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If the articles in this 30th Anniversary Issue teach you anything, it should be that skateboarding has evolved leaps and bounds over the past three decades. It should also make clear that key individuals—pioneers—served as central catalysts to these massive advances. Ray Barbee’s addition to the Bones Brigade in ’87 and subsequent appearances in Powell Peralta’s Public Domain (’88) then Ban This (’89) represent some of the most critical junctures in our short history. On the heels of Steve Steadham, Ray cracked the façade of what had been more or less up to then a white-bred pastime. He also showcased some of the first conscious line-based flatground street skating ever. And unlike the neon glam beach volleyball styles of the ‘80s vert scene, Ray’s casual attire and cruising lines through LA sprawl set the table for city kids of all stripes and colors to make skateboarding theirs in the two decades and change since.   

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Wednesday
Jan152014

Skaters and Drugs Outtakes: Rob Dyrdek

Another collection of B-Side quotes from this. In fairness, I should mention that Rob took issue with some of this text when it went to print in '03. Also, keep in mind that many of his views may have changed further in the eleven years of "moguling" since. Regardless, Rob always voices strong opinions and I've always admired him for that. Photo: O'Meally —ME

ROB DYRDEK:

“The fact of the matter is that all pro skateboarders are somewhat psycho. Very rarely do you find a skateboarder that comes from some solid foundation. You go against everything to be a skateboarder. When you choose to commit your life to it, you’re pretty fucked to begin with. It’s the ideal types that tend to be drawn to drugs, people with destructive personalities."

“You have this ‘I don’t give a fuck’ mentality. You get a little older, and usually you’ll ease out of it. But If you can’t ease out of it, it takes you down. I can count so many of the skaters I’ve seen fall. I’ve seen weed sink skate careers. I’ve seen liquor destroy skate careers. I saw the toll it took on my skate career. It’s the innate destructive impulse that is embedded in anyone that chooses to dedicate their lives to skateboarding.”

"There’s way more normal kids in there today then there was when all of us guys came up. When I fuckin’ turned pro it was for nothing. I wasn’t turning pro with some big check in the mail. I was giving up everything. I was like, ‘Fuck it. This is what I’m doing. But I’m not getting enough money to live.’”

“The Piss Drunks brought this chaos and partying to the kids. I mean, they’re not the only dudes in skateboarding that ever partied. But it was the first time in a while that anybody went that heavily with it.”

“This is the 100% dead truth—I am a natural born partier. But I go on vicious sober streaks. In my older years, I’m not really into drugs. It’s too destructive. But I went through that period to rid my body of it. I would party every single night if I could. It’s just embedded in me. The party demon is always just beneath the surface. Every now and then rears its ugly head and is just buggin’. Sometimes it’s a wonderful experience. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.”

“Sure, someone like Andrew Reynolds is pretty fucking influential. But at the same time, look at the amateur kids they brought up. Those kids didn’t grow up wasted. No one influenced me to party. I just found it. Kids are gonna do what they’re gonna do. It’s just a matter of personal circumstances how deep you go with it. Some people take it to another level.”

“It’s a part of skateboarding as far as I’m concerned. It’s another thing that makes skateboarding better than everything else. We don’t have no fucking drug testing policies. There’s no one that's going to fine us or suspend us from riding our skateboards for doing whatever we choose to do. You don’t have to get up everyday and do something. It’s on you. If you want to go on a cocaine bender for two months, fine. Then you go on a sober streak for two months and kill it. The only thing that matters is that you hold it down on your skateboard to the best that you can.”

“It’s just a part of skateboarding and always will be. Just like when Jay Adams was around. It’s no different. There’s always going to be your straightedge dudes that hate it. There’s going to be your middle ground guys that dabble and stay in control. Then there’s going to be your full fucking psychos.”

 

The DC Video part from that same year with the skit that started it all.

 

Saturday
Nov302013

Jake Johnson: The Cinematographer Intv. B-Sides

I'd been meaning to post this Jake & Gilbert article from TWS's May 2012 issue for a while. I was talking to Adrian Adrid at Stoner the other day and while we were both fanning out on Jake Johnson (I also fan out on Adrian's frontside ollie in the link above), he mentioned Jake's interview from this so I figured I would post the scans of the mag version along with his full uncut text (Jake's got cut down about 600 words for the final print version. Gilbert's ran uncut.) With everything that the Workshop has been through since this came out I figured both these guys had only grown more relevant. Photos: O'Meally, Chami, Allan. —ME

Original Intro:

Sharing the second half of the last part of The Cinematographer Project—Alien Workshop’s heavy hitting duo—Jake Johnson and Gilbert Crocket both earned their professional stripes this past February the second their footage hit the screen at the 14th Annual TWS Awards in Hollywood. In addition to sharing “Going Pro” parts in Cinematographer redux, both rookies also originated and more or less reside and handle their business on the East Coast. Based in Pittsburg and Richmond respectively—both also seem content to operate outside the confines of the pastime’s standard designated urban playing fields—be they in California or even NY and Philly. Given Alien Workshop’s history of placing itself both geographically (Ohio) and conceptually (See any AWS video) outside the beaten path of the skateboard industry, we thought it would be appropriate to get both their takes on what it means to have your name on a skateboard in this last year of our Mayan lord, 2012. Is moving west still the time-tested prerequisite it once was? Or has the onslaught of Internet interconnectivity finally leveled the entire playing field? Is real street skating on the verge of a massive comeback, or are we unwittingly witnessing its death knell. Peppered with a host of tangent musings—from skydiving to OCD infused alcoholism—the following 10 questions each sought to answer these existential queries along with anything else that popped up along the way.

JAKE JOHNSON:

What happened with this skydiving situation? Was that your first time jumping out of a plane?

