Alright Clyde, this is gonna date this but it seems to be what everybody’s talking about right now: did you pay the 2 bucks to see the new Nyjah part and what did you think?
No, I haven’t seen it yet. I was actually gonna go to my buddy’s tonight and watch it. I was gonna get that one and a couple more to put on my phone…
(shouts at somebody in the parking lot) –Hey! Watch out, asshole!
(shouting) -Watch where you’re backing up at! I’ll knock your fucking teeth out!
(laughs and continues on with the interview) …But fuck no, I’m not paying two bucks to watch a video. Why would I give Element two bucks? I’d never give Element two bucks and I don’t even like Red Bull. Fuck that shit.
If Nyjah did that shit under I&I, I’d throw 5 or 10 bucks in, but fuck Element.
A popular sentiment. So how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was your first board?
My neighbor had a Nash Executioner. I remember him being all hyped that he could tic-tac. We were all competitive back then so I ended up taking his board and tic-tacking for like a mile-and-a-half. Straight up, I must’ve tic-tacked three bus stops up.
Back then, my buddies and I were into dumb shit, like stealing bikes and robbing stores and shit. Somehow I ended up trading all this stolen Polo gear for a bike that I then traded for a Vision Psycho Stick. It was terrible. It had two different trucks… 3 of the wheels were Vision Blurs, the other was a Rat Bone. But yeah, that was my first board.
What was it like for you coming up as a skateboarder in the 80’s in Jacksonville?
You have to remember that back then, it wasn’t cool to skateboard and it for damn sure wasn’t cool to be a black dude who rode a skateboard. Especially in the South. I had every strike in the world against me.
There were times when I wasn’t allowed to go skate a ramp because the owner’s parents were racist. But that’s how it was. I grew up skating with this one dude and we’d all go out skating and film a bunch of stuff. They’d all go back to his house to watch it while I’d have to go home because his racist piece of shit Dad.
There was stuff like that but other than that, it was cool. I learned to skate a lot of different terrain. I actually skated vert for the first few years until I slowly got into street skating. You couldn’t just be one type of skateboarder back then, especially down here with Kona and Stone Edge.
I was taught how to skate by this redneck white kid in his garage. His parents were racist and I remember watching him skate, being in such a hurry to learn because I honestly thought I was gonna get killed hanging around this dude… on some Huck Finn shit. I learned how to skate so damn fast cause I was scared.
That’s nuts. So I know Acme really put you on the map as far as ads and coverage go... were they your first sponsor?
I was actually riding for Vision towards the end. I was winning a bunch of contests so I kinda got on through word-of-mouth. The first skateboard box I ever got in the mail had shoes and that one Gator board where you put the stickers on… my mom accused me of stealing all of it. I was hyped though. It was everything that I wanted.
Funny story: I remember watching TV that night with all this Vision shit laid out on my bed when A Current Affair came on and they started talking about Gator going to jail. Goddamn! There I was with my first box, all these Vision pictures on my wall and now the biggest dude in the company is going to jail for murdering somebody.
But Acme worked out because Jim Gray was doing stuff with Vision before he and Marty left to start Channel One and Acme. I ended up meeting Mark Oblow and those dudes at the Orlando tradeshow and just kept in touch.
Now Acme always had good riders but with no pro models, most ams often left the company for greener pastures. What was it like riding for them? Were you all that stoked Acme at the time?
Of course! I was 17-years old from Jacksonville, Florida and now I’m out smoking weed on tour in Amsterdam! That shit was like hitting the lottery! It wasn’t like I was skating for New School or some weird shit like that. It wasn’t Counterfit. Acme had sick skaters.
But I do think Jim Gray’s main thing was what bit him in the ass and that was wanting to be in competition with Rocco. Jim had a great business-sense, but he wasn’t as edgy as those guys. It was like night-and-day.
Didn't you skate naked in a video of theirs back in the day?
I don’t want to talk about that. (laughs)
Yeah, I did. It was Bear Hughes’ fault. Fuck Bear Hughes. Nah, just kidding. I actually used to film with him a lot back in the day.
