8.12.2020

chrome ball interview #141: chris miller

photo: Blabac

SPECIAL INTRODUCTION BY BRIAN LOTTI

An Appreciation.

Without a doubt, Chris Miller was a vert skater’s skater.  Combining speed, power, style and technical savagery, Chris would unfailingly shred back-and-forth across the whole ramp, flicking any number of his signature airs that have become overall standards and prizes in the aerial genre: lien crossbones, backside japan airs, and his iconic indy and frontside nosebone airs… For example, picture one of his alley-oop lien crossbone airs. Now, how about one of his alley-oop indy nosebones, but maybe more of the straight up-and-down kind, like within 4-feet of the edge of the ramp. 

Moving beyond vert specifically, I would argue that he’s also been the street skater’s skater, too. Because Chris’s foray into lip tricks was a big inspiration for a legion of us who didn’t have access to ramps, but a whole world of curbs, ledges, and blocks instead.

 

At some point there in the late 80’s, I remember seeing a sequence of Chris doing a backside lipslide on a ramp. AND IT BLEW MY MIND. At the same time, there was footage of Chris doing frontside lipslides on a tall curb atop a ditch in Las Vegas and just rolling back in at speed, like it was a ramp (musta been a Gullwing vid). There were plenty of photos and footage of the Gonz and Natas and even Vallely skating blocks and curbs and stuff, but the way Chris did lipslides and just kinda rolled in off the ledge… That made a huge impression and seemed to be a key. I remember trying to learn how to do backside lipslides on a single-sided curb and wanting to ride off just like that… Imagining the whole time that I was Chris Miller to nail how it was supposed to look and go down. 

 

There was kind of a revolution in vert skating during the late 80’s. Guys were really starting to hit the lip and push what was possible for interacting with the coping. Miller was doing long frontside and backside lipslides with speed, and guys like Monty Nolder and Alan Midgett were making backside smith grinds look amazing. Alan Losi (of all people) was doing alley-oop backside shuffles to switch feeble fakies (alley-oop novacane), and of course, Ben Schroeder’s infamous backside 180 to fakie nosegrind, coming in straight at that Milwaukee capsule bowl. 

 

Ben Schroeder, Alan Midgett and Chris Robison, along with Chris Miller had all started a kind of revolution. Smith grinds, lipslides, nosegrinds, feebles-to-fakie, and 5-0’s-to-fakie had become a big and necessary part of the vert skater’s new lexicon for attacking the lip, diversifying one’s approach to skating vert. It was no longer just about doing airs, inverts and Mctwists.     


 

Those of us on the sidelines of this big vert action were witness to this exciting new skating and responding directly on the nearest curbs and blocks. Smith grinds? Now possible on that sharp, metal-edged electric box. Backside lipslides? You mean I can get up into it on a high block and pop out before the end? Lipslides-to-smith grinds?! Yes. And you can do that on single-sided ledges AND double-sided ledges?!? Yes!

 

For guys like Natas, Tom Knox and Matt Hensley, their approach to street skating included wholesale appropriations of vert and mini-ramp skating. And if Miller’s early touchstone was the backside lipslide, he actually never let up.

 

As “street skating” became more of the main entrée for skateboarding in magazines and videos, vert skating started to likewise be informed by the tricks peeps had learned to do on blocks and curbs. Chris was probably the first guy who learned how to do backside bluntslides on vert…. And soon enough, he was doing them at speed and sliding 10-feet or more. I believe he was also the first guy to really do good frontside noseblunt slides on vert, too (without grabbing the tail for a pull-in)… The first ones were kinda stalled when he’d go to pop in, but he did eventually learn to pop in quickly. So, if you know a typical Chris Miller lipslide, imagine a frontside noseblunt slide at that same speed. No joke.

 

I think a lot of people might have missed this point in Chris’s career. Because there was a good year in the early 90’s where Chris was putting together runs that included huge airs and over-head McTwists, but were also riddled with long bluntslides and terrifically fast noseblunt slides. He had figured some shit out… and was still charging. Skating across and around the ramp as fast as ever. Remember those waist-to-chest high frontside ollies to truck bash? Or those backside sugarcanes with speed? INCREDIBLE to see in-person. Maybe in the end, Chris was as much of an innovator as he was a style guy, but the way he skated and how he did things will always be what we remember. 

 

A couple years ago, there was a clip of Sean Pablo doing a long backside lipslide and rolling into a near-vert banked block at speed. So solid, so surreal… and instantly made me think of a Miller backside lipslide. Because not only was it the tricks Miller did but also his overall approach to skating that informed so many of us, even if we haven’t always been aware of it. A total all-out charge, mixed with cat-like grace and leisure that I can also see in the skating of Ed Templeton, Mike Carroll, John Cardiel, Grant Taylor, Dennis Busenitz, and more recently, Mason Silva.

 

Chris’s style, power and speed has certainly had an impact, as I can’t help but see traces of his skating in japan airs, melon grabs, shifty ollies, and even backside noseblunt slides. The influence of his consistently unique and inventive approach to skating cannot be overestimated. He’s brought so much awe and wonder into this world, shaping the foundation of what skateboarding is and can be.

 

Hats off to Chris, it’s Miller time!


=O =O =O


photo: Brittain


CHROME BALL INTERVIEW #141: CHRIS MILLER


Chops: Alright Chris, I know you grew up skating the notorious Upland Pipeline, how much of that experience do you think influenced your whole side of the ramp” style of vert skating?  

 

Chris: Well, I grew up skating parks and bowls. The Combi, in particular. Thats what I really learned to skate on. And its been said a thousand times, but the old Combi really was much bigger and burlier than the new one that everyone knows now. But yeah, I do think thats where my whole style of skating evolved from.

 

Once the parks started closing down, thats when the backyard ramp scene started popping up. Suddenly, all of the contests were now on these portable ramps or at someones house. And these things were super narrow. Its not like how it was later with the X-Games where ramps were 100-feet wide. These ramps were literally made to fit in someones backyard. Even the ones that werent personal ramps, I remember going to Kona and that ramp being maybe 16-feet wide. 20-feet max. It was skinny. Which meant that it felt even more confining for me because I grew up skating a massive bowl. 

 

So I really had to adapt my style in order to fit in these things, which was difficult for me. I essentially had to compress my skating down. I did develop an edge-to-edge style, which some of that was intentional and other times, I just needed more room to do my tricks. Because I like to carve into my tricks instead of going straight up-and-down. And I wasnt someone who had a million variations of every trick, either.

 

I basically had to become more trick-oriented as opposed to line-oriented, which took a while.



So you had a harder time skating these smaller halfpipes than big, bad Upland?

 

Oh, for sure. Because I was also used to way more vert and bigger coping. Ramps were not only super skinny back then, most of them had very little vert and not much coping at all, really. It just wasnt what I was used to skating.

 

Fuck, I cant skate this thing! Its so small!”

 

Not that I wasnt having fun, I just never felt like I was skating to my full potential on ramps back then.


photo:Brittain


When did it start to click for you?

