Many years ago Grant Brittain went on a trip to Australia with Mike McGill and the Chapter 7 team. When Grant came back he had a grip of photos of unknown Australian rippers, and Matt was one of them. At first it was hard to tell if Matt was legit or not, but when he came to the States about a year or so later, those who doubted his skills were soon turned into believers.Matt parted ways with McGill and the Chapter 7 squad and found a home (literally, because he lived at Dave’s house for a couple of years) with Dave Bergthold’s newly formed Invisible team. His video part in Invisible’s Vanishing Point was damn good, and Matt was fast becoming a hot item in the skateboarding world. During those two years in the States, Matt had to return to Australia every six months to renew his tourist visa just so he could come back to California and skate without the fear of being an illegal alien. You see, Australians, like other foreigners to our country, are not allowed to come and go as they wish in the “Land Of The Free.” The only way to legitimately stay and work in the U.S. is to pay a lawyer, who in turn pays U.S. Immigration, which then decides whether or not to give you a visa entitling you to work. Matt finally got his visa with the help of Invisible. The next thing that happened for Matt was his switch from Invisible to the newly started skateboard-company Zero. It seemed like Matt was finally happy about where he was in skateboarding, but in a few months he was down for the count with a severely broken ankle. This injury kept Matt from doing the things he was capable of for the next two years. Nowadays Matt is in full-skate mode, filming for the upcoming Zero video Dying To Live, which is sure to be a boost for his skate career. In the next several spreads you’ll read Matt’s words and see a preview of his part in the soon-to-be-released Zero video. Say hello to Steve for me.¿Dave Swift

Interview by Skin Phillips

Let’s start at the beginning, when you were born in Rockhampton, Australia.
Actually I was born in Brisbane.

Why did you move to Rockhampton?
Well, that’s where my mum moved because my grandmother lived up there. My parents got divorced when I was three, so we moved in with my grandmother.

Was there a scene in your town?
Yeah. Skating in Rocky was basically like skating anywhere else. I mean, we just made the most of what we had¿we didn’t have the benefits of a big city.

When did you get into skateboarding?
In the mid 80s¿I was about thirteen. I went to see Back To The Future and that had a lot to do with it. I asked my mum to get me a skateboard. We had a sports store in town that sold skateboards and videos, so I went in there and rented Animal Chin.

Was that your first skate video?
Yeah. It blew me away¿I was so psyched.

Who was your crew back then?
It was weird because when I got into skateboarding, I didn’t really have a crew. It was something I started to get interested in, and a couple of my friends got into it because I was doing it. After a while I moved on to a new crew. I starting making friends with proper skaters in my town.

The main things, especially when you’re young, are hooking up with your mates, getting on your board, and skating anywhere you can. After a while we knew all the spots, so on the weekends we knew exactly where to go. We’d map it all out, start with one spot, and have all these spots ’til the end of the day.

When did you start to travel?
When I first started skating I wasn’t doing that much traveling, but I used to visit my dad all the time. He lived on the Gold Coast, and that’s where Chad Bartie and everyone lived, too. Skateboarding was huge there compared to where I was from. There were sick skateparks¿I loved going down there.

I’d been going back and forth for so long that after a while I ended up moving there.

When you moved to the Gold Coast, was it the first time you got sponsored? When you got sponsored, did you travel around Australia, or did you go straight to the States?
After I got sponsored, the next thing was to try and get myself to the States. I wasn’t thinking about going there to kick arse¿I just wanted to see what it was like.

What happened the first time you went to the States?
The first time, I saved up a bunch of money and went with Chad Bartie. We stayed at Mike McGill’s house for probably three months¿we were hooked up through his company. We just shot photos with Grant Brittain and familiarized ourselves with America. It was basically a holiday.

What year was this?
This was ’93. We came back to Australia after three months. I’d already quit my apprenticeship because I wasn’t enjoying it¿I hated it. I didn’t really think about what I was going to do.

I was back on the Gold Coast, but I decided I wanted to go back to the States again. The only way for me to do that was to work a job, live at home, and not pay any rent. So I moved back to Rockhampton¿back with my mum.

