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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Marc Johnson: Building The Pyramid Interview

This Marc Johnson interview was done during filming for Pretty Sweet and ran in German in Monster Magazine (EU). It was never fully published in English. A few bits ran in a TWS article but wanted to get the whole thing out as I felt like he made some incredible points. Mostly on "Building the Pyramid". Will be posting up tons more Intv B-Sides shortly. —ME

How do you feel watching the new generation of skateboarders in this (Pretty Sweet)?

I feel like there’s been some sort of evolutionary leap in skateboarding, where kids nowadays will just see something and not even question whether they should be able to do it or not. Sometimes we joke that kids nowadays don’t watch videos, they download videos into their brain. It’s as if they can immediately do whatever they see. It’s almost like some of these kids were born with updated DNA programs. It’s almost too perfect now. There’s no struggle. I skated in the Street League contest last year and I watched some of these dudes like Nyjah, Sheckler and stuff, and some of the things you would have spent time filming as a banger for a video part, these guys just do it first try. They’ll just do it twice. It’s not even a big deal to them. I trip out on that.

What do you make of the new breed of tranny rippers like Elijah (Berle) and Raven (Tershy)? Back to the Future?

(Laughs.) Yeah. It’s like old school new school. Elijah is gnarly. That’s his thing. He’s not running around teching out. His skating isn’t basic. It just depends on what context you use the word basic in. The tricks themselves might be basic, but the way he applies them and the obstacles he does them on are anything but basic. The guy just has insane pop. Grasshopper legs. He’s a big dude though. He can take pretty staple tricks and take them to spots normal people couldn’t do them because they just don’t have those legs. Elijah’s skating is hard to describe, It’s really just big. He kind of takes the fundamentals and super sizes them. There’s just no hesitation. He’s not afraid. A lot of people will try stuff and sort of think about it, mess around with it a little first. Elijah just goes for it. Which is crazy to see in person. Before he was even sponsored he was skating huge rails. Some of the stuff I watch him do, he’ll just do something, and I know for a fact that I’ll never be able to do that because I don’t have the legs. I could go to the gym for a year straight and still just not physically able to do it. Bryan Herman has that too. I think it’s just timing. Like intuitive timing for crazy pop. Elijah’s got that.


Raven to me is like Cardiel’s legacy. He reminds me so much of a young John Cardiel. Just raw. He’s juiced, amped, and just super psyched to skate. A humble nice kid and just all terrain gnarly. Every one that sees him skate will say like, “Wow, he just reminds me of Cardiel.” It’s crazy. He has that rad vibe to him.

What do you think about skating now vs. the ‘90s?

It’s not the same vibe at all. Especially compared to the early 90’s. Skating is different now. It’s NASCAR bullshit. It’s all about your logo. A lot of companies have kind of morphed into different things over the years. Just kind of become these weird entities. They’ve become really what they think other people want. Instead of staying true to their roots. They’ll look at their team and be like, ‘We got this guy, and we got this guy, but we don’t have anybody that does this type of skating.”

What about the skating itself?

I look at it like building a pyramid. As far as street skating goes, the guys in the ‘80s pretty much started laying the foundation. They put down the first building blocks. Natas and Gonz. Then dudes in the ‘90s would kind of use those same blocks to keep building. It kept going and kept going. And sometimes, now, I feel like there’s no struggle anymore. There’s not much left to really build. We don’t have that many stones left in the pyramid. We’re almost at the capstone and dudes are just kind of hanging out at the top. Dudes are just recycling a lot of things now. Maybe switching out one block with the next. Certain guys, and I’m not going to mention names, but some guys are making careers out of straight up just copying other people. I feel like so much has been done at this point, that it’s hard to really be creating new stuff.

Is the evolution of street skating basically complete?

