First things first… still smoking, Mr. Butts? And what’s your brand of choice?
I still smoke and am not proud of it at all. I have cut way back, being that I have a kid on the way, and am trying to ween off all together. But when I smoke, I smoke Camel Lights.
To all the young kids out there who are just now starting to smoke or think it’s cool for whatever reason: DON'T DO IT! STOP NOW!
Cue the standard intro questions: Where are you from originally? How’d you get started skating and what was your first board?
I was born in Granada Hills and have lived all over southern California. I don’t remember how I came across it, but I had a yellow plastic board called a "Sizzler". It had the real narrow trucks with big red wheels. I cruised that around and that's how it began.
Favorite pros growing up?
Natas Kaupas was my favorite early on… then it was Matt Hensley and Gonz. The whole Powell team have always had a spot with me as well.
Now the first time I really remember you on the come-up was in that Alva ad with Adam McNatt and Pat Brennan…. Did you know Pat and Adam at the time? How’d you guys get hooked up with Alva? Kind of a weird period for that company then… right before the transformation into New School.
I knew of Adam because he lived just a few towns over and he had a rep as far as being a local ripper. Pat came along later as we did some demos and skating in Pasadena. He, Adam and I all clicked so John Falahee added him on.
As far as how I got hooked up with Alva, I was a kid at the time living a few towns over from the warehouse in San Juan Capistrano. My friends and I found out where it was and decided to try and get some free stuff. We rolled up to the back of the warehouse and there was this dude in the back printing t-shirts with the bay door open and we started hitting him up for free stuff.
Tony Ruiz (aka Tonan) was the guy and he was like “here's some stickers” and told me to come back later to go skate a ramp with him, so I did. He took me to a local ramp in San Clemente (the Stewart Ramp). I skated that with him and he went back and told Falahee about me. I was getting flowed for a bit and then they took me to a C.A.S.L. contest up in Chino or something like that and I won. After that, it was full sponsorship.
I met Tony Alva at that C.A.S.L contest I won. He came up when they called my name and put his arm around me. It was funny at the time cause I didn't even talk with him before that. I guess that was his way of saying, “alright, you're an Alva boy.”
I was actually there skating the Powell facility with Pat and Adam when they got asked to ride for Powell. Stacy asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was happy being sponsorless at the time. I remember Pat being mad at me but I was talking with dudes up north about a new company at the time (Think). I wanted to be part of something new and grow with it rather than be an add-on to an already-established company. I guess I felt I would’ve been lost in the mix.
Think was a hungry young squad back in the day … with several future heavies that have all taken very different paths since… from Adams and Kepper to Smyth and Watson. What were those early days like? How was filming for Partners in Crime? So many different youthful personalities in there… had to be a lot of energy.
Well, once I left Alva, I had talked with Keith Cochrane and he had been planning Think with Greg Carroll and some local kids up in S.F. I had already been riding for Venture so it was an easy transition. I am not from S.F. but most off my earlier footage was from there so a lot of people I meet, even to this day, think I am.
It was crazy cause the first time I flew up there, I met up with Greg Carroll, Nick Lockman and Shawn Mandoli. The first thing we do is bomb hills. I was kinda trippin cause I was a So-Cal kid and yeah, I bombed some hills but nothing like the run they took me to. And it was at night. I held my own but was trippin' the whole time.
I stayed with Greg and Mikey for a while in Daly City. Greg worked so I tagged along with Mikey and headed wherever he did to skate with him and everyone he knew. Most of the time, it was EMB. It was clear to me that scene was going to be historical the first time I ever went there. I feel sorry for those who never got to experience it.
Filming for Partners in Crime was cool. Basically just had Jake film shit I wanted to film and got to skate all the famous spots in S.F. I also stayed in San Jose with Jason Adams right around the same time and skated with Mandoli, Fujimoto, Devera and Salman. I just wanted to skate, thats what I was all about… and skating new spots was the shit.
What’s the craziest thing you ever saw go down at EMB?
I saw Kelch mob up on some big jarhead dude. It was crazy. Dude was walking by, talking shit and Kelch got up with a skate key in his hand and started beating the shit out of the dude. I was trippin. Kelch was chasing him across EMB, just handling him with right hooks to the dome. Crazy at the time and crazy now.
Did you know your backfoot heel was gonna be in Questionable? That trick never looked so good...
