Diego shouldering the latest from Cleaver. Photo: Adrian Rios / Interview by Jacob Sawyer
Diego Bucchieri is an inspiration, a legend whose contribution to skateboarding is firmly stamped in the history books and onto our grey matter. We all came to know of ‘The Butcher” after his early trips from Argentina to California where he shredded everything in his path, found him a home on Think and later Toy Machine. His single minded dedication to carving his own path blazed a trail for others outside of the US intent on realising their dreams, a path which continues today.
Just before this crazy year began Diego and Roberto Alemañ’s “You Got it!” part dropped where these two lifers put it all on the line and showed us all they don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. The infectious drive which fuelled this part happening is what has always been at the heart of Diego’s operations. Now life finds him at a point where that same motivation can be primarily focused on his own company Cleaver. With the next drop of boards on their way we managed to catch up with Diego on the phone just before he relocated to Madrid to see where he’s at right now, find out more about his vision for Cleaver and see if there’s another part in the works…
So this interview finds you in Barcelona but you are preparing to move?
Yes, we are moving to Madrid next week. We are in the middle of packing boxes right now as we speak. We are in a bit of a rush as my daughter hasn’t started school yet, and we need to find a new one there. With the whole Covid situation it’s been weird here in Spain, as schools started a couple of weeks ago and they still haven’t figured out the best way to do it. We are happy that we are moving there though, changes are always good.
You’ve clocked up some years living in Barcelona now.
I started coming here in 1999. I would come to Spain at least twice a year. Then in 2003, while visiting my buddy Roberto Alemañ in his hometown Elche, I met my wife. We moved to Barcelona in late 2004 and got married in 2005. We lived here for five years and then in late 2009 we moved to Argentina where we lived for almost nine years. We have been back in BCN since March 2018. Lots of moving around.
Also quite a few chapters staying in America before that.
Yes, my first trip to America was in February 1998. For the first three years I was in San Francisco, then Hollywood for two years, then Long Beach and that was right when I started travelling out here a bunch and finally to Barcelona. I was still going back to the States at least a couple of times a year though. In late 2008, with the economic crisis, I lost some of my US sponsors and we started looking at new options.
That’s when you took over distribution for Toy Machine.
Yeah an opportunity arose to take over their distribution in Argentina with one of my friends. That’s when we decided to move there. We already had an apartment there so we thought let’s just go there and give a shot. We did that for nearly three years.
You had already ridden for Toy Machine for 11 years at that point, the tail end of you riding for them was when you started the distro right?
Yeah it was towards the end that I started the distro there. We were manufacturing all the clothes there and it was good for those three years. But then getting things into Argentina became even harder than it is now. We had crazy import restrictions, and we just could not get the product in. So Tum Yeto decided to shop around for other distributors that were able to do it. That is when I talked to Ed [Templeton] and told him that if that was not going to work anymore I would just start my own thing, which is how Cleaver was born.
Time for shipping. Photo: Adrian Rios
So that’s 2013. Did figuring out distribution birth the idea or was it always something you had in mind?
Yeah at the end of 2013. It was more of something that I always had in my mind. I studied graphic design in college before I moved to the States. I actually didn’t graduate because of that. I kept learning how to use the new softwares that were coming out, as everything was moving into computers. At first all of the stuff was done manually around that time, I even had my own board brand back then.
I read about that in your Slap interview what was that called?
It was called CENTURY. I ran that out of my grandmother’s house. I basically studied graphic design because I thought that it would open up a lot of opportunities to keep working within skateboarding in a more creative way. Designing graphics, magazine layouts, shoes, etc. Photography was also part of that, so I took classes for 2 years.
Moving to the States really pushed that as you get to know amazing creative people. I started doing little things here and there, some graphics for Think, a few lay outs for the ads, etc. Then when I got on Toy machine it was even better because Ed [Templeton] is such a talented dude that motivates you to get creative. He told me I could basically do whatever I wanted for my graphics. I had a bunch of graphics that I designed for Toy Machine which were released.