Nothing is static. Everything is always in flux. That’s just the nature of everything, Constant change and evolution. Skateboarding is no different. But if there’s just a brainless push to scoop up new people just because they’re young it’s going to end up looking pretty corny. There are still variations of variations to be done. It will keep going. But skateboarding has slowed down in a sense. I don’t mean it in a negative way, but it’s kind of dragging. There’s only so much you can do with a skateboard, and 99% of it has been done. But that wasn’t the case from like ’89 to ’95. I feel sorry for younger kids that, you can watch it on video all you want, but you don’t get to know what it was like to skate first hand back then. I sound so old saying it, but I lived then. I haven’t seen anything even remotely close to that since. Every year, skateboarding was 100% different. From ’89 to ’94-’95. You would go from like Speed Freaks and Hokus Pokus to Questionable in two years. You look at ’09 to ’12 and almost nothing has changed. That time was just pivotal. Meanwhile, dudes are losing their jobs to these kids who just picked up what we built. There’s this weird child worship syndrome going on. Companies will discard the old generation in favor of some new kid doing the same tricks. I’m sort of generalizing. They want to sell product to kids so they need a rider that age for kids to relate to.

Where do you see people from your generation ultimately ending up?

A lot of dudes get older and move on. I can’t speak for the other guys my age. I think it’s up to the individual. Each person has a different path. I’m just hoping skateboarding doesn’t pass dudes over in favor of someone just because they’re younger. I think skateboarding is rad because there’s a value placed on history. In a lot of other industries it’s just “What have you done for me today?” As far as where I see people of our generation, I’m hoping that the industry doesn’t just put blinders on and march towards compulsive modernity. Knock down the temple and build a mall on top of it. There will always be people that you just can’t replace. It doesn’t matter how many stairs or whatever. Gino (Iannucci) is one of those dudes. You just can’t replace that.

There are still new approaches though?

Yeah. There are new takes on it. Like Dylan Reider has a new charisma and style he brings. But that change isn’t as big as when the entire thing was reinvented every year. Aside from counting a few more steps, it’s been like slowed down to a standstill lately.

Does it get harder to film a part after all these years? Especially after Fully Flared (’07)?

Right now, especially from a personal standpoint, you get to a point where you’ve done so many tricks. It’s a weird thing. You’ve kind of stockpiled the ones you like and discarded the ones you don’t. But it’s hard now. You get to a point where it’s just like, “What the hell am I supposed to do?” You have to keep fucking doing this shit over and over. And if you don’t, some dude is going to come along and be like, “Dude, you haven’t done anything for us this year.” “Motherfucker, there ain’t shit left to do!” You want to lipslide a rail? Fuck off. Yeah, you can take a trick that somebody did on a ledge and bring it to a rail. Cool. But being in the middle of it sometimes, it’s like “What the fuck do they want?” It’s like if you had to record an album every year as a band. And you’ve done everything. I’ve done the blues album. I’ve done the party album. They still want the album. So you just start faking it. I feel like you can kind of tell when people start faking it. Like they had their window. You can tell what stands the test of time. Like Guy’s Mouse part. You can pop that thing in today and get sparked off it. It’s like Dark Side of the Moon. Timeless. It’s still selling. The early ‘90s were like the ‘60s to rock and roll. Dudes will eventually be getting knighted. Sir Guy Mariano. (Laughs.) I feel like a musician can always make music. But as a skateboarder, after a certain point, you can sit around and think of the most incredible stuff ever, but you can’t put it into practice.

How was it traveling with the new kids—Stevie, Elijah, Raven, Cory Kennedy?

It’s weird to go on trips with 20 year olds. It’s hard to rap out with them sometimes. I’m so out of touch with the younger kids. I think with the onset of cell phones, text messaging, Internet, social networking and all that, it does change human consciousness. That’s a fact. The perspective and culture that most of these younger kids live in has changed. So you get to a point where your comfortable with yourself and it’s just like, “Man, I don’t need Facebook.” They can’t spell. They text each other all day with this broken language. Put that shit down and read a book. You can’t even talk right. So you go on tour and there’s just nothing to talk about with these kids. Except on the skate level. Which is rad because that’s the one thing that we all share. You can sit and talk to somebody that’s 20 years younger than you and interact through skating. It’s a glue that makes it all magic right there. It’s got its pros and its cons. But I’m having more fun skating now than in the last ten years. I’m just comfortably settling in.

Does this video have the widest age range ever?

This video will have a good cross section of generations of skateboarders. You got everything from Guy (Mariano) down to Elijah. I think one of the cool things about Girl and Chocolate is that they don’t shit on people and they don’t put people out to pasture. They’re probably one of the last companies that still value the building blocks. In one way shape or form, they hold that close to their heart. I’m fucking psyched to be there.


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