Atlanta is different for me now, compared to what it was like skateboarding there growing up. When I started only 2 pros really existed in Atlanta. Fred Reeves was pro for G&S. Fred was and is the man for the record. Then, S.A.D. lived in Atlanta for a bit while he went to school. Andy Howell and the Underworld Element stuff were already done leaving a minimal impact. The rest of the skateboard world in California was so distant, like light years away distant. In the mid 90s Chris Head came to Atlanta and really made a heavy impact on the scene. That was the first time I remember being really excited about what was going on in Atlanta skateboarding. He built the old famous 40-yard spot; back before the term DIY park existed. He was a catalyst for the skate scene, personally assembling people who wanted to create something with Atlanta skateboarding. It was like no one realised before that point in time that you could make a video in Atlanta. He saw the potential to make skate videos in Atlanta, a city with unseen and untapped spots, and all sorts of new structures from the 1996 Olympics. I have to reiterate how unrelatable skateboarding out west was, the separation gave skateboarders in Atlanta a conducive setting to put all effort into our small scene, virtually suspending the outside skateboarding world. I think good scenes need that period of suspension in the beginning. People in Atlanta were proud to be in Atlanta; they knew the history, who was coming up, what was coming out, etc.
It was pretty tight knit. The downside was there was no vehicle for moving on in the skate world. If you got hooked up from a company you would be forever flow. People would go out west to California and improve their position with sponsors. Then they would move back and their boxes would magically shrink, or disappear altogether. It was all understood why, but pretty disheartening. Yet, ultimately, everyone wanted to stay in Atlanta. Even at the price of potentially never having your name on the bottom of a skateboard.
The next generation, which came in the mid 2000s, changed everything. As everyone now knows Grant Taylor is a natural wonder of the skateboard world and he broke the curse of becoming a pro in Atlanta. People like Justin Brock and Dan Plunkett moved in from surrounding states and made really successful careers as well. That was a pivotal time in Atlanta skateboarding. In a way those dudes paved the way for skating in Atlanta as far as getting coverage. The generation before had to work so hard for it, and then the younger kids no longer had to after Grant. I think people no longer had to be proud of Atlanta. It became more of an individual thing. People were from other places and not really anchored in Atlanta. The people in the limelight were all involved with their own projects, so you saw a steep drop off in Atlanta videos. Because people were so busy and going on big trips, they were getting most of their footage on their trips. So there is relatively no need to have filmers in Atlanta, anyway. That’s why you don’t see coverage of Atlanta very often now.
But, I see some younger kids exploring the city, making websites and new videos more about Atlanta again. It leaves me with a lot of optimism for Atlanta skateboarding.
Do you think Threads will inspire more Atlanta skaters to start filming and making their own vids?
I truly hope it will. Like I said, I have noticed that there are more kids out in Atlanta filming. I hope to show kids that there is value to making skate videos. I sense that becoming important again in Atlanta. I think it will pick up substantially within the next three years.
I saw a few people riding Palace boards in Threads. Are you guys up on what the European brands are doing and/or are you influenced by what they are doing? Any brands in particular?
