chrome ball interview #117: scott johnston

chops and scooch keep it clean. 

So how’d you find yourself on such a small SF company like Think all the way out in Washington D.C.? Were there any other D.C. dudes on that squad?  

No, nobody else in DC rode for them.

I feel like my getting on Think just came from being so focused on all things San Francisco at the time. SF was like the mecca of skateboarding to me. And there was just something about Think in those early days, at least, for me. Like, I remember really liking Karl Watson back then, which is kinda strange because I don’t think that he’d even come out with anything yet.

Looking back, it is a little weird that I knew so much about that company. I mean, how did I even know that it was ran by Greg Carroll? But I was just so into the San Francisco scene, as well as the Carroll Brothers, I just knew... even though Mike had nothing to do with it. Maybe just his proximity was enough for me back then. (laughs)

Think just always seemed in the mix. Carroll and Kelch would wear their shirts and it felt like they had all these ties to guys I really respected, even though they were so small. I feel like that actually made them cooler, you know? Like, you had to be in the know.

They were one of those small ad companies.

Oh my god, yes! The quarter-page ads! Those were the best! Somehow that stuff spoke to me back then. It seemed so underground… but it was probably just because those small ads were all they could afford.

Was Think your first sponsor?

I actually got on Venture first, which they and Think were always connected. But that was never a “strategy” of mine or anything, it just worked out that way. Everyone in D.C. rode Ventures back then. Pepe Martinez, Steve Teagues and Chris Hall were all on Venture, which those relationships probably helped me out early on. Back when I was trying to get on Think, Greg could reach out to those guys about me, you know? That’s how things worked from afar back then.

But yeah, I sent in a sponsor-me tape. It’s funny, because I remember talking to Greg on the phone about everything a few days after he got it.

“Yeah, Henry Sanchez was over here the other night and we watched it.”

“Henry!?! Oh no….”

I was just trying to get a couple boards, man! You got Mike and Henry watching this thing? Those guys are the best… oh, man… (laughs)

It was just felt so crazy, being a shy 15-year-old and finding out that Mike Carroll and Henry Sanchez are sitting on the couch, watching my tape. I wasn’t ready for that type of situation! (laughs)

I know you had a few clips in Partners in Crime early on, your big debut.

Yeah, but back then, videos weren’t that big of a deal. I think on that one, they just hit me up out of the blue one day, like, “Hey, we’re putting a video together. Send in your footage by the 15th if you’re into it.”

That was it. I filmed a little and we also put some stuff from my sponsor-me tape in there that wasn’t too old, but that was it. No big deal at all. So funny compared to how it is now. 

Being so far away, how seriously did you take a “career” in skateboarding at the time?

Nah, I never considered what I was doing to be very much back then… like I said, I was mostly just looking for free boards. It’s funny because I knew that people were pro but you didn’t have all the backstory on everyone like you do now. Like, you knew Tony Hawk was this amazing skater, but he almost seemed like a crazy superhero persona or something. He didn’t seem real. I just didn’t understand how the industry worked… but hey, I was getting free stuff! That’s really all I knew.

Not that I was greedy, I just didn’t know how it all worked. Getting boxes was the only real solid feedback I had, you know? And after a while, they started talking about giving me money, too. You start hearing all of this stuff about yourself, it’s so weird… like, really!?!

Well, let’s lean into this and see what happens.

Were you always planning on moving out to San Francisco?

Not necessarily. Coming out of high school, I intended to go to community college or something. San Francisco always sounded amazing but moving there felt so far-fetched.

I actually grew up in the suburbs of Maryland but spent every second I could in D.C. because I liked skating in the city. But to live in San Francisco? That whole place is like a skatepark. Just walk outside your door and there you go. And I was lucky with Think and Venture being there, it all came together. So once I decided to really give everything a go, SF just made sense.

It was definitely a risk moving out there but things started to change so quickly for me after I arrived. I want to say that I turned pro within a year of moving, which definitely would not have happened back in D.C. But the industry was still so small that being in the mix like that definitely helped. Plus, I was so happy actually being out there, that was all the motivation I needed.

Any culture shock at all?

I mean, that place can either make or break you. But I feel like I came in with the right relationships already started and was able to build from there. I’m sure my sponsors might’ve given me a little leeway at first but that stuff will only get you so far. It doesn’t matter who you’re down with if you’re out there kooking it, you know?

Yeah, and you really were walking into social minefield there.

(laughs) Yeah, it was tricky. Because to some, I’m sure it could’ve looked like I came out there for fame and to go pro or whatever, but I never had that mindset. It was never like, “I’m gonna make it!”

I just wanted to check it all out. Sure, I was interested in seeing what could happen but I was never overbearing in how I showed up. I barely even skated the Seven, let alone the Gonz. I wasn’t trying to be a spectacle. I was just stoked to do my thing out there in this legendary place.

How difficult was it being drug-free in the land of Hubba?

(laughs) At that point, I just skated, man. I didn’t even try to fit-in like that. I had tons of respect for the crew and everything, but that wasn’t my thing and I wasn’t going to pretend like it was. So when I was done skating for the day, I’d just go home and watch tv. I never stayed out at first. Not that I was so focused on trying to dominate skateboarding or something, but it really was all that I cared about. The people who I hung out with back then were mellow like that, too. Greg Hunt and Mike York, we were just all about skating.

But it was never an issue. People were always cool. Honestly, nobody was too heavy into all that stuff anyway. There was an aspect of it but I think that’s been blown out of proportion over the years. I think with most dudes, it was more about going big at a rave on Saturday and then being fried for a couple days. That was really about it. Things seem so much crazier when everyone’s young.   

Speaking of, were you down with that raver stuff Think started doing after a while?

No, because again, that wasn’t my scene. That was actually one of the reasons why I left Think. Not that I was this big anti-drug guy, but that stuff wasn’t my message. So for that stuff to be all over everything, it wasn’t going to work for me.

Weren’t you a security guard or something when you first moved out there, too?

(laughs) Yeah, while all those guys were out at raves, I’m working as a security guard.

Oh man, that was 3 nights-a-week. I’d show up with my security guard outfit buried deep in a backpack and have to put it on real quick.

It was at this hospital where a baby had been stolen a few weeks before, they went hyper with it and put security everywhere. I seriously had to stand in this empty hallway for hours that nobody ever went down. That was my job. I got paid pretty decent money for it but after a while… oh, man. And that outfit!?! There was no way I was wearing that thing outside of that place. Definitely not gonna wear that on the bus, I’ll get murdered! I was maybe 130 pounds back then, too. Like, look at this guy!?! Please. He ain’t doing nothing. (laughs)

One of your earliest ads, a front crooks down Hubba with microscopic wheels in ‘92. I remember that really making an impression back then. Was there ever footage of that?

Oh, that was super early on.

Yeah, there’s footage of that somewhere. Mark Oblow filmed it for a tradeshow loop or something. I remember shooting the photo separate and going back later to film it.

I’ll be honest, I was actually trying a frontside noseslide but I kept on grinding it instead… alright, I’ll stick with that then. I couldn’t turn all the way but crooks is probably better anyway. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. (laughs)

And then there were four, how’d Mad Circle enter the picture? Weren’t you supposed to be an OG on that squad?

Yeah, I was supposed to be on at the very beginning. I think it was Wing Ding who come up to me one day like, “We’re doing this thing. You should check it out, maybe you’d be interested.”

I ended up going over to Justin’s house and looking at some things on his computer. It was really sick. Because I already wasn’t happy with Think’s new aesthetic and now I’m looking at this incredible Barry McGee artwork? It seemed so new and different from what everybody else was doing at the time.

I just didn’t want to leave Greg. Because after all, he was the one who originally put me on Think, all the way back in D.C. Now I’m living in SF and I’m pro, so much of that was because of him! So yeah, I was supposed to be an OG on Mad Circle but when I went to go quit Think… I couldn’t do it. I think I might’ve even started crying!

“Forget it, forget it! I’m staying on Think!”

I think about kids today who quit their sponsors through a text message or an Instagram post, just an “I quit” and they’re out. No regard. I feel like there was way more of a relationship back then. You actually had to talk to people about things.

So yeah, I was all hyped to ride for Mad Circle but I felt too guilty about quitting Think, so I stayed… and then I was right back where I started. I had to come to the realization that Mad Circle was something I wanted to do. So I went back to Greg and finally went through with it.

Talk a little about those early Mad Circle days at Justin’s house. I’ve always heard people talk about it being this creative space with constant new ideas.

Justin lived just off Haight Street, which was always a good place to end your evening. Grab some dinner and head over to Justin’s. At first, Mad Circle was mostly Justin and Gorm Boberg with Barry McGee as this mysterious figure out there, doing his thing somewhere. But I always remember going over there to check out whatever Justin had in the works on his computer. He was just so juiced, man. Because he was learning how to do everything at the same as he was starting this company. It was so cool to be around.

“Aw, man, check this out! And what about this!? Let me show you this!”

