Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Gabriel Rodriguez: “We got away with pretty much most of it”

portrait1Gabriel at home, Mid City Los Angeles. Photo © Seb Carayol

To Gabriel Rodriguez, the board graphic world opened its door upon a biblical revelation. Not for him, but for his then-boss Natas Kaupas.
“My mom is Catholic”, he explains on the porch of the house he grew up in, in Mid City LA, “she had a huge mantle with Jesus on it. My room used to be on the back, so once Natas came over and had to walk through the house. When he saw that picture, he was like, ‘That is gonna be your first graphic.’ I was like, ‘Really? Fuck yeah, no doubt!’ I thought it was cool. I was a little more religious back then than I am now, so I was a little scared cause we were gonna be skating on, you know, desecrating the face or whatever.”
Using His almighty compassion, Mr Christ didn’t seem to mind and led Gabriel to a quality vs. quantity-driven career , until a few life struggles confiscated it. But that’s another story… For now, a quarter of Powell’s “LA Boys” has better reminiscences to focus on: dig through his 42 pro-models to pick his five favorite ones.

wrestle101 Gabriel vs The Crusher (1993)
Art by Marc McKee & Spike Jonze

This is my third board right here, when we first started doing the Warner Brothers thing. That was before they started saying something, we got away with pretty much most of it. For this one basically, I had Natas in the camel clutch and they used the computer to added  the drawing, it was a pretty funny project.

At the time Natas had most of the ideas, and I was more than happy with them. I wasn’t into wrestling at all, but it worked out as always. This was shot at Natas’ house, he just called up and said, “I have an idea, come over.” I just took my clothes off and Spike shote the photo – I mean, I had shorts on. We did a few positions but this one turned out to be the best wrestling move.

The boards from this era are special to me ’cause it was like living in a dream. Natas, I used to look up to that guy unbelievably. Hanging out with him, travelling him with him, him asking me to turn pro… That was really cool.

penalizer101 The Penalizer (1993)
Art by Sean Cliver

This one is a bite on The Punisher, the comic book, they took of photo of me and drew my face on there. It came I guess from the fact that my neighborhood was much more violent. It still kinda is like like that, but everyone is in jail or dead or whatever, but back then it was pretty bad. People used to come by my house and they’d see a lot of gang activity and they’d think I was like that. I wasn’t. Some of the gangsters used to skate in the early 70s and some of them still skated so I could skate anywhere around here without getting bugged. They even used to protect me kinda, cause at the time I was progressing and we put ramps in the middle of the street, all the gang bangers woud come and they kinda enjoyed watching me.

So I had some kind of stupid reputation of being a tough guy or some shit. That’s why a lot of my graphics tended to be violent. The funny thing about it is that it’s actually the opposite, they used to tell me, “If I see you smoking or drinking or joining a gang, I’m a fuck you up.”

bomb101 Bomb (late 1993-ish, very early 1994-ish, Slap pals !)
Art by Marc McKee

Another violent graphic, this one was more World War II-inspired. Natas actually had an actual, real World War II bomb, I remember he had it at his house, I’m not sure where he found it, probably some Army surplus.

I can’t recall if they hand-painted all this on the bomb, but for some reason I have this vague rememberence of seeing it painted already… Then they took apicture and laid it out. This is maybe almost my favorite one, ever. Just the aesthetic aspect of it, I love the actual cartoon too.

picassoChocolate Picasso rip-off (1994)
Artist unknown (well, kinda?)

This one was definitely my first board on Chocolate. The interesting thing was, we had a hard time figuring out a name for the company. I think Megan Baltimore came up with the name. And once we heard it, we loved it. At the time, there were a lot of Hispanics on the team pretty much. It wasn’t really racial but it was like bunch of brownies so we were like, “Chocolate! Hell yes !”

Even though we got to choose our graphics on the first maybe four models, I actually did not pick up this one. I was pretty clueless at the time, I didn’t know who Picasso was.  It made me want to research more who he was, and him being from Spain kinda made sense. It’s funny how I have couple other boards with bull fighters and bulls that I like, even though I’m not into that. I think it’s a stupid, stupid, fucking… I don’t even think it’s a sport, it’s barbaric. I call it the running of the fools.

At the time though I didn’t think about that, I was just happy to have a board.

cityChocolate City series (1997)
Art by Evan Hecox

This is one of my favorite series we had because this was a really good point in time for Chocolate, right when Keenan and Gino got on the team and we all hung out all the time -God bless Keenan’s soul, nicest person in the world.

This is why I really like this board a lot, it’s that time. Why I was in front of the barber shop? That’s interesting, that might have been ’cause I had long hair at the time. I don’t think it was for my mustache, I only sported it for about two years, just because I never had one.

This whole series has to me that sentimental value. This is pretty cool. Plus, having your face on aboard is always funny. I think that happened to me six, seven times or something.

Domaine de prestige # 3 : Holenite/Boom-Art skateboards

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Not like I left for a sec… the usual. Having said that, and profusely apologized in seven words for having been busy all summer with this show, a book with Gingko Press (more later) and the FTC book: I figured that a good way to get the blog rolling again would be to resurrect this old feature I used to do about under-the-radar board companies that bare amazing, often not-seen-enough graphics. And boy, is Dominique Baconnier’s imprint Holenite/Boom-Art the epitome of that.Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 5.24.31 PM

At the respectable age of (undisclosed), Dominique is the proud owner of a death cement bowl since 1977 in his backyard in the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence (France), that is sometimes skated all night long -hence the company’s name. Sensible to the finest arts in life, I was curious to see what he’d come up with when he started this limited edition board project. He didn’t disappoint, calling on to the likes of underground 60s cartoonists, “Lui” erotic magazines of the ’70s, and even XVIth Century’s HNIC Hieronymus Bosh !

