chrome ball interview #89: joey suriel

Sweets and Chops keep it real

So I gotta ask what you know about the new Menace coming back? Were you or anybody else from the old crew contacted about this at all?

I do know a little bit about it. My friend Josh Hill has been wanting to revamp the brand for a while now. None of us original guys are involved with it. This is something that will probably come up a bunch during this interview but we don’t own the name “Menace” and we never did, which is why we had to switch names. “Menace” has been up for grabs for anybody who wanted it. Josh thinks he can do something with it and if that’s what he wants to do, that’s totally cool. He has my blessing.

I will say that it’s good to see the old star graphic with the MNC and the gloves out there again. It brings back memories for me, man. It’s nostalgic.

Why do you think Menace still holds such a place in skaters’ hearts more than 20 years later?

I think that it’s the honesty and the realness of what we were doing that made the impact. That’s what people picked up on. There was much more to it than just skating. It wasn’t about being the best. It was the lifestyle, man. I know nowadays, people call this type of image “swag” but that word didn’t exist back in our time. To us, it was about keeping it real and being who we were.

I’m humbled, bro. I think we were so in the moment that we didn’t realize the impact we were having. We were doing what we loved. I can’t believe people still bring this stuff up and I appreciate all of it. I’ve always felt like we were fortunate because I’ll be the first to say on record that, for me, I wasn’t really doing anything all that cutting edge or beyond extraordinary when it came to skateboarding. But I do feel that whatever I did was done proper. We were more about style and doing things right. But for it to still have an impact all these years later is amazing.

So was Kareem really the “Mastermind” behind Menace? How much of a role did he play in the overall direction?

Yes, Menace was essentially Kareem’s project. His offspring. But once it was all put into action, it became a collective effort between all of us.

How did that work exactly? What did the riders bring to the table in this collective effort?

A lot of the stuff we came up with was more spur of the moment, spawned from all of us hanging out together. Obviously, we were all really big into hip hop culture. We’d see a cool album cover and decide to do something with it or listening to a song, decide to name our wheels “Butter Pecans”. That was our collective thing.

Kareem masterminded the foundation of Menace. He was the one who had the vision and knew what he wanted to do with the company. He was initially approached by Rocco to do something with riders already in mind… riders with big names, actually. Well-established pros who were already set-up in the industry. But that’s not what Kareem wanted to do. He wanted to bring riders to the table who were like-minded with backgrounds similar to his own. I feel that’s what made it work. We all had history together growing up skating the streets of LA.

That’s what initiated the whole process but once it all came together, we took it upon ourselves to bring ideas to the table that we thought were cool. Kareem was always down to give things a try.

For example, I remember all of us going to World Industries one day to check out the operation. What caught our eye was this huge denim-tinting machine they had running. They looked like huge washing machines that were used to do the color of their jeans.

“Hey Reem, what if we made money green Menace denim?”

“Let’s try it! We have all we need right here!”

Just like that, we tried it and they came out amazing! But it was all organic, man. Nothing premeditated. There wasn’t some explicit marketing plan or branding strategy.

Like “Enter the Pu-Tang”, that was Billy and Shiloh’s idea. We were just sitting there, listening to Wu-Tang and looking at the album cover when they both start throwing out this idea!

“How sick would it be to turn the W over to make it a M! Yeah, put Menace in the middle where it says Wu-Tang and instead of the album title, make it say, “Enter the Pu-Tang”!

Obviously, we were down. But it was all so spontaneous… which was pretty typical with concepts throughout the Menace timeframe.

Friends vs BI. How did you get along with Kareem and Rocco from a business point-of-view?

Kareem and I go back years before Menace so stepping into our business relationship was a smooth transition. I respected Kareem as a business associate as much as I did as a friend and brother.

I didn’t really know Rocco much aside from skateboarding but Kareem cosigned for him so he was good in my eyes. I was always on top of what was going on with the business side of things anyway. I think one big thing about my relationship with Kareem is that we both knew how to separate our business relationship from our friendship. I think that’s a big reason why we remain close to this day.

Do you think the rest of the crew was able to maintain this mindset? Was the overall direction of Menace unanimously decided upon by the riders?

