MARC JOHNSON: 7,000-ish Words
Mental Health, Social Media, Greco, Dylan, Backyard Ramp Culture + More.
|Anthony Pappalardo||Dec 13, 2019|| 2|
PHOTO BY Hendrik Herzmann
In 2017 I interviewed Marc Johnson about his “MJ” colorway Matchcourt for adidas Skateboarding. Released in tandem with a short video titled “On Your Marc,” the shoe was his first with adidas after leaving longtime sponsor Lakai. At the time he was without a board sponsor and reemerging as only Marc Johnson could. Rather than dropping a trick-trick edit, “On Your Marc”* had the campy feel of an ‘80s sitcom—something that tonally had shades of his print ads for Enjoi. There was such a build-up with MJ joining adidas but in talking to him at length, I realized that he wasn’t interested in answering the collective call for a traditional edit but rather, just making what he wants to make. That’s what is unique about Marc Johnson—he’s completely comfortable being himself and putting out ideas, regardless of how they’re received.
Our conversation was sprawling, discussing concepts as much as true nerd shit. If I recall correctly, we more than doubled our allotted 30 minute call time and could have gone on infinitely. That’s Marc’s gift. Thoughts don’t stop and he’s willing to explore where a conversation can go, knowing it might lead nowhere in particular. That’s it. Enjoy the ride.
I could have asked about his departure from Lakai and Chocolate, what parts he’s working on, what team he wanted to join or to offer a response to Jenkem’s “Future of Crailtap” piece or whatever the fuck people want to know but in a way, my mindset is similar to his. Those answers might be what an editor wants but skate journalism isn’t true journalism and honestly, those types of questions are so finite and uninteresting to me. Sure, we were talking about a shoe but that was just the conduit for a conversation and knowing that he’s down to go deep, I just let the call go where it went.
Here are about 7,000 words with Marc Johnson.
*since the original date of publishing, “On Your Marc” has disappeared from the internet.
What year did you start skating?
I started 1990, on my birthday.
The reason I ask is that I was curious about what kind of stuff were you skating back then when you first started?
Well, the very first day I went skating—I remember it was the sixth grade and my second semester of sixth grade. I'd just gotten my first board and I skated the street to my friend’s house and from there we skated to this mini ramp that this older kid had in his backyard. I went street skating, quote un-quote street skating to a mini ramp the very first day and I learned how to drop in the first day.
From the very beginning, I did both. Always street skating like a mile or two or three to someone's house and then from there we would go to someone's ramp. I started more focused on mini ramps because that's just what there was and then as I started seeing videos and stuff and seeing what people could do on curbs and like I just started skating curbs.
And this is right when a company starts shifting towards street skating. Prior to that, it’s all vert so if you didn’t have access to a vert ramp you had to find other things to skate. Did you ever try skating vert as well?
Yeah, I was just about to say I did, I skated vert because that's just what there was. There was a skate park that had opened up I think right ... like the same month that I started skating but I didn't go there until later.
It was a really famous skate park on the east coast and it just happened to be in the town, this tiny little town that I grew up in. The weird thing was there was a lot of BMX. My town was kind of hot for BMX at the time too.
BMX dudes rode vert. There were backyard vert ramps. Surprisingly enough, thinking back it is weird. We had like four different backyard vert ramps to go to and I skated vert but I just treated it like a bigger mini ramp. I never messed with airs or anything like that because I would just learn on the mini ramp and then go skate vert and do the exact same trick.
It was a weird time back then. I remember I grew up in the northeast and you would get like ... Dudes would give you maps maybe or directions to ramps and you're just kind of going, 'I hope this thing exists.'
Totally, that's so crazy that's exactly how it was. I remember meeting... there was like my crew of dudes who were in the sixth, sixth, and seventh grade and then there was the older crew of dudes who were four years old. When we were getting out of middle school they were getting out of high school. They were exactly four years older and I remember meeting that group of dudes and leaving my house to go skate with them and just having these random directions. You'd write them down on a piece of paper because there was no nothing back ... you just called someone on the phone—leaving my house and street skating to parts of town that I had never been to and just showing up at these ramps and being like the little kid. Being like, 'Oh god these guys are fucking ...' They're going to be like, 'Get the ... Who are you? Get out of here. 'I'm here to meet these guys that they told me where this ramp was.' And those guys are not there. You know what I mean?
