Posts Tagged ‘Mike Carroll’

‘People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Lakai Limited Footwear for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That’s what ‘The Flare’ is about. It’s about fun.’

July 30, 2017

What if you’d been told, on the occasion of ‘Fully Flared’s premiere nigh ten years ago, that Anthony Pappalardo’s part would provide a primary guiding light for the shoe supplier’s next full-length video — would you have believed it? Similarly could any 80’s baby have guessed that it would be Crailtap’s joint tour vids with Anti-Hero that would set the Girl and Choco camp’s course for much of the ’10s? What would you say if some time-mastering pixie had whispered ten years ago that Lakai would require the vision of a Mattel toy company exec to navigate the wiles of a marketplace commanded by Nike and Adidas? Could a mere humanoid imagination conjure a world in which Jake Phelps is a recognized television personality, Dr. Dre works for Apple and apologizes for his gangsta past, a new Star Wars movie comes out every year, Gucci Mane lives a life of domestic sobriety, and former reality TV game show host Donald Trump leads the free world?

It’s true, all of it. Now comes “The Flare,” Lakai’s first formal video project since Barack Obama’s inauguration, perceived by some as a comeback, executed more like a reboot. Any lingering pathos or hard feeling from recent years’ departures and drama is shoved to one side by a grinning Italian who opens the vid with the type of low-fi inventiveness that once drew wiggly yellow lines across California streets and breathed life into a fuschia-hued setup. Following any initial disorientation and upset stomachs, Federico Vitetta dispenses with much of the high-tech effects and in-your-face emoting that at times distracted and dragged on the Ty Evans-helmed productions, instead plunking in moustachioed passersby on horseback, operatic music drops and occasional WWFing of trash cans, lightening the load carried by Altamont Capital’s newest flarees.

Whether the intro’s orbish viewfinder is emblematic of some proverbial rolling stone, casting loose all moss and withered tendrils of the past as it rolls beneath that flatbed trailer, is a question best left up to individual viewers and low-scoring undergraduate term papers. Lakai’s slate is not wiped fully clean — Simon Bannerot, a curly-haired hucker with a lovely fakie frontside kickflip, is tagged in by ‘Fully Flared’ curtain-hoister Mike Mo Capaldi to fulfill similar duties here, gliding long frontside noseslides, nose manualing down steps and launching what’s got to be one of the more daring wallies this side of Lizard King’s parking ramp blast. Sebo Walker goes in with Cory Kennedy fits and a princely De La Soul tune for his gnarliest part to date, Jon Sciano tosses an M-80 of a 360 flip over a garbage bin, Raven Tershy goes the distance on the Andy Roy bar and twirls a magnificent Cab disaster, Yonnie Cruz cracks a switch ollie into one of multiple hairy hills. Jesus Fernandez’s ledge tech remains in ascent — he gets onto the Dylan Rieder block switch — while Vincent Alvarez strings together a marathon line at the LA High School banks, and Stevie Perez jumps a rickety bar to a backside smith grind and traces some fairly tech lines through various European blocks. Riley Hawk chisels further his own legacy via speed-metal fueled 360 flip noseblunts and screeching kickflip 360 wallride.

Mike Carroll and Rick Howard pop in here and there, Mike Carroll taking a version of his downtown Los Angeles line from ‘Fully Flared’ to a narrow ledge, and Rick Howard shove-iting onto well-worn New York concrete, but the most direct references to Lakai’s prior tentpole come from Tyler Pacheco, a young box-wallriding blazer who seems to have memorized that vid’s lines and lore on his way toward meeting and skating with his childhood heroes. For all its storied catalogue, though, the Crailtap camp never has seemed particularly stuck on legacy-burnishing when it comes to their videos, and the passage of time, trends and team members merits a different context in which ‘The Flare’ ought to be considered.

Probably it is true that this video will not alter skating’s course the way ‘Fully Flared’ did, and may not attain ‘Yeah Right’s’ level of envelop-pushing handrail pyrotechnics, or capture an era like ‘Mouse.’ Does it have to? It’s worth considering that before Lakai offered up MJ’s 13-minute opus, brought Guy Mariano’s career back from the dead, and helped establish Lucas Puig’s international sensationdom, it was Mike Carroll and Rick Howard’s chosen roster of style luminaries and promising youngsters who collectively weren’t setting out to craft some vision of skating to come, or on any mission to refurbish any beloved brand name. Toward the end, what’s arguably ‘The Flare’s’ biggest twist doesn’t involve a bunch of fire or green screens but rather a clever spin on skating with the bros.

Was this type of team reset the best thing to happen to Lakai? Do any full-length vids have the capacity these to change the conversation and hit as hard as ‘Fully Flared’ did 10 years ago? Will Tyler Pacheco set off a multiyear trend of table-bonking flip tricks capped off with the ‘Carroll Thumb’? Is Jesus Fernandez an odds-on favorite to win, place or show in the race for the year’s best hardflip?

