chrome ball interview #11: brian lotti

chrome ball sits down with the caring consumer for conversation.

Okay. Now for whatever reason, this has always driven me crazy. In his ’93 Thrasher interview, Henry Sanchez said that his favorite thing to eat on this Earth was the “Lotti Sandwich” but that the recipe was top-secret. You gotta tell me… what the hell is in this sandwich!?!

What a memory! The ingredients are garbanzo beans, thyme, and ground white pepper. Season and mash the beans into patties, and fry ‘em like burgers in a skillet.

Garbanzo beans… thanks. Alright, back to basics. How’d you get started skating? And what was your first real set-up?

I used to visit my cousin Jeff in San Jose and sidewalk surf his neighborhood driveways. My Aunt eventually sent a Sure-Grip “California Stoked” board to my house in Salt Lake City. Sure-grip wheels, trucks, and board. The board was a healthy step-up from your entry level Nash.

Now was H-Street your first sponsor? Was it still Magnusson Designs at this point? And was Ternasky on board yet?

H-Street was definitely my first sponsor, although I was just “flow” in the beginning. I was in the right place at the right time. I knew Ron Allen from skate camp and he was out in Vegas at an amateur vert contest… picture Allen Midget, Bill Tocco and Ben Schroeder!

Somehow I wound up getting a ride home with Ron, Mike Ternasky, Magnusson, and John Shultes. They took me with them to Denny’s for a late evening dinner. Mike and Mag told Ron that they wanted to turn him pro for their new company, H-Street. Ron agreed and in the group exaltation, I was honorarily placed on the "flow” team.

Ron was an encouraging fellow.

Shackle Me Not came out of nowhere and was a real revolutionary project in the history of skating. How was filming for it? It always seemed like a pretty loose, fun-based venture. Were there any real expectations of how it would be received?

Shackle Me Not was definitely a rag-tag venture. Nobody was ever really that serious about filming back then… but soon after, Ternasky started pushing hard on skaters and it turned into that. I didn’t get to film that much for Shackle. I remember going to San Diego with my friend Billy and visiting the H-Street guys – his mom wouldn’t let me stay there to keep filming and I had to return to Las Vegas.

When all of us on H-Street returned to San Diego for the Shackle video premiere, we were all blown away. The video came out swinging! H-Street was definitely underdog status.

Gnarliest thing you ever saw Matt Hensley do?

On video: that flatground caballerial over the picnic table.

In person: frontside flip to disaster across the little channel on McGill’s spine ramp in 1988. WTF!

Compare Shackle Me Not and Hokus Pokus. Hokus must’ve been way more stressful to produce after Shackle’s runaway success… and you definitely broke-out on that one. Did you feel any pressure? Which one do you like better?

There still wasn’t pressure during the filming of Hokus Pokus. We just did what we did and most guys in that vid seemed to have something going or some spots that they were really into. It was different skaters in different places with different predilections.

I like Hokus Pokus better because that is when street skating was starting to get really raw and creative. Hokus showed that all kinds of stuff can be shredded. Benches, flat, little banks, curb cuts, flat handrails… All this stuff is everywhere, available for anyone to skate.

H-Street was an amazing team but it just seemed like it got way too big… which I always felt was the main reason Life and Planet Earth started up. Any real rippers on H-Street that you felt didn’t get the shine they deserved and fell through the cracks?

Yeah, H-Street kind of went overboard at a certain point. Planet Earth was probably started in part because H-Street was getting big, but it was started mostly because Mike and Magnusson wanted to work with Chris Miller. They knew he could pull off a cool company.

The H-Street skater that really fell through the cracks was Dan Peterka. The guy ripped and always seemed to be in the waiting wings. He did get his… he just did it for himself. He wasn’t a showboater. A lot of folks know about Dan’s ability to inspire fun on a skateboard.

Your part in Now N Later is truly legendary, with your exploration of lines and manual tricks. Did you set out to emphasize these points from the beginning? How long did you film? Were you pleased with it? And who’s idea was it to put those Tron light cycles in there? Such a good touch.

Shoots, I didn’t set out to emphasize anything in particular for the Planet Earth video. I was skating as much as I could and pushing myself to try some new things for the better part of a year. I remember being pleased with most of the skating, not so pleased about some of it, and feeling a little ambivalent about my voiceover. I still like that Tron opener, though… the sequel is coming out soon. Mike asked me about random footage for an opener and I thought the light cycles would be cool.

I always heard that although you invented the big spin, you didn’t want it named after you… and that “big spin” was a type of lottery ticket? Is this true?

