chrome ball interview #74: kris markovich

 chops and markovich sit down for conversation.

Alright, Kris, I want to put this on record: you don’t get the respect you deserve as a legend in the history of skateboarding. Straight up. Why do you think people tend to focus so much more on your sponsorship changes than all of your accomplishments over the years? That has to drive you crazy, right?

It used to but I don’t really give a shit anymore. To be honest, I look back on everything now and I feel kinda torn about things. Growing older and being in a totally different place in my life, I would’ve probably handled a few things differently now. But, at the same time, I am who I am now because of those situations. I’ve dealt with a lot of bullshit but now have a thicker skin because of it. I’ve learned patience.

I know that me leaving all those companies has almost become the joke of the industry but I feel that anybody else would’ve done the same thing I did in those situations. They would’ve walked out of there with middle fingers high. There were valid reasons for every single time I left a sponsor. 99% of it probably came from me being stubborn but there were reasons.

I realize that my actions are what put me in those situations but at the same time, I can honestly say that I never bent. I always did me and did what I wanted to do.

But you’re so important to the development of street skating! Yet I’ll see a list of “pioneers” or whatever and your absence is unfortunately quite frequent.

I’ll admit that I do feel overlooked sometimes. One possible reason why I don’t pop up on some of these lists could be from where I purposefully checked out of skateboarding for a while. It’s easy to forget when you’re out of sight, out of mind.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I had fun skating and I met a lot of amazing people. But at the end of the day, skateboarding is what I did, not who I was.

How’s Elephant going? Stoked to see you back in the mix.

Elephant is amazing. It’s good to be part of an operation with someone like Mike who kinda understands what I’ve been through in my career. Let’s face it, Mike’s been through quite a number of companies, too. (laughs)

Yeah, I was actually going to ask if you guys had any bets on who was going to leave first?

(laughs) No, but there were jokes about putting a stipulation in my contract entitling Mike to beat my ass if I quit. I’d literally have to fight Mike to leave.

For the record, how many board companies have you ridden for?

All of them, right? Isn’t that what everybody says? (laughs)

Honestly, I don’t even know. If you have a second, we can count it out. As far as just board sponsors: Epic, Toxic…

I didn’t know Toxic…

Yeah, it goes Epic, Toxic, Dogtown, G&S, 101, Color, Prime, Element, Foundation, Hollywood, Blind, Crimson, Given, Elephant. How many is that?


I also somehow rode for Foundation while I was still riding for 101, if you want to count that. Not really sure how that happened. (laughs)

We’ll get to that but I have to ask, is there a company in there you now look back on and regret leaving?

There’s a few that I regret leaving, for sure. To be honest, I regret leaving Element when I did from a strictly monetary point of view. I do feel like I played a part in getting that brand to where it is today, coming up with Featherlight with Paul Schmitt and everything only to get burned in the end. It’s cool to have progressed skateboarding with a better construction but that thing bought people houses. I didn’t really see any of that.

That’s a shame. So going back a bit, your early career is an interesting one because while I know you turned pro for Dogtown, the first time I really remember you getting any shine was later on with that post-Alien G&S crew. How did that all work out like that? And being from the South, were you ever an option for Alien back in the day?  

Yeah, I actually stayed with Duane Pitre for a week down in New Orleans back when I was still in Pensacola, riding for Dogtown. I was a senior in high school so getting to take a week-long trip at that age was pretty epic. All we did was skate. I remember he had a box of those Street Chomp boards with the super steep concave. He gave me one and told me that I should try to ride for G&S.

This was still kinda floating around in my head when I went out to the NSA Am Finals for Dogtown. Dogtown was still pretty good at this point. Justin Girard had just left but Oster was still on and some of the new guys, like Wade, were killing it. But with Justin leaving, the company needed a new pro. I actually didn’t know this at the time but they had told my Dad if I placed in the top 10, they would turn me pro. He didn’t tell me beforehand because he didn’t want me to get nervous. So I go skate, luck out and get second place. Even though nobody knows who the fuck I am, Dogtown now wants to turn me pro! Obviously, that quickly changes my whole outlook towards quitting.

So I start working on my board and hatch a plan to move out to California. My mom, my sister, myself and Ted Newsome all hop in a car and head out to San Francisco. Unfortunately, things don’t really work out. We can’t really find a place in our budget and we’re blowing through money by staying in hotels. Things are starting to get tense. Luckily, my Mom hooks up with some people she’d gone to school with down in San Diego so we head down there to take a little break and regroup. A few days later, we actually find a house in Carlsbad so we decide to stay.

Didn’t you get in the mix with Gator down there for a while?

Yeah, that just came from skating in San Diego. Gator and I were skating together almost everyday after moving down there. But at the time, I was still riding for Dogtown, Venture and K-9 wheels and they were pissed I didn’t move to San Francisco. They actually wanted me to both skate for them and work in their warehouse.

All of a sudden, my next paycheck was only $50. When I call to ask about it, they told me they weren’t going to be giving me “free money” since I wasn’t working in the warehouse…. which still doesn’t make any sense to me since they were selling a board with my name on it.