Big Shoes Small Boards

June 19, 2016

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There are some queries that must be considered as the ultimate questions of the time. Is it really what it is? Do gentlemen really prefer brunettes? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Do Gs get to go to heaven? If you couldn’t see the sun rising off the shore of Thailand would you ride then if I wasn’t driving? Has We The Best Season returned? Are you new around here or something man?

In our current big-footwear era of skateboarding, one question goes like this: Do international shoe manufacturers prefer small board companies? You sort of wonder. As Palace and Adidas and Skate Mental and Nike respectively grow cuddlier in the process of producing product lines, fewer such efforts appear to invite the creative hive-minds powering the likes of Element, Flip, Plan B and Zoo York to apply their MS Paint sorcery to established shoe-wall sellers. Meanwhile, the fingerprints of publicly traded footwear conglomerates increasingly seem to smudge the smartphone screens of board-company team managers:

Jamie Thomas: we bent over backwards for trevor for years. all was good, but as we were working with him on his boards, we started hearing that Nike was encouraging him to ride for skate mental because supposedly it would help his situation at Nike; Even though his graphics were done and his pro board was scheduled to be released in 2 months, he hit me up and said thanks for everything, but I’m gonna ride for Skate Mental.

Mike Carroll: Remember with Karsten [Kleppan], when we put out the intro to Lakai video part and then a week later Karsten got on Nike? It’s just like, what the fuck. And then that (Nike) dude Kaspar hit up Sam [Lakai’s Team Manager] and was like, “I know that Karsten’s off of Lakai now, but we want to get him off of Element. We want to get him on a cool company, would you guys be down to sponsor him for Girl?” It’s like, are you that retarded?

Jenkem’s text-messaging theorist: Nike backing riders to ride for small board co’s or start up their own small start up’s to dilute the market with heaps of small brands so the main camps like crailtap, black box (now dwindle) can’t focus on their own shoe programs and have to put their time and resources into keeping their board co’s alive in an over saturated market. Leaving it to them, Cons and adidas which works perfectly because they all co-exist this way in every other sport.

Is ‘small board company’ the proper terminology tho? Of the current Nike skateboard team, about half (16/34) skate for what could be construed as a ‘small/startup’ board company. But it may be more instructive to examine multinational sporting gear manufacturers’ history when it comes to sponsoring dudes who skate for a board company that is affiliated with a ‘legacy’ skate shoe company. In 2007, Nike’s inaugural and unfairly maligned full-length ‘Nothing But the Truth’ included parts from six dudes (out of 22) whose deck sponsors also ran a competing shoe outfit. By the time 2011’s ‘SB Chronicles 1’ arrived, the number had declined to two out of eight; it was 2/7 for ‘Chronicles 2’ and Cory Kennedy was the only one in last year’s ‘Chronicles 3’. Of the 24 bros in ‘Away Days,’ one skates for a board company that also peddles shoes, and on the Converse skate team, it’s one of 13.

Why might a big giant shoe company like its skaters to promote smaller/newer/upstart board companies? The idea of Jenkem’s texting thinker has some logic to it, though the deck sponsor’s ‘marquee’ position as it relates to pros’ pocketbooks has long been on the wane relative to shoes, as former DNA Distribution ‘business guy’ Chris Carter pointed out five years ago. As far as resource drains go, at a time when Brian Wenning and Jereme Rogers are able to formulate heat-press ready artwork and online storefronts, while micro-brands such as Jim Greco’s Hammers and Jeremy Klein’s revived Hook-Ups are able to secure premium pricing on limited runs, the actual overhead of doing a board company could or should be relatively low, assuming that a generation of even top-drawer pros have become accustomed to slimmer signature-board paycheques.

Would encouraging pros away from board companies/distributorships that also run shoe companies make sense for the majors? The post-getting-on-Nike moves of Trevor Colden (Mystery –> Skate Mental) and Karsten Kleppan (Element –> Skate Mental) make you wonder, and of the current SB team, about one-third, from Paul Rodriguez to Koston/Guy to Gino Iannucci, have departed such board companies for startups with no affiliation over the years, for various reasons. A widening gap between the board sponsor and shoe sponsor as far as pay, travel capability and general influence would cement the shoe merchants’ first right of refusal when it comes to Instagram clips, tour edits and coveted under-deck sticker placement real estate, and enhance capabilities to promote uniform-like outfits readymade for sweeping up spilled popcorn after matinee showings of ‘Zootopia 2: Zoological Boogaloo.’

Or does all our convoluted and conspiracy-minded nail-gnawing overlook the razory principle of Occam, which in this case might be that upstart board companies are cooler now and, given board sponsors’ functional functions as image-drivers, asa shoe purveyour you’d want the dudes you sponsor to skate under a small company’s cooler halo? Would this suggest that international shoe enterprises are chipping away at some image-management role traditionally performed by agents, increasingly beloved of pro skaters thirsting for soda sponsorship dollaridoos, but a timeworn rival of sporting giants when contract negotiation time rolls around? Should sponsor-juggling skateboarders seek the council of Jay-Z, a wheelings-and-dealings man who has had a pro-model shoe for rapping, helped manage a team and wrangled deals for pro athletes, by signing up for his exclusive Tidal internet music streaming business? Could board companies take a page from shoe companies and start encouraging teamriders toward Tumblr- and BigCartel-empowered wheel groups? Does all this silly noise obscure the shadowy role of the premium-fit cotton t-shirt as the true and honest currency of the realm?

