Posts Tagged ‘Alien Workshop’

Bring Hither the Fatted Calf and Kill It

February 13, 2016

how_now_apocalypse_now_cow

As the blind oracles foretold, Lennie Kirk is proving to be the guiding touchstone for skateboarding in 2016, with his devotion to hammer-handy fish multiplier Jesus Christ’s ’33 resuscitation and Lennie Kirk’s own unlikely rise from beneath that Pac-Bell van foreshadowing the timely return of top-shelf talents to the turbulent and beery pool that is skating in 2016.

Paul Rodriguez, he of the multi-sponsor fitted and long-distance switch 360 flips, already rolled away the stone and commanded the grave-cloths removed from the pro career of French double-flip enthusiast Bastien Salabanzi. With the Christian season of Lent upon us, Paul Rodriguez would play at the Lazarus legend again, this time bringing out onetime fellow City Star Devine Calloway for what by some poorly considered blog webpages’ count would be his third go-round with the skate biz, after his initial City Star twinkle, his Chocolate grown-up resurfacing some years later and post-‘Pretty Sweet’ bonus footage low profile. Nothing’s changed, it would seem, and besides his apparently mostly successful kicking of a costly New Era habit, he could’ve popped out the fakie flip 5-0 and that Crisco-smooth bigspin immediately following his still-impressive TWS part nearly a decade back.

Days later on the other coast, long-lost Tompkins wunderkind Yaje Popson officially moved his 64-Crayola wardrobe into Alien Workshop’s radiation-proof geodesic dome, itself recently restored to life via Rob Dyrdek’s Street League and television show dollarydoos. Despite what sounded like dual knee injuries, a somewhat dispiriting parting of ways with the Crailtap camp amid the heightened and heated ‘Pretty Sweet’ filming campaign, and the bucolic pleasures of small-city life in Brazil, Yaje Popson’s tricks remain super on point (switch backside smith grind, that pyramid ledge trick) and as suited as any to the worthwhile project that is refurbishing the Sovereign Sect, though maybe a little bit less surprising than Devine Calloway’s rebound given last year’s Sk8Rats turn and how he plainly spoke of missing it all. A TWS interview promises heavier hitting yet to come.

The limited economic prospects, increasingly crowded competition for unique eyeballs and impressions, and ever-present risk cocktail of age and injury raises questions around the logic of gone-once pros and bros returning for further bites of the industry cherry. Yet return they do, from Tom Penny’s bleary trip back in ‘Sorry’ to Guy Mariano’s wristguarded tech triumph in ‘Fully Flared’, the Muska’s single-gloved victory lap with Element, Christian Hosoi’s post-prison bid adventures, Supreme’s Paulo Diaz exhumation, and the extended post-Shorty’s go-rounds enabled by Sk8Mafia. More curiouser may be how such prodigal sons typically not just are welcomed but cheered back — witness last year’s outpouring of support after Kevin Spanky Long’s return journey to Baker put him again astride a pro board and back in the proverbial van.

Is the skate sphere unique in its tolerance for such wilderness years, spent consuming substances, recovering from blown-out joints, pursuing alternate careers or raising families? In the parlance of major-league team sports, comebacks usually are intra-game affairs, with some allowance for those rare talents drawing sufficient investment to bide a season or more in physical therapy, but clawing one’s way back into the professional universe after years away seems a rarer feat still, whether fueled by Kenny Powers-level moxie or some other chemical reaction. But even with a decade or more off magazine pages, digital video discs and relevant social media mobile networks, it’s difficult to imagine an increasingly fragmented and nostalgia-shaped boarding industry turning its collective nose up if long-faded lords like Sean Sheffey, Alex Gall, Scott Kane, Mike Maldonado, Billy Valdes, Pat Channita, Tim O’Connor, Jon West, Ted de Gros, or Gideon Choi turned up with a video part approaching their respective primes and the gumption to keep at it.

Does skating’s willingness and seeming zeal to re-embrace its wandering prodigals flow from the same spiritual mountain spring that nurtures tendencies to stockpile decks skated beyond any reasonable use, pack grocery-store boxes full of even lean-year Transworlds, and scour Ebay auctions to expensively recapture some spark first kindled in a long-lost CCS catalogue? As skating is lassoed, saddled, broken and eventually led head-down and besequined into that great Olympic rodeo, replete with floodlights and sad clowns, will lapsed pros resurface more often or must all spare dollarydoos shower down upon the podium-bound few? Has the YouTube age made it harder or easier for pros to recatapult dormant careers? Is Brian Wenning at Love Park right now? Yall saw Jeremy Klein’s kickflip bench stall in the Greco movie right?

Ams Behaving Badly and The Struggle For Our Immortal Souls Dudes

January 9, 2016

lobstrosity

As the sleek and plush (if leased [and somehow less flavourful than the Honda Civics and cliff-bound Cadillacs of decades past]) Porsche that is skating’s motorvehicular avatar purrs into 2016, the dashbound is fruitlessly thumped again and again in a hapless bid to steady the jittery moral compass mounted somewhere south of the cracked rear view and fuzzy dice. Turmoil abounds. Tweenage inward heelflip lothario Baby Scumbag and self-styled switchstance deity Keelan Dadd stand accused of sexually exploiting a 12-year-old, drawing revulsion from all but their most loyal Instagram subscribers. Knox Godoy, that onetime Baker bidder for Billy Waldman status, assures Jenkem that a hybrid lifestyle of drug selling, professional chefing and knocking over the odd Wal-Greens is preferred over the comparatively stressful elements of pro-level boardsmanship. Elsewhere there is an uneasy peace to be made with contractually obligated energy-drink hoisting, ‘name’ pros openly endorsing Drake material and Thrasher ringing in this uncertain new year by dabbling in emoticons.

