chrome ball interview #85: thomas campbell

chops and t-moss get weird in the garage

studio shot, 2014 - photo: tiffany campbell

Alright Thomas, I gotta admit that I’ve had some difficulty wrapping my head around all of the different roles and projects you’ve worked on over the years. One thing I’ve always wondered about, and this is kind of an easy one to start off with: what is your typical day like? How do you go about doing all this stuff? 

I just get up and try to get things going. I normally do most of my work in the first part of the day, whether it’s things like emails, painting or design stuff… whatever I gotta do. I’ll try to do that stuff in the morning and then go run some errands towards the afternoon. I live in the woods near Santa Cruz so I typically have to go into town for things. After that, I usually go surfing or skating sometimes 

I try to take it how it comes. I’m always making art but if I have a big art show coming, I’ll go more into that type of mode when needed. Making a bigger solo exhibition usually take about 6 months or so to prepare. Or if I’m in moviemaking mode, I’ll focus on that area and probably not paint as much. Maybe some doodles here and there but nothing real serious.

I like it, though. I like working on different things because it helps keep everything fresher.

And you work out of your garage, right?

Yeah, my garage has been converted into a studio. Cars do not live in there. But it’s good to have a place like that right there. 

preparing for show at alleged gallery -brooklyn, 2000
photo: templeton

So many of your projects are holistic in approach, with you basically taking care of everything from top to bottom. You direct the film, you design the packaging, you distribute the project. Would you say this comes from your making zines back in the day? 

Yeah, I think it definitely started for me in zines and continued throughout working at skateboard magazines for so long. It’s really influenced me to have an editor’s mind. You can start seeing all the options for things, kinda like you’re cooking a lot of meals at once. I need a little more salt over there, this isn’t quite done over here… 

I’m comfortable with a lot of things going on at once. It’s all sort of a balancing act. What are my main points? I have this stuff already, what other supporting things do I need? That’s basically how you make a magazine or the kind of movies I make. They’re both really similar in that way.

T Campbell with Nikon FM2 - Wallenberg, 1994
photo: Yelland

How did you get introduced to the seedy underbelly of underground skate zines? 

I’d say what happened first was that my friend in high school, Ky made a zine called “Kinky Transitions”.  That was my real introduction, I guess. 

That’s an amazing title. 

Yeah, I still didn’t really know anything about zines at that point but I started working on one anyway with my friend Tony Vadakan after that. It was called “Ground Beef” and I drew the cartoon in it… which is so bad. I didn’t know how to draw at all and it’s really horrible. The cartoon was called “Beef Chew” and I’m embarrassed of it. 


But this was around the time when my friends and I started going to skate Del Mar Skatepark and really looking at skate magazines. That’s where I got to know about Swank and Blender. Those are the two big guys for me as far as inspiring me to be creative.  

I can’t remember the exact occurrence but I started making my own zine shortly after that. I just wanted my zine to look a certain way… but at the same time, I didn’t want my friend Tony to get mad that I was starting my own zine so I called it “Joke”, trying to downplay it. 

I got really into it, though. I took an offset printing class in high school and started making my zines in class. I started getting ads from Santa Cruz and Dogtown… my zine actually had a lot of ads in it. I got all kinds of free boards for that.  

That’s a pretty good racket. 

Yeah, it really was. 

But I was also starting to develop relationships through making my zine. Grant Brittain was sending me photos to use and I was also trading zines and stuff back and forth with Tod Swank. I remember when Tod put my drawing on the cover of one of his zines, this one he did after Swank zine called “Scrap”, it was seriously one of the best days of my life. I was so stoked. My idol likes my drawing! It was a crappy drawing of Anne Frank but he liked it. That meant so much to me.

It’s difficult to explain to the younger generation how all of these zines circulated around the country with so much distance between like-minded individuals. It’s taken for granted now with the internet but it really was like an underground network back then. 

To be honest, a lot of it grew out of Thrasher. They had this thing in the magazine called “The Zine Page” with different zines and addresses. You could send a dollar or something and get zines straight from that.  That’s what connected a lot of us in the beginning. 