Yes, I do follow quite a few of the European brands. I am a long time fan of the British skating especially. I used to be really stoked on the UK mags when I could find them occasionally at Barnes and Noble. When I saw Waiting for the World, I was really hooked. I am actually more into what I see coming from Europe now, than most stuff from over here. I certainly rode some Palace boards during Threads, and I am indeed a fan of what Palace is doing right now. I dig the unique approach they are taking on their products, and I’m really stoked on their voice and their inclination to criticise what’s going on throughout skateboarding. I have been asked if the Palace video style has influenced me several times, and I imagine that’s largely due to the hi8 usage. However, their style is not something I have tried to pull from, what they do is really unique and has become their branding to a large capacity. Palace is pretty big over here: I have been skating in some rough neighbourhoods in Atlanta and had people recognise Palace. I had a thugged out guy come grab my board when he saw the Palace logo and say: ”yeah…Palace is dope!” give me daps, and then just walk off. I am a fan of some of the other British brands, as well like Landscape, The National co, and The Harmony. Observing from a distance, I really connect with what is going on over there. I am most fond of how skateboarding was in my teens, namely the mid-nineties. I see some similarities, mostly a genuine connection and unified movement based on aesthetics above all else. I think that seems to be something popular to say and talk about as of recent, but I really feel that from a lot of what I get to see from the UK. I am also a big Magenta supporter. I have a lot admiration for what they are doing as well. It is ironic, many of my favourite skaters from the U.S. like: Jimmy Lannon, Carlos Young, and James Coleman are all supported by Magenta. So, in return, I am supporting Magenta to support the skating I dig in America. I am not influenced by the video style as much as what Magenta is doing regarding their voice and contribution to skateboarding. Promoting freethinking and showcasing more of the movement and base of aesthetics in skating first and foremost – I am really digging that. That is kind of the common denominator to what I am pulling from European skateboarding; I really hope to contribute to skateboarding in the same way. Watching what is going on over there really motivates me to try to make a tight-knit group and kind of build a bubble from what is stagnant here in the States.
Who are some other skate filmmakers that have influenced you?
I have been watching skate videos for so many years that so many impressions have been burned into my memory. It is really difficult to narrow it down and feel like I’m not excluding important contributions. I have the utmost respect for Fred Mortagne; it trips me out thinking of going from Menikmati, to Sorry, to Bon Appetit. That is incredible dynamic range. It’s really inspiring to see someone expand their work and mind so wide like that. I think Fred is really inventive and his contributions stand out in skate videos.
Dan Magee, certainly has been a huge source of influence, I think Lost and Found is arguably the greatest skate video from 2000 forward – beautiful look, developing the people in the videos so strongly, connecting music, just a real masterpiece.
The Real Non-fiction video was a really big influence on me. It was one of the first videos I ever bought, and unfortunately I traded it for Prime 5. I am not sure, but I heard Jim Thiebaud did most of the editing, and its really outstanding. It catches the crux of the mid nineties metropolis skateboarding in SF and NYC in just a really raw, but still clean and unique way. I was so hyped on the continuity of the editing, as with Drake Jones’ tre flips. I loved that so much that I borrowed that one a few times over the years. Just an amazing video, the text and art direction is so fitting.
Dan Wolfe certainly changed skate videos. The Ipath promo is as close to understated perfection as you can probably ever hope for. Also, the 411 Europe 1995 video he did is one of my all time favourites.
I think without Josh Stewart, the independent video would be further along the endangered species list than it already is. I think he has created a great model for upcoming filmers to go by. I feel like the Static series is the most respected independent work in skateboarding history, and rightfully so.
Probably, the most influential video to me is Stereo’s A Visual Sound. It was a culmination of just the right place at the right time with the right people. I feel like this video probably had a huge influence on a lot of the other videos and video makers I have been influenced by. Mike Daher and young Matt Rodriguez still blows my mind. I think I will still be excited to watch this in my seventies. I have reached a point where I want to push across my unique and original expression, but this video has definitely shaped how I make videos today.
I was really into the Ty Evans era of Transworld: Feedback, Modus Operandi, and i.e. especially.
I really admire Doug Korfhagen from Cincinnati. You would be hard pressed to find a more original approach to skate videos, and Cincinnati is really aesthetically interesting in footage.
