chrome ball interview #108: anthony van engelen

chops and ave in the black hole. 

So, of course, we have to talk about Elijah Berle.

(laughs) It’s funny, I just called him. He’s probably gonna call me back while we’re doing this.

So, yeah… Elijah. What about Elijah? (laughs)

Well, all signs are pointing to FA.

When does this come out?

Whenever you want it to come out.

Well, if this comes out in November, then yes, Elijah rides for FA. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. He’s on Instagram with the shirt on, riding a board. It’s been in the works for a while now.

But yes, Elijah rides for FA.

How’d that go down?

Dill and I skated a lot with Elijah right when he got on Vans and Chocolate, right before he started filming for Pretty Sweet. I think he was only 16 years old at the time, but it felt like he was 26. We loved the guy. He had a fucking mustache, smoked cigarettes and skated like a man.

So we always loved him, but he was on Chocolate and that was cool. Those are our friends. But over the last year or so, I noticed that whenever the kids on our team would all be out together and run into Elijah, they’d start jamming him up.

“Ride for FA, Elijah!”

They were honestly the ones who’d always put it out there. Dill and I never pursued it. But somewhere along the lines, it started to gain momentum. I just kept hearing about it, so I called Dill.

“Have you talked to Elijah? What’s going on with this?”

“I don’t know. I’ll run into him and talk shop but I was never putting it out there to come ride for us.”

So I call Elijah, just to clear the air.

“What’s up, man? I’m hearing all this stuff. We’re not trying to steal you but you’re a grown man. If you’re ever feeling that you want to do something different, know that you have a place here.”

That’s basically it. The kids really wanted him on and it’s their team.

I can’t imagine the Crailtap camp was too thrilled about this.

Nobody likes to lose a rider, especially an Elijah. But I talked to Carroll, they were as cool as you can be about it. Everyone realizes that at the end of the day, its Elijah’s decision.

Our team is already so epic right now anyways. The only addition that I can really see is Elijah…

So no Jerry on Hockey?

No, Jerry is not on Hockey. You're actually the first one to ask me about that. 

Well, there's a new FA/Hockey rumor about every 5 minutes or so, just trying to round them all up. There’s also been a lot of talk around Rowan lately... and you have admitted to trying to steal him once before.

Yeah, but that was early on. He was only getting flow by Baker at that point. This was early on in Propeller and I sent him a box. I was actually hoping to get him on Hockey but he got officially on Baker right after that.

Gotcha. Another one I have to ask: why the sudden departure of Jimi Britches?

…Let’s not get into this one.

Fair enough. What about Kevin Rodrigues? Is he on Hockey? And what about all this I keep hearing about a 3rd board brand? 

Yes, Kevin Rodrigues is riding for Hockey. But no, there are no plans for a 3rd company right now.

But I have to congratulate you on all the success with these brands, man. These rumors are a testament to that. But why do you think that is? What makes FA/Hockey stick out in a sea of other brands?

Most importantly, I think it’s the team. And then the imagery that comes along with it, which for FA is all Dill. There’s just so much authenticity to it all. It’s not a bunch of bullshit. 

When people ask me about FA, it makes me step back and look at how it’s all gone down over the last 6 years or so, even before we decided to do the board brand. I look at certain moments leading up to it, it feels like the perfect storm. The right things all coming together at the right time, like it was supposed to happen.

Dill had come back to LA and was getting his shit together. He was staying at a friend’s house before coming to stay with me for a year or so. We just started skating a ton. He was sparked again and opportunities were starting to come. I feel like through that year of living together, so much shit happened that has largely resulted in where we are now, for sure.

How much input do you have with the look of FA? I know it’s Dill but how does that work?

Everything gets funneled through Dill. That’s how we typically do it. I’ll just occasionally send stuff over. There have been a few boards with stuff I’ve found but 99.9% of it is Jason’s. He finds, makes and executes almost all of it. It’s cool, though. The great thing about working with Dill is that he invites ideas. If you got ‘em, fucking send ‘em.

Benny does a ton with Hockey, too. A lot of the artwork, the filming, the editing... even down to clothing. He plays a huge part in all of that and I’ll occasionally help out there, too. But Dill and Benny are the consistent creatives.

As far as imagery goes, Dill and I have a lot of things in common with how we grew up and how we see the world. That alone is such a big influence on everything he makes. You might see something and maybe not necessarily understand it, but Jason has a whole story behind everything he does. It might be something going on with him currently or maybe something from his childhood, like “Coke Dad”. That’s something I grew up seeing and I know Jason did, too. That shit ain’t just some cool graphic, we’ve seen that shit. That’s why it’s on the board.

What are some boards that came from stuff you sent?

A lot of our stuff is found, just by digging through so much random shit.

