chrome ball interview #134: matt rodriguez

Chops and Mr. Sunshine talk hot sauce. 

So your loose trucks are the stuff of legend, but before we get into that, I have another set-up related question.... grip over bolts? Why?

(laughs) I don’t know if I saw someone do it or what, but I just like it. And I’ve been doing it for a long time, too. I want to say since right around the time I turned pro. I just like the way it looks and feels.

How so?

It feels smoother, for some reason. And honestly, I just got sick of looking at my bolts. They look lame to me... they’re kinda distracting. This way, it makes my board feel more like a hovercraft. (laughs)

And you’re still cutting your bushings in-half? Just the top one or both bushings?

Both bushings.

Yeah, still doing it. Still making my situation harder than it has to be.

There are pros and cons to it, though. Because with tighter trucks, you definitely have more pop and your tricks level out a lot easier. But you don’t have that instant carve. Looser trucks make me feel like I’m more embellished in my grinds or whatever. It’s definitely harder for flatground tricks, but I love that cruisey, carvey feeling... and the way it rattles. It sounds like it’s fuckin’ broken. It’s a good sound effect.

One thing you gotta remember is that it also makes me feel heavier on my board. Because I’m super light, man. Fucking featherweight with popcorn legs. So when I ride someone else’s board with tighter trucks, I can feel how light I am. I don’t feel like I have the weight to lay into things. Because I’m only a buck 25... I’m the same weight I was when I was seventeen. I got a little beer belly now but that’s about it.

But how did you come up with the idea to cut your bushings?

It just popped into my head one day. Because you can only ride your trucks so loose until the bolt rattles off. And that’s what I did for a while, just tighten it back up with my hand. But shit would come off in mid-air sometimes, you know? It’s no fun landing on your kingpin. So fuck that, I started chiseling my bushings down with a razor blade so I could tighten the bolt better, to where it’s more secure but still dangly as fuck.  

But it has to make things harder, why not just try harder tricks?

Everything’s hard! It’s funny because people will tell me that I did something “effortlessly” or whatever. Nah, shit takes work.

For whatever reason, I’m doing this to myself. Making it harder. Because I don’t want any help. With tighter trucks, you have that tension from rail-to-rail. But when your trucks are this loose, all you really have is the beam going down the middle of the baseplates. You have to be more on-point, but I like the challenge. Like, fuck that, don’t help me. I want my shit fucked. I want to be wondering how I’m even landing this shit... I guess it’s just a suffer mentality. (laughs)

Your style has always been held in high-regard, has that always been part of your approach?

It all boils down to body language, you know? You can see when someone is tense and overthinking a trick. It’s gonna show.

Something I’ve learned over the years is that skateboarding for me is part effort, part surrender. You have to calculate what’s needed to make something happen, to the best of your knowledge and physical capabilities. But after that, you just gotta hope for the best. Just let go and let it happen. And overtime, you get whatever shuffle you’re trying down to where you can finally relax with it. Not be so Brainiac about it. Because it’s not a math problem.

What’s your attitude towards filming and photos? Do you enjoy that sort of thing or is it just a necessary part of the gig?

I’ve never minded that stuff. I knew coming into the game that it was all part of it. Get used to it. But I’ve always enjoyed it.

“Fuck yeah, I got a trick! Let’s see how it looks.”

I know a lot of other guys think differently about it. Some of the best, you know? Guys like John Deago or Ryan Hickey... They always seemed to have a rough time filming. For whatever reason, they hated it. But I always thought it was fun. Especially growing up, shooting with guys like Gabe Morford and Tobin Yelland. Sean Dolinsky. They know how to shoot so it’s always fun. You can just concentrate on your trick because you know they’re gonna make it look sick. Let’s get crafty.

Because photos and footy are only as good as who is shooting it. It’s kinda like a band: you can have great musicians but if the singer sucks, you’re only gonna go so far.

I feel like your cruisey style could be difficult to translate in a video edit. Which part of yours do you feel best captures your skating?

But I feel like my skating has changed over the years, you know?  Because in the first Stereo video, I was doing a lot of tech and switch stuff, which is where the majority of skateboarding was at the time.

I feel like my skating differs with each part, and they’re all encapsulating different time periods. I’m just lucky that I like all my parts. But I’d say my overall favorite part, and probably what best presents my approach, is definitely the IPath Promo Video.

At the end of the day, it just comes down to how you feel about a part and if you’re stoked to share it. As long as you back it, that’s what is most important. It’s funny, because I’ll always have friends ask about what I think of their latest part or some clip they just filmed. It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s how you feel about it.

In your 411 Roomies section, you told a security guard, “You’ve never heard of me. I’m underground.” What did you mean by that and how does that tie into your view of professional skateboarding?  

Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of Tony Hawk but I doubt you’ve heard of me. (laughs)

Because I would say after Stereo, I started to ride for companies that felt more like underdogs in the industry, like Supernaut. And that’s because I care more about the quality of product that I’m riding and the people I’m working with. People who want to support me and what I do, whether it’s my skating, music or art.

I’ve just never really cared about being part of the more mainstream segment of skateboarding. And I’ve never been one to overly sell myself, either. I wasn’t so caught up with trying to win the X-Games or whatever. That stuff’s never been my direction. 

So was Mike McGill’s Chapter 7 your first sponsor? How’d you hook up with them and what was that like?