Dan Sturt was drilling me to do that trick over and over again after some NSA amateur contest. Alfonso Rawls was around… blabbing on and calling me Lottery this and Lottery that. Then he blurted out “Big Spin,” the name of the weekly event where California lottery winners spin the wheel to win some random amount of cash. Alf was like, “That’s a Big Spin, that’s what you are doing.”

Recollections of Jovontae Turner? Did you skate a lot with him back in the day? Dude was phenomenal…

Yeah, I remember Jovontae skating at EMB… how he would set a new board up, start kissing it and talking all big, lace his fresh shoes up, set the new board down and start doing like a hundred shove-its in a row. Then he’d be on to kickflips, then tre-flips, then he’d start doing the tre-flips better, then he’d either approve the board and swear it was the best in his life or he’d focus it and start hitting someone up to try their board.

Watching Jovontae film his part in Love Child… that fakie tre-flip to switch manual switch 180 out: that trick was an act of sheer will. Wow! The switch 180 out was one of those happy accidents. It was a new chapter for manual tricks after that.

When he wasn’t harassing me about girls or clothes, Jovontae was definitely fun to skate with. Haha…

Wild Things, Hunt Humans, Caring Consumer, Blind Rider, Light Cycles, Mondrian steez… you’ve definitely had some classic graphics. Which one of yours sticks out as a personal favorite?

Dang! The caring consumer by Cliver is definitely one of my favorite graphics, but I really like the TRON tank that Miller separated. He’s a great graphic artist.

But Cliver’s Caring Consumer board… that was poetry.

Who asked you to join Blind? I remember it seemed like you were kinda on again/off again for a while… What was it like being a part of the elite Blind squad? And was it difficult leaving Planet Earth, a company that you’d had such a part in?

Jason Lee put me on Blind one summer but it didn’t stick until Guy, Henry, and Rudy put me on a summer or so later… I loved skating with everyone, but I wasn’t always psyched on the whole World Industries thing. I definitely felt at times like I blew it with Miller and wished I would have just stayed on Earth… I was really involved there. I had a good thing going. But World was great, too. Funny stuff.

What were some of the pros and cons of riding for Rocco versus riding for H-Street/PE? Two of the most beloved factions of that era…

Rocco made the best boards and sick pants and Big Brother was setup at the World headquarters. It was fun to hang with Jeff Tremaine, Earl and Kosick and lurk in that creative mix… Rocco hired Orb one summer to cook lunch for everyone, everyday – that was good fun. But World was kind of harsh. Someone always had to lose.

Planet Earth was a small upstart family. Chris was a really nice guy. It was a small and tight family.

You had a few tricks in the opening trailer of Pack of Lies and a few more in the Virtual Reality "Friends" section. Was there ever REALLY gonna be a full-length Blind video at that point?

Yeah, we were definitely trying to get our act together and turn things on… for my part, I just kept getting hurt. There was a year or so where I had one injury after another… and the prospect of getting in gear to film another part seemed more and more elusive. Guy, Ronnie Bertino and Henry were all filming the most. Guy definitely had the makings of his part going. This was right around the time when Guy started killing handrails in subtle ways… like his switch noseslides down the curving church rail off Sunset.

What was it like skating with Guy and Henry back in the day. Those dudes were splitting atoms at this point. However, Ronnie Bertino said in his interview that he still felt like a relative outsider on the squad since the others were so close. Did you feel the same way?

We had a good crew going for a while. Guy and Henry were definitely inspired skaters who were both very talented. Guy was always a natural on his board, and Henry was the worker… he had a strong will and would just keep trying until he made it all come together. Guy was a little more like Mr. Miyagi. Tim Gavin’s career started on an airplane flying from Phoenix to Los Angeles.
Ronnie was around, but he joined the crew a little bit later on. I loved skating with all those guys, and they pushed me to skate in new ways.

Who’s idea was it for your ’93 TWS Pro Flashlight? Absolute genius. Yellow jumpsuit, skinny banana board, headless dolls… How did all that come together? What was the concept you were going for? And was this to be your goodbye letter to the industry?

Shoots! That interview didn’t start as a goodbye letter to the industry but it became one. Grant and Swift were really open about the whole thing and they were agreed to let me post a handwritten letter in lieu of the usual Q and A.

The doll heads were from an art project, the jumpsuit just had to be worn. The banana board, big pants, and pseudo-graffiti shot was my attempt at registering some kind of satire about that moment in skateboarding. The interview wasn’t meant to be a goodbye letter but after I dislocated my shoulder really badly and started stepping away, it read like one. Funny stuff.