Yeah. It was. Crazy. I had been thinking about it for a long time and our first destination was Vegas. We met the dude that trained Bob Burnquist back in 2003. I figured if it worked for Bob. It was unbelievable though. Not only while we did it, but the whole rest of the day while we were skating we were just super confidant and not worried about anything (Laughs).

Are you still living in Pittsburg?

I’m still technically living there. But I’ve been away for like a month and a half.

What is the Map Masquerade tour?

Basically I bought a van that we’re taking on this tour across the country. You can follow us @MapMasquerade or go to asenseofdirection.org. It’s like a mini Workshop van and we have a bunch of friends along. We’re hiding all types of product along the way so you can follow the clues and find the treasure. It’s a conversion van too so I’m planning on living in this thing when I get out to San Francisco. It’s got a nice little bed in there and I have homies along the way to get showers and Internet and all that.

I was reading something about you saying the message of skateboarding was kind of stronger in the small town scenes and videos now? Is that something you seek out? Is that what this tour is about?

Yeah. Definitely. It’s something that I’m building my beliefs around. I want to do what I can to basically support them. I’m learning as I go in the industry that it’s a very fragile thing. I got dropped from Quicksilver last year after putting in all types of time and effort into trying to help legitimize the company. I’m realizing that I got to benefit from the money and support of those companies but in the end, my career is probably gonna last through the support from the core shops and the people who put their life and entire body, energy, and mind into skateboarding. Longevity’s not going to come from some board of trustees. For me, I’m just trying to go at it from the ground up. I want to see skateboarding grow for everybody and filter into our society, but not in a diluted way. I want to see skateparks and skateboarding everywhere but I want to see it done the right way. I think skateboarders have a lot more to offer than just entertaining people. I think we can innovate in a lot of ways.

I guess the million-dollar question then is what the actual message of skateboarding is then, right?

Yeah. I think it really comes from your experiences that you have in the act of skateboarding. They idea is that it develops along the way. That’s what I meant when I was talking about the message carried by the first generation of skateboarders. What they were representing was something entirely outside what society had ever seen, so it was a very destructive force in the beginning because it ran into so much opposition.

What does real street skating have to do with the message?

Basically, what skateboarders were trying to say was that nobody really owns property. We all kind of share it. You take a piece of granite out of the earth and make it into something to sit on, and it makes your business money—but you don’t actually own that rock. I think the message of skateboarders is that nobody owns any of it. When you use it, you become a part of it. You heighten your sense of awareness to reality. And that’s what gives skateboarders their leg up and an advantage. That’s what should give skateboarders their motivation.

So the act itself sort of gives you the message?

Exactly. But nowadays, it’s turning from that into more of a competitive thing, where skateboarders are trying to do it to impress an online community, or to impress a board of trustees. Skateboarding is an intimate relationship with your reality through challenging yourself to face the nature of it. To take a piece of wood and to go against gravity. Go against society. Go against what they define the uses of public space to be. The conclusions that you come to through your trials and tribulations along the way—security, and people that want to stop us—if you learn to maneuver around them more smoothly then we become more efficient beings and basically are evolving. That’s the message of skateboarding. It’s about bettering yourself through the act of riding one. 

Wow. It also seems like the same guy that wants to own the granite rock also now wants to own skateboarding, No?

Yeah. Exactly. They want to own it and regulate it. They don’t know it, but deep down they are afraid of our evolution.

I think kids see it though, even without understanding…when they see the real thing they know it, like—I want that.

Yeah. They feel it. I hope that they can still experience it the way they should. It’s gonna get harder and harder though. Bigger companies will stretch skateboarding further and further. I think a lot of people argue that basically as long as more people are seeing it it’s good. I think that’s false. I think it should be more of a less is more type situation. There should be more focus on less people. You can get a message out to all kinds of people, but they’re not going to make informed decisions unless they really understand that message. It might work in the short term. But in the long run it will come back to bite us. Skateboarding isn’t for everybody.

Beyond solving skateboarding—where you out at the Awards for The Cinematographer Project premiere?

Yeah. I was there. I was hiding in the corner somewhere but I was there.

How was it seeing that in completed form?

It was stressful. I was coming off the worst injury of my life. I put a lot of responsibility on myself when I’m filming. I feel like filming our interpretation of skating is really the only thing we have outside of doing it for ourselves. So it’s really important to me. I’ve had a lot of second thoughts and distrust for HD and the dynamic that goes with filming HD, so it was a tough project, and I really only had three months time to film.

What is the dynamic that goes with HD? What are the limitations to you?

The limitations of just finding a filmer with HD gear is one thing. Because he has to spend an enormous amount of money on it. Then it’s relatively heavy and a very cinematic piece of equipment. So if you’re spending that much money on it, you’re probably wanting to use it for higher end production. So your mentality is already more production based. Your tendency is going to be to stylize your footage. I think HD might cause kids to think there’s this standard they have to meet. It leads to a more planned out and structured approach to filming. They’re not just grabbing the camera and skating with a friend all day long. It takes over the session too much. It’s getting better now. The cameras are getting more affordable. And I watched Benny (Maglinao) do this and I came to respect his style and understand the medium. But I definitely don’t think that the VX is dead.

Do you think that the VX can make a comeback?

I hope so. I hope that I can be at the forefront of it. I’m trying to push that in my skating. I think a lot of people jumped on board the HD because the industry pressured people to do so. But I think there’s still value in the VX footage. Think about the prime of skateboarding in the 90s to 00s was translated to us through the VX. It’s not just nostalgic, but also the quality of the experience. The sound of the audio. The ability to get close into each spot with the fisheye and the Mark 1. It’s the emotion you get when you watch it. These things all made skateboarding the way we wanted. I think HD excludes certain people too by having standards. I still think skateboarding is translated through your own eyes, a filmer, or a photographer. For other people to experience skateboarding they need to have one of those options.  