Yeah, other than a couple of local skateshops, Chapter 7 was my first sponsor. I had a few local guys giving me their old boards before that... Jeff Toland was one of those, giving me stuff for a while. Actually, Jeff would always try getting me hooked up on Think back when he rode for them. It’s funny because Greg Carroll and I are good friends, but evidently Jeff used to show him footage of me for Think and Greg would always shoot me down.

“I don’t know, bro. Too much skatepark footage, bro. I need to see more street.”

Jeff said that they always used to get into arguments about me.

“You’re tripping, dude! This dude’s got it. Trust me.”

“Nope. Gotta see more street, bro.”

I still bring that up to Greg to this day. (laughs)

But that seemed to go on forever, which sucked because Think and Venture were my dream sponsors back then. Greg just wasn’t having me. So once Jeff went to Chapter 7, he got me hooked up.

I was down for Chapter 7, though... I’m not too choosey. If someone wants to help me out, nobody else is knocking down my door. Fresh planks? Let’s do this. Mike helped me out a lot, too... sending me to contests and stuff. And they used the same wood as Deluxe at the time, Taylor-Dykema. So yeah, I was down.

I remember Toland and I always bombing down to San Diego together, bumping A Tribe Called Quest in his old Dodge Dart. Head to McGill’s house, raid his fridge and bust his balls about shit. We used to talk so much shit to Mike but he loved it.

That went on for a couple of years, actually. We did that Seven Seekers video where I skate to Rick James... That shit is hilarious. Doing pressure flips in giant pants, skating to Superfreak.

How did Stereo come about? Had Chapter 7 just ran its course?

No, Chapter 7 was actually still going.

I had moved to San Jose during my junior year of high school. And I’m skating tough with Shawn Mandoli, Ed Devera and Salman Agah, who are all already on Real. One day, Mandoli just calls me up.

“Yo, Jeff Klindt called and Chris Pastras is trying to get ahold you. They’re starting a new company and they’re wanting you to ride.”

“What? You’re fuckin’ tripping, dude. Stop lying. Whatever, let’s go skate.”

I didn’t even believe him but he gave me some phone number anyway. I call and it really was Dune. So we’re talking and I’m trying not to freak out.

“Hey, me and Jason are going to start this company called Stereo. Shit is dope, man. And we’d be stoked if you wanted to ride. Do you want to ride?”

Obviously, that’s a no-brainer.

“Fuck yeah! Let’s do this!”

It sucked having to tell Mike that I was quitting but Stereo was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made.

After that, they flew Lavar and I down to LA to meet those guys. I’d already known Lavar through skating at Embarcadero. But I’ll never forget Dune picking us up at the airport and taking us back to his house. Lavar and I are just sitting there, shooting the shit and waiting on Jason to arrive.

All of a sudden, Chris hits us with, “Alright guys, I just heard from Jason. He’s on his way.”

I just remember Lavar and I looking at each other... like, “Holy shit!”. Because we’d never met Jason before. Shit just got real.

Next thing we know, Chris gets a buzz at his door and you can see out there on his tv. It’s Jason, fully Blind-out with the chops and scraggly hair.

Laver and I are just tripping.

“Hey guys, meet Jason.”

We both try to play it cool, like, “Oh… hey Jason.” (laughs)

But we’re totally freaking out.

“You guys want to go skate?”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

So we head over to this parking lot. Lavar and I hop out of the car, grab our boards and start skating. I feel like we’re both so in our heads, we’re just trying to do all that we can to ignore the fact we’re hanging out with these dudes. We get so lost in our skating that we don’t even realize... hey, these dudes aren’t skating. Not that Lavar or I said anything about but I think it dawned on us both at the same time, and again, I remember us kinda looking at each other.

“Oh, okay… they want to see it, huh? Alright, let’s show these boys what’s up.”

It’s funny because all we’re skating is a little manny pad, but we’re just attacking this thing like crazy! Full-on lines with flatground shit... just putting on the Ritz. If they want an audition, we’ll give them an audition.

They’re cheering us on for a while, until they finally get their boards and start skating, too. It felt good. We went and got something to eat afterwards. The rest is history.

It’s weird, though, because while Stereo always seemed to be a close-knit team, you also had more than a few guys come in and out really quick.

Yeah, Lavar wasn’t on for very long. John Deago, Paulo... I forget why Paulo left. They definitely didn’t kick him off because he was pretty crucial to the mix, for sure. But yeah, we had the glory team at first. I know Lavar quit for World and John got kicked off.

Why was that?

I’m not totally sure, but like I said early, I know he didn’t like to film. He was an amazing skater, he just wasn’t producing. And Stereo’s whole thing back then was trying to do a video. As one of our pro riders, they needed John to have a part, but he just couldn’t pull it together for some reason. Same thing with Ryan Hickey. Sick skater, he just hated filming. And that’s a large part of it, man. You gotta produce or you’re not gonna last very long.

So, as good as that first Stereo video was, you gotta think who else was supposed to be in there... Mike York, too. That first line-up was gonna be heavy.

Talk about switch ollieing the Gonz gap.

Yeah, I went on a mission specifically for that. Because I’d been switch ollieing a lot of stuff at that time around Sac and SF.

“Hey, I’ve never ollied the Gonz, why don’t I switch ollie that?”