John’s first pro model, the Sniper Board, I found that. But even then, how it works is that you send the main image to Jason and he brings it all together. That’s where you get the old men sitting around and that Bible with the militant on it. I just sent in the one image.

I found the photo for Donovon’s first board, too. This guy had shot all of these riot photos during the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach, back in the ‘80s. Dudes are setting cars on fire, throwing surfboards. It was perfect for Donovon, especially because he was surfing a lot at the time. So I sent it over and Dill and Benny worked on it together, burning out the paper and putting it over the image.

I trip on Jason, man. What he’s been able to do and how good he’s gotten at it. It’s unbelievable. I’ll go into the warehouse when the new quarter comes in and see a lot of the stuff for the first time. I’ll be blown away.

What made you revisit the old Henry Sanchez-style Terminator graphic? And the Jason Jessee graphic? You say every graphic has a story, what about these two?

Most of my friends know that the first Terminator is one of my favorite movies ever, but also during Propeller, I swear I must’ve watched Henry’s Blind part multiple times a day for a year straight. Every time before going skating, I had to watch that part. It’s something I just latched onto while filming my part. Obviously, Henry’s always been big influence and that’s an amazing part. Even down to the song, Henry was my first introduction to Sabbath.

But, it wasn’t like I wanted to do a Terminator board because of Henry. I just always liked the Terminator. I’d found this old film magazine from the 80’s with all of these sick Terminator production photos. I sent Dill this one of the Terminator, without his face, looking into the mirror.

“Dude, I want this to be my graphic!”

“It’s too Sanchez, man. We can’t do it.”

The thing is, they’d already been planning on a Terminator board for me without my knowing it. So when that Terminator hologram board came out a few months later, I had no idea! I was stoked, man.

What about the Jason Jessee one? Because, let’s face it, there is a passing resemblance there to Nugent-era AVE.

Oh, Dill has always loved the connection of Jason Jessee and I. Looking the same at certain points, liking similar shit. We’d skated with Jason a few times back then and he really loves FA. He was down to do something with us so I figured we might as well do a joint pro model together. Dill was into it, we just had to figure it out.

Jason Jessee sent us a ton of photos, like early class photos of him back in junior high. It was super rad. But I knew it had to be this one skatepark I.D. photo he had. I’d seen it before and knew that was the one. So he sends it and the edges are all fucked up and melted.

I think that was the first plastic applique board we did. I remember Dill wanting to make it just like the I.D., with the same Incredible Hulk green and everything. Just a photo in the middle. Jason Jessee loved it, too. So good.

You met Dill through skating essentially the same schoolyards back in the day, right? How did it go to where he took you under his wing?

Yeah, just by running into each other at different spots in Orange County during the mid-90s. This was during his 101 years. I’d see him at Huntington High and shit like that, but we weren’t that close.

It wasn’t until 1997 or so that we really became friends. I hadn’t really been skating and had gone to Russia to live for 6 months. But when I got back, I was super stoked on skating again. I ran into Dill at the Huntington Beach Park one day and we just started talking. I was skating well and he’d just started doing the 23 thing.

“Hit me up and let me check out your footage.”

We started skating a lot together after that and then he got me on 23. He’s been my boy ever since.

Did you ever feel the need to “break out of his shadow” or anything like that?

No, not really. I looked up to him and his skating growing up. I was just stoked he got me on 23 and always included me in what he was doing.

But weren’t you on Channel One before all that?

Yeah, I got on Channel One when I was on 16. All that stuff with Dill didn’t happen until I was 18 or 19, which a couple years felt like an eternity back then.

But yeah, I’d gone to Russia for 6 months. I wasn’t skating. I really wasn’t skating before that or even around, really. But I come back and I’m still on the team. It was kind of a weird sponsorship. (laughs)

Was Russia just a trip or were you planning on moving over there for good? In your mind, was skating done at this point?

I was essentially a high school drop-out. I wasn’t skating. I was partying whenever I could and… you know, just hanging out. I was a mess.

My step-dad, who’s raised me since I was 3, he ended up over in Russia right as Communism had fallen. There was lot of money to be made at the time and he was over there trying to get in on it.

He’d call my mom to check-in on me periodically. I’m sure he asked how I was doing and she told him the situation. So he calls me. He’s a cool guy but he’s tough. He’s an ex-marine who raised himself, putting himself through Law School after Vietnam. So he’s gnarly, but he understood.

“Hey man, I wanted to hang out when I was your age, too. I just went to the fucking beach all the time. But you gotta do something. Go to school, get a job, or just come over here.”

I didn’t want to go to school or work at some grocery store, wherever you work when you’re 16. Fuck it, I’ll go to Russia!

