Posts Tagged ‘Chris Nieratko’

I Pledge Allegiance To My Swag Vol 1., Or: R U Still Down?

June 9, 2011

If you’re anything like me, back in the year 1996 you were rewinding Satva Leung’s switch frontside flip, gearing up for several years of cargo pant ownership and reading Saturday Night Live alum Al Franken’s foray into political satire via a book called “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.” There was some entertaining wartime fan fiction as I recall and a hearty endorsement of the seemingly all-powerful Lexis Nexis search tool, as well as an apparently true anecdote about Franken growing up during the time of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The point of that parable was that as a Jewish family, Franken’s folks felt as though they had an obligation to support the struggle of other groups confronting the Man, etc., which made some sense.

Now it is 50 years later, machines do our bidding and the eras of disco, alternative music and cargo pants all have come and gone. And the magazine King Shit publishes this week an interview with a woman in the process of no longer being a man who also skates. She is from North Carolina, knows her way around a switch backside tailslide and seems generally guarded. Which probably makes sense, since one of the mostly endearing things about this little realm is a sort of terminal immaturity that lends itself to hopping fences, sassing cops and buying merchandise with all types of skulls and fire on it. Alongside a healthy appreciation for bathroom humor comes a mentality where a rumor that pro X might be gay can rise up and be debated/joked about for something like a decade.

If you look to the Slap board, that often harsh portal into some of the views that get kicked around your typical skatepark, everybody’s pretty supportive of this chick, while lodging the necessary quips and whatnot. Which is reassuring from the perspective of still trying to consider skating an outlier subculture. Coming up outside California around the time Thrasher ran the tombstone on its cover, skateboarding was for sure an outsider’s pastime when it came to parents, peers and assorted authorities and so occasionally you’d like to think, when you were being shown the door of some loading dock or other, that you knew how it felt in some way to be dealt with like a second-class citizen.

(Here’s a placeholder paragraph where we can shovel all the necessary and true disclaimers about this being rooted in a kids’ hobby that we all make a conscious choice to pursue and how there are and will be far worse trials in the world than getting kicked out of spots, termed a “loser” and/or tossed in the back of a cop car.)

In the run-up to this interview being published I wondered about whether or not people would have supported this girl’s deal as much in 1996 as the folks on the Slap board seem to be this week, how much of this is indicative of society being more open of mind in 2011 and so on. One of the concerns rambled on about in the past at this blog-site is what becomes of the social fabric of our little realm, with now at tens of millions of kids owning boards, sanctioned skateparks supplanting street spots, lessons and coaches and sports agents and TV shows, yadda yadda. And at what point you can still claim outsider status if more kids are kickflipping than playing shortstop, and whether skateboarding still sets out a welcome mat for misfits, or if they’ll still even want to come in? It seems like in the past there was a time when such types gravitated toward skateboarding but these days you wonder if it’s skateboarding that needs more folks like this girl.

A Blog Post Involving Fred Gall And The Antichrist That Is Only Tangentially Related To Lou Metal

November 1, 2010

A decade into its existence as the leaf/animal/aeroplane-inspired offshoot to the comparatively antiseptic Workshop sect, Habitat appears to finally have embraced the chaotic, cannibalistic nature of, erm, nature itself. Beneath the wet foliage and gentle acoustic guitar strums lurks a feral beast as likely to gnaw away its own leg as hop a bump-to-bar, a theme that Midwestern DNA zookeeper Joe Castrucci has chosen to explore through the composition of the team itself.

David Lee Roth, a noted man of the earth, has famously observed that Van Halen may not have rocked so hard/loudly were it not for persistent tensions between its song and dance man and Eddie VH. Castrucci has learned this secret too and now is exploiting the idea in an effort to produce compelling skate footage and reclaim market share from rivals Element and Organika. Recall the group sigh that emerged from the Lakai camp following the “Fully Flared” premiere, or the hedonistic, RV-powered excess of Osiris’s “The Storm” tour. But post-“Origin,” from the hallows of the Habitat camp there is a primal shriek, gnashing of teeth, maybe some rending of flesh:

Austyn Gillette:
Daryl got on basically because Stefan and I don’t want to talk about that situation. No one is getting harshed to get on anymore. It’s easy nowadays.