HD tends to feel like something is being presented to you, whereas watching VX feels like you’re there with the skater. Like your one of the dudes in the trenches.

I’ve never heard it referenced like that but that’s exactly how I feel. I feel that HD puts a wall of glass between you and the skater. Like you’re watching something in a museum. Sometimes it just feels like a video game. And that’s where it disconnects me emotionally from the footage. I organized my whole life around skate videos—when they were coming out, what year they were released. My whole childhood was basically framed up by the anticipations and then premieres of these videos. I don’t know what kind of an affect the constant Internet updates will have on the youth. I know a lot of people are becoming keener with it, and they are able to take what they want from it and leave the rest alone. I just personally think it’s important to support people that create full length videos and have something physically come out, even if it takes a little longer. I think skateboarding is about patience. Good skateboarding takes time and you can’t rush it. There’s a lot of pressure now, especially for sponsored skateboarders just to produce. They’re being pulled in all different directions. I think they need to be left to develop their own styles. Each scene should develop their own style rather than all try and conform to the Internet. It’s a wash.

How does going pro feel now? How soon do you and Gilbert get boards?

They congratulated us on going pro after the part premiered at the Awards show. I gave Mike (Hill) some suggestions for graphics though. I gave him this book of really strange architectural structures. I told him to do something with a Geodesic dome or something like that. Hopefully within the next few months we’ll have something out. It still doesn’t feel like it’s happened. I guess that’s the corny, stereotypical answer but it’s true. It’s going to be strange to see my name on there.

Both Gilbert and yourself are from back east. Do you think you still have to move out west to make it?

I think that’s one thing that the Internet is really a positive thing for. That idea that I have to move to California to be seen is almost completely gone, I think. I mean, people still want to move to California. But the idea that you have to be there because the Industry is there has almost died out. I’m on tour with Marc Sucio right now, he’s from California so it doesn’t apply on that angle but you look at the following he got from putting out one part on the Internet.  

My generation was right on the border of the Internet. I got on Instant Messenger in 1998. I’d meet kids at Camp Woodward and then keep in touch with them on there. We’d transfer footage in these primitive ways and I’d meet up with skaters in person when I started taking trips to New York. That’s basically what helped me move to NY. I appreciate that side of the Internet a lot so I know it has its good uses. It’s when kids actually believe they can use the Internet to get famous that things turn ugly. Just skate. People will take notice if you’re good enough.

It seems like The Cinematographer Project kind of followed in the return to real city street skating. Like more dodging cars and rough spots with cool backgrounds and less schoolyard ledge combo stuff. Is that type of skating coming back right now?

I think it is. I think it got to a point technically where there’s not too many people that can really push the boundaries. You have your Nuggets and your Nyjah’s, or Marc Suciu. There’s a small group of people that have the technical ability to still innovate. Then on the big side, it really had already pretty much maxed out in the Jamie Thomas' day. It got to a certain point on both fronts where there’s just that much more you can do. So it starts coming back to style and spot selection. I think people that have interesting approaches to even basic tricks start to be what stands out. The visual experience is what skateboarding is all about. Finding those unique locations that incite ideas and emotions to the viewer—that’s the most important thing there is.

Where do you see people doing it right out there today?

Well, I think it’s really interesting in a business as top heavy as skateboarding, now you are seeing people from other countries that have the same passion for the message and are doing it in their own way. I really enjoy watching companies like Magenta, and Palace, and Polar coming up from various countries in Europe right now. I think it’s rad to see them get a little more stylish and creative then some of the big companies.

What pro would you like to model yourself after? Who carries the message, without starving?

I don’t know. I’ve been following Pontus (Alv) pretty closely for the last few years. I’m not sure what his financial state is but it seems like he lives a good life. He builds all these rad DIY projects and creates all these super unique skate spots and artistic installments. He gets to create his own videos, artwork, board graphics, and do it all from his own country. I would say if I could model myself after anyone, it would probably be Pontus. He takes what he does seriously and he gets to have ultimate control of what he puts out. What could be better? Actually, if I could really do it, I would become a hybrid of Pontus and Heath Kirchart. Heath is another guy that takes his skating seriously. He wants to make sure he helps push the limits of skateboarding. He handles everything on a very professional level. So if I could combine both of those things, that would be it.

I’d pay to see that hybrid.

I want to give skateboarders that sense that you can create your own world. I think that’s really the best thing skateboarding teaches people. I believe in my core that this world is a heaven and a hell. It all just depends on how you live it. What are you doing to create it?

Last question—do you think skydiving’s gotten too mainstream?

(Laughs.) Oh fully. It’s not about the spots anymore. It’s too commercial. They’re all jocks now.

 

 

The Cinematographer Project ('12) AWS part. Still so good.

 

Tuesday
Nov192013

Skaters and Drugs Outtakes: Eric Dressen & Tony Alva

Been a minute, but here are some more raw quotes from Skaters and Drugs. Short and sweet, this is what Eric had to say on the topic back in '02. I was a huge Dressen fan as a kid and was lucky enough to get to skate with him during the '90s West LA Hot Rod crew days and call him a friend today. I still don't think Eric gets enough credit for being as influential style-wise as he should. Easily one of the top 10 most influential styles ever in my book. Photos: Thatcher/Brittain —ME

ERIC DRESSEN:

“They should have been called ‘Drugtown and the Z-boys.’ All those dudes were all on drugs. Every guy I grew up with around there that was a pro skater was on drugs. It was everywhere. You’d eventually retire and then just get more fucked up. I saw it happen to every dude and it happened to me. I was terrible.”