Magazines, in a way, didn’t cover all that much back then. You wanted to share what was going on in your scene.

But that’s what brought so many of us together, relationships I still have.  Like, I remember when I started trading zines with Chris Johanson in the mail back when I was 16. I’d get his stuff and be like, “Man, this guy’s fucked up!”

I didn’t get the humor. It was really dark and tweaked. I’d get his zines and feel like he was on some other shit that I didn’t even know about. 

But it’s funny because I ended up meeting Chris for the first time totally random on a bus in San Francisco 6 years later. Just because I was wearing a Swank shirt. It was something that Tod had made and given me so I guess it was pretty limited. But this guy on the bus looks at it and says, “Do you know Tod?”

“Yeah… woah! It’s you!”

So many zine guys soon found themselves with jobs at major skateboarding mags, yourself included. I know you did some stuff with PowerEdge and Club Homeboy but how did you get involved with Transworld specifically and what was it like working there during this pretty wild period? I know you weren’t even taking photos at first, only writing? 

My friend Joe Lloyd used to take pictures under the name Xeno. We had a ditch by our house called “the Shit Ditch” and it got bulldozed. Somehow I ended up getting to write an obituary for it in Transworld along with some of Joe's pictures. I couldn’t even really write but I tried anyway. 

After that, I think I might’ve made another zine, but I really started focusing more on writing for magazines. I figured this was my opportunity to really work towards something. So I basically just wrote for 5 years… like you said, mainly Transworld but there were some other mags, too, including Big Brother. I was taking some pictures back then but mostly portraits. I didn’t really want to take pictures back then, I just wanted to skate. Taking pictures meant being responsible for camera stuff and not being able to really skate during sessions because you were too busy. 

But I was also insanely poor. Permanent couch tour poor. You really don’t make anything being just a writer at a magazine so I was running on empty all the time. That’s basically why I decided to start shooting skate photos. 

The big switch came during this one time when I was in Spain. This guy in Madrid was trying to start a skateboarding magazine and I was helping him organize photographers while I wrote for him. I remember he had all this camera equipment and wanted me to take photos as well but I didn’t really know how to use any of the stuff. I didn’t know how to use flashes back then. 

I started thinking of who I could call to help me out. My favorite skateboard photographer at the time was Spike. I loved the way he shot photos and used color gels. There’s always a lot of movement in his photography. I’d known him for a long time, I think I’m gonna call him up and ask him how to use all this stuff. 

“Hey Spike, how do I do this? What do I do?” (laughs)

He gave me the whole rundown! Set the flash in front usually at 5.6 and the one behind the skater a little hotter… this is back when you put the flash in the photo, which definitely does not happen now. But yeah, he told me everything I needed to know and I wrote it all down. I went out that day and shot more-or-less totally professional pictures. 

One thing I love about skate mags in the late-80s was the sense of exploration and personality. Take monthly columns like Room Without A View and Street Sheet, for example. You’d never have that today. Like that photo you took of Chris Reed in his pajamas blowing bubbles. That’s a two-page spread!

(laughs) No, that would never go today. But that was such an interesting, unique time. It wasn’t so serious. Now everything is so hammertime-oriented. Things could be more in the creative realm back then. Obviously there was some super good skating, too, but mags were more about showing a spectrum of what was happening.  

What is going on in that Chris Reed photo anyway?

Honestly, I don’t really know. We’d been really good friends since high school, it just basically good friends out making weird stuff one day. I sent it to Transworld and the next thing we knew, it was a two-page spread… which is both awesome and fucked-up. That might’ve been when GSD was designing the mag. 

I know you worked on a lot of Pro Spotlights back then but one thing I remember capturing my imagination were your travel articles. You led quite a nomadic existence for several years that you were then able to incorporate back into your writing and really make something special. Taking a bunch of dudes to parts unknown for skating is a standard concept now but it was rarely seen when you were doing that in the 1990s. 