At any point during filming, did you get so frustrated watching Silas skate that you wanted to pull a Tanya Harding?
I don’t skate with Silas. I don’t get along with him too well. He’s bitter and I’m not bitter and we don’t get along together. We really don’t work well together and we’ve both accepted it.

Kerry Getz:
I didn’t know Austin and Silas are far from being BFFs.
There’s a lot going on over there. I don’t know; that’s some West Coast stuff, man. I’m so far out of all that stuff like who is fighting with who, who hates who, who is talking about who. I just stay on my side of the campfire and shut up. I just recently heard that Austyn and Daryl don’t like each other and I never knew that. Now you’re telling me Austyn and Silas don’t like each other. Someone has issues over there; just keep me out of it. It’s high school games.

Kerry Getz attained silverback status some time ago and is entitled to grumbling rights but it’s hard not to read some brinksmanship into AG’s commentary, even post-ESPN edit — he worked hard on his two-song second-part and it shows, though this site continues to harbour reservations around general execution (someone wiser equated his aesthetic recently to Apple Computers), he can be reasonably argued as having the best section in Origin between the sidewalk-to-sidewalk frontside flip, the feather-light b/s smith grind b/s 180 and that brick-cracker ollie at the Brooklyn Banks. Then the well-telegraphed alley-oop 5050 run, which I bet Jason Dill cheered when/if he ever saw this vid.

Trimming down probably mountains of footage helped Daryl Angel’s part as this dude to me still makes tricks look so easy as to detract from their actual hardness–thinking here of stuff like the switch pole-jam-wallie and the gap to feeble grind, although you can see dangers in the humongous switch hill-bomb jump and the final handrail jammer. Also a fan of how the nollie backside 180 is moving up the ladder in terms of a power trick, with Dylan Angel launching it down a longish stair-set and Marius Syvanen taking it over a high bar — there’s some Nordic tinges of AVE to that dude’s part and he’s got a related nollie b/s tailslide in there that’s for sure praise-worthy, kind of wish he worked in more of his really effortless and almost bizarre-looking manual stuff like he had in that Canada tour clip.

Notable new guy, Mark Suciu, brings a relaxed-with-some-stink style that sorta reminded me of a young Danny Renaud. All the footage where he’s wearing the five-panel hat is pretty much golden, specifically, the Gideon Choi-slide and the backside tailslide on Pat Duffy’s kinked rail. Al Davis’s part should’ve been longer as well as Tim O’Connor, to whom you can apply that complaint for basically every appearance since Photosynthesis, Steve Durante crushes at Pulaski with no set-up time and a separate switch wallie that threatens to shut down the video right there. This is nearly the best part in the video and had it incorporated some of this footage would’ve been perhaps the best one all year.

IRS scofflaw Fred Gall leads a pretty good delivery from the old bros that includes a bluntslide on a handrail, proving that beer drinking helps you. Danny Garcia’s switch backside tailslide variants are gathering rust but he still sails mightily over a rail, Stefan Janoski indulges his taste for switch k-grinds and nollie frontside flips, Silas Baxter-Neal bounds over handicap ramps and employs a “Welcome to Hell” ender that deeper mines his no-frills brand of solid trick-landing, when he’s not wintering in Illinois or rubbing Gillette the wrong way for whatever reason. Bryan Herman cameos for the ride-out shot.

Guru Khalsa’s spaced-out quiet storm is the real ender ender though, completing one of the best-looking SSBSTS’s of this new decade and incorporating maybe the most outlandish “psychadelic” image in “Origin” by way of an uncredited appearance from Christian Slater. It took me some years but feels like I’ve fully warmed to this dude’s sometimes off-kilter, sometimes classically ’90s boarding (the big b/s 5050, vs the frontside tailslide ahead of the f/s blunt). When do you see dudes jump up on a switch 5050 like that, when do you see dudes push eleven times for a trick but still not seem in a real big hurry.

