Posts Tagged ‘the Nine Club’

A Smile From A Veil

March 19, 2018

When the machines complete their account of human history, our current era will be remembered for several things: an improbable resurgence of the color yellow, @versace_plug, and the skateboard industry busily getting its act together so as to gather as many dollars as possible in conjunction with the steadily nearing international Olympic hoopla. Already a schism is visible between those striving to have their proverbial shit together, and the have-nots. Dustin Dollin, proudly among the latter, explained recently to fellow traveler Ali Boulala the difference between himself and future Olympic medallion hoister Nyjah Huston, at least when it comes to chemical-fueled art heists:

DD: The thing also about skateboarding is that if you do get that popular you really have to watch your step. That’s what’s good about sticking to the society of the underground, I can fuck up and be a drunk and nobody is going to say shit. But if Nyjah does that shit, pulls down some paintings in a hotel he’s fucked. His sponsors would be out.

For those young strivers raised in sanctioned skateparks to reach for maximum experience points, straight-and-narrows may be obligatory. But for others figuring they have time to affect a pivot from Dustin Dollin’s Pellucidar to squeaky-clean Team USA garms, decades spent straying from any and every paths are busily being recorded for posterity. Consider Heath Kirchart, no stranger to bodily risk, fresh off an engrossing ‘Epicly Later’d’ that plumbed one of the industry’s more mercurial personas, who seems to have traded in a skate career with plenty of runway for legacy-milking for a series of odd jobs interspersed with life-threatening missions pursued with an endearing zest for minimal preparation. A less misanthropic pro or bro might draw accusations of burnishing his or her image for a stab at a bigger platform, but Heath Kirchart’s own circumstance reads more like a death wish, and in some ways, a relic belonging to an era swiftly fading into the chemtrail of a Tokyo-bound jet liner.

Were he cut from careerist cloth, would Heath Kirchart instead find himself trussed and dangling over a poisonous cauldron of righteous internet anger, freshly bubbling as podcast interviewees trot out tales of long-ago terroristic behaviours? As the ‘#MeToo’ movement claims celebrity scalps and forces industries from media to politics into uncomfortable self-examinations, the increasingly upward-mobile skateboarding biz might ponder its own richly checkerboarded past. Witness a string of podcast interviewees trotting forth entertaining and engrossing tales of mental and physical grotesqueries doled out by Heath Kirtchart in younger, freer and harsher times:

Jamie Tancowny, The Bunt: After I hurt my knee I moved back up to Canada for a year, year and a half… I couldn’t skate at all, I was kind of just by myself up there. That led up to, when I moved down here that’s when I switched to LE, that’s right when I started to film again pretty much to get back to the level I was before. And basically [Emerica] were like you got six months to get an interview in Thrasher. And it was like in July or whatever… I actually got it done and that’s when Heath became the team manager. And pretty much they kind of just were like, “yeah, we can’t do it anymore, we gotta stop paying you, and if you want to put your feelers out to try and find a new company you probably should start doing that, somebody that will pay you.” And I was like alright, that sucks, pretty much got kicked off.

TB: …what’s up with Heath?

JT: He’s still a good guy. He just has a temper I think. …He was there when I first went down and stayed at the Emerica mansion actually… he just kind of kept to himself. I don’t know, we’re like homies, so it was definitely kind of weird. I still see him these days, and it’s just like water under the bridge, I don’t hold a grudge, it’s not his fault.

Jerry Hsu, the Nine Club: Demos are mellower because the whole team’s with you, you’re not alone. But when it gets down to just you, though, it sucks… I’ve definitely been like the last person skating and then not landed the trick, just because I was trying something. And I’m the last one, and it’s just so brutal, every attempt. And then sometimes people will start doing a ‘Jerry’ chant, like Jerry Springer… oh my God, that only compounds it. Heath used to do that, when he was the team manager at Emerica, he would even do that when he rode for Emerica. He would start that chant and I would have to tell everybody like, no, don’t…

James Hardy, The Bunt: We went to LA to stay with [Dan Rogers, Heath Kirchart, Skatetalk Bob], I was turning 16 on the trip, while I was staying with them. I was super excited to meet Kirchart, he was one of my favorite skaters, but he was pretty reclusive… as the tale goes with him. He didn’t come out hardly ever when we were there the first four or five days. And then that’s when my birthday happened. I was asleep on the couch and lights come on and I get woke up getting put in a headlock by Dan Rogers. He was into wrestling or some of that stupid shit so he put me in some weird jock-y headlock. I got my face on the ground, he’s got his foot on my neck.