Actually, I never did ollie the Gonz regular-footed, only switch. (laughs)

“Nah, that’s already been done. Whatever. Let’s get this switch ollie.”

So I went out there and gave it a few tries... finally fucking got it. It wasn’t easy. I actually cracked my board on it, the only board that I’ve ever cracked. That Kelly Bird board with the Screaming Vengeance graphic.

Is there video of that anywhere?

No, just the one ad. That was just Morford and I, we didn’t even film it. There wasn’t a filmer around but we weren’t about to let that stop us from getting it. We just got hyped on the idea.

I know Jeremy Wray did it around this same time, too...

Yeah, he did it around that same time. I don’t know what happened with all that. I don’t know who did it first or whatever but I didn’t hear about him doing it until later. I just wanted to do it that day and didn’t think anybody had done it yet. Gabe was there... boom.

Actually, I almost did a front shove down the Gonz as well, with no griptape. At night. That would’ve been fun.

...Wait... What?

(laughs) I got pretty close!

With no griptape?

Yeah, that was another phase I went through: loose trucks and no grip! Let’s make it double-fucked.

Are you serious?

Totally! It started one day when I didn’t have any grip. FTC was closed and it was almost dark... let’s just go for it.

I landed on it a few times but could never roll away. I could never fully get it.

Something like the Gonz, you can only give it so many tries. There’s no flirting, you’re definitely trying to make everything first-try. Because that shit was no joke. You really gotta push if you want to clear it, and regardless of if you’re bailing or not: if you don’t land it, you’re slamming.

But you never went back, with griptape?

Nah, never went back. That would’ve been a good one.

Are there any clips from this non-grip phase?

Yeah, in Matt Field’s Real part. I do a front heelflip over a hip and then a back lipslide.

I just thought that was colored griptape!

No, it was an orange board. Same thing, I didn’t have any grip. Fuck it, I want to skate. And then I started thinking to myself, “Wait a minute, this is kinda sick. It’s even more fucked up of a challenge. Let’s see if I can get something.”

Now I can’t stop thinking about that clip in the first Stereo video where both of your shoes go flying off… I gotta ask, did you have some crazy way of altering your shoes to make them ultra-loose somehow? No laces, maybe? I’m not putting anything past you now.

(laughs) Just keep the raising the bar on myself? Like, I don’t want to land anything. I’m trying not to land a single thing so if I actually do, it really is a miracle.

No griptape, no bearings, blind-folded.

Bubblegum for bushings.

Nah, I have laces, I just can’t wear my shoes super tight. My shit’s gotta breathe. And tight shoes have always been pet peeve of mine anyway. I just think that shit looks hella dorky.

So how was filming for A Visual Sound anyway?

Oh, I definitely wanted to do my best. Pushing myself to get whatever good stuff I could. Plus, I was also out there skating and filming with all of the other guys, like Mike Daher and Fowler. Those two actually lived together for a while. I’d always cruise over there, hang out and go skating together. But being teammates and working on the same project, we’d definitely hype each other up and push each other. It was a good crew to go out with, and I feel like we were always stoked, feeding off each other. So getting footage really wasn’t too hard.

What’s a particular mission from this time that sticks out in your mind?

Probably just going down to LA with those guys. Skating Beryl Banks and all those classic LA spots with Jason, Chris and Mike. It was always cool going to spots that you’d only seen in the Blind video and Plan B videos. 

I was just about to ask about that fakie heel and half cab heel on Beryl.

Yeah, that and the line down the little three stairs that Jason skated in Video Days. I did my little thing there... And I did that 180 ollie over the rail. That was all the same day. Probably all on that same trip I was just talking about. Just a fun day, you know? I guess you always get a little extra excited to skate the spots you’ve been seeing in videos for so long.

So you’d never been to Beryl before and came away with two clips?

Yeah, but nothing beats Jason’s frontside ollie on that thing. Remember that ad with the balloons? Jesus Christ. He was head-fucking-high. What fucking planet is this guy from?

That fakie heel and half-cab heel really weren’t that big of a deal. I got’em pretty quick. It was actually more difficult trying to figure out what all hadn’t been done on that thing yet. I literally had to sit there and go through everything in my head, trying to figure out something out... and that’s where I landed. Let me give these a try.

Did you know that Visual Sound was going to be this “artsier” thing? Not just your regular skate video?

We knew that it was going to be different but the ideas weren’t all flushed out yet, like the intros and stuff. We did know that it was primarily going to be all jazz... which, I actually think I got lucky with Tommy’s song because it made my part a little different. I liked the jazz they were using but I feel like my part stood out more because it had different music.

But beyond that little bit, we had no idea what it was actually going to look like. I remember us all watching it for the first time at Mike and Ethan’s house and we were tripping out on it. Like, woah! That was cool.

Do you remember filming your ocean intro? Did you have any idea what you were even doing? 

That was a fun day, actually. It was me, Toland and Tobin. But we all got to choose what we wanted to do for our intros. I wanted to go by the beach and hang out because that’s something I like to do. Be a goofball and climb on a rock. I actually look like my grandpa in that video, back in his teenage years. The resemblance is crazy. That crew cut with the beady days, before my big wig days.

What was your reaction to the notoriously mixed reception that classic video got at the time?

I just don’t think people were ready for it yet. Shit had gotten so techy, obviously, but it had also gotten so linear, too. Where’s the embellishment at? For lack of a better word, where’s the surf element? Where’s the riding? Skateboarding is not just about going up and down, forwards and backwards... Where’s all the carving in-between? That’s what Jason wanted.

