Josh out in the field. Portrait–Sam Ashley
Josh Stewart was at one time a regular visitor to London. He had an apartment and spent days and nights scouring the City. After a long period of time away the completion of Static IV is bringing him back on a mini European tour. We spoke to him before in this interview when the trailer for the video first surfaced. With the London premiere scheduled for tomorrow night we decided to catch up with Josh about all things Static and more in this quick interview…
This is fated to be the final video in the Static series. Have you felt a sense of closure premiering it or do you think you will get the itch again?
The itch is inevitable. I think I’ll still be feeling that urge well into my twilight years. Premiering the video to skaters around the world has certainly been rewarding. But I don’t think it’s set in for me yet that it’s the end. I tend to watch the videos in theatres like a parent watching their kid at graduation. I’m so proud of the skaters in the project and hyped to see them get appreciated. So I’m too busy basking in that to dwell on the gutting reality that I have to start letting go of Static spirit which has possessed me for 15 years now.
Is there anyone you haven’t filmed you would be keen to film a part with?
Oh of course, there’s a mental list for sure. Robbie Gangemi, Donny Barley, Danny Montoya, Jordan Trahan, Danny Wainwright, Jan Kliewer, Pontus Alv, Ben Jobe, Daniel Kim, Mark Gonzales, Joey Pepper, Scott Johnston, Josh Kalis, Jovantae Turner……ok, now I’m getting ridiculous. You get the idea though. The list goes on and on. Younger and older. So much more out there to capture.
With so much experience under your belt one could assume that the video making process becomes easier. Is that the case or do new problems arise you hadn’t thought about previously?
I honestly, truly think it gets harder. I mean, there’s the physical side of it alone. The older you get the harder it becomes to push 100 blocks a day through NY with that bag on the back. But, it’s more the creative side that gets tougher for me. I always was the underdog with my independent videos in the past. Nobody knew who I was and they didn’t care much about the people I was working with. So there were no expectations. Basically, you had a greater potential to surprise people. But after doing it for this long people start to build expectations. And then when a project takes a long as this one did, I fear there’s no way to meet those expectations in the slightest. So my ideas and fears of what people expected, versus what I felt I was capable of, became my biggest enemy with Static IV. I had what I would equate to the video maker’s equivalent to writer’s block throughout a large portion of working on this video.
Where would you say your favourite City/spot has been to film and for what reasons? Where is on your list to re-visit for business or pleasure?
I’ll always love London and NYC. They cater so well to my taste in the dark and mysterious. They make incredible backdrops for a project like Static. One city that I feel is a lost gem of a similar architectural beauty to London and NYC is Chicago. I wanted badly to do a Chicago section for Static IV but it just wasn’t possible. As for cities I’d love to go back to, Cairo was amazing and I’ll definitely return one day as a tourist. And I’ve still yet to see most of Europe. Never been to Amsterdam, Rome, Sweden, etc. So I think I’m due for a vacation with my girlfriend sometime soon.
Will this see the retirement of your VX or is that a silly question?
Haha……No I will continue to use the VX regularly. But I will balance it with HD where and when it’s appropriate. Some brands/videos are befitting for the look of HD. Some would just feel weird if they weren’t VX. It just depends on the look/feel you’re shooting for.
How does it feel to be out in Europe again, how long has it been?
It has been a looooooong time unfortunately. I believe 5 years now? For a while I was almost an honorary Brit. But time restraints and low funds have prevented my visiting for a long time. I’m pretty excited about my return. London is the only city that rivals my love of NYC. So it’s amazing to be back.
How has the reception been so far, which premiere have you had the most fun at?
I’ve been overwhelmed with the response so far. The NYC premiere was epic for me for a whole host of reasons. And the crowd was amazing. The Tampa premiere was rewarding as well because it’s my hometown and there are several skaters in the video from there as well. But the LA premiere was really shocking to me. The level of support was far greater than I would’ve imagined and although NYC was probably the raddest premiere experience LA affected me quite heavily.
This could be a spoiler but is Mark Jackson’s flip back smith stall at Holborn viaduct in the video and if not can he have it for Markj.co.uk?
Hahahaha…..omg. I would’ve had to call a team of archeologists out to excavate that relic from the depths of my hard drive. It was a real banger though if I remember correctly. I am sorry to see you’ll be disappointed if you expect to see it at the London premiere Friday night.
What is happening in the skateboard world right now that you find exciting and what saddens you?
Hmmmm…..I find it exciting that skaters are open to new voices and new ideas in skateboarding. And not only that, they’re going out of their way to support the things they care about. I think that the more corporate the industry became the less we all felt connected to it. It felt like a commodity on the stock exchange being bought and sold. So I think when some unique new brands started popping up again we were all hungry for something new and ready to show support for it. Instead of just pirating the video in a chat room skaters started buying hard copies again. As mainstream magazines have lost support and started going out of business, skaters started doing their own zines or even printing their own beautiful full magazines, like Dank and 43 Mag. In what was a terrible time for media in skateboarding, people took risks to offer people something new that was motivated by art and the love of skateboarding and we all responded to it. Of course I was saddened to see Alien Workshop, a brand that did so much for skateboarding, shut it’s doors for good. I’m sure people will be analyzing that one for a while and commenting on the why and how. But all of that aside, Workshop was the most brilliant brand ever created in my opinion. The mystique of AWS was so perfectly cultivated in it’s first 10 years in business. And what Mike Hill did with the first AWS video “Memory Screen” is one of the best, if not THE best artistic treasure in skateboarding’s history.
I think people would expect for me to say that the growth of competitive skateboarding, X-Games, Street League, etc saddens me but it really doesn’t at all. I think that the bigger that side of skateboarding gets, the stronger the underground will get and the more compelled skaters will feel to create a culture that is so unique that it’s almost a different “sport” altogether. Regardless, I think real street skating has a really bright future and I’m stoked on how it’s going.
Can we expect to see Theories expand now?
Yeah, I’m actually using this London trip to scout out some retail space next door to Slam City. Could you put in a good word for me?
Static IV started years before I started the distribution company and Theories. And all of this stuff sort of organically grew together to become what it is. If it grows as a result of Static IV or as a result of me finally having more time to put into it, I’m stoked. If it doesn’t I’m still stoked to be where we are doing what we’re doing. But I’m definitely excited for the future.
Have you ever considered starting a board company?
Of course it’s an idea I’ve batted around off and on for years. But it’s a TON of work to do it right. I’ve learned that by watching the guys behind the brands we distribute. They pour just as much blood and sweat into their brands as I pour into my videos. And even then it’s a very finicky thing to maintain. For now I feel like there are enough brands out there so I don’t wanna add to the clutter. I’ll just continue to help the guys I care about grow their brands and contribute however I can.
If you could jump in a souped up Delorean, crank it up to 88mph and travel back in time what advice would you give your 13 year old self?
I’d tell him “NOOOOOO…..put down that camera and go to school!!!”
Haha…..no, hmmmm…..I would probably encourage myself to pay close attention to my instincts and create the vision that was truly my own. Not to worry about what people think or what is the norm. Nobody is ever remembered for fitting in. Skateboarding represented individualism when I was a kid. And that’s what really attracted me to it. It’s sometimes hard to remember that or to follow through with it. Especially with a project like skate videos where taking a risk means putting 20 skaters at risk as well. But that’s what is needed in art. And the art of skateboarding is no exception. It’s easy to talk the talk. But walking the walk is a different story.
Positive words from Josh as always! We are looking forward to the premiere tomorrow night at the RIO cinema. Tickets flew out for this event very quickly. We will see you there if you were lucky enough to get one. Copies of the DVD will be available soon.