FOUR CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CRAFT
Pontus Alv, Jason Dill, Amy Ellington, and Brian Anderson
In the Summer of 1992, I conducted my first interview with a hardcore band in a parking lot in Connecticut outside of a club called the Cellblock. With about eight bands playing it was basically a fest, held at a prison-themed venue that probably had topless dancers when it wasn’t hosting all-ages punk gigs.
I interviewed the band Ressurection and it immediately was contentious because I asked them why they spelled their name incorrectly and then we argued about religion as two of the band’s members—Robert Fish and Norman Brannon—were Hare Krishna devotees. Rob would go on to front 108 and Norman formed Texas Is the Reason with Ressurection’s drummer, Chris Daly. Then I printed a zine and it sucked.
Since then I’ve done hundreds of interviews with musicians, artists, skateboarders, activists, and even a guy who collects vintage lights. I remember something about all of these conversations and funny enough, I get more anxiety about talking to people now than I did when I was 16.
A journalist once told me that interview questions should be terse and direct: “How did that make you feel” or “Tell me about your new record.”
That’s cool when you’re on the red carpet or some shit but, depending on how the convo is going, sometimes you can throw an idea out rather than a simple question and it’s great. Other times you get, “Hmmm, that wasn’t really a question.. “ in response and you have to keep it moving.
I recently did four interviews that I’m still thinking about because they all talk about the creative process in entirely different ways, so I wanted to link you and add a quote from each one because some other journalist told me a Substack is supposed to promote your work. I’m just figuring this shit out, sorry.
OK, the thing about a journalist telling me to self-promote is real but that’s not why I wanted to revisit these four interviews. There are a few reasons and they’re really important to me so why not bullet them out?:
All of these people have a unique perspective on skateboarding and the creative process
All of these folks take chances and put themselves out there no matter what
All of these conversations inspired me and I hope they inspire you.
You see, the reason I get jittery speaking to people in an interview format is because of the level of respect I have for them, not only for their work but their time. It’s hard to talk about what you do and make so I take the opportunity to go inside that very seriously.
Thank you to Brian Anderson, Pontus Alv, Jason Dill, Amy Ellington, and the outlets that run my pieces. I hope you enjoy the full interviews or the bits I copied below.
AN INTERVIEW WITH AMY ELLINGTON (full interview here)
In the early-2000s, skate events were mostly male-dominated. You go to a video premiere, there’s a bunch of cheap beer and people recreating what they saw on Jackass or whatever but your events were much more diverse and inclusive. What you’re doing with KCDC now feels like an extension of that, just more mature in a way.
I was still modeling when we started the shop, so I’d bring a bunch of models to the events or other people from club life I met along the way. We offered an atmosphere that was fun and I hate to overuse the word “inclusive,” but it really was. Everybody was welcome and felt welcome. Also, the way I curated the early art shows, every single thing we’ve done involved women. I just saw people working hard and I wanted to involve them. I never looked around at what other people were doing in skateboarding because there wasn’t much competition. It was more like, “Fuck it! What can [we] do that would be fun?”
That was having a mechanical bull in the middle of the floor of a party. I was in Karen Black and the photographer for Karen Black worked with the Coney Island Sideshow, so we brought them in. I mean, the Tattooed Man was Santa at one of our Christmas parties. I was friends with go-go and burlesque dancers, so I had them come to the events. Guys were dancing with girls, girls were dancing with girls, and guys were dancing with guys. It was great to see these girls having fun and being creative, so it made sense to bring them together with these skateboarders that I also saw as really fun and creative.
AN INTERVIEW WITH PONTUS ALV (full interview here)
Can you talk about the sole design for the shoes?
We wanted a logo on there but the most important thing was to design the tread so that stones and pebbles can’t get stuck in them. That’s a big thing in Scandinavia in the winter when they salt the streets, and after the winter, the sidewalks are full of rock salt and pebbles that can get stuck in your shoe. Then you start skating and it scratches your grip tape and you’re bummed, so we designed the pattern to be quite open.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JASON DILL (full interview here)
Tell me about going out in the late ‘90s and early-2000s New York. It felt like everyone had those disposable cameras you’d grip at a bodega. Were you into that?
Yeah, I started with disposable stuff around ’93 or ’94… I think they were new then. I didn’t use any of those in the book, but I love those. In ‘97 I borrowed a friend's camera – there are a few images in the book with that camera. I don’t even remember what fuckin’ film I used, just black-and-white. It was a Nikon… the one you’d use in a high school photography class, the super manual one. I actually took a photography class in high school before I dropped out when I was 17… and I passed it. I’ve never taken an art class and I think it shows in my art. [laughs]
In the late '90s I got into the Olympus with the slide shield in the front. I got one of those and it became a priority for me to bring it with me. And by priorities, I mean, my priorities were to go out every night, blackout, and take photos. I did that for about ten years in New York. I’m not necessarily proud of it. I wasted a lot of fucking time, but we got a lot of funny photos out of it.
AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN ANDERSON (full interview here)
Do you have a favorite piece or shoe that you’ve been able to design?
I have something I actually should try and trademark right now. I just made this—I took a pullover hoodie and I cut it down in the middle, then I got large plastic buttons and I don’t have a sewing machine, so what I do is I go to a dry cleaner, where I live in Queens, and I just walked in and asked him and said, “Will you sew things on shirts for me? Seven bucks? Right on!” I take safety pins and pin things on shirts where I think they should live. I’ve never had the time to sit with a sewing machine because I’m a mover. My dad had a workbench in our basement and I inherited this love of woodworking and all things handy, you know. But it’s really hard for me to sit still—movie theaters are really tough for me. My alcoholism kicked in pretty hard in my adult life. I need to go if I’m not sleeping, I want to be writing. Drawing. Wiggling. I empty my pockets, and there are napkins with a million ideas. When I tried to make 3d skateboards it was difficult because the skateboard market was saturated with all these little cafe, art companies. We were losing money so I had to stop. I just took a step back and decided to organize my ideas to present to Nike or Supreme down the road. I’m happy to have done all I have in skating and as I approach 50 years old, I want to organize all these things and see where I land. I’m turning 46 in June and one of the reasons I also stopped drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is because I want to take care of this frame.