chrome ball interview #167: zered bassett

 chops sits down with dr. z for conversation

photo: cronan

Special Introduction by R.B. Umali 


With decades of consistent originality, Zered still puts out amazing video clips skating the roughest and most difficult spots in different ways that nobody else can touch. 


20-something years ago, I first heard of this young whippersnapper from Cape Cod through Doug Brown (Brian Brown’s older brother) who gave me some incredible footage to use when I started EST Video Magazine. Jefferson Pang also saw the raw talent and immediately asked Zered if he wanted to get hooked up with Zoo boards (even though he was already getting flow from World Industries). Z was down to rep for the finest East Coast skateboarding company at the time and drove down to the city to skate with us at a ripe young age of 16 in a shiny new Thunderbird with a vanity “Doc Z” license plate. We met at the Brooklyn Banks at the bottom of the nine stair during a heated all-star session. I had no idea that little boy Z would blossom into not only one of the finest professional skateboarders but also one of my best friends that I would travel around the world with.  


Young Boy Z was so fun to film, travel and skate with. We would laugh and crack jokes all day as he attacked every spot with confidence. I was guaranteed multiple banging video clips every time we went out. These were different times back then and we’re all grown up now, but back in the day, it was tough love in the tour van for the young bucks. On Zered’s first trip down the East Coast, we were in Washington DC at the Welfare Banks. Zered just stacked twenty clips and was super psyched. We were getting back into the van when he started acting up. Pangry tried to put him in check but Young Boy Z held his own! I knew right then that this young man could hang with the big dogs and this was going to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. 


Cheers to my favorite Souljah in the streets. I've never thanked you for all the memories we’ve made together… and I'm still down to make a Vicious Sequel!  


=O =O =O


CBI: So what inspired you to become skateboarding’s newly crowned King of the Selfies?


Zered: (laughs) Well, I’ve been living back up in Cape Cod, where I grew up. Skating the park by myself. There’s hardly ever anyone around to film so I kinda took it upon myself to get some clips and post it. 


Are you're just holding the phone there, right? No contraptions?


No, just holding it in my hand. Nothing fancy. And it’s worked out pretty good so far. Luckily, I haven’t dropped my phone and crushed it… not yet, anyway. 


Because we're not just talking about some flatground kickflips here, either. You posted a 360 nollie heel on a quarterpipe the other day... And filmed it proper, too. 


It’s just fun, man. Some of them do take a little longer than others to get. I mean, just being able to land the trick is one thing but then having to worry about keeping the board in the frame, too? It can be pretty difficult. I’ve definitely done a few where I’ll go to check the clip and it’s not even there. 

photo: zered

I didn’t realize you were living back in Cape Cod these days. I thought you were still in New York. 


No, I’ve actually been out of the city for a little over a year now. 


How’s that going for you? Besides the selfies? 


(laughs) It’s been good, man. It would be cool to have a few more people out here to skate with but I do like being in my own headspace. Not being in the mix all the time. It’s very different, for sure, but I like the change of pace.


So I gotta ask… at this point, do you secretly know that you’re better at skating switch and this is all a ruse? 


(laughs) It’s funny because I don’t even think of it like that. Some things just feel better switch. It depends on the day… or the spot sometimes, too. Sometimes switch feels better, sometimes regular does. 


What tricks typically feel better switch for you? 


There are a few that I can only do switch, not regular. Like switch hardflips, for sure. I can’t really do regular hardflips. I’ve done them before but they always felt kinda weird, you know?  


I would probably say that my switch tre is better than my regular, too. 

photo: trinh

Yeah, I was wondering about that one. 


It just comes down to what feels good. Yeah, I can probably do all those tricks regular, too, but I just go with what feels natural to me. 


Have you ever thought about making an all switch part? I have to imagine that you’ve probably almost done this before without even thinking about it, right? 


(laughs) The idea has come up before, I guess… but not that seriously. I’ve never been one to put that much thought into filming a video part. That’s something I wish I was better at, to be honest. I’ve always just kinda skated and whatever I ended up with became my part.


I don’t know about an all switch part but I would like to make a part where I coordinate things a little more. Just to see what that would be like. Putting a little more thought behind the edit, in general. I just haven’t yet. 


But I gotta say that I’ve always respected the purity in your approach to videos. 


It’s not that I don’t respect the people who do that, I think it often comes out really cool. I’ve just never been one to do that. I feel like it can sometimes take away from the actual skating aspect of it.

photo: barton

Yeah, it can become more about the filmmaking than the skating. But talk to me about your penchant for switch hurricanes. Because you gotta admit that it’s a pretty unique trick to become such a go-to. 


Well, I was doing a lot of switch boardslides at the time, so switch hurricanes just kinda made sense. That’s really it, just the natural progression of things. It’s a fun trick but there’s really no secret to them or anything. You’re basically doing a switch 180, so you’re back to facing regular again. It’s a little weird because you’re kinda doing like a… not a Willy grind…


A Losi grind, I guess. Never really thought of it that way but makes sense. 


The hardest part is bringing it back to switch. It’s all in the shoulders, really. Because you gotta wind your shoulders to get up there and then you gotta wind them the other way to get back in. 


Ever try a switch rodeo flip?


I haven’t. I’ve thought about it but never actually tried one. 


(laughs) I’ve never thought to ask anyone that question in my entire life. 


(laughs) There is a bowl skater who can do them. I forget his name but he does some sorta switch backflip on transition. It’s pretty wild. 


When’s the last time you did a regular rodeo flip anyway? Because I know you’ve called them “easy” in the past. 


(laughs) Fuck, man... I think it was on a DVS trip. Maybe 10 or 12 years ago.


All jokes aside, I can see that being quite the demo killer. Kids love a backflip. 


Oh yeah. (laughs)


Honestly, the last time I did one started out as a joke. Because some ramps are better for it than others… all you need is air, really. We came across this flybox-sorta thing that you could just tell was gonna work. So we’re all joking around with them on the course and I was kinda laughing it off at first… until I started thinking to myself, “Shit, maybe I could actually do this.”


It’d been a long time but I was able to dust it off.


Did you learn those as a serious thing back in the day or was it always kinda funny? 


No, I learned them at Woodward one summer when I was 14. This dude “Farmboy Jud” was there and he was doing them out on the course. That’s what got me thinking about it… until I just had to ask him, “How do you do that?”