 

Essentially two things started happening at once: I started getting better at adapting to ramps while the ramps themselves started getting bigger. At some point, Tim Payne came on the scene and started building a lot of the contest ramps, and thats when the ramps really started getting creative. Hed throw in all this weird stuff, like extensions and escalators. Semi-bowled corners. I feel like that actually helped me advance my skating a lot because it made ramps so much more interesting to skate. And thats when it really started to click for me.

 

Its weird, though, because Id been pro for years by then. If you look at my career, I was a late bloomer. Some of that was my own personal development, but a lot of it was having to evolve beyond this burly terrain where every trick was hard. Because even the more basic tricks were difficult at Upland. Nobody could do anything really hard there because it just wasnt made for that.

 

Oh, you did an air on the north wall of the square pool!?!?”

 

It didnt matter if it was only a couple feet out, youre gnarly.

 

So I dont think it was until the late 80s that I felt like I was finally skating ramps the way I wanted to. And the vert era was largely over not too long after that.


photo: Brittain

With so much of your style derived from flowing around”, where has tech” traditionally come into your skating?

 

Well, that same late 80s era where the ramps got wider, along with the help of street skating, a lot of the combo lip tricks started being adapted to vert by guys like Ben Schroeder and Neil Blender. For myself, I always tried to take my lip tricks a lot longer, using more of the ramp. And because I was trying to go for distance, it gave me more time. All of a sudden, going from smith grind to lipslide, back to smith seemed possible.

 

Technical tricks” for me had more to do with lip tricks and combos, not so much airs. The tricks I helped pioneer on vert, like bluntslides, backside lipslides, and combinations like alley-oop lipslide smith grinds… sure, I was one of the first to do that stuff on vert, but that was all coming from street skating. 

 

Not that I dont love a good air, but whenever I think of tech tricks”, I always think of the fingerflips and varial stuff people were doing back then. Board manipulation. And Ive always reacted the same way: nope. Because what Ive always loved about skateboarding is the feeling. That visceral feeling. You can flip your board 100 times. Guess what? It doesnt change the feeling. To me, its more about putting your body into a different space. The feeling that it gives you when you slide around a corner on your board. Whether its a boardslide or a lipslide or whatever, its incredible.



For me, it wasnt even a question of learning those techier tricks to keep up”, I just didnt like that stuff. It wasnt who I am. So thats when I started to work on different air variations, adding unique little tweaks for a style that was more me. Once I had more room to play around with, I could stretch everything out and really shine by doing things my own way.

 

As a pro skater, this was probably a handicap for me. I feel like that was a big reason why I wasnt winning contests back in 1986. I mean, I did okay, but it took me a few years to figure it out. Not that contests matter all that much, but they did essentially drive the industry back then.

 

Dont get me wrong, I was still trying to innovate. And not all of that tech stuff should be characterized like that… I mean, look at the Mctwist. That one definitely gives you a certain feeling, but I also had such a hard time learning it. Theyre super thrilling whenever you make one but it also scares the shit out of you, too. Especially at first. But once you have it down, its oddly not that hard of a trick. But the mental commitment it takes is gnarly.



I dont know if younger skaters realize what a phenomenon the Mctwist was back then.

 

The Mctwist is an interesting one because not only was it super innovative, it also came out of nowhere. The first time I saw McGill do one was at a contest at Del Mar and it was a mindblower. Like, holy shit. I know a few people had seen him trying it before, but I hadnt. So when he unleashed it that summer, it felt insane.

 

I mean, this was before the era of digital phones, where everything is filmed and you can watch it 100 times. This just came out of nowhere and then it was gone again, while the rest of us just stood there in amazement… like What was that!?! Some kinda crazy flip?”

 

It was so mind blowing that everything else paled in comparison.

 

While I was able to win my first pro contest without doing one, years later in Arizona, that felt like a very rare occurrence. Luckily, the ramp had some weird features and honestly, I was super on-fire that day. It was seriously, like, the best that I had ever skated in my entire life to that point. And even then, with my worlds greatest day ever, I was still just barely able to win a contest without that trick.

 

I basically learned Mctwists because I had to. Because there was a time leading up to Arizona where I felt like I was never going to win anything without it, and afterwards, I knew that it probably wasnt going to happen again. I mean, the Mctwist had come out three years earlier by then, but it was still that window where only a few guys were doing it. And at the time, you werent going to beat Christian or Tony without that trick. You just werent. You could be ripping and doing a million other things, but you had to have that trick.


photo: Mofo


I remember entire runs with fans chanting Twist!”. Nothing else even mattered.

 

(laughs) I could always get really close… for years. I could spin them perfect, I could just never convince myself to land it.

 

I remember being at a demo somewhere and the fans, thats all they cared about. Just chanting, constantly, Twist! Twist! Twist!”

 

It was so funny… because I was skating really good that day. Id done some of the highest airs that I had ever done on a ramp before. And yeah, people like high airs… but it wasnt the Mctwist.

 

Well, since thats all anybody cares about, as a joke, I decided Ill just go out and bail a couple. But I swear, I got more cheers for bailing a Mctwist than for any trick I actually landed that day. They didnt care, they just wanted to see a Mctwist.

 

And funny enough, thats actually how I ended up learning them, too. I was at a demo in Portugal with Tony Hawk and it was kinda the same experience. Im skating pretty good and the demo is going well… but once Tony does a Mctwist, that was it. The crowd goes nuts. So, of course, Tonys starts throwing out a bunch of different Mctwist variations and then towards the end, he puts them all together in one run and ends it with a 720.

 

Oh, man. Total showstopper. I think he even stopped skating after that, too… So, what am I gonna do!? I cant follow that but I cant stop skating, either. The demos not over yet! Well, I guess Ill just bail a couple Mctwists and call it a day.

 

So, I throw a couple out there and I get really close, which is nothing new. But for whatever reason, I start getting pissed. Thinking to myself, If Tony can do every grab variation possible of these and a 720, all in one run, why cant I just do one of these things!?!”

 

I made the decision that I was either going to make one that day or die trying… and I ended up making one! It was the same exact feeling as the 100 attempts before it, but next thing I knew, Im rolling away somehow.

 

Wait… Im standing up right now!”

 

It was awesome.


photo: Sturt


What did you do differently? 


What did you I just hung on! It was almost an accident that I even made it. I was just so mad that I hung on for a second longer. Because its a very specific feeling, almost like doing a backflip on a trampoline. You go blind for a second and then come back around. At that point, I was over the fear of spinning, I could just never see the landing in time. But if you look at the people who can do them really good, their upper body is all twisted around. They rotate their head so they can watch the landing as their body catches up. And thats really what it is. I guess I knew that intellectually, I just couldnt make myself commit to doing it.

 

I actually landed my first one without even really seeing the landing. I still wasnt doing the head twist thing the way I needed to, but I was going high enough and spinning well enough to where I didnt even need to. I just needed to have faith in myself to actually do it.

 

But the crazy thing is that after making the first one, I ended up making, like, the next 15 or 20 of them! Some crazy number like that. Not that I was doing them every day, because they were still kinda scary. But even then, I was suddenly more consistent with Mctwists than I was with backside airs. It was weird. I had to struggle with them for three years, but after I got em, it was one of those things where I had wonder why it took me so long? 



