chrome ball interview #92: steven cales

The Life and Times of Steven Cales.

SC: Hey man, before we get started: Do you know anything about that "Police Informer" site that's also posted some old skate stuff of me?

CBI: I think he lives in Canada but I don’t really know him.

Because that site kinda got me into some shit before. When you’ve been in as much trouble as I have, having your name on a site called “Police Informer” isn’t a good look. I’ve had to explain that one a couple of times actually. I don’t really like being on there.

I never thought of it that way but you have a point. Maybe he’ll see this. So let’s start this off with a little background if we could, growing up as a young skateboarder in New York back in the 1980’s.

Aw man, growing up in New York… Sunset Park, Brooklyn to be exact. It was rough. I mean, to be honest, I’ve probably had a much different experience than most people in skateboarding. Both my mother and later my father died when I was still very young. Combine that with where I grew up and the people I grew up around, it made me a much harder person. I grew up with an attitude. 

I had an older brother who used to run around in the streets, doing bad shit. He liked to be tough but people respected him. He was known throughout the hood, which honestly helped me because I became known as “Ref’s little brother.” I got love from that. People knew who I was. New York was a lot rougher back then but that made things a little easier for me.

My brother would force me to fight when I was young because he felt that I needed to learn. I remember him pushing this kid into a ditch one time and making me jump on top of him. He made me punch this kid in the face. Literally holding my hands, showing me how to punch. This is when I’m like 10 or 11 years old. That’s how it was.

It’s not too different than how I got into skateboarding.

Yeah, didn’t he steal your first board or something?

Not quite like that. There was a kid skating down my street one day and I thought it was cool. My brother ends up walking over to the kid to ask if I can try it. The kid hands over his board and it becomes obvious that my brother isn’t gonna give it back.

“Alright, kid. Go on home. Just keep walking.”

“But my skateboard!?!”

“Nah, its my little brother’s now.”

It was mad craze… bully-ass motherfucker. But it was on after that.

This was during that OG Shut era and I know some of those guys used to skate around your neighborhood back then. I imagine that having a big influence on you as a young skater, right?

Oh yeah, I’d see guys like Obed Rios all the time. Brian Blake, that dude was my favorite back then. So sick. Richie Rojas was ill, too. I got names.

I’d see them on 51st Street in Brooklyn. There was a crew called Team Trouble that had a few of those guys in there. They were really good. I remember seeing them blasting so high off launch ramps. That shit’s amazing when you’re little. You want to do that, too.

I was actually on Shut for a little while but that was later on, after most of those dudes had split. It was towards the end of Shut, before they came back out with Zoo. I’m pretty sure I was a pain in the ass back then because out of the blue, Rodney comes up and tells me that he’d gotten me on Think somehow. That’s not how that shit usually goes. I still don’t really know how that happened but I was on some random shit back then anyway.

Yeah, weren’t you on Alva at one point as well? Was that through a sponsor-me tape?

Yeah, I basically only sent sponsor-me videos out to companies that I thought I could probably get on. I knew I wasn’t getting on H-Street or nothing like that yet… let me try Alva. (laughs)

The first time I ever heard of you was during the Blue days. Although a short-lived company, the team was legendary. How’d that happen?

Blue had a demo in Manhattan right when they first came out. I remember hearing about the demo beforehand and deciding right then and there that I was gonna go all-out crazy. I thought they were so sick. That’s how I thought it all worked back then: if dudes were around, you skated your ass off and hopefully they liked what they saw.

I was lucky because it actually worked out that way for me. Jason Lee straight up asks me if I want to join the team for the rest of the tour, right there at the demo.

Oh yeah! Fuck it. Let’s go!”

I was hyped, man. I’m only 14-years old but it’s not like I have a stable situation at home. Whatever I wanted to do… fuck it, I did it. They start hooking me up with boards and by the end of the tour, I’m officially on the team. Dope.

Dune flew me back out to Cali after the tour was over and found me a place to stay in South Gate. It was Blue’s secretary’s house. I can’t even remember her name but her boyfriend was Mark Gonzales’ brother, Mike. Mark actually came over a few times and I was tripping. I’m in Cali, mad young, skating everyday and falling into the scene. It was all lovely, man. I thought that I’d made it.

How serious were you taking all of this back then? Getting a heavy sponsor and moving out west are some serious moves for anybody, regardless of age.

Nah, at that point, I was really just trying to be good at skating. To skate my best. I figured that if I was good enough, there was no way I could be ignored. And once again, I got lucky. The industry stuff just worked itself out for me on its own. That doesn’t happen for a lot of people.

How was it coming straight out of Brooklyn and being plopped right in the middle of the California scene like that?

Aw man, I was so hyped. It was like a dream come true. I’m out in California skating with Jason Lee! And the thing is, Jason Lee knows everyone. It’s all connected. So you might just be going out to skate and run into dudes like Paulo and Guy! Next thing you know, you’re out skating with legends on the regular! You start feeding off that shit. It’s like a switch that turns on in your head or something. You start skating extra good because you’re hyped on who’s around.

Did you find that a lot of your new West Coast peeps were tripping on your style of dress and slang? It did seem like you had a particular influence on the scene in that regard, introducing some East Coast flavor.  

The ese’s used to always trip out on the way I dressed. I’d go over by Fabian’s house and sometimes dudes would be looking at me like I was crazy. But I was chilling in all baggy Polo gear, looking at them like they fucking crazy in their dusty shoes. (laughs)

I was always dressing in Polo back then… I’m from Brooklyn, that’s how it goes, ya know? Everything Polo to the socks and drawers. I always thought that stuff was cool and it wasn’t long before I started seeing others sporting that stuff as well. My gold fronts, too. All gold with little diamonds in ‘em. Joey and Cheeks ran those for a bit.

Same thing with the slang. I’d be saying “stuups” a lot and everybody started to say that shit as well. “Butters”, “buttery”, “craze”… that was all me.

You coined “stuups”, right?

Yeah, that was me and my boy Rick buggin’ out one day, making crazy faces at each other like you do when you’re young. Calling each other stupid. It just came out like that.

I think people got it all wrong though. We used it as something crazy to say with your boys around people you didn’t know. You could say it all crazy long and drawn-out while somebody was talking and they wouldn’t know what was going on.  


“Wait. What do you mean? What are you talking about?”

Those guys out in Cali were always tripping off me but it’s cool. That’s how it goes. If you’re around a person a lot, you pick up stuff naturally. I feel like after I got out there, I had everybody dressing and talking like me. I didn’t think about it like that at the time. We were all so little and they were my bros. It was all just having fun.

You are known for a love of mischief, often at the expense of your sponsors. Was this something that could be seen all the way back in these early Blue days?

Yeah, but again, it was more about having fun back then. More innocent.

Probably what stands out the most from back then was stealing the Blue van. It was me, Billy Valdes, Fabian Alomar and Matt Naylor. We somehow got it in our heads that we had to skate the Powell park that day. Kevin, the Blue team manager, was with us and he had the van… but we didn’t want him to go. So I ended up stealing the keys while he wasn’t looking and bounced. 

Here we are, a van full of dudes rolling down Hollywood on our way out to Santa Barbara. I’m only fifteen years old and I’m driving. No license, smoking weed… I don’t even know how we found our way out there but we did. It was craze.

Kevin was so mad at me, man. He was going crazy… but somehow, they let me slide. I mean, I only borrowed it. I’m on Blue, I was gonna give it back. I just decided to take it for a little bit. (laughs)

Nowadays, you’d get kicked off for doing that type of crazy shit and honestly, I probably should’ve been, too. But Blue was cool like that. A team manager ain’t nothing but a babysitter anyway and they knew I was hardheaded and crazy, even back then. It was all good.

