Austyn Gillette Interview

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Austyn Gillette. Photo: Andrew Peters

We are one of the first European shops to take on FORMER, a clothing company with Austyn Gillette as one of the creative forces at it’s core. Austyn recently visited Slam on a HUF tour but this was a flying visit and we didn’t have a chance to get an interview put together. We waited to take in the first few pieces from FORMER and caught up with Austyn in this exclusive interview which talks about this new company and much more…

Hello Austyn where does this interview find you?

It finds me in Los Angeles hungry for breakfast.

You just returned from visiting us on a HUF tour. How was that?

It was very busy, we were able to get to Belgium and Switzerland which was new for all of us and then London was a re-visit. We didn’t get to spend much time there which is kind of a shame. It was fun, it was fruitful and I had a good time.

Do you like spending time in London?

I honestly haven’t spent enough time there. On this last trip we were staying somewhere central by a lot of the museums. It didn’t have much of a feeling where we were staying. That’s what everyone was saying, it wasn’t where we would need to be. I have a bunch of friends there and I guess I would trust them as far as where I would need to be. I would like to spend more time there and I would like to skate more because I have always loved the way that it looks.

What European city have you enjoyed the most on your travels?

I really liked Switzerland this time around after this last trip. I liked Zurich, it was pretty nice. Paris, Copenhagen is really nice. those are all pretty different cities too so that’s a weird review to get. I usually go off to cities where I could imagine spending a bit more time, not living but staying for a while.


Austyn Backside Lipslides hallowed ground. Photo: Mark Jackson

We were stoked on your Radiant Cure part. Where does that sit in your body of work for you? is it your favourite part to date?

I hate using this word but it was the most… you know what I’m not going to use the word. Every single trick was planned to be that way. I’ve never done that before. I’ve usually had a photographer or a team manager kind of breathing down my back “you know you should probably get this or you need this”. This was the first time where I had complete control over music, over spots and locations. I pretty much funded the whole entire thing just to produce something like that. I was pretty satisfied with the way it turned out. The response has been good. There was the pressure of wanting to direct people towards Former in a way where they could see it’s a skateboard brand. I guess hopefully it kicked that off. As a part, it’s hard to talk about that stuff when it’s you. It was pretty stressful

But on your own terms…

Yeah of course which was nice. I mean the deadline wasn’t an issue. I was able to talk to the guys over at Thrasher directly and they were able to push stuff. They were pretty flexible so they kind of helped with that as well, relieving the pressure, some of it, which doesn’t make sense because that’s not their angle.

How vital do you feel properly crafted video parts are in this age of dwindling attention spans?

I don’t know. We have another thing coming out with HUF in November. I wanted to try and film another part by November but I know that’s not possible. Then they told me that I don’t have to film video parts anymore. It was weird to think about it that way. Everything I like that’s coming out right now isn’t a full video. I don’t know if it’s necessary any more. I think putting stuff out straight away has definitely over saturated everything and a lot of people have snuck through the cracks. They get overnight fame. I feel bad for the people who have to maintain that presence because that’s their product. Like “oh I deliver daily videos and I have a head-cam on and I’m a loser and I should probably just do something else”. It’s kind of soulless I could definitely say that. Some of it has feeling but a lot of it doesn’t. I still appreciate full video parts but I understand the new formula and the numbers game, I get it but I personally try and veer from that.

Does your relationship with skateboarding change when you have to take care of business or is it filled with a childlike sense of joy?

Of course it changes, hopefully it changes because of the end product and what they are seeing. I would hope they know that it’s hard and with that comes a lot of frustration and things that people would experience in a more traditional job. There are moments where I can separate the two and that’s kind of what it is, moderating that to where you can have each side. I don’t like the everything’s fun every single day bullshit. I don’t think that’s authentic, that’s not the case with anybody. If you learn to skateboard and get to the point where you’re sponsored you had to get frustrated and you had to overcome a certain level to get there. I know that’s not easy for anybody in any line of work. I think it’s about managing it. You don’t tell yourself to go out and have fun but it naturally occurs.

Ideal skate crew on a mission. Friends, filmer, photographer?