But I’m stressed because I also had my family to think about on top of all my sponsorship problems. It’s funny because it was actually Gator who gave me all this career advice… I mean, he was still Gator!

That’s hilarious.

But Mikey Taylor was staying with him and Shannon May, who I’d already known, had come out. I immediately started hanging out with those guys and G&S just made sense.

In the interim, while I made the move out west, that’s when all those dudes had left to start Alien Workshop. Duane knew what was going on with me and Dogtown and was talking to all the Alien guys about possibly approaching me for the team. I don’t really know how far it went at Alien but I feel I was definitely a possibility. Unfortunately, by the time it got back to me, I was already on G&S and working on Winona Ryders. Duane told me afterwards that with me being on G&S after all that, they decided to move on.

How seriously did you take filming for Winona Ryders? Just asking because while the part was sick, it also had the crazy escalator thing and the bare ass ender...

Honestly, it was still a little weird. That was my first real taste of the industry and I was still trying to figure things out. All I knew was that we were going to film this video and get tricks. I always took it seriously but it was never calculated. We’d just go skating. And I didn’t know anything back then. I was the new kid… new to the team, new to California. I never had spots I wanted to go to; I was just in the car mobbing out everyday with the crew.

There really wasn’t much of a sense of camaraderie on the team, though. We were all so young. Willy was super fucking little! But I remember all of us really taking things out on Mikey Taylor all the time. It seemed like everybody always had problems with him. It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t like him, he just always seemed to say and do corny shit. We couldn’t stand it.

But I’ll give that dude some credit, he came out with a pretty banging video part there for having a jacked knee. At that time, if you got a bad knee injury, your career was done.

Why the beads in the mouth?

Perfectly reasonable explanation: it came from seeing myself making the worst faces in photos. I still do, actually. Check it out for yourself: slow-mo a video part of mine and check out my face. I’m sure it’s not good. 

But living in Pensacola, 3 hours from New Orleans, there were always Mardi Gras beads around. Every kid has some in their junk drawers. They actually started off as something to chew on during classes to not be bored. I’d always remove 2 beads and push 2 together so the string would be between my teeth. I’d wear this around school not even thinking about it.

So once I started taking skate photos with them in my mouth, I noticed that I’d have a normal face. So it became this thing I did to not have stupid faces in all my photos.

Is there any truth to the story that you wanted to lay claim to the “Rick Flip” as the “Markovich Flip”?

No, never. Rick and I used to skate together all the time back when he rode for Blockhead. He actually had a sequence of it in a mag around the time I met him. Plus, he did one that in that Blockhead video down the Bank of America little three… the ones by that double-sided curb everyone used to skate in Carlsbad.

But it was Rick who first showed me that trick. And because of the way he showed it to me, I learned it real quick.

I have heard that before but it never came out of my mouth. I remember when we filmed Stun, I did it in a line. Maybe more people saw Stun than that Blockhead video? I don’t know… but I learned it after Rick, from Rick. 

How did 101 enter the mix?

It was over the summer, back with they used to have all those Europe contests. All the companies would go over there on separate tours with everybody meeting up at contests they had coordinated on the weekends.

I was there with G&S and was already having a bit of animosity towards Tom, the team manager. But it was cool. I was 18 and out of the country for the first time so I was stoked. So what happened was, on our first night in Barcelona, the team all goes out and I end up getting jumped by these dudes trying to steal my wallet. I get the shit kicked out of me but luckily, my teammates handle these little Spanish men and beat their ass. But it turns out Tom didn’t help. He could’ve, but he didn’t.

So I was bummed on that. Then there was more drama after Tom spent all our per diem partying... I was over it.

Everyone is in Barcelona for the contest by this point and I find Rick, who had just quit Blockhead. We start talking to Danny Way about what’s going on and he tells us to hop on with him and H-Street. He tells us to get to the nearest shop and trade in all our stuff for H-Street boards. We can ride those for the rest of the summer but when we get back, he’s going to talk to Rick and I about this new company he wants to do called NXT.

If you notice in some of Danny’s clips in Questionable, he’s riding one of his VW boards with NXT written on the bottom in marker.

So I quit G&S and Rick and I go through Europe for the rest of the summer with H-Street, getting money by hustling and selling stickers.

Meanwhile, back home, Jordan Richter is staying at my house … and he already knows the whole plan with Ternasky. But he starts telling me that all of a sudden, Mike’s asking him all these questions about me. I hadn’t even met Mike yet.

Long story short, Rick and I were supposed to fly back to California and go to this meeting where Plan B was basically going to start. I end up flying back to Memphis to stay with my Dad for a week instead.

I call home from Tennessee and remember Jordan telling me that he needed the number of where I was at, somebody was going to call me. It was weird.

I get the call and I can’t even remember who it was but all they say is, “Oh, you’re on 101 now.”

Evidently they already had the big meeting for Plan B. Natas wasn’t in on the meeting but he wanted me for 101. Up to that point, it was just Natas and Gabriel and he wanted to start expanding it. So I went with it.

I like you better on 101 anyway. Speaking of: what was the story behind those 902101 and Marky Markovich ads?

I want to say the 902101 ad came from Natas and Leigh Petersen. 90210 was huge at the time and they were just a bunch of fucking pricks. I know Natas wanted to make fun of them so we went with it. Anything goes.