Polarization and its closely related national pasttime, the culture war, seem bound to lay hooks into the skating sphere as it embarks upon a bold age in which a pro can be sacked for too-loose poo talk, while Andy Roy, noted degenerate, holds forth as a wizened confidant and adviser. Mythmaking and condemnation continue their two-decade waltz* around a film meditation on trading HIV status and various assaults while Lenny Kirk admonishes snitches and trafficks in Biblical morality from behind bars:

“A lot of Americans don’t know these things. They’re too caught up with fake tits and butts, plastic surgery, gay sex, drugs, and how to get God out of America. Obsessed with themselves. The flesh. Perverted, influenced by bimbo hoes with twisted minds and famous because of pornos. America is heading to Hell yet they don’t think so. Some try to make it as if homosexuals are normal people but it’s a lie, a deception. You’re not born that way! Men move from viewing pornography to homosexuality, to rape, to incest and to pedophilia… from one glass of wine to abusive alcoholism and from smoking marijuana to crack cocaine.”

As skating’s graying corporate checkhandlers steer it toward an Olympic status and the balance sheet replenishing endorsement largesse to follow, skaters must determine whether they continue cheering bad guys. The general public already had split over Palace’s prodigal ‘old New York’er Shawn Powers’ art career, jacket game and skating generally, but the gulf widened this week upon digital unearthing of a clip in which Shawn Powers forcefully liberated several lobsters before sending several toward an untimely and preemptive broiling via wall.

Shawn Powers’ shock-and-awe campaign upon these semi-suspecting lobsters drew widespread shrugs and condemnation in turn within the skating sphere and without, amid calls for Palace to cease his sponsorship, police to jail him and aquatic beings across the region to rise up in moistened vengeance.

Skating of course already has had a long and fraught relationship with lobsters, mainly manifested through footwear color schemes. Lobsters, despite their cuddly appearance and gregarious ways, are among the most enigmatic and threatening invertebrates of the time. Long rumoured to possess the secrets of immortality, they will feast upon the flesh and carapaces of their own kind, spreading dangerous bacteria wherever they scuttle and threatening the toes and, indeed, the very souls of the unwary:

These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat…. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you. Leviticus 11:9, 12

Did Shawn Powers, possibly fresh off Chrome Ball Incident’s landmark Lennie Kirk post and a recent poll that voted God most likely to destroy humanity, simply seek to look out for immortal souls generally and avoid potential abominations by the best means possible? Would lobsters rather die briefly free on the pavement than live doomed behind glass? Dad-a-cham? Dum-a-chum? How does this clip not go in the next Bronze vid? What would Andy Roy do?

9. Brandon Nguyen – ‘Bunker Down’

December 23, 2015

The initial video clips heralding Alien Workshop’s stripped-down resurrection went long on ‘Memory Screen’ level image cryptology and edit-bay abrasion, which goes some way in explaining why October’s ‘Bunker Down’ reintroductory video, hewing closer to a more straight-ahead Habitat lane, came off kind of more ‘Time Code.’ Sect-worthy skating was offered up from Joey Guevara, Max Garson and particularly Brandon Nguyen, who could legitimately jockey for a T-Eddy themed around wallride prowess. He’s got a wild type of double wallride transfer in ‘Bunker Down’ and the most convincing pop out of one since Tom Taxpayer went in for Transworld, plus all types of dipped smith grinds, a whirligig frontside 360 and perhaps the year’s best Pupecki grind, back to forward.

Been There All The Time

October 24, 2015

backfromthedead2revue

“Too hard,” was the beleaguered takeaway from jurists deliberating for three weeks the fates of legal executives who oversaw one of the law world’s most breathtaking collapses, that of the once high-flying Dewey & LeBouf LLP, sunk in 2012 and soon accused of cooking various books. Juggling upwards of 150 criminal counts, saturated in deeply technical testimony and confounded by the volcanic, phlegmatic and difficult to follow rants of one Uncle Donald, jurors tossed towels after finding themselves unable to agree on dozens of counts, in a situation similar to a spandexed rollerblader being handed a Nike-branded pen and pad so as to formulate precision Street League contest scores at a championship stop where the lowly ranked are shipped off to toil in gaol for unhappy decades.

Deck-consuming purchasers this week shall don blindfolds and ponder their own misbalanced scales as Alien Workshop unveils ‘Bunker Down,’ the resuscitated Ohio conspiracy-and-equipment merchant’s first formal video offering since resurfacing toward the beginning of the year. In its way it is a precedent-setting case — whereas half-hearted stabs have been made toward rebooting once-lively board concerns such as ATM Click and Vision, and companies such as World Industries, Toy Machine and Plan B have staged comebacks after replacing much of the companies’ prior rosters, AWS’s amateur-powered reincarnation represents the first attempt at a complete slate-wiping reset without letting its name first marinate in some nostalgic purgatory, or a box-checking effort toward team rebuilding so as to market bargain-bin products.