Please check it here, and even better: order a box set from Boom-Art!

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Tony Alva: “These boards were hand-painted by Catherine Hardwicke”

tonyalva_portrait2“I tend to ramble,” TA will tell you. Who’s gonna complain? © Seb Carayol

Everybody loves Guy Mariano. The list includes 53-year old Tony Alva, who won’t hesitate to quote him as one of his favorite skateboarders, ever. A breath of surprising fresh air in the often nostalgic-to-a-fault  little world of  “the ’70s dudes”.
Instead of ranting about how he played the obstetrician-in-chief role in the birth of now, TA still experiments with shapes while enjoying his unique legacy—he won’t hesitate to bring to the interview a full bag of extra boards, “just to show you guys.”
Sharing enthusiastically what he’s been up to these days, the Lord of Dogtown warns laughingly as an intro : “I tend to ramble sometimes.” When it involves the Daggers, a wise Japanese lady, the birth of die-cut griptape and double Ds (as in “diamond”, you pervs) well, one can certainly accommodate a little rambling…

BDdagger1Alva Dagger (1985, 2010 reissue)
Art by Mondo / Catherine Hardwicke

In the movie Thrashin‘, The Daggers were a fictional gang like the Jets from West Side Story, they were the bad guys and their leader was Robert Rusler who was in Weird Science and stuff. It was kind of an extension of the Jak’s team meets the Hell’s Angels, but on skateboards. These boards were made for the bad guys and after having so much demand for them, we issued a batch of them last year.

I’m not sure if Dave Beck aka Mondo, who did a lot of graphics for us, actually did the graphics for these boards, but they were made on the set, where they were actually hand painted by Catherine Hardwicke. Way before she was a director (Lords of Dogtown, Twilight… ), she was a set decorator in Thrashin’, and she probably did like thirty to forty boards, all by hand. And then, what they do a lot of times with the props, they just store them somewhere. Finding some of the actual boards from Thrashin’, that would be cool.

BDoriginalAlva Original (1977, 2004 reissue)
Art by Eric Monson

This board is the exact opposite of the first one: thousands of it got made, back in 1977. It’s the very first one that came out on Alva.

People thought the logo was my signature but it wasn’t. I had a friend who was a designer, he did a lot of music album covers for The Weirdos, for Devo, his name is Eric Monson. He is an amazing artist, and he came up with this logo.

Besides it being my first board, the die-cut griptape was a significant part of why it sold so much, cause back then griptape didn’t really exist. Some guys who skated barefoot would glue weird stuff on their boards, sand paper, carpet, bathroom tiles, whatever they could get on their boards to try to grip. It was the first laminated board, it had the kicktail, it had the griptape : we sold probably millions of it.

BDthebombAlva Bomb Deck (2005)
Art by Richard Villa III

What’s cool about this one is that it has the tri-tail concave, but a tri-nose too. It’s kind of a hybrid of the 80s, of the 90s, and a board that skaters would ride now.

The graphic is almost heavy metal, World War 2 looking. It’s funny ’cause I thought it would offend Japanese people, but they like it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

One time I was talking to a Japanese lady about what happened in Nagasaki and stuff, and she just looked at me, and she said, “That was only one day. We’re an old culture, the past is the past.” The Japanese don’t see it as an insult, they see it as art.

BDsalbaSalba Collab (2010)
Art by Eric Monson

Salba was on Alva back in the day and was gonna have the first pro-model besides mine. But it never came out, so 37 years later we decided to give him his model. The stickers are placed the exact same way they were on the board he rode. We did the square wheel wells, which is what I love about boards from that time -kinda Freddy Flintstone-looking. Only 50 were made and signed by both of us, my goal is to have Steve sign the last one I have, and I’ll keep it. I am not a board collector at all, but this one is just too special.

The idea wasn’t about making money or production really, it was more about having a guy make the boards by hand, his name is Chuck Hults and has all the molds and templates in his garage. It’s so cool. With this one we were like, “Let’s do something really weird, really out of the blue, functional, eccentric, original.

The cool thing is, at some point of our careers Salba and I were really competitive and didn’t get along. We have a lot of respect for each other, but we never knew how to express that feeling until we got older. It’s like that thing in the Bible, “when you’re a child you do childish things.” Some people take a lot longer to grow up, including me.

BDdoublediamondAlva Double Diamond board one-off (2011)
Art by Tony Alva

I was working on a double diamond board, diamond nose, diamond tail, and this is the one I really like to ride. This is my favorite board right now. I ride it on everything. I hand sprayed this, dented it a little bit one day and put a little Bondo in there and fixed it and just put marker over it. I really love riding it.

Something that has a bit of that hyper kick nose like on some of these old surf boards from the ’60s, and it got the full-on Double D, something that’s rare, with a pretty big wheelbase. I haven’t released it yet for production, but like I said, when I’m done with it and I feel that everything is just the way I like it, then I will release it. I really don’t need anything but that board to go skate, that’s pretty much it.

Gino Iannucci: “To be honest, this graphic gets me emotional”

gino portraitPhoto by Soma mag‘s prodigal son, David Tura

(Disclaimer: The following intro was written over two years ago, when speculations were going full blast about who would have ful parts in “that new Chocolate video,” and when Gino’s shop Poets was happening. -Seb)

That was a a few months ago. When asked how filming for the Chocolate video was going, Gino Iannucci bluntly stated: “I’m getting to the point where I’m like, ‘Alright Gino, do you really want to do this? If that’s the case stop fooling yourself.’ Video parts and skating for yourself is a whole different mind state.” Since then, his stance hasn’t changed much and the great thing about his is, well, at least to be able to admit it instead of hanging in a world of make-believe, making the descent into post-professional skateboarding longer, more painful for fans and awful shoe companies-clad.
Maybe Gino still has it, maybe he doesn’t, but who cares? He still skates every day for himself. Away from the cameras’ voyeuristic eye, never in the limelight as he’s always done it.  Which in turn reinforces a “legend” status he’s been working so well on running away from, unlike others. “The only way I will know that I have achieved legendary status is when my peers say I have,” Ryan Sheckler humbly states on his own website. Gino has, for a good fifteen years. That’s why having him pick his five favorite boards was such a  treat.

