Chops and the Boss sit down for conversation.
Alright Drew, gonna start this off with something that definitely has me stoked and I figure you’re the guy to ask: Spanky’s pro board is back on Baker with what looks to be a heavy part coming up in Made 2. Looks like we have a reinvigorated Mr. Long rolling around. Great to see but how did that go down?
I mean, he’s always been super talented, that was never really the problem. He’s always been good. For a while there, he was able to be a pro skater, be good and get the job done but I think maybe he just got a little sidetracked with partying and by life in general. Just getting distracted by growing up can end up being pretty heavy sometimes.
I think the biggest turning point for him came after he had decided to quit drinking and started to see how much stuff he could get done without that partying lifestyle. Fortunately, he’s still super young and can make such a big change in time so that he’s still able to get out there and kill it.
Do you think Baker taking away his board served as sort of wake-up call for all of this?
I think it was a lot of things coming together. I don’t want to get too into his personal life but I’m sure losing his board was a part of it.
Coming from my own experience and struggles with alcohol and things, there’s no real way to say what it is that happens to you to make the decision and stay with it. It’s just like one day, you’re ready. It can’t come from anybody else. Not your friends or your family. It is up to you to make that decision and it’s different for everybody. One person might have to end up on the streets with nothing and another person just might have to feel a little shitty inside one morning to turn it around. It’s just how it is. So, I’m sure there were some things that just started happening where he began to realize that it was time to get his shit together.
Was there like a trial period there before you brought his board back to see how serious he was?
The thing is that I’ve never really had to take people’s boards away on Baker. Having to call dudes up like, “You’re not gonna have a pro board anymore, man. The time’s up.” It really sucked. That was my first time ever having to do that and it definitely does not feel good.
The fact is that you can’t be a professional skateboarder forever. I’m not going to be one forever. Spanky’s not. Nobody is. But Spanky’s just been skating so much. A year went by and you can still see how serious he’s taking it. He’s filming so hard for this Emerica video when at first, we honestly weren’t so sure about it. But he’s out there skating like a professional skateboarder, bringing his board back felt like the right thing to do.
The Baker crew cannot be an easy team to manage. How do you balance working with friends while simultaneously trying to do good for your business? I know there was some stress with those roster changes a little while back, let alone trying to deal with dudes like Antwuan while you’re also turning Riley and Cyril pro… What’s the fine line there?
I think that it just comes down to an honest approach. I’d love to have everyone from the original Baker still on the team. Guys like Evan Hernandez, I’d love to have them on there forever. It’s just that some people take a different path.
Honestly, I don’t really look at it as my responsibility. If you don’t want to work at being a pro skater, that’s not my problem. That’s your problem. I’m trying to have a team of pro skaters, not people who don’t skate.
At the end of the day, you see what I’ve been doing all of these years, do that. Do what Riley Hawk does. That’s what being a pro skater is. So much of it comes down to the personal attitude of that guy. That’s how skateboarding is.
Baker is a family. It is. The problem is that you have these guys who end up falling off or whatever and they’re mad. That’s the common story. Certain people can own up to it and then try to do something about it. But some people can’t or just won’t admit it.
That’s what was so cool about Spanky when the whole thing happened. It came down to where I asked him what he’d been doing for the last couple years and he owned up to the fact. “It’s on me. You’re right. I’m taking responsibility for it.”
Definitely not an easy thing to do. How’s your Made 2 part coming along? Is there a deadline for that thing yet?
We have a year left to film but honestly, I don’t really have much footage for it at all. I don’t know if it’s just the point where I’m at in my life right now or how many times I’ve done this same process over and over… but right now, I’m just kinda cool skating skateparks with my friends, pushing myself to do a ledge trick that I’ve never done before. To tell the truth, I’m finding it kinda hard to figure out what to film for this one.
I’ve read where you want this part to be a little more fun compared to how you did things with Stay Gold. Are you sticking to that? Are you almost afraid of setting things off down that madness path once again?
Not really. I mean, just running through things real quick, I came up skating during that whole Eastern Exposure thing: being out in the streets, cruising around, ollieing trash cans and that whole thing. That’s how I grew up skating.