I’ve always heard that you were supposed to have your own company under Rocco around late ’93. I know Dill and Gino filmed for it… footage that later became Snuff. What was the story behind this ill-fated company? What was it called and why’d you pull the plug?

Yeah, Dill, Jeremy Wray, Gino, Dave Schlossbach and I drove around in Dave’s van for a week or two filming up and down the southern Cali coast. We needed one more big player to get the green light from Rocco and we were all knocking pretty hard on Kris Markovich’s doors.

I don’t remember how it all started, but I remember Dave and I dressed up in disguises and tried to meet Markovich at the San Diego airport to convince him to quit skating for Color and to join our team. It was an epic little Big Brother showdown as the Color TM Mark Oblow was there waiting, too. Needless to say Kris didn’t quit Color to ride with us, I bowed out of the whole affair, and Dill and Gino went on to ride for 101. Can’t remember what we were calling ourselves – but it was a real team for 2 weeks!

Now after the Pro Flashlight, you essentially went missing in action. Rumors circulated that you went to Tibet, that you were retired in Hawaii, that you were going back to school… Where’d you go? What happened? Were you just burned out on the industry? Were you still skating?

Yeah, I was burnt on skating AND I was burnt on the skateboard industry.

I wanted to return to school and get something new going. It ended up that school wasn’t enough either: I had an existential quandary and turned to philosophy and ultimately Zen Buddhism. I met a few Zen masters in Northern California and tried a few retreats. Pretty rad. About 8 months after I quit skating I moved to Hawaii to work and study at an American Zen temple just outside of Honolulu.

Didn’t skate too much for the first few years after leaving skating… but World artist Daniel Dunphy kept sending me the latest Girl videos and some World boards and I kept at it a little… switch flips and stuff. Haha… Switch backside 180 flips on flat. Those were the jam!

What made you come back to skating and what did you think of its current state when you did? Did you know that you’d been looked upon as this mysterious innovator and that you were missed the way you were? Guy has even gone on record that seeing you cruise down the street after your return gave him a much-needed moment of clarity in his more troubled era…

There’s a ton of energy, creativity and comradery in skateboarding. It’s a kind of fountain of youth. And it’s hard work, too. I think I came back to skateboarding because I love it and its what I know. I want to make some contributions and help turn the wheel. Skateboarding was much more of a finely-calculated industry when I returned in 2004, but there is so much heart… and so much great skating happening today. I’m glad that I’ve been able to get back into the mix and participate in skateboarding by making art and videos.

As for innovation, people have been kind in their opinion of my skating back in the day. The reality is often that many people are coming up with the same tricks at the same time, just in different places. It’s amazing to see Guy skating at the level where he is at. Guy is definitely an inspiration.

Now have you always painted and done art? I love what I’ve seen… And how’d you get into filmmaking? 1st and Hope and Free Pegasus were both amazing. Any future film projects in the works?

Yeah, I’ve always been an art dabbler. Oil painting – landscapes and portraits – this is a blast! I’ve spent a lot of time painting over the years, and this has definitely helped whet my appetite for filmmaking.

My time away from skateboarding, going to skate shops, and watching videos... this got my imagination cooking about videos where you see more skating with tricks and videos where you can see more than one guy skating at a time. Chance meetings with old friends sparked both 1st and Hope and Free Pegasus. The idea that skateboards are made for rolling… Busenitz understands this.

We want to make a really modern skateboard western and we also want to make a really conventional skate vid. Fanatical desires in a recession!

Telegraph is amazing… I haven’t been this stoked on a new company in a very long time. What made you decide to give starting your own company a shot?

Thanks. I’ve entertained the idea of starting a little company for a while and things started falling into place a little while ago. Thiebaud said something like, “Well, there was nothing left to do but to keep at skateboarding and do our own thing.”

I tried working with a company a year or so ago, and that didn’t pan out. Better to start something new in a recession.

What are you trying to achieve with Telegraph? The team rips and the boards look amazing… and seems like your having a lot of fun with it. KYOK 98.7 and the great little commercials you guys have already come up with are so refreshing. Almost like a summation of all your talents. Are you handling all the graphics? What’s in the immediate future of Telegraph to get the name out there? Any chance of reuniting with Jovontae on this one?