Yeah we had an original plan from the beginning that was carried out. As a matter of fact, I remember getting our first checks and deciding to sacrifice a little more of our earnings back into the company in order to do more things. I mean, we had a full denim line, an accessory line and a cut-and-sew line… that doesn’t come cheap. But these were all things that were talked about collectively and agreed upon.

For me, this wasn’t an issue. I knew that I wanted to do something more long-term and I always tried to look at things that way.

You gotta remember, there wasn’t much money in skateboarding back then. If you were making 2g’s a month, bro… you were the man! You were doing big things! You had your little apartment, your Honda Civic with your little rims… you were good! Like, back when Girl first started, the biggest thing was how much they were getting paid!

“What!?! You guys are getting 2k a month to start!?!”

They hadn’t even started the company yet and were getting paid like that! That was huge.

But I will forever be indebted to Reemo for the opportunities he has presented to me. I’m not only talking about providing me the platform to showcase my skateboarding but also allowing me to step in and gain a better understanding of business, in general. He was always looking out for me.

I remember the first thing he did as he handed me my first Menace check was take me to the bank. He basically made me open up a bank account that day. Things like always reminding me to pay my taxes and taking the time to make me understand what it meant for me to be an independent contractor for a company. Real life stuff that I didn’t really know but had to prepare for.

Going back a bit… and on the complete opposite side of the Menace spectrum, I had no idea you were on Powell back in the day! Was that through Paulo? Were you one of Paulo’s kids?

I was just always in the mix, man. Fabian, Juan, Gabriel, Rudy, Paulo and Guy… we all grew up skating together. You can actually see me in the background of their part in Ban This. There were a lot of us but I’m in there.

How it happened was after those guys had all left, Paulo was still on Powell and had to film for Propaganda. My friends and I were all out there skating with Paulo and Stacy took notice. Paulo put in the good word and got me in the door.

Were you one of those kids with tricks in Paulo’s Propaganda part?

Yeah, Billy and I are both in there. On the last day of filming, I did a fakie airwalk down the stairs and Stacy decided to throw it in.  

But yeah, Stacy came up that day and asked me to one of those all-night sessions they used to have at the Powell park. He wanted me to skate in front of the team manager, Todd Hastings, to make it legit. Billy and I both went up to Santa Barbara with our friend Ruben and skated around. We must’ve made a good impression because they put us on right there and then.

It was a short stint but it was fun. 

How did SMA enter the picture? I remember that period being when you first started to get some shine.

After Stacy left Powell, they began to restructure the team and I knew I wasn’t going to last long there. I was on the team because of Stacy and once he was gone, I wasn’t that hyped about it anymore so I quit.

A week later, I was skating Transitions in East LA and ran into a friend of mine, Victor Franco. He was riding for SMA at the time. Victor asked me what was up with Powell and after I told him I’d quit, he basically put the call in right there on the spot. It was that easy.

How was your time on Santa Monica Airlines? Looking back, it does seem like a pretty weird fit.

What was that video they had? Debunker? I actually had footage for that one but I don’t know whatever happened to it. I don’t know if the Team Manager at the time was totally convinced on me or what, but I was shocked that I didn’t make it in there. I honestly thought it was pretty decent footage! (laughs)

We’re all our own worst critics but I thought there was some pretty good stuff there! So when it finally came out and I wasn’t in it, I was kinda shocked. Oh wow!?! Okay.

But it was all good once Russ Pope came into the picture. That’s the homie for life. I actually thought SMA was a good fit for me. I felt I brought something different to the company. Even my ad with “The D.O.C. in LA”, I thought I brought something more left field to the brand.

So did ATM Click come out of the LA X-Large scene that was going off around that time?

Yeah, that ATM collaboration was basically born out of those X-Large connections.  X-Large was huge back then and really provided a platform for us… I remember doing a photo spread through them for URB Magazine with a young group called TLC before anyone knew who they were.

We always looked up to Mark and Ron growing up because they represented who we were. The fact that Mark was a Latino kid from South Gate who made it, he set the standard for what we would strive to accomplish. He gave us hope. If he could make it, so could we. It was amazing because before I knew it, there I was skating with him. It was almost like a dream and also served to give me even stronger motivation to keep it going.