Sovereign Sect disciples reared on grainy images of rural blight and zoomed in shots of creepy crawlies have been heartened by now-daily photos and video clips on the Workshop’s Instagram portal that show Mike Hill much in command of the company’s signature visuals, ensconced in an abandoned nuclear research facility of some description, bought by Dyrdek. Absent hanging onto (M)other’s founding fathers, rebuilding the team from scratch was a plan far smarter than resetting with knowed pros or amateurs, lured from establishment sponsors and bearing their own baggage. Promising returns already are seen in Joey Guevara’s hilltop to alley marauding, Brandon Nguyen’s wall scaling and Frankie Spears’ handrail riffage, before Miguel Valle’s reliable lens, boring through lesser-chewed crust inside Detroit, upstate NY and other locales various. These dudes’ skating smacks of AWS to varying degrees, not far off the spectrum mapped by the company’s post-‘Mindfield’ additions, and time has validated many of the company’s prior pluckings of lil-known am talent, from Pappalardo and Wenning to Taylor and Johnson.

That grand and fickle arbitror, the marketplace, will judge whether this steamlined and refreshed Alien Workshop will remain a prowess player upon board walls and social media feeds for the years ahead, but its trajectory bears close observation — roughly 2200 miles to the southwest there have been ominous rumblings within the Crailtap camp, which already has seen three high profile departures and enough recent, billowy smoke around the prospective ship-jumpings of decades-deep Girl stalwarts such as Eric Koston and Guy Mariano so as to reasonably presume some type of fire. With the careers of other gen-one Crailtappers in their autumn season and the intentions of the Altamont cash-injectors toward lesser-loved hardgoods operations unknowed, it seems fair to ponder the future of another upstart turned industry pillar whose influence has receded like so many 90s-pro hairlines.

Is a wholesale reboot of Girl doable or desirable when vested owners such as Mike Carroll and Rick Howard are still capable of justifying their pro model products and Cory Kennedy, among Girl’s latest-annointed pros, appears in the SOTY mix? If Girl’s flow program were mined for such a baseline reset would Antonio Durao’s thundersome switch 360 flips provide air cover for any and all other newcomers? Was Plan B’s ‘Tru, B,’ bereft of all legacy professionals save the unsinkable Pat Duffy, actually a ‘Bunker Down’-style reset in all but name? Should the Alien Workshop have held the bagpipe hymn in reserve for their comeback release, or will the opening chords of BIG’s ‘You’re Nobody’ replace those of ‘Little Ethnic Song’?

Tha Agony and Tha Ecstasy

May 31, 2015

TrillFam

For all the mumblings of Peter Pan syndrome and deferred adulthood attached to pro-level boarding careers and various man-amhoods, such pursuits are not built for the emotionally unhinged: Marking one’s day-to-day progress by recording hard-fought clips destined to be trimmed to a few seconds each and pasted into a Thrashermagazine.com web-video in a couple years’ time, clinging to fleeting victories during which a hammer is performed, landed and hand-on-death-lens marked, then past, perchance to plow through a 30-pack and next week try for another one. Anthony Van Engelen speaks of grappling with emotional voids after completing big video projects, and witness the deep valleys leading to an uncertain but undeniably triumphant peak in Jamie Thomas’ cold war with the not-long-for-this-world Clipper ledge.

Love/hate relations betwixt bros and boards are to be understood and forcibly massaged when circumstances demand. But what of those emotional snake-runs entangling teamriders and sponsors, which have taken to marketing themselves as families and brotherhoods? Chris Cole and his new Plan B family exhibited their unbridled giddiness upon his joining the ‘Tru’ Tank this month, cheesing and fist-pumping and committing various spelling transgressions as the onetime Zero heavyweight apparently shelved any plans to market decks on his own and instead chose to endorse monocoloured boards with skulls and guitars manufactured by another company.

It’s hard to imagine the Black Box camp not feeling some type of way after clicking on this clip, given Zero’s role plucking Chris Cole from the World camp and providing a hard-rocking hessian launchpad for the next dozen years of his career; to boot, Chris Cole just a year before seemed to identify with Paul Rodriguez’ abrupt flying of the Plan B coop as a cue to carve out one’s own deck-centric microbrand: “I think at some point Paul figured out it wasn’t about Plan B selling Paul Rodriguez skateboards anymore, it was about him selling Plan B, and that’s the point where you start to realize you could be doing something more.”

Any career-minded gnar merchant gathers a certain amount of lumps along the road, and Jamie Thomas like other pros-turned-entrepreneurs signed up for an extra helping by starting his own companies and seeing dudes he put on later pack up and leave. But Zero proved to be one of the relatively few sellers of skate goods to not only publicly acknowledge the departure of a team lynchpin in Chris Cole, but go so far as to post a brief retrospective video and wish him well.

Few others do — Brandon Westgate’s decision in April to join the Element family after seven years holding down the Zoo York family passed with little notice on Zoo York’s Instagram. Gino Iannucci’s Slap board-shaking jump to Fucking Awesome just shy of 19 years as a red block head drew nary an official peep from the Crailtap camp, though months later his former teammates can’t finish interviews without being asked about it. Whereas Mic-E Reyes headbutt sendoffs now rank as just another hallowed memory of 1990s realness and sour jpgs are a Web 1.0-ready if rarely utilized substitute, the default seems to have become an Orwellian electronic eraser applied to the team webpage, removal of the defector from relevant social media hype circles and moving on.