It’s interesting because when I’d travel to Europe every year for those contests, I’d always go off on tours and stay with people afterwards. One time in particular, I stayed at Skin’s house before heading down to Spain and checking out their skateparks, eventually working my way down to Morocco. Surfing and skating for a while. 

I was basically on a 5-year bender of going all over the place on a shoestring. It was the best.  I was working for Transworld and eventually Skateboarder, I wanted to go to different places than what was not normally where people would go to skate. I’d already been to a few of these places and knew that there were spots. You could get a different look and bring a different culture to people, too. Cool, let’s go to Morocco. 

Some people had beef with those articles because they felt those countries didn’t support skateboarding. Whatever. Who cares. We’re on the Earth. Go skate whatever you want. There are no rules. 

adrian lopez in hong kong, 1998

You were on that amazing 1992 UK tour with a post-Blind Mark Gonzales, a SOTY-bound John Cardiel, and a prime Salman Agah…  in addition to Karma, Alan Petersen and Ron Chatman. Such a solid crew and an amazing snapshot in time. What was up with Gonz during this time? And was it obvious that a young Cards was on his way to greatness at that point? 

Yeah, that was a really good tour.

I’d met Skin Phillips at Tobin’s house in San Francisco. He was this cool guy from Wales trying to be a photographer. I think he was working for Thrasher a little bit at the time but not too much. I remember telling him that I was trying to go to Europe that summer when he invited me on this tour with them. He was the van driver and the photographer for the whole thing. 

I don’t really know what Mark was doing at that time. He might’ve been thinking he was retired at that point. He wasn’t skating a whole lot… I don’t even know if he had his own skateboard on the tour. He’d borrow somebody else’s and shred here and there, not much though. I think at the time he was riding for 60/40 maybe.

One thing that stands out on that trip is when he hippie jumped over the bars into South Bank. To this day, I don’t know of anybody else who could possibly do that. That’s some serious ninja shit. 

Cardiel was a ball of energy at all times. I remember him in the van eating candy, drinking Coke and smoking hash. He was non-stop super-amped and as soon as the van door opened, he’d go completely nuts. The tour basically went around to all the old skateparks in England and Scotland. Everyplace we went, John would find the gnarliest thing possible and do it. I think he was maybe 19 at the time. John’s got an awesome energy.

mark in england, 1992

On another excursion, you basically discovered an unknown Chad Muska on a TWS trip to Vegas. Every town has their rippers, what was it that made him stick out like he did?

Yeah, that was with Tim Brauch, Jesse Paez, Chris Pontius, Fernando Elvira, Floyd Williamson and Tobin Yelland. 

It’s funny because I remember going to pick up Jesse Paez at his house. He was only 16 at the time and as we’re leaving to get in the car, I hear his mom say, “Please take care of Jesse!”

“For sure! No problem!”

We then get in the car and immediately eat mushrooms. That’s like the worst thing ever: driving to Las Vegas at night while super high on mushrooms. That’s not what you want to do. Fear and Loathing is exactly that and the reality of it is not good. (laughs)

But yeah, we went to this spot and Chad just happened to be there. He was so good… like really, really good. We were all blown away by him. He was a little gangstery, hip hop-style dude wearing Adidas with double-tongues. We all thought he was awesome.

We hooked up with him the next day for more pictures and I remember going to this rail. I’d seen people skate small rails before but never anything like this. This was a 12-stair rail and he’s just attacking it, doing lipslides down it. He broke his board after two tries. I let him borrow my board and he broke it. Tobin lets him borrow his board and Chad breaks that one, too. We couldn’t get over it. He was an animal. 

When we all headed back to California at the end of the trip, I tried to get him sponsored by several companies but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. I’ll leave the companies nameless but they’re obviously retarded.

“Hey, I have this guy and he’s basically better than your entire team put together. You should put him on.”

A few year later, he’s the biggest skateboarder in the world. But Chad’s rad, man. He’s got a good vibe and his skating is amazing, especially at the height of his powers. It was like magic. 

muska's hate

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask for your side of the Ethan Fowler/Iowa-to-SF story. I know you were the connection there. You talked about some guilt with the mushrooms-thing earlier, was there any with you essentially helping him run away?