I feel like skating for ATM put the stamp on my skateboard career. Regardless of what could possibly happen afterwards, the fact that Gonz turned me pro could never be taken away from me.

Were you at all expecting to go pro when you did?

I say this in a very humble way but we all reach a point when you basically know you’re at your pinnacle. Where you think to yourself, “Man, I’m hot right now!” (laughs)

You don’t say it out loud but you do start feeling a certain way and then people say things that confirm what you’re already thinking. For us, it wasn’t necessarily about riding for the best brand or making x-amount of money but more about gaining respect from our peers. If I can go to Embarcadero and make those dudes acknowledge what I was doing, that was everything. That was our mentality. If Henry Sanchez can come to Los Feliz and give me props, that was the epitome of “making it” to me.

I’d reached a point where even though I didn’t have a board out, I considered myself pro. I could tell it was coming… and I remember skating one evening with Mark when he just came out and asked me out of the blue.

“Hey Joey, I think we’re going to turn you pro but we’re gonna wait with it because I’m going to leave Falahee and ATM to start something new.”

Being asked to go pro was awesome but at the same time, we wanted ATM Click to stay! We thought that company was so dope! I felt it was perfect. In fact, I remember Jeff Klindt calling X-Large one day right when ATM was just getting started to see if I’d ride for Real. This is right after he’d put Billy on Real, too. I was flattered for Jeff to offer but I thought ATM sounded so amazing that I had to see it through.

So yeah, Mark wanted to turn me pro but wanted to wait on putting my first board out until 60/40 was up and running. I had one board out for that company but I just didn’t feel the same passion for that brand. I know it sounds cliché but at the end of the day, you gotta love what you do. Thomas Edison once said, “Find your passion in life and you’ll never have to work a single day.”

That’s so true. And at that point, I just wasn’t feeling 60/40. I was pretty much mentally gone. Luckily, I had already spent the summer with Kareem in New York and the seed for Menace had been planted.

What did you see as the big differences between ATM and 60/40?

Even the name “ATM Click” was cool. “Click” is a hood term so right away, it made sense. We were already a click, man. And I liked the image that Mark was bringing because it was artsy but still had some street to it, too.

No disrespect to Mark or Ron but ATM just seemed so much better. Mark’s graphics for ATM seemed so much fresher than what they ended up being on 60/40.  I’d look at some of those graphics by that point and know that it wasn’t really Mark. I could tell. They just had some weird stuff on there… like I remember seeing shirts with this demonic looking clown or something. It was weird.

ATM had that Steven Cales Puerto Rico tee, Patty Hearst and the Snot Remover guy with a straw up his nose. Those shirts were dope! Shirts with Mark’s characters all over the front… I think ATM seemed more “Mark” in comparison, which I felt was something missing from 60/40.

What did you think of the name “Menace” and the overall art direction of the company?

I thought the name was perfect because it represented who we were. We were Menace not because we were dysfunctional and violent but because we symbolized what skateboarding was from our point of view, which to a lot of people was menacing. The truth is that we represented skateboarding from a point of view the skateboarding world had never seen or experienced yet.

How would you describe this point of view?  

It was the perspective through the eyes of a young urban kid who didn’t really come up in the suburbs. From someone more inclined to go the gang route as opposed to doing something positive. It’s like Biggie said, “You’re either slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot.”

That’s how we saw it. You either get caught up in dealing drugs and gangbanging or seeing what you could do with this skateboard.  That was our way out. In this form of art that is skateboarding, we were able to escape being caught up in that negative environment. It gave us the platform to show kids from the suburbs or out in the Midwest what it was like to see skateboarding from our point of view. Skateboarding from kids who are really in the hip hop culture.

We brought this real grungy street music to skateboarding. It was almost like Nirvana! They came with this straight out the gutter-type rock that really got people’s attention. It was kinda the same thing for us with skateboarding. Menace was the Nirvana of skateboarding! The NWA of skateboarding! It was our collective effort. It wasn’t Sal from Plan B, it was the entire Menace crew. An entire group of kids from the same background… bro, from the same neighborhood!

