chops and gino sit down for conversation.
A really good question. I even ask myself that sometimes, being at this point in my life and stage of my career. It was really a mix of a few different things. It’s not that I was unhappy with Girl and Chocolate. Not that at all. It had more to do with feeling like the years have been flying by but I’m still doing the same thing I have been with the same people. I felt the need for a change to stir things up a bit in my brain and hopefully on my board.
When I heard initially that Jason and Anthony were doing this new company, I was immediately psyched. I was happy for them. Happy for Jason’s success. I’ve been good friends with him for a long time and it was nice seeing him do his own thing.
It wasn’t until I finally saw the Supreme video a few months after it came out that I was able to see what they were about… the young guys and the overall vibe they were putting out. It really attracted me. It was interesting because the rawness of the video reminded me of the old days. Just being out there skating. I liked that it all seemed a little different than what was going on elsewhere and I love how those kids are so into doing their own thing. How unconcerned they are with whatever else is going on.
It’s refreshing. I feel like skateboarding needed all of these new little companies. Before that, skateboarding was getting kind of boring to me. Uninspiring. Seeing those guys start a company along with these younger kids out there doing their thing… how they’re going about doing it interested me immediately.
Like I said, it was nothing on Girl or Chocolate’s part that was bumming me out. But a lot of it came from wanting to make myself feel like I wasn’t stealing everytime I came out to California. I needed some change.
So this isn’t something you’d been contemplating for a while? It’s all just so surprising because you’d been engrained in Chocolate for so long, through so many ups and down.
I never thought I would ever leave Chocolate. I was going to skate for Chocolate until either the day they dropped me or I just quitting skating altogether. I grew up with Girl and Chocolate and I love those guys.
With FA and what Jason and Anthony are doing, it came down to everything in my gut and in my heart. Wanting to be part of something new, something fresh.
Leaving had to be a difficult call to make… after almost 20 years, that’s almost comparable to a divorce at this point. I know there’s a lot of excitement and uncertainty there but probably a fair amount of guilt as well, right?
I’ll be honest, I went into a really dark place after I left and it took me a good month to get out of it. I won’t get too deep into it but it was definitely a depression of sorts. It was not a good time. Not to mention with the 20-year anniversary stuff going on and everything else… the timing of it was just horrible.
I don’t know why all this had to happen now. I ran into Dill one day at Supreme while I was out filming this thing with Federico. None of this was planned. It just came about naturally while all these anniversary events and things happened to be going on. Being part of those events, going to galleries in LA and New York and talking to people about Chocolate and the history there… it’s been really hard. It’s still hard. I still think about those guys everyday but I gotta keep my head up and remain positive. Change is good. I’m not expecting this to be some miracle in my skating where I’m going out there like I’m 25-years-old again but I do have a new state of mind these days that feels good.
I’ll be brief but I don’t think I handled leaving the best way I possibly could’ve. I’m not proud of that. But it was so difficult, I didn’t know what else to do. I had some good talks with Jason and Anthony about how they felt leaving Alien. They understood where I was at and were patient... especially since I was asked by Rick to hold off for a bit until after those anniversary events, which I was more than happy to do. I had too much respect than to just break out like that.
Was there ever talk of Chocolate possibly taking your board away?
No, there was never talk of that.
There was a point in time, if I remember correctly, when I had a talk with Megan and was told my pay would be cut due to the way I was living. That was during all my legal drama and I was showing no signs of change. They looked at it as enabling me to continue being a dickhead.
With that said, when it got pretty bad for me, they were the first ones there to scoop me up and check me into a 30-day. Me being me, I called them up 3 days later to come get me because I had left. You can call that a slap in the face but like they always say, nothing will stop a person until they are ready to stop. I wasn't at that point.
How was your experience filming Pretty Sweet? I know you were said to have filmed a whole part but a sizeable chunk ended up going to Brick Harbor?
Yeah, I definitely had more footage for Pretty Sweet but I guess it wasn’t up to the standard that was being done by the other guys on the team. I’ll cosign that. That’s true. The filming probably wasn’t as on-point either. I wasn’t really filming with Ty or Federico.