No, I didn’t feel guilty.

I’d originally met Ethan through Ed around 1994. I think he was 15 at the time. 

Yeah, you took that frontside grab photo of him at Miley. 

Yup. He was riding for Ed (Toy Machine) at the time and he was amazing. He just looked super good on a skateboard. Like, he’s one of those people who can just roll straight and you’re like, “Oh my God!”

But all of a sudden, his Mom wanted to move him to Iowa. It really sucked. I even called his Mom, trying to make her realize just how good Ethan was. Basically equating him to an Olympic-level athlete, asking if he could still live in California with his brother or possibly even Ed? But she wasn’t having it. 

So he goes out to Iowa and is just partying and doing drugs. It’s kinda whatever for him, he’s obviously the best skateboarder in Iowa City but nobody is inspiring him. He’s not really skating all that much. 

Around this time, I had my first art show at Alleged Gallery in NYC. Tobin had driven out to the show with Julien Stranger, Rick Ibaseta and our friend Kiawa. Rick and Julien decided to fly back to San Francisco so I ended up driving back across the country with Tobin and Kiawa.

We were making stops along the way and I brought up stopping by to see Ethan in Iowa, thinking we could possibly shoot some photos. It wasn’t anything super planned, we were just there and he was stoked to see us and shoot some pictures, he was ripping. At one point, I was like, “Dude, do you want to come with us? Maybe live in San Francisco or something?”

“Yeah, I want to go.”

Looking back on it, it seems way more hectic than what it really was. But he went back to his house and filled a backpack full of stuff. He didn’t want to make it too obvious. And we went. 

I don’t think he called his Mom for a week afterwards… and I think Ed was pretty bummed that he left for Stereo. But that summer, he went to Munster contest and won pretty much what was the World Championship at the time. He won Munster at 16 after basically taking 9 months off from skating. That’s how good he was. 

ethan in france, 1996

One of my all-time favorites has gotta be your Sean Sheffey TWS cover. Did you shoot a lot with Sheff back then? 

That one was super random. I think that was the same day that I shot that photo of Ethan there as well. I didn’t even know Sheffey at the time. I was shooting pictures of Ed and Ethan and saw him skating that little corner of the bank so I took a couple shots. I didn’t really think too much about it. 

It’s funny because this was back when I’d shoot pictures and literally send all the film directly to Transworld through FedEx. I’d never even see anything, they’d do all the developing and stuff. All of a sudden, they’re like, “Hey, you got a cover with Sheffey!”


I only shot maybe four pictures of him that day but I guess all the timing was right and it worked out. I saw Sheffey shortly after that on a fairy ride from Holland to England with the whole skateboarding circus.

He was super psyched and thanked me… was rad.

Were you at all bummed on how rigid skateboarding got in the 1990s with all its rules? Why do you think that was? 

To be honest, that was pretty much one of the main reasons I stopped working in skateboarding for a bit. I used to work a lot with Tim Brauch, Ron Whaley and Israel Forbes because I lived in Santa Cruz and I thought those guys were rad because they were the prototypes of skaters that just would skate everything. People like Phil Shao and Dan Drehobl, guys that just wanted to skate and would skate whatever. That’s what I’ve always felt skating is. 

“Oh, a backyard pool? Let’s go skate it! Let’s hit up Derby! Let’s go street skate! Yeah, let’s just go skate!”

But they were the exceptions! I think a lot of that separation came from the Girl camp. They were only into what they were into and everything else was cut. I don’t think that’s too far of the mark. At that point, you had your vert guys, your street guys, your tech street guys and then your gnar dog pool guys. It was all so divided, which seemed really stupid to me. 

What’s interesting is that in the long run, I think the Beauty and the Beast tour did a lot to break down those divisions. All of a sudden, the tech dudes were like, “Oh, the Girl dudes are cool with the Anti Hero dudes.” And the gnar tranny-type skaters probably thought the same. It's fascinating the dudes that helped create the division helped close it.