Eric was from Rhode Island but he applied that same style and point of view we did. In our minds, because of how he carried himself, Eric was pretty much from the hood. From the first couple of times we met him up at Embarcadero in SF, I’d always think to myself, “Man, this white boy is down!”

You mentioned something earlier about Rocco already having pros in place for MNC before coming to Kareem… any idea who they were?

It wasn’t even called Menace yet at that point. It was more of an idea that Rocco had presented to Reem with riders loosely attached. It wasn’t like those guys were ready to go, these were names Rocco felt like Kareem should approach.

But if I recall correctly, I want to say Chris Senn. He was huge back then, cleaning house in contests. And I also want to say Willy Santos was another option. I think there were a few more but those are the two that come to mind.

Talk about the heads who almost got on Menace. I’ve always heard Rick Ibaseta and Ivan Perez almost got on. And what about Shiloh?

This has been brought up in interviews by a few of the other guys. I know Billy brought up Rick Ibaseta. But honestly, the only person I remember Kareem showing us a tape of and seriously asking what we thought as a potential rider was some vert guy.

I can’t even remember his name but I just remember us being like, “Nah…”

Ivan would hang out with us for months at a time when he’d come out from New York. We’d chill and skate but him getting on Menace was never a topic of conversation that I remember. I don’t remember Rick Ibaseta either but that might’ve been Billy bringing that up to Kareem one-on-one. He was never brought up to the group though. It was always a collective thing.

How come Kareem never skated for Menace?

I always wanted him on! Who wouldn’t want Kareem Campbell on their team!?! Shiloh, too! Shiloh would’ve been dope on Menace.

I know it was talked about at the beginning that once everything was established, Kareem and Shiloh were going to join us. That was the move and to be honest, I don’t know why that never happened.

In retrospect, I think the biggest hurdle with that and a lot of the other issues we faced was the trademark stuff. It’s one thing to start over once but twice? First with All-City and then again with City Stars!?! That threw a huge monkey wrench into all of those initial plans. We were always having to restructure and figure everything out again.  Having to start all over after gaining all that momentum is the worst possible scenario. I think that’s really what held us back with so many things.

What would you say is your all-time favorite Menace ad? So many classics there.

If I have to pick one, it’s gotta be that Jody Morris wide-angle spread where we’re all sitting together and I’m throwing up the LA sign. I think that one best described us. Right when it was all in its infancy, in its purest form.

We didn’t even have any Menace product at that point yet. That’s why we’re all wearing different stuff. Billy’s wearing that Illinois tee, Eric’s got a collared tee on and I’m wearing a Polo tee. There wasn’t a single item anywhere in there that represented the company other than it saying Menace at the bottom… but look at how that worked out! That had an impact! All of a sudden, you started seeing kids wearing designer gear and all different kinds of tees. If we would’ve had Menace gear, I think we probably would’ve all been wearing it but we didn’t. We just happened to be with Jody and we knew we were going to be doing this company in a few months. We got an idea for an ad, let’s shoot it.

Were you nervous with how little skating there was in those first few ads?

Not at all. It was something that hadn’t been done before. You said it yourself: those ads are classics! I think that’s what made those ads special.

“What? These guys are just hanging out? Wait a minute! Can these guys even skate? Why are we so attracted to this whole thing going on here?”

That was the impact. As a matter of fact, we originally didn’t want to have any skate ads at all! We didn’t want our ads to become “just another skate ad” like everybody else’s. We wanted to present us first. Show us for who we are, not what we do. Because I feel like once 20 Shot came out and did what it did, our plan worked. I still get people today telling me how hyped that video part got them.

Talk a little about 20 Shot Sequence. How it came about, how long you guys filmed and all of that… because there was a lot riding on that for you guys. Like you said, you guys really had to show and prove.

20 Shot was filmed over the course of 4 months and I still remember Kareem bringing the final cut over to a friend of ours house and watching it with everybody. It was such a good feeling to see the final result of something we put our heart and soul into.

