chrome ball interview #122: lance dawes

Chops sits down with Digs, the Godfather of Slap. 

As a Maryland native, prior to the Internet, how do you feel growing up on the East Coast shaped your perspective on not only skateboarding but pop culture, in general? Do you feel that there is still value in putting puzzle pieces together on your own, beyond a simple Google search?

Well, if there was value to it, it’s irrelevant anyway because there are no puzzle pieces left. What you’re talking about is a perspective from the past, which will never happen again. It’s not like the internet is going to go away. Everything is instantly available now, literally in the palm of your hand.

I hate saying “back then”… but back then, that’s just how it was. And it wasn’t just an East Coast thing, it was everywhere, unless you lived in San Francisco or San Diego. All you could do was look at magazines and piece everything together. And that’s not just tricks either, that’s everything. Reading between the lines as far as attitudes went, industry politics, music and movies. Because in the 80’s, all you had was those magazines.

Skateboarding didn’t even seem like a real thing back then. It existed in some parallel, alternate universe. Like, I remember thinking “Tony Hawk” was a fake stage name.

I did, too.

Mike McGill? Lance Mountain? Steve Caballero? Nobody was really named that! They sound like actors in a movie. I mean, Christian Hosoi? And you go by “Christ”?! That’s impossible.

But yeah, you lived for the magazines back then. You read every single word… the subscription card, the masthead. All of it. Because that’s all there was.

Do you think you have more of an appreciation because there was such a finite amount back then?

Yeah, but I think you only have that type of appreciation after you’ve grown up and it’s gone. Because at the time, no one realizes that they should be savoring every minute of everything that’s going on. We’re just dumb kids. Going to buy a new punk rock record. we didn’t know what half of the bands sounded like so we just bought whatever cover looked cool. In God We Trust by the Dead Kennedys looked cool, so we bought it. Same thing with Thrasher. If you saw anything that even remotely looked rad, it obviously must be or why else would it be in the magazine? Let’s give it a try.

There was also more variety back then. Every scene had their own little flavor because we were all in these little bubbles. Powell guys, Santa Cruz guys, Venice guys, the Texans, Shut… pick your style. It wasn’t so homogenized yet.

I know you were on the SF-era of Dogtown. And you were on Skull before that, right?

(laughs) Yeah, I was on Skull for a hot minute.

How does one even get on Skull in Maryland?

Well, Josh Marlowe was pro for Skull and he lived out in Ocean City. He was probably the raddest vert dude out there at the time.

But honestly, I just called them. I got Skull’s number off an ad and just called them up.

“Hey, I’m Lance. I’m going to an ESA Contest and I want to enter the sponsored division. Can you send me a board so I can ride for Skull?” (laughs)

That actually worked!?

(laughed) Yeah, that really worked! That’s how easy it was! They said yes and they sent me a board, a fluorescent Josh Marlowe board!

But I remember going to this contest and all of my buddies are there. They’re all starting to get hooked up proper… Blake Hannen was riding for Santa Cruz. One of my best buddies, Steve Teague, he just got sponsored by Blockhead. The Shut guys were there… and I’m over here riding a yellow Skull board. No offense to Skull, they’re rad and all, but it was a little embarrassing. A fluorescent yellow board just wasn’t cool at the time.

That kinda got me sparked to make a sponsor-me tape, but the problem was I didn’t have a proper camera. So I ended up filming the whole thing on a Fisher-Price Pixelvision camera. You know, the ones that use actual cassette tapes?

Oh, wow… Like in Slacker.

Yeah, it’s pretty funny to think about now but I sent it out anyway. I was riding for Intensity Skates at the time, which was my local shop. They’re the ones who actually sent my tape out to Dogtown for me. I had no idea. All I know is I got a call from Keith Cochrane one day at my house, back when he was running both Dogtown and Venture.

“Hey, this is Keith Cochrane from Venture. I’m calling to let you know that we want to sponsor you for Dogtown.”

I was so stoked, man. Just completely blown away. Couldn’t believe it.

And then he goes…

“Yeah, what trucks do you ride? Because I can hook you up with Venture right now, too!”

“No way, man! I’m an Indy dude! Get me on Indy!”

So stupid. I had no idea that I was talking to THE Venture guy! Here I am, shitting on the guy’s whole deal, talking about Indy! He’s just trying to hook me up! (laughs)

But yeah, Keith got me on Vans and everything.  I started getting all these boxes sent to my house, which my Dad thought I was stealing it all somehow.

“There’s no way that people give out anything for free. You’re obviously stealing this stuff.”

“How am I stealing this stuff when it comes to me in the mail with my name on it?”

“I don’t know how you’re doing it but something’s not right here!”

Amazing. How’d you find yourself out in the Bay? I remember you being in Thrasher’s Raw Meat section…

Basically, my buddy Peter was driving out to California to check it all out, because we had a friend from high school who was already out in SF. Long story short, when it came time to go back home, I made the decision to stay. I’d been attending film school back East and was able to transfer to San Francisco State. Plus, my sponsors were all out here. It just made sense.