Like insurance and the signing of openly gay athletes, is skateboarding again in danger of being outpaced by major-league sports when it comes to acknowledging contributions from longstanding-but-departing riders? The Seattle Mariners deployed a warm statement of gratitude when outfielder Ichiro Suzuki bounced after more than a decade on the squad, and later publicly big upped him when he got his 4000th hit playing for the Yankees.

Besides agreed-upon stacks of legal tenders, what if anything do companies owe their independent contractors who toil atop handrails and within ditches in the name of endorsement deals? In Alien Workshop’s ultimately transient dissolution last year, some of the then-remaining abductees seem to have received no official word of the shutdown at all, much less any word of thanks:

Jake Johnson: It’s a strange one. Nobody said good bye. Mike Hill didn’t throw in the towel. It’s strange. It was on the internet.

Omar Salazar: I never spoke to anyone. No one ever called me, I’m just like, who is running this thing? They got rid of the only dude who I was talking to [Chad] who told me to stick around. And that’s how you get rid of people after all these years? I was bummed and then got hurt.. But no phonecall. No Rob Dyrdek phonecall… I mean jesus, who are you, man? I thought we were homies, bro [laughs]. Just kidding. Whatever.
…And I still haven’t got a paycheck like, oh, here you go, thanks for your time. Cause I could sure as hell use that for my medical bill right now. Thats all I gotta say about that.

Should the resurfaced Alien Workshop, now promoting a new tribe, offer some parting nod to the former pros who hung on til the bitter end? Did Rocco write the former sponsors of riders he stole publish thank-you notes, or rather did he demand such sponsors publicly acknowledge the service of their former riders for purposes of free promotion? Do digital thank-you notes count? What is the Instagram equivalent of a dismissal-by-headbutt?

Trisect

January 17, 2015

lobsterz

“Jim Jones,” intoned Cam’ron on the intro to his 2007 comeback release ‘Public Enemy #1.’ “That was my partner, that’s my friend. He ran with me over ten years, he deserves all the success he gets, he worked hard to get it. But what you all motherfuckers got to realize is ain’t nothing lasts forever.” The Harlem Wolf, as several resources have termed him, was responding to rumors of a private falling-out with Jim Jones amid a seemingly broader disintegration of the Diplomats, with Freaky Zeaky jailed, Juelz Santana pursuing blighted collaborations with Lil Wayne, Cam’ron sparring via his two-way with 50 Cent and Jim Jones innovating basketball influenced dance crazes.

Like many of Cam’ron’s escapades this one offered a lesson to the skateboard industry, if only it had been wise enough to listen. Not a year after Cam’ron described his internal feelings, Nike began selling the Red Lobster dunk (no relation to the restaurant) to rapturous acclaim from east coasters and crustaciophiles both. But it was not all gravy within the house of the lobster shoe, as a year later the competing Blue Lobster dunk (also no relation) surfaced, effectively dividing the market for footwear inspired by succulent shellfish and likely cannibalizing certain revenues. Just as the ancient clay tablets foretold, further fragmentation struck when Nike put forth a Yellow Lobster dunk (still no relation to the seafood restaurant enterprise), cementing division not as a passing phase but rather a permanent state of affairs for such shoes, and few have heard tell from them since.

Is an upstart Green Lobster shoe inevitable, or has the door been thrown wide for pretenders to the shellfish shoe throne such as the Crawfish dunk? Perhaps, but one wonders whether Jason Dill, AVE, Chris Carter, Mike Hill and Rob Dyrdek listened and/or learned from Cam’ron and his friends, where the lobster shoes so clearly did not. About 18 months since the first cracks appeared in the Sovereign Sect’s geodesic dome, it now appears to have splintered into three factions, each seemingly genetically superior and limitless by design. Yet in the torrid and dismembering flesh-chiseler that is the board-and-wheel biz, which if any will survive to issue a Bo Turner guest board? Boil the ocean internet site takes a bleary-eyed look.

Fucking Awesome
The Supreme-scented, occasionally active t-shirt project of Jason Dill was dusted off and promoted to a full-fledged deck and t-shirt entity following Dill and AVE’s joint Workshop defection in spring 2013, following a game of corporate hot potato with AWS as the overcooked stem tuber in question. FA Worldwide Entertainment, as it is known when parents, teachers or big-box friendly magazine writers are about, stole a march on rivals last year by commandeering much of the ‘Cherry’ runtime as well as its follow-ons, ‘Joyride’ and ‘Illegal Civilization 2.’
Special Moves: Bill Strobeck, DKNY, Vans money, comparisons to early World Industries, all those ams, Gino Iannucci somehow
Vulnerabilities: Key man risk in Jason Dill, already-sprawling team, potential for further dilution via alleged sister company ‘Hockey’

M(other)
Strip-teased via Gilbert Crockett’s Instagram account of all places, this supposed Alien offshoot flecks at Pentium-powered graphic design with plenty of woodgrain; said to be headed by former AWS business minds Chris Carter and Chad Bowers, this entity also seems to have effectively abducted the remainder of the post-FA Alien team, including Tyler Bledsoe, Gilbert Crockett and Jake Johnson.
Special Moves: The most-productive limbs of the Alien Workshop corpse, several of whom seem true believers in the vision out of Dayton; well-sized team to deliver a 15-minute optimum timeline video; clean slate
Vulnerabilities: Staking out distinct visual-arts real estate, Jake Johnson making good on his subliminal threats of quitting the biz, possible crosstown beef with…