What happened there was that I’d been trying to do this stupid trick over a bench and I couldn’t get it. It had got to the point where I readily just didn’t give a fuck anymore… so I said that I’d start taking off an article of clothing for every attempt.
Sure enough, I made it without any pants on.
There’s a ton of Embarcadero footage in that Untitled part. Was all that stuff right when you first started coming out to Cali? Did you move out West for the sole purpose of making it in skateboarding?
There was a huge lot of us that moved out there. Of course, all my friends ended up turning around and going home but I decided to stay and really go for that shit.
A lot of that Embarcadero footage was actually filmed by Jamie Thomas. I stayed with him and Drake Jones for a while. Jamie really helped me out a lot back then, him and Matt Pailes.
What was the first lesson you learned about professional skateboarding after moving out to California?
Skateboarders don’t make a whole lot of money! I came out there thinking that I was about to be ballin’. I got a check and all I saw was two zeros! I couldn’t believe that shit. I could’ve made that much working at my Mom’s Popeyes!
What was the process like to get on 101? Was it always specifically going to be 101 for you or were there other World companies potentially in the mix?
Rodney Mullen called me up one day and asked me to go out to some contest. I didn’t even believe it was him but an hour later, I had a plane ticket.
I honestly didn’t know who I was gonna ride for. They wanted me to ride for Menace at first but I just wasn’t really down for that. Nothing against Menace, they’re all my really good friends, I just felt that I would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb. I would’ve been like Young Buck on G-Unit, “Who’s that odd country dude?”
The whole 101 thing happened while I was down at Dyrdek’s house actually. We were all sitting around, playing Sega Genesis Hockey when Dyrdek tells that Natas is on the phone.
Now, we’re all drunk as fuck, dude. And again, I really didn’t believe it was him on the phone.
“Yeah, this is Natas. I saw your video. I really like it.”
“Get the fuck outta here. This ain’t no Natas Kaupas.”
He just starts laughing.
“Seriously, I don’t have time for this shit. I’m drunk and I don’t give a fuck.”
“No, this is seriously Natas.”
At this point, even Dyrdek leans over, “Dude, that’s really Natas. Don’t talk to him like that.”
“Alright, man. If this really is Natas fucking Kaupas, you meet me out front here at 9 o’clock in the morning.”
8:30 in the morning comes and Dyrdek wakes me up. We walk around the corner and it was Natas, Gino and Dill standing there. I almost shit my pants. I didn’t even know what to do with myself.
That was the day I fakie hardflipped the bench and fakie kickflipped that chain... which is crazy cause I’d never done either of those tricks before. That chain was scary as fuck. At the time, I’d only ollied it a few times. But with those dudes around? Fuck that! I’m doing it!
I remember right after I made that over the chain, Natas came over and told me that I was on the team and that I’d have a check tomorrow.
“Get the fuck outta here!”
I was so psyched, dude. I’d been sleeping on couches for years! I must’ve said that shit like those fat black ladies in church. “Hallelujah!”
I called my Mom but she didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I went home and really explained it to my family that they got it. I remember them being like, “But what about going to school?”
“Man… fuck ya’ll! I’m out!”
Subsequently, it was also around this time that I became one of the first people to get on DC… until my dumbass walked in there wearing some hi-top Adidas. One of the top two dumbest things I’ve ever done in skateboarding.
What's the other dumbest thing you've done?
Signing to Zoo York. What kind of weirdo sell-out move was that!?!
Yeah, but that had to be a weird situation for you guys.
What sucked is that nobody was gonna go unless I went. It was kinda resting on me. And the thing was, I was already set to do my own thing. I’d talked to Kayo and was ready to go. But it was one of those things where I didn’t want to split up the team. Zoo said they’d give me 5 grand a month… Fuck Marc Ecko but I’ll take that check all day.
We’ll get into that here in a minute. I want to go back to 20-Shot Sequence. I know that was real quick after you got on. What was it like filming for that joint? Did you know it was gonna be one long shared part like that?
There was a ton of footage that didn’t get used… a lot of stuff from everybody that never got out. We’d been going out so much. We probably filmed around a year for that. I remember that we didn’t have a name for the video or nothing… we all thought we were getting separate videos actually.
