Chad Muska Interview

Posted on


Photo: Jacob Sawyer

Chad Muska is a true legend who has visited us more than a few times over the years. Whether on his first visit to Europe or bringing his infectious energy to the shop on numerous tours we have always been happy to see him. From the start of his memorable career to now, our stories interlace in many ways. In the picture above he’s outside the shop holding a signed board which Shorty’s gifted us in 1998 for our continued support. When the Supra team visited us in the summer we found out that we would have a moment to do a quick interview. Ben Powell fired over some questions and Jacob Sawyer spoke with Chad in the basement of our Covent Garden shop after the crowds dispersed. He had a lot to say and took out way more time for us than we expected. Read some ever positive insights from the source…

You’re here in the UK on a Supra tour and you’ve been to Manchester where you’ve been a bunch of times already. When you travel as much as you do do you ever get a chance to feel comfortable anywhere or is it too hectic?

No every place I go to I feel I have a connection with that place, I remember these places very vividly and the more times I go the more connected I feel. For instance London, I’ve been coming here for many years and I feel I’m returning to a place that’s familiar to me. Manchester too, I have friends in all of these places.Some I won’t see until I come back to that place. Through the years I feel very welcomed in certain places, more so than others. People in general identify with different cultures and communities, the skaters within that place. Definitely a lot of love in Manchester and even though it’s been seven or eight years people still talk about the last time you were there and remind you of that experience. That’s really cool, even if you forget some things the memories get sparked again by the community that comes out.

Back on the road with Tom Penny again. Is there anywhere in the world you two haven’t been together?

Oh there’s many places we haven’t been together. So many places, we usually end up connecting in Europe. We’ve definitely travelled to a lot of places together though. So many places I haven’t been to myself that I want to go to. Reconnecting with Tom is always a blessing for me. He’s one of my best friends. Even when we don’t get to see each other all the time, he’s one of those people, we always pick up right back where we left off.

Do you still room together on tour. You were room mates together in the old Newport Beach days right?

You know my first bedroom I ever got was when me and Tom shared a bedroom in Newport Beach. That was the beginning of my pro skateboarding career. But nowadays, not so much no more hahaha. Vera took my place, he has a new room mate, she replaced me.

Do you have any good Chad and Tom on the road anecdotes for us? Where was the most memorable place you visited together?

Going to Japan for the first time was definitely a memorable one for me because I was like 16 or 17 years old. It was my first time leaving the country, straight to Japan. So for a little ghetto kid like me that had never been outside of America, or even my own zone that I had lived in for so long. Experiencing new culture and seeing the world was such an exciting thing. Another very memorable one for me was during the Video Radio tour for Circa. We reconnected after not seeing each other for some years and that was a magical connection.


Photo: Jacob Sawyer

You were telling me about coming to Slam on your first ever visit to London. What happened then?

Yeah I came here in 1996 I think and skateboarding is such a global community. Especially at that time, skateboarding was so tight. It didn’t matter where you were from, we always looked out for each other. Me and Steve Olson and Danny Minnick were out here and we didn’t have a team manager or a distributor looking out for us. We just wanted to go out to the European contest circuit. Shorty’s had just started and all this chaotic stuff happened on one night. I was just a little kid pretty much stuck in London.

The cabs didn’t even want to pick us up back then because we were little skate rats. I remember waiting for cabs and business men pushing us out of the way to take them. Outside of the skateboarding community I was just a little American rugrat walking around, cabs would pull up and have a look at us then take off. I didn’t know how to take the tube or anything and then the Slam guys showed us love and took us in and treated us like we were family. I always remember that stuff, that’s skateboarding for you, it’s a global community that looks out for one another. Especially from my generation, everything has changed a little bit nowadays but in a lot of ways it hasn’t. I still come here, it’s crazy for me that I’m old school now, been in this game so long. But then the young skater kids come up and say you’re a legend, I don’t know how these kids even know who I am. There’s still a strong sense of community and love I will never not appreciate.

 

I didn’t know how to take the tube or anything and then the Slam guys showed us love and took us in and treated us like we were family

 

You were unable to skate for a short while. Did you fix the back problems you had?