Alien Workshop
In retrospect perhaps a no-brainer given its established brand value and the American dollars sunk into it on non-consecutive occasions by television persona Rob Dyrdek, Alien Workshop officially is in reboot mode, recently unveiling boards and shirts via a Habitat-esque Tum Yeto tie-up. The Slap boards have this effort helmed by Dyrdek, former G&S silkscreen necromancer Mike Hill and a TBA team that’s been alleged to potentially include everyone from former Alien flowee Paul Liliani to twice-named Cosmic Vomiter Rob/Bert Wooten to late-shove it hoister Lee Yankou and, er, Johnny Layton?
Special Moves: Those visuals, recognition amongst mall-shop purchasing bishops, a stout backcatalogue
Vulnerabilities: Rob Dyrdek’s thirst for recouping invested capital, some 13-plus size DC Lynx for any new inductees to fill, the evil banality of series graphics

In an already overgrown forest, can three yung shoots tap the life-sustaining sales nutrients and social-media followers required to sprout and grow in the shadow of a wilted giant? Are Heath Kirchart’s affections currently being vied for? Which among these newly anointed tribal leaders can look upon his erstwhile competitors and speak Cam’ron’s magnanimous words for Jim Jones: “I wish that man nothing but the best of luck and success and I hope he goes all the way to the motherufcking top and has a great career. Best of luck beloved.”

6. Jake Johnson – ‘Static 4’

December 26, 2014


While making Jake Johnson the marquee no-complier, wallrider and shove-it man on Polar may have been a concept terminal in its redundancy, it is enduringly awesome to see the dude apply his raw and wiry talent to the genre, birthed as much by Josh Stewart’s ‘Static’ series as anything else, and stretch it to gobsmacking distances. Jake Johnson’s line down the black bank etched itself into Alien Workshop’s apparent eulogy and in profile recalls those dudes surfing Portugal’s freak waves, while the now-famed frontside slappy down Clipper pops up with as little warning as the idea that anybody would try such a thing at that spot in the first place. The squalling guitars here are a serviceable Dinosaur Jr approximation and if there’s any knock at all on this footage it might be that there’s plenty more room for Jake Johnson to unbottle some of deep-web technical ability, like the fakie ollie to front blunt, but it is fabulous to watch him in this zone.

Where Are All the Vanity Board Team Owners?

September 30, 2014

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Loudly, the “Lego Movie” demonstrated how this earthy life is built upon deception and a series of injurious failures, with the slim chance of revolutionizing society or overthrowing a malevolent dictator baked in to stave off utter hopelessness. So it may also be in the boardgoods galaxy, where increasingly it would seem that proprietorship of a deck company is tantamount to some sort of Sisyphean trek in holey vulc-soles, or several pelvic fractures, or maybe just an unfulfilling relationship.

Alien Workshop owners Chris Carter and Mike Hill’s grab for the brass life-ring of corporate ownership devolved into a game of M&A hot potato that may have soured them on the business for life, Jake Johnson said in an interview the other day: “I don’t think these guys wanna do it anymore. I think that they’re pretty pissed off.” Smoothie king Andrew Reynolds, in a separate interview, described running Baker and its affiliates more like a labor of love: “I own some skateboard companies and there’s not that much money in it. I see the truth.” Pontus Alv, owner/operator of by all accounts one of the more successful board companies at the moment, sounds fatigued as he oscillates between evaluating Chinese factories and trying to hold down a pro career: “It’s a shit load of work plus trying to be a team manager, going on a tour, promoting the brand, trying to skate…. I try to work with other people but a lot of times I just end up doing it myself because I can and they don’t have the same vision as me.”

Boards have yet to devolve into unfashionable utilities. The hierarchy of professional image and personal branding dictates that deck sponsors provide meaningful direction that appears to matter to the moneyed international footwear conglomerates that riders require to pay various mortgages and car notes and things. Nike, Jamie Thomas says, helped shepherd Trevor Colden from Mystery to the swish-heavy pastures of Skate Mental, and conspiracy theory-minded observers will note that EU comer-upper Karsten Kleppan did a similar two-step from Lakai and Element in recent months.

So are board company owners doing it wrong? The argument has been made that owning professional sports teams should not be a profit-seeking venture, but rather a long-term luxury investment similar to a yacht or bankrolling a Ron Artest CD. Rather than paper dollar bill wads, rewards arrive in the form of grand intangibles and assorted life hammers such as the prestige that comes with fielding a championship team or sweatily mounting a Grammys stage to collect hard-won trophies for hit Ron Artest singles. Sports team owners enjoy earthly delights like fostering relevant cultural memes, cheering as your employees innovate new ways to involve animals in celebrations, and build in the lab with the Pandas’ Friend formerly known as Metta World Peace from time to time.

Former World Industries Chief Financial Officer Scott Drouillard, in a recent interview with Jenkem, described blindly speculating on Florida swampland as preferable to working for a skateboard company, and the rationale for selling out over a decade ago:

All of us had invested all of our wealth in this company, and there were three big factors. One, the overall economy and stock market was at a historic high, going off the scale. Two was our industry… Our industry was blowing up! And knowing it goes in cycles, about 10 year cycles, we knew we were really at the explosive peak of it. Lastly, is how we were managing the company. We were hitting home runs like 3 out of 4 times, and you can’t be expected to continue hitting home runs like that forever.