Bookending all this discord and occasional moments of quiet tranquility is archival footage that reminds of the talent that slipped away for one reason or another (Renaud, Raymond Molinar with generally impeccable trick choices) and others like Ed Selego or Mark Appleyard where you could forget they were on at all. Still not sure what the thinking was here, beyond vague celebration of Habitat’s inaugural decade-long offering — there were things said like they wanted to re-use footage to music where they could get the rights, or incorporate clips from dudes like Wenning or Pluhowski that maybe don’t rate as #habitat for the current generation, but do a couple montages do the trick, or is this a further, more glorious-er mess left for us to unravel, akin to the mysterious spaghetti squash.

Rhapsody In White

March 28, 2010

I’m a fairly strong supporter of Keegan Sauder’s second coming these past few years – there’s something about his low-key dirtballness that’s more genuine than a lot of dudes that seem determined to take it to the nth degree, and I relished the classically Zero-y nature of his “Strange World” section (big backside 180, tall hubba 50-50, ride-up curvy 50-50 shove-it, the ender). And so I’m well inclined to cheer his podium placement in the Tampa contest a couple weeks ago, alongside Chris Nieratko, who gives over a good portion of this recent interview to the experience. But unfortunately the accompanying photo of Keegan Sauder’s frontside rock-n-roll was totally obliterated by the monster truck rally that is this snowmobile X-games ad next door, which is on such a whole different level of amazingness that I spent a good while brewing up key words for Youtube searches to turn up somebody doing this physics-defying and awesome-looking stunt. But no dice. If anyone can help out with the name of this maneuver or better yet a clip, this Sunday afternoon would get that much better, but in the meantime here’s my favorite of the many videos I’ve now viewed, in which one enterprising bro manages a snowmobile wallride.

McDoubles

September 7, 2009

birdhouse_mctwsts
Royale with cheese

For those of us who started skating in the 1980s there’s shit being done now that of course seems unfathomable in retrospect, for instance, switch 360 flipping double-sets, 360 flip noseblunts, nose tattoos and so on. Then there’s a whole other world of tricks that are the type of thing that theoretically were within the realm of possibility, but so out of hand as to be restricted to idle speculation during recess or in the wee hours of a sleepover after the third watch of “Public Domain,” and it is into this category that this sequence from the new TSM falls: Tony Hawk blasting a quarter century’s worth of contest-honed McTwisting over Aaron “No” Homoki’s parlour trick somewhere in Australia. It’s very possible this same pairing went down in some X-Fest or another, and I missed it because I never think to watch that sorta thing, but I really did set down the magazine and ponder this one for a minute when I saw it.

The Nieratko-penned article on this trip is a generally good one by the way – brief and BB-tinged, it’s telling of the way things are reshaping at the ‘house that Hawk built. For one, there’s an amusing and unapologetic Shawn White diss, and much is made of the fact that the Birdman was in the van* as opposed to sipping Chardonnay on his Lear jet or whatever on their city-to-city jaunts. Plus, the dude skated street with the bros (who included his son of course) and threw down his personal plastic when more juice was required to keep the distillates flowing. Who can say whether the B-House corporate account remains solvent. Perhaps Willy Santos, who also has a Birdhouse ad this month. No shit, Willy Santos. Either way, as far as the article goes, we can assume that none of this, including Nieratko’s invitation, happened by accident, but it’s nice to see nevertheless because Birdhouse continues to be home to some genuinely dirty/dedicated dudes and there’s some effort being put in over there to have a say in the way things are right now. It’s a long way for them to go of course, but I’m curious to see how far Tony Hawk is willing to push to get his shit back on track.