The main thing was that the Menace guys wanted to get their thing going. I was out with those guys a lot during this time. That’s who I mostly filmed with. Skating and filming… then smoke a lot of weed, get a bunch of boards, sell those and buy some more weed.
Who were you staying with during all this?
You have to remember that I didn’t have a place to live at this time. I’d either be staying with Kareem, until he’d wander off being Kareem somewhere, and then Socrates would come and pick me up. I even stayed with Fabian a few times.
How was that?
Wow! It was weird: I’ve never felt safer in a more fucked-up environment in my entire life. I’m serious. People can say whatever they want to about that dude: he’s a great skateboarder and a great guy but I would not want to grow up where that dude grew up at. Straight-up. And I grew up in the fucking hood… but that shit was like, “Get me the fuck outta here!”
What are some things that people may not know about 101? Are there any pros you remember almost getting on 101 back then but didn’t?
You must be talking about when Dave Mayhew was trying to get on and we all said, “Hell no.”
I’m sure some other people tried to get on back in the day but I always tried to stay away from that stuff. I was cool with it being me, Natas, Gino and Dill. I mean… yeah, Dill and I got into it at first, but whatevs. Shit happens like that, ya know? We were cool after that.
What’s the one thing that sticks out in your head that you saw Gino do during your tenure at 101?
I remember the switch backtail shuv on the table. That was ridiculous. We didn’t even know he was trying that! We were all like, “Hold on!”
Most stuff, he’d just do. He’d show up in some crazy sports car, do a couple tricks, make it look super fresh and dip while everyone else was left wondering what the fuck just happened.
I seriously saw too much stuff. Between him and Kareem, I couldn’t believe the shit that was going down.
Talk a little about Trilogy. Did you have any idea it was going to go on and become one of the all-time great videos like it did?
That video just kinda happened. You know what’s funny, I actually named the video “Trilogy”.
The thing was, again, everybody wanted to make their own videos. After 20-Shot, everybody wanted their own thing. Blind were the main ones gunning for this and they had every right to be doing so. They didn’t want nothing to do with the collaborative video idea again… and you can definitely see it in Trilogy as Blind basically had their own video inside the video.
What this all meant to us was that we didn’t have any deadlines. We were just filming. I’d be sitting at my house thinking about how I’d never seen this trick done on a rail before so I’d go out and do it. Putting it together like that.
But I remember telling Rodney that he should make a video where everybody made their own videos and then put them all in there as one video and call it “Trilogy.” Put it in a box set.
That video wasn’t supposed to come together like it did. Nobody really knew what was going on the whole time. Like I didn’t put my part together, I didn’t even see it until the video was out. I had completely forgotten about a lot of stuff in there. And other stuff they wouldn’t let me use because I’d already used it in 411.
But that’s easily my own favorite part. There’s so many things in there about that time period. A lot of it was filmed by Bear, who’s one of my best friends… and I honestly surprised myself with a few things I did in there.
Were you surprised when 101 ended?
I just think Natas wanted to do other stuff. Gino had already quit and Dill had gotten kicked off for stealing boards… all of this had happened within about two weeks after we had just got off tour.
It was around this time that I met Sal for the first time in the warehouse. I was so stoked to meet him but I was really stoned at the same time. He was trying to talk to me about some real shit, about starting a new company and everything but I was so high that I didn’t even realize it. I was just trying to pack a box and leave. But here he had told me about his entire plan to do 23 and Elwood and how he wanted me to go with him and I’d completely missed it. I was just all high... like, “Wow, that’s Sal Barbier.”
At the time, Rodney wanted me to go to Menace again but I still wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I ended up getting a couple of 23 boards and it worked out… even though those boards really sucked. I didn’t think I had too many options and 23 was offering me more money so I took it. I always respected Sal since I was a kid so I did it.
Why didn’t 23 ever really get off the ground like Aesthetics did?
Sal was just getting his feet wet and 23 was under a different owner. That was Bounty Hunter. 23 and Elwood were both being handled by Sal but with different people in each… which is why they had two completely different looks.
Sal had a lot of problems with that chump.
