Continued from Part 1…
You wrote a little piece on your experiences at the Brooklyn Banks in our current issue. How closely are you still connected with your East Coast roots?
Well, you know? I’ve lived in California since 89. I spent all of 1994 in New Jersey—that’s where I grew up. I’m just a Jersey guy living in California. I grew up in Jersey in a small town and there was a really small town mentality when I was growing up, so I had to get out of there. But, I’m still attached to Jersey and the East Coast.
Just visiting the city, though, and going into the Banks was such a rad time. I saw all the pros—local or from California—and it was just cool to be around it. That spot will always be emblematic of New York skating and hold that place, even for the next few years, while it’s gone. Hopefully, it will be back.
Tell me a little about what happened with the Ducks incident. The charges were dropped, right?
The main thing is that…I chose to participate in that incident the way that I did and I stand by my actions and I’m unapologetic about it. I understand that there would be ramifications and consequences—that’s life. But, what I thought was f—ked up about the whole incident is that the other people involved were not held accountable for their actions and the whole thing was laid on me. That’s the real issue I have. I mean, them severing ties with me professionally—whatever man. That’s what I risked being a part of that altercation.
For me, the whole incident begins with a stick being designated for my kid. What happened was, my daughter put herself against the front row of the glass at the bottom of what is the staircase, so it’s a pretty dangerous environment to be in the first place. So, number one, I think that Scott Neidermeyer, the Ducks and the Honda Center put my daughter in a precarious situation by designating the stick for her and then just haphazardly tossing it over the glass. Then there’s the drunk guy grabbing the stick. When I watch the video, I know how the video looks—how it comes across—but it doesn’t tell the whole story, because when you’re in the environment, it’s different than from a distance…there are sounds, there’s energy. The guy’s got two beers in his hands, if you watch the video. He grabs the stick and I interject myself, not as a Ducks fan or a representative of the team, but as a father, husband and a man who is not going to let someone else mistreat his family or himself. I tell him, “Hey man, it’s not for you,” but I’m very physically intimidating, too—I’m trying to send a message: Let go of the f—king stick. But, people see that and they say, “Oh, this guy came in out of control with a temper,” “He can’t control himself,” “He’s the aggressor,” but at that point, I’m trying to draw a line in the sand. I knew I was in a fight and it wasn’t a fight because I can’t control myself—quite the opposite. It was a fight because I have values and standards that won’t allow me to just stand by and do nothing. I could’ve let the guy take the stick, but then what am I? Just because I was quicker to the draw or it appears I won the fight doesn’t mean I should be the bad guy. I’d rather die by the sword than suffer from the absence of action. I feel I did what I had to do, really.
In the skate community, you’ve had a few altercations and in the Free Lunch clip, you tell a lot of stories about coming from a small town where, early on, people gave you a really hard time for skateboarding and even beat you up. Do you think you may have been programmed early on to be somewhat reactionary? Like, you’ve always been a lightening rod, so you react preemptively?
Well, I was just out in Colorado for the Zumiez 100K party and I was challenged to two different fights by two different pro skaters at night, when they had been drinking a little bit too much. I just turned my back to them and walked away. If I was really interested in fighting people for disrespecting me, I could do that every single day of my life.
If you look at the history of altercations that I’m in, it’s only recently that there’s been any issue with the skate community, because of the Downtown Showdown incident with the Creature guys. Without that incident, I think, my involvement in these fights with security guards, jocks, drunks or frat boys—the different times I have stood up for my peers—have largely been championed by the skate community.
That being said, the Downtown Showdown was a moment that rubbed everyone the wrong way, because it was a guy that everyone really liked, and I’m sure he’s a good guy, but shit happens, man. But I handled it the way I did, because he did something stupid. I just told him it was bullshit. I mean, he winged a board over the crowd into all the people walking around and not even paying attention to what was going on. I looked over and saw my family shocked, with the board sitting right under them. So, I gave him a few shakes by the shirt and told him it was f—ked up. What’s been put on record elsewhere is that he came up to apologize to me. And, if he would have apologized to me, I would have accepted it—I’m not that big of an asshole. But, he actually came up to me and was like, “Real-ly? Real-ly?” and then leaned into my forehead with his forehead—a pretty wack style of apologizing, if that’s what he was trying to do. And that, to me, was a threatening posture. So, again, I backed him up. I’m not gonna take that from him, just because they’re a fellow skater. Another guy came up to me and started yelling, “You just smacked the wrong fucking guy,” so he got smacked, ‘cause I’m the wrong f—kin’ guy.
Because of that, the reputation proceeds me. People come up to me all the time to pick fights at bars and I just put out my hand and say hello. So, it’s not like I’m engaging in every potential fight situation. But, I am a man of action. I’m actually the guy you want on your side.
After it all goes down, isn’t there a certain element to skateboarding, where it’s like when brothers fight and they’re pissed and then there’s a silent agreement that the argument is over?
I think with those guys, that pretty much happened. They were just like, “Ahhh, whatever.” I mean, it sucks and I wish it didn’t happen, but it did and again, I stand by my actions. But, I think some onlookers kept it alive—people blogging the shit out of it on the Internet, with their sideline opinions. It sucks, because I like the Creature team. I love everything the brand does and represents. I’m just not down with people throwing a skateboard blindly into a crowd and almost hitting my family with it. I just can’t tolerate it. You know? I keep hearing about it. It keeps popping up and it’s too bad. Shit happens and I’d like to think a handshake can get us all past it. If shit were going down—if those guys needed an ally—I would be there for those guys, no questions asked.