So I’m living out in SF for a few months, meeting people. At the time, in early 1990, there weren’t a ton of skaters in the city, which made things easier to navigate. But I was skating Fort Mason one day with Greg Carroll, Jovontae and Rick Ibaseta when Mofo pulled up in a truck with Scott Starr. I remember Greg went over to talk to them and on his way back, he calls me over there.

“Lance, dude wants to talk to you over there in the truck.”

I had no idea who they were.

“Well, that’s fucking sketchy. Just some dudes in a truck?”

But I go over there and immediately recognize Mofo… like, oh my god!

“Hey, man, who are you?”

So I tell him my name and that I ride for Dogtown, that I’d just moved to the city and all that.

“You want to go shoot photos tomorrow?”

Now when he asks me that, I just figured since I was also a photographer, he wanted to shoot photos WITH me. I didn’t realize that he wanted to shoot photos OF me. No way, man… that was a fucking dream.

But I hook up with them the next day and we’re driving around to different spots when it slowly dawns on me what’s really going on… like, holy shit. We end up at the Berkeley Tennis Court Banks and Scott shoots a photo of me doing a crailblock, a la Tommy Guerrero, because I’m reaching all the way around. And that was it. It all happened so quick but it really was a dream come true for me. Just the coolest thing in the world.

How’d you get into the mix at High Speed?

Honestly, I only shot photos that one day with Mofo and that was it. But he ended up calling me about a job, months later. I was tripping!

“Hey, this is Mofo!”

“Whoa!.... How’d you even get my number?”

“Don’t worry about it. The guy who runs the darkroom is leaving in 3 days. If you want a job, be here tomorrow at 8am.”

Completely out of the blue, man. And I lost my fucking mind. I’m calling all my friends. I was so hyped.

Darkroom Tech, that’s what I did. I developed film all day. Everyone’s film went through me. Plus, after 10 years or so of Thrasher, turns out that they never really archived anything. Half of their negatives and chromes had no dates, no labels, nothing. So, in addition to developing all the film, I also archived and labelled the entire run of Thrasher up to that point for my first year. I looked at every photo, everything… and got paid for it. As a skate rat, it was incredible. And because of that, for the next decade, everyone would call me up whenever they were looking for old photos. Because with that being part of my job, I’d basically memorized the entire run of Thrasher up to that point.

Legend has it you wore a Transworld shirt on your first day?

(laughs) That is true. I’m a retard. I had no idea that there was any Transworld-Thrasher beef at all. I was just a dirtbag skater kid with only 5 shirts, one of them was a Transworld shirt and it just happened to be up in the rotation. I didn’t even think anything about it. I show up that morning and no one is telling me where to go… so I’m just wandering around High Speed in a Transworld shirt. I end up walking into the darkroom and sitting down.

Mofo walks in… and for those that don’t know, he’s this huge Native American guy with long braids and sunglasses. He always wore a spiked leather jacket, just super intimidating. But he’s standing in the doorway, staring at me.

“You better go take that fucking shirt off before the old man sees you and kills you.”

The old man being Fausto, who I hadn’t met yet.

“Holy shit, what do you mean?”

“Take off that fucking shirt, go into the warehouse and grab another one.”

But again, being a dumb kid, I still didn’t put it all together.

“You mean I get to take a free Thrasher shirt!?! Fuck yeah! This is awesome!”

So when did content creation overtake any dreams of a skate career? Because you were pretty hooked up back then.

Well, just because you’re sponsored doesn’t mean that you have potential.

After moving to SF and riding for Dogtown, within a few months, I got an invite to skate Bryce’s mini-ramp, 43. I still remember rolling up to that thing and Cardiel and Speyer are both already there skating. And, technically, we’re teammates, but after watching those guys skate for 5 minutes, I knew I was done. No way. Not that I ever really thought that I was gonna do anything with it, but after seeing those two dudes… fuck. That was some next-level craziness. (laughs)

How did Slap come about?

Basically, I went home for New Years in 1991, and when I came back, Fausto called me into his office. Since I’d still never met him before, I thought I was getting fired. Because why else would he want to see me?

“Hey, we’re thinking about starting a new magazine. We’re gonna call it “Slap” and we want you to do it. You can do whatever you want with it.”

And that was the entire conversation. They gave me a raise and a credit card so I could travel. That was it.

Kevin Thatcher, the OG Thrasher guy, gave Slap a little office space. He came down to show me how to cut-and-paste boards for a few hours and we just went from there. Everything was cut and pasted on an exacto board and a wax machine for the first two years of Slap. All done by hand. We didn’t even have computers at Slap. Thrasher had them, but they’d never give us any.