That’s where things change. You start to realise that when you go out there’s a filmer or two and a photographer every time you skate. Yesterday i was just skating these curbs and then this guy comes up and he has one of those kind of pogo stick iPhone things. He comes up and asks me to film something. You kind of feel a little bit obligated because they want it but it’s still a piece of you. The ideal crew depends. If I’m trying to get footage I like to do it alone but if it’s a regular day just some close friends. I think that’s with everything. We had a dinner here last night and had some friends over, I don’t want to have dinner by myself, it’s tried and true.

Radiant Cure is a part for your clothing company FORMER. We are stoked to be one of just a few shops stocking your brand. How has the reception been to the latest seasons drop?

It’s been good. We’re all kind of adjusting our whole platform now we’ve finally got to the point where we can do retail and open up Europe and get shops like you guys to carry it. We are pretty excited about that response. We have been direct to consumer up till now so yet to see the response, I’ll have a better answer for you in just a couple of months. I’m really excited that people are showing interest in skate shops, that’s what I’ve wanted this whole time, for people to feel involved and it’s not part of some hierarchy.

Am I right in thinking this was yours and Dylan’s brain child and then you teamed up with Craig Anderson and Dane Reynolds?

We all did it together, our friend Campbell Milligan who started Monster Children kind of initiated that idea and we all did it at the same time. Dylan and I were doing something separate at that time, we wanted to start a company and Dane and Craig were going through some turmoil on their end with the company they were riding for. I wouldn’t say it was mine and Dylan’s brain child at all, it was a very cohesive project

What is your role within the company and who are the extended team and family?

My role is probably just to be the filter because we do have employees with jobs dedicated to things we need that some of the skaters and surfers don’t need to be doing. I’m the filter, not the designer but finding inspiration and then kind of taking control of the skate side of things. I’d be the skate team manager in a sense and being the voice of that side of things

Was it a relief when this started from a personal point of view, that you didn’t have to align yourself with an existing aesthetic?

That’s what took so long, it took about two years to find that and develop that. As far as identity it’s nice to have a fresh start with everything that’s out currently. Anything new is refreshing and I’ve always gravitated towards that. Being successful within skating, I’ve seen all of the different sides to it and this is preferable, being able to create. Everything I do now I want to make the music for it and see everything through. i think that’s for everybody even outside of skating.

What would you say will continue to set FORMER apart as a company?

It’s the only legit surf/skate brand and I don’t think that’s ever really happened before. It’s pretty unique. I think that’s maybe been a difficult part for some people that surfing is attached to it. But I think the team we are developing, the aesthetic and the videos and the clothes alone separate it. Everything is technically designer because we’re making our own patterns and I think that will shine through in time. We are patient with that it’s just a matter of developing that image people can relate to and identify with.


Austyn wearing the Radiant Crux T-Shirt

Your style is an influential one, have you ever come face to face with any memorable carbon copies on the road?

(Laughs) A couple, it’s weird. It’s definitely not as popular as everything else that’s going on but it’s funny, you can definitely see it. If you’re talking about skating you develop that style over years. I haven’t seen any people trying to actually skate like me but they wear the clothes which is kind of what everybody is doing. They want to look or be like the people they are looking up to and I remember being like that with people I looked up to. There’s things I wear outside of skateboarding that I’ve seen and liked, liked that look and identified with it. I don’t wear anything that crazy, it’s pretty standard issue for comfort. I know it and it’s always worked.

Can you tell us any more about the new board company we have heard rumours about?

I actually can’t! Not because I’ve signed an NDA or whatever but I don’t have any answers. There’s no name, there’s no home for it, there’s kind of a home for it. I’m sure the rumours are probably true and people would expect that. I’m really excited about it though, it’s three or four of us. I’m not the nucleus of the brand or anything which is kind of nice because with Former I’m pretty busy and I don’t know if I could take that on. I’m not really good from a brand standpoint creating something. Maybe it’s just skateboards, because I’ve been a part of it for so long. With clothing there’s a lot of flexibility but with skateboards i wouldn’t even know where to start other than I know the shape I like and the people I like. In order for it to work I don’t know what that takes nowadays.

It must be exciting, it’s always good to see something new…

It will…I don’t know anything! I’m where you’re at as well. The good thing is I’m still friends with everybody I was with over at WKND. That’s the most important thing

We listened to your new album Sensorisk and it’s really good. How has the reception been to that? How long was the process of making it?

