chrome ball interview #99: andy stone

chops and stoner sit down for some conversation.

So let’s start by taking it back to the place most synonymous with your career and describe what it was like coming up skating in D.C. back in the day. Were you from the city proper or out in the suburbs?

I’m actually from Fairfax, a suburb in Virginia about 10 miles west of D.C. That was pretty much my entire world growing up. I honestly didn’t know much at all about “urban” street skating until a few years after I’d started skating.

I’d say my first real exposure to proper D.C. skateboarding didn’t come until I went to a few local contests that were being hosted in the parking lot of my intermediate school. I’d been skating for a while at that point but to have people like Sean Sheffey, Hojin Chang and Steve Teagues show up… holy shit. Proper D.C. skateboarders out in the ‘burbs of Virigina? You could immediately tell a difference. Seeing those guys rip like that exposed me to the bigger picture of what was really going on. Not necessarily local, but regional.

I started going into the city not too long after that because I was just so curious. I had to see what it was all about. This was around ’87, so I was about 14 or so. Luckily there was a kid nearby who was old enough to have his license and he started picking us up on his way down there.

I remember finding myself at Pulaski and seeing a lot of those same guys from the contest. This was back in the launch ramp days and someone had brought one down there. I just remember watching them do their thing. It was on after that.

As a local, how much of the D.C. scene was actually defined by Pulaski through the years versus an outsider’s interpretation?

I mean, you have to think that this is before skating the ledges was even  a thing. Skateboarding hadn’t gotten to that point yet. So yeah, Pulaski was a staple spot in the city for as long as I can remember. From launch ramp days on up, it’s usage evolved as skating did. But it was different in that people would spend all day cruising around the city back then. Pulaski was a spot but it was in the mix along with Malcom X and the Welfare Banks, too. It’s not like we were posted up there all day. This is back when we’d skate 10 miles in a day, hitting different spots. Before we all got too comfortable at Pulaski to leave.

I think the rise of Pulaski had a lot to do with how much coverage it got. As cameras became more popular and especially after 411 started, I feel like so much of Pulaski’s infamy came from sheer recognition. It got so much publicity, which in turn fed back onto itself. It became the fort because it was easy for us and instantly recognizable for others. Which meant by after a few years of steady coverage, it had become one of the most popular spots in the world with 200 kids there every Saturday.

Being so far away from the industry, how seriously did you take a “career” in skateboarding growing up? When did you actively start pursuing this dream by sending out sponsor-me tapes, etc.?

I started taking skateboarding a little more seriously in the late ‘80s. That’s really when I began to think about footage. All I wanted to do was videotape, even if it meant having my mom film me in front of my house with an enormous, shoulder-mounted VHS camera. It still did the trick. My parents actually bought me a professional editing session for my birthday one year. I remember taking in all of my busted-up VHS footage with horrific tracking and putting Public Enemy songs over top of it.

I actually got my first sponsor when I was still in high school… B.B.C.! Yup, I was an official member of the Bad Boy Club! I even went on a mini-tour with Bill Danforth in his van one time!

Oh my god!

I literally took a 15-hour bus ride from Virginia to the middle of nowhere so I could meet up with Bill Danforth. I still can’t believe my parents let me do this… but yeah, we just drove around, hitting up shops for 12 days. Full nomad-style. It was just Bill and I with this other kid, sleeping in his van.

You’re gonna have to delve a little deeper into this experience. This sounds insane.  

It was such a weird thing anyway and now with it being so long ago, it almost seems like an out-of-body experience. I do remember feeling this crazy mix of being stoked to be on a skateboard tour and super intimidated by Bill at the same time. I was still so young that it didn’t even occur to me how weird it was. We seriously stayed in dude’s van every night. I don’t remember a single hotel on that trip but it never occurred to me that we were slumming it. I was just stoked that somebody else paid for my bus ticket out there!

It’s funny because Kanten Russell also skated for B.B.C. around this time before I ever met him. I didn’t learn this until years later but I guess I took Kanten’s spot on that tour after he couldn’t go.  

You guys had a BBC ad together, right?

You’re right! I don’t even remember what I’m doing there… kickflipping a curb? Come on!

Kanten and I were actually talking about this the other day, we work together on projects now... but I had totally forgotten the entire premise of that ad was that he was black and I was white. They had infused an entirely racial concept into their skateboarding ad and just ran with it! They actually paid money for it! And what makes it funnier, nobody even cared. (laughs)

Incredible. So I know you ran through a few sponsors early on but when did things start happening to where a skate career became a viable option?