I was initially going to stay for a year. My step-dad was actually trying to start the first Mexican restaurant in St. Petersburg. He was doing a bunch of other shit, too, like moving artwork out of the country. But the Mexican restaurant was his thing.

I could go on for hours about how crazy it was. Because you have to remember that he wasn’t living like an American in Russia. We lived like Russians. Sometimes the water wasn’t warm for days. You’re standing in an hour-long line for rice before going over to wait even longer in the meat line. Sometimes there wasn’t much money so you’re eating eggs and bread for 2 weeks.

Not that it was all bad. We had an apartment and it was fine. But it did have a big impact on me. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Because at that age, sure, I was pissed off about stuff but I was also spoiled.

So when I finally get home, I’m fucking stoked, man.

“Dude! Taco Bell and skating!?!”

I was so grateful.

That’s amazing.

So I’m back and skating a lot with Shawn Mandoli at the time, because he’d just moved nearby. Shawn was actually trying to get me on Real for a bit, flowing me boards. That’s when I made the call to Channel One and let them know that I gonna see where this Real thing went. So I actually parted ways with what was left of the company right before I met Dill. But they were rad, Marty did so much for me. I was just so young, not really thinking about things. Just, “I’m outta here! I’m gonna do something else!”

So Dill gets you on 23 and suddenly, you have all these projects. In quick succession, you’re in a few 411s, followed by Feedback and then Photosynthesis right afterwards. How did you deal with all that pressure as a relative newcomer?

Looking back on it, I was probably lucky in that I didn’t go on a lot of those Feedback trips. Like the Muska trips and all that, I wasn’t really on those. Because those would’ve probably freaked me out. I was already freaked out after the Workshop Industry Section. That was a good amount of footage. I honestly didn’t think I had anything else!

The same thing happened again after Feedback, going into Photosynthesis, another big video. What am I going to do? I just did all my tricks! I don’t have anymore!

All of my Feedback stuff was filmed here in LA, which made it a little easier. But honestly, I wasn’t super into Feedback, even back then. Not that I didn’t like what Ty was doing, I just felt I had to focus on Photosynthesis. Jason and I didn’t feel like a Transworld video was top priority.

How did Alien Workshop enter the picture? Why not Aesthetics?

23 was cool but the business side of it sucked. It wasn’t Sal’s fault, it was this other guy he was doing it with. It just wasn’t working out. We had talked to Sal about the whole thing splitting off, which would later become Aesthetics. We were down, but he was still trying to get it all together at that point.

Somewhere along the line, Dill goes up to Vancouver. We’d been skating a lot together by then. He was ripping and I was right there with him. Dyrdek and Kalis bring up the Workshop to Dill at Slam City. Alien had always been one of Dill’s all-time favorites, so the opportunity to ride for the Workshop was an easy decision.  

It didn’t happen there, though. He came back and talked to me about it. And I’ll admit, I did have a moment where I wondered what the fuck I was going to do.

It was Dill’s idea to see about possibly getting me on. To his credit, he definitely wasn’t like, “Later! I’m on the Workshop now!”

A few days later, Carter called up to officially ask DIll to ride for Alien. I was the one who actually answered the phone and when I did, Carter started talking to me. Here he was, trying to see what was going on with me, but because I knew it was Carter, I freaked out.

“Hey man, how are you doing? What’s going on?””

“I don’t know! Uh… Dill… Let me get Dill for you!”

I guess I came off as a little stand-offish, I just didn’t know what to do.

Dill gets on the phone and Carter’s like, “What’s up with Ave? Is he not down for the Workshop?”

Actually, I wasn’t even "Ave" yet, but it was Carter who named me that.

Dill gets off the phone a little later and comes in.

“Dude, fucking Carter was trying to talk to you about possibly riding for the Workshop!”


So I call him right back.

“Yeah, I’ll give you $500 bucks a month.”


How was it being the new guys on Alien? Because you both got on after a great purging of the team. Any Dyrdek hazing vibes?

It was pretty cool actually. Rob and I got along right out the gate.

I was living with Dill at the time in West Hollywood. I was living off $800 a month and my rent was $500, so that was gnarly. Alien had a team house down in Claremont at time with Rob and Mike Hayes, I just barged it. Free rent, man.

So I go down there and I’m skating with Dyrdek a lot. We’re partying together and I met some chick. I guess he was so used to young skate nerds freaking out over everything, I must’ve surprised him because I was an actual human being.

I just remember one night, Dyrdek being like, “Damn, you’re getting wasted. You’re getting laid. You’re ripping… Cool, you’re officially on the team.”

…Even though I was already on team. (laughs)

Obviously Photosynthesis goes on to become one of the most beloved videos ever. But at the time, the scope of The DC Video seemed just as enormous. You talked earlier about putting Feedback on the backburner, to a degree. Was there such a clear preference between Photo and DC?

