chrome ball sits down with the tim o'connor for conversation.
Alright Tim, I guess we should start off with what everybody's buzzing about: Rob Dyrdek’s reclamation of the Alien Workshop. Pretty crazy stuff. Curious as to what your thoughts are. Where does Habitat fit into all of this? It hasn’t really been made clear if Rob’s trying for all of DNA or just Alien? Is there anything you can tell us yet?
I think it's pretty amazing. I don't know too much about the particulars right now but what I think is gonna happen is that Rob is buying everything back from Burton. So that includes Habitat. It’s really amazing because these are clearly some rough financial times and even the most legit respected companies are barely eeking by. Rob is obviously doing pretty well for himself so to give back to Chris Carter and Mike Hill in this way is incredible. Dyrdek has been with those guys since he was a young kid... he was with Alien when it was just an idea. There's such a familial vibe and tons of respect between all of those guys.
The Workshop has always been great with only involving the right people. And if somebody had to buy Alien, I’m psyched Dyrdek is the guy. I know he’ll have everybody's best interest in mind. Rob’s a really good dude through and through. Anybody out there that doesn't know him personally, I challenge them not to like and respect the guy after hanging out with him for even a short time. He'll most definitely wear some wacky ass shit from time to time but you'll look past that stuff pretty fast. He's one smart, funny ass dude with a lot of drive. I don't wanna sound like I'm kissing his ass here but I do have a lot of respect for Dyrdek.
I know they never wanted to sell the Workshop in the first place back then but those guys were losing tons of money and pretty much paying us out of their own pockets… which is unbelievably kind and shows you their integrity. It was unfortunately being worked over by this shitty economy and sold out of necessity. I think that Burton was as ideal as you could get if you were essentially being forced to sell your company. They seemed to really help and continued letting Hill, Carter, and Joe Castrucci do their thing without any real interference.
Gotta say that I was pretty hyped when I heard the news, especially in the face of all the wacky shit that’s been going down recently. Have you heard your old teammate Brian Wenning’s recent foray into the hip-hop world? His J Casanova diss track?
Yeah, I just talked to Wenning about it today. He thinks it’s funny… on some WWF-type shit. I honestly hope this rap battle continues and gets bigger and bigger. They can be our Tupac and Biggie. Maybe they’ll both end up getting album deals and reality shows… I’d love a Jereme Rogers reality show. That would have to be amazing.
I think skating would be so much more interesting if all the contest stuff started turning into WWF-style shit. Skateboarding needs cage matches.
My money’s on Fred Gall.
Yeah, you gotta love Freddy. The fact that he’s been around forever, he now has all these different careers within his career. Like Fred Gall: the Child Prodigy to Fred Gall: One-Pant-Leg-Up-In-All-His-Footage to today’s incarnation which is like Anti-Hero Fred. Fred is all-around ultimate human. He’s the best Jersey’s got, for sure. Pure New Jersey Scum to the fullest.
Give us your best Freddy story.
Oh my god… I got a million of them.
It’s actually kinda hard because I have to think of one that isn’t too incriminating…
This one actually isn’t all that amazing but it’s a personal favorite of mine. It definitely had me belly laughing at the time. We were out in the middle of nowhere on summer tour, sweating bullets in the Green Monster. The Green Monster was the van that Habitat and Alien used to get us around for years and it just smelled putrid. All the seats had been soaked with years of sweat and the whole thing was just really harsh.
I remember Fred was in there with us and he’s talking to his ex-girlfriend on the phone when they start getting into a fight. All of a sudden, Fred goes, “Yeah, man… I just can’t be fucking dealing with this stuff right now. I’m in a van full of sweaty dudes! Yo, I can’t be talking no relationship shit. Fuck a relationship.” This is already funny but then he screams into the phone, “And fuck school, for that matter!” A statement that had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation up to that point. Screaming out, “Fuck school, for that matter!” as evidently the end of the conversation and hanging up the phone... I had no choice but to start cracking up.
Fred just looks at me and says, “I knew you’d like that one, Tim. Alright.”