*Note: DC is considered affiliated with Plan B for our simple-minded purposes here

How To Fix the Marc Johnson/Lakai Mess in 10 Easy Steps Dudes

May 20, 2016

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Mike Carroll, who knows a thing or two about dipping out on sponsors, hit up Jenkem the other day ostensibly to discuss “the future of Crailtap” but really to confront and publicly grapple with the proverbial and newly striped elephant in the room, Marc Johnson’s heavily rumored ship-jumping from Lakai to Adidas, eventually turning into one of the more noteworthy airings out in recent memory. Making clear his beef was not that Marc Johnson left, but how — popping up in the new Adidas vid without prior warning to Lakai’s owners/team/staff and with a loading dockful of fresh pro-model shoes rendered abruptly obsolete — Mike Carroll got his Rocco on in the age of information immediacy, booting Marc Johnson from Chocolate mid-interview:

J: What are you gonna do with that upcoming Marc Johnson Lakai product? What does a company usually do when this sort of thing happens?
MC: Send it all to his fucking house, COD with a fucking strap on, and no vaseline. Well what we’re gonna do now, first things first, I’m gonna kick him off Chocolate. I’m not gonna text him, so he can read this or someone can tell him. Maybe he’s already quit in his mind, who knows. Marc, is kicked off of Chocolate as of right now. We’ll deal with whatever we have to deal with. Shoe wise… we have a lot of shoe production in the works… Normally when this happens to companies we’d usually take legal action, but that’s something we think is not in our character to do. But I’m starting to consider it, but that’s not really on the top of our priority list.

The resulting social media froth, whipped higher by pent-up angst as more and more top-tier professionals slip into the gravitational orbit of multibillion dollar sports shoe manufacturers, has cast a pall over Adidas’ video release as well as the signing of Marc Johnson and Daewon Song, and perhaps tarnished the Adidas skateboard division with an elbows-out corporate tone that previously had mainly been Nike Inc.’s domain. Lakai meanwhile looks further sidelined following the recent exits of Guy Mariano, Nick Jensen, Na’Kel Smith, Miles Silvas, Lucas Puig and Eric Koston for Nike or Adidas.

But the situation can still be fixed. Here is Boil the Ocean web log site’s 10-point plan for patching up the relationship between Marc Johnson, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard, burnishing Adidas’ image, plugging any sales hole for Lakai, and more.

1. Marc Johnson calls up Adidas on his cellular smart phone and designs a plan for Adidas to buy all the unsold Marc Johnson Lakai shoes, both current and past models, currently in production or in the warehouse. Adidas also could buy several sets of Carrolls in full size runs.

2. Adidas employees and Marc Johnson package up the Lakai shoes and donate them, along with a matching quantity of Adidas skate shoes, to Skateistan, Cuba Skate, Skate for Change and similar charities promoting skating in risky and impoverished nations.

3. Marc Johnson personally delivers some of these shoes and skates a demo or two with a T-shirt that says “sorry Mike & Rick” written on it in marker. He posts to Instagram pics of him posing with kids holding up a box of Lakais and/or Adidas and handwritten signs personally saying sorry to various Lakai staff members and former teammates.

4. Marc Johnson persuades Mike Carroll, Rick Howard and the rest of the “Fully Flared” lineup to gather for a reunion demo where he gives a heartfelt speech thanking the Crailtap posse and fondly reminiscing on their years together, while more donations are collected for skatepark funds and organizations.

5. After burying the hatchet, Marc Johnson, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard hang around the park for hours afterward mending fences and reminiscing, until they realize that the money collected for the skatepark funds has been gaffled by a shadowy thief. The trio leap upon matching neon coloured crotch rocket motorcycles and plunge into the LA expressways in pursuit.

6. After pulling alongside the skate funds bandit, also astride a fast crotch rocket bike, Rick Howard, Mike Carroll and Marc Johnson trade punches with him at 130 mph, pausing only to swerve past slower-moving vehicles and struggling to maintain control of their bikes. After one final blow, the thief’s hood flies back to reveal he is none other than ex-Pope Benedict XVI, wearing an eye patch and spitting curses in Latin at the pro skaters.

7. The former supreme pontiff takes advantage of his pursuers’ shock and disgust to haul off and deliver a punishing haymaker to Mike Carroll’s jaw, stunning him and sending him reeling off the back of his bike. His face inches from the pavement’s blur, a sinewy hand closes around his Fourstar jacket collar and yanks him back up onto his bike, which miraculously steadies. “Still teammates — for one more night,” growls Marc Johnson, before twisting the throttle to pull up alongside Pope Benedict XVI. The two grapple briefly before a vicious kick knocks Marc Johnson loose, and the ex-Pope veers right to sideswipe Rick Howard before speeding ahead, up a dangling ramp into the trailer of a semi truck. Pope Benedict XVI hops off his bike, turns and tosses a small, blinking sphere toward the pro skaters, grinning as the trailer door rattles shut.