The DC Video was actually supposed to overlap with the filming of Photo but it didn’t end up working out. They originally had Jamie Mosberg on there, going out to Philly and filming Josh and Stevie at Love Park. But he was doing it on 35mm film. At the time, DC wanted this epic video, all shot on film like The End. That freaked me out, to be honest. I think it freaked out a lot of people, actually.

So filming for Photo was its own thing, out with Joe Castrucci for a lot of it. That’s all we did. Going out skating every day, trying to get footage.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve never really liked my Photo part. I don’t know if I was going through something at the time, even though I’m fucking 20, but when that video came out, I just didn’t like my part. I feel like with basically all my parts back then, I was just doing stuff that I could do. I wasn’t really pushing myself.

So Photo comes out and to this day, every time I finish a video part, I go through this period of depression.

“Who am I? What am I doing with my life? I have nothing left to give.”

I have done this, to a degree, after every part I’ve ever put out. That’s where I was for 6 months after Photo. Luckily for me, The DC Video really wasn’t getting off the ground with Mosberg. People were having a hard time with the whole 35mm filming process. So they switch to Greg Hunt, and that’s when I start getting my shit together.

The DC Video is where I feel like I started to challenge myself with learning new tricks for parts. Trying to take things further. But it was still a hard one for me. It took me a while to get into the groove. I was in a crazy slump and had a lot of doubt after not being happy with my previous part.

But it did give way to that amazing intro with the Who. Was that just something Greg put together afterwards during editing?

Yeah, Greg came up with all of that. I wasn’t even around for the editing of that one. But he was right. My temper was so fucked when I was younger. Total stresser.

I will say that in reviewing your parts for this, you’ve had a clip of throwing your board in almost every part you’ve ever had.

(laughs) Wow. I guess so! My anger… that’s just what’s in the gas tank, man. It’s just in there. It’s a part of me.

I can control my temper a lot better these days, but it’s still in there. I used to psyche myself out of so many tricks, just because I couldn’t control my anger.

“Fuck this shit!”

Break my board. Session’s done.

It was just too much ego. You’re not supposed to pull that trick in 10 minutes. Who do you think you are?

So yeah, now it’s cool to try a trick for three hours. (laughs)

Wasn’t there a rumor of you heading over to Chocolate at this point?

No. I think on some random party night, I might’ve been talking to Carroll as the sun was coming up.

“Dude, I’m gonna ride for Girl!”

“No! You’re gonna ride for Chocolate!”

It was so lame, man. Just partying... So gross.

I don’t think we ever talked about it again. (laughs)

We are approaching a darker time in your life now. Do you think, with your background and all of this anger, you would’ve dealt with these chemical issues regardless of the success you were experiencing?

Oh yeah, it was always in there, 100%. Because I was already having issues before my success in skateboarding. A big part of my going to Russia was because of my partying. But even in Russia, I’d go get a backpack full of beers and get drunk by myself in a park somewhere. 

I remember blacking out and coming home at 5 in the morning… which, who knows what fucking time it was anyway. It didn’t get dark there during the summer. The Sun was out 24 hours a day.

But yeah, that shit was happening long before a skateboard career.

Not to glamorize any of this but you’ve said yourself that you’re lucky to be alive. What’s something that stands out as best representing the extremes you were going to?

Just about everything that comes along with that type of lifestyle, especially when you start getting into the whole street drug thing, too. The places you go to actually get drugs.

Dude, I’ll fucking drive down Skid Row or some of these other places I used to go… it almost feels like a different person. How the fuck did I get out of the car at this spot at 3 in the morning? But I would. Walk around and talk to dudes, going back behind some electrical box in an alley to buy drugs or get high.

Let alone, smoking crack for days on end. The paranoia, afraid to go outside. Thinking I’m gonna have a heart attack. On my knees, praying to God that I’ll never do this again.

I got in a significant car wreck one time. It was during the Super Bowl and I was wasted. Pulling out a bunch of money, hoping the dude wouldn’t call the police. Then I just ran. It was awful.

My drinking just came out so aggressively. There was a lot of fighting with whoever, out in the streets. I’m lucky that somebody just didn’t stab me or shoot me. That somebody didn’t beat the shit out of me or I didn’t die in a car wreck. There’s so many things, man.

I would drink and drive during blackouts all the time. Waking up an hour away from where I started with no idea how I got there.

Would this aggression ever fall out onto teammates or other skaters?

No, nothing like that with other skaters.

I’m not a violent person. I don’t like fighting and it’s not like I grew up fighting. But I definitely have a lot of residual anger from my childhood and I feel that alcohol would unleash everything to where I’d just become a fucking lunatic. I mean, I’m in my 20s at this time anyway, but I feel that alcohol would fuel this shit even more. No fear, can’t feel anything and just massive amounts of energy mixed in with anger.

