chrome ball sits down with Real's newest pro for conversation.
So how’s your part, James? Are you happy with it?
It’s alright. I'm semi-happy with it. It’s hard to be happy because there’s always something else you wish you had for it. There are a ton of things I really wanted that I tried to get but came up short on. I'm kinda bummed on that but you can't win them all. It is what it is at this point.
I’m sure it rips. You maybe want to give us a hint at what your song is?
What!?! No way… I’ll believe it when I see it. So right now, the new Real video is all finished with the premiere still several weeks away. How’s the wait treating you? Are you nervous at all?
I'm not too nervous because I'm not the main part of the video. I'm just taking up some space. Hopefully people will like the space I fill up.
You've filmed for this one a while. Do you still find yourself wanting to go out and film stuff for it? Has it been difficult letting go?
Nah, not at all. It’s just another skateboard video. There'll be more.
True. How long have you filmed for this Day One part anyway? Did you try to do anything different with this one than with your previous parts? Is this gonna be another all filmer board part?
It’s been about 4 years now. There wasn't really any plan other than hoping to look like I don't suck. I just skated the whole time and had fun with my friends. My part just came together.
How does filming for a Real video compare to filming something for Fallen and Jamie Thomas? Is it a similar vibe or no? How does Dan Wolfe compare to the JT work ethic?
Not the same vibe at all but that video was also 3 years ago. Things seemed a lot different in skating back then. It was before the internet took over skating and made everything weird. Pressure for a good video part back then was different than video pressure now. Its harder to get motivated to film for videos now cause all kids want to do is watch what's-his-name on the Berrics or YouTube.
So the internet and its infinite little clips have made skating weird in 2011?
When I was a kid, skate videos were the center of skateboarding. Videos were monumental. If there was a video in the works, there wasn't a person who was actually into skateboarding that didn't know that video was coming.
Nowadays, people could care less about videos. People would rather watch some random kid do wizard flips at a skatepark on YouTube than buy a part that someone actually put time and effort into. I've met sponsored skaters who have yet to see Stay Gold. It's crazy. You can do 2 minutes worth of insane tricks at a park that could never be done in the streets and you'll be getting paid more than veteran pros. It's dumb.
Who’s part are you most looking forward to seeing in Day One?
Jake Donnelly! That dude is the sickest. Super-hyped for Jake.
Nice. So how’d you get introduced to skateboarding anyway? And what was your first board?
Growing up, my mom had me in sports all the time but I had a friend who skated. I liked the freedom he had to just do whatever he wanted: no coaches, no fields, no out-of-bounds, no jocks or egos, no time schedules… no nothing. I thought he had all the freedom in the world and I wanted that. That’s what got me and keeps me into skateboarding.
My first board was a hand-me-down Shorty's Muska with Ventures and some Shorty's wheels. That thing ruled!
So how ‘Bama are you? Pick one: Lynard Skynard or Jamie Thomas?
First off, its Lynyrd Skynyrd. And of course I pick Skynyrd! Jamie would agree as well. He knows they're way sicker than he could ever be!
(laughs) I guess I showed my Yankee roots on that one. What was the best thing about growing up skateboarding in Alabama?
Faith Skate Supply. It’s the best part of skateboarding to me.
Aren’t they the ones that put out that Reason to Believe video you were in? That thing was crazy! What was the story behind that project? Was that just your local shop? How’d JT get involved?
Yeah, it was Faith that did it. Joel Dembowski is the one who filmed it and put it together. He had used to ride for Faith back in the day and was also good friends with Jamie from way back. Jamie and Joel have always stayed in touch so when the video started to come together, Joel showed Jamie the rough cut and he was super into it. Jamie was originally just going to have the end part of the “friends” section but he got so hyped on it that he just ended up with a full part.
So I imagine those first couple of trips out to California from Alabama were something else for you. Was it different than what you expected? Are you a fan of the California lifestyle?
It was definitely crazy the first time I was out there but you get used to it after a while. I hated coming out for a long time but then I finally grew up and realized how rad it is for skateboarding. I enjoy how easy it is here to go skate and film and it's also a good place to runaway to when it’s too cold or hot back in Alabama.
I know you had some pretty gnarly injuries with that Fallen segment: a hole in your back, a tender limp and some black balls. Anything like that this time around for Day One? Are you gonna be able to walk at this premiere?
I think no matter what, you're always going to have injuries… or it could be that I just suck more than others. Either way, it’s just a part of it. I had knee surgery and back therapy for months after the Fallen video. It seems like a gnarly issue but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a little bump in the road. It’s not like I had it harder than anyone else has ever had.
A lot of people are thinking you’re next in line to take the plunge and go pro after this. Actually people have been saying that for quite a while now. Have you heard anything yet? Is this gonna be your coming out party?
Yeah, it'll happen after the video. I'm flattered and thankful for sure but I'm not that good. It’s not like I belong in a category of Mariano, Reynolds, Rowley and Arto.
Do you have any ideas for graphics yet? Maybe one with your dog Vader on there?
I would just like something to do with Alabama. But a Vader graphic would be the sickest! I like where your head’s at.
Do you think you’re gonna move out to California from your beloved Alabama now that professional status looms on the horizon?
I don't know that I'll be doing that anytime soon, if ever. I don't like paying rent and I don't like being tied down to one place. I currently live out of my car and am constantly going from place-to-place, camping and skating. I feel like having a place to live comes with a lot of strings. All I want to do right now is skate and I don't want to risk giving that up so I'm not going to change anything. I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing.
Wait... Are you seriously living out of your car right now?
Yeah, I just made it to California last night! I stopped by the Grand Canyon on the way and hiked around for a little bit. This is my third time driving to California since September. I'm actually laying down in the back of my car right now. I’m about to watch a movie on my iPad and then pass out. Living out of this thing rules!
Rad. So what do you feel are the best and worst things about living out of your car?
The best part is just being able to go and do whatever I want, whenever I want. Everything I own is with me. There really aren’t many downsides for me. I understand why people think it sucks but I like it because it’s simple. If I need to be somewhere or if I want to go do something, I just go. I don't have to worry about anything because I don't really have anything.
What have you found to be the best places to pull over and sleep or maybe catch a shower? And what are some potential warning signs to look out for that we may not know about? Give us some tips.
The best places to shower are state parks, for sure. They always have good ones. And I also like swimming holes, rivers, and lakes. I’ve already got a lot of them mapped-out. The best places to pull-off and sleep are just places where no one is at. Random fields in the country are the best. If you’re in a town, business parks are good because there aren't many people around after work hours.
I really don't know what to watch out for. I guess we'll find out if I ever get kidnapped or come up missing. I'll let you know after one of those happens. I guess just if it feels sketchy, find somewhere else to go.
You’re planning on living in your car for a while?
Totally. I like roaming around too much to live anywhere. Even if I'm not on a trip, I'm making my own trips in-between the other ones. I'll never have this freedom when I'm old so I don't want to blow it. It's too good to pass up by tying myself down somewhere. I’m not gonna be making money from skating forever… I'm probably gonna end up bagging groceries at a Piggly Wiggly by my mid-thirties. I'll get a steady place when that time comes.
Alright James, that's all I have. What's up next for you? Are you gonna get a chance at all to relax or is it off to the next thing? And now that you’re gonna be pro, are you nervous at all about what’s coming down the pike?
There'll be more videos, I’m just gonna skate. That’s all I really want to do.
special thanks to James, Jeff Vallee, Damon Thorley and Deluxe.