Ed Templeton is such a talented dude that motivates you to get creative. He told me I could basically do whatever I wanted for my graphics. I had a bunch of graphics that I designed for Toy Machine which were released
Your first pro board for them was one of your designs right?
Yes, the one where it is a monster dripping blood holding a cleaver knife. We also had the Argentinian flag with the big sun in the middle.
Everything now which we see from Cleaver is all you?
99% of the designs are mine. I had a few friends letting me use their artwork which is super cool. When Jeremy Fish was doing graphics for Think, he gave me a little frame with a drawing of a man with a coffee cup head reading book, knowing my love for coffee. I always thought that it would make a great graphic, so about a year ago I hit up Jeremy and he was like “of course, go for it!!!”
Jeremy Fish graphic, a gift that keeps on giving
As far as production goes, when I started the brand in Argentina, there was only one big board manufacturer, that could make Canadian maple boards. We were even looking at locally producing the Toy Machine boards there but things didn’t work out with Tum Yeto.
So that’s when I approached those guys and said I wanted to start my own company, and that they could do the production and sales, while I would take care of the design, team and the rest. We did that up until I moved back to Barcelona and basically had to start over again. So now, they keep running the production and distribution in Argentina while I do my own thing here.
Which meant you had to change woodshop.
Yeah when I moved. I wasn’t going to make boards in Argentina and bring them here so I started looking for different board manufacturers here. I found a few options. You have the people up North who make boards for most of the brands. Then there were a couple of other people who would bring blanks and use the heat transfer machine to get the graphics on there. Since I was looking to start with a small production that was what made more sense for me.
I finally got in touch with somebody in Zaragoza who had his own brand. I was buying a few boards from him, doing my own graphics and making production as orders were coming in. My main concern was how could I come into the Spanish or European market with something that was going to work? Especially in Spain where price is the big issue. If you want to have your own local brand you have to compete with the local price which is around €50. I did the math and went for it, but my margins were almost none.
Enough to make the next run.
Yeah get the money back and make a little more next time around, little by little. The first year was like that, trying to get it in the right shops and make more each time. I started with FTC and a couple of other shops owned by my friends.
Imagine having a family, trying to skate at 43, having your own brand where you do the designs, production, sales, shipping and deliveries. Plus you have a whole other job which takes up most of your time. I didn’t want to go expand too much and get to a point where I wasn’t going to be able to do it all. But then, Covid arrived, and Nike had to make some cuts. Since I was external, they couldn’t keep me on the team and that’s when I decided to go full force with my own thing, which is good.
Your job for Nike had evolved into a fairly tech role by then?
I worked for Nike SB for nearly nine years. I started in Argentina as a TM and consulting with everything they were doing with skateboarding. We built the whole Nike SB program there from scratch. Then a couple of years after that I got the brand manager job for Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Then the Jordan brand manager role was added to the SB job. Then there was big re-organisation of the company and they moved me into doing all the media deals for all categories. A cool job opportunity, but not exactly what I was looking for.
I started working for Nike, because I could contribute with skateboarding, and once that was gone, I was ready to move on. That is when we moved back to Spain. A few months later, I began helping Nike SB with small projects like the “Gizmo” video, then I got a role as the Nike SB retail manager, working with the shops across Europe. Then, I did sales for Spain and at the end I was in charge of the marketing and retail activations for 4 of their biggest accounts. But things come to and end, and changes are always refreshing.
Diego working on graphics at his home base
And this change has led to you being able to focus on Cleaver full time.
Yes, as soon as that happened, I knew that it was time to put all my energy into my own thing. When it’s yours, you put all of your heart and soul into it. You know that if you fail or succeed it’s because of what you do. I feel like I’m going back to the beginning again, a full circle.
Back to the essence.
Yeah, you get a job and it’s cool, but at the end of the day, if you are not doing what you love, you need to start looking for something else. Skateboarding for me has been my motivation, my driver, my guide. So if I can support my family with what I love the most, that’s enough.
Skateboarding for me has been my motivation, my driver, my guide. So if I can support my family with what I love the most, that’s enough
Going back to the woodshop, you’re now using one in Mexico right?
