20 Questions – Ali Boulala

Ali Boulala is all over the place. The Algerian-Finn was born in Sweden but was made famous in Southern California. Though he lives in France, he also kind of lives in Spain. By the time I got ahold of him he was in Australia, and for some reason this didn’t surprise me. Nor should it surprise you to learn that this interview required 26 days, spanned four countries, required three calls to Geoff Rowley, four e-mails to Clichà‡, five calls to Australia, and countless calls to the man himself. Welcome to my first and last Ali Boulala interview.1. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever climbed?

I don’t know, but probably some weird shit. Yeah, I can’t think of anything right now.

2. Are you still a gypsy?

I’ve been playing a lot of guitar lately, so maybe that counts for something. Lately it’s been stuff influenced by Steve Vai (laughs). If you don’t know, you gotta check it out. He’s the cheesiest guitar player in the world, basically. It’s like he’s making love to his guitar while he’s playing. It’s pretty funny to watch. Every day we watch it.

3. Where are you living these days?

In Lyon (France) still. I’ve been living there for a few years. But I have an apartment in Barcelona, too. I’ve been going back and forth. There’re so many spots in Barcelona to skate. It’s close. I just take the train down to Barcelona then back to Lyon. You can do whatever you want there and not get harassed. Maybe I’ll come over to the States if I get my visa and all. But for living, I’ll probably stay somewhere in Europe. I want to stay there for a while. Though really, I never know what’s going to happen.

4. What’s your mode of transportation these days-the Vespa?

Yeah, mostly that, or I’ll skate if it’s close by. In Barcelona there’s the pendejo. It’s this old Mercedes, the gypsy vehicle. When we’re in it, people are afraid. I guess originally Arto bought it. But the Man-Beast owns it now. Pendejo is some kind of Spanish word. I don’t know what it means. It’s a swear word, or it means idiot or something.

5. Is it true that your Vespa was only out of gas when you trashed it in Really Sorry?

Yeah (laughs). That’s a funny thing. You can’t really say, pure and simple, that it was out of gas. The reserve didn’t work, so no gas was coming through. But I got so f-king angry! I wanted to throw it into the river, but luckily I didn’t do that. I thought it was broken, but then I realized it wasn’t. What an idiot! P.J. Ladd saw me and was laughing. He doesn’t seem to laugh that much, but I guess he saw that and thought it was funny. It was funny, though.

6. Is that the same Vespa you still have?

Yeah, the same one. I was so bummed that it was dented, so I fixed it up and made it better. At first I decided to order all the things you could ever put on a Vespa, but then I mellowed out a bit. It was so gnarly at one point. I had more than twenty lights on it. I was always changing shit on it. It was fun just to f-k around with it. I bought the Vespa in Lyon, but I guess it’s originally from Germany. I want to get another one, start a new project.

7. Did your girlfriend think you were an animal?

That’s one of the milder things. She’s seen worse, I guess. I’ve smashed all kinds of shit, just from anger. (I smashed) a computer, for example, because a CD got stuck in there. I just smashed it to bits. But then I’ll have a new one, a better one, I guess. That computer was an Osiris signing bonus, so I didn’t lose that much. They wanted to buy me a Vespa, but I already had one.

8. When are you going to step up to a real motorcycle?

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, for sure. I’ve got a van-I just don’t have a license yet. I’ve got to get that after this Australia trip. Get a van with lots of space, get like two motorcycles in there. I have a bike here, too (in Australia). It kind of looks like a Vespa a little bit. It’s an electric bike-it’s so hideous, though. I bought it here. Me and Bastien (Salabanzi) bought little motooss bikes last time we were here.

9. How long are you staying in Australia?

I’ve been here about a week. The contest (Globe World Cup) is this weekend. Then we’re just going to stay here and film or whatever. I’m going to stay for a month, I guess. It’s nice here. It looks all straight and nice like America, but then it’s got kind of a European mentality. Every time I come here I just want to stay. It’s one of the better places I’ve been.

10. Have you ever bought an item of clothing, and then afterward been like, “F-k, I can’t wear this! It’s too crazy!”

(Laughs) Yeah, sure I have. I’m not sure exactly what. More often it’s the opposite, like it’s not flamboyant enough, so I can’t wear it.

11. What kind of gear are you wearing in 2005? That’s good. I wanted to get to that. It’s flamboyant. That’s the word for it. There’s not much else I can say-flamboyant gear. That’s the new vibe-very shiny stuff, grandma gear, like sparkly blouse style. I think you’re going to see some glitter and colorful stuff.

12. What good things have come out of Sweden besides Ikea and yourself?

I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. I don’t know if Ikea is that good, even.

13. Swedish meatballs?

Ooh, they have those in Ikea. That is a great thing, though. They sell those at every Ikea in the world. They have some good food, though. They have some crunchy bread, some traditional Swedish foods. But there’s not much to miss there. Sweden is not a particularly fun place to be in the winter, for example, because you don’t want to be outside.

14. When was the last time you got fall-down-the-stairs drunk?

Maybe last night. I got carried home, I guess. All of a sudden I got so tired, I just passed out. It was Dustin’s (Dollin) party, and his girlfriend’s band was playing. I was drinking beers, then I passed out.

15. Greco and Reynolds are sober. Do you think you’ll ever join them?

I don’t really drink as much as I used to, as I did back in those days. With drinking, I get so ill these days that it’s just not fun anymore.

