Chops sits down with DGKalis for conversation.
Alright Josh, so I gotta ask about your feelings on this Dyrdek takeover of the Alien Workshop? Pretty crazy, right?
Straight up, I think it’s fucking rad. And to tell you the truth, I’m a little jealous.
Did you see something like this being in the cards?
Not at all. I was actually feeling bad for everybody because I’d heard these weird little rumors about what was going on. But just like that, Dyrdek comes in and is gonna somehow acquire the whole thing. I can’t believe it. It sounds so fucking dope.
While we’re at it, let’s get this one out of the way, too: how’d that pro wrestling-style beef between you and Dill finally end up getting squashed?
I got a call from Transworld asking me to give out the award for Best Street Skater at their little awards thing. I said I’d do it, no problem, but then I started thinking about how sick it would be to get Dill up there with me. I remember bringing it up to them and their eyes got all hella big. But fuck it, man. He’s grown, I’m grown. I don’t give a fuck.
That upriver shit had been going on for too fucking long. Everywhere I’d go, people were always bringing it up. I was tired of it. I’m sure Dill felt the same way. When it was finally brought up to him, he was like, “Fuck it. Let’s do it.”
That was it.
What do you think of the resurgence of Skater Dill?
I’m a fan so it’s cool to see him out there ripping again. It really is the best thing he could’ve ever done for himself.
Definitely. So how is California treating you? I know you tried to avoid it before. Do you find it as boring now as you did back in the day? A lot of shit’s changed.
A lot has changed, for sure. But as far as street skating goes, I’m bored out of my mind. Straight up.
But skateboarding isn’t the same anymore. I mean it’s all skating, but the skating that I like isn’t there anymore. I find myself being in the city and it just isn’t working. I go to the spot hoping for a crew of people already there to kick it with but it’s not like that anymore.
It’s funny because my chick has to keep reminding me that I also hated living in Philly those last few years. I’ll catch myself forgetting that at times. The city had changed so much. That Love era with Stevie had come to a close and shit wasn’t the same. I don’t know if it’s due to a lack of spots or what, but it’s real bad now.
I was talking to RB Umali about this a few days ago, trying to get him to bring back that whole New York thing. He had to break it down to me. He was telling me that while Manhattan is fun to skate and you can still there to get some work done, nobody has that same mentality anymore that our generation did. Nobody congregates anymore. Kids go to school now, they’re not hanging out downtown all-day like we used to.
But one good thing about living in California is being so close to everything. You know as much as I do, it’s all about content, content, content. And it seems like a lot of these indoor warehouses will be picking up the slack for those famous spots that either don’t exist or nobody cares about anymore.
I actually get excited to skate a couple of these warehouses now. Going to Black Box and skating is fun. Sean Sheffey and the Kayo guys are always there. The Transworld park is fun, too. Even the Berrics is cool. I just wish it was all outside.
But is there street cred at the skatepark? Strange as it is, that was a large component of it for our generation.
Totally. But for most of the kids I talk to aren’t interested in that. The reality is that you could use some of these free plazas as your hub and set up your little crew there… get little Stoner Park tats and all that. You could really do that.
It’s a different mentality at a skatepark. It’s this weird mindset with underlying rules where you can’t use footage there. It’s strange because I was one of the dudes that helped put these rules into place and here I am now, all these years later, dreaming about going to Stoner and being able to film. I skate those parks with my people and its fun. It’s the same feeling as those other places were but that “skatepark” mindset keeps you from taking full advantage of it… even if those rules are outdated.
So we all know the story of your coming out to Cali with JT after troubles in Dallas. What was Toy Machine like for you? When you look back on it now, was it more as you riding with Jamie Thomas as opposed to riding for Toy Machine?
Oh, I was 100% riding with Jamie. 100%. I mean, I got along with Ed. I didn’t see him all that much but I got along with him.
He ever sneak in and try to take a picture of you pissing?
No. I didn’t really go up to his house all that often. But when we did go, it honestly kinda sucked. Like, if I was cold at a spot, he wouldn’t let me wear one of his extra hoodies because of my smoking. Or I could never eat my Carl’s Jr in his house because he didn’t want his place to smell like meat. Stuff like that.
There were these funny little things that he was all about and that’s all good. I’m cool with that stuff now. But back then, I was only like 17-years-old at the time, I wasn’t trying to hear it. I just remember thinking to myself, “What the fuck is this bullshit?”