Viewed through such a lens, does this portray decades-deep boardsportsmen such as Tod Swank, Ed Templeton, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard as grinning sadomasochists? Does Steve Rocco, reclining on some Malibu beach, kick himself for not finagling a stake in the Big Brother-spawned Jackass franchise? Would there be more rap careers if board companies were backed by deep-pocketed benefactors? Would there be worse ones? Are Pat Pasquale and Nick Trapasso employing some Billy Beane-esque algorithm in building the Life Extention team, or only their video soundtracks?

Boil the Ocean Blog Website’s Ramble About Alien Workshop Closing Down

May 25, 2014

“Everyone is just totally winging it, all the time,” the Guardian smirkingly intoned this week, from Barack Obama on down, dudes are doing what they can in the moment to get by and talk the talk, if not necessarily walk the walk. “This realisation is alarming at first, but it’s ultimately deeply reassuring,” blogmeister Oliver Burkeman commentates as he posits the power-brokers of the world staggering from crisis to crisis and trying not to let us see them sweat.

Approaching a 20-stair handrail — never mind the gaggle of screaming girls marauding downtown Los Angeles* — Rob Dyrdek can’t buy himself a few seconds with which to make second guesses, by snugging down his beanie or flipping open his cellular telephone. He trusts his gut, charges it and rolls on to the next obstacle. In the skateboarding business Rob Dyrdek has gained renown as a master tactician and virile negotiator. To wit, eight months ago:

“The DNA Brands are in great hands,” said Rob Dyrdek who will continue as minority owner and team rider of DNA LLC. “Chad Foreman and Pacific Vector, together with the three founders, Chris Carter, Mike Hill and Joe Castrucci, have created the perfect partnership to grow and develop the DNA brands. With their combined expertise, talent, and drive, the possibilities are limitless.”

Limitless by design, even. Yet, there are financial tiger traps and jackal-like lenders lurking within this Jungle Book where Rob Dyrdek, who we imagine here in a loincloth as the fictional young boy character of Rowgli, passes his days skipping from deal to deal, handshake to endorsement. But there are cold nights in which them shadows transform that throng of hormonal tweens into a pack of bloodthirsty bondholders, nipping at the heels of precocious and carefree business ventures.

23 May 2014 20:50 EDT Press Release: Pacific Vector Holdings Inc. Provides Corporate Update

CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA–(Marketwired – May 23, 2014) – Pacific Vector Holdings Inc. (TSX VENTURE:PVH) (the “Company”) is providing this corporate update.

As announced on May 15, 2014, the Company required an immediate bridge of three hundred thousand dollars which would have allowed for the payment of current obligations. The Company was unable to obtain the required bridge and as a result, a first secured lender whose one million dollar loan was due April 17, 2014, has filed a notice of default. In addition, another secured lender, owed four hundred thousand dollars which matured on April 21, 2014 and an unsecured lender, owed one million dollars which matured on October 31, 2013 have filed notices of default. The Company is diligently working to cure the defaults in the next five days.

About Pacific Vector
Pacific Vector is an action sports retail and consumer brands company.**

AWSmoth

Earlier this year, in a candid bro-to-bro moment that involved defining a douchebag and ruminating on the import of being checked for prostate cancer so as to flourish and enjoy the various triumphs of Gulf War military commander Norman Schwartzkopf, Rob Dyrdek revealed what it is like to slam on the 20-stair M&A handrail.

“I grew up, the skateboard company I turned pro for, was from Dayton, Ohio. And 20 years after they started they sold to Burton Snowboards… and they were having a lot of trouble, and I went out and bought that thing. Because I was like the kid from Ohio, 20 years later, comes around and buys the company. And I got slapped across the face in reality of emotionally purchasing a company and being faced with a hornet’s nest on the inside of trying to turn it around and involve people that have been doing something for 20 years. It’s a brutal lesson I have learned this year that I will never face again.” (19:30)

Josh Kalis, who rode for AWS 12 years and seems to care about those dudes as deeply as anybody even after quitting a couple years ago, told Jenkem this year that he believed Dyrdek did the right thing selling DNA to Pacific Vector, despite doing so under some duress:

“Well to tell you the honest truth, Rob really seriously tried to keep that shit the way it needed to be. He gave the power to those pros, and was like, let’s make this right. Dyrdek was going broke keeping Alien Workshop afloat, that’s what people don’t know. As far as the impression I have, he was paying for every single thing out of his own pocket, to where, he was spending more money on Alien then he was bringing in from everything else and it was breaking him. He had to do something. That dude lost millions of dollars trying to keep it going. And he did that for the dudes, for the original owners, he did it for the current pros, he did it for all of us. It was just too much. Now, half of it is owned by this new company, which is being head up by Chad who helped build Blackbox with Jamie Thomas. So I look at it as it’s in good hands.”

AWSowls1

Among the difficult things to understand about the apparent collapse of AWS is how a top-tier company with a globally recognized name and graphics and lore, years of consistent promotion by a certified TV star, regular video output, potentate pros, and decades-long ties to retailers and wholesalers and suppliers, can’t make it work. At a time when relatively small companies like Palace and Polar (spiritually indebted to the Sovereign Sect) are balling for position on shop racks, when Jereme Rogers and Brian Wenning and James Kelch and Alex Olson and seemingly anybody else with a couple dimes to rub together can up and start glossy or gritty board concerns that don’t immediately evaporate, when companies as far removed from their respective heydays as Santa Cruz, World Industries and Blind can persist, why not a company as storied and comparatively still-vital as Alien Workshop?