I have a slipped disc in my lower back and it’s not fixed but I decided not to get surgery, I was scared to death. It’s a herniated disc in my lower back that’s completely popped out of the socket backwards. Two different doctors told me I needed to get surgery. I had surgery on my knee and that took so much out of me that I don’t have it in my soul to go through this process again unless I can’t walk and it’s necessary to live. I just made a crazy conscious decision in my head that I wasn’t going to allow this injury to take over my life.

I was in a bad mental state from this injury. I told myself there were way worse things that could happen and that I need to move forward in life and that was the start of it. I started to skate around, flat ground, just pushing around and slowly but surely it felt stronger from that motion, it helped it. But it’s definitely still fucked. I flew into Manchester, skated the first night, woke up the next day and I couldn’t get my socks on. That tells you, I have good days and bad days but what I’ve learned to do is remind myself that on a bad day I need to stretch more, eat healthy, breathe and be aware of this injury. I’m constantly trying to be aware of it and mentally heal it. Yoga, stretching, eating healthy and positive thought.

I spoke to Spencer Hamilton about how yoga really changes things

He’s a little more professional about it than I am, I should probably take classes. I do a routine that I made up, and every time I’ve watched people or got lessons they were doing the same things I’ve been doing. I could probably take it more seriously and I would definitely be stronger but I do a lot of other things in life and that’s the hard part for me. My love for skateboarding is beyond true and immense but I equally have love for a lot of other things in life. Artwork, designing, photography, video, music, some business aspects. All of these things take so much away from me that to skate even close to the level I once was takes 100% dedication. I have to dedicate my life to being physically fit and training which is something I never did. I just skated and had fun doing it but as you age if you want to continue that’s the only way to do it.

 

I take what I can get when I can get it and just enjoy times when I am able to skateboard, which has been insanely rewarding spiritually for me. It’s cleansed my soul to some extent, I was really depressed and now I’m back!

 

You have to treat your body like an old school machine which needs to be fine tuned all the time order to last. I’m still a bit half and half with it. Even though my diet has completely changed, my mental process and everything but I’m not this dude who is doing yoga three hours a day which is kind of what it takes. Doing yoga for a couple of hours, working out your core strength, jogging to get your stamina up. All of these things you need to do after you’re 40 to keep going, it’s no joke. I’m a little bit half and half, I still have an injury but I make do with it. I take what I can get when I can get it and just enjoy times when I am able to skateboard, which has been insanely rewarding spiritually for me. It’s cleansed my soul to some extent, I was really depressed and now I’m back!

Have you had to relearn to skate following recovery, has your approach to it changed?

I had to learn patience more. In my mind I know I can do this stuff so easily and then it’s hard for me now. My pop isn’t what it once was so it’s less re-learning and more re-conditioning. Getting your body to react with your mind the way you want it to. I had to learn patience with the frustration aspect of it. Skateboarding doesn’t make me mad, I’m not one of those guys who is like “Fuck! I can’t do this fucking trick!” yet at times I have caught myself. At times it’s depressing, like why can’t I do this? So that part has been hard but then I just remind myself of the simple aspects of skateboarding, even just rolling down the street and feeling that freedom. I’m not walking, I’m not driving in a car, I’m skating, popping some ollies here and there. That alone is all I really truly need so anything else beyond that is just the icing on the cake.

I’ve found my perspective has changed. You can do a trick you have always done but to do it now compared to doing the same trick when you’re 20 is way more of an achievement…

Totally in that sense, nowadays it’s not like relearning but it is like doing the trick for the first time again. If I land a simple thing for me right now I’m so happy. It’s a rush that maybe I even started to lose towards the end of my prime in skateboarding. Where you do so much and still love doing a crazy trick but you become desensitised a little bit after doing so much so often. So now I do a frontside flip on a bank and I’m ready to celebrate you know, it’s party time. It feels so good to do any trick on my skateboard right now, so that’s a positive aspect of it for sure.


Muska tailsliding in Manchester the night before this interview Photo: Leo Sharp

During the downtime you really developed your art practise. Making lots of work and experimenting and doing shows. Are you still creating at the same rate now that you are skating again or has art taken a backseat for a while?