But I was blown away by Pretty Sweet. I honestly didn’t know much about how the video was going down until I saw it in New York but I understood why so much of my footage wasn’t used. I think it would’ve stood out for the wrong reasons.
I will say there was a realization there that kinda put things into perspective for me. I was trying to get footage for it and while I knew that it probably wouldn’t be a full-part in the video, I at least wanted to come through with some stuff. That video was kind of a wake-up call for me as to where things were at now.
But then once I saw Cherry and what was going on in that video as opposed to Pretty Sweet, my perspective switched up again. It all doesn’t have to be Pretty Sweet all the time. You don’t have to worry as much about the filming and whether you’re keeping up with the type of skating that incredible skaters like Guy are doing.
I found myself battling this feeling that I didn’t even fit in anymore because the type of skating those guys were doing was so amazing. The younger guys, too. I guess that’s why Rick didn’t put himself in the video… because maybe he felt like he didn’t fit in either. I was bummed about that.
We all were.
Exactly. We just want to see Rick skate. You want to see footage of him skate because he’s an amazing skater.
But that’s what people have been saying about you! I mean, I understand holding yourself to a higher standard, and on top of that, you have to deal with skateboarding holding you, in particular, to an even higher ideal as this style icon but does the pressure of being “Gino” ever jam things up in your head? Just like it possibly did to Rick in Pretty Sweet?
It definitely jams things up in my head at times because I do hear that sort of thing a lot. I mean, when I was younger with those 101 videos and the early Chocolate videos, I was only concerned with the tricks I was doing. Making sure that I was coming through and on-point. I felt confident in what I was doing.
The “style” thing wasn’t a concern back then. It was about skating and doing good shit. All of a sudden, you start hearing so much about style that you start to feel like you’re getting love for the wrong reasons.
“Oh, I would rather see him push…” That doesn’t make me happy. It’s flattering but I’d rather get love for the actual skating. I’m sure there are kids out there who are looking at me like, “So? What’s he doing? He’s not skating.”
But at the same time, I also get pissed off because it has become this thing where every time there’s a video project coming out, people started talking about a full-video part from me. I’m 41-years-old. When does that stop? When do people stop expecting a full-video part? Most probably already have at this point actually, but for Pretty Sweet, I kept hearing about this full-part I might have. I was already in my late 30’s by then, my body is not the same as it was when I was younger. I have injuries.
There are just so many things that make it difficult for a full video-part. Inspiration is a big part of it and that’s not always there. It’s a mix of things: you get tense, you get bummed, sometimes you just don’t care. Sometimes I’m at a spot and if I don’t look on-point, I start to worry that whoever else is there will be disappointed in me. A lot of things get in the fucking way of skating.
It’s this weird thing where I’m totally appreciative of this pressure while being annoyed at the same time, if that makes sense. I need to get on it enough to get where I don’t give a shit about the worrying anymore.
Guy once said that if it wasn’t for Keenan, the Girl crew might have never gotten to know you due to your quiet nature. Do you feel his passing was a factor, along with your own personal struggles, that helped push you underground?
I just never felt fully comfortable around those guys. That’s just the way I am. I’ve only really been comfortable around the guys I grew up around back in New York. I guess that’s why I’d always head back there to skate and hang out, to be around those guys.
Being in LA, it was just different. I never felt a close bond with those guys. I liked the dudes. It was cool, we hung out and partied but it was a bit superficial.
Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve dealt with Keenan’s passing. I will say that it was something I saw coming. With how things were going, I knew that it was going to happen and I wasn’t surprised when it did. Not to say that it wasn’t tragic when it did happen but I could see something like that was coming.
But yeah, if it wasn’t for how outgoing Keenan was, things would’ve been different. As his roommate, when there was a ton of people hanging out at the house, they probably wouldn’t have been there half of the time if he wasn’t there. And to be honest with you, I would’ve been content with that. (laughs)
I don’t know if it pushed me more underground or not. I really don’t know how I’ve dealt with everything. I still trip out on it occasionally. I loved Keenan and loved being around him. I know it’s affecting me on different levels, for sure.
What would you say is your fondest Keenan memory?