It was terrifying at times.
It was definitely an adventure man. I feel like a lot of that stuff is totally lost. There's a lot of things that technology has like… there’s a lot of really cool things that technology has stolen from us because it's given us everything else so in a sense it steals something from you.
Part of me is like, 'Oh, it's cool that someone just dropped a pin to me of some new ledge in New York and I can go find it.' But on the other hand, I remember handwritten directions and thinking like this older dude was fucking with me. Literally walking through the woods like, 'This is bullshit.' Then that excitement when you see that glimmer of it. 'Holy fuck! It’s real and it's actually a good ramp too, you know?'
Crazy. The ramps in the wood, how insane is that? Or going to somebody's house that you don't know. This happened a lot. Over the course of the few years that I was skating on the east coast before I moved to North Carolina ... I mean before I moved to California, we did a lot of this. We would hear about a ramp and we would go to a house that we didn't know who lived there and in a time when skating was so small that you knew... if they skated you knew them.
That's how it was. But there were all these ramps scattered around my town that we never met the people that lived at the house, we never skated with them, we never found out who they were, there were just mini ramps and vert ramps in these people's backyards. We would just barge and just skate them. We would hop fences and just go skate these ramps and be like, 'Don't know who lives here. They're definitely not part of our crew.' Just really weird. That happened a lot. The mini ... the ramps in the woods that definitely happened.
I even remember showing up and there'd be like a chain on the ramp just because they didn't want dudes skating in for that reason.
The chain across the flat bottom was not a part of the directions.
This actually ties into something I wanted to ask later on but it's like totally apropos this ... I was reading this interview with Bret Easton Ellis and it's interesting because it's like he can be very curmudgeonly but also very forward with technology. He toes the line on it. He said that he thinks in Hollywood—the way everything's been democratized by you can make a movie on your phone and how people absorb content on their phone—he thinks that specifically ruined the movie industry. But in skating, it’s almost the opposite in that it gave power back to the skaters themselves. I'm curious what your thoughts are on it.
I agree with him and I also agree with what you're saying. Check this out. What technology has given us is everything tangible.
It's given us a lot of these tangible things. It's removed a lot of work, it's taken away a lot of work and a lot of self-reliance. It's given us a lot of tangible things and it's robbed us of these really really important intangible things. Totally stolen these things that you can't see them or touch them but they are important. That's so crazy that we're having this conversation right now because I just watched two Banksy movies last night back to back. I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop and I watched Banksy Does New York. I don't know if you've seen that.
I’ve seen them both.
I've never seen those movies and watched them back to back and I got into this conversation after Banksy Does New York was over. The question came up, 'Do you think Banksy should reveal his identity?' I said, 'No.' and they were like, 'Even on his deathbed?' So let's just say, 'Even on his deathbed. Sixty years or whatever.' I said, 'I don't think he needs to.'
If he did reveal his identity, it would steal something away from his mystique. He has a mystique in his anonymity, he has a mystique in an age of technology where you're just handed everything. Everything's been given to you at the touch of a button. You've also been robbed of these amazing intangible things left to the imagination. So I said, 'He doesn't need to. I think it would do more harm than good if he revealed his identity.' Then that just naturally flowed into me saying, 'That's what social media has done to our heroes. It has robbed us of our heroes.'
When I started skating you had two magazines a month that we're really small and you had maybe two videos a year, maybe. You only got to see your favorite skaters periodically and everything was left to the imagination. You built up this thing about these people and you picked your favorites and there was such a gnarly gap, there was a wall, There was a divide between you and your hero. That stuff is so important and you build this thing up, the wall that divided you and say like Mark Gonzales was infinitely wide. There was no way for you to get from where you were to meet Mark Gonzales it's impossible.
No way in hell. It was rare to even have friends that could be sponsored at all.
So much was working in your imagination and it was so magical. I laid that point out and I was like, 'Now, you can follow someone, a musician or a celebrity or a skateboarder you can follow them on social media and you can see what they had for breakfast and you can see what it looked like coming out the other end after dinner.'
You know that wall, that divide, that whatever you want to call it, the space between is now gone, for the most part, it's gone. Technology has robbed us of our heroes and it's robbed us of so many intangible things that are just as important as the tangible things that it has given us, you know? It's been amazing and it's been terrible.