Yes, I’m making my boards in one of the 3 biggest factories there. When I started Cleaver in Europe I was getting boards from China, but my plan was always to find someone the States or Mexico, because my goal is to open up the business there. With this Covid situation, factories were forced to close for a bit, then work with a smaller percentage of people. This has been causing a delay on everything. But it’s been the same for all the brands. We will go back to normal soon!!
You are back on track with production though right? The new boards are en route and will coincide with us releasing this interview.
Yes, boards should be hitting the shops by the time you read this. Production will be finished and shipped from Madrid, where I also have my T-Shirts done. That is another reason why we are moving out there. We made a small batch for FTC specifically because one of the drawings I used on one of the graphics was made by Sixsas [Jose Vivero Diaz], one of the kids who rides for FTC. We wanted to make something special for that. I’m stoked on this season, people are loving the designs and the new wood.
When you were skating for Toy Machine were you hands on when it came to your shape?
Yeah actually at that time Toy Machine were making their boards at Watson laminates which was a couple of minutes away from Tum Yeto. I went to the factory quite a few times to get the shape right because at that time I was riding a board and the measurements were a little weird. It was 8.25” wide but it was short, it was like 31.5” long and none of the boards Toy Machine had were that short. We called that shape the Band-Aid because it looked like one. When I started Cleaver I couldn’t get those same proportions because the actual molds they had in that factory wouldn’t have allowed it. Now the board I ride is 8.25” wide but it’s almost 32’ long, just a little shorter.
With a wheelbase longer than 14”?
Yeah it’s 14.25” I believe. I like it because the shape is a little square and it makes the board look even wider which is a cool thing about it.
Attention to details is important especially when it comes to what board you ride. Photo: Adrian Rios
I figured from the different tail measurements on the site you were pretty specific about the shapes and how things need to be.
Yeah man when I was doing the boards in Zaragoza I was getting the blanks from China and we changed the shapes at least five times in one year until I got one that I really liked. But when I changed to Mexico, one of the shapes they had was just perfect and that is what I have been using. It’s crazy how those small details can change the way you skate.
What are daily operations going to look like now?
Now my whole routine has changed because of the moving situation but usually I get up at 7am and I do a one hour yoga class at home. Once I’ve done that, I make coffee and I start working on Cleaver, whether is connecting with accounts, getting orders ready or working on some graphics. I’m always trying to come up with new ideas. Even with the next two seasons designed I’m looking to come up with the next one.
I’ll come up with ideas, look for references and then I may draw it on paper or iPad. I bought one of those iPads you can draw with and they are super fun to play with. Then you put the drawing on Illustrator or Photoshop and start working on it. Usually the ideas come from wherever, a joke we have with friends, something I like at that time or something from the Argentinian culture. A lot of my graphics have influences from there, I can’t help it.
Football history too.
Yes, “Futbol” (as we call it in Argentina). I mean, after moving here, I’ve been further away from football. I’m a big fan of Boca Juniors and when I lived there, especially while working for Nike, I used go to the stadium every single weekend. But now I barely have any time to even watch TV and I can’t be bothered to look for the matches on the internet, I’m over it. It plays a big part for me, especially growing up in La Boca, literally across the street from the Boca stadium [La Bombonera]. It will always be a big influence. But the designs and ideas come from different places all the time. At first I was trying to do something more linear or basic but after moving here, I have started getting inspired by other things.
Do you get to take as many photos as you would like nowadays?
Not as much as I wish, especially when I was doing the Nike job I just didn’t have time. But now, I have been flowing one kid here from Barcelona and I have been trying to go out with him as much as possible, so I’ve been shooting a bunch of skate photos with him which is cool. When I was going out with Roberto [Aleman] filming for the video part sometimes we would go out with Gerard [Riera] to shoot photos but then sometimes we would just be skating by ourselves and we would film each other or shoot each other.
Diego kills it on both sides of the lens. Gelek Gonzalez nosebonk tailgrab in BCN. Photo: Diego Bucchieri
I saw the camera swapping, it’s sick.