Incredible. So going back now, Chris… You got your first Thrasher cover at age 12 and were already on G&S at that point, but I read you were already on Santa Cruz prior to that? Is that right? 

 

Well… Salba was my first sponsor, really. I just happened to skate Upland all the time and Salba and Malba were locals. So he started flowing me stuff. I was still a grom at that point, not quite good enough to get on the team just yet, but he wanted to support me. And through that, I was able to get on Santa Cruz a year or so later.

 

I think there were some conversations about my possibly getting on G&S back then, but I was Santa Cruz all the way. Getting on G&S was a totally different story.

 

How so?

 

Well, its kinda funny. Id gone to a contest, back when I was on Santa Cruz, and I was supposed to stay with the Santa Cruz guys. This was the first overnight thing Id ever gone to without a parent. My Mom dropped me off at the skatepark in Lakewood, which is actually where I got that Thrasher cover shortly thereafter.

 

So, she drops me off… but the problem was that all of the Santa Cruz guys wanted to party at the hotel. They didnt want this little kid hanging around. Because I was only 12 at the time. They basically tell me to go see if I can stay somewhere else. So Im walking around the park, asking different people I knew if I could stay in their room. But while were all friends, nobody had the space. Because even back then, it was still that low-budget thing where you had six guys staying in one hotel room.

 

I head back to the Santa Cruz van in the parking lot to tell them that I didnt have any other place to stay… and theyre gone! They totally split, leaving me at the park to fend for myself! So Im just hanging out at the park until the end of the night, trying to figure out what to do. I dont want to call my Mom because shell never let me come to another contest again… I guess Ill just sleep down in one of these bowls.



Luckily, just as the parks closing, the entire G&S team shows back up. And I was already friends with Neil and Billy Ruff.

 

Oh, you can stay with us!”

 

So I ended up staying all weekend with those guys. And while they were stoked on my skating anyway, as soon as they heard about me getting left behind to fend for myself, thats when it came up.

 

Dude, you should ride for us! Fuck Santa Cruz. Well take care of you!”

 

It just made sense. We were already friends and it was more of my vibe anyway. I mean, I wasnt the punk rock party guy, I was just a little kid. So thats how I got on G&S.

 

It wasnt that the product was better or anything, they were just my friends. And it was always like that. Even with Larry Gordon and his wife, they were like your Mom and Dad. Super nice people. And with everyone they had involved in the company, it always felt like a family.



How was riding for G&S during the big 80s boom? Because while it was always respected and the team was sick, it wasnt the Big 5 either.

 

Exactly. And the interesting thing is that was mostly done by choice. By the founder, Larry Gordon.

 

Apparently, back in the 70s when Stacy Peralta rode for them, G&S had gotten huge. I guess at one point, they were literally the biggest company in skateboarding. But when the industry went bust, with G&S being so big and having all of this inventory, it almost killed them.

 

So when skateboarding started booming again years later, Larry never wanted to get too aggressive with selling boards this time. Thats why they never really got huge again. But as my career progressed and I started doing well in contests, I was still only making $26,000 a year riding for G&S. And talking to other pros who were riding for bigger brands at the time, those guys were making $10,000 a month. So honestly, its a little bittersweet.


photo: Brittain

How much of an influence was Neil Blender on you at such a young age?

 

Neil was always a good friend… And just the funniest, most odd sense of humor ever. I love the guy. He was such an important mentor for me in so many ways.

 

Obviously, I was into art and drawing, but I wouldve never even considered the idea of doing my own graphics if it wasnt for Neil. That was very uncommon at the time. I honestly dont remember anyone else drawing their own graphics, other than Neil. I might be wrong but I dont really think so. But this idea of being creative along with skateboarding itself being an artform, I owe that way of thinking to Neil. I think we all owe Neil on that one.

 

I have no shame at all in saying that I wouldve never started doing skateboard graphics if it wasnt for Neil. He encouraged that. Obviously, I was doing my own stuff, in my own style. But he totally fostered and encouraged that creativity in me… with my skating, too.

 

In so many ways, hes the biggest influence on me as a person.


Two-Inch Nose

But I gotta ask, didnt he squeeze your head really hard once when you were a little kid and make you cry?

 

(laughs) Yeah, that happened.

 

We were in Kona for a contest… I think there were 8 of us on that trip. Again, being so low-budget, G&S couldnt afford to fly us all directly into Jacksonville. Because of Disney World, it was actually cheaper to fly everyone into Orlando and take a Greyhound up to Kona. I dont even think we had our team manager” at the time with us either, so its just a bunch of kids from California running around this bus station in Orlando.

 

We finally get to Kona and it ends up raining these gnarly thunderstorms for the entire week were there. So now, its 8 hyper kids, away from home, stuck in a hotel. And Im the youngest.

 

I remember Neil was trying to nap or something, but I wouldnt stop talking. So he starts yelling at me.

 

Shut up already!”

 

But, of course, Im super hyper. So I start jumping on the bed, just to fuck with him. Hes obviously getting pissed, but because its Neil, its still kinda funny and Im laughing at him. Finally, he just snaps and pins me in-between the bed and wall… and he starts squeezing my face. (laughs)

 

My forehead and my face. Just squeezing me until I seriously start crying.

 

Yeah, its pretty funny to think about because its such a Neil Blender/Vulcan Spock way to decimate your little brother teammate.



Amazing. So how did you start doing your own graphics? Because I remember your prior bear paw graphic that you didnt do… was the Face always intended to be a board graphic?

 

No, that wasnt drawn to be a graphic.

 

I was always drawing on my boards with markets and paint, even before my first G&S graphic. Just as art to have on my board. So when it came time to have a first board, Id already drawn a few early versions of what I wanted. 

 

I had this idea of a logo melting, Salvador Dali-style. Id hand drawn the type, pre-computer era. And I tried to describe what I wanted to the artist that G&S was using back then.

 

He kinda did it, but it was very different from what I had in mind. It just didnt turn out.

 

The Face graphic started out as an art piece I wanted to do. I had my high school friend shoot a portrait of my face, half-lit. And from that black-and-white print, I hand drew the high-contrast silhouette of my face and the eye and put it all together.

 

But even then, I was still going to hand that off to another artist to do for my board. Id actually given someone the print and the concept, like a little sketch. But he came back with a drawing that was not at all my portrait. It actually looked more like the Joker from Batman. A cartoon version of my idea. Nothing at all like I wanted.

 

So it was Neil who said, Dude, why dont you just do it? Your little sketch is better than what this other guy did. Its you. You should be doing your own graphics anyway.”

 

I decided to give it a shot and every graphic I had after that was my own art. Things out of my sketchbooks, reinterpreted as board graphics. The motivation was never to be the most commercially viable, marketable graphics. I just wanted stuff that looked cool to me. Because its all self-expression.



Wasnt the lizard one that came afterwards a woodblock of yours?

 

Yeah, a linoleum block.