It wasn’t too long after that when I started looking up to Jamie Thomas, Chad Muska and Tom Penny, who were all more about putting together these really sick video parts. So I basically just started doing that, too. Focusing really hard on that aspect of my skating and how I wanted my video parts to look. That’s how I went about doing things with Baker 3, Stay Gold and my Emerica video parts.
All during that time, the way my mind works, if I’m gonna do a back heel for my part, I want to do the best back heel that I can possibly do. That’s what I did. I did that all the way into my early 30’s. The problem is that now I’m 36, I can’t outdo what I’ve already done already. I can’t kickflip something bigger than Davis. I know that. I’ll end up in the hospital.
So what do I do? I’m not gonna be as tech as Guy Mariano because I don’t know how to do that. That’s not how I skate.
Then you start to hear your friends say stuff like, “It doesn’t matter. People just want to see you skate.”
Thank you. That’s cool and I appreciate that. But it’s hard because I’ve always gone so gung-ho with these things. It’s hard not to do that. But at this point, I don’t think I can do that anymore. My body can’t physically outdo the jumping aspect of what I did in Stay Gold. I just can’t. So that’s out. Flipping in and out of tricks is out, I don’t even know how to do that. What do I do?
I have to figure out how I go about making another part that’s different than Stay Gold but that I still feel good about. That’s what I’m going up against.
Has seeing all the coverage surrounding your “madness” helped improve that and possibly made you rethink any of that stuff as its happening?
Right now, I’m doing a lot better with that. I honestly don’t care about it right now. If it looks sketchy, I’ll try to redo it but I’m not in that mode anymore of trying to get it absolutely perfect. I’m just doing backtails on skatepark ledges.
My big thing with that was that I’ve never been clinically diagnosed for OCD. I never talked to a doctor or anything about it. People that actually have OCD really suffer from it and it’s really bad. I don’t want to be looked at as someone who has any knowledge of what having OCD is like. I can’t help people with it. I’ve actually had kids come up to me who really suffer and they’ll want to ask me questions about it, hoping I can help them. I just don’t know. Mine just has to do with my skating. Once I’m not on my board, that stuff basically goes away for me.
Many skaters have a bit of madness but do you think your case during those years could have possibly been an unfortunate byproduct of your sobriety? Free from the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol, this new hyperactivity came to the surface almost as a coping mechanism? Because going back over old footage, you weren’t afraid to put a hand down every now and then prior…
Sobriety is just a mandatory thing for me to live. Without being sober, there would be no Stay Gold or any of that. All that stuff like me being a freak at the bottom of some stairs, doing things over and over, really came from a set goal that I had made for myself with that video part. I had this idea where I wanted it to seem like the big things I was doing were easy. Like, how is he doing this? I wanted things to look like they weren’t that hard. So if it looked sketchy, that made it look harder and I didn’t want that. So I’d redo it.
I know that a hand down or a little extra swag can be great. Just that little extra whatever, that’s such a part of skating. I know that. I see it in a lot of skateboarders. But I was sticking to my goal.
Thoughts on the term “Baker Maker”?
Oh, I love “Baker Maker”. I’m not sure but I think that might have come from Jamie Thomas. But yeah, I love it. It’s funny.
Just the other day, I put a little video on Instagram where Jerry, Spanky and I were doing these nollie 360 heelflips with the body turning as well. Mine was just awful to where I’m basically laying down on the floor, barely doing it. Daniel Lutheran actually commented on there, “Baker Maker” and he was totally right! It was the biggest Baker Maker ever!
I like it because since the beginning, Baker has always been known as being this odd crew. Whether it’s people on drugs or just looking different, it’s always been this weird group of people. So, of course, the skating that is going to happen with such a crew will reflect that. It’s never going to be perfect. I mean, Dustin’s lucky to roll away at all half the time. I think it’s awesome.
We’ve talked so much about video parts already and how they’ve been your main focus for so many years, what’s your process for filming like? Do you sit down and make lists or just kinda wing it? And has that changed over the years? Baker 3 and Stay Gold seem almost like two completely different animals.
I’ve always had somewhat of a list going of tricks I want to get for a part, be it in my head or if I took the time to actually write it down on paper. Baker 3 was a much different time for me back then. It was before I had a kid and I just had less responsibilities. It was easier for me to travel back then. Because of that, I’d end up being at more spots which leads to more skating. I was just filming everywhere I went.