Like, look at Mike Daher’s part. He barely did any flip tricks at all, but his part still holds up today. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite parts. Because I feel like it’s more about cruising and not worrying about the latest tricks. And that’s what it really comes down to. How do you want to skate? Don’t worry about the trends, what are you feeling? That’s what Jason and Chris wanted to get across.

People were expecting the latest and greatest tech-gnar. No, man. Skateboarding isn’t all one way. If you can do that stuff, cool. But if it’s not your thing, that doesn’t make you irrelevant. It’s not all just about the latest trend, it’s about individuality and your own unique way of skating.

I know you turned pro around this time, there’s an early board of yours that I remember having an actual shape, one of the only shaped boards back then...

Yeah, that was my second pro board actually, with the cut-in tail.

The sun graphic that I used for my early boards, I drew that in art class one day, back in San Jose. And I knew right away that I wanted it to be a graphic. So when I turned pro after the video came out, I used that drawing for my first board, which was a pretty typical shape for the time.

And that was the thing, you know? This is back in the mid-90s, when there were absolutely no shapes out there. Every board basically looked the same, because everyone was trying to look like that World Industries cartoon crap. But back when I was growing up, everybody had their own shape, which seemed to give boards so much more character and personality. That just wasn’t really around anymore.

My thinking was that, as a pro, your board is one of the biggest creative outlets you have. So I took the opportunity to say a little something, that skateboarding has so much more soul than what we’re letting onto. That we need to keep shapes alive! We can’t just let that shit get lost.

So here’s my next board. The graphic’s a different rendition of my first sun one, just like the old-school days. And here’s the shape I want, specifically with the tail cut-in. Just for something different. Luckily, Stereo was down to make it for me. And it did really well, probably because it was so different and had something to say.

I feel like that was the start of the whole Tincan Folklore-era, which was much looser.

Is that graphic what led to your “Mr. Sunshine” song in Tincan?

Nah, that was my friend Brian’s song. He was this gnarly kinda-punk rock singer for a band called Pale, a super rad little trio. He was always singing this loud, angry stuff, like “Rawr!”. And then one day, I just happened to hear him playing this song on an acoustic guitar. All normal and nice. I really liked it. It just had a hope to it, you know? I loved the melody and the lyrics... how mellow it was.

So what ended up happening was another buddy of mine got on bass and I got on bongos, we actually ended up recording it together. All the homies coming together on a song! And I was really psyched on it, man. That’s my heart! Let’s run it!

That’s just where I was at in life, you know?

I’ve always loved your unique brand of ledge tech in that video specifically. Opting for 10-foot hurricanes instead of switch flip backtails like everybody else was doing.

Yeah, I was definitely wanting to get away from the more techy stuff back then. Finding my own thing.

That video is interesting because while A Visual Sound was all about doing what you feel, that feeling was ten-fold by the time we got to Tincan. Because at the end of the day, I think people just want to see what you’re feeling. There needs to be some conviction there. It’s the conviction that makes it awesome. And that’s the approach we took to that video. Show what you really want to be doing. Because otherwise, why are you doing it? All you can do is please yourself by doing what you like... and whoever digs it, cool. If not, that’s cool, too. It’s just not for them... It’s like Instagram. Oh, you don’t like this one? Well, keep scrolling then.

What about that backside 180-switch front 180 clip? So good.

I call that one “the Mexican U-Turn”, because you end up going the same way. (laughs)

That was just some spontaneous thing I thought of it while we were out there, so we filmed it real quick. I was actually trying to put it together in a line with the frontside boardslide that came afterwards but I couldn’t get it. I was sucking that day so we had to get them separately.

What were those Buddha statues at the end of your part about? Was that your request?

Yeah, I had ‘em film those. I just thought it looked cool. All of these Buddha statues in a row like that. Whatever. Hippie or not, I dug it.

Tommy Guerrero always teases me about that kinda stuff, calling me a “hippie”. I always gotta hit him back with, “Hey man, it’s cool to be hip!” (laughs)

But then I’ll see him out there, drinking some Green Tea or taking a multivitamin. I gotta seize on that when I can.

“Who’s the hippie now, Tommy?” (laughs)

So is that how you see yourself, a hippie?

Overall, I’m just a humanitarian. Humanity-first, yourself second. Do what you gotta do to take care of your basic needs but know that there are always resources within yourself for more, whether it’s talking to a friend or opening the door for an old lady. Lend yourself a hand every day but lend the world a bigger hand, whenever possible. You’re not gonna save the world but you can help it.

Talk about skating with dreads. No disrespect, but from a practical standpoint: doesn’t that get hot or even sway your momentum at times? Ever get them stuck in your wheels?

(laughs) Like caught in a bearing or something? Nah.

It’s such a gradual thing that you don’t really notice the weight. It grows so slow, next thing you know, they’re down past your ass. And I always wear a beanie and a hoodie anyway. It’s just like one long bad hair day, still going. 

Honestly, my wig has actually saved me quite a few times. Like if I fall on my back, it’s right there to save my spine from getting shredded on the concrete. A little brillo pad protection.

But nah, I’ll get slapped in the face by one every now and then, but that’s about it. You get used to it, flying in your mouth or whatever. Comes with the territory.