*they rented a van

Bus to Beelzebub

January 7, 2009


It was smelling like a locker room, there was junk all over the floor/We’re already packed in like sardines, but we’re stopping to pick up more – look out

Despite what my mellow demeanor and musky odor may lead you to believe, I was not a part of the Love Generation, though I do consider myself an old soul and a friend to all animals (excepting the toucan for reasons of my own). For this reason I, like many skateboarders, missed out on seminal 60s experiences such as grooving, turning on, or tripping on the magic bus. Indeed my earliest memories of buses tended to be filled with dread and foreboding, as I associated them with school and the untimely deaths of (analog) guitar heroes.

All that changed of course in the late 1990s when a storm rolled into town. You know the one I’m talking about:

Yes, Osiris’s “Aftermath” tour reinvented the very concept of the skateboard demo tour complete with swishy pants, hip-hop DJs and Josh Kasper. This was an era of excess fueled by multifaceted ledge combo tricks and shoes that incorporated untold bucketfuls of technology to protect the tootsies of Peter Smolik and Brandon Turner as they playfully pelted one another with paintballs. But really it’s pointless for me to try and describe it when New Jershian Chris Nieratko lived it:

I was blue collar, used to touring in cars and small vans, paying for my own meals, smelling of someone else’s ass and being forced to read and reread magazines and books over and over to pass the time on long stretches of road. Suddenly I’m on a tour bus complete with 12 bunk beds, two large-screen TVs, Playstation 2, stocked refrigerator, cable TV, SVD and VHS players and anything else one would need to take on the American highways and feel like king of the world. It was like culture shock. I didn’t know which movie or video game to play first, I wanted to sleep in all the bunks at the same time, I wanted to take advantage of the occasional free meals by ordering everything on the menu.

Flash forward the better part of a decade, and tour bus glory is a thing of the past for those without luxurious Bagel Bites endorsements. And while Osiris continues to defy the odds and stay very much in business, it fell to Circa’s unlikely “Combat” subsidiary to revitalize the tour bus concept for the late aughts. David Broach details in this month’s Thrasher how a former schoolbus was transformed by way of white spray paint and a certain amount of elbow grease, but only after discarding an ambitious scheme to airbrush the vehicle with “a chick with like a big laser, like protecting it”:

We loaded the bus with the essentials before we hit the highway. The first upgrade was a new stereo system: four big speakers mounted in the back. Normal van seats were welded down in a U shape around the back of the bus, and a cooler was purchased to sit in the middle so you could put your feet up and have a drink. Cup holders were taped by every seat and lighters were superglued in every corner. The lighters were all attached to retractable strings – you could pull them down to light whatever needed and then, when let go, they’d snap back into their resting position. Portable ashtrays fit in the cup holders, and magnetic bottle openers were always stuck to the inside in the event you couldn’t open your beverage with the lighters.

A small trash can was installed (wedged) in the front, as well as a couple of clips in the back that held a mop and a broom.* The van came with two small fans in the back for airflow, plus one on the roof that sucked air out. It really felt like you were rolling around in your living room.

Of course similar to the “Beauty and the Beast” situation the Combat bus (dubbed “White Lightning” at one point) eventually succumbs to the power-suckage of various BlackBerries and Blueberries and other nefarious vine-growing fruits, and Broach leaves it unclear as to whether or not it will eventually ride again. But the article does wrap up with a pretty entertaining story of Frank Gerwer overindulging on Britney Spears and evading Johnny Law all at the same time, which is a happy ending for everybody except the other two guys who went to jail.

*Assuming he meant to type “mug” and “bong”

Out of pocket

July 23, 2008


When keeping it real goes wrong

Skate magazines these days catch a lot of flack from world-weary oldsters on the internet who view modern interviews in the long shadow of the mid-90s rags, in which certain pro skaters vowed to, for instance, infect every other pro skater they could with the HIV virus. Or simply murder one another. What can I say, it was a different time.

