One of the biggest surprises around the adidas Away Days premieres was the introduction of two notable new riders to the already amazing adidas skateboarding program: Marc Johnson and Daewon Song.
We got to sit down with Daewon at the London premiere for a chat on "what else is out there"…
Interview: Jan Kliewer & Matt Broadley | Pics: Rory_Photo
How long ago was it clear you were getting on the team?
I signed with them around the beginning of March, but we tried to keep it low key until the premiere. With social media everyone is like ‘hey check out my shoes’ and people are like ‘oh, ok’, in just putting it out there there’s no surprise. There’s no element of surprise anymore these days, when you can get that it’s like an old magic trick.
I think that’s what adidas wanted to do, and the feedback has been really good. At the premieres people are surprised like ‘oh what the hell?!’ Through time it’s not as much of a surprise, if you go online people are talking – and there’s both negatives and positives. That’s just the way it’s going to be, people don’t understand the situation and my story that led to the change. I can explain to everybody, but I can’t tell physically tell everybody. People come on my Instagram and they’re so angry, so I just ask them ‘why are you so angry?’
»I was with something for 19 years and then it changed on me. I put 19 years of my career into a place where the rug got pulled from under my feet«
Is that true? I must admit I’ve not checked your Instagram in the past couple of days, do you get a lot of bad comments?
You’re going to get bad comments because people have almost been prepped for that, because there’s so many antis, but they don’t understand that we’re in changing world. I told the guy on Instagram that I respect his opinion, because I respect everybody’s opinion, there’s certain things that I changed in my lifestyle and certain things I don’t support and if he doesn’t that’s fine. He doesn’t realise I was with something for 19 years and that it changed on me. I put 19 years of my career into a place where the rug got pulled from under my feet and it wasn’t the same place anymore. So if you want to talk about people who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t care about skating, that’s why I had to get out of there.
That’s something I wanted to talk about actually, looking at your Instagram it seems you’re a lone dude going out there in park.
It’s funny because with my Instagram people always ask ‘what park do you go to? There’s nobody.’ But there are people, it’s just when I finally land my trick they’re probably off laying down somewhere.
With adidas it seems like team spirit is a big thing for them, and also traveling. You were on a Europe tour last year or the year before? And that was the first time for a while we’d seen you over here.
It’s just that I hated traveling, I feel like a lot of times when I travel I get the least done.
There’s always going to people who hate…
Yeah, you just got to not worry about that. I just want to have fun and produce, and do the fun new projects that adidas want to help me do.
Oh come on, you’re a demo machine!
There’s so much of everyone trying to do different things that nothing ever gets focused on. Plus I get super uncomfortable around too many people, I’m a nervous wreck! When I go on a filming trip and there’s 10 guys and we’re all skating the same spot I’m like ‘woah’, it’s my cryptonite.
With contests too, ‘next up Daewon Song’ I’m like ‘uhhh’! I remember an old Canada contest they called my name and I was really nervous, this was when they had the giant super roll in, I tried to roll in and fell and slid the whole thing on my knees. I was so embarrassed so I got up, put my board down, tried to jump on it and fell again. People were just covering their eyes.
Were you riding the loose trucks already then?
I was riding Grind Kings I think back then.
»My Instagram is an outlet for me to be silly, and for the people that follow me to laugh, an outlet to do something stupid.«
So with adidas, are you going to be traveling a lot with these guys?
I think I’ve got a lot of planned trips, I also want to jump into a project and start filming, try and create something that’s a little different to what I’ve done. Nothing like my Instagram! My Instagram is an outlet for me to be silly and have fun, and for the people that follow me to laugh sometimes, it’s an outlet to be yourself and actually do something stupid. If they’re watching the adidas video and I’m rolling in a chair or something people would be like ‘what the fuck? that sucks’, but on Instagram they laugh. It’s just a different outlet, I don’t want people to think my Instagram is the way I’m going to film my video parts.
»It’s a big problem we’ve always had in skating, everybody wants to be somebody else, because somebody else told them who they were wasn’t good enough«
Are you familiar with Joe Moore?
Yeah, Joe is crazy. He’s got a lot of technical ability, it’s pretty wild. He looks like he’s out there having fun and that’s the main thing. He seems to not really care about what people are thinking, and that’s another important thing. He’s probably going to get a lot of hate, even from some of my friends when I show them - some say ‘that looks awesome’ and others ‘say fuck that shit!’ I’ll reply, see your attitude right there, you’re the person who’s going to make this dude stop doing it, you guys are such dicks about it that he’s going to go a different direction and you’ll miss the stuff that he does. At least he stood out and was doing something different, what do you want him to do? A kickflip back nosegrind?
There’s a better outlet for that now with Instagram and Facebook.
I feel like that outlet gives so many more people a voice that nobody before was able to hear. With the bigger channels and outlets like Metro, they’re almost like a video magazine so when they pick your clip to showcase you almost become an instant known name. It’s all preference, in this day and age where skating has changed so much every individual just needs to embrace themselves and be who they are and roll with it. Don’t get caught up with worrying about who what kind of skater is going to make me that person for tomorrow. It’s a big problem we’ve always had in skating, everybody wants to be somebody else, because somebody else told them who they were wasn’t good enough.
Is there anyone in particular on the adidas team that you’re looking forward to skating with?