“It was just getting harder,” DNA’s self-identifying “business guy” Chris Carter remarked upon an IASC panel three years ago when outlining his reasons behind selling to snowgoods maker Burton in 2008. The global economic slowdown had something to do with it, he said; Europe was “tough” and DNA had missed its window to sink American dollars into a European distribution of its own back in the early ’00s when the company was flush. “The deck company used to be the marquee brand,” Carter said, name-checking to seven-ply titans of years gone by such as Vision, Sims and Powell. Some time ago shoes assumed that spot and “deck brands are getting pushed further and further down.”

Chris Carter mentions several times decks’ commoditization, as AWS and Habitat competed for wall space and parental plastic against an expanding range of shop boards, blank boards and smaller rivals with slimmer payrolls and less overhead. Josh Kalis in the Jenkem interview figured monthly board sales of his own models fell from 6,000 decks per month in the Year 2000 to 1,000 by 2004. Archival records indicate that during this period Josh Kalis was not imprisoned for crimes against humanity, did not vie for the title of “world’s worst person” and clubbed no baby seals.

By this point DNA, already bicoastal, considered itself a global deck merchant, as per Chris Carter. Kalis and Dyrdek’s Seek imprint, which seemed directionless early on and destined to rank alongside PJ’s Undapendent records and “Street Dreams” in the slam section of Rob Dyrdek’s business career, nevertheless reflected DNA’s ambitions to build an international team in the early 00’s. Lengthy European stays became de rigueur for top-shelf video parts and retaining occasionally destructive travelers such as Danny Renaud further padded expenses. In Dayton DNA supported a loyal employee base, one-third of which Chris Carter in his talk estimated had been there for a decade or longer by 2008, who deserved things like benefits and retirement plans.

“You can call it selling out, I call it selling in,” Chris Carter said of the Burton deal, which in three years would teach him more about running a company than he’d learned on his own over the prior ten, he said. Burton’s financial posse were a disciplined lot and transfixed by profit margins, forecasting, lending rates and tinkering with distribution networks; under Burlington’s watch, DNA grew for three years straight, according to Chris Carter. Yet even they were unable to tame fallout from the 2008 worldwide credit crunch, and in response to consumers’ diminished thirst for snowboards and coats, Burton trimmed its portfolio in 2012, pulled out of the skate shoe biz and offloaded the DNA unit to millionaire teamrider Rob Dyrdek, who reportedly gushed before the deal was even complete that he intended to own Alien Workshop forever.

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Are Dyrdek Enterprise’s accounting darklords as sophisticated as Jake Burton’s? It is difficult for a person to know, but soon Dyrdek, Carter and Hill would venture onto a corporate path far afield from the frugal one Chris Carter charted in 1990, as described to the IASC audience: “We just saved our money. We actually financed it all ourselves …we started the company with $26,000. That was the startup capital. We were equal partners in the business. It was basically self-funded. We didn’t borrow any money. In fact, in the history of the company we never borrowed any money. We never took a bank loan. We never used a line of credit, not one time. We borrowed to buy a building and that was it. It was all self-funded. …We reinvested all the money back into the company.”

Amid the dark nights of soul Rob Dyrdek would later confide to Larry King, he determined to parlay DNA into a larger and more-diverse extreme sporting venture. About 18 months after cementing his DNA purchase, Rob Dyrdek in October 2013 sold it to Pacific Vector Holdings, for most of its lifetime a sunglasses company that in recent years had absorbed several extreme retail stores. Rob Dyrdek’s deal seemed to involve selling DNA for a stake in the enlarged company, for which he appeared to have a broader plan, since earlier that year the company licensed rights to develop “Street League” stores in return for royalty payments.

Pacific Vector aimed to expand given the sunglasses business appears not to have been a profitable one for the better part of a decade. It’s difficult to get the full picture from the financial statements filed by Pacific Vector via Canada’s SEDAR filing system, but they do show net annual losses each year going back from 2012 to 2005, ranging between $199,000 and $1.7 million, while annual sales were between $1.4 million and $2 million***. The jury remains out as far as 2013 results — at the beginning of May Pacific Vector notified investors that these couldn’t be filed on time because the company was still working on getting financing and couldn’t pay auditors to look over the numbers.****

Two weeks later the “Alien = done” topic materialized on the SLAP board; employees and team members were rumored to have been laid off, AWS mothballed, poignant malt-liquor photos posted to instagram accounts. The messageboards have Habitat architect Joe Castrucci retaining some intellectual property associated with the company and potentially replanting company and team beneath a different distributor, while posters rumor that Rob Dyrdek is considering a court battle for control of Alien, or the company potentially sold at auction.

For those with fond memories of skating the boards, rewinding the multicoloured videotapes, squinting for hidden messages in adverts and appreciating the gradual mind-warping at work, the options are not great ones. Alien could go away, perhaps not on its own terms, but with its legacy secure and on a respectable note as far as output, pro-personnel and stature; to some this is the preferred option. A Blueprint-like resuscitation seems a real and depressing possibility, given the nine lives that some shoe and clothing companies seem to have been imbued with in recent years. The moon-shot would be for Rob Dyrdek to again ride to the rescue and restore AWS in what would almost assuredly be some stripped-down fashion. Zen-stated wallride beltholder Jake Johnson for one has stated his intent to chill for a while and see whether AWS can work it out.

