Thanks to the DC x Slam City Skates collaboration we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to the legend that is Josh Kalis. This guys output over the years has been exemplary, his dedication to skateboarding is largely unparalleled, Josh is a true skate rat and it was a pleasure to speak to him. Read on to hear about Love Park beef, getting a $117,000 tax bill from the City of Philadelphia, personalities in skateboarding and a whole lot more.
When did you last come to the U.K? I can’t remember ever seeing any footage of you here.
To be honest the only time I’ve ever been to the U.K was in the airport. I’ve never stepped foot out in the U.K ever in my life.
Not even on those DC Super Tours back in the day?
I was on the second Super Tour but it didn’t go to the U.K.
How did the collab shoe with Slam City Skates come about?
It comes from Slam, they’ve always showed crazy support man. It comes from them, they set it all off.
You're here with Blabac so let's move this on to Love. Who do you think was the most slept on local at Love?
I’ve never really thought about it like that. There was a few really good locals, but most of the time it’s not that they’ve been slept on it’s more that they didn’t put themselves in a position to catch all the shine. They were just more going to Love to skate, they weren’t really concerned about filming and doing this that and the other. Somebody that I wish would have done a little more, shit I don’t know, there were quite a few but I can’t think off the top of my head.
Who were your favorites to watch skate that place?
One of my favorites was Kevin Taylor, for sure, Stevie for sure, and this dude named Jason (AKA 40 Ounce) was always one of my favorites to watch. Just mostly the locals, they weren’t sponsored and stuff like that but watching them, when they did skate, it was really sick. But yeah, Kevin Taylor was my favorite.
There were a lot of big personalities around Love at that time, do you think that’s something that’s missing from the industry these days?
Let me try and answer that right. I think kids are just getting raised differently. Back in those days, and the Pier 7 days, the latter EMB days it was a lot of kids that didn’t have perfect homes. So their family were their friends, they weren’t concerned about school and what not, it was different back then.
"There were only a couple of kids whose parents would bring them to Love Park, Bam Margera was one of them."
Nowadays parents are dropping kids off at the skatepark whereas before it wasn't like that. It’s just a different era and different generation, it’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion but it definitely does take away a lot of the personality side of it. Back then it was just real raw street, you know? People from all different walks of life trying to make something happen for themselves and be around people that they connected with. But now it’s just accepted, I’m not saying there’s a lack of personality in skateboarding, it’s just a different mentality.
There were only a couple of kids whose parents would bring them to Love Park, Bam Margera was one of them. It was when Love was bad, not at its worst, but it was bad, and Bam’s parents would take him to Love and let him skate. That was super rare, but now you got parents car pooling kids to these built skate plazas with dog parks next to them. It’s just such a different time.
How much do you reckon you paid out in tickets for skating Love?
Zero. Oh, to tell you the truth, check this out - I paid zero tickets for skating Love Park but then they fucked me on taxes! Six years after I moved out of the city they hit me with this bogus tax bill. It said ‘Mr Kalis we know who you are’ shit like that, I fought it for two years and I lost. I had to pay the City of Philadelphia $117,000! It took me three years to pay it off, there was no beating it. They knew exactly what they were doing, they knew my accountant from those years had passed away, they had all their ducks in a row and they fucked me for sure.
"Six years after I moved out of the city they hit me with this bogus tax bill... I had to pay the City of Philadelphia $117,000"
What were the police like? How would they behave towards skateboarders?
To tell you the truth, the cops were dicks dude! If you didn’t have some kind of pass, I hustled up a nice little unspoken agreement with the undercovers in the area, otherwise they were dicks to you. I know people who’d been taken under the concourse and robbed by the cops, punched in the face, dragged, handcuffed - 13 year old kids handcuffed! I’ve seen cops pull guns on skaters, they were rough. I just gave them product, I’d give them shoes and shoot the shit with them to make them feel like they were important, that worked for me. It was wild for sure.
What happened with Stevie or DC trying to buy Love Park?
I don’t know about that. The city told the skaters if they could raise $100,000 per year for maintenance then they would let us skate, and that’s when DC came and said they’d do it for ten years but the city denied it.
Did you have a favorite part of Love Park to skate?
My favorite was always the top, we just called it the top. There were only three sections: the top with the taller ledges, the fountain ledges, and then the bottom which was a mix between the one fountain ledge you had to pop out on, the tall ledge, and some pretty rough flat ground down there. Of those three sections, my favorite was the top with the open space, the tall ledge, the main ledge, the real rounded one - that was my favorite shit.
Was there ever a stand off with out of towners coming to skate the fountain gap or anything?