Are you one for camping out with tricks or do you prefer to keep it more spontaneous?

If it’s not flowing, I’ll just move on. Because even if you do get it after trying for an hour, you’re not going to enjoy it. We’ve all been there. You keep trying something until you finally get it and you’re not even happy.

“Oh, great. I finally got it. It only took a million fucking tries.” (laughs)

So I’ve learned to just let shit go and come back another day. You can’t force it.

You’re definitely known for building sketchy “junk” spots. Are you just thinking these up on the fly?

Yeah, usually just working with whatever’s around. Like, “Hey, this spot is sick but what if it had something like this? Let’s look for it!”

Or sometimes, you’ll be out somewhere and see a bunch of shit lying around. Crates of wood or whatever, let’s make a spot out of it. MacGuyver-nomics. Make something out of nothing. Because after all, that’s what skateboarding really is. Junk ramps are just an extension of our whole deal.

A lot of kids don’t see that, you know? Like, if they don’t see it right in front of their face, they won’t look into it any further. But if you do, you can have a whole little skatepark, just by adding a few things. I see shit all the time, where I know I’m gonna come back with this or that and add to it. It just makes things more fun.

Could you feel an overall change in Stereo with Daher leaving and then Jason officially riding into the sunset shortly thereafter? Did that play any part in your leaving?

Yeah, I think so. It definitely bummed me out. Because I would hang tough with Mike all the time. But I guess Deluxe was bumming on him after a while. It was kinda weird how it all worked out. Because when Jason left, everyone was pretty shocked. I mean, Tincan was a great video but it was a crazy time, you know? And shortly after that, they let Greg and a few other people go.

Suddenly, all we had left on the team was Chris, Ethan, me and some new guys. Like, where is everyone? So much of the original thing was gone. I realize that you always need young blood to grow but I also think people respect when a company keeps its history around. The people that helped get that shit off of the ground. That’s your roots, man.

Stereo was still going strong... and they still wanted me to be a part of it. I just felt like my original home had been separated. Because we really were like a family. We’d done so much together and suddenly, it just wasn’t the same anymore. We were all Jason and Chris’ stepchildren and they took care of us, like brothers. Just the perfect vibe. Nobody ever had any beef with anyone, only love and respect. And it was sad to see all of that change, so I had to go in and have a talk with Tommy about it.

“Hey, man. I’m not sure if I want to stay. I just feel like it’s not what it once was. That it’s going in a direction that none of us would’ve originally wanted it to go. I don’t think I can vibe with it.”

And I walked away. Not even knowing where I was gonna go.

You didn’t have Supernaut lined up already?

I didn’t have anything lined up yet. I just knew that I didn’t want to stay. It wasn’t about the money, I didn’t care about money. The family was gone… probably one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make in skateboarding. I just couldn’t lie to my creative self, even if I didn’t know where I was going to end up.

So how did Supernaut enter the equation? And did you have any other options?

Well, I was kinda trying to get on Chocolate for a while, but I never really had any luck with getting ahold of anyone over there. I didn’t really have any good leads, I guess. I tried to reach out to a couple people but nothing really worked out.

It was Pailes who ended up asking me about Supernaut. I was already skating with him a lot and how he described the company sounded cool, so he put in the word for me and it worked out.

Supernaut was a good time because we got to do a lot of our own artwork, too. Just being generally involved in the overall direction of the company. They were interested in us as more than just riders. They realized that the more we could give also gave the company more substance and personality, which only got people more stoked.

How was it filming for Supernaut? Urban Canvas came out back when skateboarding was going hammertime stair-count crazy…

(laughs) Those videos were fun, man. No pressure. Nobody breathing down our necks, threatening to cut us if we didn’t get down with some triple-set hammers. That just wasn’t our style and we were okay with that. I mean, we’ll go big here and there, but I’ve always considered myself as having a more creative approach instead of just going buck.

Supernaut was mellow, man. They just let us do our thing. Whatever you felt. They were never going to tell us how to skate. Just give it your best shot. If you’re stoked on it, we’re stoked on it. There was never some crazy agenda.

Give us your best John Cardiel story. When did you first realize that he wasn’t wired like the rest of us?

I think we all quickly realized that as soon as he came onto the scene. I was just a fan like everybody else. But then I got to know him and we started hanging tough.

Honestly, I miss the days of him calling me in the morning.

“Matty, I’m gonna go shoot some photos. Want to come along?”

“Hell yeah!”

He was always shooting with Gabe, too, which was great. Catching up on shit. And then I’d just skate around and help root John on as he tried some crazy shit. It was always fun to go out on missions with him.

“You got it, Johnny!”

Back when he chewed tobacco. Going a million miles an hour with big chaw hits packed in his lip, all zonked out. Just going for it like a frothing animal.

He’s in your Tincan part, right?

Yeah, that little hip clip there. That was fun.

He’s just a savage and always down to hook up. Music, too. He’s all into reggae so we vibe on that. And hot sauce. We’re always vibing on hot sauce. He’s always calling me from somewhere with an update.

“Yo Matty, I got the spot, dude. They got the fucking best hot sauce I’ve ever had. You gotta try it.”

It’s the best.

What hot sauce are you guys feeling right now?

Well, they come and go but the one we’re always feeling is this spot in San Jose called “La Victoria”. They got this orange habanero cream sauce. Oh my god, it’s so fucking good, dude. We’ll just take shots of it off our hand.