8. “Thermal detonator!” Rick Howard hollers, crashing his bike sideways into the others and knocking them clear before the bomb’s white flash blasts Rick Howard’s motorcycle out from under him and sends him tumbling into the breakdown lane. “Feels like the ‘Mouse’ intro,” he rasps. “Now get that bastard.” Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll nod, rev their crotch rockets and roar off after the rogue Pope. They tail the semi until dawn, far into the desert where finally it reaches Pope Benedict XVI’s secret mountain compound — an impenetrable structure of steel and rock, girdled in sheer cliff faces and watched over by lazily looping vultures. Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll exchange a glance and draw their pistols, nodding. “Just like the old days,” Mike Carroll murmurs as he fills a spare clip with bullets drawn one by one from his belt. “I thought those days were done.” “Let’s go,” says Marc Johnson, making for a break in the cliff. They scale the wall, silent and methodical, neither looking down and neither pausing when his fingertips begin to bleed. When they heave themselves atop the cliff, gasping, Marc Johnson immediately gets low. Just a few feet away, Pope Benedict XVI stands with his back to the pro skaters, punching feverishly at flashing buttons on a vast control pad. Before him, bolts of raw electricity begin arcing between a series of tall metal coils, and the air begins to thrum.

9. “That’s a relativistic heavy ion collider,” breathes Marc Johnson. “He’s overcharging its computing grid…” “…To rip thousands of tiny black holes in the space-time continuum,” Mike Carroll finishes. “And if we don’t stop him, he’s going to destroy L.A.” Marc Johnson is already up and firing, his left hand fanning the hammer on his Colt Python as he sprays the ex-pope’s base with hot lead. Mike Carroll rolls and unloads his own pistol but stops before his clip runs dry; Pope Benedict XVI has spun to face them, laughing, the bullets sailing wide and high around him. “Fools,” he rasps. “You’ll never attain true power.” Hands raised over his head, the former pontiff pivots to point at Mike Carroll, sending a blinding rope of electricity leaping from one coil to wrap the Crailtap Distribution co-owner in a hot, vibrating grip; with a thrust of his other hand, a second bolt entwines Marc Johnson, and both begin to squeeze. Pope Benedict XVI’s laughter grows louder until he abruptly stops, twisting his lips in horror. A rocket-propelled grenade screams down and strikes him square in the chest, bursting his torso into liquified nuggets of blood and tissue and bone that drench the sand and the control panel, shorting out the ion collider. The coils fall dark and Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll sink to the ground, gasping. Two cans of Bud land beside them, and they squint through the glare to see Rick Howard ambling through the dust, a still-smoking rocket launcher slung over his Girl OG tee. “They didn’t have LaBatt.” He cocks his head and regards the carnage. “But I wasn’t about to miss this party.” After locating the semi, Mike Carroll pulls it around to the heavy ion collider and stuffs a rag into its fuel tank, Marc Johnson lighting it with a cigarette. Rick Howard grabs the bag with the $45 in skatepark funds and the pros climb astride their bikes, rolling onto the asphalt as flames engulf Pope Benedict XVI’s compound behind them.

10. Rick Howard and Mike Carroll return to Los Angeles to film for the Lakai video and Marc Johnson starts work on a welcome clip for Adidas.

Been There All The Time

October 24, 2015

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“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’?

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 3 – Jeron Wilson ‘Skate More’

July 8, 2015


‘Skate More’ was DVS shoes’ Terry Gilliam-infused answer to the blockbuster shoe video parade of the early aughts, and while Mikey Taylor and Jereme Rogers supplied handrailing hammers and Jason Dill pushed gritty gravitas in knee socks, it was Daewon Song’s circus of tech and the 1990s-aged swagger from Chico Brenes and Jeron Wilson that spiritually grounded the project. Jeron Wilson’s heelflips, nollied over a fire hydrant or straight-up over gaps, detonate like bombs and a range of other tricks get soundly handled (switch frontside 360 over the bench, switch 180 up onto the big block in Australia) en route to a plenty dazzling ender for the time (or this one). Song and Girl-heavies friend section seals the deal.

Si Se Puede

June 21, 2015

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“Because We Can” is the tagline for the Emerica-Lakai joint venture summer demo tour, ostensibly nodding to rootsy trappings of a bros-before-focused-branding jaunt that recalls Crailtap’s past roadtrip tie-ups with the Firm and Anti Hero, and perhaps also the idea that Stayed Flarees aren’t contractually bound to bulge bracket contest stops, or fettered by corporate interests broiling with jealousy and alleged to have previously boxed out events planned by rivals.

Might this thundersome tour, boasting the caliber of lineup to collectively bless parks and spots alike perhaps once per decade, also be called ‘Because We Should’? It makes certain business senses for skater owned/directed shoe companies to band together as Nike has rolled out heavy artillery on multiple fronts between SB and the revival of its Converse skate program, while K-Swiss hoovers up Supra and New Balance tries its hand at ‘Pretty Sweet’ intro cinematography and attempts to one-up Plan B in the video-supervision after-black hammer that is securing PJ Ladd footage.

