Graphically, Ray Barbee has always been easily recognizable. Rag doll board designs aside, something made him famous before he even turned pro for Powell Peralta, in 1989 : his yellow, unmistakable “RB Control” cap. The one he wore in every mag and video, the one that no skate shop on Earth seemed to ever be able to ever put their hands on -prompting a whole generation of disciples to deface any remotely yellow cap in sight with variously successful renditions of said logo.
There’s a reason behind this much-coveted accessory’s elusiveness, though: “RB Control was a pest control company”, Ray laughs. “A friend gave me this cap right when I started skating, in 7th grade or something.” The amusing episode explained, back to business: straight out of Ray Barbee’s car’s trunk, here are the incredible rubber boy’s five favorite pro-models.
I’m pretty sure that this board was Sean Cliver’s first assignment on Powell. It was never going to be a VCJ project, and really the inspiration behind it was the skater that probably had the most influence on my skateboarding, my friend Randy Smith from Sacramento. When he skated, he’d really look like a rag doll, super loose, he looked effortless.
He was so far ahead, even without trying to mimic him I’m sure that inevitably his way to skate affected me. That’s why I thought it’d be cool to have a rag doll for a graphic, from us being into this super loose thing -we all wore beads and had friendship bracelets. I also remember thinking it would be cool to have the doll throw one hand or the other in the air, the cards were added out of filling the void. I wasn’t especially into cards but I’d guess they were here to illustrate, that loose, control thing again. Cliver nailed it right away.
I grew up with my grandmother reading a lot of stories from the Bible, like David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Samson and Delilah. And because I put my faith in Jesus, I had this idea of a modern-day version of David and Goliath. I wanted Goliath to be that Robocop, futuristic kind of thing but have David still be the old-time David. And the thing is, he’s still going to take him out, it doesn’t matter.
Robocop was the first reference point that popped in my head in terms of super-futuristic and armored. Plus it might have been a year where Robocop was happening.
I was just digging Madonna at the time, her approach to what she was doing was so much like skateboarding. She came in and just changed the whole industry in her terms, doing things her way. She was punk rock, you know? I just dug that about her. I didn’t agree with a lot of stuff she was doing but I always loved that period of hers.
I just told Lance I wanted her on my board. And he told his artist friend and he came up with that and it was perfect. I didn’t do any other board with Madonna, just that one, I wasn’t that obsessed, I just thought it’d be cool. At the time you’d have a new board every month, you just threw ideas. I like the way he drew it too, and how she’s doing that In Vogue dance, and how she has these cones like the outfit she wore at the time. It’s nothing too deep, but that’s what what was so fun about this time. It started shifting later towards series, and that kinda killed the actual pro’s input in his own graphics.
The Firm was for the longest time out of Lance’s garage, so every rider could directly interact with him. To me, he’s the first one who sort of broke the mold of the VCJ skull thing at Powell’s. I can see why they’d do that before, how it was less random and more coherent, but I really preferred the time where you’d just go and say, “I want a Madonna graphic,” “I want a Robocop version of David and Goliath.” I think new pros don’t get that experience. It’s almost like the skater is weeded out.
Anyway, this one is based on a Bible verse, Matthew 7:24 [reads from pocket Bible]: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
So you got the house that stayed, and the one that got blown away because it was built on the sand. It’s a pretty straight forward graphic. It turned out really rad, cause Lance got through that time when he did a board for Joe and keith Gruber that looked almost Disney-esque. This one reminds me of that, but switched up a little bit.
Basically this one is symbolizing my being in skateboarding as long as I’ve been, and the ragdoll is sort of worn now, it’s got holes now and little things coming out. The only difference is the inclusion of a guitar because of my interest in music.
Lance did approach Cliver and asked him if he’d do a board for me, and then once we ended The Firm, it was cool because Ryan Kingman at Element was thinking the same thing. It was a surprise because I didn’t know that Element had approached Sean too. It’s nice to think that things have come sort of full circle.