Yeah, totally. I think an easy way to look at it for me was like when 411 came out. I wasn't mad that 411 came out, I was psyched that there was more skating for me to see, specifically the skating around me that got me psyched. A lot of East Coast footage would make it in there and it was validating.
That was the first opportunity that the East Coast really had to shine—Jersey, Philly, Boston, New York. There was a bigger outlet. More information and there was another huge outlet to put information through and disseminate it to people, to skaters out there. When it started it was amazing. Now, by the time it ended, I don't feel the same way about it by the time it ended. But when it started, it was amazing.
I'm sure a lot of people got turned on to you through that because it's like when you're skating for a smaller company, the video doesn't make it to the shop if the shop doesn't carry the brand.
The outlets before that, before 411 the outlets were whatever company video, your local shop or whatever you decided to carry and whatever you or your friends could get a hold of. Which for me it wasn't every video. I didn't see every video. It was really really contained and very small. Then there were only two magazines. So whoever makes it in the magazines based on whatever companies advertise in the magazines, that's who you're going to see. You're not going to see like a rad skater who doesn't ride for a company that doesn't advertise with a magazine. 411 opened up this flood gate.
To tie it back kind of to what we're talking about, I know with video parts, you’ve had a lot of output, it's a lot of quality output. I know you take that shit seriously. Obviously there are a few pros who have a track record of that much footage and I think in knowing what you did on the creative side with Enjoi. To do something where you have your first shoe coming out with adidas—a huge fucking deal and to come out with like a really fun comedy clip rather than what everyone expected. What inspires you to you approach things that way?
I think basically the way it works for me personally is these things—call it creativity or call it whatever—I feel like we are these walking filters for little streams of the cosmic soup to trickle down and filter through us and we express these ideas that however they come to us. Some more so than others. Some people are skilled in other ways and some people are just naturally really creative. Depending on the size of that stream that flows through them and for me that thing is always on.
I am constantly writing things down in books and making notes for myself and taping things to walls. I live my life by these notes. I have stacks and stacks and stacks of books that just have ideas in them. Whether or not they ever turn into a board graphic or a T-shirt or a video project—I have lists of tricks, skateboard tricks going back 15 years in these old books. But I have these ideas and the way I look at it is like when you have the blessing of the idea being presented to you, grab ahold of it and put it down for posterity. Put it down somewhere so you can revisit it, so it's there. It is a gift, so honor that gift by doing as much of these ideas as you can because I realize that not everybody has that same creative leaning.
Basically how I express those things is ... not a lot of them, not all of them get expressed. but basically say for like a project, like this video, the very basic idea of these shoes following me around kind of pouting like puppy dogs, that came into my brain like a small little movie. All I did was I opened the book and I just wrote down basically what happens and little scene that I saw my head and then that was it. I just closed the book again. It was just one of those things like, 'Oh, this would be cool to do maybe one day.'
Then the opportunity to do a little commercial for this shoe came up and that was one of the first things. I was like, 'Where's that book at?' Then I found the book, opened it up and I was talking to Matt Irving, the director and I said, 'Hey dude, I have got this weird idea for this commercial. I told him the idea and kind of gave him a few little, literally camera shots and then it's like me talking to the shoes in the cereal aisle, pulling me shopping for cereal, pulling the box of cereal and then the shoes are hiding behind the thing and you think they're chasing me around. They literally will not leave me alone. I'm busy with whatever. He loved it and I was like, 'That's just this random idea like these shoes want to be skated so bad that they're just following me around.' The thing is, is what you don't tell people is, you don't tell them how the shoes got there or what they're doing.
You never show the shoes. I told him, I was like, 'You never see the shoes moving. They're not animated. You don't see them moving and following you and walking down the street. They just appear in these weird places over and over and over and over.' That was the very very fundamental, bottom-of-the-barrel idea. I told it to Matt and he just took it and ran with it.
Do you get mentally exhausted by constantly cataloging this stuff? Like maybe you need to take a month off from the board or something like that? It would seem like it would get taxing a bit to be always on like that.