All of this is really because of Dave Schlossbach. That one dude clearly had more to do with my success in skateboarding than anyone else by a mile. My linking up with him is what changed everything for me. This was back in ‘89 when he’d come out East to film some contests. He saw me skating at a few and decided to meet up with me later and film some stuff. We filmed a bunch while he was out here and I remember telling him as he was heading back to California, “Hey, if there’s anybody out there you can hook me up with, please let me know.”

We stayed in touch and sure enough, he got things going for me. Not only was this one guy responsible for collecting all my footage but also for getting it into the right hands! It’s crazy what all he did for me! He essentially started acting as my agent out there, taking my footage and contest results to potential sponsors!

By the time I graduated high school in 1991, I was already riding for BBC, Thunder and Speed Wheels. Dave hooked most of that up. Through BBC, I was able to meet up with Jamie Mosberg on an East Coast trip not too long after that to shoot some photos. That’s when we shot my 360 kickflip tail grab photo that ran in a Check-Out for Transworld. Mosberg had gone back and told Transworld about me, showing them the photos and convinced them to run it. So all of a sudden, not only was I getting free product but I was also starting to get into magazines, too. That’s when I started to realize that maybe this could actually happen for me.

So did you just decide to go for broke and head out west?

For whatever reason, I started to get it in my head that going pro was a realistic option for me. I guess I had a couple of decent contest placings and began to think high enough of myself that, in whatever parallel universe I was in, I deserved it... even though I never actually placed myself in the same league as other top tier pros. I guess I wanted to be a shitty pro? All I know is that I didn’t want to continue working at the Roy Rogers anymore.

Obviously, Schlossbach had proven himself as someone who could make shit happen so I was sure to listen to whatever he had to say. He clearly knows what he’s talking about and just broke it down to me one day.

“Look, the only way you’re going to get what you really need out of all of this stuff that you’re trying to do is to get comfortable in front of the camera and just start filming every single day. That’s the only way that this is gonna work. Why don’t you come out to California and stay at my house? Let’s make it happen.”

It was nuts but I flew out and stayed the entire summer with Dave. He was struggling, too, but we made it work. We literally filmed every day and cooked spaghetti every night. We were definitely living on the cheap but that’s what we had to do. Every single day, it was on. And that trip is where most of my Falling Down part came from.

So most of your 101 part was filmed before you actually got on the team? The footage was pretty much all it took?

Yeah, it was basically the footage that got me there.

Schlossbach really inspired me to take the whole thing quite seriously. It was a totally different mode. We weren’t just “out skating”. I had a list of tricks that I needed to film. And not only that, Dave wanted me to think about which spots I was planning on doing these tricks at and how they’d translate to tape. Thinking about the part itself, not just the skating part of it. Like, going to the Powell Warehouse wasn’t just a day at the park.

“Hey, try that kickflip 5-0 over here. What about a double laser over the hip? Let’s figure this out.”

Those were all tricks in my part and they all came from Dave. He knew that the better stuff he could film me doing, the more it would help the both of us. Even to where he started to incentivize my tricks, not that he could really afford to do so. But everyone was doing that back then and what can I say? It worked.

So we log loads of footage, I tell him to cut it up the best he can and show it to Rocco and Rodney. See if there’s a spot for me literally anywhere on their teams.  I don’t even care which one.

A little later, and I’ll always remember this, Natas calls me.

“Hey, I’ve seen your footage. I have an am spot for you on 101. What do you think?”

“Are you kidding me!?! Of course!”

The footage from that summer basically became my Falling Down part, along with a few clips we added later. The opening stuff in Pulaski with the nollie double heel and the cab double flip was all stuff we shot once I got back.

Why Dice Clay?

Honestly, I had nothing to do with Dice being in my part. That wasn’t my choice.

I’m not even entirely sure but I think that had more to do with how we are on the East Coast, in general, and D.C. specifically. We’re all ruthlessly sarcastic and I know that I was especially cutthroat back then. That’s where I always thought it came from anyway. But it’s not like I was specifically asked if I wanted that for my part. The only interaction I ever had concerning my part was more along the lines of, “Hey, you’re getting a part in the video.”

“That’s awesome! Thanks!”

That was it. I saw it when it came out with everybody else.

You literally had your whole life riding on that part, how do you think it came out?

That part is probably what I’m most proud in my entire career. It’s definitely the most effort I ever put into creating a part, for sure. Obviously looking back on it, there are a few things that I wish I’d done better. Some of it’s a little sloppy and there’s a ton of double flips in there but I like it.

Were you still as persistent with your pro aspirations after getting on such a heavy team?