How’d World enter the picture?

World basically came about from hanging out with Shiloh, Soc and Guy so much. Skating Los Feliz together, doing our thing. I guess it was only a matter of time before Shiloh got me on World. I think Guy had a hand in it, too. I wasn’t actively trying but those guys talked to the team anyway and they were down. I was already cool with most of those guys already and Rodney hooked it up… even though I think I made him mad by bringing out the weed and shit. Most of those dudes didn’t smoke weed like that back then. They’d definitely never rolled blunts or anything like that before. Once again, I came out here with the New York stuff and they started going crazy. (laughs)

I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to skate for World. Kareem ended up quitting to go back to those guys, too. Blue was bummed.

Was there any talk of Stereo yet?

Nah, it wasn’t to that point yet. I could tell there were some problems but I was still so little…

Honestly, I don’t like how I left Blue. I didn’t know how to go about showing the respect to people who helped me in my career and in life. I just broke out without even telling them.

“I want to skate for this shit. I don’t give a fuck about these other guys anymore.”

I realize now that there is a proper way to do things. You can’t go around burning bridges. You gotta honor the people who try to help you. I’ve had kids break out on me like that with Fifth Avenue and I wanted to ring their fucking necks. But I can’t get too mad because I’m guilty of that same shit. People trying to help me and I just ran ‘em over. It’s stupid. I realize now how it feels to be on the other side.

I definitely burned the bridge with Blue at the time but we squashed it years later. I wanted them to know that I do appreciate all they did for me.

It’s funny… there was a minute there where Fabian got me into some shit and all of a sudden, I thought I was an actor. I’d be out there saying maybe one line, if that… sometimes I’d just be out there staring at people and I thought I was acting. So stupid. But yeah, I remember calling up Jason Lee like, “Yo, I’m an actor now. Wanna run through some lines and shit?”

He just laughed at me.

“You gotta go by these places and learn how to act first!”

Whatever. (laughs)

Didn’t you film a full part for Love Child back then and it never came out?

Yeah, I had a full part. Most of the footage is out there now. There’s more to that as well but I’m not sure where it is. Soc said he’s seen it around. I’d love to collect all that old shit.

A back heel and an inward heel down the Embarcadero 7 in 1992? That shit would’ve catapulted your career. How come that footage never saw the light of day back then?

I ended up quitting World to ride for ATM before it ever came out.

I didn’t even care about that footage back then. I think if I would’ve tried, I probably could’ve gotten it back. But, to be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind. It’s dumb but I kinda felt like fuck it, I’ll just go out and film some more shit. I think that had a lot to do with being young.

Mike Ternasky filmed one of those down the 7. Ternasky and Mike Carroll asked me to ride for Plan B back then, saying they’d pay me more than what World was at the time. Rocco upped my pay because of that. Plan B was dope but I just figured I’d chill on World. Looking back on it, I might’ve done things differently.

What was your attitude towards filming and photos?

Filming and photos were fun at first but after a while, I stated to feel like I couldn’t breathe. Too many camera guys always around. It started to drive me crazy.

Skaters weren’t really tight with photographers or filmers back then. Those guys were more about being “work” for us. Obviously we were tight with Soc and a few others but for the most part… nah.

Some of it was on me, though. Sometimes I wouldn’t even feel like filming but instead of just saying that, I’d waste people’s time. Make them drive me out to some far away spot and not even skate when we got there… like a dick. Retarded.

I didn’t have respect for anybody back then and I definitely didn’t respect people’s time. I just didn’t know. I feel like I never had anybody teach me that shit. I brought it up earlier, I didn’t really have a mother or a father. I grew up in foster care. Different relatives and cousins. It was never a solid situation.

But didn’t you see skateboarding as a possible way out?

I did but honestly, $500 a month wasn’t gonna do much. That’s all I was getting from World. I’d been getting $800 a month ever since my mother passed away when I was 7. I was used to blowing that money on whatever I wanted, as soon as I got it. So with that mindset, skateboarding didn’t seem like it could be this big life-changing thing, ya know? 

I grew up with a chip on my shoulder. I was nice to people but I realize now that there is a rebellious side to me deep down. There is something inside of me where I reach a certain point and just say, “Fuck it.”

I have to imagine this coming into play with a few unofficial shopping sprees in the World warehouse back then as well, right?

Oh man, are you crazy!?! Hell yeah! Henry and I used to go crazy back there taking all types of shit… and we didn’t even have to! We were on the team! We were basically stealing because we wanted to steal! Even after I wasn’t on World anymore, I remember walking back there with Shiloh and taking shit. I had my boy film it and everything… he’s probably still got the footage. I grabbed 2 20 boxes of boards and nobody saw shit. I walked right out and sold them all!

That’s just how we were. Back in New York. Rick and I used to go boostin’ all the time. We’d steal Moet Bottles and sell them to drug dealers so we’d have money for the clubs. Dom Perignon. We were going out everynight. 15-year-olds walking into the club. Craze.

A lot of that stuff came up in Kids later but those guys got in on it late. We were doing that shit for a long time. Honestly, we were probably the ones who showed those guys that stuff.

Why leave World for ATM? Rocco was unstoppable at that point.

If Gonz wants me on his new company, I’m going. Hell yeah. I’d already connected with him earlier, like I was saying. We were skating a good bit together back then, too. It just made sense.

I remember Hosoi wanted me to ride for Milk and Justin Girard hit me up about Mad Circle, too. But I always felt like the team you’re on says a lot about you as a skater and I knew ATM was gonna be tight.

There’s something to be said for Gonz turning you pro. Did you feel like you were ready? You were still pretty underground at that point…

I mean, I’m not trying to polish myself up here but I was really good. I thought I was ready.

Unfortunately, it mainly came about because I got into trouble with the law. I was about to go to jail for 2 years and it was Gonz’s idea to turn me pro before I went. I guess he was working on turning me pro already, it’s just the whole jail thing made it happen a little quicker.

I remember him saying right before I got sentenced, “Well, I was gonna give you a board anyway but here’s a board now. Hopefully this will help out with the judge and he’ll change his mind.”

The judge didn’t give a shit. Skateboarding wasn’t shit back then.

Gonz wanted me to have money when I got out, which sounded good to me. He saved all of my checks while I was in there so when I finally got out, I had a nice chunk of money… 5 or 6 grand. It wasn’t my guarantee, which was like $2,000 back then. Just my board sales: 3 dollars a board.

Why’d you get locked up?

At the time, I was really into jewelry. But back in Brooklyn during those days, kids were getting killed for necklaces on the train. Lots of people were getting robbed. So I started carrying around a meat cleaver.

A meat cleaver?

Yeah, I was wearing baggy gear anyways. No one could even tell. It was for protection.

I mentioned earlier that we used to boost a lot, right? Well, this one time, my boy and I were in this boot store. These boots were like $300 but they was the ill shit. So my boy just put some on and walked right out. No problem. So I figure I might as well give it a shot, too. But as I’m walking towards the door, this security guard starts coming at me. He tries closing the door on me so I pull out the meat cleaver. Another security guard comes and when he sees the knife, he pulls out a gun. That’s the end of that. They charge me for armed robbery and I do 2 years.

You missed Kids because of that, right?