Could an Alien Workshop with a smaller team, scaled-back selection of t-shirts and hats and whatnot, and a sensible travel/video schedule be able to pay its HQ staff a living wage, cover Carter/Hill’s mortgages and not drain further dollars from Rob Dyrdek’s coffers? Does Rob Dyrdek have any more tricks yet up the sleeve of that DC Shoes varsity jacket? Have Carter and Hill dug out their basement-buried gold ingots yet? Will the retired Heath Kirchart return the favor and continue to consider a defunct Alien Workshop his board sponsor?

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Alien Workshop’s passage into shadow, permanent or not, is worth pondering. It would seem the biggest board company to go out since Plan B, and casts a singular and long cultural shadow. For a lot of people it is deeply personal. Like Girl/Chocolate, Toy Machine, Zero, Black Label, Powell Peralta, Baker and maybe a few others Alien Workshop not only resided among the top tier of a fickle and trend-driven industry for many years, it changed and directed the conversation with graphics and videos that couldn’t have come from anywhere else and inspired various acolytes and copycats. This blogging web page from time to time has taken a critical way with Alien Workshop and Habitat, and that is because the people running them have produced work worth holding to very high standards. Among the several possible outcomes mentioned earlier Boil the ocean Weblog very much is pulling for #3. While we wait, wander through the Black Hole.

*They call Los Angeles the “City of Angels” according to the US movie “The Big Lebowski”
**Versus earlier press releases in which Pacific Vector billed itself as a “premier” action sports retail and consumer brands company yall.
***For perspective, DNA at the time Pacific Vector bought it had sold $7.5 million worth of boards and clothes and whatnot over the prior 12 months.
****Earlier in the year, Street League and Pacific Vector dropped their plan to build Street League stores.

The Incredible Shrinking Alien Workshop

February 23, 2014

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Singular as it was to see the Dill/AVE ‘Dear John’ letter pop up on AWS’s site last spring, it is wild to look upon the ‘Team’ page in recent weeks and count just four working professionals and two amateurs, half the year-ago number, and relegating 30-years-young 2006 Sect inductee Omar Salazar to de-facto elder statesman status. Setting aside Heath Kirchart’s retired jersey and the mercurial standing of Rob Dyrdek the absentee landlord, if you were to trim now-departed ridership from the ‘Cinematographer’ section (and keep the between-clip clips) you’d get about a three-minute vignette; just three parts from ‘Mind Field’ would survive.

The narrative seems to go like this: aging bones and the lack of any equity stake in the company that employed them for some 15 years, Van Engelen and Dill dipped after seeing the title to DNA’s corporate UFO change hands multiple times in recent years, in the most recent case supposedly finding out only after the fact that Dyrdek had abruptly flipped the company to sunglass investor and Street League licensor Pacific Vector Holdings. (‘Despicable Me’ teaches us that a vector possesses direction and magnitude, while Pacific refers to the ocean that abuts California.) Sans these sometime-roomies and industry spirit-guides, Ohio-rooted bean-planter Kevin Terpening quietly exited, followed by the long-anticipated departure of Mikey Taylor, Grant Taylor’s seemingly preordained leap to Anti-Hero and most recently that of onetime franchise fakie 360-flipper and recent DKNY booster Dylan Rieder*.

The slow ebb of branded professional talent from the AWS roster over the past three quarters probably does not rise to the level of the World Industries ship-jumping of the mid-1990s or the nearly absolute Toy Machine team abscondiment that left Ed Templeton and Austin Stephens to rebuild by themselves the house of the Transmissionator. The steady grabbing of coats leaves open the question though as to whether the exodus has yet run its course. The curb-carving hair-greaser known to fans as Donovon Piscopo is seen to remain close with the DAVE contingent; hardly a fortnight can pass without wallride impresario Jake Johnson being instagrammed in close proximity to Polar hardgoods and he has really started to do a lot of no-complies these past 18 months.

Are the quartet of Jake Johnson, Omar Salazar, a recently reinvigorated and spectacleless Tyler Bledsoe, and Gilbert Crockett — who for one has voiced on the record his commitment to remaining aboard the grand Alien trip — strong enough to sustain and refresh this hallowed and murky well of Midwestern weirdness? Did recent “collaborations” with the estates of Warhol and Haring* signal a grasping at creative straws for a company with one of the strongest track records of art still going? To what extent are DNA’s new owners vexed by the exits, versus what their financial models may have divined prior to agreeing the purchase? Will the excellently disjointed TOUROHIO clip from late last year come to be seen as bridge or a bookend? Are the personnel moves to be interpreted as some right-sizing of DNA’s pro-level staffing, given Josh Kalis’ recent comments to the effect that even the MTV-moneyed boardroom chessboxer Dyrdek struggled to keep the company financially viable?

*Noting the Dill and Ave note, as the industry becomes increasingly press-release driven it seems more and more strange when companies keep silent on the departure of marquee names, especially those of years-long riders, instead quietly deleting them from their websites and re-screening their boards.
**does the world need a Radiohead album of Beatles covers?


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