I think that’s what actually sparked my interest in design later on. Because you couldn’t help but be drawn in by his enthusiasm. And eventually I did start making some t-shirt graphics and a few other things. Baby steps, I guess. But for years, I didn’t feel like there was any point to it. I could just sit back and watch those guys come up with everything.

Skateboarding went down some pretty crazy roads at this time but your trick selection escaped unscathed. I can’t find a single photo of you doing anything embarrassing of the early 90’s variety. How cognizant were you of matters of style and looking good on your board versus trying to learn every trick?

It was never like I only wanted to do “minimal tricks” or anything. I wanted to do a lot of tricks, for sure. But I feel like once I got to San Francisco, I learned that skating faster really made a difference. Everything looks better that way. So even though I probably wasn’t skating as fast when I wasn’t filming, as soon as the camera came out, I’d give it a few extra pushes to help things out a little. I feel like that alone got me out of a lot of that. Speed became more of a priority than noodling tricks.

So were you filming for Horns, 411 and Finally all at the same time? How’d you even do that?

(laughs) Yeah, that was all through filming with Meza back then. We’d film everything and if we doubled up on a trick, you just spread ‘em out. But the best stuff always went to Horns.

Surprisingly, it was very low pressure… which I don’t really know why that was. I should’ve been way more nervous! I mean, nervous is typically my speed! I guess because the industry was much smaller at the time, I could handle it? I don’t know. But if that would’ve been later on, I would’ve probably lost my mind.

That was all about 2 years of casual filming. It never got too gnarly back then. Never any deadlines or anything. You just filmed and after a while, someone would decide to put something out.

I don’t want to say that 411 and FTC weren’t important but they were just kinda… there. 411 hadn’t become a big thing yet. It was still this weird little offspring of Mad Circle/New Deal. And as far as FTC went, nobody thought that one was going to be as big as it was. I know I didn’t. Sure, FTC was the best shop but we were still just talking about a shop video. That’s where my head was at, anyway… which was probably the only way I got through filming for everything at the same time.

Looking back on it, I feel like both of those FTC parts really helped me out a lot, which is funny because I really just wanted to be part of this thing that Meza was doing... at least on the first one. Kent at the shop was always cool to me as well and I liked supporting him, too. So when the possibility of being in the second one came up, of course, I was down.

Was Steely Dan your choice for Horns?

Justin already had a Steely Dan song picked out but it was a different one. I ended up going through the CD and finding another one that I liked better, which was the one we used. I guess I just kinda took it and did it. (laughs)

I feel like that might be the only song in any of my parts that I actually chose!

There’s a lot of Pulaski footage in that one. Would you skate Freedom a lot growing up?

Oh yeah, for sure. As soon as I was old enough to drive, that’s where I was, connecting with all those guys down there. Sheffey was already gone by that point but all of the guys who would later make names for themselves at Pulaski were there. Chris Hall, Pepe Martinez, Andy Stone, Eben Jahnke… all those guys.

I feel like my time at Pulaski actually helped me get into the right mind state for Embarcadero later on. Because everyone had so much to offer. So much style and diversity. I loved it.

After I moved away, I’d still visit my family from time to time and be so pumped to be back. Because by that point, I’d been skating Embarcadero for the last year or so, I felt like I was skating Pulaski differently now, too. It was like a new spot again. Plus, it’s just so smooth and perfect.

With D.C. blowing up in the mid-90s, did part of you ever consider moving back?

Oh, I was totally stoked to see that scene blow up like it did but I was focused on going forward in SF. At that time, I probably felt like I was going to stay in San Francisco for the rest of my life.

Which spot do you prefer, Pulaski or Embarcadero?

(laughs) Oh man, they were both great but for different reasons. Because Embarcadero had the whole crew and there was all this famous stuff to skate but like I said, Pulaski was so smooth. You weren’t skating on bricks the entire time.

If I had to pick one to go skate today, it would probably be Pulaski, to be honest. If I’m going to go nostalgic, I might as well go the furthest back.

Where does Dune’s “Scott Johnston is the rippingest skater in town!” come from?

(laughs) He was just messing around. Meza was walking around the table at Carl’s Jr, asking people to say something about me for 411. Because those videos always had awkward little interviews in them. Just a kid sitting there, like, “Hey, I’m Jan. I’m 12 years old. I have been skating for 4 years and I like candy apples.”

They were always so bad. Aaron was trying to do something different and save me from the uncomfortable hot seat. But I still hear that one to this day. Every Instagram post, that’s the number one quote people throw out there.

Talk a little about Blabac’s classic backside smith shot with the parking meter.

Oh, I was bummed while we were shooting that. Because I didn’t know what he was doing! He was just like, “Let’s shoot this.”

“Man… I don’t know if that’s gonna be enough.”

I was thinking in terms of tricks. It wasn’t until the photo came out that I really knew what was going on.

“Oh… you were just shooting the meter the whole time? You weren’t even shooting me!” (laughs)

But yeah, that’s an incredible photo, man. A great concept and I was stoked on how it came out. And pleasantly surprised. I definitely appreciate it more now than I did at the time.

Doing things the hard way… your 180 nosegrind. Where’d that inspiration come from? I don’t remember seeing anyone else do that trick prior.

No, I couldn’t have been the first! No way. I mean, it always goes back to Gonz, Natas and Henry Sanchez. That’s the trinity. If I have any kind of spirit animal in my head, it would essentially be those three guys walking around in there. I’m sure that I was taking inspiration from one of those guys there. I’m sure one of those guys did that one first. (laughs)

But that was at Brown Marble, which was one of my favorite spots back then. It came pretty quick, actually. And Justin came up with the “Hard Way” copy. He was always really good at coming up with just the right thing to say in those ads. That one came out pretty cool.

Something that I don’t think a lot of people know is that you can skate vert. And we’re talking proper airs here!

I’ve always had some connection to transition. Like, when you’re 15 and you start skating, you skate everything. I actually remember trying to skate vert early on… not that I was Tony Hawk or anything. Just some little baby airs here and there.

But once I moved out to SF, I connected with Max somehow. I was going over to his house a lot and he had that ramp there, might as well skate it.

Looking back on it, I was seriously skating a vert ramp with Max Schaaf and Bob Burnquist. Nobody else. And I wasn’t even tripping on it at the time… but I definitely trip on that now! Being able to skate in Max’s space with those two dudes!? What an honor! That’s insane!

But just by watching me skate, those dudes could teach me tricks. I learned tailslides on vert so quick because of those dudes, and it was their idea for me to even try them! Proper airs, they told me how to lean. Because I guess it’s pretty typical for a street skater to want to ollie out and lean back, which is wrong. They had to break it down to me.

“No, you have to lean over the top of the ramp and really pull yourself up.”

It was so interesting, because it wasn’t like they were giving me instruction. They seemed to know what I would probably be inclined to do naturally and say something to counteract that. It was pretty incredible, man. But yeah, that all came from those guys.

They would know. So talk about a little about your Five Flavors part. What all was going on with you at that point? Because it is a bit on the shorter side…

Well, all of mine are kinda short but that might be the shortest one. I don’t know, that was just kind of a weird time. A lot of things were going on. Not that I had my foot out the door, like I was gonna quit, but I knew that something wasn’t right behind the scenes. I could tell that maybe Mad Circle wasn’t going to be around anymore.

I think they did pull the plug about a week after that video came out.

Yeah, I can’t say for certain but I did have a feeling that it was heading that way. Justin was always up-front about everything and treated me like an adult. He would try to communicate everything that was going on and I knew that he was having a hard time with Giant. I feel like that possibly could’ve slowed me down because it’s hard to get excited about filming when you’re not sure if the video is even going to come out.

Plus, I was briefly living in New York at the time and trying to figure that what whole thing out, too… I guess I did kinda cruise through it.

But you seemed almost like the captain of the squad after a while…

Nah, it was always a group effort, but there were definitely things that I feel like I brought to the table. Like when Bobby started coming around San Francisco, I knew we had to get that dude on the team. Meza and I both were so hyped on his skating. And on Rob, too. The team felt like a natural build at the time but I guess I did bring more of that to the table just by being out there.

Is there anybody we’d be surprised to hear of almost being on Mad Circle that didn’t work out?

You know what? This was right around when I got on the team so I don’t know how much of a conversation there truly was, but I think Carroll was an option! His name was definitely being thrown around there for a minute. Again, I don’t know how serious it was… maybe he just liked the hats because it was his initials, but I do remember there being the tiniest bit of a chance that it could happen. This was before Girl started, back in the Plan B days, there was a little buzz there, for sure.

He’ll probably read this and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about but that’s how I remember it anyway. There was some interest.

So what did happen to Mad Circle?

I mean, it wasn’t overnight because, like I said, I had a sense that things weren’t right. But at the same time, we did just put out a video, you know? I’m sure, on some level, we figured that might buy us some time. But then I got the call from Justin.

“Hey, dude, it’s done.”

So I was still kinda shocked by that. I wouldn’t say that I was scared because I was still on DC at that point and had some other things going. It just felt crazy that it was gone.

I know you’re getting on Chocolate took a minute, ever entertain any other offers?