What’s funny, in a not-so-funny way, is that as social standards continue their gentle downward slide, interviews in skateboard magazines have generally gotten less interesting*. Now, there are any number of explanations for this. For one thing, there’s more skateboarders in general, and thanks to the law of averages and the forum provided by the likes of ESPN and the Dew, skateboarding has attracted a greater number of less-interesting individuals than it used to.

Then there’s the general corporatization of the skateboard industry, another slow process, since a lot of reputable corporations are way too uptight when it comes to the type of lackadaisical shipping schedules and haphazard bookkeeping practices that fly at skateboard outfits (shoutout to Ipath). Magazines were one of the first juicy morsels of the industry gobbled up by corporate concerns, since the magazine business is a known commodity. Cue ads for the Army and Ford Trucks, font size limits for the word “fuck,” and the sudden appearance of kiddie graphics over top of previous nudity (from Larry Flynt, of all people).

So yeah, the Time Warners of the world definitely bear some blame for the watering-down of skate magazine content. But what’s becoming more and more clear is that skateboard magazines themselves seem to be doing their damndest to sanitize their own shit.

About a year ago there was that industry-wide panties-bunching over blank boards. You may remember how they destroyed skateboarding forevermore and took food from the mouth of Andrew Reynolds’ baby. Anyway, the IASC printed up a little pamphlet for the winter ASR that featured a load of prominent pros going off on blank decks and espousing the virtues of branded hardgoods concerns, real warm and fuzzy stuff. Part of the deal was that said pros posed for a big group photo in some LA ditch… and around the same time, TWS ran the same photos under the guise of “a bunch of pros getting together for no reason except just to skate, man.” Slap messageboard maven Neal Boyd broke it down nicely here. Kind of slimy altogether.

There’s loads of other political stuff that goes on, photoshopping of shoes and clothing logos of course, and during his recent debate with Jamie Thomas, Clyde Singleton alleged that the Zero chief is notified whenever his name or likeness appears in any magazine, and presumably he gets the final sign-off on it. Which may or may not be true.

Apparently about four months ago Arto spoke with Big Brother/Vice alum Chris Nieratko (who knows from journalism, at least to some degree) for what was, by all accounts, a pretty straightforward interview: what have you been up to, what’s up with injuries, what went on with the big sponsor changes, and the now apparently obligatory questions about his mobile sauna, which I find a total snoozer. But after hanging up the phone, Arto apparently came down with the old 120-day itch and called up the boys at TSM, ordering them to pull the interview… which apparently they did.

Contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t have a real hard time seeing why Burton suits would want this axed: Arto said in no uncertain terms how difficult it was to leave Flip, sort of agreed when Nieratko made fund of Burton and Gravis, and tugged back the curtain on how dead serious Burton is about their riders’ contractual obligations. With all the work the company does to promote Jake Burton as this “jus’ folks” granola-munching dude who’d rather be hiking the backcountry than sit on a conference call, it’s not a good look. And Arto of all people should have known better.

The problem of course is Nieratko. He dipped out of the skate magazine scene when Big Brother was still drawing breath and just recently checked back in, which shows in the way he interviews people and is probably one of the reasons why he’s still one of the best dudes doing this kind of thing. He calls bullshit on stuff—i.e. the sad state of Gravis’s past footwear designs—and probably used his silver-tongued powers to lull Arto into forgetting his Burton loyalty oaths.

The mistake Nieratko made was assuming that his editors at TSM would have his back on the whole deal. With Gravis just rolling out and Alien gearing up for a video release, Burton probably has got a good amount invested in TSM real estate, and at a time when belts are tightening at magazines in general and skate magazines in particular, I’m sure the threat to pull that dough probably was heard loud and clear. You have to wonder though, if magazines keep pulling this type of shit and running interviews bland as a late-period 411 (RIP), who’s even going to read them anymore.

*There are exceptions. Tony Tave’s interview in Thrasher last year, when he was fucked up on salvia, was pretty entertaining, for instance.