Portrait by Sam Ashley.
Our good friend Patrick Pellow sat down with "The Muska" at Southbank last weekend for a little post session chat. Here's what came of their conversation:
How come you’re in London?
So I basically came out to London just mainly for the Skytop 4 launch for Supra. Then in the process of coming out here it was brought to my awareness what was going on with Southbank as well, so I thought it would be really important to come here to skate and just show this place [Southbank] means something to me too. And I also just wanted to skate it and have fun, so pretty much between the Skytop stuff and coming to see Southbank, those are the two main reasons.
When did you first come to London?
I first came here for some comp at Wembley. After the competition we went to some bar, I think it was called Bar Rumba or something. I had the boom box with me the whole time in the club. When the club shut I lead everyone back to the hotel; I was like the pied piper with the boom box going down the street. We get back to hotel and 40 of us started partying in the room - it was crazy. Someone then pulls the fire alarm and we had to bail as the hotel people were so pissed with us. This was the days before you had to put a credit card down in the hotel and we had no money so we had to run out of the hotel.
How involved are you in the design of the Skytop, from conception to actually production?
100,000%! Design is just as much a passion of mine as skateboarding, music, art or photography - all these different things I do and design is one of my main passions for a long long time now. Ever since I did my first shoe with éS I have always been very involved with the design process of all of my product and not just allowing people to create something and put my name on it.
And this is the 4th one?
Yeah this is the 4th edition
And is it your favourite one?
It is you know, I think it’s easy to say that each new version at the time is your favourite, but I really feel that this one now represents what the Skytop is to me. And that’s change, innovation and offering something new in our market that doesn’t exist, and I felt like when the Skytop 1 came out people were like “what the fuck is this thing?" you know “Chad’s crazy" you know and I like that, because I like a sense of individualism. And I like to think of something and create something and be proud of it and wear it - and hopefully inspire a new style or a new culture, whatever you know? So I feel like the 4 kinda has that feeling again for me because a lot of the sales reps and different people are like “what the hell is this?" so for me I like that, I like to get a reaction out of people.
When I make anything I like to stir up our skateboarding industry. I’m sure within skateboarding people are like: “what’s up with this?" and to see people outside of skateboarding support it and all that, I get a lot of flack from that. A lot of people talking shit and stuff, and for me I think that’s stupid because eventually it may turn people onto skateboarding you know? If somebody is out there that has no idea about where skateboarding is going, and they’re buying the shoe just because they like the shoe and they don’t know it’s a skate shoe. They might go: “oh this is in skate shops" and they will go and get a skate shirt and then maybe a board and hopefully that (the shoe) can inspire people to start skateboarding. So I think it’s a positive thing if skateboarding products can reach outside of skateboarding.
And being skateboarders, growing up from being kids, we kind of have a closed minded mentality a little bit you know? And I think that was due to us wanting to be different than soccer and basketball and all these different things, we were just like “this is ours don’t touch it". But I think that if we want (skateboarding) to be an industry and make a living off this and be able to do what we love, whether you’re a pro skater, or a sales rep, or a designer, or a filmer, or a photographer, or and editor, all these different jobs that exist in our industry, so the bigger it is the better it is for our industry. So we don’t have to go and work some corporate job or something, and even skateboarding has a corporate aspect to it, but at least you’re involved in something you have true passion for.
So I saw you had your first art show (that Transitions show). Was that your first solo show?
Yeah that was my first solo show. I’ve been a part of other little group shows, but that was my main first solo show.
How did that come about?
There’s this gallery called New Image in LA and Marcia is the owner. I had a studio in Los Angeles when I first got back and I set up this space. It was sort of a concept space for me and just a trial thing to bring a lot of people together from skaters to photographers, to artists and designers, directors, architects - I mean all these different people in one space and I wanted to encourage creativity. There was a big 20ft wall with supplies and it was a non-stop changing graffiti wall. So anybody that came I encouraged them to paint, interact with each other, have a good time and then my work was being created there and displayed there as well and people came and saw that and asked me to do the show, and that’s how it happened. Also for me art is an extension of skateboarding and they just complement each other kind of you know? I had some injuries over the years, and art had always been a part of my life, I’d be into graffiti as a teenager and all that, but I didn’t even know that that was art. At the time it was just graffiti for me. I didn’t like art but I liked graffiti you know? Then as I got older I realised that it was art and then the progression kept going, going… I forgot where I was going to go with that.