It only took 2 or 3 months but at the time, it felt like forever. Because they had to go talk to the dudes and I think maybe every single person had to say yes. But in the meantime, you’re just kinda left wondering, you know?

During the process, Sal actually hit me up about Aesthetics. That would’ve been sick, for sure. Sal’s basically the man and Aesthetic was a dope brand.

“I don’t know what we can pay you but we’d love to have you.”

Felix hit me up about Rhythm as well. That would’ve been solid. Huf even mentioned something about Real, too.

“Dude, you’re on Real if you want. Just say the word.”

I don’t know if it would’ve actually gone down so easily but that’s how he said it, which was sick to hear. You always wonder how those things would’ve played out, you know? But I always thought Chocolate was the best. And now, I’d just moved to LA and was super immersed in that crew, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

Well, you really came out swinging in that Chocolate Tour introduction part. How’d that come together? They’d already filmed the van stuff prior, right?

Yeah, they filmed all of the skits right before I got in the mix. And because I was kinda late to things, I only had about 6 months to film that one. But it was cool because Meza down in LA now, too, so I was able to go out filming with him again. I feel like that helped a lot, just being comfortable with the filmer.

I wasn’t on Chocolate for every clip in that one. They did start giving me boards right away but there was a bit of a delay before I was officially on the team. So there is a bit of me trying to get on the team in a few of those clips. Hoping they’d have me. I knew the kind of skating those videos required so I was trying to step it up in my own way... hopefully. (laughs)

What about that nollie noseslide ender in Tarzana? I don’t remember too many people coming in nollie on that thing at the time.

Oh, that was super scary! (laughs)

“Fuck, I know I can do this but wow, this is terrifying!”

That was a pretty good session, though. Rick, Mike and I all out there together. Ballard and Meza, too.

Honestly, it was one of the few times where I had a specific trick in mind to try. I feel like most of the time, I’d just go to spots and try different things while I was there. Maybe one will work out? But I remember thinking about that trick on my way there, that I was gonna set out to do it. And it worked out pretty quickly, too. It was scary but I don’t remember that one being much of a battle. I got it that day.

I always liked that switch front tail past the rail on Fairfax, too.

(laughs) That’s another time where I had the idea beforehand. You’ve amazingly chosen two of the only tricks I’ve ever done that with. But I’d see that spot all of the time because I used to live right by there. So I just skated over there one morning with Blabac and Meza and got it done. That one went down relatively quick, too. Definitely not easy but I got it.

Damn… handling it!

(laughs) That’s not normal for me at all! Those are, like, the only two times in my life where that ever happened!

I ask everyone this from the Girl/Chocolate mix at this time: Any good Sheffey stories?

Oh yeah, of course… you just gotta be careful. I’m kidding. (laughs)

He was just so gnarly. He could party, but then he’d reel it in, and then go back to partying again. You never knew.

But I remember all of us were about to go over to Europe for those contests they used to have and Sheffey wanted to go. He was definitely ripping back then but he was always a little unpredictable on the road.

“Alright, Sean… but seriously, no drinking.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… no drinking.”

So we’re at the Radlands contest and both Sean and I ended up qualifying pretty good, like 4th and 5th place or something. We were pretty stoked, you know? So later that night, I’m in my room and I just start to hear this loud music coming straight to my door. There’s a big knock and I start to get a little scared, because I know it’s Sean. I still don’t know where he got these headphones but I could literally hear his music blazing through my door. So I open up and he’s standing there in a towel with his headphones on, in the middle of the hallway. He’s holding a beer, too, but he’s hiding it behind the towel.

Okay, so we start talking and I just have to bring up the beer… I don’t know why but I do.

“Aw, Scott, I’m just having the one!”

I’m sure he probably put back a couple, which we were all a little concerned about, but the next day comes and he absolutely annihilates that contest! I still remember him standing up on this bannister, popping in switchstance and just killing it. I think he ended up getting 4th place or something. It was so rad to see.

And, of course, he gets that paycheck and just goes nuts with it. I think he spent it all that day. I remember him going to H&M… back when they were kinda high-fashion-y, I guess. He bought all these capri pants and mesh shirts, going full-on fashion with it. It was sick! (laughs)

So how did that elite Lakai opportunity come about? You were still on DC before that, right?

Yeah, I was still on DC but I knew those guys were about to break out.

By that point, I was just all about the crew. I was on Chocolate now and living in LA, I was totally in, 100%. DC felt like it was starting to lean a little too far into things, if that makes sense, and I wasn’t feeling it as much. But with Lakai, my mindset was that whatever those guys are gonna do will be the best because that’s what always happens for them. So I was down.

You brought up designing shirts for Mad Circle, did it just grow from there to shoes over the years?

Yeah, I feel like seeing Justin doing his thing kinda planted that seed in me and after a while, I started messing around with it some. I got one of those colorful iMacs when they first came out and started teaching myself how to use Illustrator. I basically started drawing shoes just to see if I could do it. Just as a hobby, I guess. It’s not like I was designing for DC or anything… which is why I left! Just kidding. (laughs)

But as Lakai got started, I was able to see how the process worked. All the color choices and materials, picking up different shoes for reference. I really became fascinated by the whole thing.

Plus, at that time, I was a pro skater traveling the world. I always liked shoes anyway and now I’m picking up some crazy colorway in Japan that I’d never seen. I feel like having the creative bug alongside this shoe collecting thing, the two just connected.

So how did you get into designing shoes at Lakai in an official capacity?  

Well, it’s kinda funny how it worked out, because it was all so nonchalant. Mike was in the process of laying out stuff one day when I happened to show him this shoe design I’d done, which felt pretty legit. He goes, “We should make that.”

“Wow, you’re gonna make this shoe I drew? That’s cool!”

“Do you want that to be your shoe?”

“I’m getting a shoe?!?”

Just like that, I got a shoe on Lakai. Things just grew from there. I was always hanging around with the designers and asking questions, in addition to playing around on my own. Luckily, everyone at Lakai was cool about including me in on things, which ultimately led to them formally giving me the opportunity. Now it’s literally what I do to support my family.

So, of course, we have to bring up the 180 s/s k at JKwon. Did you realize on the day you made it that you would probably talking about that trick for the rest of your life? I’ve even seen it called “the best trick ever”.

(laughs) No, I had no idea. I just knew that all of the Lakai ads had these sick-ass sequences and that I needed something good. But I gotta say, that one definitely turned out better than I thought it would. I grinded way longer than I ever expected to.

But yeah, I was shooting with Ballard the first time I did it and he ran out of film, just as I was rolling away. So I had to go back for that one, which is always rough. Because it’s hard enough to do it the first time. That first one took a couple days. Now I have to go back? It’s like that first one didn’t even count.

Was your first one as good as the one that came out?

I think it was. With the angle that you come in at that thing, it forces you in. It’s hard getting into it but once you do, you’re basically locked in.  

Incredible. So how was your front-row seat for Owen Wilson’s acting tour de force in Yeah Right?

It was so surreal, man. Because that was at his pinnacle time, too. He was like the best thing going in movies at that point. But basically watching a superstar run through his profession like that was incredible. Because we know how a Koston approaches his tricks but watching an actor do his thing firsthand was rad. He just kept going and going. It was never like, “Oh, I fucked up” and stop. He was in the mindset of giving these guys as much footage as they could possibly need in, like, 10 minutes… and then I’m out. He knew exactly how much to produce so we had enough. It was cool.

He was only there for 10 minutes?

No, probably a little less than an hour. But it was pretty quick. You could definitely tell that when Eric was doing trying the trick, he expected it to go down first-try. It only took 5 tries, but you could kinda see him getting him impatient. But he was so hyped when Eric made it. 

“Okay, we got it. We’re good. I gotta go.”

It was the fastest hard-out ever. (laughs)

But even then, you’d expect a star like that to show up with an entourage. He was there by himself, man. He just came, did his thing, and left.

More skit stuff, what about the burning board and synchronized Bjork stuff in Hot Chocolate?

Both of those were essentially recurring things that would pop-up throughout the trip.

“Let’s try to film something here.”

There was never a specific day of shooting that stuff, we just grabbed shots as we went. Never a plan or anything. And it wasn’t storyboarded either. Even the Bjork thing, that was made up as we went. So that stuff could take a while because we had to work through it all.

Oh wow, I always figured that Bjork one to be pretty planned out.

Not at all, man. Total run-and-gun. If there was an extra minute and we saw an interesting space, we’d all put on our white t-shirts and film something real fast… Which, trying to coordinate 10 dudes to do the same thing, that’s pretty hard. Everyone landing their trick in a row like that? I remember a lot of those shots starting out pretty ambitious, trick-wise, but after a while, it turned into, “Well, just do a noseslide, guys.” (laughs)

But the burning board thing was dangerous as hell, man. It’s not like we had on stuntman gear or anything. There weren’t any special gels for us. No, just gas, our regular clothes, and skateboarding. That was it. Not to mention that we’d been doing a demo only a few hours earlier and now they want to take us out to some remote spot, super late at night. It was fun but wow, pretty crazy, too.