For whatever reason, when I think of the good times with Keenan, I always think about he’d come stay at my house on Long Island when we were young. I remember how every time before he left, we’d end up wrestling each other. Trying to beat the shit out of each other… but not in a bad way. We’d totally be laughing the entire time. Just two kids having fun. For some reason, we’d do that every time, right before he left to go back to the city.
It reminds me of our relationship, how I felt about him and hopefully how he felt about me. Just close friends. He didn’t want to leave and I didn’t want him to leave but fuck that, let’s get this going. I’m gonna wrap you up right now with the headlocks and shit. That’s the kind of shit I remember.
Coming up with Keenan, Huf and Keefe, I’ve always wondered how come you never got on Fun along with those dudes? I know you sent sponsor-me tapes… why Black Label? And did you send tapes to any other companies back then?
You know, that’s something I’ve never even thought about until now that you mention it.
I didn’t look at companies the same back then. I didn’t look at them in the way of who would I like to ride for, which one was more my stee. I didn’t really give a shit who I got product from.
It was more about knowing Lucero. He was a big-time pro… fuck it, I’ll send a video. I don’t know what attracted me to them. Maybe I saw a Max Evans ad or even a Dill ad. Not sure. I just sent them a video and it’s all history from there.
Funny thing is, I remember being at an amateur contest in Bricktown, New Jersey and Dyrdek asking me if I was interested in riding for Alien. This was right when I got on Black Label and I didn’t want to leave them so quickly like that. I was hyped Dyrdek was down to sponsor me because I respected him a lot back then but I wanted to stick with the Label. I don’t know if I ever told Lucero that.
But yeah, Black Label was the only board company I ever sent a tape to. Them and Gullwing! I got on Gullwing somehow and was actually riding those for a while.
Crazy! So you were getting steady coverage until blowing up an issue of Thrasher with not only a switch flip down the Hubba 6 but also a back heel down the Gonz Gap. How did that go down? Did you know both those heavy photos were gonna drop in the same issue like that?
I don’t think so. I was young and naïve. You just try shit and sometimes it goes down. That day happened and it was a good day. I didn’t really know that back heel was going to come out as a Thunder ad or that they were going to be in the same mag. I was just happy to be skating and getting photos. I definitely didn’t know it was going to be a “career starter” or anything. I didn’t think of things like that.
But you still don’t feel like you really made that back heel? Was that your first time at EMB?
Yeah, that was my first trip to SF but no, I’m still not happy with that one. You can see it! I land it, roll for a bit but I’m off-center on the board and then jump off.
People tell me all the time that I’m crazy for thinking that but as a skater, I like to think we try to be perfectionists. I recall going through the same thing filming tricks for 101 videos. Landing them and not being psyched on how things looked in the footage. If it didn’t look the way I wanted it to, I’d try it again. Most people do this. I just didn’t get the chance that day to try it again like I would’ve liked to. But I definitely didn’t do it the way I wanted to. Whatever, it is what it is.
But yeah, all that stuff was the same day. It was the day I was leaving to go back to New York and was just killing time before going to the airport. It was myself, Liversedge and Keenan and we decided to go down to EMB. I remember Jaime Thomas and Matt Pailes were there. We started fucking around on the 7 with some tricks and ended up over at Hubba. That’s when the switch flip went down. Gabe was there and got the photo. After that, we went back over to EMB and got up on the Gonz to check it out… it was like, “Fuck this, let me try something.”
That was one of the scariest things I’d ever done, at least back then. The runway was so sketchy, man. It’s so skinny and it’s all the way up top and to the left… if you hit a rock or fly off the side, you were done. It was a pretty sketchy gap, too, at least for the time.
What was the story behind that mysterious David Schlossbach company that was going to be under Rocco with you, Lotti and Dill?
Yeah, that was an interesting one. Jason and Jeremy Wray were involved because something had happened with Color. I don’t know if it had fell through or what but I remember being introduced to Dave Schlossbach back then through those guys. Dave and Lotti had this idea to start something and were looking for riders.
We were down. I remember Jason and I started filming with Dave everyday for a promo video. He’d pick us up and head out to all these spots I’d seen in videos. The big spots that everyone skates. We’d just go and try shit that hadn’t been done there before.