It’s weird because as badly as I wanted to go pro, 101 put that ego right in check. Once I saw Koston’s part in Falling Down, I couldn’t believe it. I was stoked on my part but if Koston’s part is what it took to go pro, I had no delusions of where I stood on the team. Don’t get me wrong, I still was very anxious to go pro but I had to be honest with myself about the situation.  

One thing that probably factors into this: I’d actually heard through the grapevine that Rodney thought that I was too old to go pro. I was 20-years-old at the time and to be fair, that was considered “old” back then, especially for World. I’m not going to sit here and kid myself that I was blowing doors like other pros on that team. But at the same time, I also knew that it was essentially now or never.

Did you ever consider moving out west permanently to help your career?

Not really… though being all the way across the country probably didn’t help me out much. I will say that whenever I did hang out with the team, it definitely seemed to go well. We just weren’t that close. Even after Girl when Dill, Gino and Clyde were brought in, they all seemed much closer as a team than I ever did and I was actually on before them. We’d hang out some and it was always good times. But I never really bro’d down. My going pro never seemed like a foregone conclusion the way it did for the other guys. It never felt like it was only a matter of time for me. Quite the opposite, actually. I mean, things would’ve had to play out a lot differently for me to have been holding that bomb in the ad. (laughs)

Put it this way, I never felt like I was missing from that photo. 

For me, the big moment came when I met Andy Howell at the Back to the City contest that year. New Deal always had a pretty big East Coast presence and I’d always wanted be on New Deal since the days of Chris Hall and Ally Mills. So when I saw Andy at that contest in ’93, we started talking about things. He told me that he’d seen my footage and there was a spot for me over at Element if I wanted it. He explained that the company was about to go through a bit of a transformation from being Underworld Element and there was some exciting stuff coming up. Was I interested?

“I appreciate the offer but I’m going to give 101 the rest of the summer to figure things out.”

…I’m cringing as I tell you that. Like I’m really going to give 101 an ultimatum. Please. But this is something that I actually thought.

Did you actually say this to Natas?

Oh, man… never! This was something that only existed in the backdoors of my mind. I would’ve never said that to him. (laughs)

But going pro is what I’d always dreamed of. Now someone who I have incredible respect for is offering me the opportunity to skate for his company with guys from my hometown who I’d always looked up to? 101 was obviously amazing but this other offer was starting to make more sense.

And when Snuff came out, I knew it was time to go.

So what did happen with Snuff?

I honestly don’t know. It’s tough to say… I have a hard time believing that footage ever really gets “lost”. It’s my recollection that I had way more and far better footage than what ended up in the video. Maybe there was something to that rumor of being too old? I always felt like that part was proof enough I wasn’t at the level that could overcome my age for those who call the shots at World.

I quit to ride for Element not too long after that.

Were you and Pepe close prior to Element?

Not at first. He grew up a little closer to the city in a town called Arlington. He was actually one of those guys who showed up with the D.C. crew at that contest I was telling you about earlier. We’d always see each other around at contests and things. He was always “Lil’ Pep” back then because he was a foot shorter than the rest of us. He grew up fast, though.

We did start to bond as I started going to Pulaski more. And there were also these skate nights at a local rollerskating rink that we both used to go to. You may remember them from Chris Hall and Ally Mills’ parts in Useless Wooden Toys and 1281? With the hardwood floors? We used to get wild down there, man. Skating and sweating all night long… getting crazy out of our minds. It was an amazing time.

So yeah, by the time Element became an option, we were down. He was backing my getting on the team, for sure.

How did you react to the East Coast’s “trending” back then? That suddenly every West Coast team had to have their “East Coast guy”?

I honestly never thought about it like that but I see what you’re saying. I can say that Pepe and I never took Element and Giant for granted simply because of their involvement with 411 Video Magazine. That was huge for us and I feel like it completely changed the industry. It really enabled us to do whatever we wanted to from D.C. We no longer had to convince Fausto or Rocco to cut something in order to include us East Coast guys. I mean, if you look at all those early 411s, they’re chock full of D.C. footage. We finally had a proper vehicle to show how we really skated spots we liked to skate. And there wasn’t much lag with putting footage out either, which always helps with showing how good we really were.

Honestly, I’m not sure 411 gets enough credit for allowing skaters on the East Coast to compete in the industry. 

Heavily showcased in 411 with an Element Industry section as well as your Profile, how seriously did you take this new outlet at the time?

There was a D.C. Metrospective as well, which was great for the city. 411 was huge for us.