Yeah, he’s definitely one of the most quotable people on the planet.
So going back a bit: how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was your first board?
Well, my oldest brother skated and another one of my good friends skated so that’s how I was introduced to it. Basically with those two doing it, I was going to try it. I ended up stealing my other brother’s board who wasn’t all that into skating and learning how to ollie on that. I skated that thing for a while until my Dad got me a Hosoi Hammerhead mini.
What was it like coming up in New Jersey? I realize the late 80’s/early 90’s must’ve been slow but that whole area really started to blow up shortly after that. Did you ever think that New Jerusalem was gonna be part of such a crazy East Coast scene like it was with NYC and Philly blowing up like it did?
Oh man, I would’ve never thought that. When I was first trying to get sponsored, it was still at the point where you had to go out to California… which honestly wasn’t about trying to get sponsored so much for me at the time as it was about being so psyched to skate all the spots that I’d seen on videos. But going out there also worked for sponsor stuff because people got to see me.
But back home, I used to go skate New York a lot. It was only 20 minutes from my house and a lot of people were already starting to go there. That’s mostly where I grew up skating. I must’ve been like 10-years-old the first time I skated the Banks with my older brother. It was still the jump ramp-era and seeing all these people doing ollie grabs and stuff was so amazing for me. All these innercity kids with sick styles. Everyone was so good. All the Shut dudes from back in the day would be there, too. I just couldn’t believe what was going on.
Philly was a couple years later when I was a little older, like 16 or 17. I started going there a bit because I had friends in art school there. Everybody started going to Love Park and then Underachievers came out and shined some light on what everyone was doing.
Going to NYC and the Banks at such a young age had to be pretty sketchy…
Oh man, the Banks were sketchy as hell back then. New York as a whole was way sketchier. Like the Lower East Side used to be pretty ghetto. It’s all perfectly fine now. But there used to be all these hobos living under the bridge down there. Before the City cemented all that shut, the walls were open and there’d be all these homeless guys staying there.
I saw some crazy stuff go down at Love as well. It was probably the sketchier of the two on a more consistent basis. But both of those places are hobo hangouts. Any kind of place like that, you’re always gonna see some crazy stuff going down: hobo fights, naked ladies… people throwing up on stuff and then playing with the throw-up. Stuff like that.
Two legendary spots right there… which one did you prefer: Love Park or the Banks?
Oh, Love Park was a million times better. Don’t get me wrong: the Banks were amazing, too. I skated those forever. But Love Park… there’s only a few spots on the planet that are comparable to that place.
Now the first time I heard of you, you were already on Zoo but I guess at one point you were on Think? Was that your first sponsor?
Yeah, that was my first sponsor. I kinda got on them through my friend Pancho Moler. He actually rode for a World company back in the day… he said they were calling it Big Brother at the time. The magazine was out but they were also calling the team Big Brother.
I never heard that before.
Yeah, that’s what he said anyway. I’m not really sure… it’s entirely possible that he didn’t know what he was talking about. But they were sending him boards and stuff.
The thing with Pancho was that he was a real skater. He didn’t want to be considered a joke or a novelty. He wanted to be known for his skating skills first. He ended up meeting Greg Carroll, who was running Think at the time, and it seemed like a better deal. He told them all about me and I ended up sending them some footage.
Is that the sponsor-me tape that’s online?
Yeah, Thrasher put that up. After I sent that in, everybody came out here for a pro contest in Newburgh. I got the chance to skate with a lot of the team and they put me on after that. I was there for maybe a year, if that, before moving over to Zoo.
Now wasn’t your Underachievers part originally supposed to belong to Puleo? How’d that project come about for you?
Yeah, that’s exactly what it was supposed to be.
I was going to Philly a bunch with Ryan Gee at that time and staying over at Ricky Oyola’s house a lot. One day, Dan Wolfe came over and showed us what was basically most of what Donny Barley’s part was going to be. It got me so psyched that I just started freaking out. I couldn’t believe that stuff when I saw it.