16. Weren’t you living with Tom Penny for a while?

Yeah, in Bordeaux. He had a friend who came and went crazy. He threw all the furniture out of the apartment, like emptied it. He tried to throw the fridge even, from the third story of the building into the plaza below. It was a pretty insane moment. This was Tom’s friend from England. He didn’t sleep for three days and went crazy. He was naked, just emptying the apartment. I didn’t really want to stay in that apartment much longer, that was kind of the end of it. We tried to fix it up again, but it wasn’t really happening. Now it’s just laughable. But at the time it was so gnarly. Glass tables from three stories up! Beds, a couch, everything. Tom had just bought two turntables-all out the window. There were people out there, like bums, who just started to take stuff straight away. There was even a pile of stuff that was burning under the window! He threw the TV and it exploded and started a fire with the wood from the bed. Tom’s friend said sorry afterward. He said he thought he was Jesus and that he was in a spaceship that was too heavy. He said he was throwing stuff out so the spaceship could take off.

17. At least he had a good reason for doing it. Have you ever been arrested in Europe?

A few times-Germany, Switzerland … in every country almost. In Switzerland, I was rolling some ball, like a statue of Earth, down the street. Then I smashed something … ah, whatever. In Germany, that was the worst time. I was innocent, but I was kicked by riot police. I was arrested for just being there. I had a cast on, and they only kicked me on my cast with their steel shoes. That’s how brutal they were. I really had done nothing. The same time, this kid almost got shot by these riot police. This kid came up, like, “Excuse me. What’s going on?” The cop took his gun out, but luckily another cop punched his gun, so the cop shot in the air. There was a party, and the cops came and started to arrest people for nothing. The cops started a riot, basically. The cops had Taser guns, and people were lying in the ground in their own puke from being electrocuted. This German photographer almost swallowed his tongue from being Tasered. He saw the police kicking my cast. He tried to help and got Tasered.

Just recently I got really falsely accused at the post office for fraud. I was getting some money from Western Union, and the guy working there called the cops because he didn’t think I was Swedish or something. I just went to get my money, and the cops came and took me to the police station. They interrogated me and called the Swedish embassy. Then when I started speaking Swedish to the embassy they were like, “Oh, whoops! I guess we made a mistake. Sorry. You can go now … ” I was in the middle of nowhere. I was like, “What? I don’t even know where I am! Take me back, for f-k’s sake. You falsely accused me!” They drove me back, but it was so stupid. I don’t even know why they arrested me. The guy in the post office just called the cops for nothing. I was so angry at that guy. He kept telling me, “No, just wait here.” It was taking much longer than it should have. Then the cops showed up, like I was robbing the post. This was in Lyon. Whatever.

18. What’s your favorite place in America?

Definitely not Huntington Beach. I like Arizona a lot-it was always great times there. I don’t know, really. I’ve been to Florida. I don’t really like Los Angeles. Las Vegas is not that great. It’s a crazy city, but to live there might not be so great. I can’t believe I’ve never gone to New York before. After this Australia trip, I’m supposed to go to Sweden and get a visa. It usually takes a month or something. If I get it, I guess I’m going to come straight (to the U.S.) after that.

19. What’s the most obscure trick you ever did?

The latest hype these days is “The Indian.” I don’t know how to explain it … Well, you just stand in the middle of the board, like you’re going straight ahead, feet together like you’re doing a hang ten in the middle of the board. Then you grab with both hands. The thumbs, very importantly, have to be over the shoes. That’s it. Then you early grab, or do a little hop down something. I can’t really say what, you’ll see.

20. Who’s your favorite skater?

It varies from time to time. I don’t know. It’s always different. It could be anyone from day to day. If Steve Vai was a skater, it’d probably be him. nd the cops came and started to arrest people for nothing. The cops started a riot, basically. The cops had Taser guns, and people were lying in the ground in their own puke from being electrocuted. This German photographer almost swallowed his tongue from being Tasered. He saw the police kicking my cast. He tried to help and got Tasered.

Just recently I got really falsely accused at the post office for fraud. I was getting some money from Western Union, and the guy working there called the cops because he didn’t think I was Swedish or something. I just went to get my money, and the cops came and took me to the police station. They interrogated me and called the Swedish embassy. Then when I started speaking Swedish to the embassy they were like, “Oh, whoops! I guess we made a mistake. Sorry. You can go now … ” I was in the middle of nowhere. I was like, “What? I don’t even know where I am! Take me back, for f-k’s sake. You falsely accused me!” They drove me back, but it was so stupid. I don’t even know why they arrested me. The guy in the post office just called the cops for nothing. I was so angry at that guy. He kept telling me, “No, just wait here.” It was taking much longer than it should have. Then the cops showed up, like I was robbing the post. This was in Lyon. Whatever.

18. What’s your favorite place in America?

Definitely not Huntington Beach. I like Arizona a lot-it was always great times there. I don’t know, really. I’ve been to Florida. I don’t really like Los Angeles. Las Vegas is not that great. It’s a crazy city, but to live there might not be so great. I can’t believe I’ve never gone to New York before. After this Australia trip, I’m supposed to go to Sweden and get a visa. It usually takes a month or something. If I get it, I guess I’m going to come straight (to the U.S.) after that.

19. What’s the most obscure trick you ever did?

The latest hype these days is “The Indian.” I don’t know how to explain it … Well, you just stand in the middle of the board, like you’re going straight ahead, feet together like you’re doing a hang ten in the middle of the board. Then you grab with both hands. The thumbs, very importantly, have to be over the shoes. That’s it. Then you early grab, or do a little hop down something. I can’t really say what, you’ll see.

20. Who’s your favorite skater?

It varies from time to time. I don’t know. It’s always different. It could be anyone from day to day. If Steve Vai was a skater, it’d probably be him.