One aspect of all this, and I brought this up earlier, is with the evolution of cameras, the “filmer” became a real thing. It wasn’t just bro-cam anymore. The Hi-8 era gave rise to dudes who were perfectly willing to ride around all day on huge wheels and log footage. And after Falling Down, I was more established within the industry. I became somewhat of a name that people might recognize in addition to having all of these projects I now had rolling in. Filming and filmers were key.

After 411 started, we were out there accumulating footage constantly. We weren’t filming necessarily for anything specific but we knew that with 411, it could possibly end up someplace. We all started to get into that motivation mode that was typically more of a California thing prior to that. Kids back home now had incentive because of this potential destination for stuff to live. It was powerful. Not only filming for parts in 411s but for the ads, too.

So once it came time for Element to put out a full video, our focus was already there. We just pumped the brakes on putting footage towards these other projects and shifted our mindset toward Fine Artists.

But to answer your question, by the time I got to my Profile specifically, all of those other montage-type parts had come out and 411 had proven itself to a degree. There was enough there for me to realize how important a solo part of mine could be. So yeah, I went out and filmed pretty seriously for a couple of months. I was happy with it… 411 seemed like something new and cool to be part of.

Let’s get into Fine Artists, which came out not too long after Snuff. How did it go that you not only had a proper part in the video but also 5 minutes of Pulaski lines at the end?

Well, I didn’t have too much of a hand with how it all cut together. That was more of Andy Howell’s project, as far as the statements being made. The montage at the end with the chick starting into the tv… there were some real messages going on.

Fine Artists was kind of unique as it was more of a reintroduction to the brand. They really wanted to drive home that separation from the urban vibe of Underworld to what was now just Element. But I don’t think any of my stuff was carried over from the 101 era. It’s not like I held onto anything for later.   
As far as my footage goes, I don’t look back on anything in there that I’m super proud of. I wasn’t disappointed in it but I feel that I could’ve done better. I know my potential and how well I was skating at the time. I honestly feel that my 411 Profile is probably a better representation for back then.

I don’t know, man… I always loved those Pulaski lines with the Ronnie Jordan piece.

Actually, I was hyped on that stuff. It was just hard figuring out how to incorporate that stuff into the video. A part with that long of lines is pretty difficult to have in a full video, especially for back then. And I had so much of that stuff. I loved doing it. I’m sure there’s still footage of me doing lines up, back and around Pulaski that has never come out.

Unreleased Andy Stone Footage - 94/95 (Foote/Keir)

The Pulaski phones were pretty notorious. What’s going on in Fine Artists where you seem to have got caught in the middle of what looks like something particularly dubious?

I’m not sure people realize how important those phones at Pulaski were. To this day, over twenty years later, I still remember the numbers to those phones and I don’t even know the number to my own office!

Those were the days where you’d have to page someone over all the time. That or you could randomly call down to the payphone and check who was all out there. It was like the skater hotline. Those phones could be heard from Pulaski and it was kind of this unwritten rule where if you heard it, you had to run over and answer it. Because if someone was calling, it had to be a skater so help ‘em out. I used to call down to Pulaski every day before I left my house.  

But I honestly don’t remember the details of that particular call in the video. My guess is that somebody called down and asked for me specifically but I didn’t know who they were… someone probably messing with me.

Did you know what Pepe was working on with Artists and that the two of you were about to set it off for D.C.?

It’s strange recognizing how important he was with respect to what all was going on at that time. His switchstance ability was out of this world and the fact that he could do all of that stuff with style? Incredible. His skating still holds up to this day. I’m not sure if I fully realized this at the time because we were skating together every day. Maybe I just got used to seeing it somehow? But I feel like this era was the culmination of all the work we’d been doing. Putting our heart soul into everything we did and this was the payoff. It was fun to watch Fine Artists when it came out and it was rad to be a part of, but I don’t think we really took the time to appreciate it fully back then. We were in the eye of the storm and it was always onto the next for us. Keep it moving. It’s so much better for me now in hindsight.

When did it become apparent that Pulaski was becoming this world-famous spot?

It was late ’93 into early ’94 when Pulaski really started to go crazy. I was 20-years old, I had a car and a hooligan crew that was up for just about anything. Pulaski was our shit. And it wasn’t a bust yet at that point either.

It’s funny because there are a lot of different parts in D.C., some nicer than others. My crew was just a bunch of suburban white kids but we were only a segment of this larger, crazier crew coming together from all over to converge at this spot only a few blocks away from the White House. It’s a pretty innocuous place for a bunch of skateboarders to be hanging out at, high at 2 in the morning doing God knows what.

It’s wild to look back on but from when I was 16 on, we had a system of getting alcohol through the bums at Pulaski. Give a guy 5 bucks and he’d go off and buy a pint of Odessa vodka for himself and another one for us. It was on. We actually ended up doing this so much to where the owners of the liquor store finally had to come out one day as we were waiting.