The Kris Kross/Marky Mark ad was along those same lines. Marky Mark was all over the place to the point of it being annoying. “Good Vibrations” was everywhere, just like that “Jump” song that Kris Kross had. It was huge, so yeah, we had to make fun of it. 

Honestly, the only reason I even agreed to do that ad was to get those black Shelltoe Adidas. As long as I got those shoes, I didn’t give a fuck. Plus, the trick I had for it, the backside heel over the little Carlsbad Gap, was good enough to balance the rest of that out.

So talk a little bit about that classic Water Gap ollie you did for your TWS interview. How did that go down? And is there video anywhere of it?

No, there’s no video of it. There’s so much shit I did with Sturt back then that I don’t have footage of. That’s just how he is. I mean, if you want some Sturt stories...

Of course.

Alright, here’s a quick one that will help explain things better. There’s a shot of me somewhere doing a Japan Air down the Valley double-set. I’m not sure what magazine it ended up in but I’m wearing a bright yellow shirt.

He had told me to meet him there that day. When I show up, its summertime and I know school is out but there’s all these maintenance workers around the gap. They’re out trimming trees and there’s branches and shit all over the place. There’s even a crew out there trying to sweep up everything. But on closer inspection, I realize it’s Sturt! He had stolen one of the school’s maintenance worker uniforms and he’s up in this tree, cutting down branches and hanging flashes! Even better, he also has the real maintenance crew out there working for him! It was crazy.

So good.

But yeah, the Water Gap. We were already shooting things for the interview when I noticed it one day while out looking for spots. It was back in this weird little area close to my house. It’s actually a relaxation lake for some local businesses with what are supposed to be sculptures out in the water. The place looked sick but there really wasn’t any way to get out there.

So Sturt and I agree to meet out there… just to look at it. That was it. All I said to him was that there was something cool I might be able to do if we can figure out how I can do it. But, of course, when I show up, he’s got this contraption already built with two ladders and a walkway for me to climb up. He had it all figured out.

So we shot it right then. No need to come back. But that’s also why there isn’t any footage of it. It was just Daniel and I.

You’ve had more than your share of classic graphics over the years but the Rocco ones are always the most notorious. Which one is your personal favorite?

The Lowrider one was fun to do. Just to spoof on Sal’s graphic, even though some people thought I had beef with him. That idea actually came while Sal and I were doing a small tour in Illinois. He kept talking about how sick his graphic was and I told him right there that I was going to make fun of it. Just as a joke, though. He was down for it.

Basically the same thing when we had that board making fun of Zorlac, specifically Scott Stanton. That was just a way to fuck with Scott because he was a friend of mine from back in Florida. People thought there was beef there, too.

I know I did.

Yeah, but if I had to choose my favorite, it’s probably the first 101 graphic I ever had with the thumbs-up Martian.

Talk a little about your video parts in 1992: 101 and Union. Was that filmed one after the other or simultaneously?

I filmed the 101 video first, mostly with Ricki Bedenbaugh. He was still learning how to film back then but that one is totally raw. Total punk rock. Union’s Right to Skate came afterwards with Jamie Mosberg.

Actually, the Union Video was a real relaxing time for me. I loved filming with Jamie because he was more professional than anyone I had worked with up to that point. Plus, he was working with Sonny Miller, who did The Search. I’ve always been influenced by surfing so it was a good time all-around. Just hanging out, smoking a ton of weed, watching footage and listening to music. That’s actually how I first heard Tool, which is what I used for that part.

There was no stress at all. And the amount of footage I had from skating everyday with those dudes was retarded. It was maybe five months of filming and I probably had an hour’s worth of footage. It was also the first time I got to watch my part come together as we went so I could really put some thought into how we were building it.

So I know you skated the stairs a bunch but were you the first to ollie the Carlsbad Gap?

Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t really know for sure so I can’t claim it.

But that classic kickflip cover you drew all over, that was a first, right?

Yeah, that was one afternoon. We were all at this am contest in Encinitas and decided to head over there.

I don’t know how many tries it took me to actually make it. Dyrdek did a switch ollie down it that day, which was amazing. I remember trying a frontside half-cab down it and getting blasted. Tried a 360 flip as well but basically did an airwalk while my board went floating off into the sky. But I gave it a wing.

Kickflip worked, though. Rob was pissed. Then I drew all over the photo for the cover, not realizing that it was the only one they had.

Confusion in the marketplace: the Foundation ad with you ollieing the double-set while still on 101? Or were you?

You know, I’m still a little fuzzy on how all that went down.

There were rumblings that I wasn’t happy on 101 but at the time, it was all because I was trying to find myself in the creative sense. I wanted to give more input into the company and felt Natas could’ve been more open. Honestly though, Natas was already established and amazing… plus, it was his company that he had made successful on his own. I just felt it could’ve used more focus.

Somehow, I ended up hanging out down at Foundation, talking to Tod about everything. There must’ve been a miscommunication because Tod seemed to think I was about to quit 101, which wasn’t the case. I was psyched on Foundation and what they were doing but I wasn’t trying to leave at that point.