I feel like it hasn’t taken a backseat necessarily but skateboarding has pulled me back hardcore into the industry again. Onto these tours, connecting with the skateboarding community and hosting events with different contests and that kind of stuff. It’s been so much fun and I didn’t plan to do all of these things, it’s just random occurrences where one thing led to another. I’ve been knee deep in skateboarding again and I’m kind of an all or nothing person anyway. I’ve been like that throughout my skateboarding career always, where I’ll film a video part and I’ll be all hyped up and and do some interviews.

Then I went off and produced music for many years and just sat in a music studio by myself and did nothing but produce music. Then people will be like “what’s up with Muska is he skating still?” Then I’ll come back and skate really hard and maybe experiment with photography then get really into photography. I think it’s the balance of doing all of these different things that I do in my life which keep me interested in skateboarding.

Had I skateboarded this entire time and done nothing else maybe I wouldn’t even do it anymore, or have lost interest in it. But the fact that I have these other things I dive so deep into make me appreciate and love skateboarding so much more when I come back to it. I would say right now in this moment the art is less of a part of what I’m doing but then everything I’m doing is art. Skateboarding is art, shoe design is art, graphic design is art, producing music. They are all a form of artistic expression, they feed off each other and inspire one another.

When was your last art show? In that realm are you still working with concrete and textured materials?

My last show was in Los Angeles a little bit before the New Year. Concrete has definitely become my medium of choice. I think it has a lot to do with skateboarding and the relationship to the medium, the fact that I spent my entire life throwing myself down onto the concrete and riding my skateboard on it. There is a draw to that medium for me. When you present it as artwork there is something very soothing about that texture, I’m not sure if it’s my draw into the urban environment through street skating, graffiti, streetwear and culture. I’ve always been drawn to major cities, I want to come to London, go to New York, go to Tokyo. These places where without concrete they wouldn’t be possible.

So yeah concrete, steel, wood and those elements in their raw form are very interesting to me and less pigments, painting and colour. I’m not really a painter or an illustrator or an artist the way many people would consider, I’m more like a construction worker hahaha. I’m building things but as long as the final outcome has something soothing to me I will continue the process and do it because I really enjoy it. The art world is really weird to me though. There is such nonsense to it that the more I found out about it, the more I pulled away from it to just make as much work as I can and continue my process. Luckily I have my design work with footwear and all of these things which keep me alive and feed me and pay my rent that I’m not dependent upon art being my source of income. Although it’s very intriguing and I would love for it to be because I’ve seen how much I’ve dedicated myself to it, I do shows and I sell work.

I’m kind of an art hoarder too because I’m still perfecting. It’s like skateboarding, I skated for many many years, ten years before I was going to become pro you know what I mean? I feel like now I’ve spent the last 12 years or so really dedicated to art so now I’m finding a stage and a place where I’m more confident with what it is that I’m doing. Feeling like I have something to add to what’s happening but I also have to question myself. What are these creations for? Are they for me to truly express something within myself to create? Or are they an extension of my ego that I want them to be in these galleries and show the world I can sell these paintings for money and have this acceptance from the community? Does this validation bring more importance to what my creation is?

It’s my own mental struggle that I go through with art and I remember skateboarding feeling the same way too, in the beginning I was such a hungry kid. I was busting all these handrails and knew I could do all these tricks and wondering why I wasn’t getting hooked up, why wasn’t I sponsored? I had all these thoughts, such a need to want to be sponsored and it was driving me to be homeless in California and give everything up because I wanted to be sponsored so bad. It eventually happened but it took a lot of work. I have to remind myself of those things with the art world that you can’t expect everybody to know the time and energy and effort that you put into doing these things because it’s a very lonely solo process. It’s not glamorous, it’s not on Instagram where “Hey here’s this cool thing” I mean I share it and stuff but ultimately…

There’s a backstory

Yeah! It’s therapy for me because I think we all have our own mental issues and things that we have to overcome and we find our ways of doing that. Ultimately it’s a very therapeutic process for me, even more so than the outcome. The process is very important to me. It’s hard to put into words, that’s why art is art because you don’t have to. It’s just an action, an outcome and a reaction from people. They can go and look at this thing, some people hate it, some people will like it, some people will see this in it, some people will see that in it. That’s the cool thing about the work I make, is to see the conversation it can create afterwards. What do people actually think of these things? It’s fun to listen to.

