chrome ball interview #58: tim gavin

chops sits down with the gav for conversation. 

Alright Gav, I’m not sure if you can say anything about this  yet but word is that you have a new project in the works? Care to let us in on the details?

Yeah, I am doing a few things. I’m still promoting my signature shoe with DVS, the Gavin Classic. Obviously. But on top of that, I’m stoked on having some great opportunities to get involved with a few brands out there. I’m speaking about Knox, a new hardware/clothing company that I’m helping out with. I’m actually putting together the team right now. The guys are super cool and the clothing is rad. It’s cool to be doing something with some friends of mine that I’ve always worked with from the retail side. Really fun, really cool.

And again, as always, pushing my shoe with DVS, the Gavin Classic.

I do have a few other exciting new ventures on the horizon... two actually that I’m about to embark on that I’m sparked on. But that’s all I can say for now though.

The big business tycoon with Monopoly money to burn. You’ve come a long way from that little runt on H-Street back in the day. How’d you even get hooked up with MT and TMag back in the day? Was that through fellow Phoenix local Colby Carter possibly?

Yeah, Colby Carter and Randy Colvin were the legends of Phoenix that everybody looked up to. There used to be these contests in Phoenix back then… I remember them so vividly because I was never able to sleep the night before because I was so excited. But I met those guys through that and started skating with them a lot. Next thing I know, Colby got me on H-Street! Granted, there were probably 648 other guys on the team, but still… Colby got me on H-Street!

I still remember that first trip I took on my own to California, from Phoenix to San Diego. Flying out first row on SouthWest in that seat that actually flies backwards…  I just remember sitting there backwards looking at Colby and just sweating the whole time, not even believing that I was leaving my family to go to California to skate a contest.  

But we get there and I end up meeting Guy Mariano and Rudy Johnson for the first time there. They were wearing those Blind "Brainwash Victim" shirts. I just thought the whole thing was the raddest little world you could ever possibly be in. These dudes were cool, their shirts are fucking rad, the contest is awesome and the music was fucking bitchin. I was so stoked, man. Thank you, Colby.

But weren’t you pretty young back then? Randy and Colby were some gnarly dudes. That had to be nuts being around those guys at such a young age, right? Looking back on it now, what influence do you see this having on you?

I don’t think the actual age gap was all that much, though I was younger. It had more to do with where I was in my life. I don’t think that I had really grown enough to hang out with those guys.  Those dudes were gnarly! I was this puritanical shy kid who combed his hair, put on deodorant, put on a collared shirt and wore cologne… that’s how I went skateboarding.

And yeah, I always thought those dudes were so gnarly growing up! They party, they talk to chicks… they’re probably humping these chicks! But the more I hung out with those dudes, the more I learned about them. Colvin actually took 2 or 3 showers a day and was completely sanitary! This whole outlook I had played out in my mind was completely to the contrary. Those guys were the raddest, coolest dudes who were really just sweethearts living the dream.

I learned so much from those guys. Randy Colvin was like a fucking teacher. Believe it or not, as gnarly as Randy Colvin was, he mentored me on certain aspects of skateboarding. Really teaching me about balance and having to learn certain things in order to do tricks. I still remember Randy, Jason Lee and I practicing balance by attempting block-long kickflip manuals down Vine, all the way from Hollywood Blvd to Sunset.  Trying to do them for an entire block, we’d do that for hours.

But as gnarly as those dudes seemed, I suppose you could say the same thing about living in the H-Street house. I’m curious to see how would you describe that scenario? Was that just like an amazing summer vacation for you?

The H-Street house was easily one of the raddest experiences of my life. I’m 15-years-old and living in a house full of skaters in southern California. It doesn’t get any better than that. Just being young and figuring things out. I remember smoking weed for the first time with Donger… I dropped the bong in the toilet after taking my first hit. I was that guy. Dude just looked at me like, “Are you serious?”

Sal Barbier was always looked at as “the older guy” of the house. No offense, Sal. But he always had his shit together. Driving his Mustang around and washing it every Saturday, that was Sal. He was the dude who had soap in the bathroom. And he was always giving everybody shit. I still remember his yelling at us, “ Who has the acid arms!?! Who fucking used all my soap!?!”

But those are memories that I’ll never forget. These life experiences molded me into the person that I am today. Who would I be if I never found skateboarding? That’s a scary thing.