Now Ryde or Die is an amazing video but I know you were going through a lot of shit when it was being filmed…
Filming for that thing, I already had a bunch of that footage. There were a few things that I went out and got for it but during the last half of filming was when I’d fallen of that bridge in Prague. I wasn’t in any shape to be filming for anything at that point; I was fucked-up! During that last 8 or 9 months of filming when it was crunchtime and those guys were getting busy, I was doing physical therapy. Learning how to chew again and blink… trying to get back my balance again. It sucked.
Didn’t Welsh basically save your life after you fell of that bridge?
Save my life? He fell on top of me! That dude almost killed me! Son of a bitch fell on top of me and didn’t get a scratch on him! I fell off the damn bridge all drunk and woke up in ICU wondering why the fuck Joey Pepper is holding my hand? I had all these needles in me… looking down at the cathodor like, “What the fuck is this thing in my dick!?!”
The drunk antics are the stuff of legend… what was up with the pissing, man? That was like your trademark for a while... what was the worst thing you ruined by pissing on?
Let me give you a list of a few things I’ve pissed on: John Drake’s turntables, Joey Pepper’s futon, every tour bus I’ve ever been on, my ex-girlfriend’s bed, most of the couches that I’ve ever slept on for more than a week, pissed in Ronnie Creager’s corner, pissed in Muska’s house… I’ve pretty much pissed everywhere.
Are you still doing that?
Nah, not anymore. I’d just get shitface-drunk. I’m clearly not a very good Jack Daniels drinker but I would still drink that shit like I was Nikki Sixx.
So what led to the making of Minority Report? Is that something you’d been wanting to do for a long time after certain experiences in the industry?
Well, it started out that I wanted to make a video with all black guys and a token white dude. Because every video has that token black dude with some weird rap song playing so I wanted to flip it. It was gonna be the greatest thing ever. I didn’t even think people would’ve understood what I was doing, but if they did, they were gonna get so mad! They’d have no idea that we’ve been watching the same thing on a different spectrum for years.
My whole thing with Minority Report was that there were way too many guys like Anthony Williams and Kellen James who had a ton of great footage but nobody would put them on. They had all this great footage just sitting around. Javier ended up being in-between sponsors and I wanted to do something with him, too. So with everything coming together like that, I just figured I’d do all minorities.
A lot of people were too cool to do it… those guys that weren’t in that video that you know I’m cool with. They were too cool… too busy trying to be that black skater. You know the timeframe I’m talking about. Everyone wanted to be that black skater/rapper dude. Fucking clowns. What are you going to get out of that? None of you guys rap. You clearly lack any kind of personality. All you guys are super- talented at skateboarding but you’re focused on dumb shit.
But realistically, I’d never made a video before either. I had a laptop and my buddy downloaded a torrent for some editing programs and that’s how I did it. All trial-and-error… I didn’t even have a camera. I literally knew nothing but refused to let anybody help because I knew it would cost me money I didn’t have. I had to do it myself.
I was kinda surprised that you weren’t in that joint…
I’d been wanting to be out of pro skateboarding for a while at that point. Minority Report was it for me. I’d already been feeling like I should’ve gone out with Aesthetics, when I originally wanted to. Zoo York had only left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. But using my position in order to help put a couple guys on… that’s cool. That would be how I’d want to go out. And that was it.
So what happened with Zoo?
First off, I want to say that I don’t have beef with Zoo. I still got friends that work there and everything but Zoo as a company, I could give a fuck about them.
I had the opportunity to do some stuff with them and make some money but there turned out to be a lot of backstabbing. The signs were there right when we got on. When Rodney (Smith) and all those dudes quit: we should’ve been out of there. Rodney leaves, two days later Pang leaves… and then Sal leaves? Now we’re stuck with Mirko Mangum? Fuck that.
Something about light-skinned dudes: they just don’t like me. And Mirko didn’t like me whatsoever. I don’t know why. I don’t know him. I don’t remember making fun of those three tricks he did back in the day. But he didn’t want any of us on that team.
It all got super weird. I didn’t get a check for three months. There’d be team ads and I wouldn’t be in them. I’d hear from other riders about how they were in New York shooting for a promo video or for a catalog that I wouldn’t know anything about. But I figured he was trying to make me snap so I’d breach my contract… so I kept cool.