What was your trick on the burning board?

I didn’t have one! I’ll be honest, I was too afraid! (laughs)

I was all about being as close as I could without really engaging with the fire. I wasn’t trying to get burned up!

So just how gnarly were those Fully Flared trips? Did that get blown out of proportion or were they really that bad?

You know what’s funny is that while you’re in the middle of it, you think it’s so insane. But now I look back on those trips as some of the best times of my life. So many great memories to look back on… but it felt miserable at the time. Those super-long drives and skating crazy hours. But Ty was dead-set on getting something done literally every day. That was his mindset.

We’d just be stuck out there. And if you’re working with 10 dudes, that meant 9 of us were typically waiting around for that one dude to get something. That’s how the project moved forward and I understand that, but to be trapped in the back of a schoolyard at 2 in the morning… in some weird town where you don’t even know where you are. All you wanted was to be back at the hotel, taking a shower. Instead you’re stuck at the spot, eating gummi worms.

But to his credit, Ty knew that if we stayed at home in our little comfort zones and distractions, it wouldn’t work.

Didn’t you come up with the Fully Flared title? And I’ve heard that Finally was also one of yours? Anything else?

I think I said “Fully Flared” at some point. Did I come up with “Finally”?

That’s what Meza claims.

Maybe I did! (laughs)

Wow, that’s awesome. I guess I got lucky.

When did you know that Fully Flared was going to be your swan song?

About halfway through. It just became one of those things where as you get older, you aren’t getting as much stuff done on your board as you want. And even more than that, it’s the fear. Seeing something you want to do and knowing inside that you can do it, but you’re afraid. You start talking yourself out of things more. Saying that you’ll do it next time or that you’ll come back for it. That’s the worst.

Because you need to be producing. Every other adult your age, their careers are moving forward. If I’m not doing anything, if I’m making money doing nothing, I’m in trouble. That’s not going to last forever. And every day that I didn’t produce, that worry set in more and more.

Do you think it would’ve gone that way had you not been involved in such a pressure cooker situation like Fully Flared?

I don’t think it was necessarily because of that video. If anything, it just highlighted where my head was at. Because even when I was at home, it was weighing on me. It’s Tuesday and I’m having brunch at some cafĂ© at 10:30. I’m gonna head over to the Beverly Center and buy some sneakers, then a carwash. I just drove around all day, not even skating. At some point, it dawns on you how insane that is. That the life you’re leading is not realistic.

I couldn’t sustain that. I know some people do but I didn’t think it was right for me to even try. I have more respect for Rick and Mike than that. I know how hard it is for them to have to take people’s boards away because they’re so close to everyone. They’re skaters, too. That’s gotta be rough.

I came to terms with it on my own and then went to talk to the guys about it. I wanted it to feel almost like a relief to them.

“I’m out, man. I’m good. Let’s just move on to this next thing.”

I wanted to take the pressure off of that friendship while, hopefully, maintaining a level of respect for skateboarding and everything it has done for me. I just didn’t want to milk it.

Respect. But what about those clips in Cherry? That was so cool to see.

I remember them reaching out just as they were starting the project. And, of course, I’d love to be part of any project they’re doing. I was still on my board a good bit back then, too. Skating around Biebel’s and Girl a lot. So it sounded like fun. 

Plus, I felt like I owed the dudes at Supreme for taking care of me all these years. If they wanted me to be in their video, of course, I was down.

But yeah, that was just a couple days. I went out with Bill a few times and got some things. Daniel Wheatley and I went out for a few things afterwards that I was persistent on but I don’t think we came away with much.

Is there any talk of you being in the new one?

Nah, I think it’s already pretty jammed with everyone on their roster, you know? They’re pretty stacked.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that many younger riders often seem to point to you as a mentor of sorts… like Alex Olson and even Jereme Rogers before he left.  What are some words of wisdom or common pitfalls you often identify for these kids on the come-up?

I don’t think that I’m really telling them anything all that Earth-shaking. I think for most of these younger guys, they just need some perspective. And for Alex to even talk about me in that kind of light is incredible as he’s turned out to be such a solid man and remains a good friend to this day.

If anything, I think that it typically comes down to being patient about things. I feel like the rush to make money is rarely ever the right call. Of course, you need it to live and you should get your fair share. But to rush it is not necessarily the right thing.

With regard to what?

Getting too much, too soon. I find that can lead to a loss of focus as to why you even started doing something in the first place. Money can become quite a distraction and I feel like after a while, that can become your entire reason for doing something. And those people are never happy.

We talked about your difficulty in leaving Think and your decision to retire from Chocolate, what prompted to you start looking elsewhere from Lakai? That couldn’t have been easy either.

I think everyone has a tendency to wonder what life would be like somewhere else, you know? And you also have to ask yourself if you’re operating to your fullest potential. Are you growing as a person? Because when you have kids, you do start to look at life a little differently.

There were a lot of factors, obviously. I could see that there were issues after the buy-out and that things were changing. Plus, by that point, I was the Senior Designer. There was no more room for me to advance, and not only that, I’m now standing in the way of the guy underneath my position’s growth.

When I retired early, that was largely out of respect for my friends. Granted, I’ll never be a Heath Kirchart but I wanted to be an example and show people that it’s okay to evolve. I didn’t want to stay in the way of someone on the come-up, continuing to use up the brand’s resources, when I know in the back of my head that I’m done. Because then, everybody loses.

I basically had this same a-ha moment as a designer. If I want to explore the highest levels of footwear design, I have to go elsewhere to learn. The biggest footwear brands are in Boston and Portland, that’s where I needed to go in order to grow.

But yeah, it was super hard, man. It’s tough leaving your friends… and then to essentially go somewhere that is their competition? It definitely wasn't easy. But as a father, a designer and a skateboarder, I had to do what was best for all of those things.

Well said, Scott. But admit it, do you ever get tired of the Mr. Clean thing?

(laughs) Nah, because it’s just too perfect. I mean, the stories are kinda silly but it is rooted in my personality. I definitely took my fair share of showers back in the day. When you skate a lot, you get dirty… you always gotta reset, man. Keep it clean.

So as we wrap this up, the big closing question: What would you say is your proudest accomplishment in skateboarding and what is your biggest regret?

Oh my God! (laughs)

Probably getting on Chocolate was my proudest moment. Because from the minute that brand started, I always thought that it was the best. And it honestly never even seemed achievable to me. So distant. It’s not like I chased it either, it just came about at the right time, for the right reasons. It worked out. But yeah, that really meant a lot to me.

As far as a regret goes, that’s tough one because I actually like my career as a pro skater. I don’t think that I really have anything I regret, to be honest.  

Yeah, you really did have a good one, man. You got in, did your thing, and didn’t stay too long at the party. Plus, you got into this whole other creative design aspect of things. It really is cool to see. 

(laughs) Thanks, man. It does feel like I had a pretty good run. But if anything, there’s part of me that still thinks I could’ve done better. Like writing something off as “I’ll come back for that” or whatever… I should’ve just done it, you know? Part of me wishes that I had a better work ethic but at the same time, maybe that’s why I’m happy with how I did things, because it did come so naturally. Who knows? You can always wonder what might’ve been had you worked just a little harder… but then again, I might’ve kooked it, too.    

big thanks to sj for taking the time. 


chrome ball interview #116: socrates leal

CBI celebrates 10 years with the legendary World filmer.

So you grew up in the South Bay area of LA, right? How’d you get introduced to skateboarding?

Yeah, I was introduced to skating by my older cousin. He used to always skate down at the skatepark in Torrance. I remember going there with him one time, being just barely as tall as the fence but trying to look in. I wanted to get in there and skate so bad. There was this snake run with all these older dudes… they were probably only 13 or so, but I was only 5 at the time so they seemed like grown men to me. But they were just flowing around, back-and-forth, in their little OP shorts and funky-looking helmets. Totally 70s skateboarding, man. It looked kinda scary but I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

And you just kept skating from there?

I really wasn’t even skating back then. It was just one of the many things you did as a little kid. BMX, surfing, frisbee… It was all part of being a kid growing up.  

I didn’t really start skating seriously until the 10th grade, around ‘86. The whole launch ramp-era. I bought my first Thrasher with Mike Muir on the cover. Sick! (laughs)

Were you always interested in filmmaking and photography?

Yeah, a lot of that came from my uncle. He’d go on all these trips down to Mexico and take his Super 8 camera with him. I remember him always coming back and playing stuff from his latest trip. We’d have to turn off all the lights and he’d project it onto our white wall. It was like magic. I was totally fascinated and, of course, I wanted to play around with it, too.

“No, this is off-limits. For adults only.”

Man, that bummed me out. But I still wanted to get my hands on one.  So one day as I was doing my paper route, I stopped by a garage sale and happened to see a camera. It was all funky-looking but it had a spool in there.

“What’s going on with this thing?”

“It’s a movie camera. I’ll give it to you for 10 bucks.”