This is something I've never talked about before. Periodically I have to take time off and when I say take time off, I literally turn off. Where there's nothing. It's like my brain stops working. I was told a long time ago like, 'Hey dude like you know this is all well and good but like you need to ... this is what you also need to like learn how to do.' It gets mentally exhausting and after you reach a breaking point mentally then physically you start to break down too.
Sure. That's the next stage of it. That makes sense.
Yeah and if you don't get the message by the time it starts getting you physically and you don't listen to that, you will be put down. I've experienced that before where literally being put down for months. What we all want in life is we want balance or we hope for balance. But I will tell you this, that like I said earlier when you're on and that filter is open for all of that information to come through you, it is a gift and it should be appreciated and it should be taken seriously. You should record those things and you should make notes because they will come in handy at some point in the future. Maybe you don't get around to doing all of them but it doesn't matter. It is a gift that you're being given from somewhere that you can't see and it should be honored and it should be taken seriously. I take it very seriously.
I think it's the types of things where when an audience connects with something or when someone's aware that a lot more went into something than a camera being turned on, people react to it. I think it doesn't have to always be a positive reaction. I think a really good example is those two films that Jim Greco made. You see people be like, 'This is artsy bullshit. This is this and that. Duh duh duh.' But it made you have an opinion.
Because they are very polarizing. People generally group things into two categories: good or bad. Based on whether or not they got what they wanted out of it.
What's funny is that most people don't realize that that's what they do. They look at things and they go, 'I like that' or 'I don't like that.' It's very unthinking. We're not taught in this culture to think things through. Thinking is not cool.
Because it's exposing yourself.
And it's exposing other people too. If you think something through and you really see things, you find out things for what they really are. You then have the potential to expose someone else and they don't want that. Our culture trains us just like little dancing monkeys to group things into two categories, good or bad. The reason why they're doing that is because whatever output comes out, whatever they see, whatever somebody hands them, they're going to watch it and they're going to go, 'Did I get this out of it? Did I get that out of it? Did I get what I wanted?' If the answer is yes, it's rad. It's genius, it's awesome. If the answer is no, it sucks.
Jim Greco, his two films—I love that [how they polarize the audience]. He's a very polarizing figure. When you become aware that you have been trained to look at everything as like, 'I like that. I don't like that.'—once you become aware that you do that and you learn to undo that and you learn to look at things from a neutral standpoint, which is looking at things for what they really are, which is neutral. I watched Jim's films and thought 'These are so different from anything that has ever been made of skateboarding.' That right there, that in itself is awesome.
It doesn't matter if I got what I wanted out of it or he gave me what I expected out of it. 'Oh, Greco's got a film. Like I hope he does this in it and I hope this and I hope that and I hope this.' I don't look at things like that anymore. It's like, 'Wow dude, I know that that is a totally original thing that's totally different than what anybody else is doing in skateboarding.' I can appreciate that and that's how I base whether or not I like something.
People are so conditioned by a steady stream of identical media because the people who are not creatives still have to put stuff out. So it's got to be formulaic. They're like, 'Oh, this is what the going thing is. We gotta do it like this. We got to have a part with a song and a part with a song, and a part with the song and a part with song, and slam section and then a part with a song.' That formula is 27 ... 25 years old, 26 years old and people are still beating that horse to death. I just dug those films because they’re really really different and unique.
Absolutely and they just had such a different tone to them.
I wasn't expecting it. A lot of people out there, if you don't give them what they're expecting, you don't give them what they want, they will hate everything about what you're putting out. Baby didn't get what baby wants.
Talk about being exposed. It exposes these man-children that we've all become in skateboarding. Like, 'Baby didn't get what baby wants. I don't like that, whaa. I don't like that.' It's like taking a shortcut around critical thinking.
Also, because so few videos are being sold, most of the time you're complaining about things that are free.
That's another thing that people have been conditioned to expect—everything for free. I'm not to blame for that. But there's a collective of people who are to blame for conditioning kids to not only expect everything for free, not appreciate it. Seriously.
Not only are these kids getting it for free, they don't even care that they're getting it for free. The only thing they want is more. 'What's the next thing? Give me the next thing. I want more. I want more.' There's a lot of people who think that this generation that's growing up now is like the 'Me' generation or the self-obsessed and selfish. It is such a horrible thing to see in people and the funny thing is that they don't even realize they're doing it because they've been conditioned. They've been trained to act that way and to look at everything in their world like, 'Yeah, push a button, give me that right now.' Then they have the nerve to go, 'I didn't like that. That sucked.' I personally think that that needs to change. It's like, 'If baby doesn't appreciate what baby's getting for free, people need to take it away from baby.'