BDSCF1037lack Label I love NY (1993)
Art by John Lucero
I think Lucero showed me the graphics first, or maybe he told me, “You know the I Love New York bumper sticker? I was thinking it could be used for your first board.” From what I remember, which is not a lot, when he presented me the idea of me having a board, he had that idea right then and there. There was no like me going out and looking for a graphic for myself.

It must have been at least a year and half after I got on Black Label. I didn’t know about turning pro or anything like that. There was no time for thinking about stuff for a graphic, but Lucero knew I was always down to represent where I came from and he recognized that. I know my old friends in New York were excited when the board came out. This was my first pro model so of course it’s at the top of the list.

GinoWU101 Gza (1994)
Art by Gino Iannucci
I guess I’ve always been pretty much a die-hard Wu Tang fan, ever since U-God was passing out the first single they made, “Protect Ya Neck / Method Man,” out the trunk of his car at St. Johns University. My friend Jon Buscemi (Gourmet) was attending St. Johns at the time and got the tape, brought it home, had me listen to it and immediately went bananas! I think the one line in “Method Man” that sold me in using it for Snuff was the line “You don’t know me and you don’t know my style”.

Plus, GZA happened to be my favorite lyricist from the Wu, better yet my favorite out of anyone out there today or yesterday, hence the idea of the board. It was just, I don’t know, thinking of the music and looking at the logos all the time. It wasn’t even that deep but I just liked it cause I’m still a GZA fan and a Wu Tang fan. I remember that year we did the 101/Menace tour, and on that tour the Raekwon purple tape was out and we’d listen to that the whole tour. Wu Tang on the brain 24 hours a day.

I don’t know if the Wu Tang guys ever saw that board, but I heard that some of them went into Supreme and saw some board graphics that were taken from their graphics, I’m not sure if it was my board or some Menace boards, and that’s how they got their idea to make their own skateboards.

GinoPanther101 Panther (1996)
Art by Kevin Ancell / Natas Kaupas
The Natas panther board was Natas’ idea, he just presented the idea of giving each of us one of his old graphics, there was the kitten and the original panther one, which is the one I got, and then there was a gnarly, crazy looking cat that Clyde Singleton got. One of the most influential skaters ever, allowed us to bring back three of his classic graphics.There was no way in hell I was gonna say, “No, I don’t wanna do that.”

He was one of my favorites growing up, this was a great honor because of the amount of respect I always had for Natas. That was it, we just said, “Hell yeah!” and that was it.There was no real story or reason.

GinoAdoptionChocolate adoption (1997)
Art by Daniel Dunphy
That was originally an idea that Rick and them came up with a few years before for Keenan for his first Chocolate board, and on that graphic Keenan was being welcomed into the house with rest of the guys being there already. And then when I got on, they said, “Let’s do the same graphics,” cause Keenan and I were really good friends, but this time they decided to have Keenan already inside the house looking out as I am getting adopted, coming in. I thought that was a really awesome idea, and it’s just a sentimental graphic as well nowadays, you know. This board is most special and to be honest, this graphic gets me emotional.

GINO_POETSChocolate Poets (2009)
Art by Gino Iannucci
It was pretty simple: Poets is my shop and a big part of my life now. The stripe pattern that’s on the board is like the one that’s on umbrellas they’ve been renting at the Jones Beach in Long Island since the ’40s and ’50s. I grew up going there all the time but these days I tend to stay away being that everybody at field 4 is orange now… We’ve been using that pattern a lot, we used it on a Blazer for Nike, stuff like that.

Then I used the shop logo, which is actually the highway logo in Long Island, it’s the highway over here, we just replaced the highway letter with the letter “P” for “Poets”. The name itself comes from the neighborhood I grew up in Westbury, Long Island, and the neighborhood I lived in was called Poets’ Corner because every street was named after a poet.

I just thought it was a cool board to talk about ’cause that’s what my life is about right now, my store. It’s just a chapter in my life.

Chet Childress: “This board cost me more money hanging out in bars than what I made in royalties”

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Figured out it was time for a little update, and since Chet Childress’art is all over Cliché boards and collabs these days, lemme jump on the bandwagon…
On other related skart news, I am proud to announce that a brand new limited edition screen print is semi-currently being sent into the pipelines. And yes, it will be, again, ’90s-related… Sorry. I am old, won’t get any better as years go by I’m afraid. Enjoy Chet’s Memory Screened!

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On the chalkboard at Chet Childress’ place in Portland, a few motivational sentences are written down. You know, the usual you would expect from a pro skater: “Keep your head up”. “Do taxes”. “Film tricks. Get tricks.”
But as far removed as the next cookie-cutter, energy drink-chugging wunderkid would be from the redheaded North Carolinian with a beard the size of an decently-sized door mat, there are more unusual statements on Chet’s board. Such as? “Give up on the word Love.”
Well, seen the enthusiasm Luda manifested when time came to talk about art on skateboards in general -with the noblest disdain for his own pro-models, as the dude scratches off his name from them- looks like there’s at least one thing he hasn’t fully given up love for…

DSC_0143Black Label Jeff Grosso Bukowski (2000)
Art by John Lucero

“I just respect Grosso very much, he’s a rad dude who went through so much shit and he’s made it alive. And Bukowski is the drunkest poet I know, and writer, and he’s always been the white trash hero writer for any of us. It’s one of the boards I have hanging on my wall at home -I have none of my pro-models there, that’s fucking tacky. I’ve never been like, “Check me out, here’s me, here’s my name.”