Is it fair to say your coming out of this turbulent time is encapsulated by Mind Field?

Yeah, I think so. The DC Video came out when I was 23 and I started on Mind Field at 26. Those 3 years in-between is when it really got the darkest with substances. Definitely not a lot of skating there. But at 26, I started to get big periods of sober time and found skateboarding again. Mind Field is really me crawling out of all that.

How do you look back on that part with so much shit going on at the time?

I like Mind Field. Like you said, there’s obviously a lot of things going on in there. It’s definitely different from all the ones before it, I learned a bunch of stuff for that one and was able to push myself… partly due to just where I was back then. Tossing myself down something for hours and just eating shit, basically because I didn’t care anymore. That’s not the best place to be at but I’m fucking happy that project came along and turned out the way it did.  

Didn’t you lose almost 50 pounds over the course of that thing?

Ok, I’m not a big guy. I’m 5’10” and I typically weigh around 160, 165. But I remember going to Target one day with my friend. He pulled down a scale and stood on it, then I stood on it real quick. 199 pounds.

“What the fuck!?! No way, this one’s fucked up.”

So I grab another one. 199 pounds. Dude…

“Yeah, dude, you’re fat. You didn’t know that?”

I was always a binger. I’d party super hard and then convalesce by ordering pizzas, eating macaroni and cheese and pints of ice cream. That’s how I filled the void when I wasn’t drinking or doing drugs, before going back out and getting sucked up again. My whole system was fucked.

So yeah, by the middle of Mind Field, I’d lost 40 pounds.

Is there a special meaning behind the Adolescents song?

Yeah, there’s a lot of meaning behind that one. I’m from Orange County, I think they’re from Fullerton. But that song, in particular, reminds me of these surfer kids I grew up with in Newport Beach. Their home situation was fucked, man. Their parents were drug dealers, Mom was a speed addict. So, of course, that house was where all the kids would go to get fucked up. Saturday morning, you’d wake up with 15 kids sleeping on the floor. The Mom’s buying us all alcohol, giving us weed from the Dad’s stash. Looking back on it, it was gnarly, but I spent a lot of time there.

The kids were super into surfing and they had all those sick early Lost videos. Those videos were rad, man. It was these guys who ripped but also partied super hard. Everybody’s wasted, setting dudes on fire. I think they used “Kids in the Black Hole” in a part and it always hit me, even back then. Here we are, these kids in this crazy situation… and now as an adult, I’m still in that fucking black hole, trying to crawl out it.

There was another song, though. I originally wanted a live Joy Division cover for my part but we couldn’t get the rights to it. So I went back to the Adolescents. I think it turned out pretty good.

Talk about “the Hat”.

That was Heath, Dylan and I on a trip towards the middle-end of Mind Field. We were all in that zone where you’re down for the suffering, just wanting to finish the fucking thing.

I have no idea where we bought it. But it was a pretty sick Stetson hat with beaver skin on it or some shit. We’d actually been talking about cowboys before we saw it, so it just became this thing.

“Dude, let’s buy this sick-ass hat and it will be, like, the Captain’s hat.”

If you got a clip, it got etched on the side of the hat and you got to sit shotgun for the entire day. You got to pick where to eat, you controlled the music. Everything.

I think it started out for one day and then maybe changed to whenever somebody else got a clip. So you might actually get to ride up front for a few days, depending on how the trip goes. But yeah, it was fun. By the end, it had all these marks and buttons on it. We bought a bunch of pins… “One Shot, One Kill” was one if you got a trick first-try. I don’t think we ever used that one, though.

How did you see the Workshop change over the years? And when did you and Dill basically became the defacto leaders?

That’s a good question. Because when I got on, it always felt like it was Dyrdek and Kalis. Freddie was always around, too, even after the Habitat split. But I think between those three, it was always their thing. We came into that.

As time went on, Freddie went to Habitat and Dyrdek started to be less in the mix. But there started to be some decisions made about riders where it seemed like Rob’s say was most important. And even though he wasn’t around as much, he would still enforce his opinion as an O.G.

The big change came when those dudes left to do Seek. Because we were the guys who stayed.

When those guys left to do Seek… man, I love Dyrdek but some of the ideas he would come up were just so fucking retarded. At one time, he seriously wanted to name the company “Silverback”, like silverback gorillas. Because Rob thought that they were the silverbacks of skateboarding.

“Dyrdek, I love you, bro. But you ain’t no silverback.” (laughs)

But they went off and gave that a shot… and it failed. So they had to come back.