 

I think I’ve always tried to take a negative aspect of life and find positivity in it and maybe this was ultimately me turning something at that point of my life which felt negative full circle into something very positive in my life

 

Did working with concrete back in the day with your mums boyfriend have any influence on your eventual approach to making art do you think?

Yeah I think it’s a funny full circle thing because at the time it was the most miserable experience of my life that I had to be in this desert, concrete casting and loading up big semi trucks. I was like “ oh I’ve got to go and do this again today” Wake up at 4:30 in the morning and drive out to this job and do it all day. But there was a learning process from doing that. It definitely had some kind of impact on it, Subconsciously even maybe. I think I’ve always tried to take a negative aspect of life and find positivity in it and maybe this was ultimately me turning something at that point of my life which felt negative full circle into something very positive in my life. So there is probably something there from that for sure.


Photo: Leo Sharp

You’ve had such a long and heavy skate career – at points being one of the most famous skaters on the planet but every time I’ve come across you on crazy tours/demo’s back in the day you always, always made time to talk to the kids. Did this come from your own background and understanding how much skateboarding can mean to kids striving to find a purpose in life do you think?

One hundred percent. I almost get emotional thinking about it because of what skateboarding has done for me and all of the opportunities. That’s what keeps me going, even up to this day. You go to all these places, you’re taken out of your comfort zone, going across the world to connect with all these people and you see them react in a positive way. I feel like I have an opportunity to uplift people even if it’s in the smallest way and it’s unbelievable. I’m able to go to and see these people and make a positive change in their life, I feel like I have a duty to do it almost to some extent.

I remember what skateboarding meant to me when I saw Natas and Mark Gonzales and those guys. It changed my life and it kept me going. In this day and age especially kids have got all of this pressure from all of these other things. So if in any way I can connect with these kids or even adults at this point, some of them were kids when I first met them. They’re 30 now but they were 15 when we first met. Even to help bring back those memories within these people is such a positive experience for them and full circle for me.

 

As a human if we see that we can make another person happy, that’s better than making yourself happy. When you give your energy to others and it makes them feel good, that energy is reflected right back into you in a way that doing anything for yourself could never give you that same feeling

 

As a human if we see that we can make another person happy, that’s better than making yourself happy. When you give your energy to others and it makes them feel good, that energy is reflected right back into you in a way that doing anything for yourself could never give you that same feeling. You could buy yourself whatever it is you want to buy, work physically on yourself and that all feels good but when you do something for somebody else and you see that smile, that energy, that connects and boom goes into you. That’s some heavy energy.

What would you say was the highest/craziest point of your fame? We all remember the footage in Video Radio of you getting mobbed in Germany and having to run away. How often was it like that at the height of the Shorty’s era?

It was a lot, that whole era would be the most pinnacle moment caught on video that was hype but throughout that whole time it was pretty rock star status hahaha. Almost wherever we went around the world it was pretty crazy. It was almost a persona that took over me, that I wasn’t in control of even. Like Im going, this is happening and it was almost like it was bigger than myself, the person I am, it was beyond that at that point. I was kind of in the machine at that point and it was going. I wouldn’t change it for the world I’ll tell you that much, it was a a blast! I’ll always remember those times but then there was a comedown from it too.

After that there were some new kids, you know P-Rod’s coming around or whoever else, these new kids are coming out and just killing it and I’m like “damn I can’t really keep up with what I had at some point”. I had to go through this period of acceptance, this transition, but that was a big part of life too, this comedown from that high. Any type of fame is a drug and when it wears off you have to come to terms with yourself, who you really are and not this glorified idea of a person that the world could try to create.

We all like to dream up this idea of people or circumstance or whatever it is and it was crazy. There were many moments similar to that Germany thing that got crazy and it happened really fast from out of nowhere. From zero to a hundred over night. It was a lot for a little kid to deal with who didn’t have a support system, all I had was myself so I had to figure a lot of shit out along the way.

Were there ever times when you regretted that path? Or were you always just grateful to have those opportunities – no matter how hectic things got?

I Have no regrets in life even for my worst decisions. There are no regrets only lessons, everything in my life has been a lesson, the good with the bad. I’m just humbled by every experience and grateful, it’s nothing but gratitude for all of those things.

You designed one of Supra’s most iconic and best selling shoes the SkyTop – where did the inspiration originally come from for that one?