Assuming any relevant private equity fund analysts are safely off parking the vans, there probably exist few more-direct methods to illuminate any ‘skater-owned’ halo than to situate various owners, founders and shot-callers atop a pic-a-nic table in a sweaty Milwaukee warehouse, or nose manualing across pads in Pittsburgh. Whereas an demo featuring Mike Parker or Herbert Hainer might draw its own standing-room gaggle of vexed shareowners, slack-jawed blog proprietours and other would-be looky-lous, any effect on unit volume likely would present as incremental and potentially surprise to the downside, after all due rep points awarded for trying.

Pressing flesh among the seven-ply’s huddled masses though remains a worthy public service in an incarnation similar to the interstate highway system and other feats of two-way public infrastructuring. Impressions seared into yung psyches run deep enough that Andrew Reynolds, who’s got to be as hardened as anybody after two decades grinding through the industry, still turns slightly giddy recollecting the time and place he first saw Mike Carroll skate, at a demo. Whereas some kickflipping kid out there this summer will in a couple decades relate seeing Andrew Reynolds and Mike Carroll staying flared as he or she speaks on the formative transpirings that set him or her on the jittery path toward running his or her own skate concern, there would seem also some current temperature-taking value for today’s company runners to be gleaned from a month or two rolling amongst chronically undercompensated shop managers and the broader goods-buying populace.

Instagram and Facebook are gently ballyhooed as grand equalizers that place access to each tween’s favorite professional a mere few keystrokes away, but any digital fuzzies warmed by the internet’s flat culture inevitably contend with personal-branding business machinations that would program bots to holler back at random followers, or transform subscriber figures into bargaining chits for contract maneuverings. From certain angles far up in the nosebleed seats the gulf between the industry’s top talents and the larger boardbuying populace seems in some ways wider — wristband warrior and NBDDer Chris Cole in a recent interview speaks angrily of pro-athlete pressures and his impatience with weekend warrior types who don’t get it:

Actually, I’m gonna go on a tirade right now: When the “core” dudes try to clown, and I’m sure you’ve fucking heard it – it’s a defense mechanism – they say stuff like, “It’s just skateboarding, man.” Implying that you’re taking it too seriously.

A. You’re telling me what skateboarding is? Get the fuck out of my face. And B., Street League is a contest with a lot of money on the line and this is actually what I do for a living. This is my job. I love the hell out of skating; I love it more than anyone. But it’s not “Just skating, maaaaan.”That’s throwing what I love and what I’ve dedicated my life to, into some hobby that you kind of fuck around with. They love to throw that one around.

Chris Cole, who knows his way around a demo as good as anybody, elsewhere rehashes yet again his awkward early years of professional development, as well as hearing firsthand critiques of his chosen outfits and conduct from prior detractors in the course of compiling talking head footage for some forthcoming documentary. It’s unclear whether any who bore ill will toward snowplow nosegrinds or flapping yellow t-shirts ever took a demo appearance as an opportunity to directly air concerns with a younger Chris Cole, or if a few weeks traversing American byways and mingling with shop employees and early-morning sessioners logging park time prior to diaper-changing duties or weekend overtime might sand edges off Chris Cole’s stance on the diverse and potentially spicy views on skating harboured by aging hobbyist/purists.

Whether deep and heady assessments of skating’s true nature can or should be chopped up between pros and average joes at local skatepark facilities or tour clip-worthy spots along the way remains a question for us all to chew over as we toddle toward our mysterious graves, but it is skating’s uniquely democratic nature that allows it even to be possible. You don’t see major league baseball teams materializing unannounced for pickup games at neighborhood sandlots; the recognized and registered sucker-free boss ballers of figure skating or tennis aren’t in the practice of swelling about local rinks and courts*, twirling axels and swatting balls alongside the fanning hoards, and potentially talking sponsor-jumps or fearsome performances.

In what other pursuit can you be hobby-horsing it upon a weekend and look up to see the world’s accepted best wandering in to join, or augment onlooker activities by also serving as a human safety net for sweaty professionals breaking themselves off at your local park? Should a board-and-shoe consuming Joe Kickflip’s views on skating, seriousness and Street Leagues carry the same weight as professional contract players with long years in these trenches? Are pitchers’ mound rushers and stands-charging small forwards similarly chided that it’s ‘just a game’? Does man remain ‘the most dangerous game’ or has this title been usurped by quadruped robots and armed drones?

*Courts of law don’t count

The Functional Baker Boys

June 5, 2015

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The true glory in growing old and finding one’s self with little or nothing left to prove is that it carries wealth in options. Bill Murray, that graybeard vanquisher of ghosts and pro jock to the Dalai Lama, honored fellow oldster David Letterman last month by leaping out of a secretive cake chamber and proceeding to take shots to the dome. Jack Palance, that silver fox of the US prairies, saw fit to parlay his time at the Oscar podium into boasts about the size of his bowel movements and several one-armed push ups. Betty White this week joined Instagram.