 

I was doing so much art back then that I started exploring other mediums. I never went to art school but Ive always tried to study up on my own… classics like Van Gogh and Picasso and I really liked Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Or something more modern like Modrian. I really loved the flattening of art and the graphic design influence in fine art.

 

So Id bought a little linoleum block kit as an experiment. Just another fun technique to try. 

 

I always liked the concept of anthropomorphic animals in my art. Using animals as a way to say something about who we are as humans. I think its interesting to think about human emotions through animals. I mean, we are animals, even though a lot of us dont think of ourselves that way. That were separate somehow because were highly intelligent and have thumbs. But Ive always felt that animals are much more intelligent than we think they are, especially on an emotional level. And thats been a theme in my graphics over the years… like the cats, for example. Humanizing them and animalizing us.

 

But I loved how that lizard one turned out. Thats honestly one of my favorite boards. I still even have the block. Its small… only about 5 x7 inches or so. We just enlarged the print to the size of a board. Pretty simple.


The Actual Block. photo: Miller


You brought up Mondrian, who you also used for Lotti later on but switched the colors.

 

Yeah, and if you look at the Face, thats a Mondrian influence as well.

 

That Lotti graphic was just a design I had. He liked it and we thought it would be cool. Something different from everything else out there at the time. Doing my own version of the colors and using that Mondrian-style format for the design.


Inspiration for the Face Graphic, Mondrian. 


But we havent even touched on any of your classic photos yet, which is a pretty sizable stack. Definitely more than most. Do you have a personal favorite photo of your own?

 

I personally love the shots by Grant Brittain. Hes always been a good friend and for whatever reason, weve always worked well together. 

 

But Ive been lucky to work with so many great photographers over the years. Honestly, one of my favorite photos, I didnt even know existed until a few years ago. A Glen Friedman shot in the original Combi. Down in the bowl, looking up at the corner. Just a super cool, unique shot from the G&S era.


photo: Friedman


The Pole Cam, obviously. Thats probably my favorite shot of me. The only reason why Id want to say anything different is just because Ive seen it so many times. I love it, Ive just seen it a lot. But now, Grant has started digging up other photos from that session, which is awesome because Ive never seen anything else from that day. And there were quite a few set-ups… because we were just making it up as we went along. Its cool to see Grant posting these other angles from that day. None of them are as good, obviously. The one he used is clearly the best shot, but Im still stoked to see these odd b-side photos anyway.

 

Not trying to be humble or dodge credit for my skating, but I do have to give Grant a lot of credit for my success as a pro. His photos made a big impact on my career. I was lucky enough to have a few iconic shots published and I want to make sure that the proper credit goes to Grant for how much of a positive impact that was on my career. Not to take anything away from the other photographers Ive worked with, but I really did get lucky to shoot with Grant as much as I did.


photo: Brittain


The Polecam inspiration came from surfing, right?

 

Yeah, Grant and I are both surfers. And at the time, there was a surf photographer who started using the polecam to extend his lens out into the waves for some pretty unique angles. As these photos started to run in the magazines, Grant and I talked about it at some point and thats where the idea came from.

 

I dont remember how Grant was able to get the rig together but he figured it all out. And at some point, we gave it a try for my Pro Spotlight.

 

…And honestly, I dont think either of us knew that shadow was there. (laughs)


photo: Brittain


 I was going to ask if you guys got lucky.

 

I think so, yeah. Youd have to ask Grant if he was aware of it but I certainly wasnt. I had no idea. Because with him posting different shots from that day, theres several different tricks on the same wall with that set-up. Theres a lien air that doesnt look as good, and a couple other frontside airs, too. But thats the shot. Because you can see the whole bowl with the shadow. And its the shadow that makes the shot. You have no idea how high it is without it. But we never said, Oh man, that shadows going to be really good. Lets shoot that!”

 

Because we shot all of these other shots around the bowl, too… Around the corner and in the pipe. I think we only shot two rolls of film that day. And with all those different set-ups, its not like we went after that one shot.

 

This is pre-digital photography, too. We didnt even know what we had until days later when the film got processed. All that was said after we were done shooting for the day was just, This is probably going to be cool… maybe.”


photo: Brittain


So youre just going along with it?

 

It was a different approach back then. Because while were trying to get really creative with the photos; skating-wise, that was just stuff I did every day. Its not like today where someone is trying a trick that has never been done before. Something so gnarly where if the filmer misses it, Im devastated. Not at all. I was just doing the same stuff I always did. Different era, different approach.


Another Grant classic: the bloody knee in Vancouver. Howd that one go down?

 

I think we were all up there for a contest or something. And on one of those days, a bunch of us went and skated that park. No pads. And obviously at one point, I slammed. I think I hit some leaves down in the bottom of the bowl and slid out. Totally ate shit, but kept skating anyway. Just bloody. 

 

It wasnt staged or anything. It just was what it was. There happened to be one shot that really captured all the blood. Thats another one where Id love to see the other photos from that day. Like, what else is on that film? Because I know Neil got a few photos from that same day, too. That one with the g-turn thing and another with a handout on the deck. Im pretty sure thats all the same day.


photo: Brittain


Grant said that he kept telling you to do more of that thing with your hand, do you remember that at all?

 

I dont remember that but he very well mightve been. It does look like that… holding it out there so you could see the blood. Im really bleeding pretty bad there. (laughs)

 

But you had to know that not wiping away the blood would make the shot so much better, right?

 

(laughs) No, no, no… Yeah, I was letting the blood do that but it definitely wasnt for the shot.

 

You know how sometimes you slam and it really hurts but you keep skating anyway so it doesnt hurt as bad? To not feel the pain? You always gotta keep skating, you know? Its always worse when you sit down for an hour to wait for your friends as you bleed.


photo: Mofo


So how did that Thrasher cover happen the next day with pads? And your non-Gullwing trucks?

 

Im assuming that was the next day because Im wearing pads there. Im sure I was all scraped up.

 

The Indys were just because Gullwing was in a little manufacturing period where their baseplates would break all the time. Im pretty sure that I broke my baseplate and couldnt find another Gullwing anywhere. For whatever reason, the local shop didnt have any Gullwings so I bought some Indys.

 

Gullwing was another example where I was riding for them more because it felt like a family. The team and everyone behind the scenes were just the coolest people, but the trucks were not good. (laughs)

 

(laughs) The truth comes out!

 

Yeah, they werent very good trucks. Not that they were unskateable… and they did some great things, like the magnesium ones with the plastic baseplates. Those things were so light and amazing. They just werent as good as Indys. The turning was so different on Gullwings back then.


photo: Swank

Because there was always that theory where Thrasher wouldnt have given you the cover with Gullwings. 

 

Thrasher did have some crazy biases back then, so it wouldnt shock me at all to learn that they only put me on the cover as a fuck you to Gullwing. Its possible. Because thats not my favorite cover, I can tell you that. I dont think its the best photo in the world but they did pick it.

