Our latest Offerings interview is with Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long. We had Spanky in mind as soon as we started working on this format for an interview and are so happy it became a reality. Hopefully you enjoy this conversation and walk away with recommendations that will enrich some hours.
WORDS AND INTERVIEW BY JACOB SAWYER. Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long fresh out of the van shot by Kyle Seidler
Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long has grown up within the industry. His early career evolved from childhood sponsor Sixteen to riding for Kareem Campbell’s City Stars. This chapter preceded him finding his spiritual home at Emerica and Baker, two companies he remains an integral part of to this day. Emerica released This Is Skateboarding nearly twenty years ago. This timestamp marks two decades involving a decent amount of Kevin’s time spent in the van grafting for different videos. Two decades of education and inspiration. With more time than the average human to soak in influences from everyone, soak them in he did. When we talked he mentioned the impact that recommendations from Andrew Reynolds, Jon Miner and Justin Regan had on him. We are honoured that this interview is his chance to pass some of that on.
Kevin’s skateboarding journey is well documented, as is the time when his sponsors stepped away so he could get his life back on track. That moment in time meant that we all got to see him flourish once more with renewed determination. Watching the progress from him getting his board back to now has been a beautiful thing to witness. It is evident simply from taking in Baker 4 or his recent HORSES part that he is once again having the time of his life, and he has never looked better on his board.
His story speaks to the skate rat in all of us and watching his prolific output return is inspiring stuff. It was obvious from talking to him just how happy and grateful he is for where he is at, something which shines through in everything he does. Between being a father, a reinvigorated focus on skateboarding, and overseeing artwork at Baker he is a busy man these days so we are thankful he found the time for this interview. It was a pleasure to talk about the following selection which begins with a treasured skate video that sparked it all.
Mouse – Girl Skateboards (1996)
Where does this video fit into your story and what was happening with you at this point in time?
I grew up in LA and this came out right when I started skating so Mouse was one of the first real videos that I saw. It was on heavy rotation for all of the older guys I skated with at the time. I think I saw Mouse before I had any taste in skateboard videos it was first of all and we learned about skateboarding from it. Choosing this I was definitely thinking about the first videos you watch and how formative that is. My video was always Welcome To Hell but as time went by I stuck with Mouse more over the years and it just aged better and represented that period of time better for me. Especially as so much of it is in LA.
So there were many spots in the video you had already skated?
Yeah, even when I had just first started skating we were going to those spots. We were skating at the Courthouse and traveling to go and skate Venice. Seeing some of those dudes around too, it was pretty cool
Do you remember where you first watched it?
Funny enough it was probably at Mikey Taylor’s house because I grew up right down the street from him. Those guys probably showed it to me.
I think this is still the blueprint for the perfect video in so many ways.
Oh for sure, so many aspects of it have stuck with me. The way it looks, the spots they are skating, and that so much of it is in LA and SF. It was a big influence and we were trying to skate that kind of stuff and make it look like that. It’s still what people are trying to make stuff look like now. The music was so good and aged so well. It kind of had a theme with those good funk and soul songs. They are still good to revisit and are super listenable, they’re familiar but not Top 40 hits or whatever. Good classy picks. It’s not another Creedence song or a Stones track.
Did this video leave you with holy grail trick aspirations?
Not really but watching it now it’s obvious that so many of those tricks seeped into the lexicon via osmosis almost. That is the best part and the most fascinating part for me. At the time I was maybe more interested in watching Jamie Thomas grinding big ass rails but I was watching this video just as much. I was working with what I had and couldn’t grind giant rails at the time so I’m learning nollie backside tailslides on a ledge. I’m also lucky enough to be skating the same ledges these guys are skating in the video. Not that I skated like them but it soaked in and became part of how we skated
What are stand-out tricks for you?
There are so many for me. One really stand-out trick that I always think about is when Rick Howard frontside boardslides that big silver rail in Santa Monica. When I think about doing frontside boardslides on anything I think of that one. Obviously Keenan’s switch flip over the table. [Eric] Koston’s part, we watched that part over and over. Having enders on ledges was a really cool thing too back then and still today, and the way the parts abruptly ended worked really well.