I think skating is in a really good spot now as far as the overall mentality and how people are approaching all terrains and mixing styles fluidly. Attacking everything and not giving a fuck. People like Evan Smith are the personification of what skating is. Just not caring and doing anything. Wallie up a rail, smith grinding down it, whatever. It’s what I’ve always thought of skating. It’s not so divided anymore. People seem generally stoked on each other. I am not that interested in the televised side of skating but whatever.

blaize blouin, slob fastplant - chicken's pool, 1998

Curious what you think of skate photography these days. I can’t help but feel there’s a formula that’s being beaten to death and it’s all a bit too perfect… where as before, I think there was charm was in the flaws. 

I’m not very into where modern skateboard photography is. 

I feel like skateboarding is such an outlaw activity. It's really raw, dirty and fucked up in the best way. In a lot of ways, I feel the digital era, where everything’s super-processed and perfectly-lit, doesn’t really document the real feeling skateboarding. It’s almost like that stuff takes it out of context. Makes it to pretty and controlled when it's not.

There are some photographers who do it well. Almost everyone is really skilled at getting the shots that are in the magazines. I’m not saying that these photographers aren’t good. I just feel like with photography and videos, it’s all so clean. Skateboarding is not clean. It’s fucked and it’s heavy. The situations are heavy. But maybe I just relate to film-based photography more. I do.

karma, switch crooks - wade speyer's mini - big brother, 1993

Agreed. Going back a bit, how did you get involved with SMA’s Debunker project? 

I was living in Santa Cruz in the early 90's and one of my best friends was Steve Keenan, team manager at SMA.  I can’t remember exactly how it came about but I think he was already making it and asked if I was interested in helping him. 

I’ve always been super into music so I started helping him organize some of the soundtrack. We started coming up with more and more ideas for it. Obviously, we were heavily influenced by Alien Workshop’s Memory Screen, which had just come out and was the best thing ever to me at that time. There’s definitely some Alien aspects of it but I was also going to video stores and trying to find the weirdest videos I could to steal from. Making weird vocal stuff for it with my friend Adam… stuff with alien’s talking. 

What made SMA go the aliens route after all those years with the airplane? It was a pretty big change in direction for them. 

That’s basically what we were all into at the time. Reading books about aliens and wondering what the hell is going on galactically. I mean, obviously, if you don’t think there are aliens, you’re retarded. I mean… come on!

What’s the story behind Dave LeRoux’s disclaimer? Warranted but still a bold choice. 

We felt it needed to be there because we didn’t think people at the time we’re going to understand what he was doing. 

Yeah, he was basically too far ahead of his time. 

I think we had to put that in there. I don’t think people got how crazy he was skating anyway… and then to point out that it was almost all switchstance, we were hoping the disclaimer might get people thinking a little more about what he was doing. 

Why was Julien in the intro when he didn’t have a part? I know he left shortly after but why was he in there at all? 

That was more Keenan’s decision. He was the one getting the footage together and I don’t think Julien had tons of footage. 

harold hunter - brooklyn banks b side flip, 1995

Talk a little about your 1996 short A Love Supreme. How was that made? And how was it received in the notoriously mucho macho NYC scene? Did they get what you were trying to do?

I lived in New York from 1995 to 1998. I was doing some exhibitions at Alleged Gallery at the time and I also fell in love with a woman there so I basically just ended up there. I started shooting a lot with Harold, Huff, Ryan Hickey, Quim and Mike Cardona. 

It’s interesting because before I moved there, while I’d always listened to jazz, I was still mainly into indie rock. But once I moved to New York, I really felt that jazz was the sound of the place and began exploring it a lot deeper than I had before. Obviously Coltrane is one of my all-time favorites and A Love Supreme his best records ever. I wanted to start shooting 16mm, too… maybe I could make a movie with all of this stuff I have going on in my head? Maybe I could do it with the Supreme guys? So I skated over to Supreme and talked to Giovanni Estevez like, “Hey, could I make a movie for you guys?”

