The S23 Gearmonkey Interview

A few months ago, when ATRG was nothing but an idea in my head, I approached a few people… For ideas, Inspiration and most of all to give me a kick up the arse to get the ball rolling. The blog and its related Instagram and Facebook pages have grown exponentially, starting with 20 people I asked to have a look at a hastily put together pistol review, its now attracted over 3000 views over the whole site in the last 10 weeks! not bad considering I’ve not paid for a single like or share… I’ve also had my first +1k “liked” photo on Instagram, its not one I would have chosen to go ballistic, but anyone whose ever posted content on social media will know… you don’t choose the successful posts, they choose you.

So, I’d like to say a big thank you to all who have contributed in its initial success, and one of the most influential figures in its success, someone who has followed, read, liked and promoted unselfishly this (And other, much better pages) is none other than Andy, known by many as Gearmonkey or simply S23. I have been chatting with this guy for a few years now and he’s not just an avid writer, organiser, player and overall ambassador for the UK Airsoft community, he’s also a genuinely nice fella to boot… I thought I’d ask him a few questions as he’s usually the one asking them and get his response on a few questions that hopefully haven’t been asked before…

ATRG: How long have you been playing Airsoft and what prompted you into starting the blog?

S23: Firstly, a huge thank you for having me on here. Great page, lot of fun and positivity, with a real inside perspective, big fan …

In answer to your question, the first part …

Haha, that was a long time ago, I started playing Airsoft, or as I’ve subsequently coined it, ‘Plastic Deth’ just over ten years ago in 2007.

I’d always been somewhat dismissive of Plastic Deth, I’d had a strange notion that it was more associated with delinquency than an actual hobby, pastime or pursuit.

But, a good friend of mine who shared a love of comics, heavy music and movies, we where actually in a hardcore band together at one point, had more than a passing interest in ‘springers’ …

Despite personally being an aficionado on militaria and history, especially 20th and subsequently 21st century gears, kits and blasters – I again was suspiciously disinterested regardless of how functional or realistic the stuff he was picking up …

However, subconsciously, it’d certainly triggered something in the back of my mind, and a combination of two key events turned the whole around very quickly.

S235

Around 2007 I’d notice a huge surge in the development of modern militaries equipment, and as such had started to explore the web with an insatiable appetite particularly in the history and development of modern camouflages and uniforms. Which as it appeared where adopting advanced fabrics, innovative patterns and more utilitarian functionality.

Coupled with an early volume of Airsoft International in its then ‘Golden Era’ – an issue which featured a solidly researched NSW themed load out, coupled with spotlights on their blasters, PPE and clothing systems …

Well it certainly fired the imagination, particularly the segments on the ECWCS (Extended Cold Weather Clothing System). As the magazine was naturally, predominantly about the pursuit of Airsoft, I made the disconnect, and realized it would be a great pastime combining my interests in researching history, collecting gear (I was already about ten years deep into making the annual pilgrimage to the War and Peace Show).

Subsequently actively employing in the pursuit of Airsoft in actuality, I guess I’d arrived at the presumption that combining gears, blasters and playing Airsoft with the suspension of disbelief would be exhilaratingly immersive …

Well, here I am some ten years later …

S232

Now, the blog came along a lot later, and started it all some four years ago. We’ve not long celebrated our anniversary…

I’d been penning some considerably lengthy pieces, and often enjoyed long and late conversations with fellow enthusiasts on various kit and gear forums …

Around this time, some fairly substantial forums and other larger Airsoft centric sites started to fade in the glare of social media, and I missed much of that interaction.

Individually, on a one to one basis interacting with fellow players was great online, but much of what was being discussed, resource material, photographs was just getting lost in huge threads or hidden, forgotten in personal inboxes.