 

Did you ever mention it to Mofo that day, like, Hey, I just shot this exact same photo with Grant yesterday”? (laughs)

 

Well, Grant was shooting everybody that day. It wasnt like I was just there for a shoot on my own. Same thing with Mofo. That day wasnt set up at all. We were all skating, more like a contest vibe with multiple photographers, all shooting the same thing. It just kinda happened. (laughs)


photo: Brittain


I always loved that TWS cover with the grind down the pipe at Upland. Is that a frontside grind? And was that the same day as your air out sequence?

 

Yeah, that was the same day.

 

And that cover is actually a fakie up and grind down. Frontside wouldve been way gnarlier. (laughs)

 

But yeah, I did that trick a lot. Just a cool little trick that probably makes for a better photo than anything else. I liked doing them, though. Go up fakie and drift into it a little bit. Sometimes Id put my hand down on the way and do a little layback-type of thing. That was fun. Not the hardest trick in the world, it just looks cool.

 

But youre at 10 oclock there.

 

Yeah, Im pretty high up there…

 

Thats one of my favorite photos as well. The shape of the pipe with the colors popping. Thats a cool one.


photo: Brittain

So you brought up the G&S pay discrepancy compared to other pros…Why Schmitt Stix?

 

I actually thought Schmitt Stix was super cool. Id known Paul for years and always really liked him.

 

Things just got to a point with G&S where I had to make a decision… and I just wasnt making a decent living there. Because it sucks to say, but $26,000 a year isnt very much, especially compared to what other guys were making.

 

So I switched to Schmitt and went from making $26,000 to $80,000 a year. That changed my life. Obviously, it changed things financially but also how I looked at my career. I could afford to take it more seriously now. And thats not even getting into the board innovations that Schmitt was bringing to the table. The upturned nose actually helped my skating significantly.



Was that first Schmitt Stix Wolf intended to be a statement piece? What was the overall market reaction to your kicknose… which seems pretty tame now but was a huge deal at the time.

 

Couple things. The shape and that nose, Paul Schmitt definitely talked me into trying that mold. Its true that I had been wanting to do a longer nose. Id started doing backside lipslides and tricks like that, and those short little G&S noses didnt really work very well. So Paul and I did work together on the original mold, but when I got that first one from him, I thought it was super weird looking. I just wasnt sure, you know? But then I skated it and, all of sudden, my skating progressed so much. It really was a big innovation, but aesthetically, my first reaction was that I didnt love it… honestly, I thought it looked crazy. I just had to get used to it.

 

And yeah, it definitely tripped a lot of people out… like, Whaaa? That thing is weird!”

 

But I remember a lot of street skaters really liking it at the time…

 

Super innovative. But honestly, I cant take credit for that at all. That was more of Paul Schmitts idea, for sure. Yeah, I wanted a bigger nose but his version was way more extreme than I wouldve gone, which is funny to think about because that nose is tiny by todays standards.

 

The graphic was just another piece of my art, continuing that anthropomorphic animal theme Id been exploring. That was an idea based on another drawing I had done, I just evolved it a little for the board.

 

Its pretty funny, people always ask about the Christmas tree and what it means… and I really dont know, but its there. As I was drawing it, I just happened to notice that shape on the nose looking somewhat like a Christmas tree. So I went with it, just to be funny. Might as well put ornaments and a star on it. Nothing deeper than that.

 

But yeah, that board turned out really well. Easily the best-selling board I ever had.


photo: Brittain


A nit-picky one, what was that Japanese sticker on your helmet at this time?

 

Oh, Murasaki Sports!

 

I think that was a distributer and a chain of shops in Japan. Id just been to Japan and got that sticker. I wasnt sponsored by them or anything, I just thought it looked cool so I ran with it.

 

Was there ever any talk of riding for Powell over the years?

 

Yeah, I was good friends with pretty much the whole team. And I always admired Stacy for everything hed done over the years. Like, Neil and I both got to skate the Animal Chin ramp, which was amazing.

 

What happened between me and Schmitt Stix was some weird business dealings going down at Vision that I didnt really like. Because Schmitt Stix was one of Visions brands back then. 

 

Id gotten a business manager at this time, because I finally realized that I probably wasnt the best at negotiating contracts and stuff. So when my deal with Schmitt Stix was up for renewal, I wanted to renew it and so did Paul Schmitt. Itd been very successful for both of us. I loved the team and everything seemed to be working well. The problem was that it really wasnt up to Paul. It was up to Vision and ultimately, Brad Dorfman.

 

So this weird thing happened where Vision refused to renew my Schmitt Stix contract. Strange, but lets figure this out… and then I got offered a Vision contract. Not Schmitt Stix. And when I tell them that I dont want to ride for Vision, they offer to help me start my own brand instead.


photo: Brittain


Now, why would I start my own brand with somebody who is fucking over one of their other brands in these very negotiations!?! I see how you treat your partners! You just tried to snake me from Paul to put me on Vision!

 

Maybe there were some other things going on that I didnt know about, but thats how I remember it and those were the things I was told. It was super frustrating. All I wanted was to renew my Schmitt Stix contract, but I never got an offer to do so.

 

So I ended up leaving. I had some creative ideas of my own, which is where Planet Earth came from. And ultimately, this whole scenario also caused Schmitt to also leave Vision and start New Deal. Ironically, if the timing had been slightly different, I probably wouldve just gone to New Deal with those guys. Of course, Im happy that I got to do Planet Earth. But I did like what those guys were doing at New Deal and was glad to help out by with my doing Morris graphic. All good.

 

But going back to your question, my manager and I talked to a few companies about possibly riding for them before Planet Earth really started going… Santa Cruz, H-Street and Powell-Peralta. And I was really excited about possibly riding for Powell, but it turned out that they just didnt have any additional production capacity for me. Literally, they were maxed out. My getting on Powell wouldve meant that every other rider wouldve had reduced board royalties because there wouldve been less of their boards being made. It was just never really a possibility.

 

Well, wed love for you to ride for Powell, BUT…”

 

They didnt have the capacity to make my board at the time.



Did this manager get you the Police Academy 4 gig?

 

No, that was all Stacy Peralta. By then, he was doing a lot of consulting on film shoots. Basically, anything involving skateboarding. The whole reason I got brought on is because Tony was stunt-doubling for David Spade, even though he looks nothing like him. Tonys tall, lanky and also goofy-footed… not that the film people would notice that.

 

What happened was theyd already filmed all of the skate stuff when they realized Tony didnt look enough like David Spade. So Stacy had to think of somebody else and thats where I came in. But I actually went up there separate from the rest of the guys. It was just Lance and I there this time, which was all close-ups and inserts.

 

We shot some stuff in the mall and us launching over the cop car. That was all me. But if you look at the whole skate montage, youll see both Tony and I in there. Like the parking garage stuff? Thats all Tony. But the rest of it is me… which is pretty funny. Were both supposed to be David Spade but Tony is goofy and Im regular. They didnt care.

 

Nobodys gonna notice that!” (laughs)



What were your thoughts on early streetstyle”? I remember you having a few handrail ads, but I dont recall you entering many contests.

 

I entered a few of the original street contests… but those were really just launch ramp and quarterpipe contests.