“Take a hit!”

Talking crazy shit, like a bunch of spice junkies.

“One day, Johnny, when I’m on my deathbed, put this hot sauce in my fuckin’ tube. Feed me! Feed me more!” (laughs)

15+ years later, how do you look back on the Tent City Australian tour?

Yeah, that’s a hard one. Because being there and all the shit that went down, it was all so amazing and epic... and then so tragic. The crazy duality of that experience. Because you can’t watch that video and not think about Cards getting fucked up immediately afterwards. Yeah, it’s a rad trip and rad skating… but wait. You know?

I’m just glad that we didn’t try to move him afterwards. Because we were about to. Just throw him in the van and head off to the hospital. But out of nowhere, these nurses showed up. They saw what had happened and rushed over as we were all surrounding him.

“Don’t touch him! Don’t move him!”

There just happened to be a hospital nearby. And if they wouldn’t have showed up, I guarantee you that we would’ve made things much worse. Because we were all freaked out and didn’t know what to do. We would’ve picked him up, put him in the car and then got him out of the car once we got to the hospital... that mostly likely would’ve paralyzed him. And it would’ve been completely by accident, because we just didn’t know. But luckily, those nurses came over and kept that from happening.

It was the last night, too. We had just finished our last demo and were on our way back to the hotel. Everyone was going home the next day... What the fuck!? It was rough. But after everything, as much as it fucking sucks the ball bounced the way it did, I’m glad that he’s still with us, obviously, and at the very least, he was able to get one more part out there with his skating… but fuck.

You saw it happen?

Yeah, he was in the car with me, trying to light a cigarette but he didn’t have a lighter. So he got out of our car and ran up to the van in front of us that had everyone else in it. He just hopped out at a stoplight.

“What are you doing?”

“No worries, I got this.” And he shuts the door.

So I’m thinking that he just wants to get in the van with everyone else. No biggie, right? This is in Australia, so I’m driving on the right side of the car. He’s along the left side of the van in front of me, trying to get a light. He’s asking Peter Hewitt, “Yo, light my stogie.”

“Nah, dude… just take the lighter. The light’s about to turn green.”

“No, I got it.”

So the light turns green and the guy driving, because it’s all noisy and everyone is partying in there, he has no idea what’s going on in this blind corner of the van. He can’t see or hear Cardiel. He has no idea that he’s even back there. So he takes off and Johnny’s trying to pace walk along the side of the van, to light this cigarette.

“Just take the fucking lighter! I’ll get it later. We’re going!”

“Nah, I got this.”

John ends up tripping over his feet and falls on his side. But the trailer that’s hitched onto the back of the van, the wheels stick out wider than the width of the van… when John fell, he didn’t have enough time to get back up and that trailer they’re pulling literally wallies off his back. Shooting him out 15-feet over. Fuckin’ rough.

And because I’m following them, it happens right in front of me. I stop and get out to rush over to him. He’s on his back, gasping for his breath. Imagine when you get the wind knocked out of you, but tenfold. Everyone’s freaking out. I just grabbed his heart and grabbed his other hand. Trying to calm him down.

“Hey! We’re here! Hey! Catch it!’

I remember him finally catching his breath but the rest is just a blur.

Next thing I know, John’s telling us that the doctor said he’s never going to walk again. John’s just like, “Fuck you!” (laughs)

“Yeah, that’s right!” So rad.

And I’m glad he didn’t take that for an answer. Because I feel like most people would’ve just accepted that as truth. That’s what the doctor said, why even bother trying? But not Cardiel. He’s like, “Fuck that.”

And now look at him! He’s riding bikes, rolling around… I saw him last week at a reggae concert in town and he was out there dancing! Fuck yeah. You can’t keep Johnny down. He’s doing good, man. Making a positive out of a negative. He’s still alive. Seeing the people he loves, listening to good music and eating hot sauce. Light it up.

Forever an inspiration. So switching subjects over to IPath, what exactly was your role there over the years? Wasn’t that you, Pailes and Field at first?

Well, we all came up with the initial look: the three Matts with the name and Bigfoot with the art. I remember back when we were thinking of a name, Field was like, “Should we call it I&I?”

“No, just ‘I’... Like, the self. My path. Because the journey is about you, the ‘IPath’”

And that was it. Because the I is really about it being, “What is your path?” If you’re down with what we’re doing, that means it’s your path too. You can say “IPath” as well.

So yeah, it was us three putting it on with Bigfoot. He designed the icon, which was cool. We all kinda left it to Field to deal with the financial part. And we trusted him. Pailes and I were never really tripping on getting a percentage of things. Sure, it would’ve been nice but it was never anything that we were trying to angle for. We were just stoked to be doing something that we all believed in. We figured that our names being such a part of it, along with all of the work we were putting in, that was enough to be our stamp on the brand.

Was this just a labor of love for you guys?

Oh yeah, for sure. Because at that point, we were only getting about $500 a month. But we always knew that it would grow. We were just stoked to be riding shoes that each of us got to design and put out there. Pailes had the Buffalo, Field had the Grasshopper. And for mine, I gave them the Wallabee design but padded it up more. Beefed up the ankle, gave them the OG crust and told them to slap our skate sole on it. Because the sole we were working with was super simple, it went perfect with that type of design. And that was the Cat. I named it and gave them the idea... bam, one of our primary shoes from day 1 until the end.