You mentioned the team already having so many riders, were you vibed at all by the more established H-Street heads when you got on or was everyone pretty welcoming?

I remember them being pretty welcoming. It was a different mentality back then. There were cliques but it wasn’t too bad.

Not to sound like a cool guy but I remember being the one doing the vibing. I was the one vibing Eric Koston when he first came into the H-Street house with that salt ringed hat on. Vibing Damion Carabajal. Vibing Ocean Howell for riding into the grass after doing tricks. Yeah, Sal and I were the dudes heckling everybody back then so I feel like I was on the other side of that question. The thing was, I was actually very shy and reserved and being this guy who critiqued everybody else just made me feel better about myself.

Were you surprised at all when H-Street started to splinter off like it did?  

I loved H-Street, man. I thought it was rad. God bless Mike Ternasky R.I.P. I didn’t fully know who he was back in the day but I know now what he was all about. I remember Jason Lee poking fun at him at the end of his Video Days part. Everyone would give him shit but he was really doing good things for his guys. He had a vision and a plan. He wanted to put together these amazing videos to promote his skateboarders. Hell, Hokus Pokus is what put me on the map.

But I was part of that splintering when I went to Blind. I loved the H-Street world and was grateful for that but once I was on Blind, I completely got into that world. I moved to LA and left all that H-Street/San Diego stuff down there.

I do remember about when I first got on Blind though, I ended up going back to the H-Street House with Guy and Rudy and writing graffiti all over it. “Blind” and “Fuck H-Street” all over the house, completely defacing the place in typical skateboarding fashion. We were 17-year-old fucking bratty Steve Rocco kids thinking we were the coolest thing in town.

Were there any repercussions from that?

No. There really weren’t any repercussions for anything back then. Other than the time I stole Tony Magnusson’s wife’s cookies. But that was it. I was in heaven.

How did you make that move over to Blind?

It was completely Guy and Rudy that got me on Blind. Like I said, I met those guys at that first contest in California and I literally called them every night after that. I actually used to call them from my house phone and third-party bill it to the H-Street House. I think I did that everyday for a year… which resulted in both me getting on Blind as well as Tony Magnusson calling my house and talking to my Dad about why there were so many charges on his bill coming from my number. Oh shit! So not only was I calling Blind riders every night, I was charging H-Street so I could get on Blind! (laughs)

That was my first business-minded experience.

Was Mark still on when you got on?

Yeah, I skated with Mark a lot back in those days. It was incredible. Just listening to him and Jason Lee bicker at each other all day were some of the best experiences of my life. Mark Gonzales is skateboarding and I was lucky enough to skate with him and even live with him for a bit. I’m so grateful for that.

Did you get along well with Rocco back then?  Would he really fly you from Arizona to California every weekend to skate like that ad said?

Yes, he did… even though a lot of the reasons I told him in order to come out weren’t necessarily true. (laughs)

But yeah, I wouldn’t be able to focus all week in school because I knew I was gonna be flying out on Friday to skate with my bros. But I remember every flight. Knowing all the flight attendants. Sleeping on the way home because I was so burnt from skating all weekend and my Mom picking me up at the airport. Those days were the best.

I had a great relationship with Rocco. He’d take us into his house and out on his boats to Catalina. But we always thought he was doing shady stuff though. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, I don’t know. I don’t want to get into it but I know he did some shady shit to me personally that affected my life, for sure.

I respect him for some of the things he was able to do in skateboarding but I look at him today and I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be the guy who’s completely making business decisions all about money and now lives alone with just that money. No friends. My friends and family are the most important thing to me! So that’s probably the best relationship that I could possibly have with Rocco now is knowing that I don’t want to be the guy he is.

Well put.

But we were bratty kids, man. And honestly, we weren’t getting paid well. There were always rise-ups about getting paid… rise-ups that I feel like I was always on the forefront of. Going into the accounting offices at World and demanding to see reports. That it was all bullshit and we’re getting ripped off, that we weren’t getting our minimums. But we’d never get anything to really prove to us otherwise so we just started taking product and selling it. We’d sell boards at the beach, at the Santa Monica Curbs. Where ever we were skating.

Its funny because at some point I realized that if I took more product than everybody else, I could sell it for cheaper and make more money. I remember Chico going over to try and sell some boards at the going rate of $20 and these kids weren’t having it. “We can get boards from Tim Gavin for $10.”