So, you wouldn’t say it’s programmed in you to react that way? It’s more those situations?
Some of this is that way because of my reputation and where I’m from. The first time I ever spoke to a police officer was him punching my face in. When I got a skateboard where I grew up, I was public enemy number one. But, it was something I loved that I was passionate about. Still, me and my buddies got our asses kicked for being skateboarders on a daily basis—whether it was a milkshake being thrown at you, construction workers holding us down and pissing on us, being called faggots by every passing car…we took some serious heat. But, one day, I decided I’m not gonna be a punching bag and I will fight back. And, when I started to fight back, I got beat up a few times, but I got beat up less.
Have you ever gotten into a situation like that, where you actually held off before reacting, though?
Oh, I’ve done that a million times. It seems like people are expecting it, so when it happens those few times, it’s scrutinized. I mean, 2001 was the year I got really involved in talking to kids—my fans got really young and I was promoting positive things—but it’s also the year I got into the fight in CKY with the four frat dudes. So, the messages seemed mixed, but really, what I did at that time was what I believed. The truest moments of my life are moments of action. I’m not condoning violence, but I can’t condone passivity. What they don’t show in the CKY fight is that those guys were f —king with my buddy Alex Chalmers, not me… I just stood up for him.
But, on the other side, I kind of learned my lesson with the Ducks incident, about being involved with team sports and being true to myself at the same time. They basically disavowed all knowledge of me. Even people who were my friends on the team pretended like I didn’t exist. So, it’s been a real kick to the balls for my skating, in a good way. I mean, I broke my leg four years ago and in that time, I got serious with the band and serious with working with the Ducks and promoting hockey. All that time, I was recovering from the injury, so my level of skating wasn’t where I wanted it to be. The Ducks incident fortified my recovery.
You’ve been out there more, it seems, but what’s the plan for a shoe sponsor? I know Element Shoes pulled the plug on the team. What’s in the future for you?
I actually have a lot of deals from big shoe manufacturers, which could be major distribution, major money deals for me, but I’m trying to exercise all my options. I feel like I’m a guy who can straddle the fence between the core and the mainstream. I think I can do it as well as anyone else. And, I’d like to keep straddling that fence. At this stage in my career, I don’t confuse the business of skateboarding with the act of skateboarding. My ethos for what is skateboarding, is quite different from what I do on the business side of things. I mean, everyone talks the talk about the mom and pop shops and the core shops, but I was just out in Colorado for the Zumiez 100K party and, I’ll tell you what, you’ll never get a gathering like that of pro and am skateboarders—from the most core and respected to the most commercial. Why? Zumiez sells a lot of shit, buys a ton of product from companies and really keeps it alive. I’ve been there. The business is the business now and I just can’t get hung up on it. Look, I have a great relationship with Zumiez. They support me. There was a time in the mid 90s, when the core shops stopped supporting me. Why would you not support me? I’ve always supported you. I’ve always been a skater’s skater. I’ve always been about the community aspect of skateboarding. But, I get feedback from kids saying small shops were telling them, “Why would you want a Mike V board? That guy’s a kook,” when they came in to buy one. So, my audience was pushed out of skate shops and people who wanted my boards had to go to the malls. Then, people think I have to be this cornerstone of what’s core in skateboarding? But, those same people aren’t supporting me, you know? So, I just take my support from fans who support me—the ones that are forced to go to the malls—and I go right back to what I’ve always represented, the grass roots. I go out to the communities and to the people and just skate. My efforts and actions speak for themselves.
So, you do have some deals then?
I can’t say, because I’m weighing my options. But…hey, I move product. I would not be a skateboarder today, if it was just like, “We like the way you skate” or “You’re a good guy…you’ve been around for a long time.” No, they pay me good money, because I move product. I’m not saying that that’s the measuring stick, because there are certain guys who bring something to skating, even if they don’t sell one single product—they should be around. But, for me, I’m still able to promote a product and people still want to buy product with my name on it. I may not be a better skater than the next guy, but what I offer is part of it.
Twenty years from now, how do you want to be remembered?
I plan on being around, one way or another. I think my greatest contribution is spelled out. I’ve been a true individual, no matter what people in or out of skating think. I think I carried on a certain mentality that I learned from my heroes—Gonz, Lance Mountain, Neil Blender—that skateboarding is more personality and character than athleticism and tricks. Lance…he is pro skateboarding to me. He was pro for Variflex. His career came and went. When Stacey Peralta was working on the Bones Brigade Video Show, he brought Lance in, really, as someone who was supposed to be an assistant. Then, they used Lance in the video between the parts as the guy who connects the different pros—Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen. He wasn’t supposed to be a pro skater, wasn’t supposed to be a part of the Bones Brigade, wasn’t supposed to have a pro model. But, when the video came out, for kids like me, he became our favorite, ‘cause without him, the other guys were too intimidating. Lance was the guy who opened the door for kids in that era and made skateboarding accessible. He made an entire generation believe in themselves. So, he became so popular that Powell Peralta had to make a Lance Mountain pro model. Even his peers didn’t respect him at the time, but we—the fans—made him a superstar. That to me, is what I’ve wanted to accomplish. I’m not the best. I don’t have that ability, but I can make skateboarding accessible.