Yeah, you have to make it happen, no matter what. I would put my camera on a tripod, set up all the flashes and say “right you’ve got to shoot it here”. Roberto skates, he knows the right timing and that’s what we were doing out there.
We were stoked to see the You Got It! part you and Roberto put together dedicated to P-Stone and Jake Phelps. Phelps took you under his wing when you were younger and you have logged some road trips with P-Stone. Do you have a memory or story of them you could share with us?
I have way too many stories. Honestly those two guys, especially Jake at first, was like my godfather, like my big brother. He taught me so many things from the skate industry, life, he even tough me how to speak english and what to say to people. “Fuck off”. “Save it”, “talk to the hand”, he had them all. If he liked you, he really liked you. He either loved you or hated you, no middle ground.
With P-Stone we got to travel together way more. He stayed at my house in Argentina several times. He knew my grandma, he would get up in the morning and have breakfast with my grandma before I was even awake and we travelled the world together. It was a big bummer that those guys left us. As far as stories about those guys, I have way too many to narrow it down to one.
It’s obvious from that video you’ve been skating a lot. How important is maintaining a regular skateboarding program for you at this stage.
You need to stay active, that’s for sure. About seven years ago, right before my daughter was born, I was working at the Nike office from 8am till 6pm so I wasn’t skating that much. That’s when I realised I had to start eating better and do something apart from skating, because I wasn’t really doing it as much so that’s when I got into cycling. I was cycling to work back and forth every day (about 20Km), with extra cycling sessions during the weekend and skating at least once a week. But when I moved back to Barcelona, skating here is much easier so I was trying to skate at least three times a week.
You can combine it with other things like cycling and yoga, but you need to skate to keep your mind connected. Your body is one thing but then your mind, if you’re away from your skating it takes you a while to get back. I feel like when we were filming for that project, even though I wasn’t skating every single day, I was on a mission. I only had small slots of time between meetings, so I had to make the best out of the filming missions. Go out for an hour, try to get a trick and come back.
When we were done with that project we both looked at each other and we were like “what’s next?” We can’t stay still and not be working on something. Yes you can go to the park and roll around and do your tricks but the motivation filming for a video part gives you, can’t be got from skating a little park. I’m already thinking of what’s next. I already filmed a couple of things but with the current situation it’s been put on pause. I’m hyped to be moving to Madrid, to get to skate with the boys there, and get tricks at new spots. Madrid looks amazing in footage. It reminds me of Buenos Aires a lot.
When we were done with that project we both looked at each other and we were like ‘what’s next?’ We can’t stay still and not be working on something.
Diego BACKSIDE FLIPs in Madrid just before moving there. Photo: Adrian Rios
Do you think your relationship with skateboarding has become even more vital at this age than when you were younger?
Yeah, definitely. When you’re younger you don’t even think about it. It’s something you do and you like which makes you feel good. But now when I think about skating, I think about a way to reconnect with myself. Its the way to let it all out.
Also, having a brand, I need to be in touch with what’s going on, stay connected to the local community. Keep looking for new kids coming up.
Is there anything you have learned you can share with us?
I’ve been skating for 33 years now and something Phil Shao told me when I was in SF always stays in my mind. I was riding for Circuit Wheels and I really wanted to ride for Spitfire. There was an internal beef where they thought I needed to stay on Circuit but knew I wanted to ride for Spitfire. Phil was like “fuck that bullshit” the wheels are made in the same factory, it’s a graphic. Forget about the whole bullshit part and focus on skating. I think now, the more you focus on skating and forget the rest of the bullshit around, the better it will work for you.
Skateboarding is way more simple than people think. We as skateboarders are basic, we just want to have fun with our friends, skate and have a good session and that’s it. Stay real. The best memories come from trips with friends and it’s unfortunate that right now that we can’t do that. I hope it will change back soon.