Shoots! Telegraph is definitely an excuse to make merry and keep it all fun. Our aim is to establish a little company that can make cool boards and make it possible for a few of us to film and skate for a few years. We want to do some creative stuff and we want to make boards that are gonna get people psyched to skate. I’m working on a lot of the graphics with some help from Tjaden Brewer.

Jovantae is awesome… maybe I’ll see him when we head to San Fran here in a couple weeks. But I think I’m the token old timer… if we get the chance we’re gonna be smart about pulling together a diverse, but young and promising team. We’ll see.

Top five all-time favorite pros?

Chris Miller
Ben Schroeder
Mike Carroll
Rick Howard
Kenny Anderson

What is your definition of style? And who would you say has your favorite style on a skateboard?

Style is the way a person skates when they are jamming and unaware of being watched or filmed. Rick Howard’s a real treat.… Marc Johnson is raw and sloppy… Brian Anderson is a John Coltrane: Straight improv. Yeah! Silas, Vince, Cramer... Sick!

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for all the thoughtful q’s, Chrome Ball! See you in the streets!

special thanks to brian and the telegraph crew.


K said...

One of those legendary dudes who always made you think "Dang dude, who is this serious playbwoy"...Chops you're killing me man. Internet + curiosity + knowledge + early 90s swagger = Chrome Ball Incident

Anonymous said...

One of my top 5 skaters all time. Him and Gonz influenced me more than anyone. Lotti has such style and was super tech. Right up my alley. It blows my my mind how many people do 5-0 switch crook now and every time I think Brian Lotti. I watch his now n later part pretty much every single day for I don't know how long. Anyone know who the black kid was in that video that skater super fast? I know his ender was like a manual to ollie 50/50 on a ledge.

Keith said...

Amazing interview with one of my top 5 favourites! The guy oozes style. Always been super psyched on his now n later part.

For some reason, I thought he went from PE to Blind to PE to Blind. I swear I saw a PE Brian Lotti slick in between Blind models.

Definitely gonna check out some of that Telegraph gear.

The Black guy in NnL was James Frazier

word verification is "later"

Anonymous said...

Such a good interview and Telegraph looks great.

platinumseagulls said...

What I was just compelled to tweet shall suffice as a comment:

Chops gets it. Lotti says it. "The idea that skateboards are made for rolling… Busenitz understands this." #PREACHX2

Good job. Fucking good job!

Skate Nazi said...

Holy shit this is rad, amazing interview!

I remember seeing this dude in here in Hawaii when he was doing his whole Buddhist thing, it was really weird and nobody could believe that he had quit skating but we got to see him rolling around a couple of times.

His part in Now N Later is so insane to this day, can't stress enough how badass just that whole video is.

Anyway, sick sick sick post!

peel said...

So glad you got that Planet Earth ad in there! Damnit, baby!

Loo Ganida said...

Rad! thanks!

cousin harold said...

This made my day. Goosebumps. Amazing work as per.

Anonymous said...

So happy seeing Brian involved in skating again. Good stuff. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this interview was really thought out and just 110% effort on Chops effort. Fantastic work as usual. I love your interviews and how much thought and time goes into these.
Lotti is a true individual with the most attractive quality, being humble.

Anonymous said...

"Brian Anderson is a John Coltrane.." Wow, for Lotti to say that about a 'newer' guy, definitely gives the perspective of wisdom. I love BA, I love Coltrane, I love Lotti, I love Chrome Ball. Thank you so much for this, man.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lotti. To me, the street equiv of Mr. Miller. Somehow in my mind, the two go hand in hand. I was paying attention during the H-Street days and the I had the Planet Earth video when it came out. Sandwiched in a VHS cassette between Blind Video Dayz and Gullwing's Full Power Trip. And to me, Lotti always stood out. Big time. I was so stoked when I saw 1st and Hope. So Stoked! Because Brian brought it back to me. Long fruitful grinds. Thanks man. There's something about a shove it that makes me happy. Something about a 360 shove it that makes me ecstatic. Thanks for reminding us Brian.

Anonymous said...

shot out 2 who ever aknolegded my boy james frazier ,da mst slept on skater ever, san deigo represent ,whutdafuck ever happened 2 shloshback ?

Anonymous said...

Lotti f/s blunt for the win!

aplusen said...

Holy crap. Thanks for the interview Eric and Brian. Stoked on his return. Crazy how the big spin got named.

Rank said...

a true skate legend and technical genius. heard he is skating for broadcast now, too?

asics shoes said...

your Blog and I will be back to check it more in the future so please keep up your work. I love your content & the way that you write. It looks like you have been doing this for a while now, how long have you been blogging for?