Pretty much all of them. On this trip I’ve been skating a lot with Dennis. He just goes out there, he’s filled with so much energy that it’s 100% the whole time. It’s crazy because you see that and it’s super motivating as well as sometimes intimidating! Then there’s guy’s like Lucas, I really respect his skill level and his calibre of skating, it’s going to be fun to be around him and skate with him. Also Na-kel and Tyshawn, the New York kids, who have a different type of feel. Na-kel didn’t grow up too far from where I grew up. We grew up in an area where there was a lot to get caught up with, I got jumped into a gang when I was a little kid. I look at him and see that he’s avoided that, it’s nice, you get a lot of heart from people like that. People that went through a little rougher childhood, because they want something more.
Did you know him from before?
I’d seen him around, a couple of guys we were giving boards to through Almost were friends with him. It was more just seeing him and giving him a nod, you know? I had to come on this trip not really knowing anyone, so imagine it’s a group of about 50 people that I really don’t know.
It seems like they’re really tight too?
Everybody’s tight, Jascha and the guys pick people that are a bit more real. It’s not just their skill level.
»It was crazy because the next day I was going to sign with someone else.«
How did this work, for you to get on adidas? Was it Jascha contacting you or someone else?
This worked through me wanting change. I didn’t really reach out to them, but a real close friend of mine reached out to someone he knew well. He just threw my name out there, ‘I think Daewon is trying to see what else is out there’. But I didn’t really have any contact with them at all, I was actually talking to a few other people to feel them out. The other people I was talking to had so many set plans if I was going to ride for them, ‘we’re going to do this, this and this, we’ll get you here, our biggest market is here’. The day before I was contacted by adidas I was going to sign with somebody else. In my mind I was like ‘ok I’ll do this, it feels like the right thing, I’m not as motivated but it feels like it could be something good’. Then I got a text from a guy at adidas saying ‘are you interested just to talk’? It was crazy because the next day I was going to sign with someone else.
I talked with adidas over the phone and the things they told me, it’s hard to explain, but it’s what I wanted to hear. They said things like ‘we’re not here to throw all this stuff at you, we want you to feel happy to be a part of it, not us telling you to get this or get that’, because I’m not that kind of person that’s why I’ve stuck with brands for so long. The first board sponsor I had was with Dwindle, and that’s still where I’m at, I’ve just changed brands. Then the other shoe thing I stayed for 19 years because I hate change, and when I really want change it’s because it’s for a good reason. So that’s how that happened, everything they told me, not even stuff outside of skating, they want to support me and help with projects I want to do. Just good stuff, I was happy, I’ve got so many things that I’d like to do, it’s just cool.
I don’t know the structure of adidas or Jascha’s position exactly, but I’ve known Jascha for a long time and I think he’s done an amazing job in putting this team together.
I’ve got to know him a lot being on this trip, and through talking to him before I was actually on, he really tries to figure out the person and if it’s really a fit with the rest of the team. He can look at somebody and listen to them and think, ‘ok this guy’s not going to mesh at all’. It’s pretty cool that he does that because a lot of companies don’t care, they’re like ‘I don’t care, he has a big following, next contest, he does this!’ I haven’t won a contest in like 19 years. Actually no, 25 years, I won one contest which I think was a fluke because the guy who was going to win got hurt.
So, there’s a lot of traveling ahead of you. Is there any item that you need on the road?
I have to always have one pair of shoes that are broken in, and I bring maybe two boards depending on the trip. If it’s two weeks I’ll take two boards as I don’t really break boards. I just need my board, I need my set up, and my washers! (Laughs)
Do you go through a lot of washers then?
Yeah, they start to bend so much.
You do know they make rubbers? (Laughs)
Yeah but the rubbers are constricting for the way these turn, because Tensors they don’t turn super fast.
»Tensors turn! Like being in a boat: you just shift your weight and then you go!«
They also make trucks that turn… (Laughs)
Tensors turn! This gives you a thrust turn, it’s like being in a boat you just shift your weight and then you go!
I love what you just said, that’s the biggest quote of my whole life, ‘you know they make trucks that turn!’ At an awards ceremony they awarded Rodney Mullen some readers choice thing a long time ago, he was announced as the ‘creator of the only truck that does not turn!’ (Laughs)
What was the last skate product you purchased?
The last skate product I purchased was some bearings, I bought some bearings.
Was that a long time ago or?
A little bit before I switched bearing sponsors. Sometimes I just like to buy stuff, I’ll buy griptape, but if I buy griptape it has to be Mob because it’s the only grip tape that’s grippy.
You know Marc (Johnson) from back in the day of course, did you both know the other was getting on?
It was a surprise for both of us, it wasn’t planned we didn’t talk about it or anything. I had kind of heard about him and a possible other person too, but who knows…
With Marc he gave this Jenkem interview, actually we don’t really need to get into that…
Was it recent?
»Create a video part that takes people back to the roots of my skating – So it’s picnic table land and roof gap world…«
It was about two years ago…
Was the article on Jenkem about shoes? That article is all over the message boards, saying that he’s being a hypocrite. Times change, sometimes you just don’t want to say too much.
I think it’s just because he was going really strong in the interview, kind of leaning out the window if you say that in English? I mean it’s cool that people even say something in interviews, that’s kind of rare these days so no offense to him or anything.
What’s the next plans for you then?
Trying to push out a big video part. Trying to create a video part that takes people back to the roots of my skating, so they’re watching it wondering whether it’s old footage. So it’s picnic table land, and then roof gap world, and then the third stage I want to give them something that’s brand new, where people have never seen me in that element. We’ll see, mainly just trying to keep having fun man. As long as I’m smiling that’s what keeps you going. And I got to cut back on donuts!