"Just from the ‘70s, everybody did drugs. It was like the tail end of the hippie movement. Nobody thought drugs were bad back then. And then you basically become a rock star, and its sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. It all goes hand in hand."

"Christian (Hosoi) and I would go smoke a joint in the parking lot before all our runs. I never skated a contest where I wasn’t stoned. I remember being at the Munster Championship Contest in ’90 and Colby Carter and I were smoking before the heats or whatever and I kept winning all the qualifiers. Right before the finals I didn’t go smoke and I ended up getting second. Colby was joking around saying I would have won if I smoked more weed. He was probably right."

"Jeff Phillips won the Vision Psycho Skate contest on acid. It was like full strobe lights, 3D projection screens, the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing on the platform, and there’s Jeff skating amazing on acid."

"The new kids are headed for it. I don’t think they’ll be able to handle their drugs as good as we did."

 

Eric's part in Speed Freaks ('89).

 

Since Eric's was short and he mentioned Dogtown I figured I'd post Alva's full collection of quotes to corroborate Dressen’s story. The name for this site actually came out of the following TA text. At the time he said something like, “Deadhead hippie Rasta dude” and I remember thinking Dead Hippie would be a cool name for something. Also bare in mind this text is over 10 years old. I know for a fact that TA no longer smokes weed today just for the record. Photos: Friedman/Stecyk

 

TONY ALVA:

“We were like 70s, dude. So we were like acid, coke, Quaaludes, taking crazy pills like reds with a malt liquor. I think at times drugs enhanced the whole thing. Like back in the early punk rock days, it just made it way more intense. I mean when you’re that age, and especially back then, you could kind of get away with stuff like that. I mean that whole decade was a trip. But, if your taking acid for 20-30 years, dude, your brain is going to start morphing. If you have some weird shit going on, or you’re a little wishy-washy in the head, it can fuck you up big time.”

“A lot of people consider marijuana a drug and I disagree with that. There is a huge segment of the skateboarding population that use marijuana as an herb to better their lives and get in tune with their environment both physically and mentally. Once we erase the stigma that weed is a drug, skaters will no longer be labeled as druggies. By en large, the skateboarders out there are not using drugs like cocaine, heroin, and speed. That’s only in the extreme situations like with Jay Adams or Hosoi. Those are serious street drugs that will take you down no matter how baddass you think you are.”

“To them, stoners will forever be that unmotivated Spicolli type fuck up. They listen to somebody talk about the positive effects of marijuana and they automatically tune it out, ‘Oh, Alva’s talking bullshit. Alva just needs a crutch. He’s a Deadhead hippy Rasta guy. He’d have been better without it.’ They teach drug addicts to call it ‘marijuana maintenance’. But I’ll keep saying it. If you’re a spiritual person, marijuana can be extremely positive.”

“I just hope that people educate themselves and learn more about it. Legalization of marijuana has been a long overdue thing in the world. I get hassled so hard any time I go through customs because I have dreads and there’s a stigma to that.”

“The label is wrong regardless. As you find out when you really look at skateboarding, there are dudes completely on the other side who are completely straight edge. And they have to deal with the druggie stigma all the time. The key is to let everyone do their thing. Skateboarding is all about, ‘to each his own’. Fuck what anyone else thinks about us.

“To teenagers, drugs seem like some sort of adventure. Its just one of those things you just have to do to get out of your system. I’m a parent too, and I don’t advocate doing drugs to young kids. But if my kids ended up trying chemicals or something, the best thing you can do is communicate with them. Most parents did drugs at some point too so talk to your kid and pass on what you learned. The best and only thing you can do is talk to them.”

“Skaters are just tough motherfuckers to begin with. I think they just subject themselves to things almost as guinea pigs. It’s the ‘fuck it’ mentality. They’ll try anything. Overall, there were a lot of funny stories and good times that involved drugs but at the same time there was also somewhat of a negative shadow that got cast over it later. Too many of those dudes ended up wasting their lives chasing the dragon, trying to score another gram of coke, or just wound up dead. I think eventually, you know, all that shit just gets tired.”

 

Tony in Dogtown and the Z-Boys ('01)

 

Friday
Oct042013

Zack Wallin: Sugar Magazine Interview, Le Tombeur de ces Dammes

This Zack Wallin Interview ran in French in the August 2013 issue of Sugar Magazine in France. As a fan of Zach and his powerhouse skating, I figured I might as well post the pre-translated English text here along with the scans of the Sugar spreads. Photos by: Dave Chami, Seu Trinh, Oliver Barton, and Wes Tonascia. Click on the images for XL. Enjoi —ME


Life is funny sometimes. Getting something you always wanted is often accompanied by a different challenge you have never faced. This Karmic law arrived in force for Zach Wallin last year when he finally got the nod to become a full-fledged amateur skateboarder for enjoi alongside Ryan Lay—something he had essentially been hoping for his whole life. When all that was left was to make it official with an intro part, he was diagnosed with to this day unexplained and apparently very rare blood clotting in his chest. Originally told not to skate by experts at Stanford University, and ordered to administer blood thinning injections into his stomach twice a day to boot—Zach eventually decided to film the part anyways—shots, clots, and all. And as luck would have it, his teammate, Ryan Lay suffered a series of ankle injuries of his own; pushing back the intro video’s deadline long enough for both to put together the impressive parts that ultimately dropped last May (See Zach's Below). A year and a half later, with his mysterious health condition completely cleared up, I checked in with Zach to get the temperature on life in the Mansion, fanning out on Cairo Foster, how it felt to quit his day job as a carpenter, and most importantly—why he is universally renowned as a lady’s man.     



How have things been since becoming an official am? Do you still work construction?
Things have been good. I actually quit my job as a carpenter and have just been skating every day. It’s been awesome because when I was working a full-time job and trying to film I would just get hurt because I wasn’t on my board enough. I can skate every day now and I just feel way better on my board.