It couldn’t have been easy being the “other” skate mag at High Speed…

Oh, from day one, Slap was always the ultimate stepchild. Everyone at Thrasher hated Slap. I remember Fausto having this big meeting, right when things were getting started. The entire building is there and Fausto’s going over the plan.

“We’re starting a new mag and Lance is gonna run it. I want everybody to help.”

Everyone turned around and gave me the dirtiest fucking looks, man. Like, who the fuck is this kid? Why are we going to help this kid and his little magazine? This is Thrasher!

No one said a word to me except for one person, Jake Phelps. He was the only person who said anything at all to me.

“Good luck, man.”

The thing is, and they’re gonna hate me for saying this, but there weren’t a lot of skaters at Thrasher back then. It was me, Jake, Stacy Gibo, Bryce and maybe a handful of older dudes who putzed around in pools every once in a while. But we skated every day, that’s what we lived for. There were only a couple of us at High Speed who lived like that.

They just never took Slap seriously. And that’s how it always was, years later. If we had photos of dudes or tricks that Thrasher didn’t have… let’s just say, there was never any confusion about the hierarchy. Everyone except Fausto and Jake hated us. And while Fausto did provide us with what we needed to do the mag, it was never easy. We never had a lot of support.

Wasn’t BK supposed to be the original editor of Slap?

I’ve heard that but I honestly don’t know if that’s true. Jeff Klindt from Deluxe told me that, that Bryce was pissed because it was supposed to be his. But that could all just be rumor. I don’t know and I’ve never asked Bryce about it either.

But how did you get the gig? Because, no offense, it doesn’t make much sense on paper.

Fuck if I know? I have no idea.

I feel like Mofo might’ve said something before he left. Because I still skated, I was an okay photographer and I was probably the youngest person there. I never really got any answers as to why but I wasn’t about to start asking. Just give me the credit card and let me go.

In hindsight, they probably should’ve gone with Bryce. But I feel like Bryce was maybe too much a part of Thrasher? That with him doing the new magazine, it might not have looked different enough from the old one? Because Bryce had basically worked his way up there from beginning. I’m pretty sure that he started there as a janitor for a while. Maybe he was too much a part of the old magazine to start a new one? I don’t know, this is all speculation.

Why “Slap”?

That was the name they were running with. Kevin Thatcher said it to me.

“But what’s that mean?”

“It’s the sound your tail makes when you do a lien to tail.”

“Wait a minute, it’s 1992. You guys are trying to get back into the real world with this thing and you’re talking about lien to tails?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love lien to tails. It’s one of my favorite tricks. But the world was already so passed that already. People wanted to see street skating and Embarcadero… Mike Carroll.

But whatever, I knew that I had to choose my battles and Slap isn’t a bad name. Nobody knew what it meant anyway. People would always ask me about it and I’d just make up shit... Skate Like Alan Petersen. Somebody came up with “Silly Lance’s Art Project”, which I always thought was a good one, too.

But what were you trying to do with Slap? How would you describe your overall point of view? And how was it different from the other mags?

I don’t think that I even had to try in making it different. Because Slap came from someone who was young, skated every day, and was from the East Coast. That’s what made it different. Because I didn’t see myself as a magazine guy or a photographer. I was a skater first. Even after I started the mag, I was still skating at Embarcadero every day. I can’t even tell you how many photos I’ve missed throughout my “career” because I was too busy skating. Because I didn’t really give a fuck about shooting, I wanted to get this trick! People used to get so pissed at me for that.

“Dude! What are you doing? Why aren’t you shooting this?”

“Fuck you! I’m skating. You’re trying to tell me to stop skating so I can shoot your photo? Come on!”

But as soon they told me about the mag, the first thing I wanted to do was literally go down the street and do an article on Embarcadero. And that’s what I did. Because everybody skating there was the best in the world. But Thrasher was still fighting it, still trying to put Christian on the cover. They should’ve been putting Mike Carroll, Jovontae and Rick Ibaseta on the cover every month.

What about Carroll being on the cover of that first issue of Slap? Was that shot for the cover, specifically? Because it did feel like a statement at the time.

Yeah, I definitely wanted Mike on the cover, for sure. I actually shot that with Polapan, this crazy black-and-white 35mm Polaroid film that I was playing around with back then. Super contrasty. And the first bi-line for cover… I put a different one on every cover, but the first one just said “Enjoy.” I got it from Coca-Cola, which is also why the logo was in red-and-white, too.

That rail is around the corner from Embarcadero. Mike probably got it 5 or 6 times within 15-20 tries. He was unstoppable at the time. Obviously, he got even better, but he was so pure back then. If you know Mike, he’s kind of a nutcase in that he overthinks everything, but this was before he started doing that as much. When everything he touched turned to gold.

Was “Mystic Mike with the Flava Wheelie” your caption on the classic Morford photo?

That sounds like Tim Lane. He was the first guy I ever hired at Slap, he helped me with art direction. We grew up together and he just has this wacky brain. Hardcore graffiti artist, he also went by Mr. Element, Elemental, and Mr. E.