Defecting literally next door, you got on Alien as they started moving beyond their early artsier roots. Were you always an Alien fan or did it have more to do with your time over at the Alien House? I mean, do you even like Dinosaur Jr?
Actually, just from being a skater, I like all types of music. To this day, I might be bumping some Minor Threat, throw in some Jeru the Damaja for the next song and then maybe some White Stripes for the song after that. That’s just how it is. I remember when Memory Screen came out, Dinosaur Jr was it. Those were the songs! So, of course, I liked that as a skater.
Funny thing is, Alien Workshop did a demo at this park in Kalamazoo back in the day that was only about 45 minutes away from where I lived in Michigan. Problem was I wasn’t allowed in the park. I’d gotten kicked out over some bullshit. But I ended up sneaking in anyway.
I remember talking to Duane Pitre for a while and chatting with Chris Carter. It was sick. But eventually Bill Fergusson, the owner of the park, saw me and kicked me out. I was bumming but I didn’t want to leave so I started skating outside. I guess the demo had ended and Dyrdek was watching me shoot this little gap into the street when they all came out to skate, too. They were cool as shit to me and I’ve been a huge Alien fan ever since that day.
That must’ve been around the first year Alien Workshop was even around. I don’t think I was allowed back into that park until I might’ve been pro. So funny.
Was Bo Turner as gnarly as he seemed back then or was that played up a bit in interviews over the years?
Apparently, he was a pretty gnarly dude. I didn’t really get the chance to hang out with Bo all that much but whenever I did, he was always cool as fuck to me. The best way I can put it, hanging around Bo, I always felt safe. If we were out somewhere and he was around, I knew I was safe. There wasn’t shit we couldn’t take care of. Even though it wasn’t until later that I learned that Scott Conklin was actually the more ruthless of the two. For real.
I don’t know what all happened with Bo but I heard a few years ago that he wanted to beat me up. I really had no idea what that was about so I ended up getting him on the phone to ask what was up.
“You know what the fuck is going on. If I fucking see you, blah blah blah…”
I still don’t know what all that shit was about but he really was pissed at me. I’m not sure if he still is or not.
Being seen as THE plaza skater, coming out of middle America, how much influence did that Embarcadero stuff have on you? I know you’re an outspoken fan of MC’s Questionable part, do you think that missing out on this era has fueled a lot of your innercity hub-ism?
Oh, no doubt. Embarcadero was the ultimate. That’s where I got all that from, 100%. There was no other spot. And it really wasn’t just the Questionable video that set it off for me, it was this David Schlossbach video called Quiet Storm. I remember watching that and seeing John Cardiel do an acid drop roll-in off the top of the Gonz gap going the other way…
I think that was Wade Speyer…
Yeah, it was Wade Speyer!
But I remember seeing people gathered around while these tricks were going down… Carroll tre-flipping the seven and Henry Sanchez bigspinning it with mad people in the background. They’d actually kinda get in the way of the footage but I thought that was so dope.
That was such an influence on me. All the way up to being at Love and Wenning doing a switch backtail bigspin out on the three-stair ledge. Everyone liked the fisheye angle but I was all about the long lens version because of the people you could see in the background. The background can always add so much and that’s in direct relation to Quiet Storm for me.
Do you think all those years of Bay adoration served to set you off once you finally got out to SF? The locals seemed to take notice of you pretty quick.
It was all about respect. As far as Frisco goes, I’ve always felt that they’ll accept you if you put it down, at least back then. You’ll be cool if you hang out, smoke weed and all that shit but if you really put it down and weren’t a kook, they’d respect you. I knew that I wasn’t any fucking kook so I had this mindset the whole time like, “Fuck it. I made it here. I’m taking advantage of this.”
What was a Cali spot that you were hyped to skate… only to come out and realize that it sucked?
Truthfully, I never liked skating those L.A. schools. You’d see Kareem Campbell and Guy Mariano skating them and they looked like so much fun. But once I got there, I couldn’t believe how fucking hard those things are to skate. They’re made of the shittiest fiberglass. If you wax them and try a noseblunt slide or something, you can’t control it. But if you don’t wax them, they’re super-sticky. I couldn’t believe how much I ended up not liking those things. I still don’t like those tables to this day… which has made me look at what those dudes were doing in a whole new way. They were really doing some shit!