Exactly, I was in jail and missed out on all that. Harmony had written me into the script! The character “Steven” in there… that was supposed to me! I had a script and everything. But somebody else had to end up playing me… my boy, Johnny.

The day we went to pick up the script from Larry Clark, that’s the same day I ended up getting busted with the boots. I got caught slippin’. And again, the stupid thing was that I didn’t even have to be stealing that shit. With my ATM checks and what I was getting from my mother, I was actually doing alright. I could’ve just bought them… but that part of me was trying to get over again.

Would you get a lot of support from other skaters while you were in jail?

Definitely. I remember Shiloh used to send me shoes. Huf and Keenan would send me money. Tim Gavin, the Gonz… Hell, Guy even paid for a lawyer for me one time.

Ron Chatman flew all the way out to New York City from California and took a 10-hour bus ride to see me up in Buffalo. That meant so much to me. Everyone’s generosity and support meant the world to me.

How’d you get on Menace once you got out?

Again, I burnt the bridge with Mark Gonzales. That whole 2 years I was in jail, he was paying me and I owe him so much for that… but being young and retarded, I leave for Menace as soon as I get out. I didn’t even say shit to him, either. I just got my last check and left. It was horrible. I can’t blame him for being mad.

But yeah, Menace was just starting when I got out and that was my crew. They were asking about riding for them but I wanted to prove beforehand that I could still skate after being locked up. It just so happened that they were all about to go on a big World tour together: Maurice Key, Reem, Joey… everybody. The problem is that I wasn’t supposed to leave the state. I’d just got outta jail!

I started thinking and the tour was supposed to last two weeks… I only had to check in with my parole officer every two weeks! It was the perfect window! Fuck it, I’m buying a ticket!

I bumrushed my way onto the tour because I was still technically on 60/40 at the time. Rodney was kinda tripping on me at first but once I started skating, he was definitely cool with me being there. That’s when I officially got on Menace.

I remember after the tour was over, I flew back to New York from Raleigh. I stop by to see my parole officer and he’d just gotten back from a two-week trip as well.

“Hey man, how was your vacation? Where were you at?”

“I was in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was great.”

I got all paranoid and shit. I just flew out of there… did he see me? Is he fucking with me? It was so crazy. Of all the places, right? Luckily, he didn’t know.

courtesy of Bobshirt

You got lucky, man. That’s a pretty small place to go unnoticed in.

Yeah, but I fucked up. Not too long after that, I went out to Cali and I didn’t even worry about reporting to my parole officer. Not only did I violate my parole, I also got arrested for drinking vodka out on the beach by the DVS House. They threw me on a plane back to New York in handcuffs. It was terrible… and another year gone for that one.

I was just starting to get things rolling again. Menace was working out but once Rodney found out about me breaking my parole, he didn’t want to get involved and kicked me off.

How was your relationship with Rocco? Did you feel like there was any funny business going on there that some of the other heads have talked about?

Rocco was cool. I’d hit him up for money and it was never a problem. He was rich so he didn’t care. Riding around in his Porsche back in the day. I remember he’d take us out to the Gap all the time and let us spend $500 each. It’s funny to look back on, the rich guy conning a bunch of skateboarders with clothes from the Gap. That shit is garbage. (laughs)

As far as any funny business, the only thing I remember like that was Joey Alvarez actually scamming Rocco. Joey was skating for Cream at the time but he called up World Industries anyway and talked to some secretary, pretending to be me to get boxes! He even got me on Bitch with Sal Rocco! Just so he could have them send shit to his house! Even my checks! I had no idea! I was in jail! And he did this the whole time! They even sent him out a plane ticket to California! This is before you had to use I.D. to get on a plane... so yeah, Joey’s first time to California was all on my shit!

I would’ve never got on Bitch… the Girl guys were my boys. So I looked extra crazy there for a while and it wasn’t even my fault. But I couldn’t get mad at him. Joey doing that was so ill, so crazy. You can’t get mad at that.

Amazing. What about that Venture ad where you’re ollieing that rail in Jordans with that kid standing there? Classic shit.

I was pretty serious into sneakers back then. I never wanted to be in some bum-ass busted skate shoes. I always wanted my gear to be dope, even when I was skating. I remember picking up those Jordans and couldn’t help thinking how they looked so good to probably skate in. Some fat soles… fuck it, let me skate in these.

I ended up going out with Mike O’Meally to get some photos that day. The spot was on Vermont, right across from my friend’s skateshop, Warning. I’d been seeing that rail for a minute. That kid just happened to be passing by at the right time. Completely natural. No set-up or nothing. Crazy, right? That kid made the picture!

I almost nollie 180’d it, too… I landed that shit but couldn’t roll away.  I had it like that back then.

Was it crazy seeing kids you grew up around, like Gino and Huf, out in Cali skating and doing so well? Did they serve as any type of inspiration career-wise for you to stay out of trouble?

Oh, it was dope seeing those guys come out and make it in Cali. Honestly, I felt like I had a hand in paving the way for kids like them from New York to make it. It also meant I was able to skate with them again out in Cali, too.

But career-wise, I was basically leading a double life. I felt like I was always being pulled in different directions. I’d be out West on some skate shit but once I’d go back to New York, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was chilling with my brother and cousins, gang dudes and drug dealers. I was getting money… let’s go shopping. Let’s go get some clothes. I don’t feel like skateboarding, looking all fucked up out there. I just wanted to look fly because I was always out going to clubs, which was never any good for me.

Skateboarding was always such a positive thing for me but, again, I also had a side of me that wanted to hang out with my homeboys and get into trouble. You can’t do both, man. I learned that the hard way.

You moved out West early on but what about the scene back home that was gaining traction around this time? Like Zoo York? Were any East Coast companies ever an option for you?

I always thought New York companies were cool but California companies seemed more legit.

I used to get shit from people saying that I was switching sides… that I should’ve been on an East Coast company or that I wasn’t keeping it real or whatever. Fuck that. I was trying to be on the best teams. The best teams were out in Cali so that’s what I wanted.

Fuck keeping it real.

You did have some Tunnel footage in Zoo York Mixtape though…

Did I? I was in a Zoo York video? I didn’t know I was in that…

Yeah, a big backside 180 and some mini-ramp footage in the Tunnel Club.

Oh, okay... Zoo York? Okay.

Honestly, I’m not sure if you were even allowed to film in the Tunnel… maybe someone snuck in a camera on the low. I don’t remember that at all but I’m hyped that shit is out there. That place is legendary.

Speaking of legends, what is your fondest Keenan Milton memory?

I remember him taking me to the Beverly Center one time right after I’d gotten out of jail. He’d just got his quarterly check from DVS and was looking at these earrings that were like $600 each. I started looking around at shit, too, just to pass the time while he was over there doing his thing. I saw this chain that was so dope but I just got outta jail. I couldn’t afford the shit. It was like $3000! That was a lot of money back then.

Keenan looks over.

“Yo, try on that chain real fast. You like it? Alright, keep it.”

I couldn’t believe it.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, it’s yours. Just stay outta jail.”

That meant so much to me, man. He bought me that chain right there on the spot. Keenan was the best.

Not sure if a lot of people even realize that was your guest clip in his Chocolate Tour part.

Yeah, I’ve caught a few sleeping on that one, not knowing that was me. Nollie kickflip over the grate at Flushing. I liked that one because I felt like I caught it pretty high. That was a rough grate, too. That thing would fuck you up.