So too in the skate biz, where pro careers now offer second and third acts, there are elder statemenships to be carved out, with Jeff Grosso lovingly hollering at the collective industry to get off his lawn, French Fred Mortagne pulling back the veil on the early years of Barcelona paradise, and Tony Alva donning a puff-ball stocking cap to level-set the Vans video.

Andrew Reynolds and Mike Carroll still have a few miles in them but the heavy retrospecticus vibes and general grown-manning going on when the frontside flip impresarios deposited themselves upon the Crail Couch the other day suggested some pondering toward whatever roles await them as full-time company-runners, number-crunchers and talent-pickers. At this point Andrew Reynolds has been on the sober straight-and-narrow longer than his service under the Pissdrunx, and in interviews he’s been steering kids clear of drugs and drinking for a while now, but it is nevertheless a bit jarring to hear him take shots at Migos:

Advice for the youth?
AR: Don’t smoke weed. Don’t listen to whatever they’re saying in all this trap music, whatever that shit’s called.
MC: MOLLY!
AR: That music, I listen to it in the skatepark and people play it, nonstop, the same song over and over. And I like hip hop. But that new shit though is like brainwash, Migos and all that, like fuck. That’s like, and I see on Instagram, the kids, their little statement about them, is like ‘skateboarding and weed.’ It’s like, alright. And the music is just like ‘disrespect women, money, drugs.’ That’s pretty much it. And if they’re not listening to anything else besides that then that’s just pounded in, all day long.

Andrew Reynolds never has attempted to whitewash his past or foist his teetotaling on his riders, and one must assume that for now his official stance toward Migos music is the same.* It’s not clear whether Dustin Dollin owns ‘Rich Ni**a Timeline’ but the sometime devil’s spawn in the ‘Propeller’ divulges that he holds down the other end of the Baker spectrum, apparently the last bleary-eyed pro standing from the Warner Ave 7-day weekend after his assorted bendermates fell out over the years:

Thrasher: [A]re you the last Pissdrunk?
Dustin Dollin: I cannot confirm that rumor. Pearcy still drinks. Dancer still drinks, I’m sure. But yeah, out of the celebrity skateboarders in the public eye, I may be the last. I may be the last of the OG Pissdrunks, but there are thousands of them out there now. Thousands and thousands. And growing! But yeah, Jim doesn’t drink. Ali doesn’t drink, Elissa doesn’t drink, Andrew doesn’t drink, Erik doesn’t drink.

T: Can you still get tricks hammered?
I mean, every day that I go out skating I’m usually drinking and I try to get a trick if my body’s able. So I guess it’s every time I go skating.

Part of Andrew Reynolds’ legend status no doubt flows from about two decades’ worth of steady output that’s managed to consistently raise the bar, whatever his personal circumstances. But there’s a statistical argument to be made in favour of Dustin Dollin’s boozy functionality, previously revealed through his self-appointed role as KOTR footage logger/point tallier/stunt motivator and the staying power of the dudes he’s helped put on, but mainly via his own skate tricks themselves. A review of assorted Youtube clippings and Digital Versatile Discs from Baker2G’s Y2K release to the present indicates that among the named Pissdrunx, Dustin Dollin is the second-most productive in terms of minutes’ worth of video parts released, coming in ahead of now-dry peers Erik Ellington, Jim Greco, Ali Boulala and Elissa Steamer:

pissdrunx_chart

Does Dustin Dollin’s statistical outlier status reflect genetic advantages possessed by Australians in the barroom? What of New Jersey, and might Fred Gall similarly skew averages when stacked against peers less beloved of Sambuca, Ozzy concerts and plunging headlong into burning buildings? Would Andrew Reynolds take genuine offense to the ‘Better than the Beatles’ meme? Will legitimate musicals finally earn Migos the respect they deserve?

*Until the Slap boards divulge otherwise

Mastermind Behind These Teams With Green

July 11, 2013

Imagine you are Mike Carroll. You are beloved for your backside tailslides and feeble grinds. You appeared in “Questionable,” were the skater of a year and you sponsor the Gonz. The company you own with Spike Jonez just turned 20 and you are free to don oversized fuzzy hats when the mood strikes you.

It is a charmed life, and so you give back. You record footage, care for your pet and when possible, improve your employees’ lives, but this is the objective of any boss. The mystique and chest hairs of Mike Carroll are of the sort that can boost the morale of current and former staffers alike, and defuse a potential internet lynch mob with the stroke of several keys.

Six days ago, Marc Johnson revealed to the Chrome Ball Incident a disputed video part meant for inclusion in the “Bag of Suck” video by Tilt Mode compadres Enjoi, but withheld following objections from Crailtap’s then lensman Ty Evans, concerned with focusing all planetary energies on completing the Lakai vid. Marc Johnson five years later still harbours bad feelings about the episode, a Slap board rebuttal on behalf of Ty Evans suggested there was more to the story, and meanwhile messageboard pitchforks and torches were gathered.