The closing minute of Koston’s part with the percussion is so epic.
All of that, the nollie-180-switch-crook down the rail before it. Certain tricks are so burned in, usually weird ones. The 50-50 on the kinked rail that he did seems so out of place in the video but I just loved it. Then Guy [Mariano]’s whole part. At the time Guy’s part was almost over my head. Part of that was because he’s regular-footed and was skating switch so much while I was learning how to watch a skate video. It took me a while for that to sink in, like it was more sophisticated skating or something like that.
Letting those switch 360 flips compute.
For sure, it was so gnarly. He looks so cool doing it too. That’s another thing, what was evident from the beginning was that they looked like cool guys, like tough adults or something.
“It’s all just a testament to how much style Spike has, he can just make that stuff work.”
Kevin’s etch a sketch tribute to Rick Howard and Mike Carroll in Mouse. He found time to craft this for us while on the road in Paris
You could easily draw a parallel between your career and Mariano, a young prodigy who grew up within the industry, stepped away for a while and then regenerated their career with new spirit.
Haha maybe without all the skills, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to come back in for sure, as far as trajectory goes.
Do you ever emulate his turnaround when you’re skating LA High?
I honestly think about that turnaround all the time. That is one of those things which has stuck with a lot of people. It’s hard to emulate that. One thing about that part is he does little things which look so cool but when you try to do them they’re not going to. Even in that line he switches the way he pushes, you try and do that and it looks so dumb but when he does it it’s the coolest looking thing ever.
I think this video out of all skate videos for me is the most re-watchable, I could watch this video every day. The filming is sick and another huge thing I’ve looked to is how Spike [Jonze] operates inside and outside of the skate world. When I first started watching it I wasn’t aware of who Spike was and his hand in the video. But over time I have realised that all of the things he has done have been so influential.
At the point he is working on this video I feel like he was really in a pocket of exploring ideas but being confident in the execution of them. They’re not overly conceptual ideas, it’s more like they had an idea really quick and spent a weekend trying to shoot it. Then they come out so good because they’re done with so much class and style. That can’t be overstated, all of that shit is so classic. It’s hard to make the skits look cool and iconic.
Everything in there, the opener, the woods, Chaplin, and so on are all still an enjoyable part of it. They’re not fast-forward-able asides.
No, and they all range in technicality. Some bits are more cheesy and thrown together and other stuff is more complicated. It’s all just a testament to how much style Spike has, he can just make that stuff work.
Having rewatched this very recently while mindful of talking to you I feel like that Keenan skit could have inspired you creatively.
Definitely, I love stuff like that. That could be something that stuck with me and I have forever been into that aesthetic. Watching so many of these videos at such a formative time will do that. But I like things like that Keenan skit where you can see the seams. It’s tongue in cheek and not intended to be this incredible spectacle, it’s not pretentious at all, just fun. I love that shit. Planning to do something dumb but going all in on it.
White light/white heat – The Velvet Underground (1968)
Was this an easy pick as your favourite album?
No, not at all. I have got to say that faced with the exercise of picking a favourite anything, I overthink the shit out of it. I’ve never been good at making lists or anything. I move on really quickly, especially with music, I’m a searcher. I don’t have comfort songs and albums so much, I would rather just explore music. The Velvet Underground are a band I have taken note of in my mind over the years I guess. They are a band I’ve listened to the most and got sick of the least.
I have never had anything close to a favourite artist but this would be the closest thing to that. Picking one of their albums was tough too because I like different things from each one. John Cale was a big component of this choice, he was only on the first couple of records. This record sums up what I like about them the most, it’s the ugliest. That’s how I landed on this one.
It’s one which is very much a whole, a beginning to end listen.
Yes, other ones have songs which you have just heard a million times. Not in a pretentious way but that is the type of shit I tend to steer away from. I just get burned out on songs super easily
When did this record first enter your life?