How was filming for Timecode compared to Heavy Metal? I have to imagine Heavy Metal being pretty hectic as your first full-on part and under the JT production schedule. Was Timecode a bit looser?
Actually both Heavy Metal and Timecode were casual. I’m sure it wasn’t casual for Jamie and his part, but for me, I didn’t feel any pressure at all. We just skated and filmed and put it all together. When I look back, I wish I would’ve tried a lot more things to put in there. Heavy Metal was a couple of trips to San Francisco and some stuff around San Diego and that was it. Timecode was a few more trips. Dallas and Philly were in there along with some Frisco and SD stuff but that one was real casual, too. It was a different time then.
I don’t think I ever looked at video parts as pressure until recently. Until companies started getting picky about who you film with and what tricks you’re doing. It used to be so organic… just skate and film. If they wanted to use the footage for this, cool. If not, then we’ll use it for something else and I’ll film some more for whatever the project is that you want to do.
It’s stressful now.
The switch backtail down Hubba was a big deal back then. What was your process like with that one? Were you skating Hubba a lot around that time?
Dude, it was a total fluke.
I remember I was with RB and it was getting late. We were on our way to Pier 7 when we decided to stop by Hubba and check it out for a minute. At the time, Lenny Kirk and I were going there and just doing 50-50s on it. Nothing too crazy. You know me: I don’t like jumping down shit because my feet hurt so bad. But I was looking at it and started wondering if a switch backtail would actually be possible. I started doing switch ollies next to it and kicking my board at it so I could get the feel of it when my tail actually got on once or twice. I just remember thinking, “Holy fuck!”
If you look at that Alien ad with the switch back tail, the photo is all grainy because it was getting dark out. And honestly, I didn’t make it that day. I kept jumping off. Plus, I ended up blowing my heel to pieces that day and it had to heal for a bit. But I was so siked to go do it.
A few weeks later, I’m back on it and happen to come up on this big session at Hubba. All these people were there with shit going down, all on a respect thing, I knew I had to try it. I love skating in those types of situations where if you make a trick, you get this big reaction. It makes you feel good. So that’s the one I ended up doing in Timecode. I was so hyped and I thought I was done with it but ended up shooting a sequence of it for Droors a few weeks later.
What about that classic backside ollie Transworld cover? Did that ever come out in a video?
No, there wasn’t a filmer that day. That was Skin and I trying to think of a place to skate. Somebody brought up this old Fort Miley-style spot on the other side of the bridge so we went and hit it. With the bridge in the background like that, I wanted to try and get something because I knew it would end up looking tight. Skin was down and that was that.
But that thing was ridiculously hard to skate. There was no pushing to get enough speed. You had to push a little and then make a 90-degree turn while grabbing on to this bar and yank yourself around in order to get speed. That was rough, but also after you land, there’s a slight downhill that immediately turns into gravel. It’s the most pointless thing you can ever fucking skate… but the photo came out dope.
Probably the best issue they’ve ever had, too. Back to Timecode, could you tell as Lenny was stacking clips that he was on his way to making this classic part? What was his process for filming like during all of that?
We saw filming thing in the same way. It was kinda like whatever. It was more about having fun instead of how the footage looked.
I knew we were doing our thing and putting it down. But back then, we were also wrapped up in being tough kids. Nobody was fucking with us. Cops, gangsters, whoever… it didn’t matter. That didn’t have anything to do with skating, it was just our mentality.
But Lenny was always a little crazier. He’d always take things just a little too far.
With him going through his metamorphosis, was he aware of the impact his part had made or was he so wrapped up in religion that it didn’t matter.
I think it was 50/50. He knew how strong that part was but he was more concerned with putting his Bible speeches out there. By that point, he really wasn’t all that concerned with skate stuff anymore. Once he turned into mega-Christian, he stopped caring about what people thought about his skate footage. He just wanted them to hear his message. Like all that crazy Bible stuff in there, he filmed all that on his own and sent in to Alien himself.
How’s Lenny doing now anyway? I know he got out not too long ago…
He’s back in prison. I think he’s in for the long haul this time.
People don’t know this but those 7 years he did on that bid, he didn’t get out because of time served or getting paroled. He got out because he bailed himself out. He was just stalling his case in there until he got a better lawyer. I think it was his Mom that passed away in the meantime and left him a little bit of dough. That’s what he used to bail himself out . He got himself a better lawyer and he seemed to be in a pretty good place. But then he didn’t show up for his court date and basically became a fugitive until they caught up to him. And off he went.