It's up to how you want to drive the narrative, right? It's Jim Greco, he's going to do maybe one video a year. He's not doing a million Instagram posts. That's how he controls what he wants to do. Then other people are going to do it different ways. You almost kind of need the cookie-cutter things to make creative things more interesting.
You need those two worlds. One defines the other. Without the cookie cutter boring formulaic stuff, how would you even know how to ... the creative stuff wouldn't either exist by definition or it wouldn't stand out. If everything was magically like, 'Oh my God. Everything comes out amazing.' Then that would become cookie-cutter, you know?
We're almost seeing it now. VX made such a comeback or how everyone comes to New York to film the 'city' style clip. It’s diluting those ideas—just repeating ideas. Maybe you're not repeating Mike Ternasky's formula of the super video, but you're just repeating someone else's originality.
That is standard operating procedure in skateboarding. I just call it, 'Hey, we should do something like that.' When somebody does come out with an original idea that's widely well-received ... it's kind of just known as, 'Wow, that that thing came out and that was amazing.' Generally, people love it, you know?
I grew up thinking that skateboarders we're really creative and like that was the image of a lot of the pros and stuff when I started skating. These guys were literate and they stood for these political causes and things like that. In the late 80's going into the early 90's, there was a lot of almost like intellectualism happening with the emerging street skaters. I kind of grew up thinking that skateboarders were like that. I was like, 'Oh, you know skateboarders are these really creative individual people that do their own thing and they're artistic and they, you know they read books and they write and they listen to cool underground music. A lot of skateboarders are not like that anymore.
It feels like that impulse is rare.
Maybe that’s not the correct way to frame it. I think there's a lot of skateboards that are still like that but because skateboarding is so much bigger, there are a lot of skateboarders that are not. They're a lot more companies. There’s a lot more media coming out that is not creative and hasn't been well-thought-out or a whole lot of care put into it. Remember the commercials in 411? It would be a company logo, a dude doing a trick, his name on the bottom, another dude doing a trick, his name on the bottom, another dude and it would end with a phone number or something.
People are still doing that exact formula. If you watch pre-roll on web videos, it's just company logo, dude doing trick, dude doing two tricks and that's it. People were doing that in 1993 and 1994. Come on! But like you said before, those things define the Jim Greco projects.
What excites you to work with a company as opposed to just like, 'Yeah, I ride for these guys and they send me product and we go on trips.' Are you attracted to team chemistry or what the ideas are or freedom?
What I get stoked on is when things are authentic. When you can tell it's the real deal and there's been a bunch of that in skateboarding since I've started skating. There have been a bunch of things that were like authentic and the real deal.
Blind Video Days (1991), is widely hailed as the best skateboard video of all time. If you listen to those dudes talk about filming that video, they weren't really filming a video. They were just going and skating and like Spike [Jonze]was pointing a camera at them. That formula of going out and going to the spot and this is the trick I've got in my mind and I'm going to sit there for two hours until I land it and then we're going to go to another spot—that didn't exist back then so when they made Video Days it was one of the purest expressions of documented skateboarding that has ever existed and will ever exist. I don't think it can be like that anymore. I see it now because I've been dealing with skateboarders for so long, everything now is so agenda based.
Even your peers. It's like, 'Hey man, you wanna go skate?' They're like, 'No, because that's not, that's not on my agenda for today. That's not gonna get me anywhere. That's not gonna get me anything. I see that now and it's disturbing. It is so disturbing. It's crazy how premeditated and unnatural and unpure almost everything is now.
When it comes to like things that get me stoked, it's when you can watch something and you know the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. I've been a part of quite a few things that were premeditated and relied on the magic of editing to convey a feel that was total bullshit. I've been a part of those huge projects. I know what those things are. I know how they feel. I know how they look. When you see something authentic and you know you're like, 'Nope, they're just ... That happens every day. That's just how they live. That's how they roll.' That shit is real.