Nah, it really wasn’t a thing until the later days, the days that I wasn’t a part of. Especially that last weekend when the city let everyone skate and it was like -5 degrees or something. There were some kids that came out there to skate the gap to try and win this money, but all the locals wanted to skate the fountain ledges. You have to shut the fountain ledges down in order to be able to skate the gap. The locals were pretty pissed off about these kids trying to win some money jumping the gap, so they poured water that froze and put trash on the bottom.
The dudes skating the gap could not believe it, but the reality is the locals are the ones who’ve been there the last five years, dealing with the cops, fixing the spot, shoveling snow, paying tickets, they paid dues to have this freezing cold weekend that they could skate for free, and they had to stop to let these two kids from California jump the gap? You can see where they’re coming from. There were some media folks out there who weren’t very happy about it, couldn’t understand it, they even called me like ‘yo what the fuck?’. I just said ‘that’s plaza life, don’t worry about it’.
It’s just having respect isn’t it, simple as that. What impact has losing Love had on the Philly scene? Are you still close with those guys?
Yeah they’re still crushing it dude, they skate across the road at the Municipal building. They got a bump to can, the ledges, they’re still killing it out there.
Do you think it has a galvanizing effect on the scene losing such a key spot or is it not even that deep?
I look it at like this - it closed for me in 2005/6 and it hurt me enough that I had to move on and continue elsewhere. It’s when I moved back to Michigan to skate in Chicago and do all that. It affected me to the point where I wanted to step away for a while. For them, some of these guys don’t have the option to leave, so I don’t really know.
Was there any funny beef going on back in the day?
To tell you the honest truth, I think the only beef that was ever in Philly always involved me. I’ve no idea, it was just always me. I always tried to be straightforward you know, but somebody would always take something I say the wrong way.
If it was Anthony Pappalardo, or Rob Phulowski, or Kerry Getz or whoever the fuck it was. I’d be like ‘listen, you’re fucking up’, you know what I mean? They’d respond ‘what are you talking about?’, I’d be like ‘just because you turned pro it don’t mean shit’ now you got to try and get your shoe, now you go to try and do this, you always got to try and progress. These guys, in my opinion, were representing companies that I represented - so if they were fucking up it makes the whole shit look fucked up. So I would just give advice, and dudes would look at that like I was trying to be an asshole or something.
"To tell you the honest truth, I think the only beef that was ever in Philly always involved me"
I remember Flo Marfaing came and stayed at my house for 2 months and I’d never met him before, I’d just seen him nollie crooked grind Le Dome on an Alien board. I called Alien and told them to send him to my house, so they sent him to my house. He’s the coolest dude in the world, I bring him to the Alien T.F and he gets vibed out by Kerry Getz and Phulowski and those guys, so I’m like ‘fuck those dudes’! We always had some weird beef, but we skated the same spots all the time and I’d give advice and they’d take it the wrong way. Kerry started a skateshop and I skated for a different one so I was like ‘fuck his skateshop’, and it went on and on until finally everybody just grew out of it.
It even goes back to me having beef with Ricky Oyola and Matt Reason and those guys. I was always the epicentre of somebody’s fucking beef.
Was there anything you wish you’d tried at Love or tricks that got away?
You know what I’m super stoked with what I did with Love, I took as much advantage of being there as possible. Looking back I think I could have taken more advantage of it, but I was there every fucking day you know, pulling up tiles for out of towners trying to motivate people to jump over the can. I feel like my whole mission there was to push Love Park.
What ended up happening is that a lot of people didn’t understand that mentality so I would pick up the slack. The varial heel over the bump to can, I was trying to get somebody else to do that and they wouldn’t try it, so I was like ‘fuck it, I’ll try it’. I can’t say that if I had to do it all over again I’d change anything, I remember being pretty exhausted with the whole deal. But you can always think, damn maybe I should have spent a little more time. I tried to jump the fountain, I tried to nollie it, I tried man.
Yeah it looks huge that thing
The way people skate gaps nowadays that thing would get fucking destroyed you know. That dude Walker Ryan switch backside flipped it in the last days, it’s a completely different thing the way skaters can skate now. It’d be a different story, I'd seen dudes landing on switch tre flips before it got torn down.
Who’s skating are you feeling these days?
One of my favorites is Quel Haddox, he rides for DGK, he’s super sick. Who else… fuck man there’s actually quite a few. I can’t think of the names though, Quel off the top of my head for sure.
Haha yeah there’s certainly a lot of skaters around now… ok final question, if you could bring back one DC shoe for 2017 what would you pick?
I would bring back the Lynx exactly the way it was, and I would actually like to do my first shoe - I know a lot of people want it to come back exactly how it was, which may or may not happen - but I would like to redo the Kalis 1 with a proper skate sole. Kind of like a modernized version, I’m a big fan of the modernized stuff. I think people should pay close attention to what DC’s got coming out towards the end of 2017 moving into 2018, I think a lot of people are going to be really stoked on what they see.
Looking forward to it, nice one Josh.