Keenan wanted to hook me up in his part. We grew up together skating in New York and like I said, reconnected out in California. We were close, man. The Girl and Menace crews were always real close. Not sure if a lot of people realize that.

courtesy of Dawes

Being so close, were you able to recognize when the party lifestyle began to bleed over to more serious problems for certain members of the crew? Were you starting to see problems develop and possibly recognizing them in yourself as well?

Yeah, I could see some of it. But that’s the thing: everybody was partying. It’s something as skateboarders that’s part of the deal. It seems like it’s cool but it’s not. It’s all good for a while, going out drinking and doing whatever, because you can handle it. You don’t even realize when it starts to turn into this whole ‘nother thing… when the shit catches up to you.

It caught up to a lot of us. I’ve had my troubles. I was in self-destruct mode for a while there, killing myself. I’d taken it too far. It was embarrassing. I hated for anybody from skateboarding to see me like that. I’m alright now though.

Were you ever concerned about an accident like Keenan’s being a possibility?

I was staying with Keenan at the time when the accident happened. He had already been in the hospital four times in the last year because his pancreas was swollen. He was drinkin’ too damn much. Too much Jack. Waking up in the morning and literally pulling it out from his pillow. Not even brushing his teeth yet. He was wylin’.

It got to the point where Rick Howard told me not to let him drink. I started keeping an eye on him after that, trying to keep him away from that liquor. But I have to admit that I’m guilty of letting him do it. I’m guilty of partying with him. I don’t think I knew how serious it really was.

“Nah, beer’s okay. I just can’t drink liquor.”

I thought he'd be okay. I actually remember him asking if I wanted to go out to that party with him.

“Nah, I’ll meet up with you later.”

But I never made it. Something came up and I didn’t end up going out there. I was supposed to but I didn’t… and that’s the day he passed away.

There’s footage that my friend filmed at that party of Keenan walking around, asking, “Where’s Steven?”

I couldn’t handle Keenan’s accident. I didn’t know how to deal with it and basically went out of control.

I know you unfortunately got into some more trouble not too long after that. I imagine the guilt being pretty severe after he bought you that chain.

Yeah, the guilt when I got sent back was just terrible. And it was the police who actually stole my chain when they arrested me.

What happened?

This was back in New York. I was all fucked up and got into a fight at this club. They kicked me out and I ended up jumping into a cab, telling the driver to take me to Brooklyn. We take off and I’m trying to tell him the fastest way there but he’s not listening. He wants to do it his way.

“Nah, man… I’m paying. Go the way I’m telling you.”

I’m already mad after fighting in the club and now this dude won’t listen to me? So you know those plastic dividers between the driver and the backseat? Well, we’re at a red light and I just start punching that thing. The driver gets scared and jumps out the car, running away. So I jump in the driver’s seat and take off. But I’m still fucked up from the club so I end up crashing the car. That’s the last thing I remember.

I wake up handcuffed and my chain is gone. I still have my Gucci watch but it’s in my pocket for some reason. I never took it off. Why would I take off my watch?

I only got 6 months for that. I got off easy… but I lost my chain. That can never be replaced.

So when you get out, you got on Lucky?

Well, I went in for a while again and once I finally got out, Greg Carroll hit me up out of the blue to ride for this company. I gotta say, Greg’s been my boy through a lot of stuff over the years. I was already skating again when he called and once I knew he was putting me on, I really started going for it. Greg let me stay at his place up in SF for 7 months or so and everything was starting to fall back into place. I even started filming some. Lucky had a promo video and I had a lot of good stuff for that. I think they only used one trick for whatever reason but I had some stuff.

What was the story behind that overcrooks in Gino’s Yeah Right part?

Gino asked me. I think he wanted it to be just like how it was in Keenan’s Chocolate Tour part. I only had a week to film something for it. I was stressing.

I randomly started trying those overcrooks at the Thrasher park one day and they were coming together. Someone mentioned that they had the perfect rail for me somewhere in Marin County so we went out there. I didn’t get it at first. I felt like I had all this pressure on me and I was bummed. I started praying and shit. Anything to make it work. But I got it, yo. Hell yeah.

I got two tricks on that rail that night. The backside overcrooks and a backside smith…. the photo ran of the backside smith but the clip never came out. I don’t even know where the hell that is.

With all due respect, a promising resurgence followed by further legal trouble seems to be the running theme here…

Like I said, I was always trying to hustle as well as do skateboarding. The problem was, by this point, the hustling was overtaking the skateboarding half of it and I got lost. I got lost in that world.

You really didn’t see me much after Lucky because things were going so bad. I was big into robberies back then. I did 32 months in 2004 for 7 robberies, got out and 20 days later, I went back in for 16 months. Resisting arrest with violence and stolen property. I’m lucky to even be out right now, they wanted to give me 14 years!

The thing is: if you go to jail too many times, you basically become another person. The way you are in jail starts to become who you are on the outside. It’s all about respect. I was so used to having to react to everything, I could no longer let shit slide. I even started hitting my friends! In jail, you have to react or people will just run you over. I couldn’t get out of that state of mind.

But didn’t you get shot in the face? Wouldn’t that serve as a wake-up call?

Yeah, you’d think. At point blank range, too. He tried to take my head off with a bullet, man… lost some teeth and shit.

How’d that go down?

South Central. I was out hanging out on the porch with these girls who were Rolling 20 Outlaw Bloods. I had an ounce of cocaine on me and this dude came up and shot me in the face. He was gonna rob me but must’ve gotten scared and ran. He didn’t even take anything. Just jumped in a white car and sped off. They never got him.

It took 5 hours to get me into the hospital. I was actually putting cocaine in the hole the whole time to numb my face.

Jesus, man. But after a few more bumps in the road, you’ve been able to stay on the outside for a while now and seem to be making some real positive strides. Looking back on everything, are you the type of person with regret, wishing things had turned out differently or do you try to focus on the present and the future?

I regret things but I realize that the past is the past. There’s nothing you can do to change any of that. You just have to live and learn. Hopefully you can help somebody else out so they don’t make the same mistakes you did.

I see talented kids on the come up all the time. I can tell when they’re starting to go down that same road I did. I’ll straight-up tell ‘em. I’m not gonna sit back and watch when I can hopefully change it for the better.

That’s part of what’s good with Fifth Avenue. It helps me make sense of a lot of this and hopefully some good can come of it. I love skateboarding, man. It’s just good to be around it.

Talk some more about Fifth Avenue Skateboards. Is that your company?

Yeah, Fifth Avenue is me and my partner, Jae Pryce. It’s our company. Jae’s the founder and he set it off a few years ago. I caught wind of it, we worked some things out and now I’m a partner. We’re just trying to do something good with it. Hook up some kids and put out some dope product. The team is doing well, too. I got a couple of kids out of San Diego: Mike Berdis and Brandon Lefever. They rip.

I’m trying to pass on everything that I’ve learned over the years. Skateboarding is so crazy right now but if I can help these kids out in anyway, I will. It feels good.

As we wrap this up, what are some words of wisdom that you’d like to throw out there to the universe?

Just be yourself. If you love skateboarding, stick to it. Don’t get into all that other shit. You can’t mix positive with negative. You can’t live a double life. It might work out for a second… you start thinking you got away with something but it’s gonna come back and bite you in the ass. It doesn’t work in the long-run.

I’d like people to realize that I was able to do a 180 with my life. I’m a person who struggled all of his life but I’m trying to move past that. I’ve changed. I’m trying to do something meaningful now. I care about these kids, man. I can see myself in so many of them... so many Little Stevens walking around. I just want to help.