He showed me a couple things and I started trying to do them into the foam pit. I ended up taking them out onto the course and got a couple. That’s how it started. And from there, I just started doing them every now and then. 


But yeah, I was 14, so I was definitely serious about it at the time. I’m not gonna lie. (laughs)

I appreciate the honesty. So were you a skatepark kid growing up? Is that how you learned to skate all of these different terrains? 


Yeah, when I first started skating, all we really had was, like, a jump ramp and a curb. A metal curb. Just me and some older kids skating in this parking lot every day close to my house. There really weren’t too many street spots around. Luckily, the town ended up building us a skatepark about a year or so later. So yeah, that had a big impact on my skating going forward. I started skating parks way before I really got into street skating.  


I mean, I could always ollie stairs and stuff. Loading docks and whatnot. There’s always that kind of stuff around, but no actual spots. No real ledges or anything. So once they built the park, that became where we skated all the time because there really wasn’t any place else. 


And now you’re filming selfies there in 2023. But I’ve always tripped on your ATV approach, even down to that vert footage at the end of Vicious Cycle. 


Yeah, all of that stems from the Cape Cod park and learning to skate park stuff growing up. 


How’d you end up on Sixteen Skateboards? That was thru Climax/Tracker on the west coast, right? 


I think Invisible was out of there as well. Because Invisible and Duffs, actually, came and did a demo at my hometown park one summer. And being a little kid, I was totally out there skating, too. But over the course of the demo, one of the guys, Rodney Johnson, started talking to me about sending in a video for Sixteen, which was still going at the time. 


“Yeah, you should send in a tape. It’s all younger kids on the team, like you.”


And that’s really how all this started. 


Hometown hero at the demo actually paid off? 


Right? Exactly. And I was totally going for it, too. I seriously remember thinking to myself that day, “This is my big chance! Don’t blow it!” 


(laughs) It all comes down to this moment, Z! And that was your first sponsor? 


Yeah, my first board sponsor. I was also getting flowed Osiris shoes from the rep out here, too. 

photo: reda

That's a pretty spicy combo. 


Oh yeah! (laughs) 


Honestly, I was only 14 years old when I got on Sixteen, so any type of recognition like that felt like a big deal at the time. I didn’t really know about the industry side of things back then, I was pretty secluded from all that. I was just happy to be getting free product. 


I know you went out to LA for a Sixteen trip, right? What was that like? I keep picturing some Lord of the Flies-type scenario with all these little kids trying to kill each other. 


(laugh) Yeah, that was my first time out west. We did the whole west coast on that trip. It was pretty cool, actually. I think I even got some clips in the Sixteen video from that trip. 


Looking back on it, you’re right in that it could’ve gotten pretty gnarly with a bunch of little kids like that, but Rodney Johnson was an amazing team manager back then. He always kept in fun. Rest in peace.


That one was me, Jimmy Astleford, Jeremy Holmes, Justin Case, Devin Brankovich and Spanky. And we all got along pretty well. I remember us being in SF and buying weed. It’s pretty wild to think about, to be honest. A bunch of little skater kids walking down Haight Street looking for weed? We’re lucky that we didn’t get busted, you know? We were all so young, we didn’t know what we were doing. But we did finally get some and I remember us all going back to the hotel. Just a bunch of little kids sitting, smoking weed. Pretty funny.


Nah, that trip was cool. It wasn’t like how you think it was. Nobody was a jerk or anything. 


You’ve mentioned in interviews getting pretty shook on this trip because everyone was so good. What impact did that have on you afterwards once you returned to your Cape Cod bubble?


Well, I was starting to skate up in Boston a lot by then, so I wasn’t totally in the bubble anymore. But I do remember watching Spanky and Justin Case skate ledges back then and having my mind blown. I couldn’t believe how good they were at skating those things, because I’d never really skated ledges back then. Not like them anyway. Like I said earlier, there really weren’t any ledge spots where I grew up. Those guys were doing all types of tech stuff on them was a real eye opener, for sure. 


I don’t really know about that having a specific “impact” on me, though... I’ve always been really hard on myself when it comes to meeting my own expectations with things. That’s how I’ve always been. 

photo: mehring 

But speaking of ledge tech and you going up to Boston around this time, were you skating with the Coliseum kids at all back then?


Yeah, I was skating with Eli Reed a lot up there. He and PJ were friends, so I would skate with him every once in a while, too. Ryan Gallant a little bit. Joey Pepper and Steve Nardone. And you’re right, seeing what those guys were doing on ledges back then was insane. 


At first, I would just try to stay in my lane and let them do their thing. Sticking to shit that I actually knew how to skate. But after getting stuck at the ledge spot for three days in a row with those dudes, it finally dawned on me that I should maybe try to learn some more tricks. (laughs)


…Because we’re definitely not leaving this spot any time soon. 


Were you a big Zoo York Mixtape fan growing up? Because it seems like you were more on that California vibe back then. 


Yeah, that’s fair. I wasn’t really up on stuff like Mixtape when I was younger. I was too busy watching 411s, you know? There was always so much more attention on California skating back then, I guess I just figured that’s what skateboarding was. Handrails and stairs. It wasn’t until years later that I even acknowledged and started to understand more of that city and plaza style of skating. 


What made the light bulb go off? 


I don’t think there was one singular event, it just slowly happened over time. Getting out of that Cape Cod bubble and starting to skate in Boston more. Skating with different people who were all from East Coast, too. I was able to see things firsthand and get a better grasp of what they were actually doing, instead just relying on the latest video. Just getting a better perspective on things as I got older, I guess. 

photo: o'meally

You credit Jahmal Williams for opening your eyes about the value of representing where you’re from… What all did he say to you? Because you’ve gone on to become such an East Coast staple ever since.  


Yeah, I was still pretty young at that point. Rodney Johnson had just left Sixteen to go work for World Industries. He let me know that he was gonna start flowing Spanky and a few other Sixteen guys with World stuff and wanted to know if I was interested. And at the time, I thought World was the shit. 


I just happened to be up in Boston shortly after having that conversation. I was on the session with Jahmal and I remember us walking together in-between spots. I don’t know how it came up but I started telling him about my situation with everything. Because I was filming a lot in Boston at the time with Doug Brown, Brian Brown’s brother. Doug had shown my tape to Jeff Pang at Zoo, who had also reached out at this time to offer me boards and stuff. So I was kinda caught in the middle of this decision between World and Zoo. I didn’t really know what to do. I was talking to Jahmal about everything and he just broke it all down for me. 