I knew absolutely nothing about it but bought it anyway. Luckily, they were still producing the film at the time, so I went and bought some at the local Save-On and started messing around with it. Trying different stuff. Shooting my friends on their bikes or having them hold something, dropping it while the camera is paused, and shooting them again to make it disappear. Little effects like that. At one point, I was even trying to write a script but my friends weren’t really into it. They wanted to play Cowboys and Indians instead.

That was fun until they stopped making the film, so I had to put it away. That’s around the time that I started skating seriously anyway, but I always had the bug. I’d still buy cheap little Instamatic cameras to shoot around with. I just wanted to shoot.

I used to belong to a church youth group back then and we’d always go on these trips. One time, we were at a track meet and I saw this guy with a video camera. They’d been around for a while but this was the first time that I’d ever seen one in-person. I was blown away by that thing, man. I still remember when he played some footage back for me in the camera… I couldn’t believe it.

“Woah! How!?! You can just… what!?!”

“Yeah, it’s all on a magnetic tape.”

Oh, man. I couldn’t fathom how it worked! A VHS Tape! I had to get one.

It took me five years but I did finally get one. They’d gotten cheaper over the years and I’d started working, too. So yeah, I was 19 when I really started filming.

And you basically came up filming with Daewon and Eric Ricks?

Yeah, I’d gone to school with Ricks. I was a senior when he was freshman, but that’s how I knew him.

I met Daewon at this random church. He was already sponsored by a local shop, Sporting Ideas. Not that I was a poser or anything but he was already jamming. We had all these launch ramps out in the parking lot and this dude just started launching crazy, like Hosoi-style. He ripped! I remember trying to match him the best could… but nah, I quickly had to take a seat.

Once I finally got my video camera, there was still that show on Nickelodeon called Sk8-TV with Skatemaster Tate. They’d always say on the show “Submit your VHS and we might play it on the air!”

Oh man, that was all we needed. After hearing that, it was on!

That’s when I became the “filmer” of the crew, just because we wanted to send in that tape! Daewon, included! We wanted to get on Sk8-TV! That’s really what set all this in motion to where I am today.

Did you ever send in a tape?

We never did! (laughs)

How much of this do you feel is right place, right time? Do you think you would’ve explored “filming” if it weren’t for such incredible local talent?

There’s some of that. I definitely got lucky with having those dudes around. I mean, I got a camera in ’90, basically right before Ricks got on Powell and Daewon got on World. Those were the two best companies back then. I was able to fall in that mix simply by having a movie camera. Those guys were already killing it. Of course, I’m down to film them.

From there, our crew expanded to those guys’ new teammates, like Kareem, Shiloh and Daniel. I still remember Shiloh coming up to me one day as I was filming Daewon at San Pedro High.

“Alright, man, get this.”


“Film this!”


“Aren’t you the World Industries filmer?”

“No, I’m just here filming Daewon.”

“Oh, you’re not getting paid for this?”

“No! I’m just hanging out.”

“Oh, sorry, man… well, would you mind filming this?”

“Sure! Yeah, I got you.”

I started filming all of those guys after that.

So how did you get officially on the World payroll?

Well, like I said, I started filming those guys as a homie. Nobody ever forcing me to, just wanting to be out there because I thought those guys were amazing.

It was all fun for me but those guys were in a different mindset, because this was actually their careers we’re talking about. I didn’t know this at the time but they were the ones talking to Rocco and Rodney about me.

So one day after we’re done filming, they come up to me, like, “Hey, we need the tapes.”

“Oh yeah, what for?”

“We’re gonna show Rodney. We want to be in the next video.”

So they ended up showing Rodney the footy and actually got rejected. Not because of their skating, obviously, but because the company wanted to go in a different direction. They didn’t want to make another full-length video at the time, which is why they made 2 World Industries Men instead. But we kept on filming anyways.

From there, I was told that Rodney wanted to meet with me about possibly filming. It went really well but he didn’t actually need me right then. He said that they might call me in the spring of ’92 for a little U.S. tour they were putting together.

I didn’t hear anything officially a while, but in the meantime, I kept filming and actually busted my camera. So, of course, this is when I get the call from Rodney. And not for that tour either, he was actually calling me to film him! Like I said, I didn’t even have a camera at the time but I knew I couldn’t pass this up. This was Rodney Mullen! So I lied to him.

“Yeah, I got you.”

I ended up having to call this super weird friend of mine from east L.A. I think he might’ve been autistic or something. He’d do things like getting a job at McDonald’s just long enough to earn the exact amount of money he needed for a year’s worth of CASL contests... I’m talking, calculating the exact number of hours that he needed to pay for the entry frees, bus fare and food to enter every contest that year. That’s what he would work, to the second, and then quit.

But he had come into some money. His grandmother wanted to see him spend his inheritance before she died so she gave him all this money early. What does he do? He goes out and buys literally two of everything he wants. Two Vespas, two tv’s, two video cameras…

 “Why did you buy two video cameras?”

“Because last time, I let a friend borrow my camera and he broke it. So this time, if I lend it to him and he breaks it, I’ll have a back-up.”

“Why don’t you just not let the guy borrow your camera?”

“…But I have two video cameras.”

Anyway, I was able to talk this dude into letting me borrow his camera under two conditions: I had to drag him along and he had to get product. It was the only way.

But this wasn’t going to fly. My first day with Rodney, the second he saw that dude, it was over.

“I’m not gonna film with him here! No way! He’s like a little rat! He keeps skating in circles around me, trying to impress me. Get him outta here!”

“I’m sorry. I have to confess, I had to borrow his camera. Mine’s busted… Oh, and he wants some product, too.”

Rodney was so heated, man. He wasn’t having it. (laughs)

“Okay, we’re going to hook up tomorrow. Don’t bring him. I’ll see what I can do… maybe I can get him some wheels or something. But please, don’t bring him.”

So the next day, I talked that dude into staying home and Rodney brought me bag of blank sample wheels to give him. 

“Here.” (laughs)

That was the day we filmed his opening line in Questionable.

So that’s your first gig? Filming Rodney Mullen’s opener for Questionable?

Yeah, man… that was the first time I ever went out as a pro “filmer”.

It’s that line where he noseblunts a curb, hits that gap and keeps going. I remember him trying that noseblunt forever, but once he made it, I had no idea what was next! And he just starts pushing forever! I’m trying to match his speed but where’s this dude going? Oh, he’s gonna ollie this gap! Wait, what am I going to do?

He was pushing hard, too. I’m just trying not to bobble the camera. I wasn’t planning on that gap. I’d actually ollied it before but it took forever… and now I have a camera? I’m not about to do that now.  I’ll eat it and bust the camera!

Well, that dude does have another one.

(laughs) I basically had no choice but to jump off my board and run with him, hopefully it wouldn’t be too shaky. And that’s what I did, man. I had to make it up on the fly.

You can see your shadow in that clip, too. I love it. So you filmed a large part of his Questionable part?

He’d already been filming down in San Diego with Ternasky and Schlossbach but was finding it harder and harder to drive down there. Because his business is here in LA. He didn’t want to be in an office all day, and then sit in traffic for 3 hours to go film. So that’s where I came in.

The problem was, I already had a job elsewhere. After I got out of high school, I started working as an artist for a screen printing company, designing t-shirts. Even though, I was totally irresponsible with it… spelling it “San FranSISCO” without the c. And I’m Hispanic!

Anyways, I was doing that at the time when I got the gig shooting Rodney. That job was from 8am to 5 in afternoon and Rodney would pick me up right afterwards, like clockwork. But he only wanted to skate at night, so we’d be out til 2 or 3 in the morning. So for about two months, I was only sleeping 3 hours a night! I was exhausted! I was totally down to film and wanted to make the most of the opportunity, but I just couldn’t continue on with that schedule!

Finally, I had no other choice but to mention something about it to Rodney. Because I was beat! He ended up working something out with Rocco. I still remember meeting with Rocco at a pizza joint about it. Daewon went with me, too.

“Why don’t we pay you by the hour instead? We trust you, you write down your hours and that’s it. Just go out and film. You can film the ams in the daytime and you film Rodney at night and on the weekends.”

One thing that I will say for Rocco: he always wanted to make something out of us dirtbag kids. He always saw our potential. Because if it wasn’t for World, I would’ve probably just worked at some warehouse my entire life.

So now you’re officially the World filmer, do you just start cold calling people? Were you nervous at all?

You have to remember that I was older than most of those guys. I was 19 already, they were all 15 or 16. So most of the time, I felt like I was hanging out with little kids. They just happened to be really good at skateboarding.

Also, the first job I ever had was filming Rodney! Talk about a trial-by-fire, that’s gnarly! All of my jitters were pretty much gone after that! (laughs)

The crew just kept growing. Like, one day, we’d all go out and Shiloh would bring Guy along, so I’d film some stuff with him… the next day, I was going out to North Hollywood and the Valley to film them at their spots out there. Because that’s where Shiloh and all the Blind guys were from. Matt Schnurr and Chico, too, whenever he’d come down. I didn’t know any of this walking into it, I just had to figure it out as I went.