We were blessed. Eric, Fabian and Billy all did some amazing stuff in that video. Those lines on the picnic tables were so good and I don’t want to take anything away from that but like I said before, I do think the impact of that part had more to do with our style and how we did our tricks. A switch heelflip over a bench wasn’t that big of a deal, especially by today’s standards, but the way it was done was so clean. It made skaters realize that you didn’t have to do the hardest trick in the world, just make it look dope. That’s worth something.

Gotta ask about that opening fight in 20 Shot? I always heard that was jokes but a broken collarbone ain’t funny.

We were always so hard on Matt but we loved him to death. He just tried so hard to be something he wasn’t and you gotta remember that we were just kids back then...

So we’re all out filming at Lockwood one day for the video and the thing with that spot is that it’s all black asphalt. One fall on that, you’re black. We’re out there getting filthy and here Matt pulls up looking like he just got back from the mall! He’s got on a new Polo hat with his cream Polo tee and some brand new kicks…

“Dude, you better get outta here with that stuff right now. We’re over here getting grimy and you’re looking like you’re trying to go to the club!”

But he didn’t heed to what we were saying! So Billy set it off.

“You know what, man? No, forget that! If you come to Lockwood, you’re getting dirty.”

And that’s what happened. We weren’t hitting him for real. It was all fun and games. Somehow he really did end up hurting himself but that wasn’t our intention. We were just giving him a hard time. He was alright. Of course, you don’t see the footage afterwards where we pick him up and give him a pound. That stuff was left out.

What went down between you and Mike V at Slam City that year? I remember you two almost getting into it on the course.

That’s a good question. I was honestly just out there skating and really don’t know what happened. All I know is, all of a sudden, Mike’s in my face.

“Hey man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just skating like everybody else.”

It was crowded so everybody was getting in everybody’s way. It wasn’t anything personal. But for whatever reason, he wanted to pinpoint me. Maybe the moment got the best of him? I’m not sure but I do think that neither of us really wanted things to escalate. As caught up in the moment as we were, I didn’t want to make matters worse because I knew what could happen. I even remember telling him, “Let’s just leave it. Leave it alone.”

In the end, we shook hands. Moments after all that, it was done and we were good. People don’t remember that. We’ve been cool ever since.

I know the Menace Epicly Later’d opened up with Fabian almost coming to blows with some kid while out skating. Was it a constant thing for people to challenge the Menace crew because of the brand’s image?

Yes, I feel like that did happen a lot. I think people wanted to test and see if we really were what they thought we were portraying. Some drunk kid at a house party while on tour getting belligerent in front of his friends. Coming up to me like, “Man, you ain’t gangster.”

I had to show him what was up. Those types of things did happen but I was never the live wire. I was always really vocal and animated but I was never the dude who would go set something off. I was usually the peacemaker, trying to break things up.

That’s something I don’t think too many people realize is that we were all pretty cool on tour. We were the type of dudes who’d come into town and try to interact with the kids. We were respectful. I don’t think we were ever stand-offish or refusing to give autographs, which I think a lot people seemed to think was shocking. It’s like they were expecting something else. They’d want to see the act. Kids were always trying to come up and smoke with us or whatever but we’d always try to keep it professional.

Who came up with the Mission Impossible-style break-in for Trilogy? And why was Menace kinda crowbarred into the video like that? Were you bummed about doing another montage instead of individual parts?

That whole thing was Reem’s idea. Reemo and Socrates came up with all that. That was a lot of fun just filming all around Kareem’s house one day.

As far as how Menace fit into Trilogy, we could’ve put out video parts but there was so much stuff going on under the World umbrella and basically, we only had Socrates! He was doing everything, man! It was crazy! That dude was putting in work. That’s honestly why they had to do the 20 Shot, Trilogy and Daewon vs Rodney-type of videos. That’s just what made sense.

You have to understand that with World, they couldn’t just focus on Menace. That’s not their only bread and butter. They’re looking at it from a panoramic-perspective. They had all these other brands, too. It would’ve taken too much effort to focus on one project with everything else that was going on… and even if that was the case, why not just put out a World video instead? World was their baby!