“Dude, you gotta ride for Zoo. You’re from the East Coast, it’s an East Coast company. This is where you’re from. And not only that, they’re right here instead of all the way out in California.”


And that’s when the light bulb went off in my head, like, “Oh shit, he’s right. That makes total sense.”


Do you think you would’ve gone the more traditional path of moving out West if it wasn’t for that conversation? Was California always the dream for you prior? 


I think so. It’s kinda hard to say for sure but it was looking like that. I was still so young that I probably wasn’t thinking about something so far down the line, but I definitely wanted to get out there and skate some of those famous spots. And if I would’ve started riding for a west coast company, it would’ve obviously made more sense for me to eventually be out there, too. Instead, I went with Zoo and ended up moving to New York pretty much right after I graduated from high school. 

photo: trinh

Moving from a small town to NYC is one thing, but you’re also being thrown into that Zoo York mix with some real ballbreakers, like Reda and Harold. How difficult of a transition was that? 


It wasn’t too bad. I grew up with an older brother and would always hang out with him and his friends. Trying to prove myself. So, of course, I’d always get picked on and beat up by these older guys. 


I remember my first Zoo trip, I saw that they were stopping by Eightball Skateshop in Boston. I wasn’t even invited but I still hit up Jeff like, “Hey, I’m gonna meet you guys there. I’m coming on this trip.”


Jeff was actually a little nervous about it, like “I don’t know, man. Some of these guys… I don’t know if that would work out.”


I didn’t care. I just showed up anyway with my bags packed, like, “I’m ready.” And I just hopped in the van. 


The next day, we’re in Philadelphia to pick up Pete Eldridge. And I’m in the van, feeling all cool. For whatever reason, I start mouthing off to Jeff…  to the point where he actually came back and grabbed me. But somehow, I ended up slamming him up against the side of the van. I kinda fucked his shoulder up, too. I guess everybody saw that and thought I was some kinda tough guy because nobody really picked on me too hard after that. (laughs)


That’s a gutsy move, man. Pang was a scrapper. 


I know! I guess it was kinda like what they always tell you about going to jail: always take on the biggest guy. That was my mentality. (laughs) 


I mean, Reda would still always say some shit. Of course. But I would never let it phase me. I was just hyped to be in the mix. 

photo: trinh

We’ve already heard a lot of your wilder recollections of Harold… like his impromptu trysts with older ladies on tour. But what’s your favorite memory of him? Because I know he took you under his wing after you first moved to New York, right? 


Yeah, let me think… It’s hard to think of one story in particular because he was always so good at turning the mood around and making everybody laugh. That’s just what he did. Those boring times on tour when you’ve been on the road for who knows how many fucking hours? You could always count on Harold in those situations. There are a million of those stories. 


But one story that is special to me was this day that I drove to New York during my early days at Zoo. This was super early on, actually, because I didn’t even know how to really get around yet. I remember hitting up Pang, like, “Hey, I’m a half-hour away. I’m just going over the George Washington Bridge.” 


He goes, “Alright, first of all, turn the fuck around and get out of Jersey. Come back to New York. Get on the FDR and come by the office. Muska and Harold are here waiting for you to go skate.” 


“What the hell!?!”


Because Muska was always my favorite skater growing up. I couldn’t even believe that shit. And going out with him and Harold just seemed like the best time ever.


So we end up skating through the city together. Skating down Broadway. I was so hyped. I remember us walking through Union Square and all you’d hear is “Yo Muska!”, “Yo Harold!” Literally every couple steps, somebody would be calling out their names. It was insane. All the interactions…Those two dudes, at that time, it’s like they were rock stars or something. And there I was, sixteen years old, hanging with these guys. It was unreal.  


That’s the day RB filmed all of that Muska stuff for EST. Like the Muska flip on that DIY volcano they had going for a while? 


photo: reda

Yeah, that’s a good day. Who came up with “Dr. Z”? 


That actually came from when I was a kid. I went to a trade school in the 8th grade to try out a few potential careers that might be interesting. I was in a HVAC course and we all had to use the older guys’ work clothes, which was like a lab coat that doctors would wear. Well, when I put mine on, it was super big on me, so everyone started calling me “Dr. Z”. It just kinda stuck. 


I wish it was a better story but there you go. (laughs)

So when did EST 2 happen in all this? Because I know you were in that Zoo periphery for a while…


Yeah, that was right when I first started getting Zoo boards. That was basically all of my early footage from when I was in Boston for that little bit. 


When’s the last time you did a one-wheel manual? 


(laughs) That was the first and last time I ever did that trick… I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time!


RB even put it in slow-mo! 


Yeah, my poor bushings. I had to tighten the shit out of my trucks for that. Probably the only way I could’ve even done it. 

Talk about your Mixtape 2 part, because I feel like you’re coming from such a different place than the rest of the team in that video. I mean, you’re really hucking here. What is that… a switch ollie down 15? 


I think that was a big 13… That was my first Zoo York ad, actually. Zoo needed an ad and I happened to be in New York. Reda hit me up and I feel like he just took me to all of the biggest shit he could find that day. (laughs)

photo: reda 

It’s an interesting point, because you brought up being stuck at ledge spots earlier. Were there ever “Zered spots” where you’d be the only guy skating something on trips back then?


Yeah, that would happen, for sure. Being on trips and being singled out on stuff like that… like, “Oh, Zered would like this spot. Let’s take him there.” And yeah, it would always tend to be the bigger stuff. Sometimes other people would skate with me and sometimes they wouldn’t. Supa used to jump down some pretty big shit with me back then. Todd Jordan used to come out and skate with me, too. 


How did the older Zoo riders react to this child prodigy hopping down 13 switch? Were they shook? 


If they were bummed, they never really said it to my face. I’m sure there were probably some jokes going on whenever I wasn’t around, but honestly, it probably wouldn’t have phased me. I was just so focused on my skating and doing what I wanted to do. I was very driven back then.

photo: reda 

So we gotta get into Vicious Cycle. Because while I always remember your part being great, I was blown away when I rewatched it a few weeks ago. You’re basically annihilating everything in sight for 8 minutes there. How did you go about filming all that?