I had already filmed a line at the Federal Building in Philly for Bobby’s section and ended up filming some more stuff with Dan later that day on the Afro Banks when he asked me if I would be interested in a part. Bobby was slated for it but wasn’t staying around Philly much at the time, making it harder for Dan and him to hook up. I happened to be around a lot so that’s basically how I got in there. Dan thought it would be a little easier.
Was Bobby pissed you took his part?
Nah, not at all. He’s a buddy of mine.
He did have some stuff in there along with some other homies from back then. Was that your intention to get all your friends in there?
Yeah, those were the guys that I skated with all the time back then. Bobby and the Cardonas… they were all my good friends and I thought it would be cool to have them in there. Pancho’s in there, too. He does that nollie heelflip down the stairs at City Hall with the harsh hat on.
How long did you have to film? And were the Artifacts your choice?
Yeah, I actually wanted to use a different Artifacts song but Dan wasn’t able to find it. It was a lesser known song of theirs... I think it was called “Who I Am”.
Oh yeah, that was a b-side.
Exactly. It was kinda random but Dan Wolfe couldn’t get it at the time so he ended up choosing another Artifacts song instead. I was cool with it.
We filmed all that in a pretty short time span… like September through November. It’s crazy. And tons of times, Dan and I would go out skating and not even take the camera with us. I remember doing certain tricks with Dan around and thinking afterwards how I wished we’d filmed it for the video. But yeah, it was a real short time.
Honestly, when the part came out, I didn’t really care too much for it. It was kinda like whatever. I wasn’t bummed but I wasn’t crazy psyched either, ya know? It wasn’t the best that I could do but it was cool. At the time, for what I thought that I could do, I would’ve filmed more if I had more time. But that was also my first time ever trying to film a part. Nobody’s ever stoked on themselves… at least I hope not.
Could you tell at the time that EE3 was going to become so legendary?
I had no idea. Like I said, I loved Donny Barley’s part when I first saw it. And I knew Rick’s part was going to be good. He was a man on a mission and he wouldn’t have his part be anything less than the best he could get it.
Wolfe really fine-tuned it, though. Editing from VHS to VHS while timing everything with the music must’ve taken him an eternity but he did it and it turned out sick. He really did a good job.
I never would’ve thought that it would’ve had the impact that it did. To this day, I still have people tell me that it’s one of their favorite videos. Pretty awesome.
Did you share the same dogmatic East Coast beliefs that a lot of those other EE guys did?
No, not at all. I’ve always thought that you live where you live for the most part due to circumstances at birth. I mean everybody has a little bit of pride for where they’re from but they all had crazy East Coast pride. Whatever. I thought all that stuff was corny as hell. I didn’t want to not go to Cali or hate on stuff from California. I didn’t want to not ride for a company based in California. Not at all.
Illuminati remains one of those beloved 90’s enigmas. What was that whole deal like for you? What made you pick Element over Silverstar?
Illuminati was all through Zoo. I can’t remember exactly but the story must’ve been Ricky maybe wanting to do more of his own thing under their roof. I do remember Eli Gesner doing all this super sick artwork for it which I don’t think ever really got out there.
But yeah, it was short-lived. They were having all kinds of trouble with money and people not getting paid. I wasn’t getting paid anything but ams weren’t getting paid shit back then anyway so I didn’t really care. But those guys were having money issues so they all quit and made up Silverstar with Capital and all that.
I wasn’t too into Element back then. I thought they had real generic graphics, especially compared to all the amazing stuff Eli was doing at Zoo. Element graphics looked so basic in comparison. And I didn’t like their boards either… didn’t like their concave. But they’d been hitting me up a bunch at the time and actually offering me a bit of money to ride for them. Then they sent this package which was insane. I couldn’t believe all the stuff they sent and they said all their packages were like that. They said they’d fly me out to California whenever I wanted and that’s when I started to realize what it would be like to ride for a company that actually had money.
Plus, Reese Forbes was over there and Wolfe was starting work with them as basically a team manager...
It seemed like Dan played a big role in getting several Underachiever guys on Element.
