Vert skaters of the ’90s are the true skateboard martyrs. Take Mike Frazier for instance. Deafeningly tail smashing his way through Powell Peralta’s Celebrity Tropical Fish video to achieve pro status in the very beginning of street skating’s monopolistic years, he more than felt the pinch. The Floridian even has figures to measure precisely transition skating’s fate. “Vert died the day I turned pro for Powell”, Mike, now 37, laughs. “My first paycheck was for $3,000, the second one for $1,200 and the third one for $600.” And it all went downhill after that.
From Zorlac to Santa Cruz via Birdhouse, Toy Machine, Stereo and Element, Mike has witnessed the whole spectrum of the imaginable embarrassed attitudes when time came, you know, to *cough*, ‘let the vert dude go’. He had to usurp a team mate’s name to get one boss to take his call, or was handed the bad news by the new TM, or was once told that his $500 a month pay weighed so much on the company’s finances that it had to be cut in half. But these are just politics. On a more artsy note, the vertical martyr left a bigger imprint than big panted, small wheeled curb polishers would care to remember -as, by the way, the Chrome Ball just reminded as well. Here are his five favorite boards.
“Basically the Powell guys sent me 7 or 8 ideas that Cliver had just kinda sketched up. There was one that had a guy with a ball and chain, another one was an angel with wings or something. This one was pretty random too but I was stoked on it. Whoever sent them said, ‘we want something that’s powerful and these look powerful to us.’
You can look at it and can interpret it in a million ways. Years later, me and Cab were signing autographs during a Warp Tour and this guys comes up, ‘Look, I got your graphics tattoed on my back, I want to show you.’ I was like, ‘Wow’, but then he pulls his shirt all the way to the top, he had ‘White Power’ tattoed from shoulder to shoulder. I guess I had tattoos and shaved head so he thought I was a skinhead or something. I was so bummed. I went from really stoked to, like, ‘kook’.
When I looked at that graphic, I didn’t see it this way but he did, that was his interpretation. I still think it’s one of the coolest graphics I’ve ever had.”
“I had different pro models but this team one, just looking at all of them it reminds me why I rode for Stereo. It was a cool team to ride for, everyone got along really good, the videos were good. The characters were pretty dead on, I guess they just had random photos and the artist just looked at the faces on the different photos and came up with it.
It reminds me of going to SF, two or three times a year, I’d stay at Max’s house and skate his ramp, where a lot of the footage in A Visual Sound was shot.”
“Ed Templeton was always like, ‘Wow, you drink so much coffee.’ Ed is like a health freak, he doesn’t eat meat, he’s vegan. I was the exact opposite, I drink like eight or nine cups of coffee a day cause since I was 5 years-old, my grandma would make coffee for all her grandkids and pancakes in the morning.
Anyway, Ed was like, ‘I’m gonna come up with a caffeine-themed board.’ Ironically I’m looking right now on my wall, there’s like three graphics from Toy Machine, two of them are coffee-related, one of them is a guy walking into a meat market with slabs of human pieces of meat, I guess obviously cause I’m not a vegetarian.”
“I play black jack, I play poker and stuff, so Ed wanted to come up with a gambling graphic. Plus as a little kid I was always doing stuff for bets. There were a million of them. One of the early ones, in Saint Petersburg I swam a mile accross this bay for 15 bucks. When I look at the wall I have, maybe 8 of the graphics I had over the course of my career had to do with fishing, maybe five or six have to do with coffee, four or five have to do with chess or gambling.”
Ed Templeton : “It was a skull I got from some guy I knew at a tattoo shop, it was laying around and I asked if I could take it. I used it for something else before, then I adapted it in Illustrator into the spade and club symbols for Mike’s graphic. I have seen the exact skull, no doubt, taken from Toy Machine in so many other uses -and to think it all came from a tattoo artist’s scraps!”
“This graphic came from a drawing in The Saint Petersburg Times, the local newspaper here. It was a tiny black-and-white sketch of an old man fishing in the Carribean. I cut it out and put it on my refrigerator for months. I loved it cause I grew up fishing.
Where I live now is two blocks from the water, I fish five days a week, so when Santa Cruz asked if I had any idea for a new graphic, I said I wanted to use that photo somehow. So I sent it in and they just changed it a little, so they couldn’t get sued or whatever, and then they added color to it.”