I mean, it’s Grosso, a dude I’ve been looking up to since I was a kid, and Bukowski, who’s the sickest writer ever. I thought this worked out. I was at Black Label when that board came out and I just swooped it quick.”

DSC_0147Designarium T-Moss Pin Tail (2004)
Art by Thomas Campbell

“Those were given to me by my buddy Chuck who works at NHS, he’s the sickest dude. When I bought my house in Portland, I specifically requested to have these cause I’ve always been a fan of Thomas Campell’s and his art. Chuck had these things kinda just hanging out, and I still owe him art for that gift -now it’s in print, Chuck!  I loved the lines and the curves on that board, all that. I took a few skate shots with Thomas when I was in Santa Cruz, he’s a pretty rad dude. He’s always making movies, making art. He’s an inspirational dude.”

DSC_0144One-off Bad Brains stencil (2007)

“I was living in Portland with Al Partanen for a year and a half and we had that huge porch, we were just always making all kinds of junk out there. That was I think two and a half years ago. We’d get baked and make art to pass time, you know?

Al just happened to cut that stencil and he made like three or four boards, but I had to pick that one from him ’cause it’s that all-classic shape, board and colors. I think Al still has one of the boards, Grant Taylor has one, and there’s one floating around somewhere else. We’d put that stencil everywhere around the house. We’d put it on shirts, boards. And then…  You know how it is when you do a stencil too much: it retires itself, it’s just done.”

DSC_0141Black Label Napkins (2009)
Art by Chet Childress

“I wanted to do a board where if you buy that board, you get more of a piece of me. So I got this idea to have each one of these 250 boards come out with something unique. I spent a lot of money at bars getting drunk in coffee shops and bars, just drawing on napkins, in order for every single board to come up with one actual napkin. For sure, it cost me more money hanging out in these places than what I made in royalties (laughs). It was for a very noble cause, though.

The graphic itself is from one of the napkins, it just talks about that little mid-life crisis, getting older and getting crazier by the day. Some people mellow out and other people just stack up all the years of things happening, and they become crazy, or intellectual, or any of these fucking words. ‘Make any sense? I’m more 50-50.”

DSC_0138One-off spray can art board (2009)
Art by Chet Childress

“We had this skate spot in Portland, Pirate Town, which was man-made, there was a ton of graffiti and painting going on, and one day my friend was skating, I wasn’t so into it so I was walking around and found all these rusty spray cans. So I started to line them up and do peace signs, faces. I took photos of it all and brought them to my girlfriend’s home, where me and Jason Adams were just making a bunch of art crap. One of the shots ended up on that board.

For paint, I used plaster for walls and cans of horrible paint. I did two like these, actually three cause they were at an art show and I sold one, so I put a kinda high price on the remaining ones, I didn’t want to sell them. I usually sell art for pennies though, cause I ain’t trying to get rich.”

Wrapping up the Oyola case : SilverStar mask board

… And a last one for the road (see the two posts below): following a question regarding this cat mask graphic asked by Luke Physioc on Slap, here’s what Ricky Oyola had to say about it:

“That graphic is a mask that I stole from the Philadelphia Phantoms, the American Hockey league affiliate to the NHL club, The Philadelphia Flyers in which I am a huge hockey fan.
I like the logo and asked the artist to alter it, but not much. We just added a star to the forehead and worked out a bright scheme, the original board was bright yellow with the black mask popping out.

Nothing to crazy, just a bite off another company. But it did fit with the conspiracy theory of hidden face to a possible hidden society. Another mask to cover the truth. Haha.”

The people’s choice: Eli Morgan Gesner on Illuminati, part deux

Boy, did you dudes and dudettes enjoy Eli Morgan Gesner’s souvenirs in the Ricky Oyola post below… As “too much Eli Morgan Gesner” is not an expression that’s part of my vocable, here’s some more -this time commenting the three Illuminati decks we got from Adam Schatz to exhibit at last year’s show in Paris, Public Domaine…

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Eli Morgan Gesner: “Even before we started Zoo York in 1993, Rodney Smith, Adam Schatz, and myself, Eli Morgan Gesner, had always had a fascination with the idea of secret societies, the Masonic Orders, the Illuminati, et al. The fascination was not with the ritual or the fraternity of it all, but with the idea of power and the manipulation of the masses.
Adam Schatz actually holds an MA in Media Ecology from NYU. ‘Practice Truth. Fear Nothing’ was the mantra of Zoo York. But despite this idealistic slogan, all of us knew very well that ‘Power Defines Truth’. And this is what we wanted to address with Illuminati.

As a side note, during the 1990′s our downstairs neighbor at Zoo York was the studio of the artist Matthew Barney, who, now that I think about, uses Masonic symbolism heavily in his work. Strange to think the two of us were independently exploring these themes at precisely the same time and place.”

1. Illuminati Logo deck

“As a teenager, working freelance at a large design firm, I happened upon a dusty file cabinet. Inside were dozens and dozens of antique Stock Certificates. The art on them was amazing and inspirational. So I helped myself to a few. This one I always loved. The Goddess reviewing her data with the Earth by her side. Perfect for Illuminati. Next, and most important, was the message; the point of the company.

As a rule, I never like to spell things out for people. I want them to invest some thought into my work, and in doing so, take ownership of it. Also, the cryptic nature of the ‘Illuminati’ lent itself to mystery. So, in the ‘mission statement’ for Illuminati I stated what it was we were doing, but not what the exact product was. What is the most valuable commodity on earth? I wanted the sharper members of the skate community to ponder this. Or even discuss. Lastly, trying to address the value the Masonic orders give to materials, I wanted the actual wood of the board to be apparent and glorified. I wanted to use Birdseye Maple for the bottom veneer and then polish it, like fine furniture in an executives office. But this is the best we could do at the time.