With Stay Gold, I really had to think it out. If I want to go on this filming trip, that means I’m going to have to pay the nanny in order to go so I better do something cool or I’m just wasting my money. It’s funny but it really was the truth.
If I’m going out and doing something that doesn’t have anything to do with hanging out with my kid versus being at home, I don’t see the point in doing it. Unless its something that’s going to benefit either my job or my skating, I don’t really care. It kinda sucks in a way because I don’t even know what to do with my free time. It’s weird.
Which of your video parts would you say is your personal favorite and is there one you really don’t care about for whatever reason? Is there one you consider your “prime” even though you’ve consistently one-upped yourself with each one?
Honestly, I kinda like them all. I think they’re all pretty good.
As far as a “prime” goes, I realize things now looking back on parts that I didn’t really notice at the time because I was 20 years-old. Like when I first moved to California and was filming 411 profiles and things like that, I had a certain power in the way I could kickflip down a set of stairs. I look back on it now and I can’t believe it. It’s not the same anymore. I can’t just go up and kickflip a picnic table like it’s nothing now. I have to actually try. Back then, your tricks just pop. No problem. You don’t even have to really think about it. As you get older, you reach a point where you have to decide to really give it a little extra something. It’s not just automatic. (laughs)
But focus-wise and overall mentally, definitely Stay Gold is the one. That’s the only time that will happen in my life. For 2 years, nothing could get in my way. I was at home, working out by myself for two hours everyday. Pouring sweat. And skating was really fun for me at the time, too. But it’s funny because once the video was done, that was it. All that other stuff was done, too. I didn’t want to ride my exercise bike anymore. It was over. I was cool with it… but I was done.
What’s your process like with gaps anyway? Do you build up with a straight ollie, 180 ollie, kickflip and so on or do you just go for broke straight away?
Some of the ones I did for Stay Gold like the back 3, the back heel and the shuv-it heel, I actually trained on that one trick. In my park in the back of my house or I’d go to Biebel’s or whatever and just do that one trick over and over to where I could do it every single time. Just getting it down, as fast as I wanted. From there, I’d take to a 5 or 6-stair and get comfortable with it there as well. That’s all you really need.
Once I got to the spot, I’d warm-up with an ollie or something but that’s about it. Ollie it 3 times and if it feels good, I go for it. If the ollies are feeling soft on my feet and I’m landing pretty light, I’ll start throwing it out. The thing that’s weird is one day, you can ollie 15 stairs and it feels like every bone in your foot is crunching as you land and your board can barely take it, but the next day, you can ollie it and it feels like a 3-stair. You can’t really call it.
You’ve definitely done your thing down some of skateboarding’s more infamous gaps like Wallenberg, Carlsbad, Hollywood High and Wilshire, which have definitely been your go-tos while branching out with a few tricks down Love and the Santa Monica Triple-Set as well. Which one of these gaps would you say is your personal favorite and is there one that still kinda freaks you out?
Oh man, I don’t think I can say any of them would be my favorite because they’re all just big and painful. But if I had to pick one, I’d say probably Hollywood High is my favorite. Just because it’s close to my house and is a classic LA spot.
For me, it’s always easier to go a little bit taller and shorter than to go longer. The Santa Monica Triple Set is really long to me. I’d rather take a longer drop down than me having to go faster, farther out.
The frontside flip down the Love Gap. Did you fly out there specifically for that? Had you ever skated that thing before? And was keeping the leather jacket on a conscious decision?
The leather jacket thing just kinda happened… basically because it was so cold. But no, I’d never skated that gap before. Shany Heyl had moved out to Philly so I was around every now and then but the whole thing is kinda crazy how it worked out. I just did it. I was in Philly but had gone to the airport to fly home and fallen asleep. We’d been drinking that morning and I ended up missing my flight. So I had to go back to Philly and somewhere within that whole mix, I ended up doing it. There was no process or practicing, we just went to check it out and I did it real quick. That was it.
Growing up in the public spotlight, first as a little dude for G&S before sharing amateur duties with Ocean Howell on Birdhouse, did you ever feel almost pigeon-holed in a way as you got older as “the little kid”? Was there a point where you realized your style was maturing and that you were starting to come into your own? 4-Wheel Drive perhaps?