I had my face on the ground, squirming. I’ll throw Ben [Gilly] under the bus… I think I kicked his foot and he went off crying hobbling to the bedroom. Heath randomly came out of his cave and started heel kicking the back of my thigh. And started punching me. My nose started bleeding at one point… he had me in the headlock, they beat my arms to a pulp, my legs to a pulp, at a certain point I couldn’t walk.

…Eventually I was so tired I just gave up. Just beat me, I don’t care. They duct-taped my arms together, duct taped my feet, my whole legs together and then threw me in the backyard and just left me there. Someone had flour… they came out, thought that would be even cooler just to throw flour on my face. So they threw flour on my face. After I while they felt bad, I was spitting it out… so stupid, so jock-y. And then they came and hosed me down with a water hose, left me out there another 30 minutes.

Eventually the party’s over, they cut me loose. I hated all of them. I was 16… I thought all these dudes were pro skaters, they’re supposed to be rad, I thought they left all the jock stuff back in middle school. It was just typical jock-y shit. Anyway I shower and rinse off, go to bed, exhausted, just can barely stand. I wake up in the morning and my eyes are just plastered shut with pus. I could not open my eyes. I had to take my fingers and peel my eyelids open.

…And they filmed the whole thing and gave it to me as a birthday present. I still have the tape somewhere back home. So once I got sponsored that story got told a couple times, just in passing. At the Vans downtown showdown, in 2008, 2007… I told that story to a couple buddies, I guess it got around a little bit. And Kirchart came up to me, and said, “Hey man, what’s your deal?” I said, “What are you talking about?” “You’re making me look like a bad guy with that story.” I said, “Yeah, you pretty much beat me to a pulp and left me outside with flour in my eyes so I don’t really feel bad about telling that story.”

“Well you’re just making me look like the bad guy, I didn’t even do any of that.” I said, “Actually yeah, you did.”

…I will say he is one of my favorite skaters, even after that. But I never want to see him again.

Do such tales of Heath Kirchart’s malevolent reign — and there are more — serve as a cautionary signal for today’s ascendant pros bearing their own skeleton-stacked closets, perhaps with more to lose and (most likely) far less hallowed bodies of work with which to counterbalance any misbehaviours? Or do all others’ prior indiscretions pale in comparison with this fearsome visage, except maybe for Andy Roy and Fred Gall? Are folks who favor the Pink Floyd version of Heath Kirchart’s ‘Sight Unseen’ part over the official-release Moody Blues number hopelessly fooling themselves?


An Imaginary Time-Traveler’s Reckoning on Winner Status, and Dylan Sourbeer’s Line Holding the T-Shirt In His Hand

October 22, 2017

“When I got to Alabama it was every bit as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was the only skateboarder in my school and I was seriously teased to such a gnarly degree,” career burler Jamie Thomas reminisced to the Nine Club hosts this week, describing a sneering ostracization known to Middle America skaters coming of age in the late 1980s. “I was really intimidated. It was a lot of jocks and preps and it was a lot of them and only one of me. I was completely by myself. It was like being in the prison yard.”

Whether Jamie Thomas the alienated high school freshman would recognize his weathered, lionized and moustachioed self nearly 30 years later is a question best addressed through a sci-fi buddy film centered on antiquated communication technologies. Were such a time-hopping Yung Chief to stumble through those folding, see-thru doors into our modern landscape, it would doubtless appear disorienting and off. In this world, foreign governments make unsolicited offers to pay skaters to quit their day job and skate for years at a time. The dude who filmed Rubbish Heap is an Oscar laureate, on the same professional level as Martin Scorcese and Three 6 Mafia. The Wall Street Journal reports that international skateshop chain Supreme is worth a billion dollars, surpassing preppy mainstay Abercrombie & Fitch. And Palace has invented a machine that takes in fashionistas’ pounds sterling and spits out long-dead hallowed grounds.

