Interview: Jan. Portrait: NikwenIs this a high-level down-shifting: Lem Villemin leaving Chocolate to ride for Cliché? After tearing his ACL the styler from Stuttgart, Germany has turned his back on the shark-tank of L.A. and instead opting to commit himself to his new-found love, Lyon. A decision of the heart and of new challenges. A predestined turn of events? Who could fit the prize-winning team of Frenchies with ambitions of worldwide skate domination better than an exceptionally gifted German with Vietnamese roots, who mingles with world-class footballers and NBA stars on TV!? He’s even got a French last name! In good humour Cliché’s latest chosen one talks about his return to the comfort zone.
Lem, I’m reaching you on a Cliché Cali tour in the USA. What time is it over there and what’s the plan for the day?
Well… I just got up and handled the morning routine of “Kaffee, Kippe (ciggy), Kickflip”! It is 12:09 now.
I see you’re still a late riser!
Not really. Actually, I’ve been trying to make 10:00 my limit. But I like to stay in bed and just lie there for a good while… until 10:30 maybe, since by 11:00 we’re usually out of the door to go skate somewhere.
Was your “First Try Friday’s” clip crucial in changing your ways?
Ahh, man… no! I’m on a proper tour here, we have set times and schedules. I’m with other people here and want to integrate well. You can’t just sleep in and kick it. Being the last one in the morning and having everyone else waiting sucks! I really try to avoid that on tour. One time too many and you’re at risk of getting shit forever!
How are things working out for you then being on Cliché? Do you see a lot of differences to Chocolate?
Well, I spend a lot more time skating together with the guys on Cliché. I know them better, they’re closer to me. Also, what I’m getting back is different. I feel treasured. I don’t feel like having to prove myself constantly. I can see myself in Cliché’s ways much better.
Nollie back heel. Ph: Nikwen.Just a more chill gut feeling then? Do you feel less pressured?
Yeah. But hey, I’m really having trouble talking to you about the differences. At the end of the day we film for videos and skate together just as well.
But it is fair to say: On Chocolate you were one European amongst a bunch of Yanks. On Cliché you’re more high profile, wouldn’t you agree? Or am I getting on your nerves asking this?
I’d prefer not talking about this really. Still I know, it’s what people are interested in…
Well, to me Chocolate feels like some type of family company – like Cliché too. Both companies have a lot in common. Just one is an American version, the other is Euro-style. Both have sick graphics, a team of stylers and good aesthetics. It’s just that you now chose to go with the Euro dudes… Do you see any differences in being on the road with Yanks compared to Europeans.
It’s pretty similar – you sit in the car a lot and you get busted! But just the feeling I get from skating with these guys is much better. We get along really well and tend to like skating the same spots…
That’s what I thought too. There is J.B., Lucas, Espinoza… and now you. All a bunch of super gifted tech-stylers. Are Cliché aiming for the supreme style brigade?
For sure. Especially Espinoza… he’s one of those guys who are not even trying… he’s just doing what he wants. If he’d really go all-out, he could do even more.
Ha, I know someone that’s just like that!
Switch heel. Ph: Nikwen.Haha, yeah man! For sure you’re up there too! I think it’s not too far fetched to say that.
Oh man… well, just to end this, I just want to say: we’re having a lot of fun here and it is such a pleasure to skate with these dudes. Especially with Lucas, it’s a true delight.
I think it shows in the footage you have skating together.
You know, I still really like Chocolate but I just reached a point where I was looking for a new challenge, maybe even needed it.
Yeah, I think it suits you well. To achieve the same status over at Chocolate, you would have had to give much more. And I don’t think you’re the type of guy to really elbow your way to the top, or to invest blood, sweat and tears for the craziest tricks to out-do others. You’re just doing you’re thing, quietly ripping. And if that’s valued, like it seems Cliché is doing, so much the better.
More so, it pretty much came by coincidence that I ended up riding for them and the whole process took ages.
Well, it started when Lucas – more jokingly – wrote a mail to Jérémie, suggesting he should put me on the team. “Yeah, right!” He answered. But somehow we kept talking about it for the following month. In the end they wanted to wait to see what Chocolate’s plans were, so as not to piss anyone off. Then finally it was my time to make the change.
Parting as friends, as they say…
I guess, yeah. However I wouldn’t say I’m good friends with all the Chocolate dudes, it’s not like we were chilling all the time. After all, I’m not living in L.A.… Keeping in contact is not too easy!
Back tail. Ph: Daniel Wagner.
And now you’re on a Euro company and still back in the US! Pretty strange too, isn’t it?
Yet, this is something else. I feel more at home now and more connected to the people I’m with.
Did you have to go through any initiation rituals getting on Cliché? Did you have to eat French black pudding with Jérémie or anything?
Well, we did go and eat some really smelly cheese… but I didn’t touch that!
Right in the beginning I went and visited Lyon for ten days; a chance to have a look and get my own impression of everything. They showed me around and I got to see so much of the city. It’s truly amazing, I love Lyon! Cliché have a nice little apartment on top of their office now, somewhere all the riders can stay.
So the days of the infamous “Le Squat” are finally over, yeah? That’s the flat everyone used to stay at before. Not too close to the office either and pretty run down… Pontus used to live there in “Le Box”, his room without windows. The toilet had a curtain instead of a door and was right across from where the living room was. But we did have some proper good times there!