But within a week, they’ve thrown my name on this “Happy Penis” board and put an ad together. So fast! I remember getting a call from Transworld to come check out my new Foundation ad and being like, “Uhh… I didn’t quit 101.”

In the meantime, Natas and I had worked stuff out and I was psyched again. I still had to explain everything to him and Rocco, though.

I don’t really know what was going on with Tod and Rocco at this point. I know they’d always been friends but I do remember Rocco saying how he was going to teach Tod a “little lesson”. There was a thing between those two guys for a second there but nothing long-term.

Didn’t you fight Danny Way around this time?

Yeah, that was fucking stupid. (laughs)

Out of respect for Danny, I don’t want to talk about that one. It’s all water under the bridge and we were just stupid kids.

Fair enough. So your first venture into solo territory, talk a little about Color. Did you ever try starting that up through Rocco prior to leaving? And weren’t you afraid of Rocco seeking revenge?

I knew Rocco well before he blew up in the World days and I feel we always had a special relationship. He was one of the first people to really get how I was. We had this understanding he called the “the 24-Hour Markovich Period”… which mostly stemmed from me being a piece of shit, getting hammered and calling all my sponsors to quit.

“Oh, he’s just being Markovich. He’ll call back tomorrow and sort it out.”

I probably quit Rocco’s companies 20 times over the years but he knew not to really take it too seriously. I’ll admit I’m not the easiest person to work with but he got that. He’d never fuck with me.

At the time, I was butting heads with Natas creatively again and already doing the Union thing with Metiver. Oblow was my best friend back then and he was in heavy with Union, too. We started kicking around ideas and ended up driving to Santa Cruz to talk with Metiver and get weird. Color came out of that.

I did talk to Rocco about everything and he told me to do what I had to do. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to him or Natas and they were fine with it. That’s why it wasn’t a big thing to come back to World with Prime… but at the time with Color, it felt weird to start another company under World after leaving 101.

We brought up Frankie Hill earlier but how did that massive backside 180 down his namesake gap happen for the Color video?

We’d gone up to meet Adam McNatt and skate the Powell park a little bit. I brought up wanting to check out that school so we head over there. It’s funny because I remember running up to the top of it and kinda tripping on how big it was.

I go to ollie it first and just get served. You have to remember, I was probably riding 45mm wheels at the time. But I try a few more times and either keep falling forward or zooming out, over-correcting and then under-correcting. Landing bolts everytime but not riding away.

I finally land it after 10 tries or so and I’m just like fuck it, I’ll try a backside 180. I give it a go and kick it away. It’s funny but I remember Adam McNatt saying to me, “Hey, if you land with your feet on the board and ride away, you don’t have to do it again.” 

It’s something about the way he said it, I just remember thinking, “That’s the weirdest thing anybody has ever said to me.”

We’d been smoking a lot of weed at the time and I was starting to think that maybe Adam should lay off that shit for a bit. But then again, it did make a little sense. So as I’m rolling up, I’m still thinking about that… and I make it! Third try! Maybe Adam isn’t so burnt out after all!

Insane. But why a Smiths cover versus the original?

Well, it’s no secret that I’m not an emo dude. I realize that people live and die by the Smiths and I do like a handful of their songs but I am, in no way, a fucking Smiths or Morrissey fan. I didn’t have that loyalty to not use a cover. Plus, that Tree People version fit bitter.

So how did your Color become Prime?

Well, Color was never “mine”. It was Metiver’s, Oblow’s and mine equally. All I did was skate and do some of the art.

Honestly, it was never my choice to leave. There just seemed to be a few really fucked up things with Metiver. I understand having to cut corners financially but it was starting to be done on graphics and all types of shit that he wasn’t telling us about.  I also don’t think Metiver treated Oblow the way he should’ve. I had no problem with Metiver but Oblow was over it. He was my best friend so I backed him.

We tried taking Color back over to World but Metiver owned the name. That’s where Prime came in.

I have to imagine that Fight Fire with Fire part has to be among one of your favorites, right? That 360 kickflip ender is still incredible.

Yeah, that bump was super fun. I was with Al Boglio that day, just messing around on it.

But I don’t know, man. Art Bars was one I put a lot into but you’re probably right in that the Prime video was probably the most technical for me. I like different parts for different reasons but that Prime video was a lot of fun.

How do you respond to Clyde Singleton’s comment about Prime being “the whitest team in skateboarding history"?

(laughs) I think he’s spot-on. I fucking love Clyde.

Prime did have a good run, though… but you seemed to leave quite suddenly.

I left Prime right after my Dad passed away. The company ended up staying around for a few years at World after I left. They did another video and everything. It wasn’t until it got turned into another cartoon brand that everyone else left.  But it didn’t end when I quit.

When my Dad died though, I just bugged out. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. It was a really hard time for me. I ended up quitting everything for a while there, all of my sponsors and even skateboarding as a whole for a few months. What brought me back was realizing how bummed my Dad would be for me to have gotten this far just to quit.

Once I started feeling a little better and skating again, I started talking to Dave Duren about possibly getting on Element. That Transworld part I had, that was kinda like my sponsor-me footage to get on the team. I was riding Element boards in it but I wasn’t even on the team for most of it. I could’ve probably gotten on by name at that point but I wanted to show everyone that I was still skating. I wanted to prove myself. 