Would we forgive our imaginary, time-traveling underclassman JT for thinking that skateboarders, over the past thirty years, had secured some sort of ‘Bad News Bears’- or ‘Revenge of the Nerds’-style victory over oppression — when Nike, that decades-long guiding light to the world’s ‘jocks,’ now builds skateparks and revives spots, and skateboarders run tastemaking TV channels? Could the bliss injected by such emancipation from high school’s social gaol overpower nagging, murmured questions over any sense of shared struggle lost when a countercultural tribe finds that prefix effectively erased?

Were those misgivings enough to obscure the marvels of sassy digital assistants and movies streamed in high definition to pocket-sized telephones, our imaginary, time-traveling teenage Jamie Thomas may have hit the road – to Philadelphia, where late 1990s throwback shoes, denim and pinner decks sprouted from the cracks of a dormant scene over the past ten years from the sort of soil that’s becoming an endangered habitat as inner cities scrub up and gentrify. Here, skateboarding’s ‘loser’ status remained time-capsule intact, huddled among various drunks, junkies and lurkers on a couple blocks’ worth of concrete and stone that never seemed much needed by city officials, salaried professionals or money-folding tourists. Here, skateboarding failed to ascend society’s greasy rungs, despite a direct appeal from Love Park’s designer, the X-Games’ civic endorsement and a $1 million offer from newly flush DC Shoes to legitimize skating that was going on anyway and free cops to pursue other crimes.

It is this bitterest pill – Love Park’s final destruction — that Philadelphia’s Sabotage crew pops into their mouth, grinds between their teeth, swallows and then licks their cold-cracked lips in the fifth installment of one of the rawest video series going. From start to finish ‘Sabotage 5’ is a gloriously losing war against capitulation to the inevitable. Like any decent funeral, this eulogy is delivered by the immediate family, rather than transient pros, with the locals turning in their last tapes skating Love Park as it was, and a grip of tricks as it is dismantled. Zach Panebianco’s part opens with a fence hop to eleventh hour fountain ollie, and closes with another jump deeper into the park’s then-exposed guts. Brian Panebianco, who along with Ryan Higgins has done more than anybody to elevate the downtown Philly scene, goes two songs deep and switch varial heelflips the ‘little’ stairs onto some straggler sections of tile. Joey O’Brien, last seen in ‘Sabotage 4’ tunneling beneath Love for one of the most memorable lines there ever done, captures the backside bigspin that eluded Mark Suciu; Brian Douglas regulates the levels between filming last-weekend lines; and Tore Bevivino links some brain-scrambling moves across the fountain ledges. It is Dylan Sourbeer who gets in the last licks, at times doing his own dismantling of Love Park’s blocks and steel to open up new angles — and deservedly closing down one of these vids with a deep supply of ledge lines, a lengthy nosegrind across the exposed dirt and a can-topping kickflip from one propped-up tile to another that carries some type of finality. Some chest-puffing moments of defiance pop up – “it don’t look over to me” goes one lurker’s memorable exhortation – but by the muted closing section, it is clear which side won.

Would our time-traveling underclassman Jamie Thomas, after shaking ‘Sabotage 5’s technical ledgery from his mind, find in Love Park’s final chapter some sour recognition of the outcast status he once lived? Would the cut of Kevin Bilyeu’s jeans at least look familiar? Did yall catch this clip of Brian Wenning and Josh Kalis skating Muni the other day? Does a year burdened with melancholy and loss, make ‘Sabotage 5’ more affecting than it might otherwise have been? Does Dylan Sourbeer’s line at Muni holding the t-shirt in his hand provide a new benchmark for future human achievement?

FUBU or BUFU? A Podcast Indictment of Skate Shoe Companies and the Dark Age Few Speak of

March 6, 2017


History is written by the winners, each new generation a fresh lump of clay for the victorious potter’s hands to mold into his own graven image, funny animal shapes or mixed metaphors of one’s own choosing. In skateboarding in 2017 the winners are clear and have been for some time — the heavyweight sporting goods manufacturers, whose near-mindless devotion to quality, largess showered upon long-suffering professional athletes and resolute stewardship of investor dollars grows with each telling. Around ritual bonfires, their names and the names of their boardroom directors are exalted unto the spirit world.