Yeah, but wasn’t there some shady shit that went down with your shoe? Like they took your name off it after a while? 

Yeah, the first investor took all of our names off our shoes. Because it used to have each of our names inside the tongue, where the stash pocket was. But once IPath started to explode, I’m sure the owner realized that if he kept our names on there, he’d have to pay us more. So, like a scumbag, he took them off. We knew what he was doing but we weren’t gonna let that stop us… even though it would’ve been nice to make more money. Sure, he could take our names off but our spirit is all over IPath and you can never erase that.

So was this just creative skateboarders doing something out of love and a businessman coming in to be shitty about things?

Oh yeah, he was definitely an investor without a clue. But since it was primarily his money paying for everything, like most kooks do, he had to feel a sense of control... like he was the one making decisions. But dude had no idea what he was doing. We were the ones driving everything, just shut up and finance it. 

He eventually got weeded out after selling to Timberland. They quickly realized what a kook he was and canned his ass, which was great. Because that dude didn’t deserve to have any part of it.

How was Timberland?

Timberland actually did a lot for the brand. They definitely took us to the next level, getting us in five-star silver factories. The quality of the product got way better. They were flying us around everywhere to film, too, because we were gonna drop a video. But before that video could come out, Timberland sold us to what would become our third investor. And while we tried to keep the fire burning, all of a sudden, this third investor no longer wanted to put the video out.

“Dude! We’ve been working on this video for three years! It’s basically done. Just put it out. You’d be stupid not to!”

But he wasn’t into it. He gave us some bullshit excuses and ended up taking it up with another skater... I won’t say his name but he knows nothing about street skating. This skater sees what’s going on and basically takes this investor’s opinion as his own, validating everything that this guy was saying, like, “Where’s the marketing? I don’t see the marketing in this video?”

We couldn’t believe it. “Where’s the marketing?” The fucking marketing is the skateboarding! What do you want to see? A bunch of IPath logos every 10 seconds? No way! The marketing is the skaters shredding in our shoes. And if we’re happy with it and stand behind it, you should, too. But, like a kook, he didn’t listen. So we ended up having to put it out ourselves.

Yeah, that was actually supposed to be our big IPath video, until Timberland sold us to that kook. So after he decided not to put it out, all the riders and the team manager ended up putting our own money together and released it ourselves. And we did a couple of premieres... it was good. People were stoked. But we originally had it lined up through Matt Price to be in whatever skateboard mag was about to drop. That was gonna be huge exposure and really help us get out it there. All this guy had to do was say yes and the video would’ve been in thousands of magazines around the planet. 

Because IPath was still growing at this point. Sales were increasing and we just put a bunch of new guys on the team, like Jaws and Ben Raybourn. Everything was great and this video was really going to set it off. But this guy had to go shoot himself in the foot. It was never the same after that.

A bunch of people ended up leaving. I tried to hang in there a little longer, until he eventually cut Freddy and Kenny Reed. He started offering everybody left on the team these scumbag rates that weren’t really anything, and then he took that money to sign Manny Santiago and some other Street League guy for 4 or 5 grand a month? What a fucking idiot. He could’ve kept the team as it was with all that money. We would’ve gladly stayed and rode it out for a thousand dollars a month. But because those guys are in Street League, you think that’s gonna help? I was done.

“Keep your fucking money, bro. But good luck. You’re gonna need it.”

I quit. And less than two months later, that shit was done. If he would’ve just listened to us and put out that video, IPath might still be going...  

Morons with money and skaters with creativity just don’t mix very well.

But you guys were able to put out that 2005 IPath Promo, which remains a cult classic. Talk to me about your ender part in that. I interviewed Dan Wolfe and he mentioned how dedicated he was in getting you a part for that thing.

Yeah, Dan was definitely rooting for me to have a shoe. Because, like we talked about, the Cat was my shoe. I just wasn’t getting paid for it. And they were milking the shit of it with every variation they could possibly think of. I think Dan recognized that and didn’t agree with it, thinking that if the Cat wasn’t going to be my shoe anymore, let’s work to get him a proper shoe.

But that was Dan’s thing, I wasn’t really thinking about it like that. I was just skating hard and stoked to be on the road… We took a few trips to Barcy and our crew was always tight. I was just in a good place and pushing myself. And luckily, that was all getting filmed. Next thing I know, I have last part. I had no idea that was going to happen. It just came out and I was like, “Oh shit… okay! Right on!” 

And that part played a big role with ringing the doorbells in the investors’ minds. Like, “Oh yeah, Matt needs a shoe!”

Not that I ever thought my part was going to do all that. I was lucky that Dan came in to edit the project and was stoked on all my footage. He was the one who put it together. I still remember him telling me, “Dude, it’s time.” (laughs)

I love that feeble frontside 360 in there. So good.

Yeah, I just threw that one out there. Because I could do them to fakie, why not keep it going? That’s me getting all Spinderella, I guess. But no, I’d never done that before. That was at the B Street park, here in Sac. I was working there pretty steady back then. Good times but so crusty… which I guess is what makes it fun. It’s not all perfect. Come off an obstacle and land in a pile of bird shit or something. (laughs)

Did you make that song specifically for your part?