Then the weekend rolls around and Carroll shakes loose a few moments to to go onto Instagram to ease Marc Johnson’s troubled mind, absolve Ty Evans of alleged memory hole stuffing and ignite joy among the general populace:

Does this type of internet power maneuver jump Mike Carroll to the pole position in the race for TWS Business’ coveted BOTY award? Did this episode have the internet going nuts? is Nick Trapasso still technically an am boss while Carroll is a seasoned pro?

Ty Evans’ Love Letter To Excess, In Which Even A Guy Mariano Part Sparkles With Frosting

December 1, 2012

tyevansbot

Thrasher Magazine’s Michael Burnett, who is one of the best writers in the space over the last decade, a couple years back wrote a simultaneously biting and loving intro to a Billy Marks interview in which he positioned the dude’s spendthrift and oftentimes fleeting love affair with “gadgets” and his generally relaxed attitude toward personal responsibility as fundamentally American personality traits, and some type of moustachioed, roast beef-grabbing mirror into which we all could gaze as the nation was tossed upon the horns of a fearsome economic decline.

There is a similar sensibility careening through Girl/Chocolate’s “Pretty Sweet,” or maybe more like a jittery animal instinct, allegedly governing a cultural attention span fragmented across mobile phones, social networks, flatscreen TVs and 3D IMAX movie theaters — beginning with an extended-take intro that dissolves into day-glo pyrotechnics and thumping electronic music with robot vocals, rarely lingering on one shot for more than a few seconds and deploying fireworks, special effects, time-lapse video and of course the super slow-mo. Ty Evans is eager to fish out all his tools as soon as the first part gets underway, chopping Vincent Alvarez’s more-Chocolatey-than-others tricks into a multi-course dog’s dinner determined to move as quickly between tricks and filler shots as fast as Alvarez pushes, with an aural nod to a previous Chocolate production before upshifting again to a third act, which naturally is soundtracked a custom-made song performed by a pro skater and a member of Metallica. Vincent Alvarez spins a 540 out of a curb cut and you blink and are dazed and wonder what has been happening.

And so it goes, as Hollywood celebrities again supply off-color commentary on session sidelines, dudes carve nearly up to the rooftops of buildings and Ty Evans reaches deep inside his bag of digital hocus pocus for other occasional curveballs. Many of these are not new ideas, as the invisible ramps and obstacles from “Yeah Right” make a reappearance, along with the souped-up slams from “Fully Flared” and some synchronized skating and crowd control that provided whimsy in “Hot Chocolate.” The slow-mo super cam is deployed heavily throughout, though in shorter bursts that add Hype Williams alongside Michael Bay and George Lucas as apparent inspirational touchstones for the directors here. There are some fun surreal moments, like the liquifying ledge and the suddenly multiplying boards, that signal some hope for a collaboration if Spike Jonez really were to exercise his “Malkovich” muscle.

The editing and production that are loudly at the center of “Pretty Sweet” takes their cue partly from the skating, which is as diverse a roster as Girl and Chocolate have ever recruited. Bowls, ledges, handrails, gaps, waterslides, ditches and the beloved mini picnic tables all are schralped upon by dudes whose ages must now span about two decades, including both dudes who have beards and other dudes who don’t. The Anti-Hero fandom from those summertime tours is in play, mostly by certain of the “Trunk Boyz” contingent, while a lot of the aging stalwarts tally new and lower-impact ways to spin and shove-it and flip out of tricks.

Some cosmic pendulum is aswing here. “Goldfish” arrived as the early 1990s’ obsession with slow-moving pressure flippery and brightly colored giant pants gave way to smoother and simpler tricks carried out from inside loose-fit blue jeans, and somebody out there would probably argue the case for Guy Mariano’s “Mouse” section setting some high-water mark for difficult tricks made to look easy with a minimum of fuss. There’s no goofy boy outfits strapped on in “Pretty Sweet” but a smith grind laser flip comes off like sprinting in the opposite direction, skating-wise. The younguns too embrace the spirit of excess, as they toast foamy beers and are tracked by camera-toting helicopters and dolly rigs that advance the filmer slowly through a grove of trees to capture a lipslide in the wild. Cory Kennedy, whose mid-backside tailslide kickflip attains the rare status of super-technical tricks that look as good on film as they did in a sequence, casually precedes one handrail NBD with a four-trick run. Such is the embarrassment of riches in Torrance that Eric Koston (Eric Koston) is relegated to a cameo in someone else’s section.

There is a sunny and light-hearted something bouncing through “Pretty Sweet” that, combined with the production values and skits reminded me sometimes more of a mid-period Bones Brigade movie rather than any of the Girl/Choco catalog in particular. This one doesn’t feel so much like it’s got the chip on its shoulder that “Fully Flared” did — Guy Mariano’s comeback is sealed, Marc Johnson seems to have exorcised some of the demons that drove him to record a 15-minute part and abruptly retreat to a mountain compound, Eric Koston no longer carries the weight of the team on his back by way of benchmark tricks, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard seem content in a shift toward full-time mogul status. Chico Brenes shows up and does his nollie heelflips and Jeron Wilson is not sweating it. Also it seems weird to think of someone like Brandon Biebel as a veteran pro, but at this point he definitely is one.