As a side note to Mr. Element, Andy Howell came out to SF this one time and while we’re hanging out, he starts talking about how he wants to leave New Deal.

“Dude, I want to start a new company but I haven’t figured out a name for it yet. It has to be Underworld… something.”

So I don’t even think anything about it and end up introducing Andy to Tim, because they’re both graffiti artists. They just hit it off, man. Next thing I know, I specifically remember Andy saying, “Element is such a rad word. I’m going to name my company ‘Underworld Element’.”

He actually wanted Tim to do some graphics for him as well, which he did Rick Ibaseta’s first Underworld graphic. So yeah, all that came from Tim Lane and his flava wheelie. (laughs)

You brought up that Embarcadero article in the first issue, what about that famous shot of the EMB crew from that piece? That’s one of the only portraits of that crew from back then.

That shot of them at night on the stairs? That was just our daily routine. There was really nothing special about it at the time. Because after I started working at the mag, I wasn’t getting there until late, but it was still all good because people skated there literally all night. I was straightedge at the time but I still remember all those kids out there, skating and smoking blunts. It didn’t matter what time it was. There was also this little bar on the second floor of that hotel there, people would sneak in through the backdoor of that place and steal beer. It was the best.

But that photo was just the crew, for the most part. There are a few people missing but that was my best attempt at trying to capture it all, I guess. Everyone was so young back then… the oldest person in that shit is probably only 19, if that. But those were all my friends.

When did you realize that it was this behind-the-scenes friend access that was gonna give you the advantage? Like Chico’s driver’s license or the Midnight Marauder Beanies.

(laughs) Chico getting his driver’s license in Meza’s car. I think he failed that day, too.

But you’re assuming that Slap was something separate than my daily life. I never had some epiphany about “content”, that was just how I was living. Those were my friends I skated with, I just also happened to have a camera and a magazine to put their faces in.

I always loved that photo of TG and Carroll hugging in the first issue, waiting for Del to come on. So sick.

Yeah, that was at a tradeshow somewhere. Carroll actually got pissed at me for running that because he thought it looked weird. Come on!

What about the “Slap Pals” name and design? Was it as simple as just stemming from that one cover?  

I’m pretty sure I thought of that one. Obviously, “Pals” is “Slap” backwards and yeah, those guys just happened to be on the cover of the latest issue. Evidently, I’m not smart enough to think of an idea and then go shoot separate photos specifically for the shirt. It just came from that cover.

So how much of Slap was you? Because it was all so loose and fun with things like those Christmas Lists, the Imaginary Battles, and Kung-Fu Corner.

I’m being serious, Slap could literally be whatever we wanted… because Thrasher already had such an established look and tone. Plus, we were small enough to get away with things Thrasher couldn’t. There were no rules. But since it was largely just me and a couple of my friends anyway, might as well have some fun with it.

Somehow, we’d found this video store out in Brooklyn that specialized in kung-fu films, like every kung-fu movie ever made. So we called them up and started renting tapes through the mail. That’s how Kung-Fu Corner came about. We just got a kick out of watching and writing about these crazy movies… fuck it, it was fun.  

The Battles was good one, too. Souls of Mischief versus Freestyle Fellowship. Harold Hunter vs Sal Barbier on the mic... it was really just about dropping names. Stuff that was known to skaters, the rest they could figure out on their own. Kinda like reading “Trash” in Thrasher, which was always my favorite.

But I’ll be honest, I made up so much stuff about people. Constantly. None of it was bad, because they’re all my friends. But yeah, I’d just do it for a laugh and to give them some coverage.

Well, speaking of making things up, I know you had your aliases.

Oh, I had a ton of aliases. I can’t even remember them all, at least 20 or 30. Name some off and I’ll tell you if you’re right.

Bobby Peru, which is Willem Dafoe in Wild at Heart.

Wow, you figured that out! That’s pretty good. You’re the first person that I didn’t have to tell.

Vic Void.

Yep, that’s me. I’ve used that one for a long time.

Hector Suaze, M.D.

Yeah, he’s a doctor…

I would just get so sick of writing articles that I’d make up pen names and personas to keep things interesting. Like with Hector Suaze M.D., I’d try to write about skating from a doctor’s point of view.

Dallas Jackson was another one of my guys. He was a member of this made-up band I had called Born At A Young Age. He played a three-string bass and since he travelled around so much, he’d always run into skaters at different events. So he’d contribute articles to Slap accordingly.


That’s from when I lived on Potrero Hill. My address was 801 Minnesota St.

There was also Left-1 and Yancy Pentz. And I credited a ton of my photos to Clyde Singleton and Peter Bici, just because.

Along those same lines, I’d also credit Gabe, O’Meally and Pete Thompson on a lot of my photos so that I could pay them more. Because they were my guys, but we paid like shit. Shooting a cover and three articles for $600 bucks? That sucks! So I started putting their names on my photos to help them out a little. I knew how important they were.