It took about six months and I was writing it for about a year and a half. It did surprisingly well this time around. We had a name for a band before and we decided to change it. This was a more mature project with actual musicians on the whole entire album. The material was very sensitive and close to home so it was time to change the name. I figured that if anybody was listening to anything previously or now it was maybe because my name was attached to it. I guess I’m singing so it just made sense and so I switched it to just my name, self titled artist kind of thing. It’s developed, I’m not making any money off it but was able to sell enough records to fund most of the project. If it’s enough to float and create, I see no reason why I would ever not do it. It exists

Is it just you and Danny Garcia playing on there?

Yeah. I basically wrote the whole album, all the parts and then I had him playing most of the stuff on the record since he’s a studio musician. That relieved a lot of pressure, I was excited that he was open to doing everything. There were a few other musicians, my buddy Graham was playing drums and a few other instruments. it’s weird going into a studio and working with something like a producer, this guy Chris. It was a very new experience and I definitely want to continue doing it but it’s a fine line to walk on where you’re trying to push or spam people with your hobby. But at least it’s something where there is a somewhat tangible product at the end of it and it’s music, it’s not a bunch of garbage. It makes life more interesting and if it makes somebody else happy, then continue.

Have you been supporting the release with any live appearances?

No we did one release show and that’s it, I’ve been travelling so much

How do you find playing live?

I love it actually. I prefer playing live over doing the monotonous stuff in the studio and trying to sound a certain way. Playing live it’s only going to sound that way at that point. It’s fun, it’s cool to see something immediate from something that you have made. Even if it’s one or two people nodding their heads, they get what you are feeling. We’ve only played one show. I wanted to do some more stuff in Europe but I haven’t talked to anybody or had time to do anything there.

What inspires your song writing?

It’s song by song for the most part. usually I start singing to some chords I’m writing and there isn’t really any direct message I’m sending in the beginning and then it just develops. As far as music goes I don’t know I just like to put on whatever it would be easiest for people to listen to that isn’t chasing whatever else is going on. That’s where the inspiration comes from.

Do you find it therapeutic?

On the right day yeah. On most of the days since I’ve been back from that trip to Europe I haven’t even had time to really play or record but on those days where you can spend a full day and pass the time yes. That’s been a long time, almost like a year which is weird to say that. But yeah, it is very meditative. I don’t know where anything’s going as soon as I start and it’s pretty amazing to even have the time to do that and I have that flexibility in my schedule.

What musical influences would you reference who changed your world?

There’s plenty of those but I don’t want to say names because if I say names then I’m giving it up. But I will say that with those people I’m a pretty die hard fan of all of it and there’s probably only ten artists but everything is on heavy rotation on playlists and i’m listening to the stuff constantly. For the last record that was definitely the case but after the new record I’ve opened up to a lot of music so we’ll see how the next thing goes.

While we are talking about music what video part do you think is complimented perfectly by the track choice?

Fuck there’s a lot. I feel like Jerry Hsu’s Bag Of Suck part hit home for a lot of people, everyone understood that and it really translated well. That must have done something for Cass. Not that Sonic Youth needed any juice. Dill’s always had really good music. Who else? That’s a great question. I want to hit you with a curve ball. I was more of a nerd growing up then than I am now. I need to throw a hip hop part in there too…

Rob Welsh’ Aesthetics part?

Yeah I’d go with Welsh on that one! Kalis’ part in the DC video was great with the GangStarr track, that went really well. It seems like that would be hard to do. I think being more of apart of the editing process now and seeing how the first song you want most of the time will not fit. Even though you see it in your head you don’t see how it works on the timeline with how fast or slow you’re skating and what’s complimenting the footage itself. We’re doing that new video for HUF and we’re asking some of the younger guys what they want and it’s pretty interesting. They just have like one song and you have to tell them that that is not going to happen. Not only will it not work, you can’t get the rights for it or anything like that. It’s a difficult task. I really liked the music in the Quasi video because it wasn’t predictable in any way and I think that was probably their intention. It was nice to see that.

You are a busy creative. Video parts, Clothing company responsibilities, making music, woodwork. How do all of these outlets slot together? Are you constantly busy? Do you immerse yourself totally in one project at a time or juggle the whole load?