Hate to hear that. So do you still have that Tek-9 earring? That shit is classic!
I don’t, man. I grew out of that shit. (laughs)
What was behind your return to Philly? What prompted you to come back?
I was just bored. I’d moved out of San Francisco to the Chicago area, which was cool, but it wasn’t Philly to me. I’d already spent so much time in Philly and always thought to myself about how the opportunities there were just insane. I started looking at my potential and thinking about how much fun it would be to really do it at Love again. I didn’t think about building a scene or any of that. It was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to skate.
With all the bums and shit, what was the grimiest thing you saw go down at Love?
The gnarliest stuff I saw was always skater-on-skater. But those bums did do some gnarly shit, too. Like I remember those dudes fucking that grass right there on the corner. They’d seriously be over fucking the ground and busting nuts. Fucking nasty.
But skaters were always pulling the rawest shit. Skaters getting their boards jacked… and it wasn’t a “Give me your board or else” kinda thing. It was dudes walking up from behind with their boards mall-grabbed and just swinging over their heads! Blaow! People would be knocked the fuck out cold. And that was common!
All types of wild shit like that... throwing piss. People would piss in cups and if you were a kook, they’d walk right up and splash you. People would be drenched in piss.
My boy Bernie even got his ear ripped off one time. He seriously had to pick his ear up off the ground and go get it sewn back on. Some kid threw his board at him and the truck hit him in the head just right and ripped his ear off. He was back at Love the next day, though… but he always had mace in his pocket after that.
On a tamer subject... what was the craziest thing you saw go down the Love Gap? Didn’t you try to nollie it once? Did you ever make it?
Never made it. My biggest problem with jumping down things is that I have to be at my highest point over the last stair. With the Love Gap, I’d be hit my highest point ¾ of the way and start to come down, I’d feel like I was gonna hit that last stair. It’s this mental block I have that I can’t get past.
The gnarliest shit I saw go down was probably Poppalardo’s switch kickflip attempt. I remember it was late at night and we happened to be skating past Love when we saw all these lights on. I walk up to see what’s going on when Poppalardo sticks that switch flip. I couldn’t believe it.
Cole’s backside flip was gnarly, too. He had just done a switch frontside flip down it and I remember walking over and offering him a hundred bucks if he could backside flip it, too, because I knew he had a good one of those. He didn’t think he could do it but ended up doing that shit on the 4th try so fucking perfect. One of the gnarliest things I’ve ever seen.
Your parts have always been so consistent with each one basically being the next logical progression from the last. Is there a part of your own that you consider your favorite?
That’s a tough one but I’d have to say Kalis in Mono.
Mainly because I was sitting on a bunch of footage that was supposed to be for Mindfield but it was stuff that I was able to get out early. Mono came about mainly because I’d shot a bunch of stuff with Thomas Winkle over in Barcelona. Honestly, I had crazy footage… just because Winkle’s so fun to skate with.
Well, Alien decided they were gonna push the deadline back another year or so for the video and I don’t like sitting on footage for that long. I’m just not that dude. So I figured with them pushing back the deadline, this gave me the chance to film some newer stuff for Mindfield as well as an opportunity to put out all this fairly fresh footage I already had.
Greg Hunt, who I’d already worked with on the DC Video, ended up putting all of Mono together. I remember for the DC video that I really wanted to use the song “Promises” by Fugazi for the first section of my part but it didn't work out, so when Greg used the Rolling Stones for Mono, I was stoked. I just wanted something kinda out of my “norm”. But I thought it went so well. Something different.
Whenever someone brings up Kalis in Mono, I just remember how fun it was living life in Barci and cruising around with Winkle and all the Spanish homies. Them some cool-ass dudes out there!
How’s the DGK video coming along? When can we expect that to drop?
They’re saying September. But honestly, this one’s been a little hard for me because I’ve only been at DGK for a little over 2 years. I’ve been hurt twice… hurt to where I couldn’t skate for 6 weeks each time. And also I’ve been doing so much extracurricular stuff with DC for these different campaigns where I’ve been giving them footage… they’ve been getting a lot of footage. (laughs)
I can’t say that takes away from my video part but it does make me have to work harder in order to keep up with having footage ready for DGK. And straight up, I’m behind. This is probably the first time I’ve ever been behind.
