chrome ball sits down with the dc legend for conversation.
First off, who was that wino-type cat that kicked off both your 1281 and skypager parts?
He was a homeless guy that used to hang out in DC all over the place. We were filming 1281 and we just went up to him and asked if he would introduce my part for a dollar. He was psyched. Then a few years later we ran into him again extremely randomly and we got him to do it again.
Can we officially call this interview “Chris Hall Part 3”?
Alright, let me throw out the age-old generic intro questions: where are you from, how’d you start skating and what was your first real board?
I am from the east coast. Born in Washington DC. Grew up in Va. and lived in many states up and down the east coast.
I lived in Australia for a minute in the early 80s and I saw a guy on a skateboard rolling down the street and he hopped up the curb, rock-and-roll style, and I just bugged out. Thought it was the best thing ever. Then I got a board and did 360 tic-tacs for months until my bearings broke. That was a wrap until I got back to the USA because I lived in the desert with no skate shops.
My first real board was an Alva Eddie Reatugii. Check the spelling on that…..
(Editor’s note: Eddie Reategui... I think)
Now was New Deal your first sponsor?
No, my first sponsor was Venture trucks. Sheffey hooked that up along with Keith Cochrane and Greg Carroll. Then I got on Dogtown for about 6 months until it went under… then came New Deal.
And how’d you get hooked up with that crew?
I got on New Deal through Andy Howell. He saw me at a contest somewhere and he liked my skating and hooked it up… I was psyched.
What were the early days of the Deal like?
It was great. New Deal came out swinging and had a good team so I felt real good about being on there.
How long did you film for Useless Wooden Toys? Seemed like that one session in the parking garage was almost half your part!
I filmed for that part in 3 days. Also there was some footy from a skate camp which was a week of filming…But yeah, I filmed everything in that garage in one night. Andy came to my house and gave me a camera and told me to film a part. He went out partying while me and my homie Jimmy went and got those garage tricks. They used the wrong clip of me doing the 540 flip revert. I landed a clean one and they put in the one I did to a complete stop. Thanks guys!
Were you stoked on the reaction your part got? Kickflip-nose mannies in 1990 (not to mention total tre flip control so early)…. overnight you were seen as one of skating’s top street technicians. Were you pleased with it?
Yeah, I was hyped on my part. First time I had ever had to go out and produce footage for a video. No pressure at all...I never thought about it. Back then it was just skating all day and learning new tricks.
Pulaski Park is probably the most famous DC skatespot and definitely a recurring character throughout your career. When did you first start going down there regularly?
I started going down to Pulaski in 85-86. Regularly in the 90s…..
Could you imagine that decades later, the place would be made immortalized in a Tech Deck toy for little kids?
Back then I could never imagine it. Back then we didn’t even hang there or sweat that spot. We just rolled through it and hit it up for a bit. But in the 90s, we lived there….
How did the crew evolve? Was there anybody in your mind that repped that spot the hardest (a la Kelch did EMB)?
The one guy who repped it the hardest was Brian Tucci. He was, and still is, a menace at that spot. Randy Corey was ill with it as well….
So many skaters with such different styles ripped that place on the daily... who was your favorite to watch skate there?
My favorite to watch skate it by far was Sean Sheffey. Words can’t describe how fast he skated back then. He was skating fast as a train and doing new tricks we hadn’t seen before like backside tailslides on the ledge. Everyone there was in awe…this is like in 86-87. Watching Reese Forbes skate there also was crazy because he was doing things that hadn’t even been thought of before like the backside 180 flip over the big white ledge.
So many careers have been seemingly birthed at that spot over the years. Are there any locals there that you feel should’ve gotten large but fell through the cracks?
Brian Tucci never really got what he deserves. Sean Mullendore would come down there sometimes and make anyone look silly skating next to him He should be pro now and paid but he chose a different route and quit skating.
Pulaski locals were pretty notorious for handing out beatdowns to unwanted guests (Jim Gordy comes to mind). What’s the craziest thing you ever saw go down there?
Haha..there were fights everyday down there for like 2 years in the mid-90’s. You always knew there was going to be drama at any second. I’ve seen some crazy fights go down.
The craziest thing I saw involved Eben Jahnke…sorry Eben, you’re my man but this was nuts…One day I was being interviewd by some news lady about how great Pulaski was for skating and out of nowhere, we look up and see this dude that looked like iron mike sucker punch Eben . Eben drops to the ground and we all start running up to get Eben’s back but this guy had 3 of his goons with him and they all went into their pants like they were about to pull out guns. We all stopped in our tracks and let Eben fight a fair one. Eben stood his ground but took an L and walked it off….apparently the guy that hit Eben had got into an argument with Eben about an hour ago and came back with his crew from the hood…they weren’t playing.