I also want to say that in my opinion, Joe Perrin is one of the greatest and I would say most underrated video makers of all time. Everything I spoke of the European brands doing with developing a consistent feel and developing their team like characters, Joe Perrin has done extraordinarily as well. I am a huge fan of video series, keeping a consistent cast, and being able to see all those people develop over time. He develops and shows the strength of his group, so well. I relate to what he does more than any other skate video makers. I want to make videos that are really about the video as a whole, and make you want to watch the entire video every time. He has an incredible ability to show personality and depth to everyone in his videos. The Good Life flows so well, plus it starts and ends so well, which I think has a tremendous impact on the whole video. The way Jimmy’s part starts out intensely with the group home song, and then Ryan Nix ending on such an optimistic tone with Jimmy Cliff… It is incredible. If you’re not familiar with Joe Perrin’s work, you have a lot to look forward to.What do you do to make ends meet? 9-5 job?
I just quit my job and moved to southern California in August, but before that I worked in a personal injury law firm as a law clerk for the past seven years. I could tell crazy stories for a week about it. It was really intense work at first: 12-hour days and no weekends off. Suffice to say, I did not skate very much. That lasted for a few years, slowly I moved up, making more money and working fewer hours. My job description was ludicrous, I would be sent to do impossible tasks daily. I would get sent two hours out of the city to some rough little town in southern Georgia in the middle of the night to try and get someone to sign a contract for my firm to represent them. Uncomfortable situations primarily occurring, after something terrible had happened to them or their family. For instance, someone who had just had their father crushed under a concrete truck that was improperly operated, really terrible things of that nature. I was introduced to a rawness I was previously oblivious to. I’ve seen some nasty stuff, babies using Vicodin bottles for a rattle, houses with plywood for a door, no furniture just a Xbox and TV, and I met some unique characters as well such as a client who was injured by an angry transvestite aggravated by denied solicitation, pinning our client against a tree with a Dodge Charger. By my desk was a little tiny all white air max 90 shoe, one that would fit a 5 or 6 year old, they were so pristine and clean except for black streak across the heel, that mark was from a school bus that ran over the child’s leg. Just gnarly stuff like that was always present and in your face. It is really ironic: the idea of private property and liability is something so terrible for skateboarding and against my beliefs. But, it was my livelihood. Oddly enough, it was kind of conducive to making skate videos for me. I think most skateboarders and filmers who put their lives into skateboarding consider themselves artists, and an artist needs to have a strong inner identity to express their thoughts. A lot of regular jobs take that identity away, if you were John Smith the artist, regular job makes you John S. sales associate, or John customer service rep. since 2012. Doing what I did prevented me from being absorbed by normality. And it allowed me to still be isolated from the real world. I owe a lot of spots I found to that job, as well.What’s next? Any new plans for more projects?
I just moved to southern California, it is still crazy to me. This is a place I never envisioned living in. My fiancé used to live out here and she always wanted to move back here, so we thought it might be a catalyst to begin a new chapter in our lives, work on things outside of skateboarding. But, that has not been the case; I have already begun working on two new videos. I only knew one person out here, my old friend, Chris Thiessen. Ironically, he is now doing all the TWS videos and so I went out skating some with him when I first moved out. He got excited at the prospect of doing a VX video after I showed him Threads, and he sort of proposed the idea. I was equally excited and so we are beginning that now. It is in the infancy stages, but we have a pretty strong vision of what we want to do with it. We want to focus on a small cast: Brad Cromer, David Clark, and Jimmy Lannon. Additionally, we are going to have a few more people tying the video together, so far we have James Coleman, Taylor Nawrocki, and Danny Renaud.
I am also working on another video with Alex Rose. It will be a similar cast to Threads. It will focus more on individual personality and influences of the people with full parts. It will be a video with the emphasis on individual parts. It is a chance for me to take on a new role making videos; I am going to do most of the art direction and general conceptualising. I am also hoping to do more skating myself for this video. I wish I would have been able to do that a little more years ago, but I am excited to skate now all the same. I was afraid I would dislike skating here, but I am actually pretty inspired with the spots here. I think coming from a different type of skating, I see a new type of potential with the spots here in So Cal. I see so much stuff that is untouched, it’s exciting to have so many ideas to look forward to with skateboarding.Thanks Matt. Good luck out there!