I guess before me, they would all film themselves. Just passing around Mark’s old camera, filming each other with a busted lens.

Do you recall any particularly epic times where everybody got multiple NBDs in one night?

That went down fairly regularly. Because we’re talking about a time when so many tricks hadn’t been made up yet. Somebody had to make up all that stuff, I just happened to be filming most of the guys doing that. What if I go this way or out that way? What if I throw in a flip? All of these different variations. That became the thing: progression. Not only trying to do something that nobody else could do, but also trying to make up something that nobody had even thought of.

One night that does stand out was around ’93 or so, back when Jeron was still on Blind. Daewon and Jeron got into this little joke battle of seeing who could pull off the most NBDs that night. It started off at the Imperial Ledges and then went on to the Santa Monica Manual. They were both breaking off tricks, one after another. I think they each ended up with 8 or 9 tricks that night, none of which had ever been done to our knowledge.

What were the tricks?

I’d have to watch the footage. It’s pretty bad that the dude filming it all can’t remember. People always flip out on me because I can never remember. I'm more concentrating on filming it right and not screwing up. The trick was on them.

All of Daewon’s stuff got put in New World Order… I’m not sure if Jeron’s stuff ever came out, to be honest.

Wasn’t Love Child your first big project?

I filmed probably half of Love Child. The rest was probably Meza, Jake Rosenberg and this other guy that World had hired who used to film on rollerblades.

Is that “T-Dog”?

Yeah, that’s the guy where that all came from. I think his name was actually Mark Eaton. Dudes were pretty bummed on that guy. (laughs)

A long source of controversy, who picked out the music for that one?  

Yeah, there were all pretty bummed on the music at first, too. (laughs)

I think it all came from that U.S. Tour that we went on. That was kinda like the unofficial beginning of Love Child. Rocco was with us and he bought this crazy CD, like “Malt Shop Favorites” or something. One of those Oldies But Goodies-type compilations you see at gas stations. it was all 50’s and 60’s music that he kept on playing. We just laughed at it because we all had our headphones on anyway.

For the record, I didn’t edit Love Child but I did do all the off-line stuff, like transferring the footage. They actually edited all that down at Mike Ternasky’s place in San Diego. So no one up in LA could see anything until it was done, which included finding out what song they were skating to. But I definitely remember being there the first time everyone saw it.

“Oh, man… No way! My song sucks!”

It was obvious that the decisions regarding music and the overall theme had been planned for a while. I can’t say for sure, but Rocco playing all those songs in the van and looking around at everybody, I feel like he was making decisions there about which song fit each guy. Because all those songs were off his CD.

The summer of ‘92 saw videos from literally every Rocco brand. Did you film at all for 101 or Pack of Lies?

I filmed Leigh Petersen some for 101 but I had very few clips in that one. Natas liked to handle all of his videos. I usually wouldn’t even see those until they came out.

I’d say I probably filmed over half of Tim and Henry’s. Tim Gavin’s stuff was almost all mine, piling that up. And I’d also film Henry whenever he came down to LA and stayed at Guy’s house.

That was actually supposed to be for a full-length video, but after a while, they had to make a marketing decision. Because they’d just turned Tim pro and really wanted people to see him skate. Tim and Henry both had a lot of footage piled up, way more than the rest of the dudes. Might as well put that out now instead of having to wait. World had put out a promo with two dudes that seemed to work, we’ll just do that again and let the other guys keep piling up for the full-length later.   

“Get me in the background before you edit”… were guys doing that a lot back then?

(laughs) That was a total joke, man. Background props were not cool at all back then. Like, we didn’t use the word “T-Dog” in LA but it was typically that type of dude.

“Oh, you guys are filming a video? Let me position myself right… here. Now I’m in the background! I’m gonna be in the video!”

Daewon just happened to be standing there at the end of Tim’s line. He was picking his board up after missing a trick and we ended up right there in-front of him. There was nothing he could do about it, so he just screamed that out.

Obviously Henry’s part is one of the all-time best, how did he go about putting that thing together? Would he go out on missions or just make things up on the fly?

We never discussed anything in advance, we’d just go out and film. I would do my thing, he would do his. Simple as that. Don’t mess with him. He knows what he’s trying to do, let him do it.

“Film this.”


Whatever was going on in his mind, I don’t know. But seeing it all at the end, he obviously had a plan going the whole time. A part like that doesn’t just happen, he had to be building on stuff in his mind. He was just playing it close.

Guys like Henry and Daewon, all they did was watch footage. All day. They’d sit and watch the transfer tape for hours to figure out what was next. Looking for a clip that would spark an idea for the next one. I think they’d bounce things off each other, too. Asking Rodney what he thought about something, because I would hear them talk. Just not to me… at least, not Henry.

Isn’t that you who ate shit mid-line at the bank-to-curb spot?

(laughs) Yeah, that’s me. I was filming with that old busted Blind camera. It was already broken and we tried to get it repaired, but I think the guy just superglued the inside of it or something. It obviously wasn’t fixed because it was slowly busting open again. You seriously had to hold it with both hands whenever you filmed with it. That’s a super awkward position to be in. If you hit a rock like that and fall forward, you can’t catch yourself.

So, of course, I’m filming Henry when I hit a rock and slam straight to my shoulder. Because there’s nothing you can do. You have to take it in order to save the camera. But it was already so loose, that slam finished it off anyway. The lens broke and everything.

So after falling like that and now the camera’s done, I was pissed. For whatever reason, I get up and try to do some crazy flying sidekick into one of those rolling warehouse doors… I don’t know why. Just not thinking straight. But even then, I misjudged it somehow and ended up barely even kicked the damn thing.  I wanted to really slam it and dent it, full-force. But here I give it this crazy kick and I barely even nick it with my toe, which pissed me off even more. Everyone was laughing at me. It was the worst.

Who decided to keep it in the video?

The guys did. They thought it was hilarious.

“You have to put that in there. You’re not getting away with this. It has to go in there.”

Who edited that part? Because it almost seems sequential with the tricks.

I edited that… and my apologies for the audio. But honestly, Henry laid out all those tricks for the video. That was all him. That’s how he wanted it. He came in to edit with that Black Sabbath song and a list of all his tricks in the exact order that he wanted them. He even had it down to how it opened up with that line to start everything out, no music. He specifically wanted you to hear the bricks.

“No music until this line comes kicking in and that’s when you start the song.“

“Alright, sounds like a good plan to me!”

Why the decision to let the song play at the end?

That was more of an afterthought than an idea. What can I say? It was my first video! (laughs)

That was largely due to the way we edited back then, tape-to-tape. You had to record the whole song onto one audio channel before you even started editing any footage. So basically what happened is… we ran out of footage! That’s a long song, man! We’d already edited all of the footage that we wanted to use but still had all that music left! I didn’t really have a way of ramping down the music back then. I guess we could’ve cut it abruptly but honestly, I always thought it was cool that we let it ride. It’s such a good song, let the people listen to it. Who cares?

But yeah, I can’t believe they went along with it. I guess Henry was only concerned about the skating. (laughs)

What does “Pack of Lies’ even mean? Who came up with that?

That was Rocco. At first, it was going to be called “Tim and Henry’s Promotional Video”... something that was so generic that it was cool.

I think “Pack of Lies” as along the lines of “Virtual Reality”, like, movie magic and all that. But looking back on it, part of me thinks that it actually had more to do with the intro promise of a full-length video coming soon. I can’t say for sure, but Rocco probably knew that it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. He was a joker like that.

Was there ever going to be a full-length Blind video?

I honestly thought there was. I remember filming those dudes, thinking that the footage was going for that. I know the heads of World were definitely planning on one. They needed to market their guys!

Whether or not the guys on the team wanted that video is another story. I had no idea about their plan to leave but I’m sure it had been going on for a while, during that time.

Was that Friends section in Virtual Reality just a footage dump prior to leaving?

At the time, I thought it was a good idea, but I can see that being part of their plan now. Because I remember watching that video after Girl came out and thinking to myself about how hardly any of those guys were even with the company anymore. 

What about the World Park? Were you essentially the only guy filming in there? Wouldn’t a lot of those sessions go all-night?

The whole thing was Rocco’s idea to have a park where we could film whenever we wanted to, day or night, and not have to worry about security. And it started out that I’d go over there and film whenever somebody hit me up, but it got to the point where I was always there. After a while, World ended up moving all the video equipment over from the main office in Torrance and set me up a little editing bay there. I had my own little room with these weird tables made out of warehouse palettes, like a one-level rack. This way I could transfer the footage right after we got done filming. I had a key and everything.

And yeah, we’d definitely be in there late, sometimes all-night. That’s why they set up those bunk beds, too. That was after Big Brother had moved out. It was their old office.

But as a filmer, what about all the hi-jinx? What was the balance between cool stuff to film versus incriminating evidence?

(laughs) Honestly, those guys didn’t really give a fuck. Sometime they actually wanted me to film that stuff. They didn’t care. Sometimes I think if Rocco himself would’ve walked in, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“Oh, hey. Yeah, this is what we’re doing.”