Talking about trips what is the official Cleaver squad. Yourself, Ezequiel Martinez (Milton’s brother) and previously Paris…
I’ve known Ezequiel since he was born. Milton’s father Tatu is from the older generation of skaters before me. He was one of the biggest names in the Argentina in the 80’s. He had Milton when he was like 18 and then he had Ezequiel. At that time I was living in the States but I remember going back to Argentina and seeing these little rats pushing around. Ezequiel grew up into something completely different from Milton. Milton is a bomb about to explode and Eze is all about style and doing the tricks the right way. Completely different approaches, it’s crazy that they are brothers. When I got the role as Nike SB team manager he was the first guy that I got in touch with because I loved the way he skated. Paris [Laurenti] was like the new talent, the tech dude who everybody liked. Now Paris has started his own brand and I’m stoked for him.
Eze Martinez backside smith grind. Photo: Kevin Enis
So now its you, Eze and you said you’re flowing another guy…
Yeah I’m flowing another guy here called Gelek Gonzalez. It’s funny because he was riding for the Toy Machine distribution here, it’s cool, it all goes back to Toy Machine. I’ve been going out with him, he’s from Peru but part of his family lives in Madrid. He lived in the States and now he’s located in Barcelona, he’s a cool kid.
Then there’s something else I’m trying out with shops. Shops always have their kids who they flow through the shop and give boards or discount to. But even for the shops it’s a lot of money to give the kids free boards. I’ve been trying to work out a program with some of the shops where I can just give them the boards at my cost price, and they can use them to support some of the kids who ride for shop. The shop saves some money, half of it and I get back what I invested. Being a smaller company and then giving away a bunch of boards at this stage just isn’t possible.
We are stoked to be one of the four shops here in the UK stocking the boards. It must be a trip to see the company represented all over Europe and now the U.S too…
It’s so sick man. Being able to have my boards at my friend’s shops is the best. The support from all the shops around Europe has been amazing. Seeing my boards at FTC, Familia, Welcome, Slam, etc, shops that I’ve seen for years, its an honour. It’s cool when some kid from the UK hits me up out of the blue with a picture of the board they just bought from Slam, that’s amazing. I think that’s the biggest reward.
It’s cool when some kid from the UK hits me up out of the blue with a picture of the board they just bought from Slam, that’s amazing. I think that’s the biggest reward.
Covering similar ground but in the previous Catch Up interview with Pontus I asked him what he was proudest of putting out there with Polar. I want to ask the same kind of question what are you most proud of, what keeps you stoked on the mission?
Having my product in the right shops, supporting those shops, giving the skaters a board that they are stoked to ride at a reasonable price. Having guys from the States and all over Europe supporting the brand. Again, all the work I put in is paid off when I see a skater riding my boards and telling me that they love them. That’s what makes you stoked, full circle.
Another cool thing with Cleaver is that I had the chance to do collaborations with friends and brands I love and that’s something I want to continue doing down the line.
The new Time for Cleaver board gets the Butcher front blunt test. Photo: Adrian Rios
You did the collab with Mash SF right?
Yes, the first one I did was with FTC. Again that idea that came from us making fun of my deliveries. It started with “Mean delivery guys” and evolved into the “Voooyy!!!” throwing the boxes around.
Then with Mash who are one of the most well known fixed gear bike shops in the world. Mike (owner of Mash SF) does a lot for the local community and to a certain extend it represents to me what a local skateshop would do for your local skate scene. It was a dream come true to be able to design a board with him and put it out. They sold out in minutes! I already have some more collabs coming in caliente. Stay tuned!!
Check Out The Latest Cleaver boards to arrive
Thanks for talking to us Diego and for bringing a new vision to the board wall. Do you have any last words for the community?
Keep skating and have fun with your friends because that is the only thing which will remain in your head. If you’re younger now and you’re able to travel with your friends, enjoy that the most because when you get older and have other responsibilities it gets harder. My best memories are from travelling with friends. It’s amazing with this current situation, with businesses closing due to the pandemic that skateboarding has survived, against what other people predicted. Skateboarding will never die and we are stronger than ever. Be part of your local community, support your local shops and local brands. Go get it!!!!
Thanks to Diego for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us while moving house and for continuing to inspire all these years. When it’s time for a new board remember to visit us for all the latest wood from Cleaver.