Ben Horton ($LAVE) : “Every graphic doesn’t need to be profound”

I had loosely suspected it before. It became really obvious when I started working on curating the board exhibit for that one show in Paris last summer: in 2011, there aren’t that many skateboard graphics that have something to say. I mean, by “newer” artists -which immediately sets asides the Templetons, Eli Gesners, Mike Hills, Todd Francises, Clivers, McKees and Aly Moores of Droorstalgic times past.

Not to tout the expired stale fart trumpet again, but my theme being called Agents Provocateurs -a journey through offensive/political board graphics- I sadly only had a couple names in mind when time came not to make this an all-90s board exhibit. 

Thanks lil Baby Jesus though, there’s still a handful of artists who still carry the maculate torch today. Among the Siebens, the Winston Tsengs (enjoi) and the Whoever-thinks-of-these-sick-Skatementals-concepts, Ben Horton has remained one of my personal faves since he launched $LAVE.  The brilliance of it all, the video, Ben Raybourn : the guy behind it had to be a Midas of sorts, I thought.  Well, he is. But he’ll never admit it. Enjoy his interview below…

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How old are you and when did you start really drawing?
I’m old enough to have a hard time remembering when I started drawing. I think I really got into it when I was about 12 I guess.

How long have you been skating?
About 25 years. You would think I could figure out Back-smiths by now.

What was the first cool drawing of yours you remember liking?
I’m still working on that. So by default, I’ll say it was a volcano I drew when I was 5 years old.

Who were some early influences you had?
When I was young I liked saturday morning cartoons a lot. All the Warner Bros. stuff with Chuck Jones as the director was my favorite as a kid. After that, I started getting into all the usual famous painters from history as well as some modern artists. But as I got older, I began to only like certain aspects of a person’s artwork. I rarely like the piece as a whole.

What was your first “published” drawing/graphic?
Probably, some drawings I did for ads for the skateboard shop I worked at in 1992. Then I worked for Maple skateboards which became Imperial distribution. Later on, I worked for the original Scarecrow(before ABC), Foundation, Black Label, etc.

I occasionally skated with Jamie Thomas when he moved to San Diego. I guess he probably noticed the stuff I did for Foundation because he skated for Toy Machine which is at Tum Yeto. That was back before Zero, around ’94 I guess. I was working on and off in the skate industry. I worked at a screen print shop 2003 when he offered me a job.

How did you get do do $lave?
After working at Black Box for some time, Jamie was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to start a brand through Black Box.

Does it have to be spelt with a dollar sign and not an “S”, by the way?
I guess you can spell it however you want. The official/legal name is, “$LAVE” in all caps.

What’s the meaning behind the name?
It can really be whatever you want. The general idea is that most people are a “slave” to something. Whether it’s substance addiction, television, an occupation, society’s demands, etc. That’s why I used the dollar sign for the “S”. Because money is one of the most influential factors in a society that determines how much freedom a person has or doesn’t have. I realize that “Slavery” typically describes people keeping other people as legal property and forcing them to live a certain way and therefore making them into personal slaves.

But that is only one aspect of the word “slave”. For $LAVE Skateboards it’s about the other side of the word “slave” that refers to people being controlled by or dependent on something or society as a whole. And therefore reminding us to always pay attention to that and to continue to preserve whatever freedoms we have, while striving for more.

My point is, we need to keep an eye on what freedoms we are sacrificing.If we don’t, that line at the airport security area is only going to get longer. And your personal belongings in your bag and your home are going to become more and more public.

Haha, that was a small rant, good thing nobody is reading this!

The central question to me : being an old ’90s fart, there are to me very few graphic artists nowadays that I think are REALLY good. Do you think that’s true?
Well, I can partially agree with your opinion, and I definitely don’t include myself in those few artists. There is a lot of art out there. And personally I don’t like the majority of it. But who am I to say? What’s great is that art is completely subjective. It all comes down to what the individual viewer likes. There’s no right or wrong.

Who are some skate artists from nowadays that you dig?
They’re all good. Everyone’s great.

And non-skate ones ?
I would like to keep this list to myself.

Do you think it’s important for a drawing on skateboard to have a “message” of some sort?
Yes, but I don’t think it’s neccssary. Every graphic doesn’t need to be profound. Some ideas are just silly and meaningless, which is great. Skateboarding should always stay free. It’s an environment/Industry that has few restrictions on graphics and a great place to voice your opinion if you have one.

Who else carries that specificity today?
Chris Johanson, Todd Francis, Ed Templeton, Sean Cliver, etc. I could go on and on, but in general I feel like skateboarding has always been an outlet for artists to do whatever they want.

Does the market care?
You mean the people buying skateboards? Some do and some don’t I guess.

What are some of your own favorite graphics?
Probably the latest series of five boards for $lave called “Positive Series”.  I like the colors and illustration style of this series. They’re also the first Illustration series of graphics I’ve done now that I have 5 Pros on the team.  I also usually like my newer graphics more than my older ones, which is a good thing I guess. It would suck to always be trying to copy some drawing I did in the past.

Lastly… why is there that NRA sticker on your old BMW?
Jon Allie put it on there and I like it. I’m backing some policies of the NRA. That goes back to the freedom crap I was talking about earlier. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

5 Responses to “Ben Horton ($LAVE) : “Every graphic doesn’t need to be profound””


  1. 1 Aye jay! January 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    A modern master. Bravo and huzzah!

  2. 2 freedomfarmer January 21, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Society is a crazy breed, I acknowledge $lave for keeping skateboarding native, original and strange.

  3. 3 Jake January 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I hate being a $lave, but I love $lave.
    To all those involved-Thanks for making it happen.


  1. 1 NOVICE V CETRTEK | Pendrek - Skateboarding Magazine Trackback on January 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm
  2. 2 Ben Horton Interview | nett visual Trackback on January 22, 2012 at 5:29 am

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