I got a job at a window factory. At that point I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with skating or whether I could even do anything with it. I just wanted to go back to the States and give it a shot. So I worked for eight months, saved up enough money, and went back for six months.

Matt’s friend, Gene Newton: You were still on Chapter 7?
Yeah. Chapter 7 turned into a company called Shaft. I was there for six months and we shot for their video. When the video came out, things were looking a little better for me.

I came back to Australia and was under the impression Shaft would fly me back to the States. I called them, but that wasn’t the case. They were like, “We can’t really do it.” So I was back in Australia with no money and no return ticket to the States. Luckily, I received a tax return for 900 bucks Australian. So I put that toward my trip and borrowed 1,000 dollars off my mum and 1,000 off my dad. I bought a ticket and just went back.

When I got back to the States, I quit Shaft because, basically, they shafted me laughs. I started filming with my mates¿by that time I’d made a few friends in the States. Peter McBride and Ian Ross helped me out a lot. I filmed a sponsor-me video and threw it out there to see what sponsorship I could get.

G.N.: Did you know how the industry worked back then?
I knew all I had to do was get some good footage together. I’d already had a little bit of coverage with some photos and the Shaft video.

G.N.: So you weren’t just another skater?
Not really. I was right in the mix. I was in San Diego, where a lot of the companies were. I gave the sponsor-me video to Invisible and ended up getting on the team.

How long did you stay on Invisible?
About three years. I got on it when I turned twenty.

G.N.: Where were you staying?
I was staying with my mate Ian Ross. I lived with him for a long while. He rode for Invisible, too. I was still going back and forth to Australia because I didn’t have a working visa. So I was just sort of winging it any which way I could. After a while, my working visa got sorted out and I stayed longer.

What happened with Invisible?
When I first got on Invisible I was psyched, but after time, things started to change¿I started to change¿and I just wasn’t happy there anymore. I felt like I needed to move on.

I went back to Oz for a while and stayed at my mate’s house. I hardly even skated. I mean, we’d go and skate some parks, but I just hung out, surfed, and drank beers. I was kinda over it and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

Then Wade Burkitt told me Jamie wanted me on Zero.

How long had Zero been going?
Zero was only just kicking off. It was going to be a clothing company in the beginning, I guess. But then I heard they were planning to turn it into a board company, and that’s when Burkitt started talking to me. He told me Jamie was thinking of getting me on the team. I didn’t really take it seriously, though.

After about four months, I decided to go back to the States because I figured if I didn’t, I’d never go back.

In the States, I continued to live the way I was living in Oz¿I just hung out at a mate’s house and pissed it up.

But you had a legit visa?
Yeah. I had a visa and everything, but I was just bummed on the way things were going.

Why?
Just with the last video Invisible put out.

Were you still on Invisible?
Yeah. I wanted to make a serious skate video, but it seemed I was the only guy who was into it. I thought their video portrayed me in the wrong way¿not the way I wanted to be portrayed.

Jamie somehow got a hold of me and asked if I wanted to ride for Zero. It was perfect timing because I was at a point when I was over it and I wasn’t sure what the f¿k I was gonna do. Then the whole Zero thing worked out.G.N.: Did your skating pick up then? Were you amped?
Yeah. I was stoked to be on a company I was psyched on. I definitely started take things more seriously.

The last few days of filming for the Thrill Of It All video, I broke my ankle on some rail. That was a bummer for me because I was just getting it together. Luckily, I’d finished my part, but it was like taking a step backward¿another smack in the face. I was down-and-out, then I was all up, and then I was down-and-out again.

G.N.: How long were you out for?
I was out for at least six months, and it took me a long time to get back into it, too. After I broke my ankle, all I did was sit around and drink. I didn’t take the break too well.

Six months went by and I started to get back on my board, but I was having some serious problems. I just couldn’t get it together. It was hard to get back to the level I was skating before.