I guess working something with physical labor involved too—if you got hurt skating you can’t work and if you got hurt at work you couldn’t skate.
Exactly. Even if it was just a hard day at work, it was still labor. Then I would just be too tired to skate when I finally had the time. Or too sore.

You weren’t just sitting in a cubicle.
No, it was hard work.

Still living the enjoi Mansion life?
Yeah. Actually I am. It’s pretty sweet man. It’s real mellow now. It’s still a skate house. Cairo Foster lives here. Louie lives here with his wife and a couple of other Tiltmode homies—my friend Warren and G-Won. It’s pretty awesome though, you always have someone to skate with.

No plans of moving?
No. It’s a nice place with cheap rent. I’m pretty content.

Were you born and raised in San Jose?
Yeah. Born and raised. I basically just moved around San Jose when I was younger but we always stayed here.

How did you stumble on skating?
Actually my cousin came into town to visit one time for a couple of weeks and he brought his board with him. I must have been nine or 10. He would go skate and I wasn’t allowed to go venture out with him, but he would come back and just have all these incredible stories about meeting new skaters, because he was from out of town, hanging out with girls and listening to music at the spot. He would come home to our house and talk about it and I was just mesmerized. I was amazed that all these rad experiences were right there for you if you rode a skateboard. I think a few months after that I got some shitty Nash board for my 10th birthday.

Best memories from your two weeks in Scandinavia and Russia last year to fully get on enjoi as an am? Had you traveled before that?
I had traveled before that trip but that was kind of the first trip were I was officially on a team trip. I was like 80 percent sure I was on before the trip and then I finally got fully on during it. I still had to film the intro part though to really seal the deal.

Those intro parts had some drama too right? Ryan Lay was injured and you had that crazy blood clotting deal.
Yeah. Right after that trip we kind of both got jacked up. Ryan had some pretty serious ankle issues and I had that random internal blood clotting.

Is the blood clotting pretty much cleared up now? You don’t have to give yourself the blood thinning shots any more?
Yeah. It’s basically completely gone. Thank God. I don’t have to give myself the shots any more. I was the gnarliest thing for me. I had to take them twice a day too, like one right in the morning and then right before I went to bed. Waking up to sticking a needle in my stomach was the worst.

The one at night probably sucks too. You can’t go get drunk and forget to take it.

Exactly. You can’t miss one of the shots. So you can’t forget or you might have clotting. It sucked. It was just this constant reminder that I was jacked—morning and night. Thank God it’s all over. It’s a really long story but at the end of it all, all these specialists, specialists from Stanford, not just these budget doctors still had no explanation for why it happened. Usually people get clotting in their legs, but I had it in my chest, which at my age is supposedly extremely rare. They were tripping off me. Then I was tripping because they were tripping.

I asked Matt Eversol what to ask you and he said, “Ask him about chicks. He slays pussy. Big booty hoes.” So what about chicks?
(Laughs.) I don’t know. I guess I get lucky with the ladies sometimes. I don’t really feel like I’m a lady’s man. I don’t go out telling myself I’m going to land myself a lady. Actually, I feel like that’s when you f—k up. You go out with expectations—out on the prowl—and I think desperation is just ugly. Looking like you need something is sometimes a good way not to get it (Laughs.)

Best advice for meeting a girl at the bar? Just play it cool?
Yeah. Play it cool. Don’t be that dude going for the glory. Let it happen. I don’t even know. I don’t go on the hunt.


San Jose girls vs. Russian or Swedish?

Oh man. San Jose girls don’t even stand a chance. They shouldn’t even be compared (Laughs.) No, that’s a lie, there are some really good girls here. But I think my preference—I just love Finnish girls. They’re beautiful and their vibe is awesome.

Is skateboarding for a living something you’d want?
Yeah. Why not? For as long as it lasts. I’ve had real jobs. I worked carpentry for like four years and that definitely showed me enough to know about the real world. Now I just feel like I’m on vacation all the time (Laughs.) Skateboarding is not a job. I never really planned on making money off of skateboarding. I still don’t really depend on it. I’m just going with the flow right now.

It’s almost like trying to meet girls. You can’t really go after it?
Yeah. Exactly. Just let it happen. I always do what I’m happy doing. That’s worked out for me so far so hopefully I keeps going.

Favorite San Jose legend about an enjoi rider? Any urban myths?
There is one. I don’t think I’ve ever asked Jerry (Hsu) about this one but when I was a kid I remember reading in an interview or something that he had done acid by himself in his room. And he ended up staying in the room all day and all night and ended up writing all these words all over his body with a Sharpie. I don’t know why, but I always remembered that. To this day I think about it when I see him (Laughs.) I need to ask him about it. What did he write?

Do non-skaters in San Jose know about enjoi?
Oh, for sure. I get people talking to me all the time. I’m like the new guy on the team too, so these random people will come up and ask questions about it. They know about Louie or Caswell (Berry) or just Tiltmode.

Your skating is definitely in the powerhouse realm—fast and big. Did anybody influence you to skate the way you do or was it just natural?
I think subconsciously, looking back, I was definitely influenced by John Cardiel. I was always my favorite when I was a kid. A lot of my friends didn’t like him when we were real young, but I think that’s why I always wanted to go fast. Cardiel was the dude I looked up to. I think watching Heath (Kirchart) and Cairo (Foster) too. They would just jump over and down massive shit. Those dudes probably made me want to take an extra push.

All time favorite enjoi ad?

Man. There are so many good ones. I have tons. One that really stood out to me early on was the Marc Johnson ad where he’s freestyling on that little board. I think because I saw it when I was so young. From the new ones there’s one of Caswell and Jose (Rojo)—like a sequence of them shotgunning a beer. I think just because I heard the back-story on it. I guess they needed multiple takes of the beer shot so they were basically wasted mid-day by the time they finished.