Honestly, I was just skating. I was feeling really good at the time and just excited about everything that was going on. I don’t know… it’s crazy to look back on. Because like you said, it’s an eight-minute part. But at the time, I was just kinda skating what all was there. There was nothing really beyond that. We just happened to film it all. 


Are you just in your window here? 


Yeah, age probably had a lot to do with it. I didn’t have too many responsibilities back then, just skating every day and feeling good. No other life shit. Not too much going on in the brain, either. And I was still too young to worry about getting hurt. 


I was just kinda testing the limits there, I guess… for myself. 

photo: odell

But eight minutes is a long time. Did you mean for that part to be “a statement” of sorts? Because whoever you were filming with must’ve known that you were putting down something special. 


No, nothing was really planned or anything. I actually had a few people hit me up about separating it into different parts. 


I was gonna ask about that.  


Yeah, but I just decided to sit on it all. I don’t think I fully realized how much was actually there. I was just skating and filming… you know, “The Vicious Cycle”. That’s why we named it that, because we just did the same thing over and over again. Every day. 


The video was actually RB’s idea. It wasn’t a planned project or anything. We’d just been out filming a bunch and after a while, he goes, “We should do a video.”




And that was it. 

z and forrest kirby (courtesy: quartersnacks)

So it was your footage that spurred the project? You weren’t actually filming for a “video part”, per se. 


Pretty much. Because we were traveling a lot with Zoo at the time, too. Always new spots and skating every day. You start to stack clips pretty quickly that way. 


How long did you film for all that?  A year and a half or so?


A little longer than that. It was a few years, for sure. 


And who chose the songs? “Gimme Some Loving” and “Streets is Watching”?


RB picked the first one and I chose the Jay-Z song. 


I’ve always wondered if you sat in on any of the editing? Because it has such a pronounced and intentional flow, especially in the beginning. 


No, RB would show me little updates from time to time of what all he was doing, but I never really sat with him.


Because I’m thinking about that intro section where you’re rifling off tricks down the Nassau 10-stair, which I counted 12 tricks in what looks like 3 days. Was that a favorite spot of yours?


Not really, I think I just went out there those three times. 


I’m pretty sure the first time I went out there was with Reda so he could shoot Gino. It was actually when he got that switch flip Big Brother cover. That was the same day as those first couple of tricks in the edit, which was the first time that I’d even seen that rail. It was back when I was skating a lot of rails and I remember being like, “This rail is perfect! How come nobody ever brought me to this thing before?”


…And then I realized why nobody brought me there.


What do you mean? 


People trying to save spots for their own shit. That whole thing…

photo: reda

(laughs) Yeah, I guess you did probably fuck that one up for some people. 


(laughs) I know. I had to have fucked that up for somebody. I never even thought about it like that at the time. 


But yeah, that was my first time out there. A few weeks later, we found ourselves out on Long Island skating again. “Hey, let’s go try to skate that rail.”


Because it was kind of a bust. If we happened to be close by, we’d go, but we never went out there specifically for that spot. It was too much of a risk in getting kicked out as soon as you got there, and then you’d have to go all the way back. But it was one of those things where I kept coming up with more and more ideas for the spot, so every time that I actually made it out there, I’d just go for it. 


But to your earlier point, were you at all self-conscious about the way RB opens your part? With you basically shutting down that rail? It’s basically an NBD list in video form. 


No, I trusted RB. Everybody else who was around seemed pretty hyped on it, too, so I let it rock. 


That Grace Ledge had to be a bust as well, right? 


Yeah, but that one was a little different because it was so close by. We would always be out skating around there, so we’d just stop by. Somedays, you’d get lucky and be able to get some time in. Do one trick, try another one and just keep it going. 


And you were pretty notorious for getting tricks super quick back then. 


I think it just came from skating so much. When you’re out there skating every day like that, especially when you’re younger, your confidence really starts flowing. That’s a big part of it. 

 How’d that switch backside smith cover for Skateboarder go down? 


That was with Reda, too. I remember we were going on a Zoo trip to Europe the next day. I had just gotten on Etnies and I think that I had gotten my first box from them that day, too. So yeah, I was just super hyped on everything. And that’s actually the first back smith I ever landed. I’d already done a few other tricks that day and thought to myself, “Fuck it, I’ll give this a try”. 


It worked out. 

photo: reda 

Do you remember anything in that part being a battle? 


On the same ledge, I got smoked trying that nollie half cab switch crook revert. Where I’m swinging it all the way around? I got completely smoked on that one. My feet got hung up on the top and I landed on my hip super bad. I couldn’t walk for a week. Then I went back two weeks later and the same thing happened again. 


That was the only thing I remember going back for… although, the switch back nosegrind 180 there took a little bit of time, too. This was before I really started going back for things. It basically came down to whatever happened on the session is just what we got. I either landed it or I didn’t. 


Yeah, you don’t strike me as a “list guy”. 


(laughs) No, I’m definitely not a list guy. Never.

photo: reda

What was the bigger Flushing battle: the frontside crook or the fakie 5-0? 


Hmmm… probably the fakie 5-0. Just because the ledge was super waxy on top and I kept touching. That whole deal. I remember the front crook coming pretty quickly.  


2004 represents a turbulent time in fashion for a young man. What would you say is your most regrettable outfit here?  


(laughs) Oh god…


You know, I honestly don’t regret any of the outfits. Fucking pinwheel hats. Wristbands… I’m standing by that shit! I don’t really regret any of it. Those was just the times. 

The correct answer. But something that definitely wasn’t in fashion at the time, how did that boneless down the Hollywood High 16 come about? So crazy. 


I was staying in LA with Reda for a little bit. And it just so happened that Felix Arguelles was living across the hall, so we’d all be hanging out. I think we were at dinner one night and I’d had a few drinks. Running my mouth a little bit. I think I said that I could boneless anything and that was Felix’s response. He just threw it out there. 


“Hollywood 16?”


“Alright, let’s do it.”


It was already dark out so we had to wait and do it the next day. But that’s how it went down.


Did you think about possibly trying to get out of it that next morning or were you still confident you could do it? That’s a really big set of stairs, man. 


Oh no, I was confident I could do it. 


(laughs) How long did it take? And did you do the 12 first or did you go straight to the 16?


