We recently spent some time with Eli Reed during his brief spell in London. We discussed his new role at Diamond, what's been going on with his company Becky Factory, the upcoming Converse video and more.
How are things with you? Enjoying your time in London?
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve actually been able to hang out, chill and do fun stuff - walk around, shop that kind of thing. I’ve only been here two other times and each time was for two days, both times it was straight into skating right away. I didn’t really get any down time, this is the first time I’m getting a chance to really see the culture.
What places have you wanted to visit?
To be honest I don’t think of London as the first place I’d want to go to in Europe. I think because I am from Boston, and live in New York, so I am used to these kind of conditions, environment wise. I guess I didn’t put much thought into how much culture there was here, it’s one of the biggest cities in Europe you know. It’s the international headquarters it seems like. I really felt a good vibe this time.
A lot of people do compare it to those East Coast cities.
It’s got so much culture here, and I didn’t realise that. But, of course it’s London, it’s one of the biggest and oldest cities in the world. I just never had the chance to see it and feel it.
What made you want to be involved with the Diamond collaboration? What did you hope to achieve with it, and why Johnny Cash specifically?
Nick asked me to model for it as first, then it became that I wanted to do it but have more control of the art direction and all that kind of thing. That builds into now doing more with Diamond, being a team ambassador as well as being involved with marketing and some more behind the scenes stuff. It’s just how it evolved.
"I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t know at least a couple of Johnny Cash songs."
Johnny Cash is a legend, I've always enjoyed his music, he’s definitely one of my favorites of that genre. He’s got to be on everybody’s list of favorite artists, I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t know at least a couple of Johnny Cash songs.
Yeah he’s pretty ubiquitous…
Yeah, I mean what’s not to like? We got together some references and some ideas and made our way out to Johnny Cash’s house by Ventura. I went with my girlfriend and we shot this love story kind of thing, he was a hopeless romantic, so yeah that’s how it happened.
Do you have a favorite Johnny Cash song or story?
One of my favorite songs, it’s not a solo song, I am drawing a blank on the name of the song. It’s Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson… fuck what’s the name of that one? It’s got a bunch of people on it, it’s an epic, epic song.
I can find out the song and add it in later as if you’d said it (laughs)
Yeah, we’ll do that.
(Editor’s note: The Highwaymen, and would guess it’s Highwayman)
You touched on it a bit just then, but can you talk a bit about your new role with Diamond?
After we’d done the shoot Nick wanted me to get more involved. I work in a few different directions - whether that’s sitting in on a design meeting or helping go over who we should be shooting with, or even skate marketing stuff, filming at the park that kind of thing. It’s a bit of everything, skating for Diamond but with a little more involvement to it, adding whatever I can.
When did your interests in fashion begin, if you can pinpoint such a thing?
I don’t know, I never look at it like ‘fashion’ as such. What’s funny with skateboarding is it’s really all visual, at the end of the day you’re trying to do amazing tricks and that’s what it’s about. When I grew up it was about NBD’s, I grew up skating with PJ Ladd and would sit on ledges watching him do NBD’s, and I’d try to maybe do one you know, that was just how we looked at skating then.
Somewhere along the lines I knew that visually, actually maybe it’s not even that. I think I’m just into clothes! I am someone who likes clothes, I have a lot of clothes, I don’t really think of it as fashion. In skating when I’m filming I like to put together fun outfits to go skate in, if I feel good it gets me psyched. If the tricks look good and you’re skating good and everything comes together you’re like visual art or whatever you’d want to call it. I’ve always been into clothes, that’s the bottom line for me. Even as a little kid I’d be wearing crazy jump suits and velour suits and stuff.
As far as fashion goes I guess living in New York meant I was more exposed to it, getting into certain brands, what’s the newest stuff. When you live in New York you’re just more in it - like being in London - I think London, Paris, Tokyo and New York are the leaders of that kind of stuff. You’re not really thinking, you’re just catching vibes seeing what other people are wearing and putting your own twist on things. Living in New York, growing up a bit here, a lot of my friends were into fashion or were designers, you just get involved I guess.
I don’t think about it as fashion so much, but people ask me about it all the time. I was in S.F and someone said ‘oh is he doing some fashion stuff here?’ nah I’m actually here skating, that’s what I do first! When I was doing my brand it was because I wanted to make stuff, I didn’t have a business plan, I had no plan. I just wanted to make these pants or these socks, which is kind of stupid but it’s fun.
I was in S.F and someone said ‘oh is he doing some fashion stuff here?’ nah I’m actually here skating
How’s stuff going with Becky Factory?