Yeah, he was the reason a bunch of people went over there but we weren’t even really filming a video at the time. Just shooting stuff here and there. Somehow all came together for that video, Third Eye View. I only did one trip for that one before I sprained my ankle, a trip up to San Francisco. That was really all the filming I did for it.
That was another really good part of yours. You had all that crazy mini-ramp stuff in it.
Yeah, that was all one day of filming. I’m not exactly sure what we were thinking we’d use it for. I think that they had just built thet ramp so we thought we’d skate it and film some stuff. It just kinda happened like that.
Going out to Cali back then, didn't you stay with Muska and Penny while you were out there? That had to have been pretty nuts…
Yeah, I stayed at Muska and Penny’s house for like a month and a half or so during the summer. It was amazing. You gotta remember this was Tom Penny in his prime. He would hardly say anything all day but then get on a board and it would be legendary. So much insane stuff went down and hardly any of it was filmed. It’s not like how it is now where everything is filmed. I saw him do so many magical things that never got documented.
Muska was on a rampage back then as well. Grinding that crazy kinked rail at San Deguito school in San Diego. I was there for that one. Dude was on a mission.
So how did Habitat enter the picture? Were you consciously looking for another sponsor at the time or were you still content with the Element blackhole?
Basically, there’s always been two teams that I always wanted to ride for: Alien Workshop or Girl.
I was kinda over Element by then. I didn’t particularly like the direction it was going in and it just so happened that Habitat was getting ready to start around this time. It made sense as I was already hanging out a lot with Brian Wenning and Dilly back then.
Looking back on it, it’s pretty hilarious as I guess they told Wenning to ask me about riding for them. He calls my house and out of nowhere says, “Would you ever think about riding for Alien Workshop or anything?”
I got all psyched. “What? Why? Are they asking or something? What’s going on?”
“Aw, it’s nothing, man,” and hangs up on me.
Rob Dyrdek ends up calling me as I think he was originally supposed to be running it. He tells me all about it and they send me some packages. I met with Joe and talked to him about how everything’s gonna go down. I knew that it was going to be something amazing. Coming out of the Alien Workshop camp was like a dream come true. Definitely the best decision I ever made as far as picking a sponsor.
Injuries have unfortunately played a large part for you over the years. I know you had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and are still recovering from that. For the record, why has the name Tim O’Connor become so associated with shared and/or short parts over the years?
I do sprain my ankles a lot. I know I sprained them pretty bad when I was younger and I guess the damage is done. My ankles are just weak. I wish I would’ve learned back then how to rehab properly, to work out the muscles around my ankles and to stay off of them as much as possible while hurt. I know all this stuff now but it’s a little late. I used to sprain my ankles all the time. Once it got back to the point where it didn’t hurt too much to stand on my board, I was back out skating and would re-sprain it again.
I was really trying to film a full part for Mosaic but I kept getting hurt. I would’ve had a short solo part but Wenning had just filmed his DC part and didn’t have much footage to use so they slapped us together.
From there, it’s been more of the same: a lot of injuries. My ankles are horrible. I did have surgery on my left ankle but it’s a surgery that I should’ve had a long time ago. I had cadaver ligaments put in which has a long recovery process but my ankle is supposed to be properly stable when all is said and done.
But yeah, being hurt coupled with being picky and not really loving to film in the first place definitely allowed for less footage, for sure.
One thing you were able to accomplish was the invention of the Scoliosis grind. I love it, man. It totally reminds of me of some old school Blender-style trick names.
For sure, man. Those old school trick names are awesome. I think people should do that sort of thing more often. It’s so much more fun that way. All those old school tricks with the little stories behind them… like lien airs being Neil backwards. That stuff is so cool.
The story with the scoliosis grind was that I had given the sequence to Venture for an ad and they decided to do a little interview to go along with it for their site. They asked me what I called that trick and I just made up a name right there on the spot. I looked all twisted and weird in the sequence so scoliosis was the first thing that popped in my head.
Do you think that skateboarding is too proper and serious these days?
I think there’s definitely a huge aspect of it being too serious. There’s certain people that are looking at it with a different mentality than the way most people looked at it a few years back. It was more of an underground subculture back in the day and then it got blitzed out. The same thing happened with rap. It’s cool one day and the next thing you know, someone’s rapping in a McDonald’s commercial.