I don’t remember doing the 12. I might have…. 


I think it took me three tries. Because Felix never drank or smoked back then, he told me that if I did it first try, he’d smoke weed… but I didn’t get it.  

photo: reda

Did you do anything else down it that day? Or just the boneless?


No, nothing else that day. We were going to boneless. That boneless was all business. 


I did switch ollie it once but I can’t remember if that was the same trip or not. Definitely not the same day.


Did you win money or anything? Or just bragging rights? 


No, I just wanted to do it and prove Felix wrong.  

photo: o'connor

(laughs) So how would you describe the reaction to Vicious Cycle when it came out? Because it wasn’t even a full-on Zoo York video, right? 


No, it was a Zoo York Production. A Zoo York Media Group Film. 


But that video put you on the map in a major way. 


The thing is that I didn’t really know its impact at the time. Looking back now, I’m pretty impressed with it, but back then, it’s just what I was doing. Like when it came out, I remember thinking to myself, “Fuck, I hope people like this.”


I just didn’t know. I was so close to it, you know? It wasn’t anything crazy to me because that’s what I did every day. That and I was pretty out of the loop when it came to people’s expectations with stuff like that. I wasn’t really thinking too much about what other people thought back then… until it came time to actually put the video out, I guess. 

photo: o'connor

When’s the last time you watched it? 


Probably a few years ago. 


And what did you think?


I wish I could do a lot of those tricks now! (laughs)


Like what? 


Probably all the handrail stuff, because I haven’t really been skating too many handrails of late. Like that long, curved rail I did in there? That was pretty scary.

But it did lead to Escalades, diamond fronts and mini-bikes, right? 


(laughs) Oh yeah!


I know Zoo had a lot of cash coming in at the time and suddenly, you’re one of their top dudes. What’s the dumbest thing you spent money on back then?  


I don’t know. I mean, the fronts are obviously ridiculous but I don’t regret any of it. Honestly, I’d probably do it all over again if I was in that same situation. Like I said earlier, Muska was my favorite skater growing up and he had the Muskalade in that Transworld video… I needed an Escalade, too! So I got an Escalade. 


Fair. (laughs)


Right? I mean, come on!


But no, nothing super dumb. I was spending a lot of money, for sure, but not on anything in particular. Just thinking money would be coming in like that for the rest of my life was probably the stupidest thing. 

photo: trinh


How did you end up sharing that part in Skate More with Busenitz? Were you guys close at all? 


Not really. That part just came from us both having recently got on the team. DVS wanted to have us in the video and we were both sitting on a little bit of footage. And I thought it came out really good, for what it was. I got a few Cape Cod spots in there from back in the day. Ben Colen came up to shoot an interview with me around that time and we shot some stuff, like that long feeble grind. I was hyped on that one. 

photo: cronan

Is it fair to say your skating is in a different spot with State of Mind? A lot less rails in that one but you seem to be getting more creative with your skating here, with a more traditional East Coast-style… or am I full of shit? 


No, I know what you’re saying. I think that just comes from getting older and skating around different people. And just living in New York. Probably a combination of all those things. 


I was drinking a lot back then, too, which will catch up with you. I’d been pro for a few years by then and not really having a schedule, you need to have a fair amount of self-discipline, which I was still learning. Definitely a lot of weird years there. 


And jumping down stuff is always easier when you’re younger. When you can no longer do certain things anymore, it forces you to get more creative. You start looking at spots differently… like “What can I do here?” instead of just jumping down some shit. 


It’s a great part, just different. Almost like two separate parts jammed together. 


I haven’t seen that one in a long time. We were just traveling so much back then. Lots of China trips for that one. Australia. I’m sure as an editor, RB had to figure out some type of way to put it all together. That couldn’t have been easy. I like it but it did almost feel like a montage. 

photo: cronan 

What about those wild slappy 50-50s down the huge rails at the end? I haven’t seen that spot since. 


Yeah, that was in South Africa. I remember someone showing me a photo of that spot and I couldn’t believe it was even real. It was just too perfect, like, “Holy shit, we have to go to this thing.”


We get there and I remember doing it regular pretty easily. And just joking around, I said, “Switch would be kinda sick.”


Of course, that sets it off. All of a sudden, everybody’s like, “Dude, you gotta do it!”


So I started messing around with it and got into one. That was it. I got lucky, I guess. 


But it did seem like you fought for that switch 360 flip lip down Black Hubba for the ender…


Yeah, I went back for that one a couple of times. I wanted to come back out to switch but could never get it. That one was weird because I kinda blacked out in the middle of it. I got into it and totally got stuck… next thing I know, I’m riding away from it, like what the hell just happened? 


I was hyped but definitely wanted to do it differently. 

photo: cronan 

You’ve talked about almost leaving Zoo over the years for other sponsors, who were you looking at? Give us a few of the more interesting offers. 


I had a few companies hitting me up back then, but nothing that I really wanted to do. Element hit me up. And I remember Girl putting it out there, like, “If you ever leave Zoo, hit us up.”


There were a few different ones. The thing is that I was getting paid a shit ton from Zoo at the time, so I made the decision to just ride it out there until it no longer felt right. 


I don’t know, man… 2000s-era Girl is pretty tough to beat. 


Yeah, but I was already so set up with everything where I was at. I was living in New York and the Zoo office is right there. Everything is already here for me while Girl is all the way out in California.


Just like Jahmal said 


Don’t get me wrong, Zoo York wasn’t just all about the paycheck for me, but that did play a part in it. At the time, I just felt like everything was going pretty well for me. I wasn’t trying to ruffle any feathers with any drastic moves because I felt like I was kinda where I should’ve been. Staying on Zoo was just too easy for me at the time.  

I’ve heard you say, “Zoo was starting to eat away at me after a while.”  What did you mean by that? 


That was towards the end. There were a few shake-ups in the company where Ecko started out as a partial owner and then fully bought them out. Like, only half at first and then they made the move to where they fully owned the company. Then they sold to Iconix, which was this big agency… 


It just got to the point where they were starting to do a bunch of dumb shit that I didn’t want to do anymore. Weird photo shoots with shit that I didn’t feel comfortable wearing. Dealing with people who had just started working there that I didn’t respect. It just got to be very different than when I originally got on. And after a while, it just felt corny being there.  

photo: reda

Was leaving difficult after being there for so long? Or were you ready to go? 