“Look, we know what’s going on. You guys can come in. We’ll sell it to you. We don’t care. Just don’t have those guys come inside for you anymore. They smell.”

So we could buy hard alcohol straight-up after that. For a bunch of wild 16-year-olds? Dicey.

Going into ‘94, we were down at Pulaski all day, every day. Just because we could. We were drinking, smoking… whatever we needed to do to get inspired and skate all day. Film all day.

I honestly think a lot of it was out of laziness. It was too easy. You could park your car right there at the spot, proceed to get completely blown out of your mind and skate one of the best spots in the world. Why wouldn’t we post up there like that?

But how cutthroat was Pulaski back in the day? What’s the wildest shit you ever saw go down there?

Learning how to skate in a Pulaski session was almost like a bootcamp of sorts. The first couple of times we went down there and skated around Sheffey and Brian Tucci, we learned quick. These were important lessons to learn and you had to keep your head on a swivel. If you went in not knowing, you were probably gonna get hurt.

It’s like if a parent spanks their kid. It sucks for everyone involved but it only has to happen once or twice. After that, it’s actually the threat that works from then on. I parallel that to skating in the session. If you think you’re gonna tic-tac your way around Pulaski, creeping up to the ledge without any awareness of your surroundings, you’re probably gonna get smashed. Sheffey and Brian are some big dudes and they go fast. And it’s not like anyone was trying to smash on purpose. You get just as hurt being the smasher as you do beng the smashee. But it’s just something that can happen in the midst of all that’s going down. So you either had to learn the proper Pulaski way fast or get out of the way. 

Sure, it was ruthless at times. If we were trying to film and get some work done, get out of the way or there’d be problems. But it never really amounted to anything more than someone possibly grabbing your board and throwing it to the opposite side of the park. It was more of an intimidation thing than people actually getting beat up. If you were being belligerent or a smartass, you’d get your board focused quick but I don’t really remember anybody getting beat up for just being a skater. There were a few incidents where some boards got jacked but I think that was pretty typical of any famous city spot at the time.

Honestly, the gnarliest thing I ever saw was that Dave Schubert footage in Fine Artists.

I was about to ask about that actually…

Again, this was right during that heyday of Pulaski when everyone was coming down. This guy was out there rollerblading up top of the plaza. Most of the time, there was this kind of unspoken thing where skaters and inline guys could all pleasantly coexist by sticking to their respective sides of the park. But on that particular day, this big beefy dude in his tightest jean shorts thinks he’s just gonna to throw tough guys at my boy Eben… just being a dick and trying to start shit by yelling at him as he skates past. Eben doesn’t really react but does say something along the lines of, “Yo, why don’t you just get out of my way.”

Evidently this guy wasn’t used to being talked to like that, especially by a bunch of punk kids. I just don’t think this guy realized that our crew was thick as thieves and that a problem with one of us meant a problem with all of us.

So the guy decides to come up and get in Eben’s face… this is earlier in the day before all that stuff on camera went down. We’re all still trying to keep our cool.

“Dude, you just need to get out of here.”

But the guy keeps talking his shit to the point where Eben can’t take it anymore… and pushes dude in his chest so hard. Evidently the guy had completely forgotten that he had blades on and just went flying backwards. It was hilarious. We all crack up laughing. He slowly gets up, trying to regain his bearings and obviously now realizes that he’s got wheels on his feet. Probably not the best idea to continue talking smack to all of these dudes.

“I don’t have to take this shit from you guys!”

He’s immediately surrounded by 4 or 5 guys. We weren’t gonna put up with this shit that much longer but we, at least, wanted to let him know what he was about to get himself into.

“Look, do what you gotta do but you’re not going to be pleased with the outcome. We suggest that you take off and everything will be fine.”

He realizes he’s still got his goofy ass blades on and that he’s hopelessly outnumbered, so he leaves. All good. But as night starts to fall, dude comes back wearing a motorcycle helmet with a four-foot metal pole. It was crazy. He’d obviously gone off and had a couple pops, stewing over what happened. He felt embarrassed and wanted to get back at us somehow.

He walks up to Jim Gordy and I at the park, like, “Where’s the big dude at?”

“You gotta be kidding!”

He was ready, though. He’d taken off his blades, put on his jogging shoes with his helmet… and the rest is what you see in the video. Antics ensued and he learned the hard way. He’s lucky he had that helmet on because he would’ve been in pretty bad shape. It’s not like we beat him to death but we definitely let him know what was up and he never came back. That was probably the gnarliest thing I ever saw go down there. 