Third Eye View felt like a bit of a resurgence, too.

I was just on a good one at that time. It wasn’t a “fuck you” to anybody, I was just into my skating again. After coming out of that darkness with my Dad, I felt like going off.

I hate to bring this up but it’s like when Jake Duncombe was filming his Blind part years later, his Mom had just passed and I know he used that as a motivator. Caine did the same thing in the Color video after his Mom had passed, too. Still one of the gnarliest things ever done on a skateboard is that four-kink rail he boardslides in the video. Its retarded. He did it at night with no lights and I remember sitting there watching him talk to his Mom as he was trying it.

“I don’t care, Mom. I’m going to do this and if I don’t make it, I’m coming to see you!”

Then he just handles it. So gnarly. But looking back on it, I was probably tapping into that same type of thing for Element, too.

I always felt like my Element parts seemed a bit Frankensteined, though. We never really did a regular video project, they always seemed thrown together from different things.

Hollywood had a much different look than Color and Prime… was that just an attempt at something different or was that just where you were at the time?

It had more to do with my level of input to the brand. With Color and Prime, I was really only choosing the graphics I liked. That was as far as my hand went into the state of those companies. Hollywood was the first company I took an active role in the direction of.

One thing I’d like to clarify is that Hollywood wasn’t my company. It basically came from being on Foundation and sticking out as an oddball because I didn’t look like I was in the Ramones. I wanted to do something within Tum Yeto and Tod and I were able to work something out where I was paid as both a rider and creative director for Hollywood while he kept 100% of the ownership.

So when I quit, it wasn’t a matter of me quitting my own company. I’m not really clear on how all this happened but I know towards the end, Tum Yeto salespeople were being told not to push Hollywood.

In my opinion, I think it had more to do with Hollywood possibly starting to overshadow Foundation, like how Toy Machine and Zero had done earlier. Foundation was always Swank’s baby and had just gotten its wings again with Art Bars after having to limp alongside those other companies for so long.  With Hollywood starting to blow up, I think Swank got scared Foundation would suffer again.

So it came down to picking up my paycheck one day and it being half of what it was supposed to be. No explanation why. I finally get a meeting to find out that they’ve cut my creative director title, they’re cutting the riders’ pay and they want to kick Nuge and Belmont off the team. I wasn’t about to let that happen but they had cut my budget to the point where I really had no choice. I told them to cut my pay instead. Take my money and spread it out to the team, I’m not kicking off my friends. I quit.

I know you gave up a lot to do Crimson and Given. With your artwork guiding both in similar directions, was the real difference between the two just backing? And how did Blind factor into all of this?

The whole reason I did Blind was because we were supposed to be splitting from the Grim Reaper kiddie stuff and getting the company back to a more art-focus, like when Mark was doing it.

In the end, being on Blind was awesome and we were able to do the video and everything but that artistic return never happened. I mean, I was cool to use the Reaper a couple times for certain graphics or whatever… but I’m a grown-ass man, I don’t want that thing on all my boards! (laughs)

After I left Blind, I actually didn’t have a board sponsor for a few months. But I was still riding for Hurley, which was paying the bills, so I could afford to float for a while.

Unfortunately, I end up blowing out my ACL on a Hurley trip down in Orlando. So I’m totally laid up for the next 8 months.

At the time, I was in the process of starting a wheel company with Charlie Thomas. That was already in the works from before. But I also knew that no board sponsor was going to put me on their team injured… why not start a board company, too?

Makes sense.

I reached out to a few people, found a partner who will remain nameless and we started Crimson. The one thing we were lacking was an artist. We hadn’t really budgeted that in because it seemed more important to put that money elsewhere. So basically, everyone just looked at me. They’d been down in my studio and seen all the artwork I’d been doing while I was laid up. I still wasn’t able to skate at that point so the next three months became more of me in the studio with a bottle of wine, this time working on Crimson graphics.

Once we finally launch everything, Crimson just takes off, man. We had a really great first year. I was recovering from knee surgery and making money. Arthouse Distribution is set up. Things were good.

The downfall came after my wife and I moved back to Atlanta for a while to recharge. I thought we had a business plan in action but as it turns out, this fuckwit partner starts embezzling money after we move. I never see a dime of royalties while he’s out buying big-screen TV’s and a new truck. Red flags start popping up and it immediately becomes apparent that I want nothing to do with this dude. We get a lawyer. 

The battle for Crimson actually started over the phone while we were back in Atlanta and lasted for 6 months. All I wanted was to leave with the Crimson name and the team. He can fucking have Arthouse Distribution, which at the time had Heroin, Teenage Runaway and Destructo and was actually doing very well. But this dude was so fucking greedy, he couldn’t let Crimson go. He was willing to let me out of my contract but demanded me sign a different contract where Crimson would be exclusive through Arthouse for 3 more years… which, why the fuck would I do that?

He’s the whole reason you’re leaving!

Exactly. So basically, everything’s fucked. We’re dealing with family stuff on top of this asshole and we’re completely stressed out. It gets to the point where we couldn’t handle it anymore… so we decide to wash our hands of it all and walk away.