So at the time my ex girlfriend was in high fashion and I was going to lots of things, Paris fashion week and seeing a lot of things that were happening there. Fashion has always been a part of my life and something I always dreamed of connecting skateboarding to. Fast forward and it’s happened now, it’s there. But at that time when I was out there, there weren’t any skateboarders really in the mix you know. I saw things happening in high fashion, Dior were making some higher top shoes, Hedi Slimane was designing for Dior and that really caught my interest.

Then I was inspired outside of high fashion, at that time I was really interested in 80’s hip hop and 80’s hip hop culture. Looking back at Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Whodini and that kind of style. It was like a hybrid of Rock and Roll, Glam Rock and Hip Hop. I thought it was cool, the high tops of that time. All Rose was rocking cool looking LA Gear high tops and Melle Mel was rocking high tops and I became really interested in that idea, that time period of shoes. The idea that something could be universal, not only hip hop but rock and roll too. I wanted to make something that some hessian rock and roll dudes could rock and some hip hop dudes could rock. That was the initial concept of it and it morphed and turned into what it is.

Are you still involved in shoe design today? I’m guessing that with your life experience that you can draw influences from so many different places

Yeah I still continue to design to this day. We’re working on the Skytop 6 right now, we just dropped an update to the Skytop 77. I’m working on a 90’s inspired chill shoe called the Muska 2000 so right now more so than in a long time. I’m heavily involved with footwear design right now. I thoroughly enjoy it, I love doing it and there’s a lot of cool stuff coming out right now. I work with in house designers but they never come to me with concepts. I bring the concept, I bring the sketch, I bring the inspiration and have a strong strict vision of the creative direction of what I design within footwear. Anything I attach my name to I try to have it represent me personally.

You have a lot of iconic shoes in the back catalogue

It’s been a great ride. I’ve been designing footwear for 22 or 23 years now from when I got my first shoe out on éS and then later on into Circa and then into Supra. It’s been an amazing ride to not only design footwear but help start companies and conceptualise marketing and graphic design and logos and building skate teams and marketing those individuals. There are so many different parts to making a company, that I want to understand every single moving part of that company. Even if I’m not doing every single thing, I want to know how to do it so I can help express my idea or manifest it through some of the people who are doing the day to day jobs there.


Photo: Leo Sharp

What about music? Are you still making beats and/or DJ’ing a lot these days?

I’ll DJ randomly. I just DJ’d when the Titus guys had a 40th anniversary, they invited me out to DJ for them. I was like “ I don’t DJ anymore I quit” Because I don’t have any of this Soundcloud music, I don’t fuck with any of this shit. I’m sorry, kids go for it, have it, make your mark, do your thing but I’m not staying up to date with all this new shit. I lost interest in it. I stopped drinking and going out to clubs so when I stopped doing that I lost interest in DJing.

Some years back now I went out to some club and all these songs started plying and everyone was singing along and I didn’t know any of the lyrics to them, I was looking around and I was like “I’m done, it’s a rap”. So you know I might DJ at a school skate event if someone asks me and it makes sense and they’re willing to let me spin whatever the heck I want. A lot of the music I listen to nowadays, it’s really not club environment music or heavy party music because that’s not the personality I have nowadays. It’s pretty much the complete opposite of that. I spent so many years in the club scene, there’s not a lot of substance there to me. You’re having fun and you’re drinking and partying with the homies and hanging with some cute girls but there’s not much conversation that goes on there. My conversation would be yelling and grabbing girls and doing whatever.

I changed a lot so that took me away from DJing more. Then the art really took over my producing, they’re connected in a lot of ways. But just recently in the last year or so I started making some video stuff for Supra and creating some of my own marketing things and I wanted to score my own music. So I have been creating some new music lately which has been pretty fun and exciting but I don’t spend nearly as much time and dedication as I once did while creating music.

I’ve been working with a program called Reason and I do a lot of virtual synth sequencing and drum machines and stuff like that. I used to always use Reason back in the day with Q Bass but nowadays Reason has all types of software editing within it. You can do live instruments or vocals and before it was only a MIDI sequencing program so yeah I’ve been making some stuff. I get quite a lot of requests like “you gonna do a Muska Beats part 2?” you know. I’ve dabbled, done some remixes of some of the old songs but I’ve kind of held off on putting it out. It’s a tricky thing because what do you do with music nowadays? Everyone expects it for free so how much time can you dedicate to it? It’s something which is still part of my life but not as heavily as it once was.

