chrome ball interview #42: danny montoya

chops sits down with 'toya for conversation.
photo: Ian O'Connor

Introduction by Jason Rothmeyer

Danny Montoya has truly withstood the test of time. 

It's amazing to me because when I first met him, he was just a super little dude growing up.  He had some amazing skills early on but you never actually expect someone to be pro when they're coming up, let alone handling their business for 15+ years on that level.  Danny and his good friend Rob G have actually lasted longer as pros than any of us Long Beach guys ever did. 

So awesome.

I can vividly remember skating with Danny and seeing him film various lines while thinking "Wow, I can't believe he's trying that (insert impossible ledge trick here) to end the line."  But he always came through.

One instance early on... probably around ’95 or so, Danny was tinkering around with nollie front crooks on the Long Beach Library ledge.  Just over and over again, perfect nollie front crooks.  At the time, that trick was pretty much a banger. No one was really doing them. But then he started doing nollie heels on the flat after it. Same thing: over and over. Next thing I know, Danny rolls up to the ledge- BOOM, buttery nollie heel front crooks.  Blew all of our minds. 

I realized at that point that he was just on another level. It only blossomed from there.

Alright Danny, so the word is you hate interviews. Why? Is it the humble, don’t-want-to-talk-about-myself kinda thing? You’re almost 20 years deep in this, there’s a lot of stuff to cover here.

To be honest, I think that actually had more to do with wondering how interesting any of the stuff I had to say really was, ya know? But I’ve realized that these are the sort of things that come with being a pro skater so I don’t mind it as much. I'm trying to be more open about it these days.. every now and then anyways.

It’s nice that you don’t see yourself as the center of the universe but you gotta make sure to come with some good answers on this. I’ve heard that Rob G and the crew make fun of you for your two-word answers. It’s time to show and prove, Montoya. Don’t make me slide Rob into your spot on this…

I’d say Rob is more of the people person. He’s definitely a charmer with all his stories.

But the stuff about my fragmented sentences started off the same way that everything does: anybody with dirt on me in the slightest will escalate it 100% and I never hear the end of it. It’s just jokes. Everybody tries to rip me apart fpr the fragmented phrases.

It actually started way back when I was hanging around Felix all the time. I just started shortening everything  down out of humor… like “full dick” or “throwing craze.” It was just these little phrases that I was using and Felix totally called me out on it one day. 

“Dude, are you kidding me? You only speak in little fragments? Seriously?”

It went on from there. But I feel like I’ve developed some communication skills over the years and have since moved on… (laughs)

These interviews couldn’t be as awkward as modeling for those old Stussy ads back in the day…

Oh god, here we go.

I think that was the first time we ever dealt with fashion photographers before. Those photographers were being paid so much money by Stussy... but that’s what they wanted. It was definitely a bit awkward. They wanted us to act all natural and comfortable but it was just so funny.

And, of course, I got shit from my friends for that stuff, too. We were always psyched on skate photos and here I am with a full portrait… some extreme portrait on the side of a store in Huntington Beach. It got pretty brutal.

We’ll start this off with some easy ones first: how were you first introduced to skating and what was your first board?

My brother is 9 years older than me and growing up, I always looked up to him. We grew up in Southern California with the beach close by and people were always skating around. He got into it first which pretty much meant that I’d get into it, too.

My first board was a pink Variflex board I got at a Toys R Us. After that, I honestly can’t remember. I had that one John Lucero board with the guy behind the bars but I also had a Santa Cruz board from that guy, “Spidey”.  He had that cool graphic with the dude in the web. I distinctly remember having both of those boards back then but I’m not quite sure which one came first.

Now you skated Upland Pipeline as a grom? You must’ve been like 10 years old!?! I can’t even imagine braving the depths of the Combi bowl at such an age.

Yeah, we went to Upland around a year or so before it closed. It was rad, man. I was in the 6th grade and my brother would pick me up from school to go every Friday. I actually learned how to carve at Upland. The Combi Bowl was scary but after a while, when you’re young, you just end up watching somebody that knows what they‘re doing and try to emulate that.

And I broke my wrist for the first time there, too. (laughs)

But I was so hyped. The Alba brothers were always there. I got to see Chris Miller rip back then, too.

Did you know to ease off pros back then or were you up in their shit?