Are you planning to do more in the future then?
Oh I was going to say I had an injury and that forced me to have another outlet of creativity, like what skateboarding has been for me all these years. So I put my passion into art. I was in Paris and I tore my ACL and it took me out hardcore. It was traumatising man. I was in bed for like a month just recovering from it and that is something I can’t deal with. I can’t sit still and not be self-sufficient and go and run down the street and jump off stairs and all these things. It was a pretty depressing time period in my life, so I had to find something to put this frustration into, and art was the thing that took the lead for that. And for sure I love it and I’m passionate about it, and I’ve gotten a pretty good response for the things that I’m doing. It started as one thing and I kept doing it in repetition over and over and over again and it keeps progressing and going into different realms, and I could just see the infinite potential of the things that I could create and the things that I can do with it. And then finding ways to connect it to skateboarding and tie it in and the Transitions show was obviously a representation of that.
You know making the transitions in life, from skating your whole life to trying new and different things, the transition of all these different girlfriends, style and just everything. And then the transitional aspect of just flowing, I like the idea of flowing through life, and transition always has this curve to it. That led to me building this thing in the middle of the show, like this structure, kind of like an obelisk or a monolith that had transitions. And so that really sparked me into this idea of making skateable sculptures, something that can live in a museum environment, and can look totally architecturally stimulating to a non-skateboarder but skater are gonna be like “this is dope, we can skate it". I was always fascinated by that because how often does that occur naturally without the artist even knowing it, half of them have died and never seen their objects used in this way, so that was always cool to me. Going to Barcelona and all these surrealist artists were designing this architecture without skateboarding ever in their head, without even knowing what skateboarding was you know? So they were thinking in motion and flowing, their mind was flowing so that was why they built these objects, and I like bringing motion to an inanimate object, and also participation with a sculpture which is very rare. So I really like that idea and I think I’m going to keep going forward with that.
[part title="Muska interview part 2"]
Is this a creative outlet, or a new career for you?
Just like anything I’ve ever done in life, I do it ‘cause I love to do it. If money or a career leads from that then that’s just a bonus. I never skateboarded because I want to go make money out of skateboarding. Money didn’t exist when I started skateboarding; Transworld was like ten pages. All my teachers and everybody was just like “why are you skateboarding? It sucks. Get a real life". Money doesn’t govern my life ever, my passion governs my life. I’m just lucky enough that the passion has turned into things that support me. The art that I create can be applied to the skateboarding products, whether it’s decks or t-shirt graphics or colour schemes or patterns that exist on shoes and stuff like that. So they all feed off each other and inspire each other so that’s a good thing about it to, I don’t think one necessarily takes away from the other. Sometimes you can focus less on one thing than another to do that one thing the best you can do it, so maybe I won’t be skating as much during that time period, but it will always come back full circle because skateboarding is the backbone of everything, without that I would have nothing. So skateboarding is my life.
You’ve been quite influential on your board, in terms of progression. How do you feel about the state of things now? What with Street league etc?
Skateboarding has gone from something that was us, a family, an industry that was controlled by skateboarders to something a lot bigger. Now corporations have come into it and that’s what has changed it. You can look at skateboarding and go “there’s Street League and shit, the X-Games, the Dew tours, the Red Bulls and the Monsters" and whatever the hell other shit. All that shit to me is bullshit and it’s not skateboarding and it’s not the way it should be represented, because all the reasons those companies are in skateboarding go against the reasons I started skateboarding. To me with in skateboarding there never should be a winner, there should never be a guy on a pedestal holding up a gold thing going: “I’m the winner, I’m better than this guy" and the other guy is so sad cause he got third place. What the fuck is that? This ain’t the Olympics - this is skateboarding.
(Street League is like) How many tricks can you do perfect in a row, and skaters are looking at the score before they roll away. That’s not skateboarding to me. But if that is what it takes for mainstream America to identify with it and open their minds up to skateboarding then at least we know that things like Southbank can still exist. You can go to Southbank and see little kids having fun and not giving a shit, they are on the personal challenge between them and the skateboard obstacle that is presented to them. That is going to exist no matter how big all this [Street league etc] gets. As long as Southbank exists I’m cool with all this other stuff happening. It just sucks that with generation after generation of that stuff being on TV and living in the streets and its grittiness are not being represented. The whole industry is going to become this mainstream thing, which is scary to me because I don't want to see skateboarding like that. I don't care if you ride down the street and you can't ollie, as long as you're having fun that's skateboarding. Kids shouldn't make another kid feel bad because they can't heelflip, and you see that starting to happen more and more. Skateboarding should be a source of self-expression and freedom, and I want to see that aspect always remain and be the main thing associated with skateboarding.