I remember being out in Los Angeles when Muska Beats dropped and there were posters on the back of every bench downtown

Yeah you saw those? Sick! I was into it man. I started my own record label 1212 Records and I had big visions of signing artists and using the skateboard community as a platform to introduce music through. Music and skateboarding are such heavily connected companions. But it was the wrong time, I just did it at the wrong time. Too ahead of the game on that one maybe. It was at the death of music sales for CD’s, everything went digital and I didn’t understand the digital platform enough at that time. My idea was Tower Records and all these giant stores are closing down so what I’m going to do is take CD’s and sell them in skateboard shops, that was my solution to the record industry closing down.

 

I thought skate shops could be the new record store. You guys were ahead of the game on that one

 

I thought skate shops could be the new record store. You guys were ahead of the game on that one hahaha. The hybrid with Rough Trade and everything, maybe you inspired me who knows, coming out here all these years. Not to mention, when I came here I had known about Ninja Tunes and Mowax and Metaljheadz and all this stuff. I came out here and I was like here’s the skate shop, then went in the basement and there was all of the music that I loved so much and I was listening to it at that time and I was like “What the heck, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life”. That shit wasn’t happening in America you know what I mean. I was into Drum and Bass and people thought I was crazy over there, it was a pretty underground movement in America. But I loved electronic music, I loved Trip Hop and synthesisers and drum machines. Not to get sidetracked but that was such a crazy cool connection that you had those two worlds together there.

What’s the average day for you when you’re at home?

Pretty different depending on what’s going on in my life but usually wake up about 6 in the morning cos my dogs are crazy. I had 4 but I have 3 pugs now. One of them passed away, so my dogs are up at the crack of dawn and one of them is 20 years old. He’s deaf and blind but he knows 6:30 is time to eat so he’s up. I feed them, clean them up, take them for a walk and make a juice. That’s what I do lately. I’ve been doing some fresh squeezed grapefruit, orange juice and lemon mixed together. Then I make a vegetable smoothie almost. Celery, spinach, cucumber, ginger, lime. I have a pretty healthy regiment to start my day.

I take a walk in my neighbourhood, there’s trails and stuff, a little nature area. I like to wake up and get started in a healthy way and from there it’s different every day. Creating artwork, feeding the social media beast, heading to Supra to work on designs with the guys there, overseeing marketing ideas we’re having, go skate. It’s so different all the time but I think the common theme is trying to start with something healthy to get the body in motion. Day to day is different day to day.

Where do you generally skate if you’re not out filming and are just having fun? Who’s your everyday skate crew?

What’s funny now, I have always had a big skate crew my whole life, but right now I skate by myself all the time which is pretty funny. I film by myself and everything and I have fun doing it, I have a blast. I don’t get stressed out when I’m by myself. It’s my own personal thing, I get around the crowd and I feel expectation because of what level I once was at which leads to frustration for me so if I’m trying something and I can’t do it and someone is yelling “frontside flip Muska” I know I can do it but my body won’t always allow me to so I have to work at my pace. If I’m not then I’m going to hurt myself more so that’s the hard part about me being around the crowd, I feed of the crowd energy and I’ll be looking at a twenty stair handrail going “I know I can still do this” and I don’t want to end up in the hospital right now.

Trust me, I’m still driving around and every time I see a hubba ledge or every time I see a handrail I pull over and size that thing up you know and daydream about doing it. Here and there though I have busted a couple of things recently which shocked the shit out of me. I can still do some things here and there but I have to be careful because I can’t exceed the limits. That’s why I like skating by myself. I don’t know what the hell I’m thinking but I’m by myself in schools in LA, jumping on rooftops and setting up tripods and clacking fat roof gaps and I’m like what the fuck am I doing? I’m a fucking 42 year old man climbing a school roof by myself. I’m gonna fall over the edge and be here until Monday when they come back to school and be like “help me!” Lying on the ground.