“What are you doing, Gav!?! You’re fucking the market up!”

But we did so much stuff at World Industries. Breaking into the security room to pull out the recorder from the camera before going into the warehouse with Jovontae, Guy and Henry Sanchez. Rick Howard literally kicked the door down to get in and we just completely raided the place. I’m seriously talking 90 sets of wheels. No joke. That shit was crazy but we honestly felt that we had a right to do it.

Insane, man. Let’s get into Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies. Such a classic project but how was it decided that there would only be a 2-rider promo instead of a full-video? Didn’t Ternasky have something to do with that… like you and Henry were the only ones with decent footage?

Yeah, it was as simple as Henry and I having by far the most footage at the time. Socrates has a bunch of footage from that time that still hasn’t been seen that I know I’d love to see. But we figured that it would be a good way of introducing the two newest guys on the team.

God, I am so grateful for that video. I’ve gotten so much praise for that one and I love it but honestly, I couldn’t do anything above the height that those curbs or ledges were.  I was good at what I was good at but that was it. I always wanted to be super-technical. Henry Sanchez was a huge inspiration for me at this time. He really did bring a whole new bag of tricks with him when he came down to LA from San Francisco. Guy, Rudy and I were just blown away by that dude. He completely inspired that era, for sure.

How long did you film for that one? And how’d you end up with the UMCs? Classic song selection!

There were two songs for that one that I was actually thinking about skating to. Mark Gonzales originally wanted me to skate to the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”. I love that song but I was listening to a lot of hip-hop at the time so I went that way instead.

But yeah, I filmed for about two or three months for that one.

Who came up with the name “Pack of Lies” and what does that even mean?

Honestly, I don’t know if there is a story behind that or not but Rocco came up it. Rocco came up with everything. He was the marketing genius behind literally everything that came out of that fucking building.

Even the Barbie Car graphic?  And Sugar-Coated Penis Pops?

The Barbie board was Rocco but Sugar-Coated Penis Pops was Jeff Tremaine’s idea.

So funny. But were you down with doing that stuff or were you embarrassed?

No, I was completely embarrassed. I was totally embarrassed doing that Barbie board back then. But now I hold it as sacred. I have that one in my garage and it’s always the board I show people when they come in. Super proud of it now.

Its funny because looking back, my first graphic was a Playboy Bunny. That was my idea… and nobody ever brings that fucking board up. Goes to show what the hell I knew back then. (laughs)

Another gnarly one, did you hang out with Sal Rocco much back then?    

Yeah, I spent a lot of time with Sal back in the day. I’d always offer him McDonalds to turn a blind eye to us at World so we could take whatever we wanted. It would work, too!

I remember going shark fishing with him one night. Coming home at 4 in the morning and putting all these sharks in his bathtub! He was gnarly, man. God bless that poor guy. He was obviously dealing with a lot of demons. 

Were you bummed when those Bitch Boards that came out?

Nah, I didn’t care at all, to be honest. It’s not like it had some big negative effect on me. At the end of the day, it was a huge promotion for me. I mean, here we are talking about it now. It turned out to be a good thing for everybody actually. And mine wasn’t that bad anyway. I mean Koston’s was a puppet! (laughs)

How did you first learn of the plan to start Girl?

It’s really interesting how I got on Girl because the 10th person on Girl was supposed to be Henry Sanchez. I was never supposed to have even gotten on… I was a little dick at the time. But evidently Henry did something on a tour that pissed some people off and suddenly, he wasn’t getting on anymore.

It was Jovontae Turner who got me on Girl. “Yo blood, Rick’s doing this company called Girl and you need to get on!”

“Yeah, fuckers! Don’t leave me behind!” (laughs)

What comes to mind when you think about those early years of Girl? Can you believe that it’s lasted 20 years? Everyone was so young… can you believe it’s made it this far?

I always had this intuitive gut feeling about Girl. Here I am leaving this established company… World Industries is in this big building with all of these luxury cars parked out front and I’m leaving that for Girl, which at the time was in the back of XLarge with one office, one desk and Rick with 10 blanks. It was definitely different but just because Rick and Mike were involved, I knew we were good and we would win. We had some of the best skaters in the world, how could we lose? I still feel that way about it. I always knew we were going to be okay.

All those years on Girl… not to mention on DVS and Matix, you gotta have more than a few zingers here: give us your best Sean Sheffey story. Didn’t he sleep underneath your kitchen table for a while?