G.N.: So you were pissed at yourself.
Yeah¿I was bummed. Things were going well, and then this injury set me back for so long. Instead of just sitting back, waiting to get better, and being mentally prepared to start charging again, I sort of fizzed out. So when I started to get back into it, it was hard for me.

Confidence-wise?
Yeah. My confidence was so low.

How did you get over that barrier?
Once I started to get back into skating, I was just doing enough to get by. For a while my ankle was playing up and hindering me a lot. My confidence was low, too¿those combined, I was just hopeless. I’d definitely taken a few steps backward.

We were filming for the Misled Youth video, but I was having major problems getting my shit together¿that’s why my part was so short.

Finally things came around for me and I started to skate a little bit better. And lo and behold, I hurt myself again on the last couple days of the video. I did the same ankle in¿the one I’d broken before. I thought I’d broken it again, but luckily it was just a bad sprain. I was on crutches up until the night of the premiere.

I was out again after that. Basically, there have been all these scenarios reproducing themselves. The first break, I was out for six months and I got stuck into the booze. Then I got my shit together for a little while and filmed my Misled Youth part. I hurt myself again, which took me out for three or four months¿that was the heaviest. When I look back on it now, I was a mess, getting wasted every night. I didn’t even care.

For me, the booze was something I’d fall back on. I’d get knocked down, and instead of using my head and being smart about it¿trying to rehabilitate myself¿I’d go out and party with my friends. That’s how I dealt with it. I was bored and couldn’t skate.

Do you remember what made you turn around andjust kicking off. It was going to be a clothing company in the beginning, I guess. But then I heard they were planning to turn it into a board company, and that’s when Burkitt started talking to me. He told me Jamie was thinking of getting me on the team. I didn’t really take it seriously, though.

After about four months, I decided to go back to the States because I figured if I didn’t, I’d never go back.

In the States, I continued to live the way I was living in Oz¿I just hung out at a mate’s house and pissed it up.

But you had a legit visa?
Yeah. I had a visa and everything, but I was just bummed on the way things were going.

Why?
Just with the last video Invisible put out.

Were you still on Invisible?
Yeah. I wanted to make a serious skate video, but it seemed I was the only guy who was into it. I thought their video portrayed me in the wrong way¿not the way I wanted to be portrayed.

Jamie somehow got a hold of me and asked if I wanted to ride for Zero. It was perfect timing because I was at a point when I was over it and I wasn’t sure what the f¿k I was gonna do. Then the whole Zero thing worked out.G.N.: Did your skating pick up then? Were you amped?
Yeah. I was stoked to be on a company I was psyched on. I definitely started take things more seriously.

The last few days of filming for the Thrill Of It All video, I broke my ankle on some rail. That was a bummer for me because I was just getting it together. Luckily, I’d finished my part, but it was like taking a step backward¿another smack in the face. I was down-and-out, then I was all up, and then I was down-and-out again.

G.N.: How long were you out for?
I was out for at least six months, and it took me a long time to get back into it, too. After I broke my ankle, all I did was sit around and drink. I didn’t take the break too well.

Six months went by and I started to get back on my board, but I was having some serious problems. I just couldn’t get it together. It was hard to get back to the level I was skating before.

G.N.: So you were pissed at yourself.
Yeah¿I was bummed. Things were going well, and then this injury set me back for so long. Instead of just sitting back, waiting to get better, and being mentally prepared to start charging again, I sort of fizzed out. So when I started to get back into it, it was hard for me.

Confidence-wise?
Yeah. My confidence was so low.

How did you get over that barrier?
Once I started to get back into skating, I was just doing enough to get by. For a while my ankle was playing up and hindering me a lot. My confidence was low, too¿those combined, I was just hopeless. I’d definitely taken a few steps backward.

We were filming for the Misled Youth video, but I was having major problems getting my shit together¿that’s why my part was so short.

Finally things came around for me and I started to skate a little bit better. And lo and behold, I hurt myself again on the last couple days of the video. I did the same ankle in¿the one I’d broken before. I thought I’d broken it again, but luckily it was just a bad sprain. I was on crutches up until the night of the premiere.