How’s Stevie’s part coming? Can we expect a full-part from him?
Stevie’s gonna have a full-part. Actually, he’s pretty much already done.
Well, that’s good to hear. So what do you think when you see Justin Bieber rocking DGK or Lil Wayne rolling around in the Da Playground? I know it comes with the territory but that’s gotta be crazy for you to see. I bet your daughter goes nuts seeing Bieber rocking the shit.
Actually my daughter can’t stand Bieber. She thinks he’s the corniest dude ever. And it’s not like that’s my influence because she doesn’t like any of my music either.
But overall … I don’t know. For whatever reason, DGK became desirable to people and you can’t stop that. It just is. So you might as well devote an area of DGK to that while keeping your main focus devoted to what we’ve always done. You can’t stop that kind of popularity and why would you? It allows people like Keelan Dadd to turn pro and get a paycheck. I’ve never hated on a company getting big, only when they forgot about skating. The way I see it, as long as you don’t forget about the skating side of it, go as big as you fucking want.
Well put. So being a pro known for his honesty, I have to ask: trickwise, what has been the worst trend in street skating over the last decade?
Wow! Let me think.
Okay, I got two right here… Wait, three.
Actually, I have four.
(laughs) Go ahead.
The first one has to be late flips. Maybe it’s because we’ve already been there, done that… but I can’t stand those motherfuckers. But I’m not hating on P-Rod because he does a real kickflip when he does them. He’ll nollie then do a full-on legit kickflip. But some of these other dudes…
Number two: I can’t stand the no-comply in the middle of a line as a set-up trick. And everyone is doing it, too. Can’t stand it.
The next one that fucking irks me is that thing where after people land tricks, they jump their feet together to the middle of their board. They stand up and hop their feet together and do a little carve. I hate that shit!
And the last one… and this is really the one for me right here, I hate that fucking super hug-out after someone makes a trick. Somebody puts something down and every single one of their friends runs up to fucking hug them. Why? This ain’t fucking hockey! You didn’t just score a goal! This ain’t soccer. This is skateboarding, dude.
Whenever you make a fucking banging-ass trick and you hear people cheering in the background, that’s dope. But you gotta play it cool. Everybody has to play it cool. Don’t go running up to the guy and fucking hug him! Let him come to you. Make your trick, go over to your homies and give them dap and pounds and all that shit, then leave it alone. Everybody doesn’t need to be hugging each other. Goddamn.
The Kalis trademark over the years is undoubtedly the 360 kickflip. For future generations, what’s your secret?
In all honesty, without any type of bullshit, I just do them, man. I don’t try to make them look a certain type of way or anything. That’s just how I do them.
Tre flips took me so long to get down. I must’ve tried those things for over 2 years before I even landed one. But I wanted to learn them so bad. I think that’s why I ended up getting so much respect for that trick is because I really had to work at them.
The funny thing is that I’m not even all that good at them. I’ll go to a skatepark and watch kids do 50 in a row. I don’t have them anywhere close to that. If I do 10 of them, I’ll probably make five of them but have to tic-tac out because I didn’t get all the way around. Three of them I won’t make at all and I might have two that I stomp pretty good. But I’m not that consistent at them… I just get lucky with a good one every now and then.
The truth comes out. Who are some of your favorite tre-flippers?
I always liked Jovontae Turner’s 360 kickflips. His were 100% natural. And I always liked the ones Geoff Rowley would do down stuff because that shit just comes to his feet. He’s all sucked up all crazy and shit. Brandon Westgate has a nasty tre flip, too.
There are a lot of good ones but probably my all-time favorite was Levi Brown in that Element Trio video… into that bank!?! That was the best 360 kickflip I’ve ever seen in my life right there. You gotta find that and post it up in this.
Most definitely. Alright Josh, as we bring this thing to a close, is there anything you’d like to add? Any shout-outs or parting words of wisdom.
Just to say thanks for doing Chrome Ball. I love it. I’ll be smoking cigs in my garage, going through your site and just reminiscing, man. Stealing shit to post on Instagram.
(laughs) That’s what it’s there for, man. Thanks for doing this, Josh.
the Chrome Ball Incident will return on July 23rd.
stop and feel the breeze.