Real quick, I'd like to thank all the people that have been there for me one way or another: Mark Gonzales, Jason Lee, Kareem Campbell, Dune, Ron Chatman, Jake Brown, Filthee Martin Maldonado, Fabian Alomar, my brother Albert aka Ref aka Sharky… Javier Nunez, OG Menace team, Rodney Mullen, Harold Hunter RIP, Keenan Milton RIP, Justin Pierce RIP, Pepe Martinez RIP, Guy Mariano, Shiloh Greathouse, Soc, Mike T, Grizzly, Adidas, Eva Marie aka Eva the Vandal. Shout out to Nayomi aka Omi.

Too many to name throughout my life. Thanks, though… @stevencales1.

Last but not least, the Fifth Avenue Skateboards team, my partner Jae Pryce, team riders Mike Berdis and Brandon Lefever, the Berdis Family.

One love. One life... so learn it.  


chrome ball interview #91: chris senn

chris and chops sit down for some conversation.

Something I learned recently that suprised me is that you always really aspired to be a tattoo artist. That a skateboarding career is something that happened in the meantime. Is that really the case?

It’s hard for me to answer that because they’re both things that I always wanted to do. They’ve always kinda been the same thing in my mind but getting paid to skateboard did change things. I was always doing art but I think I would’ve gotten into tattooing and art as a full-on thing earlier if getting paid to skateboard wouldn’t have gotten in the way. Whatever. I’m sure everyone has something like that in their lives.

Do you feel that not being necessarily “all-in” on your dream and maintaining other passions shaped your career to an extent?

Yeah, for sure. It was never about making money off skateboarding for me. At some point, I realized my situation and went about it the best I could but it was hard for me to think of skateboarding in that way. I feel like all that shit ruined it. To be honest, I tried to fight the business of skateboarding as long as I could. I’m sure that had an effect on my career in some way. I’m fine with that though.

But while I do remember you doing some graphics over the years, you never really marketed yourself as a “skate artist” either. Is this something you largely kept to yourself?

I never wanted to do that to myself. I didn’t want to take away from the art that guys like Gonz, Neil Blender and Lance had done. Those are the guys who really influenced me to be who I was. I feel like as I got older and went about art more seriously… taking formal art training and studying art history, I started to see the big picture of what art really is.

For me, it didn’t feel right to use my name as a skateboarder to push my art. I know that I could’ve done it that way but that felt like the easy way. Not to take away from dudes who do go about it like that. Some of those guys do super awesome stuff, it’s just not my way. 

So I think the first time that most of us heard of you was in Powell 8 where you seemed to blast out of nowhere. How long were you on the team before filming 8 and were you sponsored prior to Powell?

I got on Powell at the end of 1990 and the video came out right as I was graduating high school in the spring of 91, so yeah, it was pretty quick.

The whole thing came out of nowhere. I’d gone to one of those Quartermaster contests at the Powell Skate Zone and was just skating around during practice. I didn’t even know who Todd Hasting was at the time and had no idea he’d been the team manager of the real deal Bones Brigade for years. But he basically pulls me into his office right there beside the skatepark and asks me if I wanted to ride for Powell out of the blue. I tried to be all cool and downplay it a little but in my head, I’m fucking freaking out. I agreed, of course, and he took down my address.

I remember going back to tell my friends about it and they didn’t believe me at first. I got my first box the next week and I remember taking it to school to show everyone, like “Dude! Look at all this shit!”

Everyone was tripping out on all the bearings and shit. It didn’t even seem real.

It’s funny because we watched the premiere of Propaganda the day I got on Powell and I had no idea that I was about to be in the next one.

Were you immediately thrown into the 8 mix?

Not at first but I figured that if I hung around Powell as much as I could, shit might start to happen… and that’s basically how it went down. Jeff Toland was also on Powell at the time and we just started going to the Warehouse constantly. We pretty much lived there for a while. But it worked.

I started filming a lot with Frankie Hill and Kit Erickson around Santa Barbara. That footage got handed over to Stacy and this other filmer for Powell, Rob, and pretty soon, I was in 8. Rob came out to Grass Valley for a couple days and filmed me on his rollerblades. He was so rad, man. That’s how he filmed all that shit, man… all on his rollerblades. At first you’d see him and be like, “What the fuck!?!” but after a while, you got used to it and realized what he was doing was pretty awesome.

I’d talk with Stacy on the phone about shit but Rob was the one who filmed and edited it all. That was before everything split up. After that, it was mostly just Frankie and I filming each other.

Looking back on that part, do you think you were ready for spotlight at that point? You were pretty green, man.

I know what you’re saying but I was just a kid, man. I was only 18-years-old at the time. But I was fucking hyped on it. Looking back on it now, it’s like looking at some high school video your friends made. In some ways, it doesn’t even seem like a Powell video. All my friends are in it as well as all the stuff we skated back then… a lot of that shit isn’t there anymore. I like it for more for those reasons now.

Gotta ask, why did you stay in Grass Valley again for your next part in Celebraty Tropical Fish? Didn’t you want to get out to better spots elsewhere?

Oh, Grass Valley is amazing! There’s so many skatespots there that people don’t even know about. Seriously, tons of empty pools and DIY stuff. There’s a huge skate culture there and a rich punk rock scene, too. I really liked it there, probably because not a lot of people knew about it. Plus, that’s where I grew up so I already knew everybody.

But in my opinion, I don’t think it was until the last half of that Celebraty part where you destroy the Skate Zone that your talent was really showcased. Wasn’t that whole bit filmed in one day?

Yeah, that second part was Stacy’s idea and it was all filmed in 2 hours. Like I said, I’d skate that park pretty much everyday, usually with Frankie. Stacy basically felt that we didn’t have enough stuff. He’d always see us out there in the park doing this and that, we might as well try to film it. We banged that out pretty quick because that half was essentially the stuff I’d always do. Stacy edited the new stuff into what I already had and it turned out good. That place was so much fun, I think that’s what shows in the footage.

What’s the deal with that weird “Hi, I’m Christopher Ray Senn” ending? So funny.

(laughs) I still don’t know! He asked me to say my name and I said it, now it’s at the end of my part. It’s haunted me ever since.  

What was it like as a teamrider to go through such a rapid decline with Powell? What was once the biggest company in skateboarding being reduced to almost rubble in just a few years by Rocco and the new “cool” kids…

You gotta remember that when I got on Powell, the team still had those legendary dudes! Tony, McGill, Lance and Cab were all still on there. I honestly didn’t know how the fuck I fit in with those guys! I was not worthy! But then, everything split apart. Not just for Powell, the whole skate industry was splitting apart.

Yeah, there were all these different companies but we all still hung-out together. We all knew each other pretty well. There weren’t as many skaters and definitely not as much money back then.

Honestly, it was kind of exciting. The whole industry was changing so fast that if your team fell apart, fuck it, just go ride for somebody else. Even though I rode for Powell and appreciated all they did for me, it was still kinda cool to watch it all disintegrate. It was actually rad to be there and watch this big empire of skateboarding collapse.

The Rocco stuff was just a joke to us. Like I said, we were all friends. We all hung out with the dudes who rode for Rocco. We all knew what was going on.

Again, it was exciting and fun to watch. I mean, Steve’s walking around, offering people brand new cars to quit their board sponsor and ride for him. It was easy to see he was just as corrupt as everybody else. People liked to make out what Rocco was doing to be this big deal but it really wasn’t. In reality, it’s just a skateboard company.

Honestly, I don’t think most of us gave a shit. We were just trying to skate and get better.