I didn't know any of the footage was going to be in there. I was hyped... and I appreciate the compliment.
Speaking of which, talk a little about your trick selection… you always rocked a super good style while incorporating some real atypical tricks … switch backside shifties, the backfoot heel, switch 360 frontside heels (which is insane), and that switch b/s lip… were these type tricks a conscious effort to stick out from the herd or just a natural extension of your skating?
I honestly believe it was just an extension of who I was around. I got to skate with some of the best skaters in the world and that just motivated me to try new and different shit. I think the people I skated with shined through my tricks just as much as I did.
Now how’d you get on blind? That’s a pretty tight crew… was it difficult being the new guy? You stuck with Think for a pretty long time after you started blowing up… especially back then when just about everybody who was anybody was on a Rocco team. Was it hard leaving Think? Did you have offers prior to blind?
Henry told me one day at EMB that he was going to talk with the other blind dudes about me getting on. Yeah, not only was blind an established team and those dudes had known each other for a while already… but it wasn’t just normal dudes. It was Guy, Henry, Rudy and they were some of the best so that was a little crazy in itself.
I was happy on Think and felt that I grew as it grew so yeah, it was hard. But as a young kid who only cared about skating and nothing else, to have people that you watched in videos and looked up to made it a must-do. I never had any offers prior to blind and wouldn't have taken them if I did... but Blind was everyone’s dream team, including mine.
Now, what was the story behind that ill-fated blind video... that kid is well past turning blue at this point. Was there a serious effort to film back then or was it just hype? Any truth that the Friends section in Virtual Reality was those riders' way of using of their best footage before leaving… essentially their way of saying goodbye? Were you aware at this time of the descension in the World Camp?
I don’t really know… We always tried to film and get shit together but it just never happened and the footage was used by Plan B. I guess it was those dudes showing their love for us. At the time, they had the most influential videos and to be in them was a true honor. I didn’t really know about certain guys leaving until it happened. It was a shock to me as well.
So there was never any talk of joining those dudes on Girl? And why the quick move to Plan B?
I was never asked to be a part of it and I don't hold a grudge because of it. I came onto the team later and didn't really know any of the guys. Even though I was on the team, I was an outsider in a way.
I made the move to Plan B because in the past, Ternasky had been quoted in Big Brother as calling me the most underrated pro skater. Danny Way asked me to be a part of it... it just seemed like that was my next and only move. I'm not discounting it at all. It was a chance to ride for the famous Plan B.
How was the vibe of that team when you joined? Had to be a pretty awkward situation to come into… how were your experiences with Ternasky? How was he and the rest of the riders dealing with the whole exodus situation?
It wasn't that bad. Mike and the rest of the team were still pretty positive considering the circumstances. I guess they never knew how those dudes really felt.
Now around this time, you seemed to start heading down south... why the migration to San Diego after already being so identified with the San Franciso scene? Seemed like you were in the mix with Weiss and the Alien House a good bit… any good Lenny Kirk stories?
When I got on Plan B, it made sense to be down in the San Diego area. I stayed with Danny a bunch and started hanging with Weiss and Scott Conklin. Lenny was really young and just a kid who wanted to skate. The only story I have is Weiss talking shit on Lenny's little g ride… looked like a Ford Focus Hatchback and Lenny had one of those big gold crown air fresheners. Weiss liked to give him hell but loved him at the same time. That’s how you know Weiss likes you… if he gives you shit. Stands true to this day.
How was filming for Second Hand Smoke? Especially compared to the Virtual Reality shoots that you must’ve been present at… Was Ternasky still employing some his controversial coaching techniques, even post-Girl?
Filming for SHS was sick… just skated a bunch and filmed. From knowing Mike, there was nothing controversial about his techniques. He just wanted you to be the best you could be and would help you with it. He was great at what he did… just look at past videos and how they came out. He was really into skating and made being a part of Plan B more of the family vibe then just dudes you met up with time to time. He would have Christmas at his house for us and spoiled us when he did. Mike T., even to this day, is one of skateboarding’s most influential people and his videos still stand above most. R.I.P.
You really seemed to up the rail game on that one… Was that switch b/s lip something you threw down often?