All and all I am very pleased with this piece. It achieved exactly what it was created for. And was definitely a step in a smarter direction for skateboarding than Flame Boy and Wet Willie.”

2. Illuminati Anaesthesia

“When religion just can’t ease the pain”. I love this graphic. It’s humorous, obvious, and much deeper than what it seems. Clearly I’m addressing the saturation of media and it’s manipulation of the masses.

By hand I made this collage of magazine clippings, focused around this modern, blond Adonis version of Jesus. This was inspired by my Uncle, Clark Gesner’s book ‘Stuff etc.’ which uses collage to address how media devalues the power of the message; how it desensitizes us. Also, Adam Schatz’s professor Neil Postman’s book ‘Amusing Ourselves To Death’ was a key influence on this. And that is all very clear. The TV in the center, with the Illuminati Eye forever watching. This is all clearly a statement on how Media has replaced Religion as the opiate of the masses.

This is a key theme (ironically) in all the work I did for Illuminati. The subtext of this piece is, to me, hilarious, and kind of comforting. I became aware of a theory that the true power of television is not in the escapism, but in the abstracted attention the television gives the viewer. That TV in effect nurtures the viewers narcissistic tendencies. The show is not the issue, it’s that the show is there for you, the viewer. That by simply watching TV the viewer is being addressed as an entity. It validates their existence. And comforts them. So, in that sense, I am showing the Illuminati Eye as the loving care taker, not the suspicious and invasive Big Brother. ‘The world’s most popular anesthetic”

3. Illuminati Ricky Oyola “Akhenaten”

“Ricky Oyola’s Illuminati Pro Model -all about the strange and mysterious Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. There’s a lot of text on this piece and I think it explains a lot about Akhenaten and the reason for his importance, especially to Secret Societies.

Graphicaly speaking, this piece took a back seat to the dense wordage. But I like that. The skateboard deck as an artistic medium is always regulated to images. But why not text? This was something that I wanted to get deeper into with Illuminati. I was actually developing a series of boards that were just essays. And I loved that idea. The idea of disseminating information to key individuals, who would read it, set the baord up, and then through the act of skating, destory the message like a secret agent. Rick loved Illuminati, as did we all.

Unfortunatly, we had to stop the company, as Sporting Goods and Games fall into the same category in the US and the famous Playing Card game ‘Illuminati’ contested. C’est la vie.”

Ricky Oyola: “Robert Indiana is the guy who did that statue but I didn’t give two shits who this guy was”

All photos by Frankie. Thanks, Frankie!

East Coast powerhouse, Philadelphia’s mayor, whatever cliché you want to call him, Ricky Oyola is still around, conducting his Traffic venture the very same way Zoo York did in its humble beginnings. And unsurprisingly, he still promotes a form of skateboarding that does not involve parachuting oneself down rails in bondage pants, nor ledges combos that require a PhD in mathematics. Just raw street skating that’s actually happening on the streets. From Zoo to Traffic, via a little Aleister Crowley-infused phase with Illuminati and Siver Star -same thing, as Dr Crowley used to refer to the illuminati as “the order of the Silver Star”- his five own favorite board graphics exude just the same thing: meaningful rawness.

Zoo York Love (1993)
Art by Eli Morgan Gesner

This was well before anybody used this Love Park image, we were still sitting on a gold mine, it was really original at the time. It was just like EMB was, but it was over here in Philly, and it was ours.

Robert Indiana is the guy who did that statue but I didn’t give two shits who this guy was. We were Love Park, it was our second home. Which is funny, cause in Eastern Exposure I barely had any footage there. Remember, Zoo York was really small then, so the board wasn’t being sold all over the world a lot, but the people on the East Coast who bought it, they got it. Some little kid probably had no idea about it, but by this time Love Park had became known enough that a skater’s skater knew what it was.

Zoo York Hydrant (1995)
Art by Eli Morgan Gesner

They sold that Hydrant board for ever. By the time Matt Reason came in from Adrenalin, he had had maybe twenty graphics while this one was still out. I liked the fade, I liked the way my name was written.  I am not sure why and how he got that photo, but it just fell in place perfectly.
(For more precisons about this very graphic, check Eli Morgan Gesner’s explanation at the end of this post…)

Illuminati Mass Control (1996)
Art by Eli Morgan Gesner

Illuminati came about because me, Matt Reason and Serge Trudnowski were doing a lot for Zoo York and I was like, “Look man, give me an offshoot. We’re doing a lot for this brand but you’re not showing us the love.” And they did. I wasn’t into the illuminati at the time. Eli was. He created all this. The company only lasted eight months, but for the first six months, it was nothing more than a sticker. We had nothing else out. Illuminati is some of Eli’s best work. I really think he’s one of the best graphic designer that skateboarding has ever had.

We started buying books, and get involved because we knew that as the company grew, we’d be asked about it. It opened our eyes to possibilities of what happened in the past, currently, and what could possibly happen in the future. The text itself is about the controlling of the masses. It just comes from ancient pharaohs: before the drought season came, the workers were harvesting food. Then when there was no water, there was no work to do, so people would get a bit restless. To control that restlessnes, the pharaoh was basically saying, “When there’s no water, your ass is gonna go build a pyramid.” It was made in a way where they were constantly working.

I also kept this particular board for the Tony Hawk autograph. I was in Australia selling boards, it was basically a way to survive and we went there to check Tony Hawk and Mike Frazier doing a demo. And a buddy of mine took a bunch of my boards to try and sell them, there were kids all over the place, so what happened is that Tony Hawk is signing like crazy, he just grabbed the board and signed it. My buddy came back, he was kinda chuckling. But I said, “I’m not selling this board. I just won’t eat for a couple days.”