How crazy was it that the ams for Birdhouse at the time were literally Ocean Howell from the H-Street videos, skating to the Doors and all that, and me. That blew me away at the time. I was just the little kid Willy got on the team… Tony hadn’t even seen me skate yet and here’s Ocean, one of the coolest skaters ever. That was insane. Ocean’s just the best.
But I never really thought about that little kid stuff. I just wanted to skate and focus on whatever project I was working on. I wanted to film and show people what I could do. I just wanted to kill it.
4-Wheel Drive is still kinda little kid style to me. The thing that sticks out to me is in I think a 411 where I do a kickflip and a frontside flip over a rail at UCI. I was skating this big board, like an 8.5 or something. I remember going home to watch the footage and thinking to myself how that big board just seems to fucking fly! I really could see a difference. After that, I just started kickflipping everything and it went on from there.
Talk a little bit about your filming of The End, with all the skits and shooting on actual film. Did you realize at the time it was about to detonate your career like it did with SOTY honors and all that?
I honestly didn’t even really think about it at the time. Tony said that this is what we were going to do and I wanted to do good. That’s all it really was. I had tricks in mind that I wanted to do and we went out and got them. The film stuff was a bit different but I didn’t really care. I was more focused on just skating well. That other stuff will take care of itself.
As far as blowing up like it did, I did like that part. I thought it was good but as far as Skater of the Year goes, it was so much different back then. Honestly, nobody really cared about it much at the time. It was literally somebody calling up to tell me that I had won and it was just like, “Okay… cool.” It wasn’t this big surprise or even that much of a big deal. It’s not like I was “in the running” for it or anything. They didn’t even have any of that. I think Jake saw that kickflip I did in Paris off the blocks and he made his decision off of that. He called me and that was it. I mean, it was cool. I still have the trophy and everything. It just wasn’t like the way it is now.
Why the Chimp?
Oh man, I still don’t really know. That was their idea. We had all these skits and everything… it was something to do, I guess. It was based on that Clint Eastwood movie with the chimpanzee. I still don’t even know it but that’s what it’s based off of. That was the theme.
I wasn’t really that into it but I’m not the type of person to make a big fuss. They were putting me in this amazing video, fuck it. Whatever you want.
How was the idea for Baker born? What made you want to start your own company instead of plugging into a dynasty-style company like Girl?
Jim Greco, J Strickland and myself… we weren’t really deeply involved with the Birdhouse team. I mean, we always respected Tony and everything but we never really skated with Willy, Klein or even Heath back then. We kinda had our own group of friends that we hung out with. Growing up and seeing companies like Girl and Chocolate start up, these small new companies that were really cool, that was more of what we were into.
At the time, it was like this whole drugged-out, Piss Drunx kinda-thing that we were representing. We didn’t want to be this clean-cut company like Girl or Chocolate. We were doing our own thing and wanted our company to represent that.
You, in particular, seemed to make a pretty heavy transformation at this time from a hip-hop-flavored deal with the bucket hats and everything to a more punk rock aesthetic on your own mission… which was largely in direct opposition to the then-status quo of skateboarding. I’ve always wondered if there was a sort of “us against the world” vibe in the Piss Drunx gang during this time? Did you guys feel like you were, in a sense, rebelling against how “safe” skateboarding had started to become around this time?
I can see what you’re saying but we honestly never thought anything like that at the time. That just didn’t cross our minds at all.
One thing that I’m most proud about with Baker is how honest it’s always been and continues to be. That is just who we are. We’re not scared to put stuff in our videos where we possibly look really stupid. I think that’s what makes it better. If somebody looks goofy or somebody looks cool, we just show it. But it’s not a thing that we really think about. It’s just who we are. We got Jim looking crazy. He looks like nobody else in skateboarding right now. Let’s show it off. But at the same time, we still had Terry Kennedy in there. We still had Andre Nickatina in our video.
But going from Fourstar and all that to the early days of Baker, I think it just came from being around Ali Boulala more. Hanging out with Jim and Punker Matt… along with the drinking and drugs. Stuff just gets dirtier the more you get into that stuff. It just kinda happens. You care less about clothes. But I feel like I’ve always been hip-hop though. No matter what, I’m hip-hop, straight up. (laughs)
What happened between Baker and Bootleg to where it became so adversarial? It was always supposed to be two companies but once the split happened, you guys were going after each other in ads and things. What happened there?