I definitely played it cool for the most part. But I did ask Chris Miller for his autograph. I was so hyped on him that I had to. He was one of my favorite skaters back then.

I remember he signed this shirt of mine and it's seriously the weirdest shirt ever. It had Gumby on it but he was dressed up like Rambo… a Gumby version of First Blood called “Gumbo” with Chris Miller’s autograph on it.

That's crazy!

Yeah, I'll never forget Gumbo. That was the best memory.

photo: Ian O'Connor

You came up around Long Beach, correct? That’s definitely no joke when it comes to being out in the streets. What was it like growing up there as a skateboarder? Is it as wild as people make it out to be?

I’d say back in the 80’s and early 90’s, it was definitely more trife. There seemed to be much more street life going on; gang activity and all that.

The eastside of Long Beach is kinda weird though because as you get closer to the shore, there are million dollar homes. But go 7 to 10 blocks in, it’s super ghetto. The grid from above is like a staircase straight down from the beach to the innercity. One side is nice and the other side is ghetto.

The skateboard scene evolved through all that, though. It was rad seeing kids from the ghetto coming in to skate, just pushing around the park and stuff. It might’ve not seemed like much but riding their board helped get them away from doing dirt or banging or whatever. Skating got a lot of kids out of that.

But for the most part, I wasn’t in the streets throwing craze or anything. I never saw anybody get physically killed right in front me or anything. You would definitely hear gunshots from time to time. The Ghetto Bird was always floating around. You just had to stay somewhat alert and aware, some places more than others.

There’s definitely still that ghetto element here but it’s cleaned up a lot. Long Beach just has a different vibe than Los Angeles. There’s a different kinda people here. It has that humble small town mentality.

I interviewed Ron Chatman, who’s also from Long Beach, and he talked about all the different skate crews that coming up in that area. They all had these crazy names and turf. Didn’t you come up with your own crew back in the day?

Back when I was really young, we had a few crews that would always get together from around the greater Long Beach area, the 508 Crew and the Sellout Crew. Mark Nisbet was the artistic one behind everything. He’d always film everyone and edit little videos. People likes Bryan Paz, Steffan Attardo, Graham Gannon, Rich Colwell, Rob G,  Jason Rothmeyer and a bunch of others. Lib Layraman…

I remember that dude.

Yeah, he was on Planet Earth back in the day.

At the time, the local pros were Jason Rothmeyer and Steve Saiz. Since Rothmeyer was on Santa Cruz, Caesar Singh and a few other guys ended up coming out to Long Beach.

The hub that everybody skated back then was this spot by the Lakewood Mall that had all these manual pads. Just all of us skating together at that spot is basically how the crew developed. That’s why it was called the 508 crew: that’s apparently the skateboarding violation code at the Lakewood Mall.

photo: Mark Nisbet

You just mentioned a ton of rippers right there. Who’s one from that crew that sticks out in your mind as never getting his proper due?

I would say Caesar Singh. He was doing stuff back then that nobody did. With good style, too. I always thought he was one of the best dudes out there.

I remember skating with him and he’d be pulling tricks so quick. And none of it was even being documented.  He was putting down all this shit that nobody would be able to see but he’d refuse to do it again. That's one thing that made an impression on me... especially the way it is now with everyone going out of their way to get a trick.

Caesar was one of those guys that if it didn’t happen quick, it wasn’t gonna happen. And if it happened when somebody wasn’t ready, too bad. It wasn’t happening again.

Now you’re known for being one of the more technical skaters out there. When did your skating start to go off in this more tech direction? Did this slant stem from that early 90’s exploration-type mentality?

I’m definitely a product of that era. Those World videos and the Plan B stuff were huge for me. Guy Mariano and those guys really stuck out for me and definitely served as inspiration.

But I also think that it had to do with trying things that challenged me. I’ve always had this outlook that you should try to do things a little differently or in your own way. Maybe that’s doing something that no one has ever done before or not following the trends with those played-out tricks. I just wanted to come out with something new. Things that I had never seen before.

You’re responsible for more than your fair share of innovation over the years. But you never came corny with the trick selection which is always a tricky aspect with trying to come up with new shit. How do you draw the line between coming up with fresh new tricks versus innovation for innovation’s sake?  Like with some of this ledge dancing stuff I’m seeing nowadays, some of these nbds were never done because they’re just not good tricks…

Absolutely. But that’s the thing with skateboarding, there’s always gonna be trends and people are always gonna follow what other people are doing.