I just remember going to that spot and thought of the trick and tried it until I did it. I'm not blowing hot air up my ass but I pulled it 3 times in a row. I wasn't happy with the first or second one as far as how I landed, so I just finally got the feel for it and made it happen. I was still at a point in my life where I just wanted to skate and thats what we did. We just tried to do new shit and set the bar… not necessarily for others but for ourselves.
Lockwood or Embarcadero?
Blind or Plan B?
They both gave me opportuniites in life and in skating, so I can’t say one is better than the other.
Favorite World-era Graphic?
The Fucked-Up Blind Kid decks were sick
What led to you getting on 23? I remember alot of people feeling a Ternasky-less, post-Girl Plan B had taken too many blows for it to really make a go of it like it once had...
I hooked up with 23 because of Sal. He had been doing it for a while and I actually met with his partners at a tradeshow and that’s when it all went down.
Plan B kept going after me… I ended up leaving due to a pay cut and some differences in personality. It was written a while back that I had an argument with Mary. That is complete bullshit. Whoever wrote that should be choked the fuck out. It came time for me to move on and that was it. I have nothing but love for Mary and would kick my own ass if I didn't! She cosigned on a car for me for fuck’s sake.
Mary, if you read this: thank you.
Best 23 tour story? Had to be some pretty funny shit go down with Sal and Clyde in the mix…
Well, it’s not the best but I can laugh about it now:
We were in New Orleans staying a block away from Bourbon Street. We were all hammered and tired and Clyde and Sal decided to call some call girls to the room. They left the door open and fell asleep. I woke up to my bags missing and basically having nothing to wear for the rest of the trip except for what I had on my back. Sal got me some white tees and socks but man, i had everything in that bag. I had purchased a Bradshaw jersey for my brother who is a big fan when we rolled through Pittsburgh… that and everything else was gone. I was pissed but there was nothing I could do about it.
I didn't know and I dont think they did either but whatevs. We all have our dreams and other things in life we want to do.
Now how long have you been at ATM? What are your duties over there?
I have been here at ATM as a sales manager since ‘98 with a one year excursion. I am head of domestic sales and do just about anything that needs to be done. Production, packing boxes, whatever…
You got hit for quite a bit in back taxes… which I imagine has to be a pretty common thing for young pros out there even though we don't hear about it that much. Are there any experiences or wisdom you try to pass on to the younger ATM riders in order to keep them from making some of same mistakes you did?
I don't deal much with the team. I talk and skate with them occasionally but unless I am asked, I don’t throw stuff out there. I do tell them to keep a level head and enjoy what they are doing to the fullest now because everything comes to an end and don't think that it doesn't. Have a plan b because if you don’t, you're going to be caught slippin in the worst way. Everyone has a window of opportunity but just as it opens, it closes.
And what’s up with the punk band? You guys do a cover of Me-O-Mi-O?
Kareem used to make fun of me when he would stay at my house cause I was into punk rock. I guess it never made it to the magazines or in any of the videos I did but punk has been a huge part of my life. I have always listened to punk rock. I did go through a phase with rap and still listen to plenty of it… but I started skating in the early 80's and that's what is was about back then: punk rock and skating.
No mi-o mi-o covers though, haha.
John Drake in his Chrome Ball interview named you as one of the most underrated dudes of the 90’s. Thoughts? Who do you feel should hold that title?
I would like to thank John Drake for that but I think that goes to any kid who loves skating that we never see. The real underrated kids who don’t know the right people or just do it literally for fun. They should get that title.
Right now though, I would say Torey Pudwill is going to put some pros to sleep.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just want to say thank you to my mom, my brother and everyone out there that considers me a true friend. I found with all the traveling and skating I’ve done that people want to be near you or know you to see if they can get something out of it, too. I don’t have many friends but the ones I have, I love and trust.
To young kids, don’t smoke. It’s a horrible habit.
To all the people that give me love and thank me for things I have done on a skateboard, I want to say thank you to them because they make me know that I did something positive and it affected them. That's more valuable than money to me.
I want to say to my baby boy that is on the way, Shane Anthony Bertino, I can’t wait to meet you and spend time with you, my son.
I am very blessed to have experienced what I have and I wouldn’t change it for the world because I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn't go through it.
To the mother of my kid that’s on the way: Anna, I love you and thanks for putting your faith and love into me and I hope I make you proud.
Thank you skateboarding.
Special thanks to Ronnie, ATM Click and Jon Constantino.