Something about that authenticity, the reason it resonates with people is because it takes everybody back to a time in their own life when that's what they were doing—when it was really authentic for them and their friends. It tugs at the heartstrings. That's why it resonates. You're like, 'Yeah man, that reminds me of like you know this year through this year when I was just skating, going out with my friends and we were just documenting literally whatever happened that day.
And it’s not just nostalgia either. I know you’re a huge fan of Dylan Rieder. I think he embodied that spirit you’re talking about
I think I met him when he was really young on Osiris or something. Then he grew into his own person. He like took a little of this from over there, he took a little of this from here. But he just grew into his own person. When you see someone like that who is the real deal, you know it and you can appreciate it. What's crazy is if you sort of lost your own way, by on purpose or by happenstance or accident or just over a period of time, just habitually doing the same exact thing with the same people or whatever. If you've lost your own authentic way or you've lost sight of yourself when you bump into someone like Dylan—which is like once every ten years somebody like that comes along—when you bump into someone like that and you recognize that on that level you're like, 'Yes, like that dude is ... he's the real deal. He's legit.'
Now sometimes you can bump into someone, which was the case with Dylan who is so gnarly on his own trip... just being around him puts a mirror up to your own thing, whatever you're doing at that time. You could be doing your thing and just like lost in just the fucking the doldrums or whatever and you see someone like Dylan and think, 'Dude, this dude is so refreshing. He skates amazing. Like fucking everything about like everything about what he does and what he's about —the music he likes to how he wears a T-Shirt.
Looking at him is like seeing where you went wrong in a sense. That's what happened with me. I was like, 'Damn dude. Like what the fuck am I even doing anymore? Like why am I over here doing this bullshit with these people, when this dudes over here doing this rad shit?' It kind of puts you in check in a sense. It’s hard to put into words. It's like I was intimidated by him on a certain level because he was like way younger than me, like 12 years younger than me. I don't know if intimidated is the right word but maybe enamored. Just amazed. A guy like that doesn't come along very often. He's a treasure. It's like a unicorn. There's only one of those dudes right now in skateboarding. To be like partners with him in a private warehouse skatepark thing and to get to hang out with him and stay with him and stuff, that was like on another level. I was like, 'Damn dude. Like I got this dude's phone number.'
I saw it live with my own two eyes. Like I saw it live with my own two eyes, in the very beginning of the park on a day-to-day basis, saw him all the time, got to talk to him and it was just so cool. It was so cool and refreshing to just have a conversation with someone who did not give a fuck. In the best way. That's not to say that he was an uncaring person at all. He didn't give a fuck about putting on a show for people. He was on his own trip—he skinny rolled up pants and all that stuff. He was kind of made fun of in the beginning or whatever especially those Gravis shoes because he was light years ahead. He was five years ahead of everybody.
That’s intimidating so people hate on it, then they end up emulating the ones they came down on.
People are just now dressing like that dude did in 2009. That's why it's like he didn't give you what ... at the beginning, he didn't give people what they wanted. He was so just like ... he was so on his own trip and that's when I say he didn't give a fuck. He didn't give a fuck about what everybody else was doing or trying to be somebody else other than himself. When you come into contact with someone who is authentically really like that. It's inspiring.
That's really interesting. I'm not a pro skateboarder. I'm a fan, I'm a skateboarder and I'm involved in media? I think people in media and like me analyze things all the time because we're not a part of it. You being a part of skateboarding and all you’ve done, having someone younger such as Dylan impact you like that is really rare.
When you look at skateboarders. They were the biggest non-conformists when I started skating and now a lot of skateboarders are ... While everybody's individuals doing their own thing, to a large extent a lot of people conform to what's the going thing. Like, 'Oh man, I'm gonna wear my you know I'm gonna wear my cut off, bleach splashed denim whatever, like you know that I saw this dude, this dude, this dude and this dude wearing. I'm gonna go out and I'm going to do the exact same thing that I'm seeing these guys do.' That's great. For me growing up, everybody wanted to be Matt Hensley or Jason Lee—I knew older kids who grew their fucking sideburns out.
Oh yeah, if you could grow them, you did after that video.