Like with “Stay Gold” some loose talk has gone around to the effect that “Pretty Sweet” will be “the last big video” which, well, you can just imagine how that must hurt the feelings of the poor DGK team members who are getting ready to release their first full-length in about two weeks’ time. You do wonder though what the next Girl video may look like, as there will for sure have to be one unless Ty Evans is conscripted to tote camera machinery through some Eastern European forest in service of the next crop of Disney-owned “Star Wars” movies. Can a lineup underpinned by Mike Mo, Cory Kennedy, Alex Olson and Sean Malto in four or five years’ time command the same gravitas and hoopla as something like “Pretty Sweet” or “Fully Flared” without the decades-deep vets on board? With the VHS-fetishizing movement alive and well, will Crailtap be forced to double down on high-definition recording devices and co-located editing engines? Could there one day be an entire section of after-black editing hammers?

Elginerpeton, Girl, Blueprint And The Delicate Art Of The 401(k) Rollover

November 26, 2012

offshore

The billions of bloated and rotting carcasses of lungless, would-be amphibians gently fertilizing the beaches of history attest that evolution can be a messy, strenuous enterprise. Witness, in more modern times, the still-ongoing struggles for democracy around the world or also the pre-Oscar trevails of Three Six Mafia.

Like a semi-legged fish cast upon a tidal shore and seeking its footing with the help of expensive high def videography equipment, so too do a couple deck companies now entertain their potential futures removed from the warm and brinesome pools of their hatching, shedding founding-father pros and piling chips upon next-gen hot shoers that may or may not have the conjones to earn the throne and scepter and potential amphibious harem that belong rightfully to the king of the beach. Girl last week unveiled this decade’s full-length video presentation, in conjunction with Chocolate, while Blueprint has bid goodbye to more top talent dating back to the UK outfit’s establishment.

The diminished profitability of board manufacturers has been somewhat offset by the way they carry greater clout in defining what pro bros are about and providing a platform for various creative visions, to the extent these still exist in an era of limitless full-bleed series graphics and customized multi-logo baseball hats. The prior decade’s mercifully brief flirtation with pattern-graphic footwear was not enough to knock boards out of the box in this respect, despite the best efforts of several shoe teams sponsoring motocross bikers.

But even the best and brightest contributors to the ‘culture,’ of which Girl and Blueprint both long ago cemented their status, need active and relevant ambassadors out there preaching and switch backside smith grinding ledges or else you run the risk of losing touch with a permanently youthful and tempermental clientele, or running low on able-bodied independent contractors willing to slide down handrails, or both. Sad as it is, those schoolyard lords of the mid-1990s have been steadily confronting their shelf lives on video and in the streets and same as then not every dude is a Mariano or Koston.

It seems like you need one or more ‘Vision dudes’ (no Brad Dorfman) with a steady hand on the rudder to navigate such generational shoals, and I think here of bros such as John Lucero, Ed Templeton, Todd Swank, Jim Thiebaud, Mike Hill/Chris Carter and even the corporate paymasters who press boards at Element — all having weathered for the most part a total exodus of the names that launched the companies (in some cases several near-total personnel rollovers) and were able to keep drawing new and vigorous blood. Stereo, Plan B, Menace and several Gonz-helmed ventures petered out or folded once the main brains departed or shifted focus.

Similar to “Yeah Right” the new “Pretty Sweet” is being described as a torch-passing moment for the Crailtap crew, probably more true this time around given spotlights generally dimming on the OGs since “Fully Flared” (though multiple Jeron Wilson photos in a single recent mag did not go unnoticed around here). The prospect of Girl Films or Chocolate Cinemas sans Carroll, Howard, Brenes etc seems more and more realistic but ups the ante as far as the capabilities and sensibilities of those anointed ones who would pick up the gauntlet, given the long shadows cast by the dudes that made all those old videos, ads, boards. That track record being the critical mass magnet to Hoover up the needed new talent, but does ‘UnbeLeafAble’ hit the same way Sean Sheffey and the fishbowl did back when?

The outlook for Blueprint seems more up in the air in recent months as honchos Dan Magee, who masterminded the look and video output, and now Paul Shier have turned in their respective papers, leaving assorted rumors as to an unspecified new UK-centric venture, whether some recently picked US dudes will get a bump up and if Palace will sign Danny Brady. Blueprint’s efforts to broaden their platform and pitch a bigger tent made some sense but the steps they took toward that end, like moving the company to California and putting on several Americans and inexplicably relying on “Birdhouse In Your Soul” to kick off a video threw me for several loops, while old- and young-timers like Mark Baines and Chewy Cannon and Jerome Campbell bounced. How Blueprint persists/perpetuates/prevails from this point appears down in part to what roles the other UK vets take, like Nick Jensen, Neil Smith and Colin Kennedy.