I mean, it ended pretty crazy. Because my contract was almost up and I’d decided to go on my merry way, but they ended up roping me in for another year. They offered me a raise and whatnot, so I decided to stick around for a little while longer. It was a verbal agreement but I still needed to sign my contract. So I’m trying to meet up with these guys to do so but they keep giving me the runaround. Finally, months later, I’m able to meet up with them over at their office and they actually come outside of the building to meet me. They then proceed to tell me that they’re letting me go. After all that. They strung me along for all that time and didn’t even want to renew my contract after offering me a raise… after talking me into staying. 


So yeah, it ended pretty wack. Definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. 


Especially after being on that team for all those years! Is that when DVS fell off, too? 


Yeah, I think DVS was first and then Zoo York. One right after the other, which was pretty bad. Because I had a shoe on DVS, you know? I was making good money with them. But they were in the process of selling, so they wanted to get their expenses down. I was negotiating at the time and they basically let go of everyone who wasn’t under contract. I couldn’t have had any worse timing… and like I said, Zoo was right after. So, all of a sudden, I’m only getting money from Red Bull at that point. 


You’ve spoken about how this was a tough period for you. Like, I know you started riding for that hot dog shop in your neighborhood for a little dough. 


(laughs) Yeah, Griff Dogs. 

photo: cronan

Shout out to Griff Dogs because I’m sure that must’ve helped, but I know that you also came out with a couple really great X-Games Real Street parts around this time, too. 


Yeah, they were paying people to do parts for them. And with how things were going at the time, I figured that X-Games would at least be some shit that people would see. Why not? I was already sitting on a bunch of footage anyway… and honestly, I didn’t really have anywhere else for that stuff to go. 


But I like how you swung it because you did those parts for X Games exposure and got paid, then Quartersnacks came in and did the re-edit.


I was just trying to stay… I don’t want to say “relevant”, but just trying to keep it all going. Without any companies involved, I was trying to stay in the mix the best I could until I was able to figure out my next move.

For sure. But that switch backside 5-0 at the Courthouse over the drop… I feel like we rarely see that approach. How’d that one come together? 


I think we were skating Blubba before that, which is right across the street. I ended up going over there to look at it and it was just one of those ideas, you know? At first, I was trying to switch back nosegrind all the way to the end… and I almost got it that day but never did it. But after that, I kinda forgot about it until a few weeks later when Westgate came to town. RB’s like, “Hey, let’s go to the Courthouse.”


So we get there and Westgate starts trying backside nosegrind 180s… all the way to the end. And I remember thinking to myself, “Fuck, I’m gonna feel corny trying switch backside nosegrinds with him already trying that” so I did the switch back 5-0 instead. 


That day? 


Yeah, I got it that day. Westgate got his, too. 


Did you ever go back for the switch back nosegrind?


I think I went back to try it one more time but it didn’t feel the same, so I skipped it. So no, not really. It’s weird because some days, a trick will feel really good. Other days, not so much. 

photo: cronan

I imagine Expedition came through Joey Pepper, right?


Yeah, they’d actually been asking me for a while. Joey mentioned it a few times right around the time Zoo ended but I didn’t really know, you know? I ended up doing a guest board on UXA with Peter Huynh, which was cool. But in the meantime, Welsh had gotten involved with Expedition as the new brand manager, which got me thinking. I’m looking at the team and they’ve got a bunch of East Coast guys on the team now. I’m skating with Joey all the time back then, too. He’s living in the neighborhood… It just made sense, you know? So finally, I’m just like, “Alright, let’s fucking do it.”


Were you filming for Gone Fishin' and Transworld Outliers at the same time? 


I feel like Gone Fishing was mostly footage that I already had. And I remember Transworld video being more of a project. More planned. Because there were a handful of trips that we all went on, everybody in the video. And I also remember filming some things around New York specifically for that video, adding to whatever I got on the trips. It was more of a thing, I guess. 


I know you were always skating, but was there a bit of a comeback vibe for you after with Outliers being sponsorless for a minute? More fire, perhaps?


I think so. I was on Expedition by that point and had just gotten on Converse. And that’s right when I had quit drinking for 3½ years, too, so I was definitely feeling more inspired. Because it’s like with anything, your motivation with skating goes up and down. I mean, I’m always skating, but you know how it is... how much you want to skate, how bad you want to skate. That shit can fluctuate. Sometimes it can feel like a job, which feels like shit. But other times, you’re really hyped on skating. Luckily, with the Transworld thing and getting on Converse, I was hyped on skating at that point. I put a lot more effort into that part and I think it comes across.

photo: cronan


The switch frontside nosegrind at Grant’s Tomb was an early standout on that side of the spot. How’d that go down? And do you actually like skating that spot? 


(laughs) I do, actually. I like skating weird shit like that. 


Coming in from the top like that just seems awful to me. 


(Laughs) I remember the first time, I went there… because that’s on the back side. The other side is the bank one that Pappalardo nose mannied into. The straight down one. 


Yeah, he got fucked up.


I think they were redoing the ground on the double bank so it was closed off for a while. I remember it finally opening back up and hearing that a few people had skated it. I think I was with Kenny Anderson and Steve Nesser that day…  there were some guys in town and we were all just skating around. That spot came up so we all headed over there and it ended up being a really good session. People were hyped and there was a good energy, so I gave it a try. 


I do remember that one being a little bit of a battle. It’s kinda hard popping onto the bank because the ledge runs parallel to it. You have to pop over to it a little bit, which was the hardest part. Definitely a bit of a battle but nothing too crazy. I mean, that ledge is so good. Once you’re in it, you can be confident on the grind. I don’t even think there’s a crack in there or anything, it’s all one piece. 

photo: mehring

And the switch backside noseblunt at Con-Ed is all-time… with three angles!


(laughs) Yeah, I was with this guy Joe Bouillot. He had a Go-Pro at the bottom, another camera on a tripod and then he was filming as well. 


I remember having to go back a couple of times for that one. I think that might’ve been my third time there. That one was a battle, too, but I like how it came out. I’d been wanting to do that one for a long time. 


Hearing you talk, it doesn’t seem like you enjoy going on missions for specific tricks. 