It put us all in a bit of a weird position. Because they had all of these ideas. But now, it was like, “Oh, you guys are back. No more Silverback Skateboards and now you want to put your Seek guys on Alien, too?”

There was a big thing about Colin getting on the Workshop after Seek. Dyrdek was pretty adamant about it until Dill finally stood up to him.

“This is bullshit. Just because your guys’ shit failed, now you want to bring your team onto the Workshop? No, that’s not fair.”

It got pretty serious, but in the end, Dill kinda backed Dyrdek down. I feel like that’s when things started to slowly change. Dyrdek segued out, and while Josh still had his vision of the Workshop, he was kinda on his own with that.

We started to make things happen. We got Dylan on the team after Rasa Libre was done. Omar Salazar, too. We made that happen. It started to become more of our squad.

How did you factor into the Dill/Berra beef that came about in those later Alien years?

I think it started with how Steve and Heath got on together. For Jason and I, we were both super down for Heath getting on. But with Steve, while I had nothing against him, we just didn’t like having no say in it. I always felt like we should’ve. So there was that, which probably didn’t start things off very well.

Steve and I had issues during Mind Field. There was a long period of time where I honestly felt like only a couple of us were the only guys filming for it. He ended hearing that I was talking shit… and I was. It’s so fucking stupid now but at that time, it was serious.

“Where the fuck is this guy? Filming a fucking movie? Sick.”

To this day, I’ve never been in a tour van with that dude. And we were out there a lot. So yeah, this all got back to him and we talked about it. I was honest with him, though. No reason to lie about it, because I was out there. Where the fuck are you?

Looking back on it, it doesn’t matter. It’s just filming shit. But things did progress from there. Dill started to have his own things with Steve, which got really bad. When we did one of our final Workshop tours for the Cinematographer Project, we did a little article for it and, of course, Dill starts it off with, “We kicked the fucking Scientologist off.”

That’s when it really flared up between those two… but you know, he was off the team by then. (laughs)

There were lots of ups-and-downs with Alien at this point but it did seem like Cinematographer put everything back on track. Was it just too late? When did you start to think about leaving?

I’ll admit to being in a lull after Mind Field, as far as skating and being part of the team goes. Dill was, too. But as we started to get back into everything, we voiced our opinions more, which I’m sure had to be annoying for guys like Mike Hill.

“Great, these guys come crawling out of a cave after all these years and now they have a bunch of opinions.”

But we were sparked. Cinematographer was sick. We had new guys on the team, like Donovon and Terp. And we were trying to be more in-touch with everything, telling them to stop making flatbars and shit. But it was all out of love. We just loved the Workshop, man.

I don’t remember how all the business stuff timed out. I know Burton took control towards the end of Mind Field, then Dyrdek purchased it back around Cinematographer. I can’t remember how long that lasted until he sold it again to the La Joya Group. We weren’t even aware when that happened.

It was just weird to be constantly hearing about all these things. It started to feel too crazy… like, where is this all going to end up?

So Dill calls me up one day, like, “I need to talk to you. I want to turn FA into a board company. What do you think?”

“That’s fucking genius! Because I was just gonna ride for the Workshop and then maybe go work in a warehouse or something!”

But it did take a while to go through with it, probably over a year. And they tried to get us to stay. But with it being bought and sold like it was, things just weren’t making sense anymore.

Did you tell the team prior to leaving? And who came up with that handwritten Instagram post? 

The handwritten letter was Dill.

I can’t remember if we told everyone on the team or not. I feel like a few people knew prior and the rest, I tried to call or text individually that day.

Were other riders looking to come along with you at that point?

For sure, but we were in no position to take them. FA had a little something as Dill’s t-shirt thing over the years, but bringing it into skateboarding was a whole new thing. We were self-conscious about everything. And I know there were enough people out there saying, “Well, this is gonna be fun to watch. These fucking dudes.”

We were questioning everything… even leaving Workshop. What did it mean to this brand that was already suffering? The last thing we wanted was for it to fall apart. We’d been there for 15 years!

Our thought was that they still had Dylan Rieder and Grant Taylor, in addition to everybody else. That’s fucking crazy. Alien was still in a much better place than we were. I mean, FA was just Dill and me. We had zero money, no business mind in any of this. Dill and Mikey, who’d always done FA together, were going through a thing at the time. Mikey had no idea what we were even doing.

So what are you going to do?

“Yeah, guys! Let’s go! We got this! You guys cool with not being paid anymore? It’s just me and this dude at the helm. We don’t really know what we’re doing but we’re going to be okay!” (laughs)

No problem. Sounds great!

Right? We weren’t about to take anybody at this point. It was difficult not having those guys onboard but they were still getting paid. We’d just stepped off the fucking edge. Let’s just see what happens.