So, initially the blog was to capture much of those conversations for posterity …

s238

It’s grown into its own thing since, it’s come along way, and perhaps somewhat over critically, I’d say it’s a still a little rough around the edges. But it does have its own charm, and I’m generously afforded a considerable readership who show a real support for what we generally put out …

Part of the inspiration was in a much my love for Hardcore (a metallic derivative of punk) and as such in recent years had exploded across the globe. However, what was then a fairly close knit homogeneous collective, started to erode overtime with cliques and sets. Scene politics started to dilute and divide the community – so, in part, I wanted to preserve the unity and beauty of the Airsoft community.  I’d like to think we’ve established a positive ethos, and to a small degree, through the blog, I’ve seen it grow and flourish …

ATRG: S23Familia, it’s something that readers  of your blog have taken upon themselves to use and add to their own vocabulary… in a few words, what does S23Familia mean to you ?

S23: Drawing the allegory back again to music, Suicidal Tendencies had the Suicidal Army, or as preferred Suicidal Militia, Pantera had the Fans from Hell, generally, Hardcore referred to fans of the genre as family. Likewise Biohazard and Pantera, adopted the tropes of Hardcore and brought to the masses the warmly demanding command ‘our stage is your stage’ – which literally meant just that, but I also was cognizant of the fact these bands I adored and cherished were very much wanting to be on equal footing with their fans …

They wore the same clothes, listened to the same bands, ate the same food etc – no rock star bulls**t, just the stage, the amps …

So, as I started to get some traction, I really just wanted to afford the readers the same courtesy, but also that inclusionary ethos too …

Sure, whilst heartfelt, and I can say that it stands for integrity, resilience, honesty – it’s more about the blog becoming bigger than itself and as much about its audience. Some of whom have guested on the blog penning their own editorials – ‘our stage is your stage’ …

Conversely, this grew to such proportions we released the notorious ‘Beer Mat’ logo in several iterations, patches, stickers and shirts and it’s equally as flattering as it is heartwarming to see these scattered across the globe

I recently posted a short piece just how far and wide some of these patches and stickers have reached …

It’s not made me a millionaire by any stretch of the imagination, neither was it ever intended to – I’d strongly advise against, you’ll be out of pocket. But, hell – I’m proud that someone thinks that much of what we achieved that they’d proudly wear the patch …

As I recently penned on our Facebook page …

‘we’ve proliferated all over the United Kingdom, Ireland – but marched in Europe, dropping patches in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal as well as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland and the Netherlands.

We’ve sent em’ as far as Finland and even the frozen tundra of Iceland.

The United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Japan all boast members of the ever growing S23familia.

Amazingly we’ve even stretched our arm to Cuba, Chile, and Puerto Rico as well as Aruba !!!’

However, over on Instagram ‘Sneeky Greenman’ perhaps coined it best …

S233

ATRG: So many people following the blog will know that you’ve taken a leave of absence from Airsoft recently, to focus on work and home … 

but you’ve not fully left the flock, as evidenced with your continuing posts and ongoing relationships with other like-minded Airsofters, what are the plans for the future? 

Would a return to actual game time yield any differences? A new platform of blaster perhaps or maybe a radical departure from your regular USSF inspired loadout?

S23: .. as I said on our message thread “Good f**kin question – this ones honestly gonna be fun” …

Well, I actually announced two hiatuses- the first just before Christmas 2017 and then ‘officially’ in early 2018 …

What happened was that over the previous year pulling in some serious hours at work. Some of it was just the very nature of extensive shift work and in part overtime I’d voluntarily elected to do. Whilst the sun is shining make hay right ?

Well during this period, I was essentially juggling a full time career, replete with specialisms, subsequently training qualifications and very extensive commitments as an Instructor.

On top of this the blog was in full swing, publishing a considerable volume of pieces, in which a lot of work was put in to it – additionally I was also writing monthly a two page article for Airsoft International magazine as well organizing the 200+ players over periods of three to fours prior to the magazines bi-annual Ai500 …

Coupled with actually playing an otherwise fairly hectic schedule of events, alongside my commitments to my family home – the whole thing had just become an absolutely unbearable weight …

I was fatigued, frustrated, angry and started to generally show a poor disposition in life and become withdrawn and unsociable …

Airsoft, to a lesser or greater degree in not the most expensive of pastimes. However, I’d pushed myself into a position where I was using overtime to fund the hobby and my salary to manage and support my home and family.