I was kinda neutral about the whole thing. I know some of the other guys felt differently but I could’ve gone either way. I did think that it was a little strange but I knew the reasons why. I kept myself informed enough to know why. I’ve never tried to let myself get too caught up in something if I knew the reasoning behind it. Why am I gonna kill myself over something I have no control over? You gotta go with the flow and do what you gotta do.

But at the same time, there was still the idea of a potential Menace video…

One of skateboarding’s greatest what-if’s, how serious was the full-length Menace project? Was it ever really coming out?

It was deadly serious, man. The Menace video was detrimentally serous. We were hook, line and sinker all about it. And I hate to keep bringing it up but I do think that trademark scenario turned out to be a huge obstacle with this project as well. Not only would it knock the wind right out of us, it was also demotivating and distracting. Instead of focusing on what we needed to do, like a video, we had to basically re-do everything on the business side that we’d already worked so hard on to get to by that point. We really liked that Menace name. That was who we were.

But yes, the video was super serious, bro. There was no joking around about that one. We were really trying to make that happen.

Is it true that the video was done and Reem deaded it?

No, that’s not true. We had got to a point where the video was just about there, where it was almost done but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. I can’t even explain why. Honestly, I can’t. The copyright stuff started going on and that video kinda got lost in the mix. I guess some things aren’t meant to happen. But to answer your question: Kareem never deaded any of that.

What was your attitude towards filming and coverage? Socrates said the crew was generally pretty lax about it.

I don’t want to speak for the other guys but I personally loved filming with Soc and I think he’d tell you the same. I used to call him up and we’d go out all the time, just me and him. Go out to Chaffey and spend the whole day out there.

It’s just like with anything else where you can get caught up in the lifestyle and image of it but I always tried to keep a straight and open-minded perspective on what I needed to do. I can honestly say I gave 100%.

For the record, and I’ve never told anybody this, I was actually skating with a bad shoulder for years. I never even told Kareem this. From right around 20 Shot up until around 1998 or so when Kareem got us all insurance, my shoulder was really messed up, bro. I’d wake up screaming in the middle of the night with my shoulder out of joint. I kept it on the low because I didn’t want it to seem like a crutch but it definitely played a large part in my career. The guys would ask me what was wrong but I always felt embarrassed about it. Luckily, after a while, I got it mastered to where I could pop it back in myself Lethal Weapon-style.

I’m so thankful Reem got us that insurance though. That was cutting edge! Skateboarders never got insurance back then and it ended up paying for both of my shoulder surgeries. I didn’t have to pay a penny. And because of that injury and those surgeries, I was introduced to resistance training through my physical therapy. Believe it or not, I now have a personal training business on top of doing real estate. If it wasn’t for skateboarding, I wouldn’t have been led into any of this. As my Orthopedic Surgeon once said to me, “Adversity is the motor of unimagined opportunity.”

You brought up the D.O.C. earlier, who were the Doped Out Children and how'd that whole thing come about? Who was all in it? How serious were you guys when it came to graf and which skaters of the crew had some of your favorite styles? 

My friend Juan and Fabian started it back in ‘88 or so. It consisted of a few of us who frequented the Belmont tunnels where a lot of the original LA graffiti writers got up. Later on Reemo, Gabriel, Guy, Rudy, Shiloh, and Billy also joined the crew. Graffiti was part of the culture that came hand-in-hand with hip hop, breakdancing and skateboarding. It just came with the territory. 

Shiloh and Billy were really good, in my opinion. It was just like riding our skateboards in that we each had our own distinct style of doing it but I do think those two guys stood out the most. 

It did seem like that original crew got pushed back a little over the years but why did Billy leave the Menace/City Stars mix entirely?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I think maybe after a certain point, let’s be honest here, it just got a little difficult for us. That’s why with the point of view I always maintained, it was easy for me to transition. I never had a problem with knowing when it was time and bowing out gracefully. I was always clear about what my plans were in skateboarding, beyond the physical responsibilities of being a pro. I felt the calling from behind the scenes and allowed myself to evolve accordingly.

That’s what helped me through when the time came. Maybe it was different for others.