Just like that?

But this is where it gets good. I made sure to talk to the team first. I explained to them everything that had gone done and they had my back. Fuck that guy. We are the reason why Crimson was successful, not him. So we start orchestrating a plan: if they receive a specific text from me, that was the signal. It was about to go down.

I call this partner and tell him that I was now willing to settle for only the money we initially invested in. That was it. He could keep the rest: Crimson, the distribution, everything. I’m washing my hands of it. I even give him this whole spiel about how I was giving up on skating professionally and that I had an art job lined up. Write up the contracts. Good fucking riddance.

Like a pig in shit, he quickly became the happiest dude on the planet. For $30 grand, the embezzlement goes away and he gets it all. He sees his golden opportunity and has those contracts written up in a heartbeat.

He flies me out to California to sign the papers. I really just want to beat his ass but decide to play the whole thing through. It’s a 5-minute exchange. The warehouse is just crickets when I get there… nobody is saying a thing.

“Are these the contracts?”


“Where do I sign?”

“Here, here and here.”

I sign the contracts.

“Where’s my money?”

He points to the table and there’s two certified checks for $15 grand each. I grab them and walk out.

“Charlie, can you drive me to the bank?”

The drive to the bank was maybe 10 minutes and the whole time, I’m texting the entire team. I text everybody.

Just as we arrive and I’m getting out of the car, I hear Charlie’s phone blowing up. I shut the door. Charlie is the team manager of Crimson. I walk into the bank and deposit both checks into my account: $30 grand. As I’m walking back to the car, I take off my sweatshirt to reveal one of the first Given shirts underneath it. Charlie is looking at me from the car with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face.

“Everybody on Crimson just quit.”

He was just sitting there… shaking his head and laughing.

He told me later that when he walked back into the warehouse after dropping me off, everybody had the same half-laughing, shell-shocked look on their faces. They couldn’t believe it. My former partner had experienced the happiest 20 minutes of his life… and now he’s fucked.


Yeah, he tried to keep it going for a while but there wasn’t much he could do.

That’s straight out of a Scorsese film!

(laughs) Yeah, so basically the reason Given looked so much like Crimson is because we tried to do it the same way. I wasn’t about ready to let this dude take my ideas and direction. Fuck him. It’s still my artwork.

But it got to be too difficult. Given was doing well but we were spread too thin. We still had a bad taste leftover from Crimson and with everything else we had going on personally, I just shut off. She kinda felt the same way. If my heart wasn’t into it, why should her’s be?

We tried to get some help with distribution and ended up going through Switchboard… which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I never had a problem with them personally, it just felt sub-par. I wasn’t proud of what I was doing and was worried that Given had turned into some type of budget company. I had to step away.

 What’s the concept behind the face you paint? What does it mean to you?

It’s all my thoughts and feelings. The easiest way I can sum it up is that I can draw a face 20 times and never get the exact same thing. How they look all depends on my mood. It has to do with the rhythm of it. That’s the easiest way I can put it.

And yeah, I get comments about doing the faces too much. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get defensive about it. I’m not doing this for them, though.

Things like the Water Gap seemed almost unfathomable back in ‘92, now there’s switch tres going down it. What are your thoughts on today’s death-defying stair counts and hammertime?

I have an opinion on that but I’m afraid of putting it out there due to the negativity. Not meaning that I’m gonna talk shit, it has more to do with a fear that something bad is going to happen. I don’t want to say that and put it out there but skating is just so gnarly now.

In saying that, I think it’s totally amazing and I don’t want it to stop. Jaws and those dudes… I get psyched whenever I see it. You have to trip on the size and the consistency because at that level, your margin for error is basically zero.

I actually feel that I respect it more than most people because I know that fear. Maybe not on the level of where they are but I know how it is to step up. I had that same feeling, just on different scale. It’s just that scale is really dangerous now.

Did you ever think it would get to this point?

Oh yeah. I knew it would only get bigger and bigger. Just like when you think it has reached a point where it can’t get anymore tech, it always does. Skateboarding will always continue to evolve.

Do you feel like you had some hand in that?

I think that I maybe opened up people’s perceptions on what is actually doable but I don’t really know. Maybe I was a catalyst there… I’d like to think so.

big thanks to kris for taking the time.

buy kris' art here


Paul said...

Amazing interview! His Adio part was also perfect in many ways. The fakie one footed ollie, down the wooden panels, is still pure power!

RODOSONE said...

Awesome interview!!! Markovich is one of my all time favorite skaters and deserves every bit of credit for what he has done for skateboarding. So stoked he is on Elephant skateboards with Mike V a perfect fit. Best of luck with the future Kris.

Ingo said...


I still remember the slow mo intro of the "right to skate" part.

All hail Markovich!

Anonymous said...

very interesting, the world of skateboard companies really seems very cuthroat dog eat dog

Andreas said...

Another great interview with one of my childhood heros. So glad this site is still alive. There is really no comparison to the interviews you are doing. The profound knowledge and the good vibes you seem to have while doing the interviews make them so good. Still you're not afraid to go into some difficult topics. Keep it going!

morgan campbell said...