Silver Star Faces Of The Globe (1998)
Art by JB

There was this really old Masonic certificate framed in an antique store on South Street in Philly. Matt Reason saw it and wanted to get it. He didn’t make much money then, I was making some money, basically I went to the store and bought it for fifty bucks for him to have it as a graphic. But he and I started having our differences I suppose, he kinda started being distant from all of us, this is when he was getting sick and stuff. Really, again, originally I bought for him to have a graphic for it. But we were growing apart, and this was just the beginning of it.

Originally it said, “to all free and accepted Masons,” we changed it to “skaters”, and on the side it said, “faces of the globe.” That thing was as big as a window, we only used the very top of it. I saved that print for as long as I could but when my daughter was two years old, she destroyed it. I was very stunned when she did it, but it was really thin paper, it’d just flake off if you touched it. I never got it authenticated but I’m almost 100% sure that that thing was fucking old, old, old.

Traffic Rocky (2005)
Art by Mike Stein and Julius Reeves

We went to shoot the photo and when we put together the graphic, we wanted to base it off the Zoo York Hydrant board, with the fade. Mike is a big Rocky fan, he had a Rocky poster in his room, that’s basically the idea. And Ricky/Rocky is the same, plus the Zoo guys used to call me Balboa cause I was from Philly and, you know, I had an attitude. This board has a lot of meaning cause Rocky might be a made up character, he’s very history, very blue collar, very Philadelphia. So that’s why this board keeps going. It’s just there, it has so much meaning and makes so much sense for it to be my board.

Extra ball: the Eli Morgan Gesner email showdown

Whoever has ever spoken to designer/jack of every single trade Eli Morgan Gesner knows that passion oozes out of him in the form or long, intricate, amazingly on point, emails. Below is the exact transcription of what he had to say when I asked him “a precision or two” about the boards above. I’d suggest you take some time off, and enjoy, as much as I did!

1. The ‘LOVE’ board
This is one of our very first boards. At ‘Zoo York’ we had a phrase for a graphic like this. ‘A Lay Up’. As in it’s just too obvious and too easy not to do it. Any ‘Zoo York’ graphic that was like the Yankees, or the NYPD, or a Taxi, or the Subway signage stuff. Those helped us make a name for ‘Zoo’ but they were all no-brainer Lay Ups. Especially just the straight graphic rip offs. Duh!

Obviously, he’s fucking Ricky Oyola. How were we NOT gonna make the Love Park ‘LOVE’ board? I drew it by eye in Illustrator from photos of the sculpture. I guess I could have found the original art by Robert Indiana, but this was a LONG time ago and that would have required me to go hunting around Book Shops and Reference Libraries. The internet was not helpful for things like that back then. Drawing it myself was way easier. Also, we were literally making all the graphics by hand. I had to go to a ‘service bureau’ (which was a computer / film laboratory that would do all your CMYK / spot color film separations back in the day. Before you could do everything in your bed room!) They made the films, we burned the screens, and had to silk screen everything. Ricky Oyola (My old team mate by the way. We both used to skate for Z-Boyz) is a LEGEND of the highest caliber, and although this board is conceptually obvious to me, it’s a classic representative of a classic.

2) The ‘Fire Hydrant’ board
Fuck! I wish I still had this whole series. This was my first real conceptual graphic pro-series for ‘Zoo York’. I did these around 1995, maybe a little earlier. Up until then, we were just sort of setting up Zoo York. So most of the graphics we’re hit-em-over-the-head we’re Zoo York from New York City graphics. Lay ups! But once people got the idea I felt I could start branching out and being more creative and conceptual. One thing about me, I have a massive collection of rare and out-of-print photo book of New York City. One that I cherish is a book called ‘The Block’ by Herb Goro. It’s sort of a year long photo journalistic report on one single block in the poverty stricken South Bronx in the 1970′s. We follow all sorts of characters on the block and their good times and bad. It’s really, really important to me as an artist. On so many levels. Especially because it reminds me of my own childhood in way-less-horrible Manhattan.

One of the main things that struck me were all the photos that Goro took of these kids living in abject poverty but still finding things to play on and have fun with. Honestly, these images are the embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit. The greatness of man. This massive, hard, dangerous, inhuman world crushing down from all directions and these kids shine through, having fun, being free and creative, unaffected. Really, everything that pre-21st century skatepark-utopia street skating was about. I HAD to jack these images. I had to share them with the world. So, we did this ‘city kid’ series. The kid jumping between buildings for Frank Natiello, Gangemi got the kids hanging on the back of the elevated train, and Ricky got this Black kid spraying water out of a Fire Plug. I love these boards and they are some of my favorite work, in any discipline.

There’s a saying that goes ‘I was too young and stupid to know any better’. Frequently, this is when a lot of great work get’s done. This holds true to these boards, and Ricky’s in particular. The most disappointing thing about these boards is that, frankly, we didn’t really know how to screen skateboards back then. The images Goro took are sublime and nuanced black and white photos.

And I tried to do the images justice, and even though the films I produced were close to the original photos, the actual burned silk screens and subsequent screening of the boards didn’t work so good. Gangemmi’s board came out pretty good, as did Natiello’s, but Ricky’s, I think because the image had to be screened onto the tail, didn’t translate to my satisfaction. Plus, the foggy water spray is just tough to begin with. The technique of being able to silk screen over the kick nose and tail were a closely guarded secret in California. Rodney Smith and I, at one point, tried to trick the guys at World Industry into showing us their board screening room, but they saw right through us and took us out for drinks instead. Haha!