Didn’t you interview fake bands, too?

Yeah, Born At A Young Age. Black Vomit Soda.

Equestrian Myth.

(laughs) I forgot about that one. Yeah, those are all made up.

It’s funny because I did a bunch of fake album reviews for Black Vomit Soda and I’d get letters in the mail from people looking for their records.

“Dude, I can’t find those Black Vomit Soda records. I asked the store and they don’t know that label so they can’t even order it. Where can I find it?”

I wrote music reviews for Black Vomit Soda for three years and I don’t think anybody even realized they were made up. Just a bunch of us in an office, talking shit and trying to make each other laugh.

But in light of all this, what about Slap superfan Chad Tackett, the fixture of the Slap letters page for decades. Was he real?

No, Chad Tackett was real! He was a real dude! And he wrote in for years, well into his thirties. Even after I left Slap, he wrote in. But we were all so tripped out by his letters and these crazy photos of this nerdy little kid, we had to put them in… which meant that he kept on writing!

Why that big format for a while?

Just trying something new. Our printer gave us the option so we gave it a shot. It just cost too much money to ship so we switched back.

What was your philosophy behind the early covers of Slap? Handstands, giant frogs, paintings, portrait photos…

It wasn’t so much what was different, we just wanted something that looked cool. It goes back to Thrasher as well, because not every cover of Thrasher was a skate photo, either. You had Mike Muir and Danzig on there, too… and those were some of my favorite covers! Same thing with Indy ads. There’s a ton of Indy ads with no skating in them. Bryce’s time to grind ad? It’s a fucking alarm clock. And it’s awesome! You don’t always need skating in it.

Kevin Ancell worked at the mag and is just the raddest dude ever. He’s an amazing artist and I’d see him a lot at the bar close to my house. I just wanted him to do something for us so he did a painting.

And Twist was my next-door neighbor. He was just starting to make a name for himself and he’s a cool fucking dude, so I asked him to draw something for the cover. It has nothing to do with skating… I’m not even sure if it even says Slap on that cover. But that’s what makes it rad.

Do you still have the original?

(laughs) I had the original. Twist signed the back of it for me.

“To Lance, From Barry. Thanks so much.”

I had it on my desk and somehow Fausto saw it.

“Oh, this is rad! Let me get this framed for you!”

Two months later, I walk into his office and it’s hanging on the wall. As far as I know, it’s still there where Gwen works now.

What was I going to do?

What’s your favorite cover? And, in your opinion, what was the worst cover?

I don’t know if it’s my favorite but the one with the yellow board without the baseplate. Just because we’ve all looked at that a billion times, I thought it would look cool as a cover. And because Fausto yelled at me about it before going to print.

“No way! That looks like shit! No one is gonna know what that is and it’s never going to sell. You can’t run that as a cover!”

“I don’t care. You told me that I could do whatever I wanted so I’m doing it.”

Honestly, I think he secretly loved the fact that I would argue with him because most people wouldn’t. He liked that I would make the case for what skateboarding was at that moment, because he knew that he didn’t truly know. And that was okay.

So yeah, it went to print with that on the cover and a week or so after the issue came out, he came up to me about it.

“That’s one of the best covers ever. It’s rad.”


“You know why? Because my son knew exactly what it was, as soon as he looked at it.”

Tony was only 13 or 14 at the time, but every skateboarder knows what that is.  

So yeah, I’m proud of that one. Again, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite. It’s not like I showed off a lot of photo skills on that one, but I do like it.

As far as the one I’m least proud of... Jamie Reilly, who works at Vans now, was one of Slap’s early Art Directors. He’d gone to art school and I remember him telling me one day about “concrete poetry”. Design with letters that doesn’t have to mean or say anything… like a visual poem. For whatever reason, I got stoked on that idea, so I ended up making this red concrete poetry type of cover. Just a bunch of red letters that didn’t say anything. And then, I put Wade Speyer’s prom photo in the corner. (laughs)

Yeah, I was going to ask about this.

(laughs) Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on with that one. I don’t even know how I got Wade’s prom photo… maybe Karma gave it me? But yeah, I was super hyped on the photo that I couldn’t help myself from putting it on this weird red cover. And we’re talking really bad photoshop. Bad feathering, cut-and-pasted over this weird red shit. It’s disgusting. It might be the worst cover ever… which at the same time, makes it kinda amazing. (laughs)

It says “Wade, we love you!”

Yeah, because I thought he was going to be pissed at me so I put that on there to soften the blow. But I don’t even think he ever saw it.

Didn’t you take that shot of Keenan at Wallenberg?

Switch backside nosegrind, backside 180 out. Yeah, that was a cover. It was okay. Looking back on it, it’s cool because it’s Keenan. He’s gone and it sucks. But at the time, it felt a little stock, to be honest.