It’s funny you mention Marc. Do you think his imprint is still there in enjoi?
Yeah. To me it is. I mean I’ve never even met the guy so I can’t say too much. But I know he pretty much came up with everything for enjoi in the beginning, and it has more or less stayed true to his vision. Even now, my favorite stuff from enjoi is from the beginning when he was doing it. I wonder what he thinks about enjoi today. Maybe if I meet him in the future I might get the balls to ask him.

Was it crazy to share a part with Cairo Foster and Caswell (Tweak the Beef [‘12])?

Totally. It was insane. I was just talking to somebody about it. My friend was over at the Mansion and Cairo walked by. My friend was just like, “Whoa, that’s Cairo Foster.” And I was just like, “I know. It’s a trip right?” It started this whole conversation. I seriously had photos and sequences of Cairo on my wall growing up and now I’m kind of sharing a video part with him. Even Caswell. They’re my good friends too but there’s still that little kid in me fanning out a little bit.

Does it ever wear off? You see Cairo walking to the shower or whatever and you still think, “Whoa.”
I don’t think it ever fully goes away man. It might wear off because you get more comfortable but then we go skate and he’s trying a gnarly trick and it just all comes back (Laughs.) All of the sudden I feel like this little kid that rolled up on the session by accident, like “Holy shit! There’s Cairo Foster!”

How good was Louie’s part in Tweak the Beef? Last part!
It’s funny. I saw a majority of that stuff go down in person but a lot of that footage was already pretty old so I had kind of forgotten a lot of it. Then to see it all together like that was kind of surprising. You forget how good he actually is. Even joking around, a lot of that stuff is really hard to do. He’s the type of guy that will just throw out the craziest trick I’ve never seen him do before.

I feel like one day Louie should just shave his head and put out like a fully serious Heath style part.
Yeah. Shave his head a la Jamie Thomas and just go for broke.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on one of those “Who Is” parts for Matix. Like Daewon (Song) just had his. And then other than that I’m just working on a full enjoi part. Basically Tweak the Beef was all the leftover VX footage that we had laying around but the actual HD enjoi video is supposed to be out in the next six months. I’m pretty nervous about it.

It can’t be any harder than the intro video was with all the health issues.
That’s true. I still don’t even know how it worked out.

Plans for the future? San Jose for life?
I’m traveling a lot know so when I come home to San Jose it’s like a treat. But then a week goes by and I want to go travel again. But all my friends and family are here, so I think if I ever buy a house I want to buy one here. So I guess I am San Jose for life.

All time San Jose legend?

Tim Brauch. When I was a kid growing up skating south San Jose I guess that was were he was from. So everywhere you went there were just these rumors, like “Oh Tim Brauch grinded this, or Tim Brauch used to skate this mini ramp.” He was probably the first sponsored skater I ever heard of so I’ll say him. Rest in Peace.

 

Thursday
Sep052013

The Man Who Sold The World: '02 Steve Rocco Interview Plus Bonus Text From Steve

I finally got around to scanning this Steve Rocco interview from the January 2002 issue of Skateboarder. While I was on vacation I also heard the news that Skateboarder would be closing up shop (again) after the current issue. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Aaron Meza for giving me my first mag staffer job there back in '01 and letting me pretty much nerd out on everything I ever wanted to explore in skateboard history. Also thanks to Jamie Owens for keeping it top notch and running all the way to the end (or third interlude).

In looking for this text from the Rocco interview I also realized Steve sent me this long essay looking back on his role in shaking up the industry in the early '90s right after the deadline for the original interview back in '02. It was never published anywhere so figured I should post it up here (at the bottom) along with the rest.

Skateboarding (or the industry at least) is once again back at somewhat of a jumping off point with all the recent new companies popping up and the entrenched old guard. Whoever the next Rocco is (Pontus? Olson?), I'd say Steve's words are as relevant today as ever. Shots out to his Malibu trailer. All Photos: Mike O'Meally —ME

PART 1: THE INTERVIEW

The Man Who Sold the World
The Steve Rocco Interview

The worst decision Brad Dorfman ever made was kicking Steve Rocco off Sims. Had he known what would ensue, he probably would have kept Rocco’s pro freestyle model on the shelves indefinitely, with the rest of the industry pitching in to foot the bill. When they kicked him out of their house, Rocco did what any self-respecting entrepreneur would do, he built his own house on their front lawn. After giving birth to World Industries, Steve Rocco forged an empire larger and more diverse than anything Brad Dorfman ever imagined. More importantly, Rocco took no prisoners. He stole riders, attacked industry giants Vision and Powell, broke the rules, and forever changed the way skateboarders do business.


When did it first occur to you to start a company? Was there any planned direction?
It actually never occurred to me to start a company. I was just a skater at the time that had just been kicked off the team.  I thought my life; at least the part that had anything to do with skating, was over. It was Skip Engblom's (from Santa Monica Airlines) idea to start a company. As for direction there was absolutely none. Skip showed me the basics, where to get boards made and where to sell them, beyond that I was clueless. Which in hindsight was a blessing. If I had known what I was attempting to do was impossible I doubt I would have tried and no one would have joined up with me.

Did you have this vision of a new skateboard industry or did it just happen?
My  “vision” for the skateboard industry was simple. Skaters should be able to have input into their products. It should be more of a team effort. Before we started World Industries, business guys decided everything because they did not think skaters had the mentality for marketing or product design. Guys like Rodney Mullen had his wheel designs turned down by George Powell and I was told by Brad Dorfman that street skating was never going to be big.
 

When did you realize that you were winning the battle?
I was so naïve I didn’t even realize there was a battle. I just thought we would do our thing and everyone else would do theirs and we could all be friends.