The company didn’t end up working out. We needed another rider and tried to get Markovich but he wasn’t interested. Then Lotti broke out for his reasons and it was done. This was actually around the same time all the Girl guys left World and Plan B and Dave thought he could maybe get Jason and I on 101. I even remember him asking me about it.
“What!? Natas? Are you kidding me? Of course, I’m down!”
Natas was into it so it worked out. But honestly, I did feel a little weird about getting on the team when I did. I felt like I was being a bit of a replacement for these amazing skaters. I wasn’t sure how people were going to take to me but in the end, I didn’t give a shit. It’s fucking Natas, I’m down and that’s it.
The footage that we were stacking for the promo ended up being used for Snuff.
Natas has talked about bouncing ideas off riders and Dill has spoken about helping him edit the 20 Shot intro… did you ever contribute like that to the company? Were you down with the artsier side of 101?
I was completely into it. 101 was amazing. I was always psyched on the graphic ideas they came up for me and I always loved the fact that I could bring them ideas. I think half of the boards I had on 101 were my ideas for the graphics. I loved that stuff. And, of course, whatever was done that I didn’t do was incredible. I was down for all of it.
I have to ask about that “Lifestyle He Is Accustomed To” ad because it’s literally the reason I started this website. How’d that one come about? Was that one of your ideas or Natas’ and what is it in reference to?
That was Natas. I don’t even know why we did that ad, he just thought it would be cool and I was down for it, too. It wasn’t in reference to Black Label or anything. But it was cool burning $20 bills to light cigarettes because in reality, that’s really what it ended up being like. Just taking any check I got and blowing it. Taking it right to the Beverly Center and getting new Clarks. Making sure that I was going out that night with a new set-up.
Which 101 video project would you say is your favorite? And how were those parts to create as far as overall process and productivity? That was 3 straight years of classics!
As far as the skating goes, I really like Trilogy. I’m proud of how that one came out. I like 20 Shot as well, even though it wasn’t that big of a part but just because of the time and where our heads were at with skating and everything.
Like you were saying earlier with Jason, I never got to work directly with Natas while editing but I did get to help edit my Trilogy part with Soc. It felt good because I really had control over it. Start it here, end it there. Make sure there was this much time before the trick so you can see the skating prior, making sure there’s enough time after the landing so you can see the ride away. You want to get a better idea of how that person really skates, not just the trick. That was important to me.
But those didn’t even feel like projects at the time. It’s not like now where you’re constantly working on this video that’s coming out in four years and you have to film with so-and-so every time you go out. It was nothing like that. It was more like putting out another video with all the stuff we’d been doing.
During those days, we were always out filming, whether there was a video coming out or not. There was no soul skating at that point. We were young and thirsty to do what we thought were really good tricks on our board. We wanted to do our thing. Call up Soc and he’d be there… next thing you know, you had a bunch of footage so when it was time to put out a video, you were good. It was so much simpler back then.
Who’s idea was it to put that quote in front of your Trilogy part? Was that just part of the Ghostface mix you used or was that put there intentionally?
Its funny, the guy who did that mix actually just walked into the office. But no, the quote was my idea. Obviously, I’ve always been a big Wu fan and they always had the cool quotes from movies and kung-fu flicks before songs. Well, I wanted my own quote. I wanted to find one that fit how I felt about skating and put it in front of my part. I can’t remember what movie we found it in but we happened to dig it up one day at Dennis’ apartment. It was perfect. I wanted it to be my own statement because that’s how I felt at the time and still do. Everyone has their own style.
I know Dill got kicked off for stealing but how did 101 end? Were you leaving because 101 was dissolving or did 101 dissolve because you left?
Dill did get kicked off but it was Natas leaving that made me decide to leave. That’s when it was over.
I kinda knew that Chocolate was down for me already, Keenan had already mentioned it. So it was always in the back of my mind and, of course, I was super psyched. I grew up admiring those guys. So basically once Natas left, I was out. You could say he set the pick.
You mentioned earlier about how you never really felt comfortable with the whole Girl/Chocolate crew. Do you feel this initial discomfort effected your filming of Chocolate Tour?