 

I grew up skating by myself so I think in a lot of ways I’ve gone back to my roots and going through this fame and all this stuff and performing for this crowd. I’ve found simplicity in this love for skateboarding

 

I trip myself out sometimes but that’s the skate rat in me, I still love being a skate rat. I grew up skating by myself so I think in a lot of ways I’ve gone back to my roots and going through this fame and all this stuff and performing for this crowd. I’ve found simplicity in this love for skateboarding. I go out there and I do it and I film it because it is still fun to share that energy and that effort with the world. So there’s that aspect of skating and that’s all around Hollywood, sometimes I’ll skate from my house and skate around but LA is so big so a lot of times it’s easier to drive somewhere. I usually pick a new direction to go and get in my car. I never have a plan, I’ve never had a plan in my whole life pretty much, I just go.

That’s the thing I’m in the house, feeling antsy and doing too much computer work, too much artwork and I need to get out there in the sun and skate so I’ll just drive downtown or into the valley and next thing you know you find spots. They’re lurking out there still. Apart from that Chris Pastras, Dune is one of my good homies and we’ve been connecting and skating a lot. He’s always hitting me up to go out and Matt Field sometimes and Paulo Diaz is another great friend of mine. Apart from that I don’t know who I skate with unless I’m on tour and then I connect with these homies you know. 99% of the time right now though is skateboarding by myself.

From your perspective – how does the skate scene in general seem to you in 2019? Are we in a healthy place do you think?

It’s hard to put into words what the skate scene is nowadays. It’s very fragmented, it’s bigger than it’s ever been. The question too is if you’re talking about the skate scene or the skate industry. I know they feed off each other and influence each other. It’s pretty different because I look at skateboarding in general and skateboarding in general is in a great place. You see a huge age demographic of skaters. You see three year olds in diapers ollieing off curbs to 60 year old dudes skating vert or whatever. There’s such a huge group of skateboarders and it’s become to me almost like music. There are a lot of genres of music and it’s the same with skateboarding. Vert skating, bowl skating, street skating, Olympic training skating, crazy hill slasher skating.

There are so many different things happening and there’s not one particular thing where you can put your finger on the pulse. Before it was like, this is street skateboarding and we all know exactly what’s going on. Now there’s so much going on with it but I think in general it seems to be here to stay which is a positive aspect of it. Negative aspect I guess is that corporate involvement becomes tricky and changes things. The Olympics are positive in a lot of ways in that they will open up skateboarding to the masses and help it become more socially accepted. Then that also puts our industry at risk more so than it already is because of the corporate involvement and what that will mean for the future of professional skaters and how they make their living. It’s going to be interesting to watch where it goes from here. Will it be a flash in the pan where its in the Olympics now and it blows up and then all of a sudden they don’t care about it?

We don’t know which way it’s going to go. Progression is going crazy in skateboarding which helps keep people interested in it and then there is also people who skate and do cool tricks and look fun. I think people are realising that skateboarding is for everybody, if you enjoy doing it at any level then do it. You don’t have to be the next Nyjah, you can just skate and have fun or you could be the next Olympic champion and train your ass off and do the gnarliest tricks ever. There’s so much going on and so much potential for skateboarding. I always try to look optimistically at anything, especially skateboarding because of my love for it. I travel this world, I connect with all these people and still see so much love from this community that just from that alone it means it’s in a great place.

Which new skaters are you hyped on at the moment?

That’s a hard one because there’s so many. Half of the people I’ll say are new are already old school, the world’s moving so fast. There’s one new kid I’m hooking up through Supra right now called Chris Pierre but people know him as Pierre Jacques his Instagram name, he is ripping super hard right now. But that’s the tricky part about skateboarding right now, everybody is so good and not just good like next level good. You can go to any skate park in any part of the world and there’s some ripper there ripping harder than any pro out there.

That one kid caught my attention Aurélien Giraud, he kind of came out of nowhere and I was like whoah this guys a beast, he’s been hyping meep a lot. I’m kind of out of the loop a little with what’s happening in skateboarding and I think it comes down to two reasons. It’s so overwhelming, maybe I just see the tricks and the tricks are amazing but then you forget the person. Jamie Foy is obviously one guy who I keep hyping up all the time but is he a new guy now can I say that? His skateboarding is something which has just blown my mind and continues to do so, you think he’s reached his limits but he just keeps going. I got to go to the Phoenix am contest not so long ago and did some hosting on that and there were mad kids out there ripping too.