It really is incredible how widespread these stories get. But yeah, that was back when I lived with Jeron and we had this dog named Bailey. We were living in an apartment and it’s sad because that dog really needed to be outside. But it ended up just pissing and shitting everywhere… usually under that dinner table.

Anyways, two weeks later, Sheffey moves in. Everyone was scared of the guy but I always had a good relationship with Sean. We’d party and stuff… whatever. But for whatever reason, he started living under that table and the poor dog, he didn’t know where the hell was going to shit and piss now! (laughs)

But the best Sheffey story is this one time when he was still living with us and I woke up at 5 in the morning to take a piss. I look into the living room and Sheffey is sitting there with the Smurfs on tv and he’s shaving a giant stick into the shape of a spear. And not only that, he’s twisting his dreadlocks and grilling a steak. I didn’t even know what to do. (laughs)

The thing is that he’s such a gentle soul and he really is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around. He just got cast into being this dude.

Now I always liked your Goldfish part. Clean lines, Instant Karma, super good. But I know you’ve told me before that you didn’t really care for it. Why is that?

Honestly, that Goldfish section was part of the reason I quit skateboarding. I just didn’t like that part. That was back when switchstance was huge and I just couldn’t do that stuff. Switch crooks, nollie flip, switch flip… I couldn’t do any of that shit. Today there are different styles in skateboarding where you don’t have to do all of that. You can do your own shit and still be a radical skateboarder because you can do some other shit people can’t do. But I had such a narrow-minded outlook back then that if I couldn’t do these certain tricks, I sucked and I was done. And I could not do that switchstance shit and it killed me. It made me not want to skate.

I couldn’t stand that Goldfish part. I felt that all of those tricks were just… whatever. They weren’t that hard. Mediocrity just wasn’t acceptable for me. If I couldn’t be the best at something, I didn’t want to do it. So I decided to walk away.

I know you had that one trick in Mouse were you just over it by that point?

Yeah, by that point, I just wanted to be the party guy. Honestly, if I couldn’t be the best at skateboarding, I’d be the personality that partied the hardest. Be that guy. That’s where I was at that time.

I had the one trick in Mouse that I was actually stoked on… but it really wasn’t that hard. It was high but it was just a grind. I honestly probably wouldn’t have done it if I was alone. I know I wouldn’t have. But I was there with all of my bros... Eric was trying it and couldn’t do it. My friends pushed me to do it and I did it. It felt super good and I felt that high again. But I knew I wasn’t as good as I once was and it killed me.

So how did you segue from pro skater to being on more of the business side of things?

Well, like I’ve been saying, I was always aware of the reality that I was a skateboarder with mediocre talent… and I really do mean that honestly, not humbly. I shredded with the best back then so I knew that people were better than me. I knew that I had to figure out a plan because this thing wasn’t going to last forever. I always wanted to be the guy who stayed ahead of the curve. I was the first guy out of our crew to get my GED. I even got my bartending license because I felt I could always fall back on that. I was trying not to be delusional about what was going on in my life. I was just trying to utilize what I was good at the best I could.

I was never the dude that thought he had to be around just skateboarders. I was always very open-minded. So when my skate career was over, I started moving around in LA a lot, spending time in different neighborhoods and embracing new friends. I ended up meeting these dudes who surfed around Malibu. It was these brothers who began telling me how they wanted to start a skate shoe company. Cool, I can help you with that. I’m surrounded by the best guys in skateboarding. I’ll put the team and marketing together, you guys can finance it. That was DVS.

They were obviously some business-minded guys that could really help me start some stuff so I wanted to make myself more valuable to them. Coming from the Steve Rocco world of distribution, I wanted to do multiple brands with these guys because I’m surrounded by these top pro skaters. I should use this to everyone’s advantage. That’s how I started Matix with Daewon: I wanted to do this clothing company with this guy, he’s the best. I’ll give you equity in Matix, you give me equity in DVS and we’ll be in business together with different brands under one distribution. Same thing with Lakai… Rick and Mike are dear friends and I always wanted to do something with those guys, too.

The point is that I knew what I was good at: people, relationships and my network. Acknowledging what I had around me and maximizing off of it while not only trying to benefit myself but everyone around me. That was my first step into becoming a businessman.

What’s been the most difficult part about being on the business tip versus being just a rider?

