Dallas Rockvam interview by Jan Kliewer.
Dallas Rockvam sure isn’t your average Joe. Hailing from the land of the free, paradoxically, he chose to retreat to Europe in order to follow his love and passion: friendship and raw skateboarding. And with a few years under his belt now in the Old World, Dallas is taking measures into his own hands and spreading the gospel; the not-so-average Joe has met someone new, a good guy called Frank…
Dallas, starting things off with your move over the pond, you are one of the few American skaters who have moved to Europe and maintained a skate career. What drew you to move here?
I maintained a career?!? The first time I came over around 2004 with Element it really left an impression on me; my first ever visit to Barcelona, back when it still was more mellow there. That place is like a skatepark. It already was really popular, but not yet how it is today with harsh police. Then on my next visit I went to Finland and met Pirkka (Pollari) and a couple of other guys from the Perus crew that went on to become really good friends of mine; also there was Marcel (Veldman) on that trip that I had met before in the US. Basically I really enjoyed the friendly, open and welcoming vibe. No getting arrested or ticketed for skating, and you didn’t have to sit in a car! Not like where I was living at the time in Arizona, California or Atlanta.
What are some of the most stereotypical views Americans have on Europeans that proved true?
You mean apart from a lot of Americans being completely oblivious to where a lot of the countries outside of the US are on a map…? Well, just let me tell you about two of my friends from over there who came to visit me when I got married last year: they just couldn’t believe it! They were amazed: ‘Wow, it really is freer; it’s true!’ You’re more able to do what you want here.
Which are completely made up out of thin air?
Well, stereotypes are always fun. I’m in France right now, always good to make fun of the people here… ha. Germans, too, of course, and Finnish, English… the Swedish; they drink 3% beer, no idea why…
And the other way around? Where do you think Europeans are especially wrong or right with their views on Americans?
Well, I guess most Europeans take the impressions they get from the few ignorant money-loaded American travellers that really stick out bad, rich girls from Southern California maybe that think America is the centre of the world. And people generalise. However, there is a lot of truth in it. Like the typical American tourist asking: “Do you have a menu in like… American?"
For the most part though, the people and the countryside over there are amazing.
How often do you go back to the States?
On average every two years, getting less, though.
Do you have to adjust?
To be honest, last time I went in summer, it was the first time I ever experienced something like a culture shock. I’ve noticed differences before, but not like that time; everything was super big and wasteful! People just consuming super bad television shows, just caring about the latest celebrity gossip rather than what’s really going on in this world… Here and there you can see people starting to wake up to the facts, though. Farmers’ markets are popping up, people planting their own food, going more local and stuff. Levi Brown for example grows food on his roof terrace. I’ve heard people like Kenny Anderson convert their diesel car to run on waste vegetable oil… So, there are both extremes. In general people I think need to wake up more to the power they have making purchase decisions. Their dollar, their euro commands where the industry is going. Marc Johnson was talking about that in an interview I saw regarding the demise of local coffee shops. Ironically, he was holding a Starbucks mug in his hand, ha!
What do you miss about not living in the US?
Real Mexican food! Hands down. Of course I miss my friends and family, too, that’s obvious. Small, small things too maybe, like being able to get anything at any time right away. Wal-Mart basically doesn’t close! Maybe on Christmas day for 24 hours… I mean, I don’t really shop there, but when I was young – not old enough to get into bars, but still drinking and smoking – this was the fun thing to do: go hang out at Wal-Mart at night, play hide and seek, kick a football around or take shopping carts and smash into each other. No one would mess with you unless you really break or steal something. It was a bar for kids that can’t go to a bar.
What would you change about Europe?
The Americanisation that’s taking place here more and more is horrible. Even in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen it happen at a really fast rate. Maybe it’s also a globalisation issue. But one place where I’ve seen it happen even more drastically is Finland. More and more kids are starting to look like these kids from Southern California, really focused on material things: who’s going to get the new car or the new phone…
Have you picked up any new languages living in Europe?
Ein bisschen Deutsch, ich habe zwei Deutschklassen gemacht (A bit of German, I’ve taken two classes). But other than that skateboarding is such a universal thing and also really English dominated. I’m usually in a van with dudes from several different countries and the common ground is English.
You’ve been living in Berlin for a while now, but have recently given up your apartment, right? Where to next?