I think probably when I was in my late teens. It was when I first got on Emerica and was hanging out with [Andrew] Reynolds, Jon Miner and Justin Regan. Those guys really turned me on to a bunch of music all at once. This was the time when we were all getting the first generation iPods. It was more a matter of dumping an entire catalogue onto your iPod and not necessarily albums. That was a cool point in my life where everything was new.
And everything was to hand, so crazy. I remember first listening to Nirvana and being recommended this album by my dad as a direct inspiration.
Yeah I got super into it. I was still living at my parents house and I got a copy of that book Please Kill Me which chronicles the history of punk rock. I was getting pretty deep into it at that point.
“This record sums up what I like about them the most, it’s the ugliest.”
Is scouring for records still part of your periphery?
No, I wish I could say it was. These days it’s more a case of scouring Apple Music or whatever. I do quite a bit of exploring music but it’s not collecting records any more, I don’t have the space. I do miss it though because there is definitely something uniquely beautiful about taking home a physical record and trying it out for the first time. Committing to something like that. I still listen to records though occasionally. I have a big tape collection too and I like listening to tapes.
It’s cool that although you were immersed in that first iPod wave you still love whole albums. I feel like that changed listening to music for a lot of people.
Maybe it came a little bit later. Having initially been introduced to that music I started buying records, C.D’s and tapes. I then realised that was my absolute preferred way to listen to music. To listen to the whole album.
Do you think Lou Reed’s New York was kind of echoed a little in the New York time you lived through?
I definitely took the romanticisation of the gritty, ugly New York and loved that. That was another thing which just soaked into me and at the time for me it was the most romantic thing in the world.
What decade do you think you visit most musically right now?
I’m kind of all over the place but I have been listening to a lot of 70s music lately. I really am all over the place though, searching. Sometimes I feel like my music taste could be a little obnoxious. There is so much stuff out there and I always feel like I’m missing out on something. I just love music and I love being surprised by it, it’s endless.
Have you been playing music with The GOAT at all recently?
No we haven’t played together in a really long time. I haven’t picked up a guitar for a long ass time.
So you recommend people pick this one up?
This is just a really easy album to throw on while I’m working. It’s hypnotic. “Sister Ray” just hammers on messy and relentless for 17 minutes… that’s how the album ends. It’s a perfect drawing album.
Dune – Frank Herbert (1965)
This novel came out just before White Light/White heat and is also a landmark, why did you pick this book?
I picked it because this is the last book I read that I got completely swept up by. It’s a really long book and I will say that these days I usually listen to audio books. I live in LA and I’m always driving to spots which can take so long so I can fit this in. Having a kid and doing artwork means I rarely have my eyes and hands free at the same time. That’s just the way I take in books now.
I had always heard that this book was a seminal text and I was a big fan of the old David Lynch movie. I would watch that a lot with Jon Miner and Jerry Hsu. It was one movie we would always put on back in the day on Emerica trips and stuff. It’s such a bizarre movie and it’s not really a beloved one. It’s pretty confusing and the effects are so cheesy but so cool looking to me. From that I was pretty familiar with the story. I can’t remember if it was before or after the new movie came out but I decided to tackle this book. I was surprised that got so hooked right away.
I found this a difficult read, I couldn’t get through the foundations setting up the story.
I think it was easier for me because I was already familiar with the world and the characters. Usually I struggle with that too but I had a bit of a leg up to the entry. I was surprised by this on because it’s so fucking nerdy and dense. There’s so much going on in there that’s not really something I would usually be attracted to. I love nerdy shit but it wouldn’t be my first choice as a book which represents my tastes. When I read it though it became apparent this was my shit, it’s incredible.
What is it about his writing that gripped you?
I think the thing about it which blows me away is just the pure scope of it. What he created is really intense and it’s the world-building aspect of it. There’s a whole history and there’s all of this stuff that unfolds throughout the book. You realise that all of it is backed up by a history which he created, the history of an entire universe. It’s supposed to take place in our universe. It’s hard to talk about it without sounding cheesy and nerdy but it’s mind blowing that he could create a piece of art that is that vast.
“It’s hard to talk about it without sounding cheesy and nerdy but it’s mind blowing that he could create a piece of art that is that vast.”