Who came up with that classic Cliver cop graphic for you first board?

That graphic came from going up to Sean’s office one day. He was talking to me as I just kinda stood there, looking around, and noticed this drawing of a guy playing hockey.

“Oh, that could look cool as a cop!”

If you look at it, you can kinda see how that same character could be drawn on ice skates with a hockey stick in his hand. I have no idea what it was for and I have no idea why I thought of it as a cop but I did. I thought it could look cool. It wasn’t a big serious choice. We were just throwing out ideas. I figured if Cliver was down to draw something for me, let’s do it! That’s sick! He can do whatever he wants!

So yeah, he ended up redrawing it for me as a cop and making it work. 

You’ve definitely always done your own thing… even when your style wasn’t exactly seen as “on trend”. Did you ever get any pressure to change your style of skating or even wardrobe back then to something more marketable?

Right, right… but no, I never got pressured for any of that. Of course, people want you to wear the shit they’re selling but it wasn’t like I had a stylist or anything like that. Definitely not. It blows my mind that’s even a thing. (laughs)

When you talk about trends, its kinda funny because while I was definitely more of a street skater back then, I always wanted to be a vert skater. I always wanted to skate pools. I’d try to skate that stuff back then but I just wasn’t that good at it. I didn’t really learn how to skate bowls and stuff until I was 25 or so… years after I’d turned pro. I turned pro for skating street, which is what was big at the time, but you gotta remember that people were saying how vert was dead back then… that was actually what I really wanted to be! I wanted to skate vert! I didn’t give a shit.

Do you feel like you played more of the trend game earlier on in your career? Granted skateboarding was in a weird place but Chaos and Hot Batch have clips that seem almost like a different dude.

But everyone was doing that stuff. I guess part of me wanted to show that I could do that stuff, too. Pressure flips down stairs and shit. Yeah, I was doing all that but that was also when I was starting to want to skate more like Wade Speyer, John Cardiel and Andy Roy. I wanted to skate shit that was more dangerous. Going fast. It might’ve not been the most technical thing but it was way more fun. 

Could that have been Wade’s influence after he joined Powell?  

Oh yeah, Wade was a huge influence. He pushed me so hard, man. Constantly. Not only was he an amazing street skater, which I don’t think people realize, but he could skate fucking anything. We’d be on tour together and no matter where we were, he’d be ripping. I wanted to be like that, too.

Did you have much interaction with Cardiel growing up? Isn’t he from Grass Valley, too?

Yeah, he grew up in the next town over. John is a little bit younger than me but with how skating is, we’d always be running into each other. When we were teenagers, we hung out in different crews and would honestly butt heads a little over stupid shit… chicks or whatever dumb shit that seems important when you’re young. But we got through all of that as we got older. He and I were always next to each other as we grew up skating, for sure. He’s probably had more influence on me than anybody.

So what made you finally leave Powell? And what made you go with Channel 1?

Basically, Powell was going down. They broke the news to all of us riders that they couldn’t pay us anymore.

“Well, fuck… I gotta go then. Later.”

I’ve always been tight with Mark Oblow, who was Acme team manager at the time. I was skating a lot with Bo Ikeda back then so, of course, Mark’s going to try stealing me from Powell. I just didn’t want to ride for Acme… but I was interested in what Marty was doing with Channel 1. I thought all that stuff was pretty sick.

I was on Channel 1 for a little while but what I didn’t really take into consideration before joining the team was that Marty and all the riders were down in Southern California. The guys and the company were all super awesome, I just wasn’t there. It felt a bit distant, especially when I was used to always being at Powell. We did that video and everything, which was cool, but I did end up leaving eventually to start Adrenalin in San Francisco.

We’ve mentioned a few video projects already and while your parts were always solid, you really made a name for yourself in the contest circuit. How seriously did you take all that stuff?

Honestly, we didn’t get paid much to skate back then so I did take contests pretty seriously. If you were only making $1000 bucks a month from your sponsors, you’re gonna be hyped to win $5000 at a contest. That’s why I took it seriously. I need that money, I want to fucking win. You can call me a “contest skater” or whatever, fuck you! I got 5 Grand! (laughs)

I wasn’t trying to prove anything. Contests don’t really prove anything. I just wanted the money. Plus, if you can go to a contest and win, that also means you basically don’t have to deal with any sponsor bullshit either. You can just take your money and dip out. Since you just won the contest, it pretty much guarantees that they’re going to send you to the next one so your travel is set. Just show up again in two months and make some more money. Later! 

I always felt I had an edge because most people never seemed to realize that. They were too busy trying to be fucking cool. They were so worried about what other people thought of them. They’d go out there and try their flip tricks and not make any of them. Ok, well, I’ll just stay on my board then. There you go, I win.

Would those same guys talk shit on you for winning… at the expense of being “cool”?

They never talked shit to my face but I’m sure they probably did behind my back. But fuck ‘em, man. Who cares? And honestly, the guys who were doing well in contests were never the ones talking shit. They knew what was up. Koston could’ve won any contest he wanted to, it just depended on his mood. If he was in the mood to win, he won. If he felt like going out to try some crazy shit he wanted to pull, he’d do that instead. There were about 10 of us where the likelihood of winning was higher so I imagine we took contests a bit more seriously than others who didn’t see the money as such of a real thing.

But I remember people definitely talking shit when you beat Sheffey at Shut Up and Skate that year…

Oh yeah, people were pissed! (laughs)

But whatever, there’s always people who want someone else to win. That’s how it goes. I mean, yeah it would’ve been cool if Sheffey won but at the same time, winning a contest is pretty rad for me personally as well. So shit, what can you do? (laughs)

I was always tight with Sean and he was cool with it. That’s the thing, everyone gets bummed except the people doing it. If someone beat me in a contest, I thought that was rad. But haters will always talk shit. The people actually doing it don’t really care.

But yeah, everyone was bummed. Fuck it, I was stoked. Fuck yeah! (laughs)

Koston says that you give him the finger in the middle of your winning Tampa Pro run in 1996. Is that true?

Probably. We always used to fuck around with each other like that. I don’t remember the exact situation on that particular run but that kinda stuff usually came from doing a trick he said I couldn’t. Something like that.

Eric and I are friends so it was more from a place of fucking around. It wasn’t such a serious thing.

Speaking of contests, what about Earl Parker’s notorious “CSG” Big Brother article? How did you both take that at the time?

(laughs) Nah, we knew all those Big Brother guys. We thought the article was funny, dude.

I remember skating the Powell Warehouse one day right after that article had come out when their photographer came down. It did seem like they were trying to build the whole thing up a little more than it actually was. They were wanting me to take some crazy photos as a reply. They spray painted some shit on my griptape, trying to make it look like I was really pissed. They really wanted to hype it up but I didn’t care. She didn’t care either. It was funny to us.

I’ve found out through these interviews that Rocco definitely had his eye on you for a few projects. Were you ever officially approached by World?

Yeah, Rodney approached me once. He asked me and Donny Barley if we’d be interested in doing something with them. I’m not totally sure on the details, possibly doing a company through them. Donny had been talking to them and was kinda hyped on it but I wasn’t. I just remember quickly telling him “No, thanks” and that was it. Nothing ever transpired out of all of it.

It’s not that I wasn’t down with what they were trying to do. Steve was always cool to me. I just didn’t have the time to do it. I had so much other stuff going on. I didn’t want to get involved in all that shit. The last thing I ever wanted to do was end up running a skateboard company.

But you did! You basically did Adrenalin twice!