Yeah, we did. But we just found a new one, still in Berlin. We’re not moving out of town. It’s a sub-let, got a record player, stereo, even a piano in there! Before we were living with Steve (Forstner) but when he moved out we wanted to try to save some rent and find a cheaper place. Rent’s been going up here! Even in the two years I’ve been in the city, it must have been at least 15-20%. Berlin seems to be the capital these days. Everyone wants to move here; everyone talks about it.
What’s most different about the skating or scenes?
Compared to the US? Well, I’d say each country in Europe has it’s own vibe or scene. For example kids in Austria will be more focused on the Austrian riders, they’re not really going: “Oh, what’s happening in France right now?" I guess the Internet is changing that a little bit of course. But I’ve noticed, every country here has a bunch of skaters that are really famous within its borders, and if you go to the next country and ask, no one will know these guys. In general I think most people look towards the US way too much, a lot of skate shops pretty much carry only US brands, maybe one from their country. I sometimes ask those shop guys: “Why are you doing this?! Those companies don’t give a shit about your scene. They probably don’t even know the name of your shop or the town you’re from. Still you’re paying their bills!" For sure a lot of those brands won’t come to their towns doing demos or whatever. They could do much more for their scenes by supporting local brands. And there are a lot of good ones. Not saying the US brands are all shit, I’d just like to see it a bit more balanced out towards brands that actually do stuff around you and show support. I find myself more and more interested in European skating checking more and more videos from every country. Most of them definitely are more raw.
What’s the best scene or city for you in Europe?
Finland, for sure. The guys that I know over there have become such good friends; just down-to-earth, no bullshit, no drama people. They just like to have some beers, skate, go to a sauna, and go to a lake… And Berlin – you know technically I’ve been living there for two years, but I’ve been gone at least half of that time. So this summer I’m planning to stay as much as I can, just a quick visit to Helsinki for the Hookup. But I definitely want to really learn German.
Ha, thought you were going to say Finnish there for a second!
Ha, no, fuck! Crazy alien language, Star Wars shit…
But now you’ve hooked up with the Antiz guys in France. Any French skills coming up? How did you get to know those guys?
Haha, no. Well, I met Paul (Labadie) first, in Paris at David Tura’s place. Then when I went to Barcelona after, where he was living at the time, I hit him up to go skate and film because he was out every day. He knew my deal with Powell wasn’t really going too well, and so he asked about Antiz. Then they invited me on a trip to meet everyone. We went to Belgium, a horrible trip! It rained ten out of eleven days. And the one day it was sunny, I was so hungover I couldn’t even skate, just puked about three times instead. Still somehow they thought that was ok and invited me to be on the team.
So right now you guys are starting up a new brand, the board company called “Frank". Everyone’s new best friend? Wanna tell us a little more about it? What’s up with the name first of all?
Well, you know, I met Frank at a bar. He’s just a good guy… It was just natural. Kinda came out of nowhere… But really, it’s everything we wanted the company to be: frank. Just skateboarding, no fucking bullshit.
What’s your vision with the company? What do you want to express, what do you want to “achieve" with it?
Frank’s just a good guy. I hope we’ll go on a long and good journey together, try to do what we like. If people like it, it’s ok, if not, it’s ok. The team is going to be Sebi Dorfer, Oscar Candon, Eniz Fazliov and myself. Frank likes to keep it simple. It’s Frank’s vision; it was always there. And I mean, I’m still new to this. Everything feels exciting and a bit scary. I’m just learning a lot. But in the long run I really just want to support guys that I felt have not had the support they should have had. Eniz is the best example. Why hasn’t he been on any proper team? He’s one of the greatest guys as far as a person and obviously his skating speaks for itself. Come on, two times skater of the year without even being on a proper board company! Well, I guess, the second time it must have been because people knew he was getting on Frank!
Well, Steve (Forstner) said, it was due to Eniz being on Ashes grip.
Oh, this might be true… maybe it was a mix. But anyway, Frank really wanted to support these guys on a bigger scale, give them more exposure on a European level. I really back these guys and their skating. I truly want to show respect and support to them because I think they deserve it. Just raw skateboarding; no more, no less. Not taking things so serious. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, we just want people to know: We are frank!
Frank you very much!