he sounds incredible, you'll have to do an interview and a photo-shoot for us someday. Who else was there? NN - Another was Amoury Francis, a black guy who won the EFBB British overall in 1993. He got his pro card and looked unbelievable. He would have even given Flex Wheeler a run for his money even in 1993. He had an incredible shape and the freakiest arms and muscle bellies you've ever seen.
He was not surprisingly a Muscleworks boy (a famous hardcore gym in London that has produced more British pros like J.D, Jamo and Ian Wadley than any other) and I see him occasionally at shows showing off his massive arms but seems to show no indication of competing.
There were rumours that he had suffered a heart attack shortly after turning pro but they turned out to be false. The only other one I can think of was surprisingly a classy light-heavyweight called Rob Wall. Rob won his class at the Nabba Universe then switched to EFBB easily winning his class 3 years on the trot. He never won the overall, 1992 it was won by J.D.Dowadu, 1993 it was Amoury Francis and in 1994 it was Ian Wadley who were all heavyweights.
Rob just retired after that and is one of the names that frequently comes up when the pro card argument that comes up of bodybuilders that have been lost to the sport that should have turned pro. I almost forgot about Linvall Miller as well. He won a load of shows several years back in Nabba and seemed to have as much potential as Ernie Taylor who came from the same area as Linvall at almost the same time.
The last time Linvall competed was when he won the light-heavy British in 1997 just beating Steve Creighton and just lost the overall to Eddie Abbew. It was close but Linvall looked flat and over-dieted as an under 90kg. I'd love to see him come back as a proper heavyweight looking as good as he has done in the past. I think he has as good a shape as Ernie and as he's still relatively young would still have time do some potential damage as a pro.
TS: What is the most intense, hardcore, dungeon gym in the UK and who trains there and what does it look like in terms of appearance and equipment?
GT: You Yanks love this romantic idea of all these monstrous physiques being built in scummy shit-holes don't you? I love it, but on the other hand most of the best gyms in terms of producing champion bodybuilders are produced in these kind of gyms. At the absolute top of my list above Dorian's Temple gym or any other is a gym I did a photo-shoot with Steve Creighton in Scotland. It was called unsurprisingly the 'Hardcore Hellhole'.
When I walked up the unsteady, damp, cold steps I though I was being wound up by Steve. It was above a bakers in a small out of the way town outside of Glasgow called Wishaw. It was totally unbelievable. Colder inside than it was outside. Nobody in it, just some manky old stereo system cranking out extremely loud music with a bucket full of tapes to choose from ranging from rock to even heavier rock. Next to the rusty old leg press was a ripped out car seat to collapse in and a bucket to be sick into.
There were no toilets, nothing on the walls apart from the name of the gym and 'No pain no gain' that looked like it had been scrawled in blood probably from some guy who refused to do that one last rep. It was like something out of that film Seven. No cardio equipment, no women and full of archaic but fully functional free weights scattered everywhere. I was in heaven and could smell that familiar stench of sweat and dampness that is only reserved for the most seriously hardcore of gyms. That was where Steve trained all the time right up to his Universe victory just 11 weeks after the shoot. I'll go back one day and train there by myself, if you ever come over Trevor I'll take you there, it'll be worth the trip.
TS: Sounds great. My own thoughts on why the UK guys don't prosper and become more like Dorian is because whilst they may be hardcore in the area of training they tend to be hardcore in other areas that are detrimental to bodybuilding such as recreational drug use. What do you think?
GT: Hmm, I think that's a bit of a generalization mate brought on by some of your past experiences with us Brit's. If that is the case then it's not just going on in this country it's going on all over the world. Bodybuilding is not like it used to be 30 years ago, it's a rapidly changing activity that now seems to dictate that he who has the best chemist wins.
Not so long ago it was just steroids, then as a seemingly natural progression for such a visual yet fiercely competitive and subjective sport saw the introduction of so many other pharmaceutical drugs. In recent times we've seen the introduction of diuretics, thyroid, clenbuterol, ephedrine and other adrenal stimulants, growth hormone, IGF, insulin, GHB, DNP, anti-estrogens, nubaine, synthol, the list goes on and on and these are just the bodybuilding related drugs!
You wouldn't believe what I've seen some guys taking, I won't say what ones just in case there are a few boneheads out there willing to try it! It's like saying smoking dope will lead to mainlining heroine which it sometimes does for the wrong sort of people and we all know what extremists some bodybuilders can be all looking for that 'edge'. It's a clear indication that some of these people won't think twice about taking anything to help them sleep, or something to make them more awake, or give them more confidence because they found out that getting to 300lbs doesn't always get them chicks or make them popular.
Drugs are now an everyday part of life and sport and in all other circles, bodybuilding very much included. There are some idiots out there that might try and convince you that a certain hard drug has some use for bodybuilding purposes but might also fail to point out that it's highly addictive and conveniently forget to mention that you can then buy it from them.
Bodybuilding is one of those activities where no real evidence is shown to support the benefits or downsides of any drug used in the otherwise unusual way that bodybuilders do. Some may not be dangerous, some may be very dangerous indeed, who knows whether you will be healthy or even dead in twenty years time from all this 'progression'.
It's Russian Roulette and I'm damn sure just as there are plenty of plenty of crack addicts saying to themselves that it's not addictive that there are just as many bodybuilders waiting for the next new wonder drug to improve themselves with.
Next Part - The British Scene. We discuss the current pros, their chances in the IFBB and the best and worst of the newcomers. We also talk about the current UK supplement market and the best and the worst of the British gear scene...
Trevor Smith Interview!
You can contact Trevor with your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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