Some theories floating around on this one, what happened with the FTC sticker on Carroll’s second cover?

Oh my god, there’s no conspiracy, man. Let me tell you how it went down.

I was with everybody at FTC, like we were almost every day, and we were about to go skating. Carroll is setting up a board. We weren’t even for sure going to be shooting photos that day, we were just going out. But somehow, someone starts talking about the idea of photo incentives, because it had started to become a thing in the magazines. Put a sticker on your board so you can get photo incentive and get paid.

We were all just joking around about it and Kent says that if Mike got his sticker on the cover, he’d hook him up. So Mike slaps a big FTC sticker right in the middle of this board. But it wasn’t serious. We’re all just joking around and laughing about it. No big thing.

So we go out skating and it just so happens that I shoot a photo of him doing something at Lincoln with the sticker very prominently displayed, right in the middle of his board.

It really is a great photo.


But if you look at that cover, you’ll notice that the sticker is all scratched up. That’s all photoshop, because the sticker was brand new.

What happened was, as I was laying out that issue, I started to get more and more paranoid about that earlier conversation at FTC. That people might think I was just putting that photo on the cover so I could get money from Kent for the placement. Which, Kent never gave me money nor did I ever ask. But I didn’t want people to think that he bought the cover.

Because at the time, there were a few corporate entities coming into the mix and buying ads, like Ford and the Army. The rumor mill was that bigger companies were trying to buy covers with good placement. But that’s not me. No way. No one’s buying a cover off me… even if it’s just me being paranoid about it. So I photoshopped some scratches on the sticker, just in case.

That’s the God’s honest truth.

What about Thrasher politics at Slap? Would Thrasher bans carry over to Slap, too? And did you ever have ban anybody from Slap?

Did Thrasher ever truly ban anyone? I know there are rumors… let me put it this way, there are people you may not like, right? So are you going to put them on Chrome Ball? No. Is that them being banned? Or is it more like, fuck that guy.

Good point.

You’re not going to tell Phelps what to do anyway. But I’ve never heard of anyone being outright banned from Thrasher, to be honest. And I never banned anyone from Slap. My whole thing is that if it’s a rad photo, that’s all that matters. Unless you’re some criminal or a racist pig, but I don’t think we ever ran into that.

Slap consistently had East Coast coverage, long before it was any type of trend. Was this a conscious effort on your part?

Of course! That’s an obvious one. Because I’m from there, I know firsthand how it was always underrepresented in the mags. It never got even close to enough coverage.  And High Speed is giving me a credit card to go out there and do whatever I want? Okay!

It was an amazing time out there anyway. Pulaski, Love, the Brooklyn Banks… all that shit was happening. So I was going out to New York, DC and Philly as much as I could, like every other month. Obviously, I like being close to home but you also had all these spots blowing up out there. That’s why I had Pete Thompson and Ryan Gee shooting for us, too. It was an amazing time for the East Coast… and again, I’m not sure if the other mags would’ve been able to figure that out on their own.

I remember that 1996 Ricky Oyola interview in Slap definitely making some waves. Did you have any idea he had such militant views coming into the interview?

Yeah, that stuff was all a little ridiculous but that was just Ricky. That was him. I remember him even telling me once how there needed to be an East Coast truck company because he was sick of riding trucks from the West Coast.

Honestly, I just kinda laughed at him. Because who cares!? It’s just geography, we’re all skaters. Who cares where it’s from? I’m from the East Coast, too… and we’re doing this interview at my house in San Francisco. So what does it matter?

But that was his thing and there’s nothing wrong with that. Good or bad, at least he stuck to his guns. There aren’t too many people that can say the same for themselves.

I used this in 1996.
Who came up with the idea of publishing a SF Spot Map? I can’t imagine people were too thrilled to have so many spots blown like that.

(laughs) Well, it was always known that Bryce had a map in his house with little pins on it, where all the spots were. It became this thing where we were gonna break into his house to steal the map, just joking around. But the thing is, street skating was changing so quickly at the time that pretty much everything was up for grabs. Things that weren’t “spots” before were now being skated.

The idea to publish that map kinda came from, “Oh, you think you have spots?” Because Gabe and I must’ve combed every fucking street of that city, 10 times over. I’m sure we had a billion more spots than anybody else. I mean, Gabe used to have binders full of polaroids with spots all around San Francisco. He probably still has them. They’re insane.

But it’s not like we published anything that was hard-to find. They were all the hot spots that everyone knew anyway. There really aren’t any “secret spots” in SF anyway, that’s more of a SoCal thing, because it’s so much more spread out down there. SF is much more condensed, and you skate everywhere anyway. Things are going to be found.

What issue is that in?

Late ‘95/early ’96. Huf is on the cover, ollieing that hip in the desert… probably the same trip as the Shao photo, which I was going to ask about next.