Yeah, but we didn’t do shit, dude! We just made a couple boards and were kicking it. It’s not like I was calling people up, trying to make sales! The first time we had Think running a lot of it. The second time was basically Chapman helping us out… but “Yeah, it’s my company.”

How did Adrenalin come about anyway? Was that something the guys at Think came up with?

It’s kinda weird how it worked out. I’d known Jaya when I was really young. He actually lived in Grass Valley right when I was starting to skate but then he moved away. It wasn’t until years later, when we were both sponsored, that we reconnected at a contest.

“Oh… Jaya?”


“No shit!”

We became friends again through all of that. And then, somehow, we both ended up moving to San Francisco around the same time, unbeknownst to each other. It was on from then.

I was still on Channel 1 at the time. I ended up going out one night with Don Fisher from Think for a couple beers when he brought it up out of the blue. He said Jaya and I had come up with the guys over at Think and Fausto to start a company with. They talked to each of us individually before we all met up. Jaya and I were already close and it sounded like something cool to work on so we did it. 

How did that work? Were you and Jaya more responsible for the team and artwork while Think did the distribution?

I don’t want to talk bad about those guys because I respect Greg and Keith a lot but I do feel like they were more or less leading us on. We never really had control over the company. We kinda did… but it was really them. We had some input with riders and graphic stuff but it always seemed like they had the final decision.

Mike Giant was doing the majority of the graphics and obviously he’s fucking awesome. We weren’t about ready to tell him no with all that he was offering up. No way.

I was able to do some graphics but honestly, the Think guys would shut down a lot of my stuff. It’s interesting because I’d show them some stuff I was working on and they’d be like, “No way.” But then Fausto would end up seeing it and he’d always be on my side. He’d let me push shit through that otherwise wouldn’t have.

“You guys are fucking retarded. You guys need to be doing this kind of shit. This is what people are doing now.”

We just wanted to do our own thing. We didn’t want to copy anyone. We wanted our shit to be a little more raw… we weren’t even thinking of it as a brand. For us, it was just skateboarding. We didn’t necessarily want all the frills.

What’s the story behind that classic Bryce photo of you blasting the downhill ollie out of that driveway in SF?

Yeah, I know the one. I think Coco Santiago actually had a photo there first.

Bryce is the one who actually took me there that day. He and I used to shoot a lot together back then. Bryce always had a ton of spots in his little Rolodex. He’d always be showing me stuff like, “Look at this one! Or how about this one?”

Honestly, that photo wasn’t that big of a deal at the time. We just went over there and took a couple ollie photos. Cool, I guess. But it’s funny because that’s the photo I see the most. It’s just an ollie. Of all the shit I did, all the shit I almost killed myself over, all I had to do was an ollie going downhill. That’s the photo that still lives on. Just an ollie and I would’ve been good.

Something curious I found in my research… I went back and read your TWS interview from 95 with my man, Arthur?

(laughs) Yeah, we did that with Tobin.

That interview is so funny, man. The real story behind that thing is that he basically took an interview from Rolling Stone Magazine with some gay poet and copied it word for word. That’s where those questions came from.

Yeah, there’s all these questions about living a bisexual lifestyle and poetry… but it’s hard to tell how serious it all is because none of it really makes any sense.

(laughs) Totally!

Basically what happened was that we were all sitting in Tobin’s apartment one night and all of the photos for the article were shot. We were trying to think of an interesting way to do the interview but none of us had any good ideas. By that point, I was so sick of doing fucking interviews, man. All of a sudden, Tobin starts pointing at this Rolling Stone Magazine he’d been looking at.

“What if we just copy an interview from in here?”

“Yeah! Let’s do it!”

So we’re laughing about it the whole time. I honestly thought he was joking but sure enough, the interview comes out a couple months later. (laughs)

Nobody knew that’s what we had done for a long time… but everyone I knew freaked the fuck out at the time. You gotta remember that kinda shit was a bigger deal back then. I just blamed it on Tobin. I thought it was hilarious.

The best thing from that whole experience is not too long after it came out, I did a live interview on the first X Games. I guess the people who ran X Games must’ve read that interview and believed the whole thing so they ended up asking me those exact same questions on national television. They had no idea what the fuck they were even talking about and I had to field everything with a straight face. It was amazing, dude.

Did you have kids at demos asking you about being bisexual and writing poetry?

Yeah, my son Anakin even asked me about it one time.

Tobin was trying to sneak in some of that crazy Big Brother-type of shit into Transworld. Honestly, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about me and I still think it’s funny as shit that we were even able to pull that off.

So I’m sorry if I’m missing it but were you ever on the cover of Thrasher?

No, I’ve never been on the cover of Thrasher. Never.

I knew they didn’t put you on the cover when you won SOTY in 1996, which I always thought was weird.

Right!?! I’m the only Skater of the Year who didn’t get the cover when they won. I mean, I won your magazine’s big award and I don’t even get the cover of the issue? I didn’t know why it was that way but it’s not like I’m going to refuse it. You ‘d have to ask Jake. Honestly, I’ve never asked why. Skater of the Year wasn’t that big of a deal back then but I do think it’s weird. The cover ended up being Ron Whaley doing an air over the corner of a car. Ok, whatever. (laughs)

Do you still have the trophy?

Yeah, my Dad has the trophy. And I will say that winning SOTY definitely had an effect on board sales, even back then. It definitely helped out Adrenalin at the time.

What ultimately happened with Adrenalin that first time out?

Basically we had just turned Justin Strubing and Hanzy Driscoll pro and we were trying to get Think to pay them more money. We were also trying to get Mike Manzoori on the team to skate and hopefully make a video for us. It’s not like Jaya and I were looking for more money on our end, we just wanted to make sure the team was taken care of. 

Unfortunately, Think refused so all of us riders basically told them that if they didn’t pay those guys more money, we were going to quit. I guess they didn’t believe us and tried to check us on it by still not agreeing, so we quit. By that point, the whole thing felt pointless anyway. Think wasn’t going to let us do the company the way we wanted to. 

Such a shame because that initial Adrenalin team was amazing.

Oh yeah, we were killing it and I know the business end was killing it as well. I probably shouldn’t be saying this but fuck it, I was friends with the sales guy so we knew exactly what our numbers were. It was clear they were ripping us off so getting more money for the dudes shouldn’t have been a big deal.

In the end, Jaya was the one who went in to talk with Fausto about keeping the name, allowing Jaya and the dudes to keep it going.

How’d Matt Reason get into the mix all the way from the east coast? Didn’t you guys turn him pro?

Yeah, Matt was amazing. That was back when all of the Philly guys were starting to come out to the City. Matt, Serge, Ricky and Fred… all those dudes. They had a new thing going. They were all riding bigger wheels. Everyone else was riding tiny wheels and these Philly dudes were all riding 60s! We couldn’t believe it.

I think it was Ricky Oyola that brought up Matt to me. I used to skate with Ricky a lot back then and he just told me one day, “Dude, you gotta talk to Matt. He’s sick.”

Not too long after that, Matt came out to the City with Ricky and ended up staying at Jaya’s house and then with me for a while. It was clear that he had to be on the team. Besides obviously Salman, Matt was one of the first guys to really start skating switch legit. Skating fast, too. Matt was the shit.

It’s hard to believe that both Matt and Jaya are gone, man.

How did Toy Machine come about?

I was always good friends with Ed and Deanna. I hung out with them a lot during the Adrenalin days and Ed would always bring up Toy Machine as an option. I decided to take him up on it.