Well… probably except for the stealing. But the tagging and all that, they were hyped on that stuff.

What was the craziest shit you saw go down?

Nothing was really all that crazy. We were just kids so it seemed like a big deal to us at the time, but it wasn’t really much. They got really into tagging... even though at first, they weren’t even artists about it. They were basically just writing their name all over the place.

I do remember one night where they decided to get a whole bunch of stuff together on the warehouse floor and light it on fire. I was in the editing bay, which had this giant window. I turned around and saw these giant flames going up. But they already had the extinguisher ready.

What’s the best thing you saw Guy do back in the day that was never filmed?

(laughs) Someone told you about the switch tre, didn’t they?

Down the Imperial double-set… yeah, Koston brought it up.

Oh my God, dude. That was my biggest fail ever. Guy switch 360 flipped the Imperial double-set… which is still big now but back then, it was enormous. And I missed it! Awful.   

So Guy comes up to me one day, like, “Soc, I need you to film this trick. I’ve already gone out with Dowling twice already and he couldn’t get it.”

I’m not sure what had happened but according to Guy, he’d already landed it twice and he was bummed.

“I got you. Let’s go.”

A crew of us head over there and he starts trying it... and I still don’t know what happened. All I can tell you is that I was standing there with the camera down by my side, waiting for another turn. Waiting to hear him pushing towards the stairs. Because as soon as I would hear that, I’d pull the camera up and hit record. Something I’ve done a million times.

So I hear him coming and pull up the viewfinder, but the camera is dead. What’s going on? I had full power a second ago? I mess around with the battery real quick. It’s just not turning on. And he’s coming!

I tell everyone around me, “Hey, something’s wrong. Tell him to stop!”

Because I’m fiddling around with this thing, I don’t want to miss it or possibly catch it late.

But he’s still pushing. I guess he didn’t hear them the first time so they keep yelling at him.

“Guy! Stop! He’s not filming! The camera’s off!”

I think some of them even got onto the actual stairs, waving their hands for him to stop. I was even yelling, waving the camera up in the air… I guess he thought we might’ve been joking? I don’t know. But all that must’ve given him that extra little something to make it. So regardless of all the commotion, he pops it, catches it perfect and lands it so smooth. It was beautiful.

He starts looking around as he’s rolling away and he must’ve known that something was wrong. He just pops his board up into his hand and walks over to the car, like he’s ready to leave.

“Dude, I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t tell me, dude. Don’t tell me.”

“I’m not kidding, man.”

“Alright, I’m over it.”

I don’t know if he ever went back for it but he definitely didn’t try it again that day. He didn’t want to go back up there again, because it was the third time he’d done it. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

Everyone tried talking him into it but he was over it. So that’s when all those dudes started looking at me crazy. It was rough, man. But it wasn’t my fault! It’s not like I ran out of tape or battery. That would’ve been such a bad look but there was none of that! Full battery. Plenty of tape. Oh, man…

Did you film that clip of Guy skating Henry’s broken board? How did that even happen?

Yeah, that was Jed, Henry, Guy and I in Gardena at 135th Street School. Henry had just snapped his board trying switch big spin heels over that hip. This was back when everyone was still big in their focusing phase, breaking down boards into little squares over the trucks.

So Henry’s about to start focusing the rest of his board when Guy comes in, like, “No, no… let me see it real quick.”

We had no idea what Guy was about to do but he gets on it and starts pushing, which wasn’t easy because the middle of the board is broken. It was literally scraping the ground. But he starts pushing on it and I just know, right away, that this is going to be some crazy Guy shit. I don’t know what exactly is going to happen but I have to film it because this dude is magical. If anybody else would’ve tried this, it would’ve been completely different, like stop messing around, dude. But he’s pushing towards that hip, I just knew that whatever trick he’s about to do, he going to make it. He knew it, we all knew it.

Boom, nollie big spin heel over the hip. On a broken board. He landed it all perfect with his Guy style, too. Flat relaxed, no apprehension. That dude was magic, man. So crazy to see. That was Guy.

Was it difficult to be out as the filmer with these amazing skaters when they possibly weren't so into being filming that day?

They were usually the ones who called me to film so they must’ve wanted to go on some level. Typically, we’d just be hanging out. I’d only start filming if things were starting to pop off. But it’s not like I was directing a scene with those guys.

If they didn’t feel like filming that day, they’d let me know. They’ll just sit down. Tim Gavin would do that one a lot.

But at the same time, some people were really into it. Like Jeron, he always wanted to film.

Most guys were into it when they had something that they wanted to get, when they had a specific motivation. But there was always pressure and I’m sure I represented that to many of them. Because somebody was always telling them to get into gear. I’d hear them talk, man. Not to mention when they got all pissed off and started throwing their boards.

“I don’t feel like doing this. Fuck this. I don’t want to film right now. Why am I even doing this?”

I was just patient enough to sit there as they slammed into this thing for an hour. They get pissed but you know, deep-down, all these guys really want the trick. They just hate going through the process of getting it.

Didn’t you film Keenan’s switch flip over the picnic table at Lockwood? What was that day like?

Yeah, I actually can’t find that tape. I’ve seriously been looking everywhere for that tape for weeks.

But yeah, Keenan was trying switch heels that day, too. That switch flip came pretty quickly, though. Keenan never really battled anything. He wasn’t the dude to battle something for hours. It either came in a few or he peace’d out, not today.

Did you know as soon as he rolled away that it was gonna be one of those all-time clips?

I knew whenever I filmed him do anything that it would look special. He was so unique in the way he skated. But the way he popped over that table was so clean, he just had power and so much control over his feet. I loved filming with Keenan, man. He was always the nicest dude.

(Editor's Note: Portions Shot Vertically For Video Grab Purposes. )

How worrisome was filming in spots like Lockwood with all that expensive camera gear?

At first, I wasn’t really worried about any of that. But then I got my camera taken at the 3rd Street gap, so I was always more aware of my surroundings after that. Because it really is thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment. If you bring that out at the wrong time, you could be in trouble. They’ll probably only get about 200 bucks at a pawn shop but crackheads and gangsters don’t care.

The 3rd Street Gap was just a bad deal. It was my camera, too. Close to $3,000 worth of gear. Four sketchy V-13 dudes. I put up a fight but I was so skinny back then that I wasn’t really phasing anybody. One of them was about to crack me over the head with my board so I ran.

Rodney went out and got me a new camera. Even though it wasn’t the World camera, he still replaced it. That was cool. But we lost the footage, a Howard Heelflip over the 3rd Street Gap.

As far as Lockwood went, I’d see gangsters there but I just kept to myself. I always had a plan in my head, just in case they did rush me. You just kept an eye on them and knew where they were. Don’t strike up conversations with gangsters, because they’re not looking to talk about skating. Even if they’re just asking for a dollar, they might have a Corona bottle behind their back. Next thing you know, they’re cracking your head open.

Isn’t that where you filmed the infamous Menace “beatdown” of Matt Nailer for 20-Shot?

They’d always mess around with each other like that. Horsing around. But Matt was usually the guy who ended bearing the brunt of most of it.

But yeah, that day started off at Lockwood and they were already starting up with the shenanigans. Next thing I know, I hear, “Get this! We’re gonna beat his ass!”

I started filming it but we all knew it was a joke. It wasn’t real. They weren’t really hitting him full-force, though I’m sure a few of those probably hurt. It was all fun and games. I don’t think it was planned but if it was, I wasn’t in on it… which I think makes it look more real. Like I just happened to get it on tape.

Right, but didn’t they break his collarbone?

I think that came from where they grabbed him and threw him down. But that was more of an accidental, went-too-far scenario.

What about the breaking into Kareem’s house for the Menace intro in Trilogy?

Now that one was all scripted. I remember Kareem writing all that out, setting up the shots and everything. He basically directed that thing.

“Alright you guys are gonna come in like this. Don’t laugh… come on. Put on your face. Soc, get this.”

You couldn’t help but laugh, though. It was so funny. Even Billy breaking in and laughing, like, “Whatevs!” You had to have some of that stuff in there for it to work. It was like our own little movie. Wing did the rest of those skits so it was cool to be able to get one in of my own. 

Was there really going to be a Menace full-length?

Oh, there was definitely going to be a Menace full-length. We were always shooting for that thing. Dudes had full video parts worth of footage, saving it up. No 411s, no Logics, nothing. Just that video. But they’d always get hit by the next World video and have to put something together for that instead. So the best stuff got thrown into those. Those videos are what essentially kept Menace’s video from coming out.

A few years down the line, it did reach a point where Kareem came to talk about everything with me.

“Hey, man, you know all the footage. Be real, do we have what it takes to come out with something right now?”

At the time, I was thinking more in terms of minutes. Because this was a full-length video that people had been waiting on for a long time, we needed a 30-minute video, at least.

“Look, if we chop this up, cream of the crop-style, we’ll probably have a 15-minute video.”