Yeah, I’ve always tried to either make or, at least, choose the music for my parts. And at that time, I was just feeling the congas, on some Earthy-shit. Straight rhumba-style. Dan came up and filmed me doing my thing. I think that actually helped my part a lot, like the perfect compliment. Because I feel like that part not only captures my skating best, but also my creative life outside of skating, too. Like I said earlier, that’s my best part. 

...It got me a shoe so somebody must’ve thought it was pretty good. (laughs)

And now you have a new shoe coming out on State? How’d that come about?

It’s funny because I was working on a video part and wanting to send it out somewhere in hopes of maybe getting a shoe sponsor. Nothing like my own shoe or anything, just maybe a deal of some sort. Work my way up.

My good friend, Haroshi, ends up coming to visit me. He’s a distributor from Japan who was actually IPath’s first international account. And after IPath, he started distributing State as well. I didn’t even know that. But he’s at my house and we’re catching up on everything when I start telling him about my new part and how I was thinking of sending it to State.

“Dude, I distribute those guys now! I was just down there yesterday and I seriously asked what they thought about giving you a shoe. Let’s make this happen!” (laughs)

So he doubled back to Kevin Furtado, the super cool guy who does State, and the rest is history. They’ve been sending me shoes ever since. It’s cool. They’re super good quality and mellow on the eyes. Skater-ran, skater-owned. Fuck yeah, I’m stoked.

And this is your own shoe? An Es La Boom shoe?

It’s the Matt Rodriguez Liberated shoe. It does have the Es La Boom logo on it, the formation of the four doves. And there’s one dove on the tongue. But it’s definitely my full-on model. I’m hyped and excited to keep it going. I have some footage happening and a few photos to pump out there.

What’s up with the part?

Well, I have the part that I was talking about but State wants to get some new stuff with me wearing the shoes, so I’m gonna film some quick edits for our website and the ‘gram.

The full part is going to end up in our Es La Boom promo, coming soon. That’s a little project we have going with my buddy, Casey. We have some boards coming out, Pailes did some artwork for guest boards with Freddy and Quim Cardona. But the video’s gonna be my stuff, Casey has a few things, and all the young riders we have on our team. Just something to put out there and share some vibes. Take it or leave it. If you don’t like, keep scrolling. (laughs)

Can’t wait, man. Looking forward to it. So as we wrap this up, after all these years, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment in skateboarding and your biggest regret?

I would say that my proudest moment would be Mark Gonzales giving Tommy G and I the very first Krooked Guest Boards. I could’ve walked away from skateboarding right then and there. Mark G picking me out of everybody? Cool, I’m done. (laughs)

But, of course, you’re so stoked after something like that, you have to keep pushing.

That’s a great answer.

And as far as a biggest regret… I don’t know, maybe wearing too many big pants? (laughs)

Yeah, we all have that skeleton in the closet.

Right? At least I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t just me! (laughs)

I do wish that we would’ve handled things a little differently when shit started going crazy at IPath. That us riders could’ve maybe banded together and done something. Squatted and refused to give him anything until he made everything right. Whether or not everyone would’ve actually done that, I don’t know. But if I could go back, I would love to have given that a shot. Maybe we could’ve set some people straight? It’s a good idea anyway.

But yeah… other than that, too many big pants. (laughs)

Big thanks to Matt for taking the time. 


Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff. Thanks Chops and Matt!

Anonymous said...

ATV legend, thank you both so much for taking the time!

Chillbizzee said...

I'm early 70's old school so I don't understand why you can't loosen trucks so that you can carve like the sport it was meant to imitate?
I always figured you just had to buy a longer bolt and soft bushings? Guess that's not a thing?

ODB said...

I want to see that shaped board he talked about

chops said...

I thought I had a photo but I dont. It’s in a mail order catalog somewhere... because I remember seeing it at the time and thinking they’d messed up the photo.

Anonymous said...

used to love those decks he rode that had the huge squared off nose.

Marek said...

So stoked you put out one with Matt,thank you! I loved Uprize graphics, when he started it through Highgrade dist., even though it did not last long, if thats the style he is referring to for the State shoe.

ciaran said...

"skateboarding for me is part effort, part surrender."

Absolutely nailed it.

Great interview Chops, you uncovered a lot of gold here!

nope said...

I can't find a photo of that deck anywhere! I remember he had two models in succession... one was like 8" wide that cut in at the back truck to 7.5" or so. It looked like a ping pong paddle. The next one had both the nose and tail cut in. I think element had a shape similar out once, maybe for Reese Forbes?

WShelton said...

Ah what? Matt Rod is the dopest dude ever! Super chill and down to earth! I remember getting to meet him and what was the whole Ipath team at the time at a demo in 2005/6/or 7, at Skatebarn West in Kent Washington (even still have a hat that all of them signed somewhere in storage!). I still clearly have an image of Matt (full dreads) poping over waist high stationary hardflips, wondering,"How the fuck does he do that?". And now after all these years I know! If it doesnt flow, it doesnt go. Keep killin it Matt!

Clipping Path said...

Thanks for another great post.This is so amazing.

Nicholas Borghi said...

Best interviews on the internet. Best interviewer, best questions, best mix of seriousness and fun stuff. Just really always liked this blog, its like getting to read a good skatemag interview. So grateful, dankashane

Coco Crisp's Afro said...

Sacto legend! So many DT Sacramento spots in here...some that don't even exist anymore.

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