Oh, I hate that shit. And I hate having to go back for tricks, too. I’m much better when things are more spontaneous, like when something just happens at a session and there are no real expectations to deal with. But when you come close to something and don’t get it… that’s when it sucks. Because you have to go back and there are all these expectations now. I get so in my head about everything and start overthinking shit. I don’t like that shit at all. I have to do things in the moment before I let myself think too much about it. 

Well, you said earlier that you like skating Grant’s Tomb, Gone Fishin' has your switch crooks at that McKee Bridge spot which looks equally terrible to me…


(laughs) That one was definitely a lot bigger than I thought it would be. A lot higher. 


I think that was a Cons trip? I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure that I originally had a different trick in mind. Because the ledge was a little shifted out to the left or something, I remember it wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be. And definitely harder than I thought it was gonna be. There’s a curve you gotta go over and the bridge has this little gutter-thing at the bottom where you land… there was a lot going on there. 


I got it but I prefer Grant’s Tomb to that spot, for sure.


Did you choose Warren Zevon for that part? 


No, I didn’t. I usually don’t pick my songs for parts. I’m not very good at it.  


Why not? You’re a creative guy, with Paper Skaters and all that... 


I don’t know why that is. I have ideas and shit but I usually just let the editor decide. I feel like they have better idea of what all is going on. I do wish that I was better at that, but no, I just kinda stick to the skating. 


I mean, if it’s something I don’t like, I’ll say something. There have been some songs I’ve said no to in the past… I can’t remember what they were. Nothing crazy, I just didn’t think they worked. 

photo: sussingham 

How much shit have you gotten over the years for riding Tensor Trucks? Or were you actually skating other trucks on the low? 


(laugh) Oh, I definitely got some shit but people talk shit about everything. But yeah, I actually skated them. I don’t even skate for Tensor anymore and I’m still skating them. I just haven’t switched them out yet. And the last ones they made are actually pretty good. They’re higher… 


I just don’t like switching my shit out, to be honest. I have a tendency to stick with things for a really long time. 


Well, to that point, you’ve never fallen off but your sponsors definitely have. What are the top signs to look for when your sponsor is about to flop? 


(laughs) “We’ll get you your checks as soon as we can, just hang in there.”


If they start talking about they’re gonna caught up on everything in a few months, that’s when you leave. 


That, and it’s always better to be the first one out the door than the last one sticking around. I feel like I was one of the last ones out the door at Zoo and looking back, I probably should’ve left way before I did. 


What did end up happening with Expedition anyway? 


(laughs) Basically what I just said. Paychecks stopped coming when they were supposed to, telling me that we’ll get caught up soon. That whole thing. And that was my cue. 


How have you seen the NY scene change over the years? 


I feel like one of the big reasons why I never moved to California is because there are so many skaters out there. I’d much rather skate around less skaters, if that makes sense? Because I remember going out to spots in California and they’d always be packed with people. You’d have a bunch of different people filming and there are all these different crews hanging around. It just felt crazy. But the thing is, New York is a lot more like that now than it used to be. Companies doing their little Airbnb for the summer. I mean, you always had people coming in and out before, but now it just feels like everyone is here for a lot longer at a time… which is great for the scene and for New York, in general. But that’s probably the biggest change. 


I feel like the industry didn’t really understand skating in the city for a long time, but now everyone’s jumping on that New York thing. It’s a little weird. I’ll always love New York. It will always have great shit to skate and I have so many great friends who live there, but personally, it’s hard for me to be around that kinda energy anymore. Like when somebody moves there and they put on that New York hat right away? They get the fit on and immediately start acting a little different. I don’t want to be around that. 


It’s just the hot spot now, which it never used to be. It’s weird. Not that I feel either way about it, that’s just my perception. It is what it is. 


What’s a popular New York skatespot that you hate?  


Oh man, probably a lot of them… even a lot of the classic spots, like Blubba. Just the shit that I’ve been to a thousand times. A lot of it has to do with so many people coming in from out of town over the years and wanting to check out all of the classic spots. I’m always like, “Aw fuck, do you really want to go there?”


But then again, there have been times where I’m at a spot that I hate and I’ll be feeling good that day. I’ll get a trick and suddenly I’m thinking to myself, “That spot’s not too bad.”


(laughs) How did Alltimers come about? 


One of the owners, Pryce, asked me about it. I thought about it for a while and met some of the guys on the team. I skated with them a few times and it seemed like a good fit. Good vibes. I’ve known Pryce for a long time and I always liked what they were doing. 


It’s just a fresh start after some of the previous companies I’ve been on. I mean, Zoo was always so serious. Expedition, too. Alltimers feels like a fun new venture, and it’s been really great so far. 

Who came up with that wig skit to welcome you on the team? I loved that shit. 


That was my idea! (laughs)


I was watching one of those Bosley Hair commercials one night and it just hit me. I’ve actually been sitting on that idea for years but couldn’t really do it with any of the other companies I’ve ridden for. But as soon as the Alltimers thing came up, I was like, “Hey, I got this idea, guys!”


They were totally into it, too. Super fun. 


Both epic parts, but also completely different: how does filming for You Deserve It compare to something like Vicious Cycle 20 years ago? 


Probably just trying harder. Trying my best to get stuff that I’m actually hyped on. Footage that meets my expectations. As time goes on, I’ve found that it’s getting harder and harder to film shit that I like. Whereas before, I was just skating. It’s like expectation versus reality. Because when you’re younger, it’s just whatever you want to do. But as you get older, you’re still trying to find interesting shit that you’re hyped on while also kinda competing with yourself and what you’ve already done. 


Would you say that you’re more methodical in your approach now? 


I think so. I feel like I have all these ideas popping into my head now. I’ll learn a new trick or maybe do something that reminds me of another spot, which ultimately leads to more ideas. Like, “Oh shit, I need to go try that over there.”


But at the same time, it’s not as serious as it used to be. If I do go somewhere with a trick in mind, it’s no longer some do-or-die scenario. Like, “I’m not leaving until I get this!” If I had an idea in my head back then, I was either gonna get it or at least try until I couldn’t walk anymore. Nowadays, I might just give it a couple of tries and see how it feels. If it feels good, I’ll try to get it. If it doesn’t, I’ll just move on to something else. No big deal. 

Well, I love the 360 flip/switch 360 flip line over the skatestopper. Was that an idea you’d had or did it just come up at the spot? 