Sometimes, people forget. Truth bombs are deployed — Nine Club Ipod-cast co-host Roger Bagley lit one such fuse during last week’s newsmaking Marc Johnson interview, which turned, as it must, toward the claustrophobic pachyderm that had eluded the rest of the skate media world for the preceding nine months, Marc Johnson’s messy break-up with the Crailtap camp amid his move from Lakai to Adidas. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” Roger Bagley said. “Skateboard shoe companies make shitty shoes. Nike, Adidas, Converse make really great shoes. People got tired of buying shitty shoes and decided to start buying really good shoes. Their business started hurting.”

He elaborated on Instagram: the_breadcrumb_trail@thattomcox I never called them out…and they know what I meant by the comment. They make good shoes and they try their best to make the best possible shoes they can for a good price, but the majority of brands out there make garbage. Everyone wants to stay “core” …but, when it comes to spending $75 on a pair of shoes that aren’t comfortable on your feet versus spending that money on something that feels amazing…I know where I’m spending my money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m wearing @esskateboarding right now…but, the fact is “core” brands can’t produce a shoe at the same quality as these corporations….and the sad fact is people aren’t buying “core” skate shoes at the shops like they used to…and people can blame it on the corporations ability to market the shit out their products to the masses…but, when it comes down to it they just make a better product and “core” brands can’t compete

Skateboarders for many years nursed a guilt complex over purchasing shoes and other products from international shoe merchandisers, which had spent decades of years and millions of dollars building up the athletes, major-league sport organizations and associated fanbases that many picked up a skateboard to avoid in the first place. Whereas various tennis shoes and basketball sneakers got put to griptape out of necessity in the early days, most of these eventually were cast aside in favor of skateboard industry-birthed footwear concerns that promised flatness of sole, adherence to rapidly shifting fashions and a pureness of heart that could never be matched by corporate mega-cobblers’ social responsibility covenants.

But was it all FUBU or BUFU? Duffs shoes, out of the World Industries empire that was, did little to hide the human, environmental and moral toll exacted by Cobnobblers and Strombolis. The cultural crimes of the D3 often are mentioned, but less discussed are funny-sounding enablers such as the Oarb. As skateboarding collectively rejoiced in Tony Hawk’s 900 spin achievement, the validation that only can come from a blockbuster video game franchise, and all of the ensuing merchandise sales, did the irrational exuberance only serve to throw a garish, overpriced and low-quality shoe-shaped blanket over a truly horrific era, before the global shoe makers deigned to begin supplying skateboarding in earnest starting around 2003?

One marvels to think about what could have been possible had bulge bracket footwear companies been wholeheartedly embraced instead of rejected. Properly shod, Jamie Thomas, for instance, perhaps could have landed the Leap of Faith. Or, Bob Burnquist might have landed those couple Transworld covers. If Marc Johnson hadn’t waited until 2016 to move to Adidas, could his ‘Fully Flared’ part have been 26 minutes long? Backed by corporate shoe money, could ‘The End’ have offered more realistic pyrotechnics? If DGK had clung to the Reebok deal, could ‘Parental Advisory’ have offered a Jay-Z cameo instead of Beanie Siegel?

Should skate shoe companies just give up already and thank Nike and Adidas for letting them do business as long as they have? Will the late 1980s through the early 2000s in future decades be regarded as a dark age, or will technology eventually provide a way to retroactively apply VX-quality swooshes and stripes and circular stars to lesser shoes, as a form of atonement? Does VF Corp.’s Vans count as a skate shoe company or the other kind?

Another Tantalizing Push Taken Towards a Pugilistic Payday

February 27, 2017

The struggling skateboard industry this weekend mounted a fresh effort to coax digitally transferred dollaradoos from skateboarders’ apparently refilling attention-span glands (based on the roaring success of the recent renaissance in hour-plus podcasts), united with the no-fi production values associated with various ‘raw files’/‘b-sides victory-lap double dipping that invite the still-hungry skateboarding content glutton inside the gruesome and glorious video part-making process.