Literally grew their sideburns out and cut them right at the same spot that it was in the ad or whatever in the video clip and wearing a black Mickey Mouse T-shirt with some kind of baggy jeans with some Enigmas—the same color enigmas. I remember that. I remember seeing people do that. Showing up to school like nobody was going to notice. Like you put that outfit together from an exact clip in Video Days. But that was the thing. When you're a kid, you need those heroes. I'm not saying that it's bad to be inspired by someone, That's awesome. But the crazy thing is, if you were to talk to someone that others idolize, they would be like, 'Don't do what I do. Do what you do.'
Oh, of course. Every time, sure.
That's what they would say. Mark Gonzales would be like, 'Don't do what I do, do what you do.' Matt Hensley would say the same thing, 'No man, it's not about what I'm doing. It's about what you're doing.'
I always thought when Jason Lee and Mark Gonzales were talking about tricks and skating and Mark encouraged him to just take his tricks to different things and in different combos was really cool. It’s what you’re saying: ‘Don't worry about what I'm doing. Do what you do.’
And Jason was worried about what Guy [Mariano] and Rudy [Johnson] we're doing. Seriously. Jason at one point was probably in the top three most influential skateboarders at a certain point in time and one of the most copied skateboarders. If you were to talk to him personally and he was being open and honest, he'd be like, 'You know what? I'm doing my thing ... you know like I took some advice from Gonz and I'm doing my thing my way but I'm definitely worried about what tricks Guy and Rudy are doing right now.' There's a lot of competition and insecurity.
I remember him talking about that in a That Video Days piece from On Video.
Yeah, when he got on Blind and he started skating with Mark a lot, told him to loosen his style up.
It's not about necessarily doing what other people are doing, it's like ... what if everybody really just let down the armor and was like, 'Today I'm gonna wear a red top hat.' You know what I mean? It would be pretty funny. It would be pretty wild out there.
That would be interesting. Yeah, you know, obviously you know first-hand there's people doing shit they don't want to do. If everyone just did what they wanted to do, it would be ... that'd be a trip.
But like we were saying, putting down your guard and actually doing that is rare.
A lot of people want to fit in. Some people want static. You know what I'm saying? Like dude Richie Jackson, I think he thrives on that. That dude… that guy is very secure in what he's about. I don't really know him that well but I think he has confidence—a really crazy confidence that's kind of rare just in people.
It goes right back to what you're saying about Banksy or even Andy Kaufman. I don't need to know what the real deal with Andy Kaufman was. I like when people do things they want to do and leave a little mystery to it, you know?
If we haven't already totally lost it, we're losing it really really fast. It's going downhill really fast and I was just last night talking about the whole thing about social media how as a skateboarder you're penalized if you don't participate in social media now.
All these virtual numbers, these fake numbers. You've got these likes and these followers and you've got this and these comments and people are saying, 'Is it real?' I remember saying this last night. People base major decisions that they make in life off of this crap now. I know people that are totally wrapped up in it. They have a goal of a certain amount of likes and comments that they're shooting for and they're disappointed if they don't get that. They will move a mountain and rearrange the universe to get to that place, to get to where they need to be to make that social media post happen. It's that important to them. You've got companies looking at people going, 'Well what's his ... What's his social media following?' Like, 'Oh, he's only got like you know blah, blah, blah, blah.' A lot of these people at companies they will evaluate somebody and place a value on them based on something that is virtual and not even real.
It even impacts contracts and endorsements 'Well, how can you ask for this much money when pro-X has more followers and makes less than that?'
Yeah, it’s quantifying everything. People that don't skate have to quantify everything. 'Well how many shares was it? Twenty? Well that's better than 19, right?' That's the only way they know how to interpret it. 'How many contests have you won? What place did you get? You got third place, well first place is better. How many followers? What number?'
Higher number equals better but if you talk to someone who has 850,000 followers, and I'm talking about a very specific person I was talking to last week, that person will tell you that 95% of those followers are just not even skaters. They saw them on TV and they're like, 'Oh, I'm gonna follow this pro skater and this pro skater and this pro skater.' If you have 850,000 people that do that because they watch a lot of TV. There are not 850,000 actual skateboarders that are going to follow you. It's mainstream, it's dipping into this mainstream thing and marketing people don't care. They don't care whose eyeballs those are coming from—it's weird. There's no grit to it.
Somebody's got 1.2 million followers and they're a skateboarder? You know they've been on TV.