What’s the best trick you ever saw go down at Pulaski?

Oh man, that’s a hard one… but I probably have to say Johnny Layton’s ollie over both walls.

Wow! Didn’t expect that one.

That was seriously something that we’d all looked at since we were kids and fantasized about. A few people had tried but couldn’t do it. Even if you just ran and jumped it, it was almost impossible. I mean, there’s so much stuff there over the years, with Reese and Bobby, but that ollie is what really comes to mind.

So you’re off and running now as a pro. Who came up with those classic Dazed and Confused and AS/DC graphics? Classic shit.

Those were actually my ideas. When I finally turned pro, after all of those years, the only thing that I really cared about was that my first graphic had to be the stoned smiley face from Dazed and Confused. I even had that as part of the terms of my agreement when I joined the team. I loved that movie so much.

The AS/DC graphic was just something I came up with one. I thought it’d be kinda funny and it worked out. People seemed to really like that one. It was cool because you could make graphics like that back then, just stuff that you dug. Like Jim Morrison or the record label one. It didn’t have to be part of some bigger concept.

So how did Capital come about?

Honestly, Capital all came about through Mike Agnew, who started Intensity Skates back in the day. Intensity was one of the first to do a proper East Coast mail order in the 80s and they killed it. If you wanted to get a shop sponsor in the D.C. area, that was the one to be on.

He’d gone through a bit of a bumpy period in the early 90s like everyone else but came back strong. He even began branching out by starting Nicotine Wheels. East Coast Urethane. Chris Hall, Pep and I all had wheels for them.

At the time, Element was going amazingly well. I wasn’t getting a lot of money… around $1200 a month or so, but I was getting paid for having skateboards with my name on them. The thing that ended up getting in my head was that I was also getting a relatively strong paycheck from Nicotine for my wheel. I was getting around $400 a month for that, which is pretty damn good for a wheel.

So around ’95, Agnew approaches me about potentially doing a board company. We were already killing it with Nicotine, making a ton of money, and he just said all of the right things. We were going to use Pennswood for boards, which was a local woodshop. It just all made sense.

The problem with Element was that Giant had turned so many people pro through their companies, but were then making all of these teamboards. It bummed us out. I’m making $2 a board and trying to sell over 600 of these things per month to break my minimum and not only does my board have to compete against all these other companies, it now has to go up against our own teamboards as well! Boards that are actually cheaper wholesale! That’s not right, man. And factor in that I’m also hearing about how the World guys are supposedly making $6,000 a month off their boards? Shit, man, what am I going to do? This Element thing doesn’t appear to be doing much for me… How was I to know they were about to blow up like it did?

So before Pep is even brought into the conversation, Agnew offers me 20% ownership of the company. Just like that. $0 investment needed. All I had to do was attach my name to the company and I automatically got 20%.

“Dude… yes.”

At this point, I’m 22 and already been told that I’m too old to turn pro for World. I turned pro over here instead and I’m out here putting in work. I need to be a responsible adult here. What about my future after all this is over?

So I go and discuss it with Pep. If I could possibly get him involved, that would definitely help things. The first thing he says is, “Well, I want 20%, too!”

I just remember thinking to myself, “….shit.” (laughs)

Not that I wasn’t willing to give it up. While I initially thought 20% was incredible, I quickly realized that 10% with Pep involved is even better. So I offered to split my 20% with him in order to get the ball rolling. He was down.

Agnew was so hyped about Pep joining that he actually agreed to up our shares to 15% each. We were on our way. He had some paperwork drafted and it looked official enough... which is funny because I still have the Articles of Incorporation and all of this crap. I was just so young. While I thought that I was smart, in reality, I was still a dumb stoned skater trying to make his way through the business world. I figured the paperwork looked official enough. We’re supposedly just waiting on this attorney’s signature. This is as good as done. Let’s get it going!

Did you share Ricky Oyola’s hardline East Coast industry views back then? Did that factor in with Capital?

I appreciated that everything was being done out of Maryland. There’s something to be said for proximity, that all our graphics guys and photographers were all close by. I could go over and do the ad layouts anytime I wanted or stop by the warehouse to see how things were going. Everything was in-house or local. But no, none of this stemmed from any kind of coastal beef. Capital wasn’t anti-West, just very pro-East.

A D.C. company had never been done before, which is something that really made Capital special to me. I wanted to do a company that represented our hometown with a team that was primarily based here. I wanted to do for D.C. like what Zoo York had done for NYC.

So it was a conscious decision to hook up local D.C. talent, like Igei and Mullendore.