To be honest, after things with Adrenalin and Think went south, I was actually going to ride for Flip. They didn’t have any Americans on the team yet and Jeremy really wanted me to ride for them. I was seriously just about to make it happen when Ed brought up Toy Machine again. Like I said, Ed and I were really close and I’d rather ride for my friend so the Flip thing never worked out. I still kick myself in the ass over that but shit happens.

On a quasi-related note, you were on TSA during that golden era of Penny and Muska at this time. I gotta ask about any potential tour stories coming out of that van…

Oh yeah, TSA was the shit. So many stories, man. Not only did we have Chad and Tom but also guys like Quy Nguyen and Skip Pronier. We were just destroying, man. Skating our best and partying the hardest.

Probably the thing that stands out most in my mind about Chad and Tom back then is how much they could drink and still skate so good. It was amazing. Not only would they be doing all this amazing shit on their boards, we also knew how drunk and whatever else they were as they were doing it.

I remember being in Tokyo with those dudes. We’d wake up and hit Denny’s in the morning for breakfast and Chad and Tim are ordering whiskey and pancakes. I mean, I used to drink a bit but it was at night like a normal person. These guys are getting fucking hammered, dude… and we just woke up! But they’d still go out and skate so good. Tom was seriously doing shit back then that people still aren’t really doing…. crooked grinding 20-stair rails and shit for fun. He was incredible.  

So you gotta talk about your Jump Off A Building part. It was so good to see you come out with a solid part like that after a few years.

Thanks. Yeah, filming Jump Off A Building was fun. That was back when I was still living in San Francisco. Jon Minor was living at my house back then as well so we were always out filming together. That definitely helped out that part a lot. I think that was around a good six months of filming for that one.

What about that ender clip with the hill bomb?

That hill bomb clip came about as an accident. We were trying to film the ollie over that bush and I just decided to keep going. I didn’t even know Jon was behind me for a while actually until I turned around to see him following me. That was rad.

I like how that part came out but honestly, I didn’t take it very seriously. I was never into making videos. I never really took the time to think about a part and what it all takes to put something like that together. I’d just go out skating and hopefully someone was filming it. That’s what I’d do for a while and then someone would put it all together. I never even looked at that stuff until it was done. I just wanted to skate.

We’ve all heard Ed’s tearful admission of guilt regarding your Toy dismissal… what’s your take on it?

I still haven’t watched it and I’m not going to watch it… that fuckin’ pussy, dude. (laughs)

I’m mostly kidding but he fucking blew it, man. He fucking blew it. That’s what it’s really about. Bam and Kerry basically punked him. I knew exactly what those dudes were doing because they had told me! They were going to quit. Sure, Ed was trying to get a bunch of money together to try and keep them but they were gone, dude.

The thing is that I straight-up told Ed exactly what was happening the day he decided he was going to kick me off because I didn’t catch my kickflips good enough or whatever. I told him that no matter what he was trying to do to save them, those guys were going to leave. I even told him who they were going to ride for but Ed didn’t believe me. He said he has to let me go. 

“Alright, dude.”

Of course, he calls me back the next day after those guys quit, asking me to ride for him again.

“No, you blew it. I don’t trust you anymore. I thought we were closer than that.”

You told him that you would’ve ridden for Toy Machine for free…. is that true?

(laughs) Honestly, me saying that was more of a way to stick the knife in there deeper… that dumbass. I never rode for Ed because of the money. That’s really what I was trying to say with that.

That whole situation broke my heart, man. I always looked up to Ed and respected him, even before I got sponsored. His wife and I are good friends and they knew my kids. I always felt that our relationship was more than just me riding for him. So when all this happened, it crushed me. I couldn’t believe it.

Why the decision to return to Adrenalin?

I guess I can share all this shit now because it doesn’t matter: I was actually approached by Black Label after Toy Machine and I feel that I probably should’ve there at that point but I was so fucking bitter over what had happened with Ed. Fuck this. Why even bother? I’m just going to do my own thing.

Like I said, Jaya had kept it going the whole time I was at Toy Machine so by the time that was all over, he was pretty much over taking responsibility for everything. So I decided to do it. I had time, fuck it. That’s when it really got going again with the both of us and Chapman.

Adrenalin was definitely more fun the second time. We had control. It was ours and nobody could tell us what to do with it. We never made a penny but it was awesome. It was cool to finally do it the way we wanted to. It was never about the money anyway.

Your This Is Skateboarding part is a classic and what I always felt to be your most complete part. Did you approach that one any differently? More seriously, perhaps?

That one was about 2 years, which is probably the longest I ever worked on a part. I think the difficulty with me and video parts came from filming with people I didn’t know. I hate filming anyway, so it’s even worse when I have to deal with people I don’t click with. This is Skateboarding worked because it was with John Minor again and Mike Manzoori. Those are two of my best friends who I ‘d known for years. Both of them rode for Adrenalin. They’re the best. We have a strong relationship and work well together. I think that’s why the part turned out so good.

You’ve always seemed like more of an in-person kind of skater… demos and contests, which I suppose can be makes things difficult for a long-term “career”.

Yeah, I just don’t like to plan shit out. If it takes more than 5 tries, I’m over it. I’m not trying to get all pissed off at a trick. My theory is that if I’m getting pissed off at something, why am I doing it? I want to have fun when I’m skating. Sometimes things flow, sometimes they don’t.

By that same line of thinking, Adrenalin just got to be too much after a while?

It got to the point where if we were to keep it going, I’d have to become this full-on businessman running the show… which I could’ve easily seen happening but I just wasn’t interested in that. Minor and Manzoori had their own filming thing going at that point. Everyone seemed to be going in different directions.

I was already thinking about stopping Adrenalin when Element approached me to ride for them. Yeah, fuck it. We’re done. I’m moving to Hawaii. 

How much guidance do you place in Anakin’s career? How odd is it basically seeing yourself come up in skateboarding all over again? I know you guys are both on Blood Wizard.

Well, Anakin’s super involved with Blood Wizard. I just like to support them because they’re my friends. I did some graphics for them but that’s about it. It’s nothing serious.

I know what you’re saying about me and Anakin goes but it’s totally different now. I don’t even know how much help I could be. Sometimes he’ll ask for advice and then I’ll give it to him but I’ve never tried to push him with skating in any way. I’m sure I’ve had some influence on him as he’s basically had to watch me skate his entire life but no, I’ve never tried to coach him.

We’re actually going to Europe this summer. He’s going to Marseille and then we’re hitting up Prague, which will be the first pro contest he’s ever entered… I think I’m gonna to try to beat him. (laughs)

“Your Dad beat you, bro! What the fuck!?!” (laughs)

That would be insane.

Nah, I can’t beat him. He’s gnarly, man. I don’t even like watching him skate anymore.

It scares you?

Yeah, it really does! He’s pretty nuts! I don’t like watching him at all. It’s weird because I’ll be like, “Put a helmet on!” (laughs)

So as we close this out, even as a SOTY with countless contest wins, do you feel your skating ever got its proper due? Does part of you think that you possibly came up at the wrong time in skateboarding? I think it could be easily argued that had you come up a few years later, your ATV skills and contest wins could’ve led to some very lucrative contracts.

But the whole idea for me was to not be part of what was going on. I think regardless of the year, I would’ve tried to find a way to not be part of it. I grew up skating with real crazy punk rocker dudes. They taught me everything I know. So I always have that in the back of my head. I just don’t care what people think, whether they like it or not. That was never why I was doing it.  

Thanks for taking the time, Chris.