Any well-known skaters catch a bad one?
I don’t think so... just Tony Hawk.
Moving on, 1281 was the next New Deal video and an infamous one at that. What did you think of all the super-tech pressure flip/backfoot flip-style of skating that the video helped usher in? Your part is void of these novelty-type tricks and has definitely aged quite well in comparison. Was this a conscious decision on your part to avoid those trends? What did you think of someone like Chris Fissel's part when you saw it?
I just wasn’t into them… I couldn’t do them either. I liked his part a bit. I didn’t know what he was doing but it was different and innovative.
Whatever happened to that Chris Fissel guy anyway? I know he turned pro for Mad Circle for a minute…
He was in Portland Oregon, I think. He got into religion full-time and had a baby. He’s a good guy.
Andy Howell has said that you were a large motivation behind the formation of Underworld Element. He felt New Deal had grown too large to give you and your skating the attention it deserved. Consequently, your pro model was released almost immediately after Underworld started. How was your relationship with Howell, both before and after UE started?
We never dated… haha. He was a great motivator and knew exactly what he was doing. I didn’t really know but kinda trusted that what he was doing was dope.
Were you aware that the company was being created in part as a vehicle for your career?
This is the first I heard of that. Crazy.
Underworld Element was a very progressive company… utilizing a hip-hop/graf image well before any other major skate company was doing so. Was there an awareness at the time that what you guys were doing was well before its time? Do you feel the skate public-at-large got what the company was trying to accomplish back in ’92?
I think most people got it. It was authentic… street style before everything was street style... We didn’t worry about it. Andy probably did but we just skated and kept it moving.
How’d you meet Pepe Martinez?
We lived near each so I think I ran into him at a local contest. He was a natural from the get-go. It took me ten times as long to learn tricks. He got stuff right away..
Did you get him on Element?
No. He got himself on...
What about Reese Forbes?
With Reese, I did help get him on to a degree. I told Andy about him and got him some boxes…I’m sure Andy told Johnny and then Reese had a name for himself… but I think he was on Goodtimes first though.
Your sneaker fetish is the stuff of legend… well before it really caught on with the masses. What’s your favorite skate shoe of all-time?
#1: Air Jordan 1's by a big margin, #2: Adidas Instinct, #3: Vision Street Wears.
What was the gnarliest thing you ever saw Julien Stranger do?
I didn’t see him land this but we were all skating through downtown Atlanta and we came across this 6 stair and there was a 4 ft high pole on the bottom of the 6 stairs, about 5 ft from the last step. He wanted to ollie from the top of the steps and nose tap the pole. We thought he was crazy. He took off and ollied the steps and did tap the pole a few times but never rode away but just to attempt this was crazy.
Then you have the infamous ollie to tail bash on the ledge/rock wall thing in the end of his part in skypager which has to go down as one of the nuttiest things ever captured on tape.
Now as was mentioned earlier, Underworld was created at least in part, according to Andy, for Chris Hall… what happened after Skypager? How come you weren’t in Fine Artists?
I wasn’t in there because I didn’t film for it at all and I think it was around the time they told me I was outta there...haha. I just kinda stopped skating and getting coverage and they let me go. I wasn’t inspired or into skating for a while.
At this point, you seemed to go underground for a minute. You resurfaced on Experience with Eben but then that company kinda fizzled. What was going on with C. Hall?
Well, I was heavy into grafitti and other things. I never was 100% focused on skating again.
At the same time, you were on Nicotine wheels and the expected move was for you to also get on Capital… but you never did. How come you never got on C-Dot?
True Mathematics was a sick clothing line with an incredible team (including a young Mark Appleyard)… what were you trying to do with that company and what ultimately happened to it? That Prosperity vid is still one my favorites…
Not really sure. It was kind of an experiment to see if I could make some dope clothes. It had no backing or help so it was tough.
I was living in Canada for a while and I got back into skating heavily in 2000 and just started to film a lot. I didn’t have anywhere to put any footage so I made my own video with my homies.
Kinda like how “Get Familiar” started out as a project for Darren Harper and a few other D.C. locs to get some shine… yet that video ended up with full parts from Gonz and Daewon. How did the project evolve?
Just like you said. I wanted to show off Darren's skills and help him out. That turned into me buying a vx1000 and a lens and getting very serious with filming. I couldn’t film Darren 24/7 so I started filming others and just decided that the best way to get him exposure would be to make a sick video.