He was into it and we figured out a way to get a small budget. The first time I ever shot a 16mm camera was on the day I started filming that movie. I think I shot it over the course of 4 or 5 months. 

I think it captured the vibe of the place and the scene. The feeling of what it’s like to be there. Obviously the music was really good. But it never really got released. I know there was a slightly edited version in 411 but not with the same music. 

To be honest, I don’t think the Supreme guys really got it at the time but I always liked it. I think in the long run, they appreciated it. It’s interesting in that I think there may have been a slight nod to A Love Supreme in Bill’s Cherry. The Supreme dudes called and asked me come to the premiere since I did the first one. They said Bill really wanted me to be there. That was cool. I really dug Bill's Cherry film.

I was actually just thinking about how I need to call them as next year makes 20 years since it came out. Maybe we could do something for that. 

some weird boards
strength mag, henry lindsey benefit, 2x krooked, element, 2x designarium

You’ve done some graphics for a wide range of companies and I know your doing some stuff with Element now. What’s your process like when working with riders and brands versus your own aesthetic? 

It’s different every time but they generally just want you to do what you do. I gotta admit that sometimes it’s really hard for me to do skateboard graphics because that’s when I feel the most self-conscious. It’s not hard for me to make a painting but when it comes to a skateboard graphic, I freak out! 

“Oh my gosh, there’s going to be a lot of these. Everyone’s going to see this! Is it good enough?  I don’t know! Ahhhh!”

Honestly, that’s probably held me back from doing a lot more in the last 10 years. Different companies will ask me a lot, but I haven't done that many recently. The thing is that it’s kind of part of my job right now to work with Element and make graphics so I’m trying not to be such a wuss. 

Because I’m looking at them on my wall right now, how did you come up with that crazy set for Designarium

Oh yeah, those were just taken off of some cut-down painted boards that I had already made. I was doing that a lot where I’d take used boards, cut out a tweaked shape and paint on them. I’d actually just finished those when Natas asked if I was interested in making some boards for him… why don’t we just make these? We can make a pintail and a swallowtail. 

I think if you actually tried to ride them, they’d be pretty dangerous but it’s art. I like that. I like taking something like that and making it not functional so people will want to put it on their wall. 

sewing station installation - bolinas museum, 2015

I know you don’t want to reveal too much but can you offer a little explanation behind some of the recurring themes in your art? Like those hooded guys, for example. 

As far as those bottle-shaped people I draw, I’ve mentioned spending a lot of time in Morocco over the last 20 years or so. The men and women there often wear this similar kind of robe called a djellaba. I think I started drawing them from being there and have probably been drawing them since the first time I went.  

I like them because I can draw these scenes with anonymous people in them who aren’t sex-specific. You can look at a piece and make up whatever you want. I like that ambiguous idea. I think it’s interesting and I like that point of reference. That’s probably why I’ve stuck with it and evolved it. 

I’m 46 and I started really trying to be an artist when I was 13. I’ve just been working at it consistently. Style evolves. Ideas evolve. I don’t know… I like to just go out in my studio, listen to music and get weird. It’s fucking fun. 

But there’s the full range of emotional shit going on with making art, especially painting. Everything from serious loathing and burnout to elation and really magic, connected moments. It's quite an emotional journey.

"Ampersand" exhibition - joshua liner gallery - nyc, 2014

When do the cryptic phrasings come into play? Do they arise naturally through the process of making a piece? Is there some type of overall theme or story there?

I think a lot of things that I write in my paintings are more like self-affirmations. It’s like reiterating ideas to myself through the paintings. Something like, “Sing Ding aling” is basically saying to be thankful for what you have or what’s happening. Our lives are short and can end at any time. A lot of it is trying to be present where I am and trying to convey that. It’s not super heavy or highly-conceptual, it’s kind of a natural dialogue. 

Is that the same reasoning behind your ubiquitous “yar”?