All we had was us over here in New York. Greg Chapman ran our wood mill that he and Rodney Smith had started up. So Greg was off in Long Island trying to figure out how to make skateboards. It was very grass-roots and very trial and error. BUT! As you might remember, all of us at Zoo York we’re very into Eastern Philosophy and Military Strategy. And one of the principles of Guerilla Warfare is that your weakness is also your greatest advantage. And you’re advantage, you’re greatest weakness. Napoleon took over the world with one of the biggest Armies in history, but he had to stop simply because he couldn’t feed all those soldiers. Inversely, 2 snipers can take out an entire battalion simply because they can move faster and quieter and are harder to find. So, we realized that we we’re smaller than the West Coast skateboard factories and that we were producing fewer boards. But! That meant that we could spend more time on each board. So, Chappy got into hand air-brushing each board. So, out of nowhere, Zoo York suddenly had the only boards with these unique, hand done, color fades. We were the only ones. And then the West Coast companies were asking us ‘How do you do that!’ Haha! That’s our secret! On occasion, Chappy would go a little out-of-control with his painting, suddenly switching up colors and fade-schemes without telling us, but for the most part, the spray fades we’re tasteful (the mauve and baby blue example you have for Ricky Oyola’s board is not only gorgeous, I have never seen that color way until now! Haha!) In the end, differentiation is key to succeeding in any field. The ability to stand out from the herd and be unique is always key. And the spray fades did that for us.

Believe it or not, ‘The Block’ was such an important book to all of us at Zoo that we actually tried to reach out and ask permission for the usage of the images, like we did with Horst Hamann and his book ‘New York Vertical’, but for the life of us, we could not find Mr. Goro or the Publisher. They had all vanished. To this day I would love to tell Mr. Goro what an effect he had on all of us, and in turn, many skaters across the world. But he is no where to be found. Regardless, I strongly urge everyone to find a used copy of ‘The Block’ and give it a read it’s deeply inspiring and deadly tragic. (One of my favorite images is of a father, crying on his knees, over the body of his dead son. His son had fallen off the back of the elevated Subway, as in Gangemi’s board, all the way down to the street. Powerful stuff.)

We were very fortunate in a lot of ways over at the old, original Zoo York.  We had good graphic ideas, our own home-made wood mill, and the greatest city in the world to take from. But honestly, perhaps our greatest advantage was that we had Ricky Oyola riding for us and supporting what we were trying to do from the start. I can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s a true legend.

4. Illuminati “Mass Control” (& Silver Star in general -Seb’s note)
)To be as forthcoming as possible, I had always had an interest in the idea of the ‘Illuminati’ – Not per say specifically Freemasonry or what one might read in Dan Brown’s novel ‘Angels & Demons’ (or the Tom Hanks / Ron Howard movie of the same name) but more so in the ghostly idea of ‘control over the masses’ and how this has been achieved over the eons, from the ancient Egyptians all the way through to modern day entities like the Builderberg Group. Anyway, I know about this sort of thing.

We hit a critical mass at Zoo, where we wanted to expand and were not sure whether to just focus on growing Zoo into a clothing brand or ‘diversify’ and create more skate brands (like ‘World Industry’ or ‘Deluxe’). Oyola and all of us at Zoo decided it would be best to create our first ‘spin-off’ brand for Ricky. I had told him before about the ‘illuminati’ and ‘the Freemasons’ and specifically their involvement in helping to create The United States of America. If you understand Freemasonry, there are endless examples of their influence in America, from the usage of copper that ultimately lead to the creation of the ‘middle class’ (long story) all the way through to the famously iconic ‘eye of the pyramid’ on our U.S. one dollar bill. Ricky was always fascinated by this and felt a connection to it being from Philadelphia, the birthplace of our Nation. So we went with that.

I have to say, in retrospect I might have gone conceptually overboard with Illuminati. I’d like to hope not. It actually deeply saddens me that at one time, skaters would respond to such intelligent ideas as the things we used to do with Illuminati, and in the end ‘Jackass’ and ‘Rob and Big’s Fun Factory’ won out… True irony! ;)

I think at one point we were leaving mysterious instructions in advertisements for kids to do papers and reports about various things ‘illuminati’. To have the kids learn for themselves how the powers that be manipulate them and distract them from the truth. And we actually got some reports! I was surprised and impressed. If any of you kids (men now) who sent those reports in are reading this, I can never express how effected I was by that. I cherish them to this day. Any way… I digress.

The Illuminati ‘Akhenaten’ board was Ricky’s because Akhenaten (or Amenhotep IV) is arguably the first step in modern populace control. He was a very mysterious figure and some even claimed him to be an Alien because of the unique way his head was drawn. He is important because he was the first ruler to adopt a monotheistic religion, abandoning the traditional Egyptian Polytheistic Gods for ONE true God, the Sun. After Akhenaten’s death however, his successors returned Egypt back to their traditional polytheistic religion. Some believe, Sigmund Freud most notably,  that Moses was actually an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt after Akhenaten’s death. Who knows…

Anyway, I can’t for the life of me read what I wrote in that chunk of text, but I’m sure it was something close to what one would find in WikiPedia now-a-days. That shit didn’t exist back then. It might have also included an explanation as to the relevance of the Egyptian Pyramids for the United States as well as the Egyptians. But you’re gonna have to look that up for yourselves from now on. I’ve already said too much.

In the end, we were hit with a ‘cease and desist’ order from the crappy, nerd-a-rific playing card game ‘Illuminati’. Turns out that ‘games and sporting goods’ exist in the same copyright and trademark sector in the United States. So Dungeons and Dragons is considered nearly the same as the NFL, according to our Government. Imagine that.

We had to close Illuminati and Oyola left us to go run with the same idea, now spun into the name ‘Silver Star’. Although in his defense, ‘Silver Star’ was pretty much all about Freemasonry. Hey! Do you guys know if Ricky became a Freemason? He’s a perfect candidate! That would be awesome! Anyway, It was kind of shitty that all that went down and to this day I still get ‘Why did you guys kill Illuminati? It was rad!’ Well, it wasn’t us, friend. We were forced out by the card game. Or were we?… I suspect that there was a deeper, darker conspiracy at work! We get all the kids to start asking questions and THEN ‘Jackass’ gets picked up by MTV? Coincidence? I think not!