 

I always street skated, but to me, it was more about going to a ditch or a bank. Maybe find a double-sided curb or something, but that was about it. I skated street with Neil a lot, who was such an early pioneer of street skating. But he was always better at it than I was. I remember us finding these super tight transition spots and hed be doing frontside rocks and stuff. I could never do all the tricks that hed be doing on spots like that.

 

I had fun but if those skinny halfpipes were too confining, these tight little tranny spots felt even more so. Street was still mimicking vert at that point anyway… which I always enjoyed but never had the same feeling for me. And I definitely wasnt as good at it. I suppose I couldve pushed myself to do it but I didnt have the motivation. That takes a lot of work and I wasnt really looking to reinvent myself as a street skater.


photo: Spike


 Mike Ternasky would always try to push me into street skating during the Planet Earth days.

 

Dude, we should do a street part with you!”

 

He probably wouldve worked with me for years if I wanted him to… and busted my ass. I just wasnt motivated enough. I had all this Planet Earth stuff to do. It just didnt seem realistic.

 

I mean, my pro skateboarding career was over by the early 90s. I needed to become more of a businessperson and provide for my family. Not only that, street skating took such a turn at that point, too. Like we talked about, doing freestyle on flatground doesnt really give me that visceral feeling Im looking for. Its an accomplishment. Its hard. But flipping my board didnt really change my dynamic.



Was there ever any footage of your street stuff?

 

Probably not. That was the transitional era where you wouldnt be filming at a photo session.

 

Honestly, there isnt much footage of my skating at all from back then, outside of contest runs. Because we just didnt film that much. It was all photos. Even those Gullwing videos, the way that guy put them together was so weird… I guess hes just an artist in his own way, but theres so much good footage that didnt get used for those. Hed leave all of that stuff out and then put the same trick in 5 times.

 

So you explained the Dorfman drama around Schmitt Stix, but how did Planet Earth end up at H-Street? 

 

Well, I was living in Encinitas at the time. H-Street was mostly San Diego guys. And that company was just booming at the time. I feel like they hit me up about possibly riding for them but I wasnt interested. I had pretty much come to the conclusion that there really wasnt anybody I wanted to ride for because I just didnt feel like I fit in anywhere.

 

Finally, it was my manager who asked if Id possibly be interested in creating my own thing. Because he came from the music industry, where it wasnt unusual for an artist to start their own label. Thats how the whole thing got started.

 

I ended up talking to Tony Mag and Mike Ternasky about it… Tonys a bit of character but I enjoy him. And H-Street felt like the best fit for me.

 

Planet Earth was this creative genesis. I wanted to do a more art-based company that was a little different than what everybody else was doing. I never wanted it to be The Chris Miller Brand”, it had to be more of a brand in its own right, independent of my identity.


photo: Brittain


Whyd you call it Planet Earth”? Any other candidates?

 

Honestly, I dont remember any other names that were in the running at all. Mustve not been a very long list…

 

I just thought Planet Earth” was a cool name. We live in such a bizarre place. A crazy world. And look at us, were just these evolved apes who can talk and use our opposable thumbs. Doing all this weird shit. Mistreating each other and polluting where we live. That was the inspiration.

 

A lot of people thought that it was meant to be an environmentalist brand. And while I have inklings towards those causes, that really wasnt my intention. There was some of that, but not nearly as much as some people thought.

 

I know H-Street was just distribution but how would you describe your relationship there with Ternasky?

 

Well, he basically did the Now N Later video for us. And he helped put a lot of people on the team. Jovontae Turner riding for us was entirely due to Mike Ternasky. Brian Lotti, too. Trent Gaines. Ternaskys influence on the team was huge.



How so? What were you aiming for with that original team?

 

Well, Mike was pretty visionary in seeing what street skating could become. And he just knew all of these skaters! The H-Street roster was just so deep. All of these obscure kids who turned out to have amazing careers.

 

Buster was on Schmitt with me and someone who I saw as a protégé. Id seen Barker over the years and always liked his skating… I just wanted the team to be eclectic and thought-provoking. Something deeper represented by a diverse group of people, so that it could be more of a collaboration. And I thought it all turned out really cool.

 

I dont know if every single rider Mike Ternasky brought onto Planet Earth was someone I wouldve necessarily picked myself. But in hindsight, a lot of those guys turned out to be incredible.

 

Like who?

 

I mean, Brian Lotti turned out to be a big part of Planet Earths early years. He was an incredible skateboarder who I didnt really know it all, he just happened to be on H-Street. I have Mike Ternasky to thank for that. And its interesting to think about the person Brians become over the years. When I first met him, he was kinda shy but clearly had his own artistic ideas. He ended up being such an awesome collaborator to work with.


 

Why Where the Wild Things Are” for Brian?

 

Well, it was always my favorite book as a kid. My Mom read it to me early on and Maurice Sendak became very influential to me. And again, the anthropomorphic concept coming through with Max being a monster... That was a fun one to draw and design.

 

I dont remember Brians exact connection to it but I do know that he really liked both the book and the artwork. I dont think it was necessarily created with him in-mind but he wanted to take it on for a graphic.



How was filming your first modern part for Now N Later? I imagine a big Ternasky influence there, right?

 

Yeah, Ternasky was heavily involved. We had multiple filmers going. Every once in a while, Id film with Dan Sturt. Ternasky himself actually filmed a bunch of stuff, too.

 

Videos are just such a different style of skating, especially compared to the contest circuit. Take Colin McKay, for example, and Im thinking about his Plan B parts that came later and were super modern. We would skate the DC Ramp together a lot back then, and there would honestly be weeks where I wouldnt see him land any tricks. Sure, hed warm up to get things moving… but after that, hed start trying some insanely hard trick and Id never see him make it. I know he did eventually make some of them, because they were in the videos later. But I remember skating with him at least 15 times and not seeing him really make anything beyond those initial warm-up tricks.

 

Im not saying that theres anything wrong with that, because Colins probably invented 100 more tricks than I have. Its just a different approach than what I did. But… isnt that boring? Going out to skate and not making anything for five days? Personally, I like to ride my board and avoid falling as much as possible.



When it came to my filming a video… yeah, there were a few things I worked to get. And I did try some things for the video that Id never really done before. But for the most part, I thought of filming the same way of how I worked with Grant. Finding artistic ways of shooting tricks that look beautiful. I just dont think I was as inclined towards video, especially that style of video. Everything was fisheye, pretty low-budget and not that creative. The quality of footage wasnt even all that good… It just never felt complete to me.


I do like my part, but more for other reasons. Skating Hawks ramp and the stuff I shot with Sturt where we set up the reflectors. Some cool angles, like shooting a Mctwist from above on a ladder. For me, thats the cool stuff.

 

And that was the first time that Id ever been involved in the editing process, which was fun. I never had creative input into a video before and I learned a lot from Mike, but it was definitely more of his project. Stuff like the voiceovers and movie clips, that stuff largely came from him working with the riders. 