Oh yeah, we knew we had to keep our team East Coast. It was just too good of an opportunity to ignore. They were our friends and plus, they were killing it. Of course, we’re gonna hook them up! I had a lot of pride in the talent that was coming out of D.C., which I felt was a little underrepresented. I was in the perfect spot to try and fix that so I did.

Anybody almost on Capital? I mean, you had to ask Reese, right?  

Oh, I begged Reese. Repeatedly. He was on Nicotine as well and I always felt like he would’ve been a logical addition. It’s fucked up to think about because it was totally self-centered on my part. I don’t think Johnny Schillereff ever forgave me for doing that. Honestly, I think if Reese had decided to go with us, that very well could’ve been the last straw for Element. I’m not sure if they could’ve survived all of us leaving like that.

But no, I never got him.

I loved the East Coast/D.C. concepts showcased in those initial ads… even down to a go-go flyer. But was the deal behind that infamous “switch” 360 flip over the rail?

Oh man, that really bummed me out. It was a regular 360 flip over the rail at Pulaski but somehow the negative got flipped so it looked we might’ve been claiming switch? I don’t know… it’s honestly kinda funny now but I was pissed at the time. Pretty embarrassing. Evidently we had someone who was putting together ads and sending them out the door without anyone else really looking at them.

Yeah, I remember you leaving a comment when I originally posted it on CBI.

I mean, if you went out with a photographer and worked that hard to get a photo… that ad must’ve gone through at least three guys who all technically worked for me and they didn’t even know which way I skated? Come on! That’s tough.

It's a bummer because the footage is incredible. So was it your idea to bring in post-Zoo Illuminati as Silverstar?

That was all Agnew. And as much respect as I had for all of those guys, I did see that as a delusion. I was never against it but at the same time, it just made our pond that much bigger. It was all sharing.

I know there were a few tours but was there ever talk of a video?

At one point, we were thinking about doing a video which, in retrospect, might’ve changed things for us. But the thing is that we were doing just fine without one. The team was still out there doing their thing, getting footage everyday… although, I must admit that I’d gotten a little complacent over the Capital experience about maintaining my competitive edge with everything else going on. My drive wasn’t nearly what it was a few years prior.

So what happened? The whole thing just seemed to disappear overnight…

The fact is that there never was any official signed paperwork for my part in Capital. All of those papers that I still have mean absolutely nothing. I never actually owned anything because none of that paperwork was ever executed. It was never signed by an attorney. I signed my versions but I never received executed contracts back from anyone.

It’s all hearsay but from what I’ve heard, it’s very likely to have been a drug problem and some gambling. Because we were doing very well. Capital and Nicotine were doing well enough to have enabled all of those other companies. We had Silverstar. We had First Division. We’d gone to Japan. Agnew had proven himself an incredible businessperson over those first few years, but it all just fell apart.

I still remember my last phone conversation with him, right when it all folded at the end of ’98. He called me up and said, “Well, I’ve just fired everyone in the warehouse. I’m shutting the doors down. If you want to take this over, you can.”

I think he told me by that point, we had outstanding accounts amounting to almost $400,000 dollars. Obviously, I was shocked.

But because of the funny paperwork, were you able to slide out of any responsibility?

Yeah, I got out of all that. When he told me how much the company owed, I was happy to have never been executed into the agreement. I actually got lucky. I could still be facing the consequences of that.

I honestly figured that we’d get picked up by another distributor. We figured that we had such an amazing team with a proven brand, somebody would clearly want to keep this ball rolling. But that never happened.

You had to get some offers to ride for other companies as well, right?  

It’s weird because as much as I expected someone to hit me up with an offer for the whole kit and caboodle, I equally thought there would be the same possibility of someone hooking me up as a team rider. Even though Capital was sailing on, that I’d find a spot elsewhere. I just never got that offer. It never came. That was tough for me.

I was so upset over everything that I actually quit skating for two months after that. I was just over it. I took a job as a valet at this high-end hotel out in Virginia.

At this point, my fiancée, who I’d been with over the course of my entire career… she had to break it down to me. I was 28-years old and during this whole time that I was trying to skate, she’d already graduated from college and now had a promising career while I was out there barely making $25,000 a year.

“What do you think about working towards building a home and a family?”

She’d always been supportive of me but it had gotten to the point where she was questioning our future together, and rightfully so. Where is this going?  What’s the best-case scenario here? Say if someone does pick up Capital and puts us right back into the previous situation, you’re still only making $2,000 a month. Is that really where you want to be and what does that mean for our future?

I had to listen because I knew she was right. I was done. And not too long after that, I went back to school at George Mason University and eventually graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 2005.