Yeah, Lucas was talking about that. But that’s just one more thing I really love about Cliché, it’s strictly skating! No acting a diva, everyone’s the same. No, “let’s get a five star hotel!”
We all squeeze in one car and sleep at Motel Six… from last night until now we didn’t have electricity! No lights, nothing!
Is there anything about the Frenchies or Lyon that really stood out for you?
The French are not as mean as everyone keeps saying – at least that goes for Lyon. Everyone was super friendly, open and helpful… Plus they have really beautiful women! Really, really, extremely beautiful women! In fact that has been my master plan: get on Cliché, go to Lyon, meet a terribly gorgeous French girl and marry her.
Live the life of Riley or as we say in Germany, like God in France! What’s your favourite spot in Lyon?
Maybe Hotel de Ville ten years ago. For sure it would have to be some local spot.
And the best food?
Quiche Lorraine… Jascha (Muller, Adidas TM) showed it to me, haha.
Nollie heel. Ph: NikwenNice! I can’t help but notice, Lem, in comparison to our conversation for your last interview (KP66) you sound a lot more happy. Is that safe to say?
Yeah, I would agree. I’ve settled down a fair bit. I really enjoy being at home, with my loved ones. This is really important sometimes. You can’t just constantly keep travelling and skating. It’s the perfect mix now. I won’t be going to the States as much as I used to. What’s better than riding for a European company that is really present in the US?! It’s the happy medium.
While trying to get through to you via twitter, I stumbled upon a few of Lucas’ Instagram posts, where he was referring to you as “The Golden Child”. Is that your new nickname in Lyon?
No, not really… From Lucas I get called “Thai Boy” sometimes…
But do you know the movie “The Golden Child”? Eddie Murphy’s quest is to find the chosen one, that is predestined to save the world. No connection to you, you say?
Hmm… I think I’ve heard of the movie before… but I’m not trying to save anything.
Maybe you can save the German skate market for Cliché and you guys will run things. Or you could save style in skateboarding…
Oh, I don’t know. I just hope I can be helpful to those guys, because they’re helping me out too.
Okay, enough of that… did you have a look at the new Place mag yet? It features a sick interview with your old mate Glenn (Michelfelder). He was the first to really start the Lem hype when you guys still were so small, he wouldn’t quit raving over this new ripping kid in town (Stuttgart) who was so unbelievably good. I think later you were even staying at his parents place for some time… Are you guys still hanging out together?
Well, not as much as we used to. Glenn goes to university and his life is revolving around other things. We see each other out skating maybe two or three times a week. He’s moved out from his parents and is now living about five minutes from my place. We both live pretty close to the skate plaza, and that’s usually where we meet these days. Sometimes we go out on photo missions with Daniel (Wagner). It’s not exactly as it used to be, but we still share a lot of mutual friends and Stuttgart is not that big, so we bump into each other a lot. I spend the most time with Torsten (Frank, filmer), Phil Anderson – my roommate – and the Smile crew.
Nollie flip. Ph: Daniel Wagner.
Speaking of smiling… there wasn’t too much reason for you to smile lately, right? I’ve heard you’re not in the best shape; that you were thinking about leaving the tour early. What’s wrong?
No, I’m ok. It’s just I twisted my ankle in the first ten minutes of skating over here. Two weeks ago I twisted the same foot so I couldn’t really skate too much during the first few days. I’m getting a bit better now. I’m clenching my teeth. Switch tricks are okay but I still have to be careful. Originally the plan was to go and skate Tampa but I cancelled that, and that’s why I wanted to leave early. In the meantime Adidas called me up to do a shoot in Chicago for Derrick Rose, an NBA player for the Bulls, who got MVP last season. They want some skateboarders in there, so Lucas, Benny (Fairfax) Pete (Eldridge) and I will fly over. After that I’ll head home in early December.
Will that be something like that “all in” campaign they did? I thought that was pretty sick. You in the same spot as Lionel Messi! That’s killer!
Yeah, it will be something of that ilk. First I didn’t even realize what dimensions that had, that it was for an ad that is viewed globally by so many people. That was a crazy surprise.
But your foot will be all right?
Well, I’m not exactly sure. I’ll have to wait and see. It’s been giving me trouble for quite some time. It would probably be best to just chill for a month straight, to give it a rest; ride my bike a lot or something – anything but another tweak.
And are you going to do that? Not too likely, is it?
Well, once I’m back in Germany it’ll be cold for a fair while… right now, my foot is doing okay, but I know I’m going to tweak it again, it just keeps happening.
Didn’t you get the right connections for doctors after your heavy knee injury last year? I even heard, Adidas hooked you up with the health and fitness team of VFB Stuttgart football club for rehab.
It’s just a regular doctor for my foot, but they have good specialists too. But true, for my knee I got a treatment at VFB for four months. The way they take care of you is unrivalled, and they did an amazing job on my knee. It’s perfect now. However, whether all skaters have to be as fit as they get you there, is another kettle of fish. To me it was insane. Never in my life have I trained so hard before! For once I really felt like a proper sportsman!
Hahaha… fantastic, Lem. Those words out of your mouth! A perfect way to end this. Thanks a lot for taking the time. All the best for the coming month and a good time in Cali.
Thank you guys! See you out there.Lem is supported by Cliché, Adidas, Thunder, Nixon, Smile, Arrow & Beast Skateshop