Yeah, I think “yar” is a sailing term meaning that everything is good and ready to go. The boat is yar, the sails are yar. It’s an actual term. It doesn’t sound like it should be but it is. I think it’s funny. 

A lot of that stuff is trying to make myself laugh, too. 

working on max fish mural, 1997
photo: dunn

For sure. How did your installations inside the old Max Fish happen? Is that a nod to old Alleged connections?

I’ve done three installations in Max Fish over the years. I lived two storefronts down from there in 1995.

Rent had to be a lot cheaper then. 

Definitely. And it wasn’t a skater bar either. It was far more artists and musicians back then, which I actually liked because I could take a break from my skatelife and go there. 

My days back then were basically painting or shooting skate photos during the day, skating the metal curbs out on Houston a lot from around 11 to 1am and then ending the day at Max Fish until close at 4. That was kind of the routine. 

All the people that worked at Max Fish were my buddies. How Max Fish became a skater bar, my good friend I skated with was Andre Razo. Whenever his underage younger brothers Marc and Tino would come down from Vermont, we would get them into Max Fish and they’d be stoked. It’s funny to see how they evolved and became bartenders as Max Fish became a total skate bar… and now Marc is one of the owners. 

It was a natural thing over the years where they’d ask me if I wanted to paint the walls. The first one I did was probably in 1997 or so. I did another one in 2004 and the last one I did was 3 or 4 years ago. They want me to do another one in the new spot but I haven’t gotten out there to do it yet. 

shooting "ye old destruction" with al parts

What can you tell us about your new project Ye Olde Destruction

Yeah, I’ve been working slowly on this all 16-mm skate film over the last few years. It’s a pretty solid cast of skaters: Evan Smith, Colin Provost, Taylor Bingman, Nick Garcia, Suski, Chris Russell, Brent Achtley, Al Parts, Ray Barbee, McCrank… there’s a bunch. So far, Jon Miner’s helped me film a trip and French Fred had helped me film another. 

I don’t want to give away too much but it’s really raw and fun skating. A lot of DIY spots and loosely based around automobiles. It’s not about hammertime, It’s people having fun, skating shit. I’ll leave it at that.

Will it be along the same lines as Cuatro Suenos Pequenos

I’m making it so it will have a similar vibe but this one will be much more angsty and in the punk zone. Quatros is a bit more ethereal or dream-state oriented. 

filming Javier Mandizabal for CSP - photo: rip zinger

How did Cuatro Suenos Pequenos come about?

Javi and I were just sitting around the table in my house. I’d wanted him to be in this other idea for a film I was working on but it didn't work out. He was working with Quiksilver at the time and I remember him saying, “Those guys are big fans of your work. They’d probably let us make a movie together if you wanted. “

We started talking about it and seriously, within 15 minutes, we had the idea. 

“Maybe it could be about dreams.”

It kept going from there. I hashed it out a little more and got Quiksilver to give us some budget. We started working on it and were actually almost done when Quiksilver closed down that side of their business. No more skateboarding. But it was cool because they actually paid for the movie and then gave it back to me.

In the beginning, it was going to be a free movie in Europe, released on the internet. It was really made with the European sensibility in mind. Lots of influence from Bertalucci, Fellini and Godard. 

Your use of colors in Quatros reminds me a lot of Godard’s Contempt… which I can’t say is something I’ve ever said about a skate video before.

Yeah, I really like that European New Wave stuff. 

It was awesome working with French Fred and having a really great, small crew that could move fluidly. Making that film was really a nice time. It was a total pleasure. 

self foot portrait - 16mm wheel filming rig
"cuatro suenos pequenos" - santa cruz, 2012

How does that experience compare with your work on SB Chronicles 3

Yeah, I’m helping art direct for the new Chronicles movie and I went on a trip to Chile with the guys not too long ago. I wasn’t filming as much as shooting portraits. Just being like, “Hey guys, come over here and shoot this portrait with me real quick.”

It’s a little different, for sure. On Quatros, for example, I’m the boss. I’m the director. I’m making sure the vision is taken care of and directing what is happening…  and I don’t always like being that person. Sometimes it’s more fun being a sideline person. 