I read a quote from Skin Philips saying that you are perhaps the most marketable skateboarder ever. Is that a conscious decision - to present yourself in this way?
No way, I just do what I do. That being said I'm obviously a businessman, I'm not stupid. I don't chase money, but money makes things easier in life, and allows me to realise my dreams and achieve my goals. I guess I'm aware of how I'm marketed, and I was always hands on since I was sixteen, from the first time someone was like "hey we are gonna put your name on a board" I wasn’t going to sit back and let them put some cartoon crazy weird shit on there and do whatever. Some boards popped up that they just did, but for the most part I tried to control how my image was marketed so that I was proud of it and comfortable with it. There have definitely been some wacky moments over the years though, and there will probably be more...
I'm also into fashion and design, and fashion is all about new seasons, creating ideas and supporting them and celebrating it. Everyone looks back on their fashion and thinks: "That's crazy", I look back at myself and laugh all the time, and I'm sure with what I'm wearing right now I'll look back and laugh at some point. But it's mainly about having fun and enjoying life, and that's all I have ever been about.
I was of the generation that ran the rolled up shell pants…
Yeah, it's coming back let me tell you. The 90's are here! It's all about the 90's!
You mentioned fashion just then, are you still exploring that with Supra and Krew?
I'm no longer with Krew. We were on different creative paths and I wasn't really feeling it anymore, so we kind of parted ways. There was some underground politics involved. So Supra is my main focus right now. I'm sort of in a re-birth situation right now. I think you see that a lot in the industry now. A lot of pros have gotten older and are starting to analyse the state of the industry. That's why they start new companies and do new things, to help put their foot back in and show corporate America it can't control everything here. I'm stoked for people like Dill and Brian Anderson who are starting their companies. And then Greco and Ellington are still doing their own thing. That inspires me; I want to do something for sure. I always knew I was going to do it, I know a lot about business and I know the amount of work that it takes to do it, so I've been patiently waiting for the right time, but I know when I do it I'm going to have to put a lot into it. But time is ticking right now, I'm not getting any younger, and the time is now. Throughout the years I've always liked building teams and finding kids that are rad. So many have amazing abilities and personalities... What is a pro skateboarder? Somebody that can come to a spot, talk to the kids, hype them up, influence them in a positive way, send them home happy and make them want to skate more. Being pro isn't about nollie nosegrinding a fifty-stair handrail - that can get boring. Don't get me wrong I love progression in skateboarding, when I was growing up seeing people like Gator, wait maybe I shouldn't reference Gator (laughs). But people like Hosoi and Neil Blender, guys like that were rad, you saw them and felt their vibe, guys like Gonz and Natas were such shining individuals to me and that's what a pro skateboarder is to me. So I would like to find kids like that, find somebody who has a cool story, doing what they love to do and have the potential to make a living out of it you know?
Who are some of your favourite up-and-comers right now?
I can't even pick any anymore. As far as good kids go, there are just too many and I feel like I've been disconnected from the industry. I don't really look at magazines or watch videos anymore. I can't remember the last video I saw... Actually I just watched that Nyjah part the other day and that was crazy! Seeing him go from being the little 9 year old kid on Element to become this incredible skateboarder has been great. When he came back after disappearing, I was like " I knew it!" I wanted to put him on Supra, and everyone was like "I don't know, he's kind of a contest skater" and I said "trust me I've been on the streets with this guy, he's fucking amazing". But at the same time Nyjah is not the biggest "personality" you know what I mean? There's nothing bad about him though. In fact he's pretty much the best skater out right now, I don't know who the fuck else is on his level. Other than Nyjah I also like Keelan Dadd. I like people who have some sort of random flare about them. But I've seen so many parts where I've been like "holy shit these guys are crazy". Everyone's doing insane stuff these days.
[part title="Muska interview part 3"]
You lived in New York for a while. What prompted the move from LA to New York?