 

It was cool, I just feel like I was more aligned with still photography and Stacys style in the Bones Brigade videos. By the time Now N Later came out, videos had evolved to that H-Street style, which was essentially a catalog of tricks. Yeah, there were some iconic parts with artistic editing and great songs. But so many of them were void of any personality, just trick-trick-trick. They were innovative for the time but ultimately quite one-dimensional. They just never caught my imagination.




Tell me about Ternaskys leaving to start Plan B and its impact on you and Planet Earth.

 

Well, its an interesting thing, because Ternasky died so tragically. I feel like once he was gone, nobody wanted to say anything controversial about him. Because he was a really bright guy, but he was also very pushy. There was an aggressiveness to him that was pretty intense.

 

I had a great relationship with Mike but I could also see him as being pretty manipulative towards people. From a business point-of-view, I had a few challenges with him… But then he left entirely to do Plan B, taking half of the H-Street team from Tony Magnusson.

 

What I didnt know prior to starting Planet Earth at H-Street was that Ternasky, Tony Mag and their other partner, George, had really not been getting along for some time. Which sucks, because Mike was a big reason why I decided to do Planet Earth with those guys. But once I got in there, I found out that there were all these problems. Next thing I know, almost overnight, Mike steals all these guys and leaves to start a new brand… which he was clearly working on in the background for a while. 

 

The thing nobody talks about is that most of those guys had contracts. Technically, H-Street couldve sued all those guys and forced them to stay. But because its skateboarding, nobody did that. It just wasnt in our culture to do that. So H-Street basically let those guys go, which, in turn, gutted the company. And because of that, H-Street then defaulted on my Planet Earth deal. H-Street stopped paying me or having anything do with the company… leaving me in the same position that Tony Mag was in. I could now take H-Street to court due to breach of contract, because they did owe me a bunch of money. That or just come to some type of agreement and part ways, which is what we ended up doing. I was still friends with Tony Mag, Im not going to sue my friend… it wasnt really his fault anyway. And I wasnt going to sue Ternasky either. I just wasnt.

 

So thats how I started doing Planet Earth on my own. And all of this was within the first year or so of operation.

 

I just took inventory and got a couple loans from my father-in-law at the time. My Dad gave me a little bit of money, too. I got some boards made and was able to sell them to Eastern to stay afloat… That was one silver lining, the new circumstances allowed me to switch over to Schmitt Stix wood, getting me back together with Paul. But it also forced me to concentrate more on the business instead of skating, strictly as a matter of survival. 



Lottis Blind departure around this time isnt something that he really likes to talk about in interviews. What happened there?

 

I feel like his leaving largely stemmed from starting to go up to LA a lot and skating with Rudy and Guy. I remember him really liking their boards. He thought the wood was good and loved their flatter concave. The more he went up there, the more their influence probably grew. The chance to skate for Blind inevitably came up and it mustve felt like a great opportunity for him.

 

I do think it was hard for him. Brian and I had a pretty tight relationship and he always seemed to appreciate everything we did for him with Planet Earth. I cant really speak for him but I think it was just one of those hard decisions that he ultimately wanted to do, even though there were some mixed feelings about it. It was definitely a big loss, not only for the company but for me, personally. But Blind and World Industries were so huge at that time. Its just one of those things.



Whatever happened to Mr. Slinky” Mark Roach?

 

Awesome skater from Texas who lived in California for a while.

 

What happened to him and a lot of vert guys in his generation, they ultimately came during a shift in the industry. Mark was a great skater, its just that verts popularity really took a downturn. Buster kinda fell into that trap as well. Suddenly, there just werent many opportunities for those guys.

 

We did as much as we could for him but he eventually moved on and started doing other things. Unfortunately, I dont think he ever got his due at the time.

 

Why all the Star Wars songs in Animal Farm?

 

(laughs) I honestly dont know! Who knows? Just funny, random stuff.



In the aftermath of the Plan B drama, Business Chris had to hang up his pro board. Was that as an official retirement” at the time?

 

I just never wanted to milk it. And again, I now had a business to run.

 

I basically stopped trying to be a pro and competing in 92. Because with Planet Earth now being my own company, that also meant that its my money were spending to go out to contests… and the prize money was just terrible by then. I remember getting 2nd place in Houston and the prize money wasnt even enough to pay for my flight and the hotel. I actually lost money and didnt even get a photo in the magazine! It wasnt like the 80s where the top 5 always got in the magazine. All that had changed and it just wasnt worth it anymore.

 

The industry was so small back then anyway. And clearly not a good time for vert. When I said that there werent many opportunities for vert skaters in the industry anymore, I was in the same boat.

 

I got hurt around this time as well… And I thought I was getting old, even though I was only 24 at the time. But that actually was old by industry standards back then.

 

All of these circumstances just kept adding up to where I felt like I didnt really have much choice. I was done.

 

But were you still skating?

 

Oh yeah. I was still skating and learning tricks the entire time.

 

Its funny, because when the X-Games came around, that was a pretty big vert contest for that era. But I just thought those first few years were so corny that I didnt want to be involved. And I never thought that it would become a big deal either, but Tony and a few others were able to get a second wind on their careers through that… And then I ended up announcing for them. (laughs)

 

I just never saw it as something I should participate in as a skater. It wasnt something that I necessarily wanted to come out of retirement” for.


photo: Brittain

How close did you operate with your brands like PE, Rhythm and Adio over the years?

 

Not to diminish it, but Planet Earth was basically my education. I honestly think of Adio as my first real business. Rhythm was just something fun we wanted to do. Those little offshoot brands were a thing at the time.

 

A lot of Planet Earth was just being scrappy and brave. Being willing to try. Skateboarding was still small enough that you could do that back then.

 

By the time we did Adio, the industry was in a completely different place. There was a lot more money floating around, for sure. And while I was president of the company, my focus was always more on the creative. I brought in a CFO and a General Manager to be responsible for the numbers. Id learned enough by then to know what I wasnt good at. But yeah, the brand, the marketing and the creative concepts… the vision behind it, that was all me. I no longer had to do every graphic and ad anymore, I had a team for that now. But I was still a 100% true business operator.

 

As a company owner now, do you see past interactions with guys like Dorfman differently?

 

Oh, for sure. Thats the real lesson here. Thats why I keep saying Who knows what all was going on at the time.” I have my perceptions, but they could have been wrong.

 

Its totally different whenever its your brand. I had no idea what all was going on in Dorfmans world. Personally, Im not sure that I really knew what it meant to run a company back then. And I definitely made a lot of mistakes at first.



How did Welcome come about?

 

I just loved what they were doing. My son Lukas was skating for them, and they were just this cool little brand. Jason is kind of a master at reinterpreting the old shapes in a modern way. I think hes an incredible board designer. More than just graphics, I really appreciate his craftsmanship.

 

Going back to the 80s, his arts a little messy and kinda sketchy, but theres this quirky style to it all with the colors… its like if Neil Blender rode for Zorlac or something. Like a cross between G&S and Zorlac.

 

(laughs) Thats incredible.

 

So I was a fan. And through Lukas riding for them, I had a few conversations with Jason. Nothing major. But at some point, he came back to me, like, What do you think about riding for Welcome and possibly doing something together?”