Yeah, that was me, Huf, Phil and Karma at a ditch in Henderson, Nevada, right outside of Vegas. At the time, there wasn’t much out there but its super built up now. That ditch was just off the side of the freeway. We happened to be driving by and saw it so we pulled over to check it out.

There were actually some Japanese tourist skaters there, too. They just happened to find it as well. I remember one of them doing Bertleman’s on that rough ass bank… I think we were tripping off of them just as much as they were tripping off a bunch of pros showing up.

But yeah, Phil was ollieing up and ollieing out of that thing almost every time. It was gnarly. And it was crazy to see because it took Huf a few times to get up there and he was the one who had the calves of steel. It was rad to see Phil do it first. And I don’t remember anyone ollieing out of that thing other than Phil.

I know it’s been said a billion times, but Phil was the epitome of style. Truly ahead of his time, super smart and just a great dude.

He was going to be Editor of Thrasher, right?

Yeah, Jake was grooming him to be Editor. That was the plan and Phil was at the mag almost every day for a while. He would’ve been amazing at it, too. Phil’s death broke our hearts, man. Everybody loved that dude.

There’s no video of that ditch session, is there?

No, I don’t push the little red button, so there’s no video of anything. My worst nightmare was having a videographer because they always got in the way. I hated it. Fuck video cameras.

But you went to film school!

So? Do you ever see a cinematographer in the shot of a movie? No way.

Obviously, as things progressed, I got more comfortable with filmers because I had to. They weren’t going anywhere so I learned to deal with it. But at the time, no way. Just get out of my way. Go across the street or something. Just don’t be here.

Didn’t you film Koston’s switch tre down the 7?

Did I?

That’s what he says. You were shooting that Roomies article with him and Alf at the time.

I’ve never owned a video camera.  But if I did film it, somebody else was filming and I probably just shot a few tries as a joke. But no, I don’t remember shooting that. I think I’d remember that, too… and I wouldn’t be ashamed if I did. Even though I was just talking shit on the little red button. (laughs)

What’s the craziest lengths you ever went to for a shot?

I’ve literally gone through bricks of film. 30-40 rolls. There were times where I went through all my film and had to tell the guy to take a break while I drove to the camera store for more film! And then I blew through that, never getting the photo! I remember shooting Boulala and Reynolds down that little rail in Leon that everyone was skating for a minute, I have a photo of all my wasted film from that day, lying on a step.

Tim O’Connor’s nollie hardflip over that bump gap Julien skated in Skypager, I went through at least 30 rolls there. Danny Way doing a kickflip front crooks on the Plan B ramp, right after he recovered from breaking his neck. I went through at least 50 rolls of film on that one… and I still have the contact sheets! Just bail after bail. No offense against Danny, that’s crazy hard… but still.

So Whiteley came in as Editor in ’98 while you moved down to LA, right? What prompted the change?

It just seemed like everyone was moving to LA. SF is a teenie little town, man. And I’d basically spent the last decade shooting skateboarding there. I needed a change.  I blame it on Heath Kirchart and Jeremy Wray, meaning that everything they were doing was fucking rad. Big gaps, big stairs, big rails. It looked amazing… and guess what? All that was in Transworld. Because we didn’t really have any of that up there. So yeah, SF was starting to feel a little stale to me. I mean, how many more fucking tricks can I shoot at the Pier? I needed some variety.

So Whiteley had come in, recommended by Phil. And when I met him, I thought he was perfect for the job… which he went on to do an incredible job with the mag, for sure. But the plan was for Mark to take over as Editor in SF while I was Editor-At-Large in LA, shooting all the shit that never gets shot for Slap. Because the whole rinky-dink part of street skating in the 90s was over. No more little ledges and manual pads, everything was getting gnarly. You had Heath, Wray and Reynolds absolutely killing it… and we were getting none of that because Slap had no one down south. So I moved to LA.

I remember Heath having that Clipper backlip cover right before you left.  

Yeah, I think that fed into it a little. I remember J. Strickland and I painted Clipper red the night before. I shot a few others that day… Reese Forbes got a lipslide on it, too. And then, a couple days later, I painted it back to white because I didn’t want anybody else to get photos on my red fuckin’ ledge. If you want color, you paint it. (laughs)

So I know you were Indy TM for a second there, where does all your creative energy go these days? Where are you at now?

I’ve actually been at Skechers now for almost 5 years, running their photo studio.

In 2005, I started doing the Indy TM job in addition to doing the mag, just to make a little more money. The two kinda go hand-in-hand anyway. But with all the financial chaos that went down in 2008, I ended up getting dropped. I did the ESPN thing for a minute until that department got wiped out, too.

So yeah, I’ve been at Skechers for a while now. It’s honestly a little strange being away from skateboarding but I do enjoy it. Because they don’t know or even care about what you’ve done in the past. Skateboarding isn’t even on their radar. You’re there because of your skill set, pure and simple. Because after working in skating for so long, sure, you’ve proven yourself in that realm. But are you a real photographer? What else can you do? That’s fun for me. It makes me push myself as a photographer. Because it’s just like skating: once you stop trying to get better, you’re dead.