As far as the ad thing goes, I would never do that. If you’ve ever seen a Baker ad where I’m trying to call somebody out like that, show it to me because I don’t do that sort of thing. I remember reading the bottoms of these Bootleg ads with J trying to say all this shit towards us. He was so mad.
What happened was J felt like he wanted more money. I guess he could see that Baker was somewhat successful… even though having a successful skateboard company is really nothing. You don’t make money off decks, that’s just the way it is. But he saw that we were doing good and wanted more. The people I talked to, who were also part of the business, saw what he wanted as impossible. What he wanted as a Brand Manager, it just didn’t work that way. So I took their advice.
The original idea was to start Bootleg alongside Baker out of Blitz. Side by side, which makes sense. This is actually how we ended up doing Baker and DeathWish. We get to support each other and earn money together. This was the idea back then with Bootleg at the beginning but Blitz didn’t want to do it with him. So he started shopping it around elsewhere and ended up with NHS. It just became this thing where he was being paid to be a Brand Manager at Baker while he was basically doing the same art and graphics for a company he was doing out of NHS as well. It didn’t make any sense.
When DeathWish does good, we all do good because it’s all under Baker Boys. Same thing with Baker, the whole distribution does good. That makes sense. No offense to Santa Cruz but if Creature starts doing really well for NHS, it doesn’t benefit me or our family. So with Bootleg under NHS, it didn’t work. It became so much about money and after a while, it was obvious that I couldn’t afford to keep doing it that way. I had to let him go. That was the end of it.
Talk a little about the recruitment strategy for ams that Baker initially tried with all that super young talent. Was it possibly because you, Dustin and even Ali started out so young? So much of the responsibility falls on the rider but looking back, do you think you guys were in any position to really try managing young kids with all that was going on in your own lives?
There is no way that we were in any position to do that. We could probably be in jail right now for some of the things we did with those kids. Just by taking them on those trips with us back then, it could’ve been really bad. But that’s the way it happened and you learn from that. But no, you shouldn’t have a bunch of 12 or 14-year-old kids around all that drinking and drugs.
As far as the decision to recruit all those younger kids, it wasn’t really because of the way we started. It had more to do with just how this thing works. You try to sponsor young guys that rip and hope they work out. That you can build together. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
If you want to have cool riders, you’re going to try and hook up a few good young ones that can grow with your company. If not, your company is gonna be lame and it’s gonna go out of business.
Who is one person you regret not putting on Baker in retrospect?
I did have the opportunity to put Ishod on Baker at one point. I know, I know… that’s a bad one. I don’t know if it just wasn’t the right time or we had too many young guys already but it didn’t work out for whatever reason. He was getting boards there for a second and I do look back on that one from time to time like, “Damn… that dude is so good.”
I probably blew it on that one but I strongly believe that everything happens the ways it’s supposed to. He’s supposed to be on Real with those guys.
What was the story behind all the jokes on Chad Fernandez? The prank calls about him getting on the team and the undercover filming missions from the bushes?
With Chad, we were all living in Huntington Beach at the time and skating a lot together. We skated with Chad all the time back then. He was riding for Creature and was definitely ripping. The thing is, and I don’t know why this is, but you know how there’s always certain people in a group that just seem to attract more shit from their friends? The guy that, for whatever reason, people just love to pick on? That was Chad. We were all friends and I’m still cool with Chad. But Knox, man… he was just such a little punk. Especially to Chad. He just loved picking on that guy. Always prank calling him and everything. It was kinda messed up.
I remember whenever we were editing that video and J had put all that Chad Fernandez stuff in there… it was right there along with Jamie Thomas’ sponsor-me video! I just remember watching it at J’s and knowing that it was pretty fucked up to put it in there but it was just so funny. Not that the sponsor-me video was even all that bad, it just looked like everybody else’s first sponsor-me video, just kinda funny little kid stuff. But I knew putting that stuff in there was both the right and wrong thing to do at the same time. (laughs)
It was just so good. It’s exactly what a skate video should be!
But yeah, Jamie made us take it out. We ended up having to cover it up because he was gonna sue us. It’s still funny though.