Really well actually, we’re keeping it really tight right now, only selling in certain skate shops, in Supreme in New York and London. It’s fun to have a little baby right now. We’re going to start to mould and figure out exactly where we want to take it. We haven’t really done too many video projects so far, we made one little film for an arts festival in New York. Right now we have a video in the works, not too long, around 15 to 20 minutes, I have a full length VHS part in the works also. We’re going to put our heads together and figure out which direction we want to take it, it’s growing all the time.
Do you approach the company similarly to how you would designing clothes?
Yeah, it’s just whatever you’re feeling at the moment. My partner Sam Salganik has been doing most of the Becky Factory stuff. My mum’s an artist so if I have ideas I can speak to her and ask her to draw them. She’s done stuff for my brand, she’s really inspiring for me - if I have an idea she’ll always help me visualize it.
Who are you hooking up on Becky Factory?
We don’t really have a full team at the moment, we’re keeping it mellow right now, family style. We have kids we hook up, this kid Igor in New York, he also works at the Diamond store. Then we have Tyler Golden who’s definitely on, he’s our guy, he’s a funny character. He’s a full time male model, signed to Calvin Klein for a year, so he’s doing his thing in that world right now. We also got this kid Cam Seldik who’s really gnarly, we’re stoked on him. It’s a little squad for right now, the video will probably be a mix of friends and Cam, Tyler and Igor.
Do you still find time to skate?
That’s all I’ve been doing lately. The Converse video is almost wrapped up, I’ve probably skated harder than I have for a long time over the past few months, I’ve had to push everything to one side and focus on filming for that. I’ve been skating a lot in the past two years, maybe 4-5 days a week, in the past six months it’s been more like 6-7 days. Before this trip I chilled and took some time off because I’d taken a heavy slam, the video deadline is pretty much up so I let myself chill for a week. It’s been full on! I go through spurts of skating more and sometimes a little less, when you’ve been skating for over 20 years I think it’s fine for it to work like that.
Do you know how the Converse video will work?
I filmed enough for a full part, but I think I might be sharing a part with Zered Bassett. I gave them over five minutes of footage, though if I am sharing a part with Zered that’s great with me, even better probably! We’ve been friends for so long, I’ve known him since I was 12, almost as long as I’ve been skating.
Skating has put you in some pretty weird situations, skating the Playboy Mansion for example. What’s the strangest situation you’ve ended up in due to skateboarding?
I would say that its led to me everything that I do, it still dictates my life. Because of skateboarding I look at things differently and creatively I guess. That’s a unique question! I mean the Playboy Mansion is up there, that was pretty fucking crazy. I can’t think in the moment right now, I suppose some of the counties I’ve been to. Like Taiwan for example, ending up in the most random neighbourhoods ever, places you’d never ever go if it wasn’t for skateboarding. The weirdest thing is finding yourself on a skate trip away from the team. I haven’t drunk alcohol for six years, but when I used to drink I’d go out, disappear from the team and end up god knows where. I’ve been through some crazy stuff because of alcohol on those tours.
"Diamond has always supported skateboarding and skateboarders no matter what"
It’s Diamond’s 20th anniversary this year, you got anything big coming up to mark that?
I’ve been pushing to do stuff with some of the original dudes, been working behind the scenes on that. They just dropped a video of all those dudes who’d wear Diamond back in the day - Stevie, Henry Sanchez and all those dope OG guys. I’d like to get some footage and some photos of them and push to do something with that - for me that’s the core of what Diamond is. It’s been stretched out a lot, Nick has done a lot of amazing things with the brand, but I think for 20 years it would be cool to bring it back and remind people what it was and is.
It’s a skate company you know, now with a full blown shoe team with Jamie Foy the SOTY on board. That’s what I love about Nick, he’s always supported skateboarding and skateboarders no matter what he does. I think that core value, regardless of where it’s being sold or what people say, that core value is still strong - its Keenan Milton, Stevie Williams, Rick Howard, Jeron Wilson, Mike Carroll - those are the dudes that made Diamond big in skating and then it moved onto the next level. I’d like to celebrate those original guys and what they did.
Is there anything else you’re working on this year?
We’ve got the Becky Factory video, the Converse video is dropping in May, I’ll be continuing doing these projects with Diamond. I think that’s pretty much it. I’m stoked on my Converse video part, and what we’re doing with Becky. I want to figure out a way to space it out a bit, I don’t want the Converse video and the Becky video to drop at the same time. We might hold onto the Becky video for a bit, try to release it at the right time, save some ammunition you know!
Nice, thanks a lot Eli, enjoy the rest of your time in London!