Would kids like Spanky and Mikey Taylor ever been have considered for Menace? Was it weird seeing what Menace ended up as with City Stars?

It was a different era, man. Things had changed and we had to evolve. What we brought to skateboarding with Menace wasn’t new anymore. By that point, you had your DGKs in full swing so we had to bring another perspective. Keeping it on that same level but bringing in some new blood.

In retrospect, becoming City Stars allowed for a broader marketing strategy. Bringing kids into the mix who weren’t necessarily from the hood but possibly related to famous actors instead. We knew their talent could still let us showcase what we were about. It was about being genuine. This is why when we introduced this new breed of kids under City Stars, we named them “The Terror Squad”. It wasn’t about being afraid of what we were portraying with the image anymore, now you gotta sweat us with what we’re doing on our boards! These kids were killing it! It was their time and City Stars was their platform. Paul, Mike, Spanky, Devine and Justin were forces to be reckoned with.

City Stars was a lot of fun for me because I was able to focus all my energy towards helping Reemo reestablish the brand. I liked working to bring up this new breed. It was therapeutic and helped me cope with how the times were changing.

So you knew going into that Street Cinema part that it would be your swan song?

I’d been knowing that. I actually wanted that part to be more of a subtle retirement-type of thing. I didn’t even want it to be in the main video at all but more like an extra part on the DVD version we were trying to come out with.

I’d had my second shoulder surgery the year before the video came out. I was ready to let it go but Reemo wanted to wait until the next tradeshow because my board was still selling pretty good. I was thankful for that but I was honestly pretty much done a year or so before it was official.

What about that intro with you rapping in the car? So good!

(laughs) Yeah, my brother was heavily into music and I really enjoyed working with him on stuff. I’ve always enjoyed listening to early hip-hop and there was a certain part of me that enjoyed rapping but it was never too serious. I never wanted to be a rapper or anything. I thought it was fun and something cool to put in my part. There were definitely some people like, “Come on, man!” after they saw it but I didn’t get too much grief for it. I think some people thought it was cool, too. To this day, I’ll still have random people come up to me and quote different parts of my rap to me… like, “I rise. I rise.” (laughs)

It was just fun, man.

So what are you doing now, Joey? I know you were at Diamond for a minute, now you said you have a physical training business as well as being deep in the real estate game? Are you still skating at all?

I’ve been in real estate for the past 5 years and now have my own real estate company, City Stars Realty. And yes, I also have my City Stars Personal Training business. My heart will always be in skateboarding so it only seemed right for me to name my brands to coincide with it. I am a skateboarder and I have skateboarding to thank for making me into who I am today. Even though I did really well in school, I didn’t go to college. I made the decision at age 16 to follow my dreams. Skateboarding was my college and I feel like I do have a degree, not through any sort of certification but through experience. I’m grateful to have been so successful.

I’m married now with 3 beautiful boys and I’m also an Assistant Pastor at Truth Tabernacle Church in Hollywood. I definitely have a full plate but I still try to skate every once in a while. Rudy Johnson sends me boxes every so often and my boys like to skate but at 42-years-old, it’s a little harder to get going. It’s funny because I can still do things in my mind but physically, some things just don’t happen anymore. My mind writes checks that my body can’t cash.

Looking back on everything over the years, is there part of you that feels your inner-city backgrounds might have been glamorized to a fault or potentially exploited? Watching some of the gangster posturing and “Yeah Nigga!” hypeman antics, does any of that stuff make you cringe now?

Not at all, man. We are who we are. I don’t think it was exploitation, it was the people accepting us for who we were and this translating into the phenomenon we chose to portray. I’m not ashamed of who I was. That was me in my purest form. I acted the way I did and spoke the way I spoke because that’s whom I was.

Know that I am a different person now. I’m a husband, a father and a man of God. This makes the message of the Gospel that much more powerful because it’s the power to transform, to renew. I often say that skateboarding saved my life; Jesus saved my soul.

Do you still have your Menace and City Star necklaces?