I reached a juncture where something had to give, and I first stopped pursuing overtime which was then excessively available in ridiculous abundance.

Having done so, I thought I’d take a break, sit on a still then considerable collection of gears, stop writing for Airsoft International and step away from running the team on the Ai500.

No issues there, however, with the advent of Christmas looming, and the double twist of not pursuing overtime and austerity restricting budgets – meant I was back on basic salary …

Perhaps somewhat foolishly I relinquished my entire ‘gear locker and armory’ to sit out the ‘storm’ quite comfortably … (I happen to have benefited somewhat from this fire sale, having acquired a number of very nice bits of nylon and a certain photogenic CTR stock)

It was here I officially announced my retirement – I was out, done, finished. Relationships were fraught, I was a stranger in my own home and I was restless and quite frankly bewildered and lost as what to do next.

During all of this I was in receipt of a steady flow of messages and emails across several accounts asking when would I return, will I write for the magazine again, will the blog continue as well as the usual kit, gear and blaster questions …

As things, to a glacial degree settled down at work, and slowly I turned a corner at home I started to find myself a little bit, and more just for fun started to pen a few small pieces here and there …

Regardless of my dramatic exit – I’ve always had and always will have a passion for good apparel, gear and kit …

Much of what was now coming out, was review or spotlight based. The validity here was twofold, it was all gear I was purchasing out of my own per diem, and more importantly I was using it on a daily basis.

Here I found a new voice, with which to communicate to what is a very broad audience. I certainly feel a little more comfortable with it, and it’s been very well received.

Publishing pieces on new packs or day sacks, soft shells, footwear and even everyday carry items such as torches – replaced due the ones issued being atrociously diabolical …

This certainly at the very least reinvigorated my passion for writing and continuing the S23Familia legacy …

At the very least, whilst being offered some generously good opportunities to write for larger platforms – although as The Reptile House rightly pointed out, and quite astutely too, your just shifting your audience elsewhere for someone’s else’s gain, I shall continue to keep on sporadically publishing on the blog …

We’ve experimented and very slowly overtime changed the format, or adjusted content and I’m really, really grateful and impressed just how well it’s been received. It’s shows incredible depth, maturity and broad understanding from what is global audience, and one that generally is drawn from an Airsoft background.

Will I return to Airsoft, undoubtedly yes.

Most likely early fall or around the onset of winter I should imagine.

I do have a collaboration in the pipeline which all going well, will expedite my return to the field and more importantly for the readership bring about a never before seen volume of new reviews, articles and spotlights – fingers crossed for now !!!

So, what would a return look like …

I’m not sure why, but in the first instance it’ll most likely be with a Marui NGRS M4 in the CQBR configuration. Reliable range, accurate and consistent performance out of the box, and it’s a platform I’d used and enjoyed when they initially released the SOPMOD variant …

I’ve got some strong ideas about accessorizing it, DBAL, Weapon Lights and Optics are all being looked at, but perhaps more significantly it’ll get rattled canned straight outta the box, I’m pretty much set on predominantly OD with maybe small splashes of Dark Brown and Black too. Bizarrely I’m more excited about subsequently building up natural wear, tear and patina through hard use than I’am putting boots back on the field actually playing – go figure ?

The reason for this choice, format and immediate out of the box accessibility – is in part economics vs reliability, undoubtedly if things pick up as expected, I’ll put the call in PTW ‘smith ‘Tackleberry’ and return to my favored platform, but I certainly feel Marui’s NGRS in many respects have many merits which in part equally stand alongside a well engineered PTW …

Plus I can finally justify the two ‘Marui-Master Race’ patches doing the rounds (laughs)

Plus, it’s this platform, and at a later date, a secondary along with a small collection of proprietary magazines which I feel would lend itself to my proposed gears I’m looking to use.