I try to stay away from that and just try to focus on what feels good. At the end of day, the individual that’s doing what feels good to them is gonna be in a better place. I feel that has changed for me personally over the years due to evolving, whether it’s just in skateboarding or life in general. You’re gonna go through different phases in your search to stay psyched and motivated.

What’s always gonna stand out is style; strength and power. And no, I’m not a fan of the whole ledge-dancing thing either. A kickflip-backtail-kickflip is really hard and everything but sometimes seeing someone power through a really long backtail-kickflip out just looks so much better.

Well said. So was Rhythm your first board sponsor?

Yeah, Rhythm was my first official sponsor. I was getting Planet Earth stuff early on… all that was in the same building over there, but I was never fully on the team. Felix told me about how they were getting ready to start Rhythm and to just continue repping all the stuff until it finally started and then I’d be on.

That whole era was fun, though. It was a good crew of skaters and we were all friends that hung out together. I’ve always felt that if you have a team, you gotta have a family-type feel in there, too. You want this to be a fun thing.

And just the people that came out of that group… even Ty as the filmer. He’s an innovator himself with his trade. I’ve always been a bit weird when it comes to filming but I always liked going out with Ty because he’s such a motivator.  He really pushes you which is something I feel is important in the skater/filmer dynamic.

Speaking of which, I always thought your Genesis part was super good as was that whole video…  but what was going on with the music in that one? I know it was the late 90’s and all that, but did you know the soundtrack was gonna be so hectic?

Yeah, all that stuff was just a representation of the timeframe. That’s when raves were going down and there was that push for the whole warehouse party scene. Breakbeats, trance, electronica… all that shit, that was the era. And not for nothing, we were going to those parties back then and Ty was into it. He loved that stuff. That was just the time and it reflected in the video because that’s what he was into.

That stuff’s kinda funny but there was no other video that had been put together like that before. The motion graphics and the music were very innovative.

What happened with Rhythm? Chany and Richard starting up Expedition… were you ever an option to go over there?

They did end up approaching me afterwards to see if I was interested but it never really worked out. All those Expedition dudes are cool people but it just never seemed to click for me so I stayed with Planet Earth.

I think the reason Rhythm suffered was due to Adio taking away everyone’s focus. There was such an opportunity to make money with shoes. It’s tough for shoe brands to succeed but if it happens, it can get pretty crazy so things quickly became all about Adio.

Well, once Planet Earth closed its doors on the board side of things a few years later, I know you were sponsorless for a while. What was that like to suddenly be out on your own after all those years? That had to be frustrating.

It was weird because after the Planet Earth consolidation ended, I wasn’t sure about my next step. I had opportunities at the time but they were never things that I could totally believe in. If I’m going to be part of something, I have to want to be there. Nothing was clicking for me at the time.

I basically just left it as whatever was gonna happen would happen. I was younger at the time and starting to travel more with skateboarding through Adio. In a way, they were my life support during this period… and always supportive with whatever I wanted to do. But this whole thing just came down to not wanting to join a team that I wasn’t completely behind.

Kenny and Rick Howard were flowing me Chocolate boards for a while. That went on for a couple of years until the opportunity to start a new brand came along. Somehow all the pieces of the puzzle came together and we started Listen at the end of 2004.

I remember you getting on Chocolate was the big rumor at the time. Would’ve made perfect sense.

I think they had a full boat at the time and it never really developed. It’s all good. That would’ve been rad but it just wasn’t all there.

I remember people hitting me up saying that they’d heard this or that. You know how skateboarding is, you always have these rumors floating around.

photo: Jon Humphries

How did Listen come about? What made you feel you were ready to start your own company?

The timing just all worked out. Rob had been part of Popwar but that was kinda fizzling out. He was looking for a new outlet as was I and it just so happened that a longtime friend of ours in the industry was also getting out of her job as well. It just made sense. Rob and I could skate and be creative while our friend took care of the business end of it. We had connections in the industry and she had outlets to investors so we just teamed up and went for it.

It was a rad learning experience, man. It was basically like going to college for business but being totally hands-on. Learning about how production works…  marketing and design. How to build a website. Working together with artists while you spec out the catalogs. You wear so many hats because you’re basically forced to. You name it, we did it.