Skating is more of an artform, even to the point where the outfit you’re wearing plays a bit into the style of everything. Like when Marc Johnson got on Chocolate, he was already sick but he seemed to change something up just a little bit that made him seem that much sicker. That’s the aspect I’m more attracted to as opposed to being all jocked-out and doing tricks with no soul.
Now I know that you’ve always been close to Bam and you yourself were even in talks with MTV for a while about developing your own show… what happened there? Is having your own show like that something you’ve always wanted?
For sure. It would’ve been awesome. I’d met a bunch of people through Bam and I guess my name was floating around MTV… whenever there was a new idea for a show, they’d always hit me up and either ask if I’d do it or to come in for an audition. I appreciated it but all the ideas were really corny. I’m a pretty picky bastard anyway but I didn’t want to put something out there that would jeopardize what I’ve been able to do so far in skating. It wasn’t worth all that to me.
Bam is a good dude, though. When he was still doing Viva La Bam, he actually offered me to move into his house and be one of the main guys on the show but I ended up not doing it because I was so psyched on skating. I started thinking that I’d be like, “Hey, do you want to skate this ledge behind this stupid school,” and they’d be like, “Fuck that. Let’s go to the Playboy mansion.” That sort of stuff would actually happen. And I knew if I was in that situation, my priorities would get fucked up. I’d probably be a richer man monetarily but I opted not to do that.
Well, not as huge as Viva la Bam but notorious nonetheless, your infamous Epicly Later’d magazine review. How much shit did you get for that? Care to give us any of the bits that were cut out?
We filmed that thing really quick. It wasn’t like the way Epicly Later’ds are shot now. It was basically made in passing one day when I saw Pat O’Dell. I flew through a Thrasher once and that was it. Just whatever came to mind. And a lot of stuff did get cut out because they could’ve gotten sued for some of the things I said. Pat apologized to me about it but it was totally fine.
But no, I never really caught shit from anybody directly. Nobody ever really said anything to me about it anyway. I still don’t think I said anything totally evil.
You didn't but I know how uptight people can be. Is that something you'd do again?
Sure. Why not? But I'll prepare more the next time so I'll be funnier.
Best and worst things in skateboarding 2011.
The best stuff is still things like watching Grant Taylor skate. Dennis Busenitz. All these guys that are just out there killing it. Like Leo Romero, I love watching demo footage of that guy... how he goes for it everytime with everything. He just commits so hard.
As for the worst trends I’m seeing, something that I hate is this weird innovation that people are doing. Weird ledge tricks that aren’t really good tricks but they’re chalked up to being innovative. It’s hard to put into words… like people doing tricks for the sole purpose of doing them even though they look like crap. I mean, some people can do that stuff and it looks good but the masses generally tend to make all that stuff look real shitty.
Very true. Well, I know you’re kinda sidelined with ankle recovery for the next few weeks but it’s not all bad: you and your lady had your first little one recently. How’s that working out?
It’s working out good, man. The kid is super mellow and it’s been good to be able to watch him while I’m recovering. It was a little tough at first because I couldn’t get around so we had to put him in daycare for a bit. If we hadn’t, the kid would’ve been covered in feces and probably dead had he been left alone with me.
But all that cliché stuff about having a kid is true. It’s so worth it. I’d take a bullet for the kid. Hopefully it never comes to that because truthfully, I’m not sure I actually would but I like to think I would. Hopefully no one calls my bluff.
Hopefully not. Alright, that’s all I got, Tim. Thanks for doing this and good luck with the ankle. Any parting words of wisdom you’d like to bestow on future generations?
Just for kids to keep an artistic mind when they look at skating. Hopefully that aspect isn’t dying out. Skating can’t be put in the same category as other sports. It’s more like music… you can be technically good but nobody gives a crap. Just because somebody can play the shit out of a guitar doesn’t mean they can write a song.
special thanks to rob brink and tim for taking the time.
chrome ball will return monday, feb 13th.