We didn’t want to do the thing where all the riders leave and here we are, the same company but with a new logo. We weren’t trying to burn down the Workshop.

But I think after Grant left, that’s what opened the gate. Once Grant split, they were toast. So fuck, we’ll grab Dylan then, he wants to come anyway. And have John and Donovon come over, too, knowing we’re gonna start Hockey with them.

Did either of you consider taking the easy route and just going to a different company?

Not really. I think Dill might’ve had an offer from Palace but FA just felt like something we had to do.

I was scared but I knew it was going to work. It was still kinda exciting for me. But so much of the responsibility actually fell on Dill’s shoulders, to be honest. He’s the one who had to figure out what all this shit was supposed to look like. That had to be hard, especially with me bugging him all the time.

“Let’s go! Let’s do it! This is gonna be sick!”

He’s just sitting there with a bunch of fucking magazine cut-outs and shit.

“Well, I’m gonna go skating! You make some shit! Come up with ideas! I’ll be back!”

He was finally in a place where he had to show up, man. People were depending on him and he fucking came through.

What was the thinking behind having a crew of entirely unknown amateurs? And how did you know this crew was ready to explode like they were? Looking back, it’s almost like Love Child, part 2.

It really is amazing. But a lot of who would become our team was already under our wing, getting flow from Alien. That was Sage and Sean Pablo. Nakel was getting flowed by Real with KB on Cliché at the time. But they basically all grew up together. And all of them rode for Supreme, so they were always at the shop. They’d end up at a lot of our sessions and we knew pretty early on that these were our guys.

Dill and I met Aidan in New York. He was Workshop flow, too. And Tyshawn was on Supreme. He’d always skate with our kids whenever they were in town. He was just another member of the crew.

It wasn’t guaranteed. They were definitely still figuring it all out. It’s not like they were already the caliber of skaters they are today. It wasn’t a given and, to be honest, we weren’t even sure in the long-term… but fuck it, let’s go with it! They’re ripping!

We come from that Love Child shit and that’s really how we saw it. There’s so much personality there. Each dude is unique and himself... and It was all right there. It’s kinda crazy how easy that part was.

How much responsibility do you feel seeing these guys wilding out? I realize that’s what kids do but we are aware of the dangers of excess. What’s the fine line for you, without getting all Dad on them?

The majority of them are actually pretty mellow. Of course, they’re partying. But they’re just different. None of them are as bad as Jason or I were at their age. They’re not running around, smoking crack and doing a bunch of weird shit. (laughs)

There have been a few cases where I pulled someone aside, like, “Hey man, what you’re doing, the research has been done. I can tell you where it goes. Do not do this. You got too much going for you.”

But overall, they’re pretty solid. They’re holding it together.

You mentioned a lull after Mind Field. When did things start to click for what’s ultimately your legacy part in Propeller?

It actually took me a while to get on board with that one. Even after that year of skating with Dill and Cinematographer, I was still in a weird place. The Vans video had already started but I was lagging. I just hit these bumps, man. I’d go out and just not be feeling it. I was so tired of the pressure and couldn’t wrap my head around another 3-to-5 year project. I kept looking at it as this length of time and the finish line instead of focusing on getting into a daily routine.

When all you’ve ever done is skate, that’s all you know. As time goes on, you start to worry about what’s gonna happen when it’s all over. That’s where I was at. I was actually looking at trade schools online during the day when I should’ve been out skating. But I was depressed, man. I thought I was old.

You get so focused on your age that you just start to feel like you’re fucked. Oh, you’re tired? That’s normal. Maybe it’s time to call it quits?

I have a friend from AA who’s always been kind of a mentor figure to me. He’s a bit older but just gnarly… running psycho marathons with weights on and shit. I called him one day looking for advice, because I was starting to feel like I should hang it up.

“Well, if you’re over it, that’s fine. Just make sure if you leave, you know the reasons why. If you’re not into it anymore, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you think that you physically need to be done because you’re 33, that’s just not true. You should be at your best now because you have all these years of experience behind you. Right now, you’re probably at your peak.”

He was totally right. I just had to start looking at skateboarding differently. I had to ask myself some questions, like how am I taking care of myself? How am I eating? These were some hard truths because I knew I wasn’t giving it 100%. I just wasn’t.

That’s when I realized that all my fears were bullshit, I was just afraid of what I was going to look like at 33. So from that point on, I decided to give this part everything I had, like I’d never done before. I figured that at the very least, I’d be able to sleep at night knowing that I gave it my best, regardless of how the fucking thing turns out.

So I kept that focus through the entire duration of the video. I did a lot of crazy shit, too, outside of skateboarding to help me along. Working out, eating a psycho anti-inflammatory diet, taking ice baths every day… all of this shit to constantly be in the mode. I stopped looking at the big picture and started to look at the day, trying to get the most out of it.