I think the reality of it is that I’ve never felt comfortable with myself, period. That’s what I’ve come to learn as I’ve gotten older. When you’re young, you think it has to do with being around these guys and it’s kind of uncomfortable because you hold them in such high regard, but as you get older, you start to really break yourself down and how you are as a person. I think I’ve just always been a quiet person, never too social besides those initial friends I grew up with.
So… which one was Chocolate Tour again?
The GZA “Publicity” instrumental and Gino’s Skatepark…
Oh yeah, I get Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Tour mixed up… and honestly, I tend to forget about that Chocolate Tour one. But no, I thought that part came out cool. I was happy with the skating.
Were you into doing all the skits and stuff? Chocolate videos always seem to have some kind of premise to work with.
At first, I’d never done anything like that before so I thought it was interesting to do. The first time I ever did anything like that was with Spike for a commercial that was supposed to run in Japan. Just a random commercial, no skating involved. It was me, Keenan and Ben Sanchez with a couple of chicks in a car driving around LA. It was a full-on production, which was a little weird and uncomfortable, but it was all so new to me that it was still exciting.
I didn’t feel comfortable with the acting on Chocolate Tour at all. Not at all. I didn’t like having the spotlight on me like that… people screaming “action”, it didn’t feel natural and I didn’t take to it very well.
It’s not that I wanted it to be a regular skate video without the skits, either. By that point, Spike had already put out a movie and it was cool to see how he works and how the whole movie thing goes. I just wasn’t into the camera being on me as much back then.
How do you define the word “style”?
The first thing that comes to mind is that style comes naturally. It’s nothing forced. You see a lot of people out there faking their style and you can always tell. They’ll land their trick and end up doing something with their arms or whatever and you can tell it’s completely exaggerated.
Everyone has their own way they skate when they’re really going for shit, when they’re not really concerned with how they look after they land the trick. That’s when you can really see it.
There’s so many different things that can come across in your style. The way you grew up, what you were exposed to, music, your natural agility… all those factors are involved when it comes to style.
What about your trick selection? You have your classic staples like back tails and such but are there instances where you’ve purposefully tried to be different? Fakie varial kickflips still stand out as yours but you were also pushing backside 360 ollies, 360 shoves and no complies when nobody else was.
I don’t feel like I’m the kind of person who really thinks outside the box and I think my trick selection proves that. I’m a pretty simple skater. I used to get a little more technical when I was younger. But usually, my tricks just come from feeling good. If they felt good, they looked good and I trusted that. It comes across. It’s as simple as that.
360 shove-its always felt good to me so why wouldn’t I do them? It’s the same thing with those fakie shove-it flips. I remember the first time I really started doing those was at the Adams bump in LA near USC. You knew you just had to stay confident in how it felt.
So what’s one trick that feels terrible to you?
Oh man… tre flips. (laughs)
Bullshit! You have a good tre flip! That one in 20 Shot at Black Rock!?!
Nah, I never had them like that. Never over something or down anything. Never consistently. There would maybe be a day here or there where I would have them lovely on flatground but then they’d be gone. I could never hold on to a good tre flip.
That’s probably the worst trick for me. I fucking can’t stand them. (laughs)
Talk a little about the making of your Yeah Right! part and filming back on Long Island, away from LA. And why Guns N Roses? Such a good choice but definitely not expected… getting your Long Island Iroc on.
(laughs) Italian retard out cruising…
Yeah Right! worked out because I had just moved back to New York and met up with an old friend. I was bummed on LA and over how I was partying a lot. My friend Brad, who ended up filming most of that part, had a tattoo shop with a little mini-ramp and some props and we just started skating together a lot there. Just having fun.
At the time, I was more about wanting to be at peace with myself than concerned about skating. But we’d just go skate and it slowly turned into that zone of wanting to film. We started going to spots that I’d known from when I was younger and got into a rhythm. Things started to happen. Knowing that the video was coming out, I was sparked and wanted to come through. The motivation was there… I can’t explain really why. I think Brad helped me out with motivation with his even knowing by just having fun. We started getting clips and it turned out being pretty good.
As far as the song goes, I had some ideas but it was Mike Carroll that actually brought that song up to me. I remember we were at Ty’s house at the time editing and he threw it out there. It just so happened that I was listening to the Guns a lot at the time and when he brought it up, it just made sense. Fuck yeah, I’m down for Guns!