Carefully tearing loose a page from Thrasher’s steadily thickening online-content playbook, Street League-backed telephone application developer ETN, an assumed acronym for Extreme TV Network, where TV is short for television, this weekend broadcast Aaron ‘Jaws’ Hamoki and Tommy Sandoval stepping to the UC Davis gap for the thrillment of multiple subscribing app-downloaders around the world. The format recalled Thrasher’s ‘Bust or Bail’ series that pledged cash dollars for bar-lifting tricks at famed spots, although in this instance a financial pledge was made by app downloaders to pay either $8 a month or $80 a year to tune into similarly star-powered spot assaults yet to come, as well as a range of other ETN offerings including a skateboard game show.

At a time when no less prolific a professional than 18-parter Marc Johnson pleads for folks to maybe dial down the daily firehose of skate videos, citing fatigue, it requires balls of the UC Davis gap carcass-tossing sort to not just launch a new online and mobile TV channel, but to charge spendable money for it, given the ever-thicker churn of video parts, Instagram clips, days-in-the-lifes and certain other what have yous, plus the Slap boards. While ETN’s fruitsome spread of shows suggests no more free live-streaming of venerable contests such as Tampa Pro, the idea of televising heavy-hitter sessions like Jaws’ and Tommy Sandoval’s campus romp presents its own basket of yowling logistical dilemmas. If you’re a pro with the control and cojones, a combination knowed by industry men as ‘controjones,’ do you film it for your video-part ender, hoping for some Thrasher website push before the part finds whatever second life it may on You-Tube, or do you chance trying it on ETN before a potentially smaller audience that may or may not be the only ones to ever see it, depending upon how the footage is controlled? If you are ETN, do you recruit the Kyle Walkers of this world, who landed his SOTY Thrasher cover in about 45 minutes as per Michael Burnett’s reporting, and risk leaving sadistic penny-pinchers distraught that they didn’t get their money’s worth? Do you veer toward a wider stable of shakier-legged amateurs with less to lose but who may loose more fireworks? Is there some creamy middle of name-brand dudes who are good but not ‘too good’ to achieve maximum subscribership and critical re-ups? (For kids aroused by ETN’s promise that you can try it for free and “bail anytime,” cancelling the deal allegedly presents its own challenges.)

All this though is only precursor to ETN’s true potential and inevitable destiny. Skateboarding’s inherent penchant for drama, betrayal, vengeance, despair and triumph, along with its devotion to convoluted and soapy storylines, long has drawn comparisons to professional wrestling, where the pay-per-view model yielded enough thumping paydays and created enough American jobs to recently land wrestling tycooness Linda McMahon atop the U.S. Small Business Administration, providing the capacity to use the Boston Crab on nettlesome, job-restricting regulations. After Mike Carroll aired out Marc Johnson on last fall, former teammate Chris Roberts and camera-pointing journeyman Roger Bagley were the first get Marc Johnson on record with his own version of events, a coup. Now, there may well be a market for a video app that shows you Marc Johnson, Joey Brezinski and maybe some of the Primitive dudes going manual-for-manual at the Santa Monica Courthouse. But if it got out that Mike Carroll and Rick Howard maybe were going to show up? Or if Tas Pappas and Tony Hawk were one weekend heading to the same ramp? In such cases the question may be not how much one could charge, but how many yachts one can reasonably enjoy.

Is this ETN’s launch suggestive of the suggestion that the skateboard media sphere is not yet so heavily saturated as the board-making biz? How does the concept of promoting an hour-plus of roll-ups and attempts square with Street League’s ambition to draw in the more-casual sports watcher, for whom the typical skate contest run format was deemed overlong/boring? How difficult is the sale proposition for any skate video material whatsoever when you have Foundation giving away jaw-slackening footage from Corey Glick and Cole Wilson, for nothing? While on the topic, is Cole Wilson out of his damn mind? Could there possibly be any better venue than this emergent ETN for a prolonged, mysterious comeback mounted by a shadowy gap-jumper who eventually unmasks himself after jumping some giant gap to reveal his identity as Josh Kasper, whose fondness for pro wrestling is well-documented?