But the trip was super fun. Everyone was really cool and they were all ripping. I love Kevin Bradley’s skating and with Cory, anything can happen at any time. That’s my favorite. And Koston was awesome. It was a great vibe. 

ed templeton - lipslide - garden grove, 1993

We talked about Swank and Blender earlier. Why don’t we see as many pros doing their own graphics and taking on these artistic pursuits like we used to? Is skateboarding still attracting the same weirdos? 

I think in the 80s when all the art stuff came to the forefront, being a professional skateboarder wasn’t as structured. The amount of stuff that needed to be done wasn’t on that crazy of a level. The level of skating wasn’t that high yet. I think this left a lot of room to do other things and be creative. The demand now is so high for what people have to do in order to be competitive, it doesn’t lend them as much time. 

If you look at companies like Magenta or Welcome, those guys are having fun. There is a quantifiable balance: skating good but not killing themselves. Maybe that opens up their brains more towards being weird and making weird shit instead of a serious gnar athlete obsessing over that next crushing maneuver they’re going to take P-Rod out with in the comp. 

t campbell, back d - le vague, paris, 1994
photo: deberdt

Let’s inspire some weirdos with this last question: Recommend one album, one book and one film. 

Okay, I’d say probably one of the records I’ve listened to the most in the last decade is from this band, Girls. It’s their first record, called “Album”. All their records are really good but I think that one is just amazing. Even though a lot of people hate it… which is probably a good sign. 

The movie that’s coming to mind right now is one I’ve always loved called Birdy. It’s with Mathew Modine and Nicolas Cage and is a full-on 80’s movie but it’s really good.

And I just saw Madars at Element Skate Camp… I’d told him a while ago that he should read Miles Davis’ autobiography. Since then, he got around to reading it and was amped about it. It’s super raw. It’s Miles telling all these stories like, “You broke dick dog motherfucker!”…cutting everyone down, telling jazz history according to Miles.

He’s such a dark character. It’s called “Miles” and its pretty long but when you’re done, you’ll wish it was longer. It’s really good. 

big thanks to Whiteley and T-Muck for taking the time,,,


Anonymous said...

I am so siked to see some thomas campbell love on the cbi! Incredible interview!

Austin said...

Thank you Chops and Thomas.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sheffey has never been on a fairy ride

Loo Ganida said...

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait for the new movie. Kicking myself for not grabbing his Designerium decks (and the Dave Kinsey one). Thanks once again!!

Anonymous said...

This interview struck really deep cords for me.
Thank you so much for your hard work and mainly being true to life and not turning this fun thing into a fucking marketing campaign, in the same breath happy that skating made travel and art possible


Skately said...

Amazing! Dug his take on skateboarding's divide and current state. Long time fan of his photography, art & positive vibes. Tried getting one of his paintings in the early 2000s, but the day after contacting him, my car engine blew and there went my savings. Bummer, but the car is still humming along today.

Benjamin Deberdt said...

Good job, once again!
I will leave this here, about that one photo I shot in there…
In all honesty, it should say "self-portrait", as Thomas set up all the flashes, told my aspiring photographer's ass to lie down there, and all I had to do was click, then shake his camera for the light effects... It was a cold night, and we were skating what was our favorite spot in Paris: the sundial known as La Vague. Thomas was willing to shoot a Paris story for @transworldskate and had arranged to meet Stephane Larance there to take photos of him, but he never showed up. So we ended up shooting photos of each others to keep warm.

Anonymous said...

Great interview & some really interesting history - keep up the good work.

isidro said...

thansk for the interview,Eric and Thomas.

the name of Thomas Campbell brings me back to mid 90's being an asocial kid,only skateboarder in a town from rural Spain(pre-internet era),Tres60 SkateMag was my only connection with the rest of the world.This magazine was really exciting for a few years including not only amazing photos and interviews but also,art,poetry,music and the sense that skateboarding was more than just riding your skate.i remember thomas's name was all over that magazine over those years.