It pretty much went straight into Hot Chocolate right after that…
Honestly, I didn’t really like that part that much.
During the filming for Yeah Right! I was really motivated and psyched on things. I was skating a lot and ended up being pretty happy with how my part came out. It was afterwards, when watching the video as a whole, that I started to notice a change in skating. That maybe for the first time, I was falling behind. I didn’t feel like I was really pushing the envelope anymore. People were really progressing at that point. I began to feel that my skating was starting to look basic, a little more than usual.
I felt it even more so with Hot Chocolate.
I know you were going through some legal stuff at the time but what was the story behind that WESC tour of Long Island? That’s a tough watch, man.
Oh God. I do and I don’t regret that one. It was at that time where I was going through a lot of personal shit. Tripping on skating and my future... just about life, in general. I was in a bad place upstairs.
I always feel like I want to be truthful about everything but maybe I was a little bit too honest with that one. Stopping by the rehab I went to… what are you thinking, dude? But whatever, it’s a part of my past and I was being honest. I was just in a bad place so I figured I’d take them out to the lighthouse, a place that I still love to this day. I thought it would be nice but to get into all that stuff, I’m not too happy about.
Describe your relationship with Guy Mariano. You two seemed to share a mutual respect that was always cool to see. I know he spoke very publicly about trying to motivate you into putting out a part like his Fully Flared comeback. How do you feel his comeback affected your outlook on your own career and people's expectations of your output?
Like I said earlier, there was a lot of time spent partying back in the day but we were never really close back then. No offense but none of us were, at least that's the way I saw it. Just superficial party/skate friends.
Things changed a bit when Guy got out of rehab and started skating everyday. At the time, I was trying as well but still a little up-and-down. With him being through what he gone through and my understanding of that, I felt we had a cool friendship. We spoke a lot about those topics and whatever else besides skating… normal shit! We skated a lot and it felt good. I felt we were finally getting to be real friends.
As time went on, there started to be some distance. He was doing great, onward and upward, but for me, the conductor couldn't get me off that fucking roller coaster. I look at it as someone growing, moving on and flourishing while the other stayed stagnant in the funk. It's only a matter of time until they drift apart and rightfully so. I moved back to Long Island and then getting caught up with the legal drama, I just drifted away and became distant with him and everyone.
As far as his comeback and its effect on me, it was a trip. First of all, I was pushed back after he put out that Fully Flared part. If I heard anything about myself possibly returning like that, I’d laugh and be bummed at the same time. There's only one Guy and I never put myself on his level. No comparison.
I would see his production and bug out, wondering how he does it. He keeps coming harder and harder… which would make me question myself and where I stood. Then reality sets back in and I remember that there's only one Guy Mariano. Special. A great skateboarder.
Anyway, let’s turn the page, I'm just going to continue doing me with no comparison to what anyone else is doing. No format so lets roll!
So with the new sponsor and a renewed interest, what are you hoping to achieve?
It’s mainly just a change of mind. I feel happy to be part of something that I believe in.
As far as footage, I’m just going to continue what I’ve been doing. When I feel inspired to film something, I will. If not, then I won’t. I’ll be skating, though. You’ll be seeing me out there. It feels good. It always feels good.
In Hot Chocolate, you said, “Hopefully I’ve left a positive impact on skateboarding… I don’t know.” Are you happy with your career to this point? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
That’s a good question. Yes, I am happy just for the simple fact that I’ve been able to do this for this long. I never would’ve thought that I’d still be skating on the professional level at age 41. Still feeling good with the desire to skate and how good it still feels. It actually feels better at times now than when I was younger because I was so obsessed with learning tricks back then. I remember ending up crying at the World Park sometimes. Now it’s more of an appreciation of being on your board and how it feels. Appreciating the stuff you can do. It’s just a different mindstate.
Overall, I can’t regret anything. I’ve always done what I wanted to do and luckily, I’ve been able to be me for this long without really trying to conform. I’ve never had to follow a certain type of format as far as being a professional skater. Just being myself, for better or worse. Being the type of person I am, I can only do me and that’s it.
thanks to dill, fa, mighty healthy and gino for taking the time.