Like Tom, you’re closely associated with the frontside kickflip – what’s the greatest frontside flip you can think of talking historically?

I would just say any of Tom’s that he does would be the most historical one just because of how he introduced it. I can’t think of one particular one other than him showing up at Radlands and frontside flipping the pyramids and everyone being like “wait a minute what’s going on here, we need to step our game up”. There was one at Huntington Beach at a Police station, he did it in a video, the etnies video I think. It’s a real steep handrail, probably like a fourteen stair and he frontside flipped over that.

I remember one time we were skating at the Huntington Beach skatepark, we were skating back from there to go to Ed Templeton’s house and we were rolling towards some stairs. It looked like a mountain from the top coming to it. He rolls up, frontside flips over a railing rolls off. I had to stop, pick my board up and walk down the stairs and I was like “Oh my god”. Those types of moments you can explain them right now but if you weren’t there at that time you don’t understand. That was like the equivalent to a magic trick, making the impossible possible in front of your face. Not only had no-one done that and filmed it they didn’t just ride up and do it first try and roll away, I didn’t even understand what I just saw.

Beyond that Andrew Reynolds obviously took the frontside flip from where Tom left off with it, the New York City one where he’s frontside flipping down the double set and all the kids are there. As an image that’s always an iconic one which stuck in my head and Tommy Sandoval, he frontside flipped the Sports Arena triple set in San Diego. If you go there and look at that, it’s not even ollieable, it’s one of those things. Also Andrew’s frontside flip in Paris down the big four.

 

Southbank has always been such an iconic spot to me long before I even came to London. I had seen pictures in magazines and dreamed of skating that place, it’s a dream spot

 


Photo: Leo Sharp

You’re going to drop by Southbank after this to see what’s happening there. You added your support to Long Live Southbank early on so you must be hyped to see that they succeeded in reclaiming all the space for skateboarding…

Yeah Southbank has always been such an iconic spot to me long before I even came to London. I had seen pictures in magazines and dreamed of skating that place, it’s a dream spot. So to see them come up with this concept and work so hard at it and see that these establishments have then accepted this idea. It’s not only an amazing accomplishment for everyone involved to make that happen but for skateboarding on a whole. For me it solidifies skateboarding as an art form being accepted within this establishment whether they had to force their way in and do it themselves or not. The fact that it has happened is such a milestone for skateboarding. From the second they asked me to be a part of it I was so hyped on it, I did that Southbank Forever board. I’m so hyped those guys made that happen and can’t wait to see the outcome.

You’re one of skateboarding’s most well known rags to riches stories – what advice do you have for any kids out there reading this who are dreaming of making it in skateboarding and carving out their own future for themselves? Is there a secret to it?

I think that if you want to be a professional skateboarder the most important thing is, dedicate yourself to it by all means and go for it one hundred percent but also have some sort of back up plan. Because it’s not going to happen for everybody and even if it happens for you it doesn’t mean financial success in any way especially in this day and age. There’s not as much longevity within skateboarding. If I had a regret it would be the lack of education I had in my life and wishing I had more of an academic background to add to all of the other things I’ve done. But I chose to dedicate my life to skateboarding, that’s all I know and that’s everything I did.

There’s no formula, you can dedicate your life to skateboarding and maybe nothing will ever happen with it financially so you have to be prepared for that. So maybe find something else that also gives you an equal sense of accomplishment and brings you happiness you could do as a job as well. There are so many other things within skating too you could be do photography, web development, graphic design, clothing design, sales rep, distribution, manufacturing. There are so many different parts and so many ways to be involved in the industry and keep your love for it alive not only by being a professional skateboarder. But no formula, not at all. Half of it is timing, connecting with the right people, some luck, mostly dedication. But never give up if that’s what you believe and that’s what you want to do but be prepared because it could go the other way.

Any last words?

I’m beyond grateful to continue to do what I do and I thank every single person out there who has ever supported me. I have nothing but gratitude. My life’s dedication has come full circle, I see these people and they come up to me and tell me that I’ve inspired them in some way. Or I’ve helped them through some time in their life, or helped them become what they wanted to become. All these stories that I hear make my life’s dedication worthwhile because at this point I don’t know anything else but to continue to create, skateboard and manifest the visions that I have. That’s all I know, if that’s taken away I have nothing.