Because by that point, we were following the Girl and Chocolate videos as well as Trilogy, we had to do it right. The stuff that we’d filmed over the last year or so was really good, but because we’d been filming for so long, a lot of the other footage was too old. That was a big problem. We had so much groundbreaking stuff of Pupecki and Fabian, but we’d been sitting on it for three years now. I was actually starting to see other people doing those same tricks now. Things Fabian had already done years before but nobody knew because the video still hadn’t come out yet. It was taking the punch out of the whole thing.

In the end, I told him that we had about 15 minutes of footage. If we stretched it out with an intro and some credits, maybe a skit, we could probably get 25 minutes out of it.

“Alright, cool.”

They go and hire Atiba to shoot a bunch of skits for it. I wasn’t involved with that but I heard the footage came out too dark. So after that happened, it was pretty much deflated. Kareem was bummed, which meant even more time goes by. Meanwhile, everything just kept getting older and older. Round 2 comes around and they gotta put something together for that… that’s when people started taking off. It was City Stars after that.

Fabian was finally able to put out his lost part a few years ago. I still remember him coming into my office for the footage. I was hyped to see that thing finally come out. He worked hard for that, man. He deserved that shine, to let people know.

Are you the one who filmed Kareem check his pager mid-line?

Yeah, but I didn’t even realize he did that at first because he’d do that all the time actually. That one just happened to be in a line he made. He’d always be skating with his pager, the same way people skate now with their phones. The way that you don’t even think about it when someone texts you, you just check it almost instinctually, that’s what Kareem would do with his pager back then. I feel like not knowing who paged him would bug him, because it could be an emergency. It puts you in a weird state… just check it real quick and put it back. Now you’re straight.

I know he was expecting Lil’ Reem around that time. That could’ve been it.

Who was probably the biggest perfectionist you dealt with over the years?

There were a lot but the ones who really stick out to me are Enrique and JB. They definitely had to get everything perfect.

(Heavy French Accent) “No, I cannot be seen like this! This is sucks!”

But a lot of guys are like that. Daewon, too.

“Nah, that looks bad. We gotta redo that.”

And Rodney! Of course, Rodney!

“No, no, no, no… do it again. No, do it again.”

“Oh my God, that one’s great!”

“No, no… let’s do it again.”

There would always be something weird at the time that he’d have to redo. So we’d be out there all day trying to get it but whenever we transferred the footage that night, he’d end up liking the third one he did out of 6. Always. Never the final one.

How would you compare Rodney’s process to Daewon’s?

Daewon always seemed to be more confident in what he was doing. I mean, sometimes he would ask me stuff, but it was always more indirect. He has a way of dancing around the subject but still getting it out of you. He never just asks if a trick sucks.

“Hey, maybe you should stop filming… this is kinda beat, huh? This is poser stuff, right?”

“No, I think it’s a great trick.”

“Oh yeah? You think so? Huh… well, maybe we’ll keep it going.”

Rodney’s the complete opposite. He always has to talk everything through with you.

“Soc, honestly, is this worth it?”

But Rodney isn’t so much about perfection. He’s just wants to present his new trick ideas in the best possible way. But a lot of times, he’d ask for my opinion and I wouldn’t even know what to say. Like caspar slides and all that stuff, I don’t really understand it. You’re landing primo and spinning around and then whatever… Okay.

“But what do you think?”

“I think it’s good.”

He’d end up just giving me this look, like, “What do you know?” (laughs)

But while Rodney almost always films by himself, Daewon likes to feed off his friends. It has more to do with the session with him. Like with what I was talking about earlier with Jeron, that got it right out of him.

“Oh what!?! That’s sick! Alright, I got you. I’ll do this.”

Both of them are always thinking but Rodney will actually write things down and have it all organized on a computer. Trying to figure out not only what’s the next hardest thing he can try but also how he wants to film it. Because he already has an edit in-progress.

“You filmed the last trick going left-right so let’s go right-left on this one.”

What’s your favorite Daewon part?

I always liked his NewWorld Order part. I like the song a lot, too. He’s really good at choosing his songs.

For the record, is that footy sped up?

No, I remember people saying that but dude just skates fast. He has such quick reflexes and reactions to things to where it can look unnatural at times, like it’s sped up. But no, that’s just Daewon.

But there is something I have to admit about his Trilogy part.

Absolute Perfection?

(laughs) Yeah, he wanted to skate to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Art of Moving Butts”. Trilogy actually premiered with that song in there. But afterwards, it was said that there was too much hip-hop in the video and they wanted some songs switched out for different types of music.

This is literally the night before we took it to duplication. So the obvious choice was to start looking at guys who wouldn’t put up the biggest fuss about their music getting switched.

I remember us thinking that because Daewon had such an island vibe, we’d put some reggae in there. He listened to reggae, too. But the problem was that his part was already edited to Tribe, which had a quick beat. You can’t exactly put that to “Buffalo Soldier”.

It’s 2 in the morning and we’d already gone through a million reggae songs that were all too slow when I see Wing pull out that CD and play “Absolute Perfection”. Ok, it’s fast and kinda reggae-ish… I think this might work! So we just went with it. But wow, that song sucks. We’d just heard too many slow reggae songs leading up to it, we were paying too much attention to how the song worked in the edit versus actually listening to it. Daewon hated it, too.

Trilogy had a lot of good songs that got switched out. I remember Marcus McBride skating to Goodie Mob, that was cool. Gideon Choi originally skated to “Me and Baby Brother” by War, which was super good, too, even though he didn’t like it. So once word got out that we were switching songs after the premiere, it just snowballed. Everyone jumped on that, wanting to switch their songs.

How did Cheese and Crackers come about? Who decides on an all mini-ramp video in 2005?

Well, I remember going out to film Chris Haslam and he brought up the idea of having a special mini-ramp part with Daewon for Round 3. Not one specific place, just mini-ramp tricks from everywhere, possibly as a bonus section. But that never happened.

So after Round 3 came out and we were thinking of new projects, this mini ramp idea started to gain momentum. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that it’d be easier to build a ramp somewhere and do it all in one spot. So now they had to find a place to build it, which took a while with our budget, but we finally found a place down in Long Beach. Someone said that it used to be a meth lab but it was technically a body shop. It had been abandoned for a while and was all dusty and dirty… there was a dead rat sitting there. It was disgusting.

They started filming stuff around the end of 2005. I wasn’t even included in the plan at first. But Daewon’s the type of dude where once he starts working on something, he doesn’t want anything to slow him down. One day, he needs to film something and nobody’s around, he hits me up. After a couple days of that, he officially brings me on board. It was on after that.

Those guys seriously filmed every single day, including Christmas and New Year’s. Not even hanging out with family, just skating. But the ideas kept building on top of each other. It’s a mini-ramp, what else are we going to do here? Because this could get old after a while. We have all this junk here, might as well use it. So that’s when all those mousetrap contraptions started appearing. Car doors, tires… that was all just crap laying around the warehouse.

Nothing was planned beforehand, people just grabbed stuff. Typically, it was when things looked like they were done for the day. They’d landed their tricks and just having a beer, looking around.

“Hey, let’s grab that door and put it up there. What about making that an extension?”

It really was one of the most fun videos to make.

Soc and McKee

Honestly, how much footage are you sitting on? And are there any plans to do anything with it?

People are always asking me about what unseen footage I have but I really don’t have that much. After the Rocco Documentary and the World Box Set, a lot of it has been seen. People seem to think that there’s all this leftover Blind footage from back then but most of the juicy stuff got thrown into the Friends section of Virtual Reality or the FTC video. Those guys took off after that.

I did spend 5 years filming the Menace guys almost every day… for a video that never came out. Street Cinema had parts from Joey and Pupecki but that was years later. So there is a lot of stuff from those guys that has never been seen. I’ve always wanted to do something with it. Maybe it’s finally time to put that Menace video together.

I can’t tell you how much this needs to happen, man. We’d all love to see it, for sure. So as we start to wrap this up, who’s an amazing skater that fell through the cracks?

Eric Ricks. He was so good, man. It just never really worked out for him. I don’t know exactly what all went down but there was talk of him getting on World at first. Then he was in consideration for Prime and 101 later on, too. It just never came together. I felt bad for him, too. Because, like I said, he was super good. But that stuff deflates you, man. It discourages you from even trying. Ricks should’ve been way bigger.

After almost 30 years of filming legendary skateboarding, what project do you look at over the course of your career as your proudest moment? 

This is probably gonna sound odd, but Round 2. I know you watch it now and it feels like a freakin’ commercial fest… probably a bit too many motion graphics, but I’m proud of that one. It kinda feels like my college thesis, you know? Like I graduated with that one. Because by that point, I’d been at World for 7 years and every video that came my way, I always felt like my editing could’ve been technically better. I always did my best, but they could’ve been better. And part of me always felt like they only came to me on those early ones due to budget or timeline or whatever.

But with Round 2, I feel like that was the first time they actually came to me for my vision.  They had confidence in me and wanted me to put that video together how I saw fit, which meant so much to me. So yeah, Round 2, for sure. That’s my one.

Thanks Soc for Everything... 

And Thank You All For The Last 10 Years of CBI.