The Vans video is one of the greatest experiences of my life. To turn that kind of thinking around, defying the myth of age. I’m so grateful for that project.

Most of my previous video parts, I’ll admit that I probably could’ve done a little more. But Propeller was every fucking thing I had and I rest easy with that.

How long that did switch 5-0 over-ender take?

There were a lot of flights for that one. It was a battle, but by that point, my part was done. I knew it was going to be my last trick so that’s all I focused on.

I went to New York for a 2-week trip and that’s when I first started trying it, a few days before we were about to leave on a tour. I got over it and put my truck down but I was nowhere near making it. But I knew I could do it. So I tried it for a few more hours and got broke off.

I go on tour, fly home, and then back to New York. I was there for a week that time and tried it on two separate days… because you’re so broken in-between. Still didn’t get it.

So I fly over to London for a minute and come back through New York for another week. The day after I landed, I got it. 

I really like that for Photo, which I consider to be my first real video part, I 50’d over the back of that same rail. Now, this many years later, I’m going over it switch. That really meant something to me. 

Do you feel at peace with how everything's worked out or does part of you lament those wasted years?

No, because that’s what it took to get me here. Propeller eased all that. I don’t look back with regret because I had the opportunity to make up for all that. I was lucky enough to get through everything and have it work out.

In a way, I’m grateful for all the carnage because I took the opportunity to live a lot of life, good or bad. There would’ve been no Mind Field or Propeller if it weren’t for some of that darker shit.

So what are you working on now, Ave? Still on that anti-inflammatory diet?

(laughs) Nah, that only lasted a year or so into Propeller, but I still keep it clean. I don’t have the strictness that I put myself through to push the reset button, but I’m still pretty neurotic. I think most skaters are.

As far as projects go, there’s been talk about another potential Vans thing. Not a Propeller-size project, but maybe something a little smaller. We’ll see. I’m still out skating, though.

Good to hear. So as we wrap this up, what stands out as your favorite memory of one Dylan Rieder?

I just loved that kid, man. Just to think back on all those years with everything that went down. Getting him on the Workshop. All of the traveling…

To be honest, while it’s obviously not my favorite time, watching him go through everything he had to go through truly proved what a straight-up warrior the dude was. And I’m not just talking about when he got sick. Watching him crawl out of shit before all that to set himself on a course to becoming one of the greatest. He was relentless, man. One of the best ever. 

It was just so gnarly with him. I’d look at the dude and feel so pathetic about myself. How he dealt with everything he had to deal with, all the way to the end. He was just an incredible human being.

Big Thanks to Ave and the FA/Hockey Massive. 


Anonymous said...

incredible. fantastic interview

Anonymous said...

Thank you CBI and AVE.

Anonymous said...

Great one! We need a tim Oconnor chrome ball next

Peter said...

That was great, thankyou

Unknown said...

Great fxxxing interview :-)

i_love_patinar said...

Thank you AVE and CBI for this interview! Love when someone knows how to do a good interview and the interviewer is open and talk´s about everything (almost, Jimi leaving...). As a skate rat as i am, thank you again! AVE you are one off the best´s ever!

Anonymous said...

AVE's interviews are always mad inspiring, the Thrasher one before he got SOTY was epic, now this. I loved all the Alien/FA stuff & his history, but his documentation of the journey of the discipline to live it right & do it all the way is why I appreciate homeboy & voted for him to be SOTY. The Sabbath/Ozzy songs in his video parts dont hurt either..

fuck yeah AVE

Unknown said...

Oh man AVE is one of my favorites since I saw photo which was I think 02 when we first owned it on vhs of course. And Dill all those years ago. Still my idols. Thank you guys!

Unknown said...

AVE is such an inspiration

Anonymous said...

thanks so much,
you're clearly the best interwiever, and AVE is the best
we need the same with DILL now ^^

Anonymous said...

Great interview..i still love the mags but it is so nice to read the chrome ball interviews of your favorite skaters where there is substance and its not just a veiled promo with some questions thrown in. Thanks again chrome ball and ave

David said...

Amazing stuff! Inspirational to hear his stories.

Anonymous said...

The worst board I ever had was a Steve Berra Alien Deck. I had no idea who he was; dude is a kook.

Warm Up Zone said...

Another great interview. It always makes my day when when a new Chrome Ball drops.
I wish you mentioned how his last name was misspelled (as Van England) in that debut ad for Channel One.
Now to go back and watch all those AVE parts again.

Loo Ganida said...

Inspirational!! Thank you!!

Ray said...

One of the best interviews I've read through in a while

jshnrz said...

thank you for this.

Esoligh said...

Great interview! Thank you brothers.