The Listen video, Viajeros Locos, was pretty out of control. One of my favorites from that entire decade, for sure. You guys went all over for that thing… how many countries did you guys hit up? That had to be fairly expensive for an upstart company.

Yeah, but that’s one thing in skateboarding: you can rig trips together if you want to. As long as you’re getting footage and being productive, everybody wins. Everyone on Listen was getting help from their other sponsors at the time and we just capitalized on that. Like if I didn’t have Adio during all of that, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I was taking so many trips for Adio because they had the budget for it. But this meant that I was able to film in all these different places for various projects, not necessarily just for the company that paid to send me there.

We worked it to where we were going on all these different trips as a group of friends and were able to hit up countries that nobody had really tapped into. All these different places. We had connections through friends and distributors so we took it upon ourselves to just fucking go wherever we could. We went all through Europe, headed over to Peru, Mexico, Chile, Brazil… Colombia, where my family is from. So many of these South American countries are still relatively untapped.

We did travel everywhere which is basically what the video was about: going off the beaten path.

How long did all that take to do?

Around 4 years. We put some work into that one.

Were the exotic locales a reaction in a way to your Adio part being so Cherry Park-centric? I remember Kenny Anderson joking around on the DVD extras about if you ever even left that place. Did you find yourself wanting to switch things up for your own video after that?

I honestly think that it depends more on what all is going on in your life at the time. A video part is gonna be a reflection of all that. At that time, I was living right by Cherry. It was a hub for the city where you wouldn’t get kicked out of so I just started finding myself there almost everyday. It just had a cool little vibe.
It wasn’t an explicit thing to get out and travel for Listen, we just had the opportunity so we took it. If you can rig a trip on somebody else’s dime, you gotta take advantage of that while you can. And it’s not like we were even doing anything wrong. It was all centered towards being productive and doing our jobs.  Traveling while you’re young, if given the chance, is a must.

Are you better with filming in a tour-like scenario like that? Or are you more prone to get things done by setting up shop on familiar turf?

Both have their advantages. I’ve lived in this area my whole life so I know each spot very well. I know I can set-up shop and come back to it tomorrow if need be. But when you’re at home, you also have all the day-to-day stresses and duties that come with your regular life. 

On a skate trip, all you’re doing is skating. That’s all your concerned with. You’re more at ease and it’s easier to focus. Plus, you’re gonna hit all these new spots to skate and have that new creative energy. The problem is that I always feel like I have to go back to a spot in order to get what I really want there, maybe numerous times. You can’t really do that on a trip because time is of the essence and you’re just going to annoy everybody.

What’s your process like with filming a part? Are you pretty comfortable with a camera?

Filming is always a battle for me.

There are days where you’re just going skating with friends and it’s awesome. And then there’s times where you’re filming for this part and it becomes this thing.

People are always telling me that it’s no big deal. That I should just go out and film to film and keep filming. That it’s just another thing. But I’ve never really felt like that. I always get so stressed because I have that old school mentality where if you’re filming, you want to get something new or different that you haven’t done. It's a weird thing with me and that’s just how it is.

I guess this might explain why I always have a hard time filming and why it takes me forever.  But I gotta give thanks to all the filmers out there for their patience with me (laughs).

Listen lasted for 5 years which is more than a respectable run. What ultimately happened? Everything was looking so good. Product was tight and the team was sick. Wasn’t Evan Smith an am on there?

Yeah, Evan was the prodigy. I knew that kid was gonna be next level. Every so often you’ll see a kid who’s really good and you just know that if he follows the right footsteps, he’ll be that next dude. Evan is just really talented... naturally gifted and has a good head on his shoulders.

As far as Listen goes, the economy basically just took a dump on us. It was tough, man. We were trying to do everything ourselves but we were just a victim of circumstance. We were trying to build our own distribution but there was a lack of funding. Plus, our partner was going through some personal changes and was looking to get out. It’s just the way everything was going. She wanted out of the industry while Rob and I wanted to keep skateboarding because that’s all we really care about and love.

We did do Listen on our own for a little while but got into some trademark issues  so we came up with Blvd out of Syndrome in 2010.

So Blvd is essentially Listen 2.0?

Yeah, it’s all the same vibe and feel, just a different name. Just raw skateboarding. Everyone on the team brings a bit of their personality to the table and I think the brand reflects that. And it’s definitely not as stressful since we’ve partnered up with Syndrome to take some of the weight off. It continues to grow while still being a creative outlet for all of us. It’s fun.