What did you think of the recent film?
I liked it, I thought it was cool, the way it looked and how slow it was at times, the rolling tone of it. I liked both of the films. But when reading it I was thinking it’s ridiculous that anyone tries to make this into a film. There is so much going on that it’s no wonder the first one was a complete disaster. I think they did a pretty good job considering for the newest one.
I read a little about Frank Herbert who was an environmentalist and he spent years just figuring out the ecosystem of the sand dunes and how the planet would work.
Yeah there is no aspect of it that is phoned in, every detail is overly worked out and later explained. After this I was so deeply into the world of it that I ended up reading the next books after this one. He’s written a few in the same world. They get pretty dark and weird and I fell off after the third book. It takes kind of a hero’s journey but the good and evil gets so jumbled up. It takes some crazy turns which are pretty awesome. Not what you would think when you imagine some space ship tale. Star Wars is something I loved as a kid but this feels like something a more complicated, richer, more adult, psychedelic version of that. It’s way more philosophical than a hero tale. Not to shit on Star Wars it was great as a kid and holds so much nostalgia.
The story also has environmental and political concerns which are still relevant at the core of it.
For sure, it does, and it’s philosophical too. It’s an incredible piece of work.
The Long Goodbye – Robert Altman (1973)
What is the attraction to this film, is it an all time favourite?
It’s a more recent favourite. But it’s a comfort genre for me, I like noir films, especially neo-noir films that are set in LA. I didn’t think it was something I liked at first. Then I started catching up on film history and watched a lot of the movies you are meant to watch. It turned out that movies in that genre were the most comfortable for me to watch. Part of that is the super romantic old LA.
It must be cool seeing a city you know so well captured as it was.
Especially somewhere like LA that has so much ugliness attached to it. Your first thought of LA is not super romantic. So when pieces of art romanticise it it’s usually done in a more effective way. You always think of New York or Paris as these cool romantic places. LA has this fake Hollywood, vapid idea attached to it. But then there are these certain time periods which are super sick and I love it when that comes out. This is definitely one of those movies.
So there are a number of films based around the main character in this one?
Yeah I have watched quite a few and I have read the Raymond Chandler novels about Phillip Marlowe the detective. There is something I like about these movies and books featuring the noir detective. That archetypal character is someone who is getting beat up by life the whole time but is unaffected. Making jokes and being witty in the midst of it, not caring that he is being beaten down in the course of solving the mystery. They are always like that and there is something super cathartic about watching somebody take it on the chin over and over again and then say something funny. Get beaten up by the cops and then say some smart ass shit back to them. That is not how I am at all but it feels cathartic to watch it.
The film has an odd pace and tone. I wasn’t very familiar with other Robert Altman films but he’s a director you hear about as being super influential. He’s a fascinating film maker, a lot of overlapping dialogue and a cool loose style to his work.
Is a lot of what’s memorable in this film his input and not directly from the novel?
Totally, it’s a re-imagined Phillip Marlowe placed in the 70s, the book was written way earlier than that. It’s all over the place but it’s done really well. Those movies always have a plot which is super twisty and confusing. For me that always adds to how re-watchable they are. Almost like how White Light/White Heat is, it’s messy, discordant and all over the place. Somehow that makes me not get bored with it.
“Those movies always have a plot which is super twisty and confusing. For me that always adds to how re-watchable they are.”
There are some great random moments in this film. I like the guy working on the hospital entrance who does impressions.
I love shit like that which is such a big swing. It’s a big decision to put that in there and on paper you wonder how it’s going to work but within the movie it works really well. Elliot Gould is amazing in this film, he does a lot of weird mumbling. The way the song keeps appearing in different forms too is so cheesy but also a sick concept.
Elliot Gould reminds me of Columbo.
Yeah exactly, I love Columbo too. I love that shit, it’s just calming to me. Some of those old shows are super sick. It feels like something I wouldn’t like though, Humphrey Bogart movies and shit. When I was a kid those were the sort of movies my grandpa watched and I thought they were horrible but when you actually watch them they’re pretty sick. I usually fall asleep to those kind of movies.