That’s quite the recovery, man. Congratulations. But how was Capital able to keep going like it did?

Well, if there was anywhere close to $400,000 of debt, the bank would’ve wound up with ownership of everything. Someone must’ve bought the name and ended up coming out with whatever that second rendition was. I don’t know much about it other than I was terribly disappointed when I saw our graphics being used on boards that we didn’t necessarily want to be part of.

There was another attempt a few years ago as well, where I ended up going back and forth with that guy on your site. The thing is that I’m not trying to say what he did was illegal because it certainly wasn’t. But Capital is Pep and mine’s legacy. That is our work. How on Earth can someone in skateboarding think that doing Capital without us is okay? That you can just buy a company and use their graphics? And it wasn’t just about the not reaching out, it should’ve never gotten to that point. Before you even buy it, don’t. It will never be ok to do that.

I definitely wasn’t upset those renditions were so short-lived.

photo: keith eric davidson

So what are you doing now? Aren’t you involved with designing skateparks out in Colorado?

Yeah, my wife and I moved out to Colorado in 2006 with our two kids. I got my professional Engineering license in 2007 and have been practicing ever since.

Basically ever since I got into technical drafting, ramp plans were always something fun to do. I actually used to draw ramp plans for Ramp Tech back in the day. But after that, I started consulting for the Site Design Group for a while, which is a skateboard design firm out of California. I did that for years as additional income until I finally reunited with my old BBC teammate Kanten Russell at Stantec, where we work on action sports parks together. Almost 30 years later, it’s nuts how everything has gone so full-circle.

Honestly, my work with the Action Sports side is probably only 10% of my day-to-day and definitely more in the engineering capacity… I’m way more concerned with things like drainage than laying out quarterpipes. But I hope that my technical ability and licensure does lend some credibility to the operation. I really love doing it.

photo: Rodent

But be honest, could a skatepark ever compare to Pulaski?

Good question. Because you can put all the pieces in place: ledges, stairs and all that… but really what makes Pulaski special is being in the City. That it isn’t a skatepark.

I engineered the first Street League-certified skatepark in the country. It’s literally a half-mile from my house and it’s incredible. It’s a plaza-style park… but it’s absolutely a skatepark. There’s obviously no questioning the benefit of a training ground. Everything’s perfect and you don’t have to worry about getting kicked out. But it’s also a completely different vibe.

You can say the same thing about Pulaski now compared to back then. It’s just not the same. It’s a different time. But I feel so fortunate to have been part of the establishment of Pulaski and Washington D.C. on a global level in skateboarding. To know that I played however small of a role in that, it’s something that I will always take pride in. And I can honestly say that the friends I made in that hooligan crew of mine back in the day are still the best I’ve ever had.

special thanks to Keir Johnson and Andy for taking the time. 


Anonymous said...

You're a saint for this one.
Pulaski Represent!

Brendan said...

101,Capital and Nicotene were all great companies...Good to hear Stoner's doing well.
I'd love to see Niel Blender for No/100,nice work,again,Eric!


Skatecamp rat said...

Glad to see that my childhood hero is doing well. Love from France.

Templeton said...

Andy Stone was the first pro I ever saw skating street. It was at Pulaski in 1997 or 98 on my first trip to DC. He did a frontside 5-0 backside 180 in the middle of the main ledge. I was blown away.

Keith said...

Nice one Eric. So many cool stories about Pulaski.

Really sucks what happened to Capital. Was so stoked on that company back in those days.

UKNOW said...

202 638 9511
202 638 9509

U KNO DAT!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I loved watching Andy's Profile in 411, very smooth skating. As for the fight in The Underground video, whoa, that dude was there to battle.

Anonymous said...

This crew of losers still live in 1995. It's all they have. Every interview is the same thing "Pep, Hall, drinking at Pulaski"...hope it was fun.

Dustin Umberger said...

Great interview! I grew up skating in Virginia and Andy was definitely one of the most respected guys who we looked at as the real deal, a pro skater who was legit but also represented the uniqueness of east coast skating. Andy was enrolled at GMU while I was attending and living in the dorms. I ran into him a few times on campus and he was very approachable. That unreleased footage is incredible to see. Chops always delivers!

Anonymous said...

What are your credentials? What have you done with your life?

Ravello said...

always excellent job by chop, AS was one of my favourites and always wondered how he fade out from the pro scene so randomly, thanks for this interview!

Kwote said...

One of the most underrated pros. So rad and even though I've never seen or skated pulaski in person I really enjoy footage from that spot. Especially Andy's. One of the last plaza style spots standing. Respect!