Yeah, it originally came from messing around there the time before. I started trying it and thought it would be pretty sick. I didn’t end up getting it that day and actually had to come back specifically for that. 


It definitely wasn’t quick. Because it’s tough landing on that skinny pad. I kept on shooting off the side, into the dirt. You just have to be patient and wait for your feet to land in the perfect spot so you’re ready for the next one. 


Yeah, because you’re not even shifting there. 


No, you don’t really have time to. You gotta land with your feet close to how you want them for the switch tre and go for it. It’s just a game of patience. 


And that switch wallride hippie jump in SF was bonkers. 


Thanks. Yeah, that one took a while. I don’t know if I had to go back for that one or not but I definitely tried it for two or three hours. There was a good energy that day, too, which always helps. 

photo: dan z

But how did you even come up with that switch blunt frontside 270 kickflip ender?  


Well, I actually started out trying switch blunt around the curve to, like, nollie hardflip. I guess it’s technically a switch hardflip, but you’re all the way around, you know? It just wasn’t working. I kept shooting it out. But in trying that and getting a feel for it, I started thinking that I might be able to do the switch 270 flip instead. And then it just kinda happened. That one actually came pretty quickly once I switched it up. 

I love the little intro with your grandfather, how’d that go down? 


Pryce hit me up one day, thinking it would be sick if I did a jump ramp line. (laughs)


Completely out of the blue, he asks me to build three jump ramps and film a line somewhere on the Cape with woods in the background. Just something totally random like that. So I get the ramps together and it just so happened that I saw my grandfather the day before we’re gonna film. 


The next day, we’re out there and I start joking around with my buddy about how sick it would be to ollie over the car with my grandfather in it. 


“Dude! We gotta do that!”


So I end up calling him up, like, “Hey Gramps, bring your car. I’m gonna jump over you!”


I totally misjudged his reaction. Because I thought he was gonna be like, “Uh… I don’t know” or something. But no, he agrees to it immediately. Like, “Okay!”


He drove right on over and parked his car behind that ramp. No problem. And he just sat there, watching me. It was wild. (laughs)

You didn’t scratch his car, did you? 


No, but it did take a few tries. That ramp was pretty weird. I built the ramps myself, which I didn’t exactly do the best job. They were a little steep but I got it. 


One of the best parts of last year… which leads to fans, myself included, often labeling you as “underrated”. How do you react to that? 


I don’t know. How do you mean? 


Well, you’re 20 years deep into this now. An East Coast legend with incredible video parts. Never kooked it. But I feel like your “career” maybe hasn’t been as big as it possibly could’ve been. Has there maybe been a resistance on your side in playing “the industry game”? 


I think there’s been a bit of that, for sure. I definitely speak up when I feel like I should. I don’t just do everything I’m told to do, like, “Hey, wear this. Do that.”


If I’m not feeling it, I’m probably not gonna do it. Maybe that has something to do with it. I could go with the flow a little more. And there have been opportunities in the past where I could’ve been more in the mix or whatever, but I only want to do what feels right to me and what I’m comfortable with. 


I feel like you’ve largely let your skateboarding speak for you over the years, which is admirable but only gets you so far, unfortunately. 


Yeah, definitely. I’m just not very good at the playing the game, I guess. Maybe I just don’t want to. I love to skateboard but I’m only gonna do what I want to do and what feels right. That’s basically how I’ve always tried to conduct myself. 

photo: colen


Obviously Vicious Cycle, but what are your other personal favorite video parts over the years? And are there any that you’re not so fond of? 


I’m sure there are parts that I don’t really care for… I can’t really think of which ones off the top of my head. Yeah, I really like Vicious Cycle. The Skate More part with Busenitz, too…


 I don’t know. I guess I don’t really think about it that much.


I mean, I get it that you’re not just sitting around, thinking about yourself all day. (laughs)


(laughs) Nah, I’m always just onto the next. When something’s done, it’s done. What now? 


You mentioned getting in your head earlier, has Vicious Cycle’s 8-minute epicness been a hard act to follow over the years?


No, I don’t think so… not for me anyway. But I do think that other people’s expectations could get a little tricky at times. Like, you know how people say wild shit? I’ll be at a spot and someone will come up, like, “Hey, you should do this because you did that other trick that’s pretty similar.”


Well, this is a totally different day and it’s ten years later. That’s not really how it works but I appreciate you thinking I can do that right now. 


Vicious Cycle is probably the best part that I will ever put out in my life, but it is what it is. I’m just happy to have put out something like that at all. 


Amazing answer. So what is next, Zered? What are you working on now?

Well, I wasn't gonna put this out there but might as well; I'm starting to work on a new part. Now that I'm pack in Mass, I think it's only right to film a New England part. I'm just gonna do it for myself and film things at my own pace.

I've also been doing some screen printing and a lot of art based around all the photos I've shot in my travels over the last two decades. I've always been hesitant to put this kinda stuff out into the world, but I'm gonna give it a try and get some things out there. 


Sounds great, Z. Can't wait for all that to come to fruition. So, as we wrap this up... and I realize that you're not much a “regret” kinda guy but I always like to ask this question at the end of these things… what would you say is the proudest accomplishment of your skateboarding career and the biggest regret? 


I’m just proud that I was able to get out there and do it all while still staying true to the things I believe in… And not be an asshole about it. Because it’s really not that serious. It’s just a piece of wood with some wheels on it. 


I try to be cool to people, you know? I like talking to kids and try to give out advice whenever I can, if I got anything. Something that I think they might need to hear. Maybe it’ll help… 


But no, I don’t feel like I have any regrets. I’m just learning as I go and it’s all an opportunity to learn from. I feel like everything over the course of my career has happened for a reason. Because it’s just how you come out of shit, you know? You just gotta keep on, man. Keep on keeping on. (laughs)

Big thanks To RB and Z for taking the time. 



Anonymous said...

legend! thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

I was a fan before but now I like him even more!

Anonymous said...

Already a big fan now bigger, best attitude and great interview.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Great conversation with a Legend.

Anonymous said...

Easily one of the best Chrome Ball Interviews. Been a fan for 20 years what a G, all the NYC photos in this are heavy. Great stories, always an inspiration Dr. Z

Nattie Dap said...

And I thought it was a big deal when I took a pic of myself ollieing with a 35mm camera for my high school photography class?!