What was it about Powell that made you attack them. Why not attack Vision or Santa Cruz?
We never attacked any company. We only retaliated. First Powell ran an ad making fun of us small skater-owned companies.  Then Vision demanded that our distributors cancel their orders and stop buying from us. That’s when I realized that business was war and these guys were out to get us. By that time I had loans to pay back and skaters to support. I had no choice but to fight back.

We publicly retaliated against Powell by running an ad making fun of ourselves for being stupid enough to have a skater owned company. And then making boards satirizing the Powell graphics we realized we could make lemonade from lemons. Retaliation against vision was more subliminal. We started a company with their main rider, Mark Gonzales. Mark wanted to do something that was the opposite of Vision so we called it Blind.

What happened with the money you borrowed?
I assume you are talking about the infamous “loan shark”money. After many sleepless nights we paid it back and Kirby became a friend and shareholder in the company.

Why hadn't anybody else lured riders/artists/manufacturers away from companies with higher offers?  
Because before us the industry was the good ol’ boy network. Riders were not being paid fairly but they couldn’t do anything about it because Vision, Powell and Santa Cruz controlled everything and had a “gentleman’s agreement” between them to keep the riders from gettin’ uppity. I’ll tell you a story that has never been published before but it illustrates how riders were like pieces of property. And if you study history, baseball players and other professional athletes were treated similarly for a long time.

In the summer of 1987 street skating’s popularity was starting to have an impact on the industry. There was an impending changing of the guard. The new  icons were Mike Vallely, Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas. Rodney was still just an oddity.  None of them were happy with the companies they rode for and wanted a change.  The four of us wanted start a company that only had to do with street skating and we wanted Santa Cruz to back it. Novak sat in the room and listened politely as I unfurled my master plan; but in the end he said he didn’t have the resources to do such a project, wished me luck and sent me on my way. Years later, I found out that Novak had immediately called Brad Dorfman from Vision and alerted him to the potential rebellion. That’s when I finally learned the real reason I was removed from the Sims/Vision team. All that time I thought it was just because I was a trouble making pain in the ass.

What stolen rider caused the most backlash from another company?
That would have to be Mike Valley. Powell threatened to sue us and Mike. We were pretty worried. In hindsight they could have wiped us out if they had the visionary fortitude.


Who was the most difficult rider to deal with?

I won’t mention any names, but when there is no mutual trust it is hard to have a good working relationship with anyone.

Where do you draw the line in business? Is there a line?

I’ve always drawn the line just south of my competitors previous line, but we would never stoop to dishonesty to gain victory. There is no honor in that.

In retrospect, was there ever a time were you feel you went too far?
No that would imply regret and everything we’ve done has worked out very well. Even the things that seemed bad at the time.

Were low-budget ads a conscious decision or were they born out of necessity?
First off they weren’t low budget to us. Secondly none of our first ads were very premeditated. Usually we started and finished on deadline day. We had neither time nor money to fix them up. For us, the most important part of advertising was making a statement and just having fun. We did not take anything very seriously in the beginning. I don’t think we even did product ads for the first five or six years.

Was copyright infringement part of a master plan for exposure?
No, it was just part of our ignorance and irreverence.

Does everyone have a price?
It would seem so.

What is the craziest thing you have paid somebody to do?

We once paid a fifteen-year-old girl to parade around a demo topless. Which now doesn’t seem so outlandish but ten years ago it was pretty nuts. Basically we tried to make sure every kid who ever came to our demos would have a great and memorable time. We also made it difficult for our competitors to show up a week later and do something better.

What's the biggest rumor you have heard about yourself? Why were you villainized?
That could be a whole other interview. The newest rumor is that I’m going to jail because the owner of VK Sports hired someone to steal from us but the DA messed up the case and I’m getting prosecuted. Basically the villianization was either poor sportsmanship, ignorance or jealously.

How much product has been stolen from the warehouse over the years?
VK Sports stole the most, we estimate $500,000 worth of product.

The Rocco Seed column also from Skateboarder.

Give us a good Jesse Martinez story? Is Jesse still on the payroll?
Jesse was our first pro. he’s not on the payroll but we’ll always take care of him. His first graphic made for a good story. At the time we had neither an artist, nor the money to hire one. But we needed a graphic for his pro model right away. Jesse said he knew this guy that was a good artist but sort of a sketchy character.  Jesse told me to give him $100 and he’d get a graphic out of the guy by the next day. I just rolled my eyes and gave him the cash, thinking I would never see a graphic. Sure enough, the next day Jesse shows up and  tells me he has some good news and some bad news. I ask for the good news first. He says “I got the graphic.” I asked him how he pulled it off and he simply said, “I got him stoned out of his mind and bought him a pizza.” What’s the bad news he looked at sort of ashamed and said ‘I got stoned too and fell asleep’ what’s so bad about that I asked. Jesse reached into a paper sack and pulled out a messed up pizza box with a drawing on it. ‘I forgot to tell him to use paper’. That’s the story of our first graphic. It came complete with cheese and pepperoni stains. You probably wanted to hear a story where Jesse kicks someone’s ass. Well don’t worry, after reading this he’ll be knocking on your door.

Of all the companies you have owned, what was your favorite?
The early Blind team was very special. Mark Gonzales, Jason Lee, Guy Mariano and Rudy Johnson. Besides being great skaters I had a lot of fun hanging out with them.

What was it about Rodney Mullen that made you feel like he could be a good business partner?
Rodney had the perfect combination of wealth, gullibility and absenteeism necessary for a good working partnership. For the first three years he was scared to come by the warehouse because Kirby would “coincidentally” always show up looking for a payment when I wasn’t there. That would shake Rod up quite a bit. I’d find him huddled at his desk, white as a ghost, repeating “Kirby ,money, late, not good.” Rodney never said things were bad just not good or not so good depending on the severity. Hitler wasn’t bad he was just “not so good.”