It’s gnarly how many cigarettes he smokes throughout the film.
Dude, for sure. It feels like a real time machine this movie and smoking adds to that. I was going to pick HEAT as my movie choice but I saw you did one of these interviews with Tom [Karangelov] and he spoke about it. That is completely Tom’s movie but I would have picked that one too. They have just made a novel of HEAT 2.
Is it good?
I loved it. I was so gripped by the first part of it and thought it may be the best crime novel I had ever read. It gets to feeling a little like fan fiction at certain parts. But if you really love that movie you kind of have to read it. It’s from the source and there is so much extra shit you want to know if you love those characters. What happened next and what happened before for all of them. If you see Michael Mann in interviews he has fleshed out the full history of those characters, he does it in the writing process anyway. So historically he has had all this information about them when he speaks about the motivation of the characters. I have no idea how they will make that book into a movie though.
When they released the book I went to see HEAT in the theatre with Tom [Karangelov]. It was so insane to see it in the theatre because I was too young to see it when it was first released. It was so heavy, pretty shocking actually, the gun stuff is so intense. Another great LA movie.
If someone likes this movie what else should they investigate?
That’s a good question. I think a good double feature alongside this movie would be Inherent Vice. People either like that one or hate it but it’s a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and I love it. I understand why people don’t like it because it really doesn’t make any sense but I like it when that’s the case. I just like being in the vibe, the tone or the world.
Kevin peaks a frontside wallride before snatching it away to flat at hackney bumps
What’s new in your world?
I have just been skating a bunch. I’m working on a part right now which is going to come out next month I guess. So working on that, working at Baker and being a dad. All of that fills up my time. Next week I’m heading out to Europe for two weeks to hopefully finish off the part.
Where will the part appear?
It’s going to appear on Thrasher, it will be an ACE trucks part.
That’s hot on the heels of your HORSES part. So you’re enjoying a productive time.
Yeah thankfully I’m managing to get out there. I’m loving skating right now more than ever. I really want to keep that momentum of filming in the streets going.
How was your trip to the UK?
You know what I really love it over there. That was one of the best trips I have had for a long time. Every time I come to the UK it’s almost like I forgot just how much I love it. The spots were incredible. I seriously met a bunch of great people I’m still talking to all the time. Mostly I was blown away by how many fun spots there were. It was a great one.
“That was one of the best trips I have had for a long time. Every time I come to the UK it’s almost like I forgot just how much I love it. The spots were incredible.”
Do you have any art projects you’re stoked on just now?
All of my artistic energy right now has been going towards my work for Baker. It’s in a way that is keeping me completely inspired though. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do that. It’s super fun to have something which keeps me having to switch things up. It’s almost like an exercise to try and switch up each season so it’s something new. Keeping things fresh at least in my own head to avoid repeating myself, that pushes me. I look at art as something I’m still learning and putting it out at the same time. It’s an exploration, it’s super fun.
It’s amazing that your creative process keeps moving because of the nature of your work.
Yeah and I’m still feeling inspired regardless of the outcome. I can just keep at it and I have an occasion to rise to each time, it is making me push myself and it’s super fun. It’s not high-minded stuff at all, we’re just doodling and shit. It’s a funny combination where it remains loose but with the right amount of effort. We don’t have to be too precious about it because we’re constantly making stuff so it’s allowed to be dumb hahaha.
Thanks so much for your time. Do you have any last words to close this out?
This was fun. I appreciated taking the time to sit and think of this because it’s usually something I avoid. It was a fun exercise because at the moment this is the shit that’s resonating with the most.
We want to thank Kevin for taking the time out for this interview and look forward to seeing the latest part he is working on. We would also like to thank him for finding time during his trip to Paris to create a homage to Mouse on an Etch A Sketch. Thanks to Kyle Seidler for the portrait and thanks also to Kevin Parrott, Tim Cisilino and Tyler Kirtley at Emerica.
If you want to hear more from Kevin we recommend watching his Nine Club, reading his conversation with Chops at The Chromeball Incident and checking out a Made Chapter Two era interview by Farran Golding.