Reese Forbes: “Just wanted to have something as random as it gets”

Reese Forbes is the king of apparent paradoxes, and has trodden some road with his fair share of unexpected people. It started early, way before some bizarre twist of life got him to jump the Brad Staba ship. Back on his native East Coast, Reese was once teammates with dudes like Matt Mofett, Peter Hewitt and Adam McNatt, on the probably aptly named Goodtimes board company. Eclectic assemblage. Not the last to happen. After a hefty dose of Eastern Exposure via Dan Wolfe’s lens, Maryland’s über-popper joined Element, before getting together with artist Micheal Leon to start Rasa Libre. And then, the clean-cut, polite Reese joined one of the most acclaimed, most offensive board companies in the new millenium, Skate Mental. And it’s not over… Unsurprisingly, the boards he chose to talk about for his five favorite pro-models reflect exactly how he would later describe his first ever board on Element: “As random as it gets.” And awesome, too.

Element Pool (1995)
Art by Mike Baugh

When Element wanted to turn me pro, I wanted to be involved in my graphics, so I called my friend Mike Baugh. The idea behind it, well, I gotta get back into a 17-year-old mind for a second. I just wanted to have something as random as it gets. Mike worked for Discovery Channel, a couple big companies so he had some graphic skills.

I just jumped in that suit and he shot me with goggles and that swimming hat. I was supposed to be an action figure, that’s what it was. I’m not sure what I was supposed to be. The pool balls, it has no relevance whatsoever, it means nothing. It’s just random.

Element did not like it. I don’t think (Element owner) Johnny Schillereff saw that board as having that continuity with any of the other Element boards. But he just wanted me to have what I wanted, which was great. That was probably one of the last times I had what I wanted, basically.

Rasa Libre Zebra Stripes (2003)
Art by Michael Leon

After I lost Element, I was skating a lot with Matt Field, we were talking about starting a company. We had a lot to bring to the table with his creativity. Matt Field and Mic-E Reyes came up with the Rasa Libre name, we were playing around with the word “Rasa” just because of the way it rolls off your tongue, the way it sounds. Plus we wanted that notion of being free, just how you feel when you skate.

When it came to my board, it was as usual: anything that Michael Leon shows me I never have anything to change, it’s always perfect, he’s that good. For this one, he just went for zebra print I guess but he added his own spin to it. This graphic is really sick, and the pattern is amazing. I would say that’s probably my favorite skateboard, ever. I loved Rasa Libre, great company. It was ahead of its time and the beauty of it is that it came and went, and never had time to get stale.

Rasa Libre Wine and Roses (2004)
Art by Michael Leon

The wine bottle is a graphic that Michael always wanted to give me, he thought I would like it because he knew I was into drinking wine. There was also this idea of wine and roses, it was a ’60s thing and a saying, from some Sinatra album I think. It was a song, definitely. It was just really cool.

There was another one he did that was on a guitar stain board, that was mimicking that Gibson Starburst guitar, so Michael did that graphic on a board that looks like that exact same stain. This one’s not actually it, there’s a better one that has that graphic on but anyway, that’s the only one I have.

Skate Mental leap of luxury (2009)
Art by Brad Staba

The jet, the gold watch, all the cool stuff, you know, that’s Brad Staba’s signature humor. It’s done through Brad’s perception of who I am. I mean, he thinks I like all the finer things in life (laughs).

Brad could probably not be any more different than who I am but it worked. We skated in SF when I lived there and we were buddies, then he had the opportunity to do something out of Girl and I just wanted to jump at that chance.

On Skate Mental, there were a lot of good-fun, offensive graphics he did. There was one that said “Fuck your Face,” and it was on a t-shirt too. And then there’s one he did at me with just teeth coming out of this businessman guy, which is probably my least favorite graphic in history. But you just gotta look at it with humor. Brad does a very good job at it.

Stacks beetles series (2010)
Art by Michael Leon

Right when Brad pulled Skate Mental from Girl, I made a decision that I was not gonna do that, so I started talking with Michael Leon, he was thinking about turning his Commonwealth Stacks project into Stacks, the skateboard company.

I always enjoyed working with Michael so it was a natural fit. For now, the team is just yours truly. It always felt like there was some unfinished business since we stopped collaborating on Rasa Libre.

That beetle board is really cool because it came as a 3-board series, Small, Medium and Large, and the way he did the beetles is really amazing, with the colors on their backs, it just looks really cool on a board.

Inspiration information: Frankie Hill and the bulldog

” Me and Todd Hastings went to Amsterdam, and this wasn’t a tour, we just took a break and we went to the Bulldog Coffee Shop in Amsterdam, and I looked up and saw their logo and I was, like, ‘What do you think about that for the graphic, Todd?’
He thought it was a pretty good idea, so when we came back, I told Powell to do a bulldog. It’s a pretty close rendition of the one in Amsterdam! It was the best coffee shop around, man. They really don’t sell coffe there. At all.” -Frankie Hill

This is just the mandatory graphic nerd question from that totally  impromptu interview I did with Frankie Hill in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, masterfully hooked up by the awesome Andrew Mercado from Gullwing. The rest is over here.

 


Le boardnographe du phonographe

This is an archive for my eponymous monthly page in Skateboarder mag. Plus a few extras few and far between, whenever I get a chance...
Absolutely shameless, unrated boardnography, exposed! -minus the Ebay guilt. Enjoy the visite...

_Seb Carayol
Memory Screened Inc. and subsidiaries' CEO

Contact

sebcarayol@hotmail.com

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