That was amazing! I was in NYC once maybe 98-ish. I was already friends with Ted Newsome and went over his house and Kris was there. Holy shit...it was actually him! God knows how many times we watched the Color video back in Perth? Yep, I was gromming out hard. Him and J-Wray pushed it to new levels in that flick. Kris was already beyond a legend.

We hung out for maybe three days. Skating everyday with Ted or (Sean) Cronan, Kris teaching me how to fold New York pizza in half and maybe we would even hit the odd bar for a cheeky drink. We would meet up with local crew to skate and he would be miles ahead in the stopped traffic, the others would be like blocks behind. I would hover in the middle somewhere coz i was trying to keep up with Markovich. U had to try right? I mean he was somewhat mortal. Right?

One time we were cruising (maybe mid town) and we spied this gap off a marble wall into the street. The building whose wall it was was on a corner. So basically there was two gaps into the street on that corner. Each perpendicular to the other. One was pretty big. The other was MASSIVE. The wall was waist high. The small gap was over maybe ten foot of sidewalk and the curb. The bigger one was seemingly un-ollieable. Maybe 12-13 feet of sidewalk. Maybe a little more. It didn't really look possible. We both ollied the little one. Pretty stoked you know... box checked.. "ollied a gap with Kris - the flight master - Markovich". Of course he then starts taking run ups to the massive one. Ollies it maybe first or second try and than tweaks a massive Japan Air down it. Fully tweaked beyond Jason Lee styles you know? Knee on the board. Upon landing the tail snaps clean off of it. Session over. Or so I thought. Kris said he wasn't leaving till I ollied it. He sat down and smiled. After a mini-battle I actually rolled away. Don't think I have ever ollied anything that long since. Thanks Kris.. you are a proper charger mate. Thanks for the interview Chrome-Bee. Keep em coming.

nettic said...

Amazing... Best

Keith said...

Well done Eric.

It's always cool to hear the reasons for switching teams.

Dude definitely took over the gap skater torch after Frankie Hill.

Anonymous said...

Alright so forget this stupid "joke of the industry" crap about switching sponsors. Markovich's skating is classic. The Rick flips, the backside bigspin flips(him and Bastien seem to really handle these properly), the frontside pop shuvits, all while going faster than anyone. After I read this interview I watched a bunch of his old parts, they still hold up. I wonder if Dennis Busenitz was a fan when he was younger?

Dude / Local 357 said...

As a kid growing up in Georgia, whenever there was a contest people would come from all over the south. Markovich was one of those guys- along with Daniel Powell, Trey Prentiss, Brian Chung- on a different level.

At a contest in Macon, there was a wooden bank with a jump ramp in the middle. People were doing tricks off the ramp into the bank. Markovich ollied straight off the ramp over the entire wall. It was so gnarly, nobody could believe it.

Anonymous said...

good interview, but kris' art is terrible

Lari said...

Always liked his Art Bars part but didn't realize how many board brands he had ridden for over the years. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Growing up in SoCal, Markovich was definitely not under appreciated by me and my circle, that's for sure. He was every bit the god-like figure his Union intro portrayed him to be, lol. True OG Legend status for sure.

Amazing interview, Chops. Been waiting for this one and it did not disappoint. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Great Interview. Markovich is a beast. Watching his video parts as a kid, he really showed how pushing your ass off before any trick added a whole other dimension to skating. Very few people can posses that kind of control skating that fast.

People gotta remember that skateboarding used to attract creative types, so hats off to him for continuing to pursue his artwork/creative endeavors. much respect!

And that tre flip off the bump...you can hear the board smack the bottom of his shoes. wow.

Thank You Kris.

Justin said...

Great interview from a great skater.

Drg- I think I've got the same catalog.

ODG said...

This is so good. Thank you Chops. The Markovich TWS interview has to be one of the best ever. Getting to know the story with Sturt on the Water Gap is priceless.

Markus Zachiel said...

Brings back memories of how wonderful Markovich. He's a legend in skateboarding and no one can ever take that away from him. Glad he's fine and that he has never really felt sorry about his actions which caused his career to break apart.

Unknown said...

I always wondered: "wheres the Markovich interview?"
You've never made a secret your admiration for this dude, and i was very happy watching the Transworld "Most influential skaters" series, Markovich got a good amount of props in that.

One thing though, hopefully someone will respond to this: I never noticed Dill was on Color! I guess back when they were around I didnt know who he was...was that is first sponsor? I dont think he was in the video...damn, what a great FUCKING team that was!

isidro said...

in 1990,or so...the G&S team stoped in Valencia(SPAIN) for a demo.i had just watched the "footage" video and was going nuts with the prospect of watching neil blender,duane pitre,willie santos or mark heinzman skate in person.well Heinzman sure was there with a few other pros just making a pile of skateboards and ollieing over it-you know:highest ollie thing.that,and a little session on the mini-ramp and putting out the king of show were they dont skate much but interact with the kids. so,like i said,heizman and a few other i dont remember.
i just remember this kid nobody knew yet,green dyed hair,hugh pants,rolling at ultra-fast speed,attacking the whole skatepark,just ripping LAMF.of course that was Kriss.

great interview as we can all expect! i'll say it again:my favorite site in the whole internet!

t.a. said...