Man, I remember being in meetings with business partners and being so concerned with how everything I said was going to be perceived, but now, I have no shame. I will be the first to say that I don’t know the answer to something. I’m not trying to play a role. What you see is what you get. And it’s with that mentality, it’s really like getting a monkey off your back. It’s almost like coming out of the closet… don’t take that out of context, Swisher! But being in these meetings with investors and these super smart dudes, I’d feel so insecure and self-conscious. I was afraid of being inferior to these guys when really, they’re the ones who are inferior to me. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about in our world. Skateboarders are the ones who make this world of business go ‘round. It’s interesting what’s going on right now in our industry but I think it’s obvious that skateboarders are the ones making the right decisions today. By knowing that, it just makes me love skateboarding even more.

So I gotta ask… what the hell happened with Lakai after Fully Flared? I know you probably can’t get into the gnarly details of everything but did you see that scenario playing out the way it did with so many people leaving right after the video? It was pretty crazy to see.

Well, like I said, my original partners in DVS and Matix weren’t skaters. They were more business-minded individuals involved in skateboarding. They really didn’t think like or understand skateboarders. And that’s okay. But Lakai is a core skateboarding company so it was always a little contentious between my partners and the guys at the brand. And again, that’s not necessarily a good or a bad ting, it just was what it was but ultimately it didn’t work out because of that reason. A lot of those personalities just didn’t mesh. Relationships suffered and people left. Not everyone got each other. That’s the best way that I can say it.

Best and worst things about skateboarding in 2013?

The best thing about skateboarding today is that there are so many different styles of being appreciated now. I feel like when I was pro, a slash dog wasn’t appreciated. He didn’t skate like us so he was a kook. He was just a slash dog. It’s not like that anymore.

The worst thing is that there is way too much business and way too much money in the decision-making process of brands. It’s watering down the industry and it’s just not as much fun anymore.

Very true. Alright Tim, as we bring this thing to a close, give us a good Matt Schnurr story for the road.

Alright. So I always used to pump Matt up to people at different skatespots whenever he was around. A little backstory, he could actually suck wind up his ass and shoot shitballs 10 to 15 feet out. Seriously. The guy was a phenom in the making.

So we’re at Embarcadero and I start pumping him up. It’s 3 o’clock on a Tuesday and there’s all these businessmen around. But I tell him that I’ll give him 5 boards if he shoots shitballs off the little 3… and he’s gonna do it! He pulls his pants down to do it and here it is: midday on a Tuesday and he just diarreahs all over the place! I just remember Jovontae Turner looking at him and saying, “Man, blood… I could’ve done that!”

Big thanks to The Gav for doing all this! 

And be sure to check out the Knox site for all their latest. 


Dustin Umberger said...

Tim for the record you were never mediocre. Maybe not the technical wizard everyone was supposed to be back then, but good style and tasteful tricks done correctly are far more memorable anyway. Funny as always, great interview Chops

Anonymous said...

chops, i really think you are the best interwiever. as always, really good choice and good questions. i'd like your interwievs never end. TX AGAIN

chops said...

Thanks guys. Glad you dug it.

Keith said...

That was entertaining! Thanks!

I guess what happened after FF, Koston sort of talks about it in his EL but not in much detail.

Anonymous said...

Man blood I could of done that...ha

Anonymous said...

Without people like the Gav in skating, we are lost....

Unknown said...

yeah dude at this point you officially have the best skate interviews, ever. At least for 30+ dudes like me (if O'Dell doesn't start making more videos soon you're gonna overtake him for best retro skate media).

Dude if you could get a Rick Howard interview...

Anonymous said...

Vatoland, Mesa
that's where we skated. the bowls and that shitty warehouse and vans california daze.
remember that shit Tim? skating with the locals there mt, mj, tb...etc etc

those were the days...

Unknown said...

I think in Henry's EL he says that he chose not to jump to Girl because it meant a smaller paycheck that didn't support his "lifestyle" at the time, whatever that was.

the_notorious_bif said...

Great job Chops.
I don't get Tim putting himself down, he was sick.
His Rocco part kinda creeped me out. It made Rocco sound like a Pedophile. Strangely all the Rocco shopping sprees and shananagins would fit the pedophile M.O. I hope that's not what Tim Gavin meant.

Anonymous said...

Such a commotion around here. A fine piece of writing either way. Keep up the good work, mate!