As things progressed two things happened to get Rodney more involved. The first being Mike Ternasky getting him to do his flatland tricks in the street. Something Stacey Peralta and I both failed miserably at. But Mike T. knew how to pull Rod’s strings. Instead
of promising him fame and fortune (which is a good thing because he sure didn’t get that.) he got him a whole new level of respect from the skaters. You could see the fear in some of the their eyes because they knew Rodney was slowly raising the bar and as I knew from the old freestyle days; it could be tough to impossible to keep up. The second involvement factor was a little something the banks like to call a U.G. or an Unconditional Personal Guarantee. Since Rodney owned more than 10% of the company he had to sign on. This basically meant if we screwed up the company the bank would take all his stuff. Which didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time because his father had already disinherited him for dropping out of college to work with me. So he had nothing left to loose anyway.

 

Steve and Rodney.

What lost team rider affected you the most? Is there any beefs left in the industry?  
When Rick Howard took all the riders and started Girl that was pretty devastating. Not so much because they left but because of the hatred he tried to instill in the riders and the pack of lies he fueled it with. If he wanted to have a war with me that would have been fine, I’m always down for a battle. But he pulled Rodney and Mike Ternasky (the Plan B founder that lost half his team to Rick) into it as well by demonizing them. Anyone who ever met either of these guys knows they are about as honest, sincere and caring as anyone that ever walked the planet. In fact, before Mike died he made me promise never to attack Girl or Rick. He then challenged me to beat them in a whole new way. That’s when I came up with the idea (with an assist from Marc McKee) of basing World Industries on  cartoon characters. As for beefs I don’t have any. I’d actually like to take this opportunity to thank Rick. He not only helped me think on a new level of marketing and business but made me a better person as well. Oh, I almost forgot, he also made me wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

What is more rewarding, starting a company or selling it?
You forgot to mention destroying. They are both rewarding in different ways. Starting a company is definitely a rush and selling is more of a relief.

What companies do you still own outright?
I’m a large shareholder in World, Blind, Darkstar, Tensor, Deca, enjoi, Speedemons, Dub and Droors. It’s great to just sit back and watch the guys that have been there a long time like Rodney and Marc McKee kick ass with Tensor, World and Blind. and the young guys like Chet Thomas and Marc Johnson start to make an impact with Darkstar and enjoi.

Is skateboard industry too safe again?
Yes, but not for long. Soon the barbarians will be at the gates again and somebody better be there to slam it in their faces. Otherwise they’ll end up eating our industry for breakfast.

What advice do you have for skate industry entrepreneurs starting out today?
You’re never going to beat the big guys out there today at their own game. They are so good compared with what Powell Peralta and Vision were. Not only in the product they make, the direction they take their companies, and the strengths of their benches but they have an expansive radar. They will see you coming from miles away. You need to think outside the box, disregard the rules and do things unlike anyone has done them before. Let your inner child run free.

The trailer for the '07 Documentary of the same name.


PART 2: BONUS - A LETTER FROM STEVE

Skateboarding wasn't always like this. It was serious. Or at the time it just seemed that way to me. To me, serious is when someone says no to something, anything. Can I do a graphic like this, a board this shape, an ad without products? No, no and no. I hate that word. And all those no's weren't just for me they were for all pro skaters. In 1987 there were no skater-owned companies.  Even icons like Tony Hawk couldn't just walk in and do the ad, graphic or tour he wanted. We were to be seen and heard for our skating skills yet not listened to in deciding a board graphic. I was not a happy camper. And then I got fired.

When I started the company [World Industries] I quickly noticed it wasn't t like a regular job in which the boss tells you what to do and you just do it. There was no boss and no money to hire one. Finally this little voice in my head said, “What about me?”  You know the little voice I'm talking about. The one your parents and teachers tell to shut up all the time. The one that has all the witty things to say after someone who insults you walks away. The one that tells you if you kickflip some fifty foot death gap and survive you'll have fame, fortune and women. Yeah that's the one. Mine had been bottled up for years and now he not only wanted out but he wanted to be in charge. So, like a genie in a bottle, my little voice came out and there was no one there to put it back. Soon my otherwise ridiculous ideas became ads, graphics and products that not only defied logic and common sense but also turned the industry upside down. Rodney [Mullen] would often try to reason with me but the little voice was in charge now and Rodney was the last person he wanted to hear from.

One of the great things about having your own company is sharing with your friends. My friends just happened to be Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas.  So we started Blind with Mark and 101 with Natas. Of course they had little voices of their own which were even more demented than mine. They were so excited because now they could do some pretty crazy shit. Things that could have never been skate graphics had there been adult supervision. Natas did a board with the [Challenger] space shuttle blowing up that said "oops". Gonz once hand painted hundreds of individual boards. We had boards that had free cigarettes, pictures of naked ladies, crack pipes, copyright infringement, lottery tickets and even political commentary. Our ads were even more rebellious. We ridiculed everything under the sun, especially ourselves. Which at the time was unheard of for a skate company.  It was nothing less than complete unbridled mayhem the likes of which will probably never be seen again. Surely these were the best of times.

As time passed things became more complicated. We were not only competing against big non-skater owned companies but skater-owned ones as well. And soon after that former riders left to do their own thing. It got biblical for a while, brother against brother—all fighting for a piece of the proverbial skateboard pie. But time heals and in recent years there has been a prevailing peace. Which is good, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. But it felt as if my job was done.

All I ever wanted from the start was to give the skaters a voice and now they have one.  When skaters talk people listen. And that my friends has finally made me a happy camper. —Steve Rocco, 2002