What a fantastic interview! For all of his trials, not a hint of bitterness.
I've never minded his sponsor-hopping as much as I do with others. It was always fun to see what he would come up with next and I think it comes with the territory of more creatively bent individuals. Plus, everything was a little different.
Shame about Hollywood. Pride is a a vicious thing, that. Not for my tastes exactly, but they had some great ads and a great crew.
Kris' skating is incredible and it's easy to spot his influences (specifically Julien Stranger), as well as his influence on other skaters.
Man o man, does the East Coast produce some speed and power and finesse.
You're on the mark with that first question, too. Skateboarding is truly wild and credit where credit is due doesn't always come to pass.

Hey young'ns: Learn your skate history. You'll be better off.

Mahalo nui loa, Chops. All the best!

Diabolics .|. said...

Yeah, Kris is and always was a great skater, but I think a lot of his appeal for us older (and mostly shitty) skaters comes from that Kris trick selection was understandable. He did not do inward backside pressure flip late underflips standing mostly still during those dark years. He did things some of us less fortunate skaters understood. And he did it with speed and style.
Thanks Kris, thanks chops.

Unknown said...

dude, Kris Markovich is without a doubt one of the gnarliest dudes ever. He is one of the ELite all-time Skateboarders. Right there with Hawk, Hosoi, Gonz, Way, Alva, Adams, Kosten etc etc.... to think the he somehow now has this 'underground Legend' thing attached to him is weird. Markovich was all over every fucking magback in the day.. but regardless, it actually makes knowing his skating all the more dope. One of my all time favorites ... to me he is a fucking Icon to early 90's Skateboarding. He took the shit toa whole other level!

Bryan Lewis said...

When i think of my favourite skaters Markovich will ALWAYS be up there as a legend to me. The guy was a powerhouse of speed, tech & gnarl. I remember wearing out his section on my vhs version of the Colour Video. I'd watch it every time b4 skating coz it got me so pumped to tear up the streets!! I agree with him over his Element comments too. Element probably had the best team ever in the industry back then, what with Kris, Barley, O'Connor, Hughes, Wray, Reese & Pepper, & of course Natas. I didn't realise that Kris developed featherlite, which again was pressed amazing back then (not the same feel a few yrs later tbh).
I never saw him as jumping ship all the time, & just wanted to ser him settled on a team.
Glad he's hooked up with Elephant & I hope it works out well & hope that both he & Vallely are settled now

Anonymous said...

Grant Hannah Chattanooga TN best skater ever ripped every contest in Chattanooga legendary stalefish methods off blast ramps rocking tea-bags

Unknown said...

somebody knowa were is the water gap? in google map...

YouWillSoon said...

Damn just read this for the first time and had to chuckle over the questions about who would leave Elephant first haha. Wonder how long after this interview came out he quit Elephant?

Unknown said...

This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here!

WShelton said...

Kris Markovich's Carlsbad Kickflip Transworld cover is so iconic to me, I feel like it will be remembered another 20 years from now! Seriously good interview with one of my favorites! Ive noticed you've done a couple interviews also with newer pros like Ishod! This may seem like an odd request, but could you possibly try to do an interview with David Gravette? Ive always loved his skating and actually got to see him skate in person one time when I was younger and lived in Washington State! I lived in an apartment in the Renton/Kent area with my mom and dad. The place was called Fairwood Landing situated on SE 177th street right off Petrovitsky Lane, and there was this long ass handrail I saw him 50/50 in maybe under ten tries. It was across the street from this auto service store called Grease Monkey. The gnarliest part was that there was like a curb that he would have had to ollie up to in order to get onto it, but instead he laid like a metal stop sign or piece of wood up to it like a ramp and launched over the curb/sidewalk piece and onto the rail and 50/50'd the entire thing! Its gnarliest thing Ive seen in person to this day and Ive always wondered what they used the footy in cause I know they filmed it but Ive never seen it in any videos or any sequences in any mags so Ive always wondered about it. Oh another gnarly thing about that handrail was that is was super skinny and wobbly as fuck! Gravette is sick and so is Markovich! Long live CBI and Skateboarding! Skate or Die!

bill said...

What's up with a Mcnatt interview Chops?

Terrance Litgenshtein said...

He was one of the very best around. Top rated in the world sports performers are hard to find. I love skateboarding to death and things like this in general.

Skate for life!

Bob Harrison said...

I miss the old days with old school skateboarding stuff I loved. For me skateboarding is all about being free and knowing what your limits are and pushing a bit more everyday.

Rodney Mullen will always be my inspiration, but Tony hawk is life!

Skateboard Deck said...

Got a lot of memories back with your post.

AquaVillains said...

He was a daredevil in the true sense of the word. Immensely cool in any form/shape or way. a true AquaVillain

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Mike said...

Now Markovich is a full on Q-Anon anti-vaccine fruit cake. Who knows, maybe he always was? His Twitter is certainly…interesting. Never meet your heros, kids. But hey!! He is still making a living painting the same face he has painted over and over and over. You can own this super derivative art for way more than it’s worth at krismarkovich.com