Do you miss the content game at all?

No, the only thing I really miss is being in the van. Laughing, talking shit and watching the world go by the window. Chain-smoking until you get to the next spot. I miss that… but everything else feels a bit like “been there, done that”.

I needed something new. You skate the same fucking curb every single day for 25 years, you want a new curb.

But Dr. Hector Suaze M.D. is still waiting in the wings!

He’s like a Supreme Court Justice right now. He’s moved on so far beyond skateboarding, he’s metaphysical at this point.

Skateboarding is about being young and coming after people. Once you’re old, you’re done. You have to remember that you’ll be old one day and you gotta know when to get the fuck out. Because I’m the old dude now and I’m fucking done. There are young dudes out there now who will rip me to shreds, like, “What the fuck, old man? Get outta here!”

And I love that about skateboarding.

I know the Message Board launched after you, but I read somewhere that you’ve only been on it twice… is that true?

Maybe twice, if that.

It just isn’t your deal?

I just had nothing to do with it. It started after I moved to LA and I knew nothing about it. I never touched it, only heard about it.

“Dude, fucking Jamie Thomas and Berra are going nuts on the Slap Board!”

I think I commented once on something completely random, the one time I actually went on there. I just never really paid attention to it.

You know there’s a Bobby Peru on there, right?

I do know that, which is awesome. Good for them. And if that’s because of me, even better. 

But does the Slap Message Board jive with your original vision of what Slap is? Because in your very first foreword of issue #1, you wrote how Slap is all about giving the people a voice. One could say the Message Board is the ultimate expression of that.  

I don’t think I know enough about the Message Board to truly answer that. But with what you’re saying, that’s basically social media in a nutshell anyway. It doesn’t matter if it’s Slap or not, those voices are coming out of everywhere these days anyway. It’s just that the Message board is our forum to do it on.

But let’s face it: sitting around and talking shit with your friends is one of the funnest things in skateboarding. Hell, sometimes it’s almost more fun than actually skating. I can talk shit with Sal and Grosso all day long and have just as much fun as I would on my board. If that’s what people are doing on the Message Board then good for them. And to all those pros and industry dudes who get pissed off at it, grow the fuck up. I mean, goddamn, how are you going to get pissed off at someone typing some shit? Who cares? That’s ridiculous to me.

So as we wrap this up, what do you feel is the legacy of Slap, beyond the Message Board? At the end of the day, what do you feel you were able to accomplish?

The fact that we’re talking about it right now. If anyone still remembers it and that it stoked them out, that’s all that matters. I honestly wasn’t sure if anybody was even looking at it back then. 

But no, I don’t think there is a legacy. Is there anyone other than people our age that remember or care? I don’t think so. It was what it was and now it’s gone. I could sit here and tell you a billion stories of gnarly shit with crazy people, but who cares? I don’t. I don’t need to be stroked. It’s done.

That’s not to say I’m not proud of it. A lot of people go through life, doing what they do, and they have nothing physical to show for it. There’s no document. But with the mag, one day when I’m old and gone, my kids will at least have something that was a part of my life to look at. Other people, too. It’s something of that era they can feel and flip through. The same way we can look back on old skate mags from our childhood, I hope that Slap can serve that same purpose for its era, too.  

special thanks to whiteley, isaac and lance for taking the time. 


Dill said...

this interview was something i didn't know i needed>>>>>great work!

Anonymous said...

The best.

Anonymous said...


umanile said...

Hey Chops great job!
By the way, I think the company name is "Skechers", not "Sketchers"!


chops said...

@umanile Good Looks! Fixed.

Thanks everyone.

Tgod said...

I love these interviews. Best out.

Templeton said...

Really enjoyed this one. It's always cool to hear from the guys behind the scenes. As a kid from the east coast, Slap definitely had an impact on me. Thanks, Lance.

Anonymous said...

I think this was one of my favorites. The stories were amazing. Thank you.
That first photo is sick too!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chops - keep em' coming

Anonymous said...

Chrome Ball=truth. These are the best, so much nostalgia from when i started skating

captain chaos said...

Dawes! Good lookin' out, man. Always loved that photo of Johnny pushing under that sign.

lorzenzo said...

Just great

Justin said...

This was great learning the behind the scenes of Slap. I liked how Lance talked about doing paste ups with the waxer. I still us one of those at my job.

SXM said...

Well that was kinda rough. Still & all, TY for doing what U do here, & to Dawes, just know that SLAP was appreciated. Dunno nothing about the message board either, but the mag was the shit. PROPS.

Nattie Dap said...

Awesome... my favorite mag- besides maybe the Journal- which didn't even happen. People did get the Journal t-shirt, at least. I had a Slap hoodie and sometimes jock types would attempt to joke- as though Slap was a suggestion. I still liked it; premier random message shirt.