Lil Wayne’s Poseur Card Revoked on Podcast Testimonialism

January 14, 2017


Most people enjoy being the dominant life form in whatever room, building or landscape they may occupy. Cactuses, sperm whales and the common housefly all stand meekishly in the shadow of humankind’s achievements, which include mastering fire, developing the multibillion dollar telecom industry, and the Garfield coffee mug franchise. Even the largest and most ornate beaver dams and termite mounds are a joke compared to man’s buildings which literally tower over other species, often dominating them in their own habitats.

In recent decades skateboarders similarly have differentiated themselves from other members of their species, displaying a capability to navigate backyard transitions and flip boards underfoot, at first in a stationary freestyle way, and later while maintaining respectable speeds. Possessed of a tribal instinct forged in the flamey fires of societal rejection, skateboarders identified themselves with lopsided haircuts, freeform denim and flat-soled suede sneakers, snarling at pretenders trying to cop the look without paying dues in parking-lot hours and spilled blood.

Does the poseur, which once jockeyed with jocks and security guards for archvillain status, conceptually survive in this brave year of the rooster, 2017? Fattened on mall money and transfixed by sly winks from extreme-intrigued ingenues, collective guards have fallen away. Advice on appropriating skate stylings have become common enough that Jake Phelp’s occasional grouchy grumping over Thrasher tee-sporting celebrities is seen as increasingly quaint.

Now comes Lil Wayne, née Dwayne Carter, Cash Money Records’ Danny Way, an industry-reared wonder boy possessed of once-in-a-generation talents, later estranged from early benefactors and in later years, outpaced by onetime proteges. In his post-platinum era wanderings, which also has included guitar solos and bowling, Lil Wayne picked up skateboarding, following earlier lines drawn by Pharrell ‘Skateboard P’ Williams and Lupe Fiasco. Eagerly written off after publicly declaring his dedication, Lil Wayne somehow stuck with it, living down ill-considered proclamations of prowess and conceiving the obligatory terrible clothes company. Along the way the ‘A Milli’ author earned love from actual skateboarders the old-fashioned way*:

Conor Champion: “He’s a little kid that just started skating in a grown millionaire’s body. Out of everything he could be doing with his free time, he’s choosing to be at the skatepark with us at three in the morning. You have to realize he could be doing literally anything in the world at that moment.”

Now, as far as wiling away hours at the park as a barometer of love for skating, many 10-year-olds measure up. Investing more than half a decade and then shaking off a droughty croak to muse for an hour over truck heights, the tradeoffs of filming in parks, getting kicked out of parks, lighting up spots with Iphones and hanging out behind restaurants to skate a bank-to-wall at 4:00 in the morning — that’s a horse of a different color, unsaddled by celebrity dilettantes and fair-weather penny cruiser pilots outfitted by 401(k)-toting stylists loathe to shovel the manure of bailed kickflips and gashed faces. With a profane pithiness suited to the penman responsible for one of rap music’s greatest verses, Lil Wayne justified himself last month on Chris Roberts’ ‘Nine Club’ podcast:

Lil Wayne: “I hate to use the word perfect but I’m the perfect guy to explain it. I’ve experienced a lot of great fuckin feelings. I’ve seen checks with a lot of zeroes on them bitches, with my name. I’ve experienced a lot of wonderful… moments with women. I’m talking about fucking her while her movie’s on in the background. With your music on the radio. I’ve opened a lot of great doors, I’ve seen a bunch of smiles on a bunch of faces…. I swear I don’t know if there’s a feeling that comes close to landing on them four wheels.”

Will Baby try and put the kibosh on Lil Wayne releasing a video part while still under a CMB contract? Does employing a housekeeper for one’s private skatepark and also a co-located bowling alley qualify Lil Wayne as ‘upriver’ on Jason Dill’s famed skate-scale or does it require a different benchmark altogether, like maybe the Russian deeps of Lake Baikal? Was all of this foretold after Ty Evans placed Mannie Fresh music into ‘Fully Flared’ for Lucas Puig, JB Gillet and JJ Rousseau, a music supervision masterstroke that may also have absolved Ty Evans of any number of indie-rock missteps over the years?

*Not like that, you pervert