Whilst I’ve no plans to jump back all in, initially just dropping back in to regular skirmishes. I’m initially looking at a return to regular BDU’s, particularly M81 Woodland Pattern.

For some reason the simplistic utilitarian cut and form, seems to be the right direction to move forward.

I’ve owned entire wardrobes of clothing with integrated knee pads, velcro attachment and adjustment points and more pockets than you’ll ever fill or need – and a lot of that stuff, whilst I’ve no end of real world praise for, and can’t commend its innovation and functionality enough, has left me a little cold and burnt out of late …

So, a good set of BDU’s, a good boot, gloves, and NGRS blaster is pretty much what I’m looking at initially. Suffice to say, I’m looking at a particular set of LBE to carry magazines, something which can be later attached to a Plate Carrier is pretty much where I’m headed …

Ultimately, I’m just looking to getting back out skirmishing, enjoying Plastic Deth in its purist form, and as I rebuild the gear locker will look more broadly at more immersive events and naturally reinvest in Comm’s and NVG’s …

ATRG: Right, final question … well, two really. What do you really like about Airsoft and what fundamental change would you make if you could?

S23: Initially, in the early days, what I explicitly enjoyed was in purest form the action, for want of a better phrase ‘the fire fights’ – there’s was a really rewarding exhilaration to derived from those, and regardless of individual perception, for me the overall approach to participation really lent it, even at a regular skirmish, a real sense of immersion …

I’ve felt, of late in a few small instances skirmishing has become its own genre, and it’s pretty much dominated rightly or wrongly by players who are happy to trade endless counts of ammo (Plastic Deth) fighting from static positions …

Who am to say that’s right or wrong, ultimately it’s their choice and more power to em’ – but I certainly recall a time we used cover miles and miles of undulating wooden terrain or trawling subterranean tunnels which all penultimately ended in so of the most ferocious firefights …

But times change …

On the flip side I’ve always enjoyed the marriage between kit, gear and blasters, collecting it, researching it and assembling it then getting it dirty and abusing it regardless it be a Skirmish, BattleSim or even a MilSim. They are all a vehicle to mutually serve each other, and it’s brought me many, many years of enjoyment and exposed to a world wide community, who’ve become firm friends …

There are a few small things I’d like to see change, semantics ultimately, and I get it’s not feasibly possible for everyone to adopt.

But, I love Real Steel ammo counts, and ergo magazine loads based on role, mission specifics or even AO …

But, I understand it’s perhaps unreasonable to limit the hobby with such an unwieldy and limiting expectation …

Ultimately, what I’d really like to see change, is for people to leave the ‘politics’ at the door – of late, some take it a little too much to heart, and adopt a little too much of a persona as a holdover from participating in Plastic Deth.

Sure, I’m always on the phone to you, Rich over at The Reptile House, Mikey B – a whole bunch of cool cats, who I discuss a broad and wide range of subjects, some Airsoft related, some Real Steel and some about as far removed from Airsoft as you can imagine. My point is, I’m neither card carrying gang member or card NRA guy, nor an Operator or Pro 2a …

Not that I have an issue with any of the above, but I just feel it has no f**kin’ relevance to collecting cool gear, customizing blasters, participating in the hobby and overall creates an ‘edgy’ atmosphere which must be a little intimidating to the uninitiated.

I’d like to see more crossover from players, regular players dipping their toes into MilSim and vis Vers a hardened MilSim veterans getting back to basics on the skirmish field.

It promotes cohesiveness amongst the community, propagates a legacy for future generations of player to continue the past time too.

But, overall – it’s just my opinion, just my two cents. I think Airsoft is here to stay for a while yet, and overall it’s in good hands – S23

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5 thoughts on “The S23 Gearmonkey Interview

Add yours

  1. Top stuff. Really good insights and covering something I am sure we can all relate to.

    I think if anyone experiences those lows, talking to someone is vital. That is what families of all genres are for.

    Like

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