(laughs) I do! I still have my necklaces! Those chains are very dear to me for what they meant and are another example of something that Kareem did for us to show he cared. One time he made us all these leather jackets, too. Expensive leather with the City Stars Abilist logo sewn-on the back. I still have that as well. It’s not that material items should put any meaning on a relationship but the fact that he did what he did out of his own pocket meant a lot.

But yes, I’ll always have my chains. I’m a City Star for life.

Can’t thank you enough for doing this, Joey. Anything you’d like to add? Shout-outs or words of wisdom?

First and foremost, I thank God Almighty, for without him coming into my life 8 years ago, I don’t think I’d be where I am right now. I'm thankful for everyone who has helped and inspired me to become the man I am today: my Mom, my wife Claudia, my 3 boys: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Josiah; Kareem Campbell, Nick Tershay, Greg Carroll, Stacy Peralta, Mark Gonzales, Russ Pope, my LA family: Fabian Alomar, Juan Haro, Gabriel Rodriguez, Rudy Johnson, Guy Mariano, Billy Valdes, Shiloh Greathouse and Paulo Diaz; my Pastor Joe Silva and my friend Chuck Messmer.

Watch the company you keep. Those whom you choose to surround yourself with will in turn be the influence that shapes your life.

I love skateboarding because I am skateboarding. Thank you for the opportunity, Eric. God bless!


IN Gee OO said...

Great job Chops! Best from Germany!

The 33King Network said...


Keith said...

Eric! How you doing man!

"My mind writes checks that my body can’t cash." I like that!

Nice one. What a difference of perspective between two God loving former pro skaters compared to Lenny Kirk.

Jody Morris was in the mix during the early/best Menace phase. He's probably sitting on a gold mine of photos of these guys.

snob said...

loved his part in that SMA video.

rd3308 said...

Great interview! I remember being influenced by the SMA part, through 20 Shot. It kept skating fun for me. Menace is timeless! Joey Suriel always stood out with his skating and having a sense of humility.

I asked for a board to be signed in '95. I met a down to earth person, that just happened to be on Menace, skating a spot with Mullen and acted no differently than anyone that just skates for the right reasons; you'd be doing that anyway. It stands out to me over 20 years later.

Anonymous said...

I like the quote "you dion't have to do the hardest trick, just make it look dope". I could never do the hardest tricks or have the impetus to skate massive gaps or handrails in a 'try hard' fashion, so the Menace ethos of doing simple tricks with style appealed to my nature. The shots of them chilling such as the Wu rip off advert just added to the mystique and created debate by a lot of skaters as to whether the team was 'any good'. This only added to the appeal. It was fun to watch '20 Shot' and feel like you could try lines yourself on your own local spots.. Rad interview and props from the U.K

Sassberto said...

I love that these menace and early LA street guys all turned out to be so humble, friendly And mature, vs these pissdrunx types who pissed their life away.

isidro said...

yeah,thanks for another great interview!
spain loves the chrome ball!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call this dude humble! I've seen him be a total dickhead to others while skating during one of the ASR's! Looked like he was suffering from "cool guy" syndrome!

Lee S said...

Mike V confronted Joey at Slam City Jam because Joey was smoking a Beedi, those weird Indian cigarettes. Mike V thought it was weed and took it upon himself to make Joey put it out. To this day I'm willing to bet Mike V doesn't even know that it wasn't even weed.

slapper said...

Thanks CHOPS...

This goes from a radical idea in a garage to corporate speak midway through. Alien’s outro in the TWS video was the shit.

Anonymous said...

Amazing interview!
Suriel was one of my favs and had me rocking Menace from top to toe when I was growing up and hot damn, I've seen 20 shot sequence so many times that I can tell the tricks in my sleep.

Cheers from Sweden!

Leonie Daecher said...

Sometimes when you read such interviews you start thinking about serious things like love, relationships, hobby and inspiration, sense of life at the whole. Famous people are very interesting by their personal experience. In this dialog I like the most photo from tour of Europe.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Met (almost) the whole Menace team in 1998 in Prague, real people who left a real mark on the skateboard culture forever. Thanks Joey, everybody at chromeball and everybody involved with Menace, even the newly revamped MNC skateboards.

Unknown said...

Mike V killed Joey's vibe in a heartbeat.