I was out again after that. Basically, there have been all these scenarios reproducing themselves. The first break, I was out for six months and I got stuck into the booze. Then I got my shit together for a little while and filmed my Misled Youth part. I hurt myself again, which took me out for three or four months¿that was the heaviest. When I look back on it now, I was a mess, getting wasted every night. I didn’t even care.

For me, the booze was something I’d fall back on. I’d get knocked down, and instead of using my head and being smart about it¿trying to rehabilitate myself¿I’d go out and party with my friends. That’s how I dealt with it. I was bored and couldn’t skate.

Do you remember what made you turn around and get better?
What broke the ice was when Atiba told me about the TransWorld Australia issue¿it broke the whole drinking phase. When I look back on my career, the Australia issue was the real start. Anytime before that was nothing¿nothing like it is now, anyway.

There were only a handful of Australian pros, and I knew I wanted to have a good interview in that magazine. So I had to get off my arse and start skating again. That’s what did it for me. Then when the magazine came out, I had confidence in myself and kept going.

Did you start filming The Reason part around that time?
Yeah. I’d gotten some footage together with the stuff I’d shot for the magazine and a few other things. I heard about the TransWorld video and needed to do something to bring myself back up because we weren’t planning another Zero video for some time. I thought a TransWorld video part was my chance to really show what I could do.

I spoke to Atiba about it, and he said he’d talk to Ty Evans about squeezing me into the video. Ty gave me a call and said he was super into it. That was it¿got the ball rolling. We filmed my part within two or three months. I knew then I could get things really moving. I was taking skating way more seriously. The combination of the magazine and the video part really did it for me.

Where are you at now? What have you been doing since The Reason part?
Since then I’ve been doing much the same. After The Reason I kept it going¿I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve got this Zero video coming up, which I’ve been filming for.

Because you’ve been more settled in your skateboarding career, has your life been more settled also?
Yeah, the basis of my life is way more stable. I’m more focused. The thing is, I’m glad I had that downtime because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be doing as well as I am now.

G.N.: How do you feel about your skating now? Is it still fun or purely business?
The thing that makes me the happiest about skating is that I prove to myself I can do anything I want. I’ve just gotta get my head together and do it. In a business sense I feel I’m doing okay, but that’s not what I really set out to do. I wanted to see what I could accomplish if I really put my mind to it.

G.N.: Are you talking about pushing the limits of skating?
Yeah, pushing my own limits.

Skateboarding’s changed since you’ve been in it. Let’s talk about the kids coming through at the moment.
The kids are amazing. They’re doing gnarly stuff at an age when I was probably just ollieing up curbs.

I’m stoked because I started skateboarding at a time when it was completely different. Skating’s a different sport compared to what it was like in the mid 80s. I’m psyched to see the changes happen. I’m stoked I was there in the 80s. Even though I wasn’t involved professionally, I was there to see it happen. It’s in the roots of my skateboarding.

Do you think kids come in at a higher level because the standard of skateboarding they grow up watching is so high?
Definitely. It has a lot to do with all the videos. In every video they see, and there are a trillion videos out there, everybody’s doing gnarly shit. With young guys like Tosh breaking through, the kids must be thinking it’s just standard.

When I first got into skateboarding at thirteen, there were only a handful of videos, and the standard of skateboarding was nothing like the standard now.

America is where I’m seeing them all come through. You’ve got amateurs making money¿amateurs didn’t make money when I started out. Pros made money, but even then, if you weren’t one of the top ten, you weren’t making any money, either¿you were just making enough to get by.

It’s kind of strange to think at the young age of thirteen or fourteen¿or however old these kids are¿that maybe they’re thinking of skateboarding in a business sense. It’s crazy. When I was thirteen I wasn’t thinking of skateboarding in a business sense at all.

Which way do you think it’s gonna go? What’s left?
It’s just gonna get bigger and gnarlier. There are so many possibilities for skateboarding. The general progression is to take everything to bigger stuff, which is awesome b