Good to hear it’s doing well. I’m definitely digging all that I’ve seen so far and psyched to see Danny Supa out there doing his thing as well. What’s coming up next for you guys? I know you put out that Stay in Front vid last year that really got people talking.

We have a couple of projects in the mix right now. My whole outlook is that every time we do a video project, I want it to have a really strong theme as well as having a strong reflection of the brand’s style.

We did Stay in Front last year, which was a lot of fun, and we’re currently working on a Blvd Am video. The pros will have some footage in there also but we’re trying to get our amateurs out there. It’s due out hopefully in the summer, that’s the goal we’re focusing on anyway. 

I’m also working on a few things with Mighty Healthy. I have a few different video projects going with them. We have some cool ideas that should turn out pretty nice. It’s cool being involved with those guys and trying to do things to help both of the brands grow.

Just juggling a little bit of everything right now actually. Pretty crazy, man.

Sounds like it. Well, good luck with everything. As we wrap this up, is there anything you’d like to add to all this? Any shout-outs or words of wisdom?

I’d just like to thank my all of my family and friends that have supported me over the years. All my sponsors and everybody that I’ve developed good relations with in the industry.  Big thanks to the people at Blvd, Converse, Independent, Satori Movement, Bones Swiss Bearings, Diamond Supply Co, the Mighty Healthy and all the stores that support us.

By the grace of God, I hope to continue doing what I do and stay happy.

photo: Jon Coulthard

special thanks to Danny, Jason Rothmeyer, Ray Mate, the Mighty Healthy and Blvd Skateboards.


dj twit said...

an enjoyable read, thanks.

his switch backside crailslide blew my mind - definitely got a few rewinds on that one

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview. Montoya's a ripper.

Don't forget the Reason:


Anonymous said...

respect-always comes out with sick footy and it's rad he's in it for the right reasons.

t.a. said...

Thanks so much for gettin this dude to open up. Such a positive person and incredible skater.

Listen Up!

Anonymous said...

Fu@# j.rothmeyer that dude has the biggest ego i have ever seen.you should watch him judge contests.hates on all who dont have a big name or big sponsors.

d.montoya always looked uncomfortable on his board.hes always moving his feet around like his shoes dont fit.
why take danny minicks company know as blvd that just happen to be out of syndrome and just start up your own brand?


Anonymous said...

i smoked crack with danny minick once

Anonymous said...

hell yeah chops!

best interview yet!

Henry said...

I never thought he looked uncomfortable. I thought he was really advanced, and underrated.

Ricki Bedenbaugh said...


K said...

a ha! now we know why there was so much mid 90s techno in Genesis. not hating, i'm fucking w/that shit now

btw if y'all need a laugh. here's a recent photo of Chad Muska


mike said...

the kid billy in the movie Big had that "Gumbo" t shirt on in one of the scenes.

ghostofclyde said...

Good interview. I worked at a shop and used to order Listen. The rep was a total air-headed kook and sucked at his job. I think in the end, he knew the company was going under and tried to unload all this unsellable product on us. Syndrome is a real dist company, so I'm sure they won't have the same issues with BLVD.

Keith said...

lol Gumbo.

Did Lotti have anything to do with Listen? For some reason, I thought that.

Montoya does some gnarly tech tricks.

Anonymous said...

Nails it. This is a guy that knows what skateboarding is about, such a rarity to find a pro who is still doing it the right way and sticking to his guns with the current state of the industry.

Anonymous said...

caesar singh and jason rothmyer had good parts in BPSW. who remembers that!!?? Killin time at work over here yo.

Skately said...

Great interview. Danny has been killing it since the Genesis days. Always liked Listen cause they hooked up my homie Donnie Mitchell, but hope BLVD works out for Danny & Rob's sake, both are good people.

Stoked on the mention of Lakewood mall, my friends and I used to hit that mall all the time as kids. That bank to wall that the incredible rubber boys skated in Ban This is right around the corner from there so we'd skate that in the evening and then hit the mall at night.

Gunzilla said...

Another dope interview. Montoya's part in the Adio vid still holds up. Not many stepping to nollie heel bs noseblunts to this day.

GH said...

Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhhh Montoya rules !!! Good person, great style, BLVD & 508 keep on rollin we got you =)