 

Because while riding for Stereo was cool, it always seemed like it was missing what it really could be, shape-wise and graphic-wise.

 

…Dont get me wrong, I love the Stereo guys. Pastras and Jason are the best, but I always felt like my relationship was just with those two. I never felt connected to Stereo in a deeper sense, where everyone on Welcome seems so seriously into the revival of park and transition skating. I just feel like Im more a part of it.

 

Jasons vision of the reinterpreting my old boards in a new way, its been incredible. I love it. Its been a great collaborative partnership the whole way through and Im stoked on everything weve done so far.


photo: Brittain


Youve basically had a second career with the Vans Combi contest, winning it 10 times over the years. But you were sorely missed at last years party. What happened?

 

I honestly made the decision about a year or so ago to not skate the Combi contest anymore.

 

It actually started with an injury, I dislocated my shoulder and wasnt feeling 100%. But at that point, I had won the Combi ten times…which is funny to think about because I didnt even want to enter it at first. Lance is the one who convinced me to go the first time.

 

You should just come and skate. Itll be fun.”

 

I never envisioned that it would become the next 13 years for me.

 

It was always so much fun to be around guys like Cab, Grosso, Lance and Hosoi… Nicky Guerrero! Eric Nash! All of these cool people who I love but dont get to see that much. And for everyone to be at this fun thing were doing, its awesome! And the sessions! I love those practice sessions with everyone leading up to the contest. Not to mention being able to skate with all of the younger guys out there. Talking about different things and influencing each other like that. It really is incredible.



But when it came time for the contest itself, it just wasnt the same. Ive always been such a nervous wreck at contests. Always. But then after I won it a few times, it only got more stressful! It started to become this thing where if I didnt win, that meant I didnt do good at all. Not that winning is the most important thing, but it became more of this mental test for me…. It was no longer about the skating as much anymore, but losing because I got too nervous and fell. It just got to be too much of a thing for me.

 

Dont get me wrong, it was super fun and Im so grateful for the opportunity. I just needed to step away for a while. Not to say that Ill never skate it again, but I sorta reached the conclusion after winning the 10th time that this chapter felt complete to me. I wasnt 100% anyway, let me sit this year out and see how it feels.

 

I did miss it. I watched the webcast at home and caught myself wanting to be there… but at the same time, I was glad to not be skating in it. So Im sorta conflicted by it.

 

And now, with Grossos passing and all this COVID shit going on, its just so sad. Jeff was such a big part of that event. He really made it fun… I dont know if Im going to compete if there is another one, but I think I will definitely want to be there.



So whats going on with you these days, Chris? Anything in the works? Skated the new Combi?

 

You know what? I have not skated the new Combi. Honestly, Ive heard mixed reviews.

 

Im living in Ojai now. I moved up north because I wanted to get into a more mellow environment. I have a creative agency called MODV Group and I do design work and brand consulting through that. And Im a cofounder of a clothing brand called Vuori Clothing. I dont work there day-to-day or anything, but Im involved with that and a few other projects. I just work from home now on different things. 

 

Skating-wise, I still love skateboarding but Im happy to be skating more recreationally and infrequently now. Im just not trying to skate at a personal high level anymore. I mean, I still want to skate and feel good about it. Ill do some ollies at the park and float around a bit. But Im not trying to put together a contest run and go for the gold anymore.

 

That stuff was cool, but I think Im probably done with it.



Last question: what would you say has been the proudest moment of your career and the biggest regret?

 

Its not a moment, but the proudest period of my career has been the last 15 years with the Combi contest. Because I was finally able to show the world what my skateboarding was always about… which, in a way, was always the Combi.

 

So, if I had to say my biggest regret, its probably that for my only pro contest at the original Combi, the only thing people saw from that event is my slam. Not the result, that I got hurt and couldnt finish the event, which obviously sucks. But the thing thats so terrible to me is that the people who made the video of that event chose to only show that slam when I had three or four completed runs that day. And they were good runs, too! But they chose not to include any of that, just the slam. Honestly, I only saw footage of me actually skating that event for the first time two weeks ago on Instagram!

 

Thats probably my biggest regret, not that I slammed, but that my skating the original Combi was never known to the world, unless you were there. Hardly any of my skating back then was ever captured on video.

 

Thats why the Combi contests at Vans are my proudest moment. Because I was finally my able to demonstrate what skating Combi was for me. Being able to skate the Combi again with my sons and all my friends, and finally being able to show my interpretation of that terrain… its just such a good feeling.


Special thanks to Grant Brittain, Brian and Chris for taking the time. 


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

So good... thank you! Think one of the best chrome ball interviews : )

stooops said...

loved it. thanks again Eric

COLD JUICE SK8 said...

amazing! chris miller rules.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, and over due. The best vert skater ever! by a mile. Thanks Chris for showing us what true style and integrity look like

DJ-BOARDSTEIN said...

Whoa, sweet as... It`s amazing how some people in our sacred little microcosmos not only have an impact with their skating, but with their art and general approach to life as well. And yes, we`re only monkeys with brains and thumbs, I`ve said that sentence many times in whatever conversations... Thanks, Chris, it was always super amazing to watch you skate which I had the pleasure to witness several times here in Europe. Skateboarding = No.1! Chris Miller = way up there...

Unknown said...

My favorite skater ever by far hands down! So glad that I was fortunate to be at Upland everyday and get to skate with Chris and see his genius lines in Combi.

Steele said...

"what was that Japanese sticker on your helmet at this time?"

FUCKING THANK YOU.

Aaron said...

This was my favorite so far! I always wondered about that frontside air at Seylynn snake run because the year after that photo ran I got to skate it and tried to ollie into a frontside grab and flew past the hip to flat earning my 1st serious heel bruise, so I always wondered if you early grabbed at the top or ollied to it? Also loved that 1st Schmitt board, I must have rode 4 of them and learned a ton on them. Thanks for all the artwork and powerful skating!!!

Stephen said...

Miller Time! Great interview, thanks. One of my favorite vertical skaters, still to this day. Met and got to skate with Chris at Visalia skate camp (I was a counselor 90-91) and so thankful to get to meet and hang with someone you looked up to as a younger skater. Then to hangout with Chris and find out he is just a super nice guy was a bonus! He flowed me a deck, wish I kept it. Big time influencer to skateboarding and proud to still buy and skate his Welcome decks now. Keep up the good work Chris, thanks!

jed walters on 101 said...

This is such a thoughtful and well written intro.
Hats off to you, too, Mr. Lotti.

Anonymous said...

gold..wow, thank you for this. Refreshing and brilliant, forever a hero & inspiration of mine..That 1st Schmitt Stix of his was great in the street...

Style, speed, skill, power, what a winning recipe. I'll take that over a bunch of high tech flips any day...
looks better, feels better...
infinite respect to the legend of style.

Demo King said...

I'm so pleased you got this interview together, such a good chat from an amazing and influential skateboarder.

JF said...

Such a good interview. Thank you! Any way you can you post a link to the footage of Chris's runs at Upland before the slam?