I think I kind of juggle but when it comes to skating and knowing I need to be gone travelling that’s obviously a priority. I do juggle, I’m kind of restless but when you’re gone you get accustomed to it. You can make music when you’re gone but I can’t do any woodwork or too much with Former, the clothing thing. It’s hard to micro manage all that stuff but they are the only things I know that make me happy.

Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist?

Yes, to my own standards and how I hold things. I’m usually not satisfied most of the time which is what probably gives me the most anxieties in life, that things need to be a certain way. I think it’s part of getting older to realise it can’t be that way and people don’t think like you and your brain is not the world

You have mentioned an interest in wood work and framing, is this something you are currently busy with?

Not really. Every other month someone will ask me for something but it’s weird. the more i do it, the more I see it. The more custom framing shops I see on the side of the street. You become interested in something and then you see it everywhere. I’m not too busy with it. I’d almost need funding to get the tools I need to do it like a business and have a space. You really need to spread out with any kind of woodwork. If you’re doing glue and sanding those things need to be separate and it needs to be clean. I’m pretending to be an old soul with these crafts but I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Experimenting and talking about it and doing it.

What is the best and worst thing about skateboarding right now?

The best thing would be that there’s endless creativity and recognition that you can get pretty much immediately so that gives a lot of people hope. There are a lot more eyes on skateboarding and I think that’s good but that’s also the worst part too. I don’t know what it’s doing the fact that kids see everything that’s going on. Kids see what their contemporaries are doing and then they start skating and getting better and then you lose your job and get pay cuts and these people would never have even existed. I hope skateboarding becomes a little bit more popular so that these companies can grow and the smaller companies we really like can develop but with that, the internet’s bad.

What knock on effect do you think skateboardings involvement in the olympics will be?

I feel like you hear this a lot and it’s almost the same answer. I hope it does something positive for skateboarding. Nobody has ever really nailed it with that, with any movies or something that might take skateboarding to the next level. It’s always been cheesy. it’s not like the Olympics is going to be cool in any way. Somebody from some country will get kicked out for being high on something, I don’t know how that will go over. I don’t really care though, it doesn’t affect anything. I don’t know how it isn’t a sport already, there’s fencing which is based on style. Who cares, the world is going to move and that’s how it’s going to go and who gives a shit. Let’s hope it will be good and not be so negative about it.

Looking in your crystal ball what trend predictions do you have that will echo through scenes worldwide?

You’re already seeing it, the nineties thing coming back from the kids who didn’t experience it the first time round. I was born in the nineties so I guess since I was born I kind of got to see it. It’s interesting seeing a generation who weren’t there bringing it back. I’m not old but seeing that happen is pretty interesting, things are moving quickly. Being in London, I’m not sure about the UK as a whole but it’s very specific there and Japan is very specific. the nineties thing is back, baggy pants, bigger shoes. Maybe Daisy Dukes will come around. I wonder if it will ever make it as far back as the short shorts when skateboarding first started. High shorts on the beach, a Christian Hosoi kind of look. I wonder if that will ever land again. I don’t predict it will happen but I’m curious. Some of the shit you see people wearing is fucking insane and you know there’s an identity crisis there. But it’s just clothes, who cares.

If you could borrow a trick and it’s perfect execution from somebody for the day who and what would it be?

Who has got it? I’d borrow one of Danny Way’s tricks on the mega ramp just to know what that feels like. Anything like that

Recommend our readers a book and a movie that will improve their lives…

I don’t know if I have books that would improve your life. I just finished reading Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. I think I was at a pretty good time in my life to read that book being in my later twenties and battling with self identity and am I this? Am I that? I would go with that read and as a film what have I been watching? This is kind of cheesy but I’ve really enjoyed watching Vincent Gallo’s films. I respect him for taking his career and having full control. I watched the Brown Bunny recently which is very difficult to find. Buffalo 66 is great, you can’t beat it. If someone hasn’t seen that it’s a shame, you need to see that.

Any advice to a kid out there newly discovering a love for skateboarding and wanting to follow in your footsteps….

Don’t read comments. Don’t listen to people. Don’t pay attention to anything else that would steer you from your path. Be passionate about it and be true to it and that’s the only way you’re going to be successful.

Thanks to Austyn for spending time with us on this. Interview by Jacob Sawyer. You can shop for FORMER HERE