It just kept getting worse and worse. He started not even having me on tours. The final straw their southeast tour that Mirko wouldn’t put me on. He didn’t want to send me anywhere and was actually telling the uppers that I didn’t want to go. But once Sal was gone, I didn’t know anybody there so I couldn’t speak for myself.
But this southeast tour they had planned, he was sending me to only 2 of the 12 spots, Tampa and someplace else. This was a slap in the face because I’m from the Southeast. Why only 2? I wasn’t hurt. So when it came time to go to Tampa, I sat at the house instead. He ends up calling me up to ask why I didn’t come to the demo, saying that I was in breach of my contract because I didn’t go.
At that point, I didn’t care anymore. I told him to do whatever. There were plenty of times where they breached that contract and now he’s sitting around waiting for something like this? This just goes to show who he is as a person. I’m gonna keep it moving.
I’ve always loved your no-bullshit approach, an attitude that shines through in your writing. I know you were doing some things with TWS, you had Clyde’s Corner in the Mag and and your blog going there but all that’s been kinda quiet lately…
Realistically, I never had a normal type of life so whenever I got the chance, I completely pulled away. Skateboarding is all I’ve known since I was a kid. I never had any normal, regular friends. I was never around my family because I was always traveling. So that’s pretty much where everything went.
A bunch of stuff had gone down, too. Skateboard Mag was mad at me for doing an article for Transworld… like I had some kind of allegiance. Eric Stricker was my friend and I didn’t owe anybody shit.
I had just found myself trying to do way too much and I wanted some peace and quiet. I started to feel like it was time to fall back and go home. Now I’m great.
Of all the things you’ve written, what caught you the most heat?
Oh, I can tell you a bunch of things I caught heat for… when I was at Skateboard Mag, I wasn’t allowed to say anything bad about Jamie Thomas. I had to rewrite an entire article once because I was making fun of Jamie Thomas… but it was funny! I think he would’ve laughed at it, too! They didn’t know that I knew him like that.
But I had written this whole thing about how whenever Zero comes to town, it’s like when the Insane Clown Posse comes around. You see all these weird Juggalo skater dudes that you’ve never seen before. All these Ritalin kids with their weird-ass parents and their Harry Potter-looking chicks… they’re all wearing their weird Hamburgler-looking shirts. And when they leave, it’s like these people were never even there. You never see them again.
I just don’t get it. I think it’s really cool and really funny, but I don’t get it. And I had this whole synopsis written out and it all made sense and was funny. Clearly I was joking… but they didn’t want me making fun of “Chief.”
So why do you think it is that people have this romantic notion for skateboarding in the 1990’s? Is skateboarding really all that different now? Are we all just old geezers now?
Skateboarding was the best back then. Look at how much skateboarding progressed during that time. And there just seemed to be so much camaraderie. Skateboarding was healthy in a sense… even though there was a lot of east coast whining. But both east and west coasts were really starting to get equal pull. There were always up-and-coming dudes from all types of different places. So much great art… so many great graphics. So many great videos. It’s not even comparable to these days.
I really think skateboarding hit its peak in the 80s and then went on to be defined by the mid-90s… from the technical style to the shoes to board shapes to handrails. There’s nothing going on like that now. What do we have now? A Tech Deck commercial on TV?
Everyone wants to keep their jobs. It works out too well for so many of these companies to play it safe. That’s how you can tell which companies are ran by people who don’t skate.
Why do you think 101 and Aesthetics struck such a cord with people over the years? Is it because they were essentially the visions of two great skateboarders?
Yes. Those companies were the way they were entirely because those dudes. Clearly. They took huge risks and it paid off because not only are they talented skateboarders, they’re also creative people. You give them an outlet like that, it’s a wrap.
Are there any companies today that you see as being in a direct lineage to those companies?
No. Not at all. Not even a chance.
…but I do see a lot of things people are doing now that Sal did back then.
Very true, Clyde. So what's up next for you?
I’m filming a few tricks for this Paradox video. Paradox griptape. I got a little crew and we’ve been skating a good bit. One of us has a camera so we’re always trying to see that. It’s been really cool. There’s no pressure on my back now. I like that.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Stay away from bridges.