What was Darren’s reaction about having to come up with a part that would actually follow such legendary dudes?
I’m sure he was hyped. He just wanted to skate good and have a good part. Some people hate on his part. I didn’t know we created a rap video..haha. It was kind of a mistake. We filmed his boy doing some music video and we kinda spliced it in his part and it is what it is. That’s Darren. Raw as it gets.
What was it like filming Gonz? How'd that even come about?
It was always fun… It was something I hadn’t planned at all. It just kinda happened. I skated with Gonz years ago in DC and asked him to be down and he just got loose. It was nuts.
How much of it was a collaborative process?
Not much. I would try to tell him some stuff but basically he does what ever he wants. He would have things sort of planned out in his own way everytime we got together. I would just follow him and film everything. I would just try and keep up. Sometimes he would take off in NYC and be hauling down the streets. I was way behind…I have some really funny stuff of him that isn’t in the video. He’s a menace.
The temptation had to be just the let the tape roll with the guy since just about everything would be usable (him walking into poles, smoking cigars, barking wheels, etc.)
I basically did. He's easy to film once you get him to skate.
How long did it take to make Get Familiar?
Around 2.5 years….
Compare that with Useless Wooden Toys, which probably only took a fraction of that time. What do you think of modern skate videos that can take up to 5 years to make versus the early days of skate vids?
Now everything is calculated. Back then it was more random. Now you need a generator, lights, 10 cameras, 10 filmers, a doctor… Back then it was just a bro cam. It would have been funny if there was double-angle bro cam. Way more serious now. Not saying that it’s a bad thing though.
What is your opinion of Element now?
Now Element is a corporation. It’s so big. I’m sure the skaters are just a tiny part of the company. They have a sick team though. I like Brent Atchley’s skating. It’s a 100% different from when we were on it, in my opinion.
You and Tucci are largely seen (at least by outsiders) as the godfathers of the D.C. scene. How great was the temptation to go west (like Sheffey and pretty much everybody else back then) versus staying in D.C. to start your skate career?
It was a little tempting and I did go west sometimes, but just for short periods. I never lived out west. It wasn’t really a decision, it just was like that. There were so many skaters and underground garages around that kept us busy all year round…
Speaking of Shef, many people may not know that you filmed a lot of his Pulaski lines in "A Reason For Living.” What was some of the gnarlier stuff you saw him throw down?
Dude was an absolute beast back then. I saw him backside 180 ollie this huge island that Natas wouldn’t ollie over and everyone was shook. It’s in one of his early parts. It was surreal watching that. It was at an SMA demo. Julien was there.
Also, when we would first start skating Pulaski, there wasn’t too many people around so there was only a handful of us witnessing history with this guy. He was the first person to take backside tailslides on bigger ledges and not just little curbs. He also did the biggest ollies back then over some huge obstacles going mach 10…check out that need for speed video. It still holds weight today.
And was he as wild off his board back then?
Yeah he was. He was always good to have around because he would always have your back and he could back down anyone or take them out. Him and his boy sunny were just those dudes. Ready to rumble always and we were just some skate nerds….
Being down with Sheffey back then, were you ever asked to skate for Shut? Any run-ins with those dudes back then?
No, I wasn't. I wasn't around those guys that much. We did see Barker Barret around. Mike Kepper used to come through... Back in the day, Shut was the east coast Dogtown. Simple and plain. They ran shit and we were so hyped on Shut that their stickers were like drugs...haha. Rodney and Bruno are my big homies!
Favorite graphics/ads/video parts? (Yours and/or others)…
Favorite graphic of mine is the champion logo rip off deck. Great shape, great logo…fave graphic of all time is the og Gonz deck. I had over 20 of those decks in the day and its just the one.
Wow! Video parts? That’s tough....Gonz Video Days, anything Cardiel… anything Daewon does.
What’s your status now? I know you were designing shoes over at sole tech for a while…
I was there for a minute. Now I am designing some footwear for timberland along with a few other companies and doing a lot of hustling... I’m going to open a pawn shop or thrift store...big business!
Your career is full of many highlights… a technical innovator who helped put the east coast on the map and in the process, help start many a career. And I’m not even getting into the video work, your writing work and the shoe steez. What in your career are you most stoked on?
I'm psyched on the way Get Familiar came out. I hope some people got something out of it. And some of the shoes I designed I’m hyped on…
Anything else you’d like to add?
No, I’m good. Thanks a lot for interviewing me. Good luck with the site! Peace.