I’ve always been back and forth over the years. About 12 years ago I moved out there for 4 years, I’ve always had a strong connection with that city. My ex-girlfriend moved from LA to New York, so I moved out there with her, but we broke up so I moved back. Then I got a new girlfriend who also moved out to New York so I moved out there again for a while. Then we broke up and I moved back to LA. It’s a cycle I like to repeat. Really just the energy of the city brought me out there. I’d spent a lot of time in LA and I felt at the time it wasn’t bringing anything else out of me, and I felt at the time I had done everything that I could do. I like change; I’ve been moving my whole life. When I was living in LA I was travelling the world the whole time, I’ve almost never lived in one place. Even as a kid my parents would have me moving house all the time. It's a hard habit to break... I love the energy of New York, I like not having to drive, I like going outside and being stimulated by all this creativity. I like city’s that attract creative people, and London is definitely one of those cities as well. Where there are artists, musicians, skaters, photographers, directors, all these different people create an energy that you can just feed off. That was my main driver for moving to New York, but then business and the universe ripped me back to LA again. I mean I own a house there and Supra’s there. I have a store with Angel my Supra partner. So when I went to New York with my girl, I had to be like: ‘Fuck it’ and I left a lot behind. The problem is that I’m the sort of person who won't deal with what's not in front of my face, so I left a lot behind there. That's why when I went back to LA for two weeks to just to catch up, those two weeks turned into 2 years. I realised I had a lot of things to catch up on, like reconnecting with Supra and trying to connect all these products and art to the brand again.
What’s your store called?
Is it mainly clothing?
It’s mainly Supra, some vintage stuff and some eyewear, but it’s mainly shoes. It’s on Fairfax a little bit down from the ‘street wear’ block where Supreme is.
Where’s better for skating? LA or New York?
That’s a hard one. Spot wise LA is probably better. For being out and being stimulated? New York probably. I enjoy just skating down the street more than the best spot in LA, I just like skating the streets and getting hyped, it’s kind of a toss up in different ways
Looking back over your skate career, what’s been your favourite part?
My favourite part was when I was homeless on the beach, skating for Maple and I had no idea any of this was possible. I was dead broke, I was homeless and I was just going for it. I left everything behind and just went for it with no idea what was going to happen. It was scary but at the same time it was still the best; it was so innocent. I mean there have been multiple eras and each has been the best in their own way. The Toy Machine days with Jaime and Ed, were also a really fun time. But the biggest legacy part was probably the Shorty’s years. They probably had the biggest impact. My formative years were the coolest because they made me who I am today. Without all the nothingness I think I wouldn’t be able to appreciate what I have now.
Sam Ashley: Do you ever stay in touch with any of the Shorty’s guys?
We do stay in touch. But not kind of like on a weekly basis sort of thing. We’ve been through so much over the years that we'll have a lasting bond forever. I heard Lil’ B is in jail, I don’t exactly no what for, but I heard that recently. I was kicking it with Steve Olson the other day, maybe about three months ago. He’s like full rapper now [Laughs]. Look him up on Facebook he’s the ‘Crazy Monk’ and he’s real spiritual and uplifting conscious kind of Rap. He was on this tour with him as like the rapper, another political activist speaker guy who speaks on conspiracies of governments, and a third guy who was a Yoga instructor. They came and stayed at my house when they were on this 3-man tour. It was quite an experience...
Are you still in contact with Ed Templeton?
We talk all the time randomly and through Instagram, he posts some old photos of me and stuff. Ed made a super gnarly impression on me. Even before I met him I loved Ed, I looked up to him a lot. I was homeless and he hooked me up through Toy Machine, and I ended up moving on to his and Deanna’s couch. That was funny I think I just tortured them for a few months... Those are good memories. I think I was like a science project for them. Some sixteen year old kid coming home wasted and being like "AGGGGHHHH" and them just staring at me. I was trying to cook chicken in their house and stuff and they would be freaking out.
What’s next for you?
Just the continuation of life you know? Just to be able to create these products. Eventually I really really want to start my own thing, it will be a multiple product thing, from boards to clothing but not shoes - I’ll stick to Supra. I just want to create art, keep skateboarding, designing footwear and making things, having visions in my head and wanting to manifest them into reality and not being scared to follow through with ideas. Just doing it, that’s what I plan on doing.