Another infamous tale, what is your side of the events surrounding the Gershon Mosley altercation?
Oh yes, of course. I’ll tell you exactly what happened.
I was on the verge of being blackout drunk. Totally loaded. I was at some video premier in San Diego and was just talking shit and being loud. I think I was rapping, too… I don’t know what all I was doing. But Anthony Mosley was with us, just hanging out and I kept on referring to him by his last name. Mosley this, Mosley that.
I think that Gershon may have thought I was talking about him when I was talking to a completely different person. But he came over and basically stepped to me. Now I don’t start fights but when I used to drink, I would get into it every now and then. I was loaded that night and said something like, “Get the fuck outta my face!” or whatever. He just socked me.
To be honest, I probably deserved it because I was being pretty shitty to him when he came over but my point was that I wasn’t even talking to him at all for him to step to me like that. I was talking to my friend Anthony Mosley. It was all a big misunderstanding.
But yeah, he punched me and I swirled around and whacked my face on a bus bench, cracking me teeth. I remember picking up this metal garbage can lid, trying to whack him with that. I was probably 10-feet away (laughs). In my mind, I was gonna get him but in reality, I was falling all over the place and I couldn’t even really see anybody. It was a mess. My friends end up pulling me off and I woke up the next day bummed. Typical shit that happens when I drink: get in a fight, crack my teeth… that’s why I don’t drink because everytime I did, I’d end up in jail, on drugs, my teeth cracked or something. Every single time. I could never really drink and have a good time. It was always a mess.
But I saw him the next day at the tradeshow. I figured I’d walk up to him and apologize because I was probably out of line. I’m the one with the bloody mouth. So I go up to him and am just like, “Hey, man, I’m sorry about that last night…” But I could see that he was literally beginning to shake and his eyes were getting all red. He was about ready to attack me again!
“Ok, I’m outta here.” (laughs)
Crazy, man. So you’re now over a decade deep as a company owner, what’s your biggest regret or lesson learned?
Biggest regret I’d say is promoting drugs. I don’t do it and I don’t put weed or alcohol in any ads, videos or on decks anymore. Nothing. No more.
How do you wrestle your own personal convictions within your company with that of the riders’? What about those riders who aren’t on the wagon, like Dustin, for example? Baker will always be the Piss Drunx to some degree, right?
Here’s what I have to say about that: if Nuge personally says that he wants a bunch of pot leaves on his board, then I’m going to say okay. If he brings it up to me personally that this is what he wants on his board, that’s fine. It’s his model. If that’s somebody’s thing and is what they want, then yes. Of course. I have to let my team have their freedom, even if it does come at a cost to some of my personal views. They can have whatever they want. I’m just saying that we’re not going to put it on there just because.
If people are partying, that’s up to them. That doesn’t affect me. But I’m not trying to be some sneaky businessman where I’m putting weed on everything just to make a dollar. If I can avoid it, I will. There’s a fine line. I want my riders to be happy and feel like they ride for the coolest company that exists, but at the same time, I just don’t want to promote that stuff. For me, personally, I’m always talking about my sobriety and how I’m against drinking and drugs as much as I can because I feel that’s my job. I feel like I have to put that out there for people. But I can’t control what other people do. I don’t want to.
We discussed your Made 2 part earlier and where your skating is heading, is it possible we’d see a Heath-style retirement from you at some point? Where do you see your career in 10 years?
That retirement thing was more of his personality. That’s how he had to do it. I’m okay with being the old dude who skates. These video parts have always been for my own personal satisfaction, so you can walk around with your head up high. I’m happy with that.
You still see Huf around, doing his thing. He hangs and it’s cool. Tony’s still putting out amazing video parts. I’m just gonna skate and try to make Baker cool. I don’t think there would be any reason for me to have some retirement thing because I skate. That’s what I do. I hope companies will still want to sponsor me when I’m 60. I want to stay in skating, no matter what.
I’m just going to keep on skating as long as I can and push my skating where I can. Skating for fun. Try to find a good new zone to tap into that I haven’t before… something that doesn’t have to be jumping off 15s. That sounds nice.
Thanks to Patrick O'Dell, Goldy and Andrew for taking the time.
Thanks to Patrick O'Dell, Goldy and Andrew for taking the time.