Photo: Josh Brooks
Mike Vallely is a beast, as we've seen a few times over the years. But, it would be disingenuous to write him off for just that, so I've prepared a pseudo-taxonomical guide to a man who describes himself as a "true individual,” for those who may encounter him in the wild:
H. Valleleous is a dominant and divisive species, which, in the ecosystem in which it persists—skateboarding—is able to lead surrounding fauna to either love or hate him. Within his environment, he is often seen jumping off walls, standing on his hands and rolling on a wheeled plank in an aggressive manner. This aggressive approach is often misconstrued by animals around him. He is, in fact, very affable and much nicer than his posturing projects. While his combative behavior, at times, has turned on those in his environment—skateboarding—he has also shown highly protective behavior for many within the skateboarding clan. But, that does not supersede actions to protect his family or his own honor (when dealing with him, please take this into account). He possesses developed vocal capabilities, which he uses to take a lead screaming position in musical displays and talking positions in front of cameras, as well as this interview. So, read on (H. Valleleous also has its his own iPhone app).
I'm going to read off a film synopsis and I want you to tell me where you fit in: A small town in Spokane, Washington is overrun by a foreign army known as the the "People's Liberation Army" and two brothers, along with a ragtag group of high school students form a militia, utilize their knowledge of the area to fight the invaders. Will they be able to save their country? What's the movie?
That's Red Dawn. I'm pretty much against remakes and Red Dawn's a classic, but the new director felt he needed or could create more action. I guess it was a pretty low budget film when it was made.
Are you with or against the Wolverines, then?
My involvement is real minimal. I was hired as a stunt guy. China invades America and when they come up against the Wolverines, they bring in Russian Special Forces. I'm one of those guys. I was hired to do some stunts, which include being near explosions, firing a machine gun and falling down a staircase. I was put on a wire, tossed into a banister and thrown down some stairs.
How did that work out?
When I worked on Paul Blart: Mall Cop, I was hired via the stunt coordinator and I did all my own stunts. Then, through that connection I was in the Hangover, delivering tuxedos on the highway. Then, I got this part in Red Dawn, even though they thought I wouldn't want to because I had to cut my hair. It's just a new experience, so it was a no-brainer to do it.
Here's another synopsis. Tell me where you fit in: In the wild west, a scarred bounty hunter tracks a voodoo practitioner bent on liberating the South by raising an army of the undead.
Jonah Hex… it probably sounds odd to people who don't know about the comic, but I've been a fan for a long time. I haven't really pursued movie roles, although now I'm having a lot of fun with it. So, I've made myself available to do anything. It's hilarious, though, because in Jonah Hex, I'm just some dude who gets shot. I'm only there for a few seconds. But, with Red Dawn, I was just a non-descript soldier. You probably won’t notice me. But, I was also able to play the role of an arms dealer. So I might show up there, answering the door to the Wolverines—Chris Hemsworth from Star Trek and the kid from Josh & Drake.
Josh & Drake? That show from Nickelodeon?
Yeah, I just know it from having my daughters around. Otherwise, I would be clueless.
That's actually something I've always wanted to know. Your oldest daughter is in high school, so what's it like having Mike Vallely as your dad, from your point of view?
Well, from my point of view and the point of view of my family, it's pretty regular. It's probably not what anyone would expect.
I was just envisioning some teenage boy coming home with your daughter and it being the most intimidating day of his life [laughs].
You know? Life is life, man. Kids grow up. My daughter's had a boyfriend for a few years and he's part of the family. I've had to tell him how things are from time to time, but I can put myself in his shoes. I'm not trying to scare the shit out of anyone and I'm not trying to mess up my daughter's life. We provide an environment of love. If you don't do that and you build walls, you're gonna lose your kids. I want to be a part of their lives.
I could just imagine it being intimidating for a high schooler. So, how does working on movies compare to skating?
To me, none of that happens without skating, you know? I don't think anything compares to skating.
Do you ever think about what you will do after skating?
I see myself as someone who will be skating until I'm no longer sucking air. When I started skating, it was a life decision for me. I knew the second I started that—professional career or not—I was going to skate for the rest of my life. But, what measures up? Nothing. I made the mistake of talking about it on other people's terms over the years—like it's a sport or like it's an art—but skating is skating. But, then, there's definitely more to life. I think there's a certain crowd out there that prefer that I was just a one-dimensional person, but that doesn't make any sense to me. You know, I have other interests. A lot of people want you to just shut up and skate, which is true in some ways. But, I don't want to miss out on things, just because.
Another thing that you got into was music. Is your band Revolution Mother still together?
Revolution Mother was one of the main things going on in my life over the past three or four years. It became really time consuming and, because there were three other people in the band, it was really difficult to sustain and make enough money without devoting myself just to that. But, I wasn't going to just do music.
Wasn't that the same thing that happened with the first band you were in?
[Laughs] Yeah, when I was a kid, the band I was in, Resistance, wanted to get all serious and I just wanted to skate. It was fun, don't get me wrong, but I didn't know how far down that road I was willing to go.
So, what's the new band?
It's called Mike Vallely By the Sword, so it sounds like a solo project, but I'm still working with some of the same people from Revolution Mother.
So, you're playing shows now with the new band?
Yeah, we have a show on February 12th at 2Headed Horse, which is Laban Pheidias’ space in Hollywood. It's pretty much an old school DIY show. Five dollars at the door. Shepard Fairey's gonna be the DJ. Jason Filipow is an artist and he's gonna hand-screen some one-off boards and T-shirts for people. It’s the kind of stuff I wanted to do with the last band, but the band had an agent, the band had a manager, the band had a record label and a lot of other people to answer to, so we couldn't. We just got caught up in the machinery.
Then, we're also playing at Musink, which is a tattoo-music festival in Costa Mesa. We're opening up for The Cult there. I'm also producing a skate event at that show, called the Legend Skate Jam. We're getting the ramp from the Thrasher Skater of the Year party and building a bank in the middle, so that there's something to fly out onto, where the old school guys can throw some bertlemans and stuff like that. Tony Alva, Duane Peters, Eric Dressen, Christian Hosoi, Steve Olson, myself—that's kind of the headline—and then I'm sure, now that it's coming together, a lot of guys will come out and skate. I'm looking at it as 70s and 80s pros and then, if some modern-day legends want to jump in too, they're more than welcome. But, I really want to give the spotlight to the older guys in a jam—no other shows will be happening at the same time. And, I want them to be the center of the show…have a really good announcer to hype them up…
Dave Duncan? Dun-can! Dun-can! Duuuuuun-can! [Laughs]
Yeah, you know? I just want the legends to be seen, feel good about the session and be appreciated for what they've done for skateboarding.
The other unique side project you have is an iPhone app? It's a skating and driving game, right?
You just drive between spots, but it's not part of the game. It's called Mike V: Do or Die. The guys who made it developed the Vans iPhone app—the pool game—but left the last company to start their own company to make something better. So, they approached me. And, there really hasn't been another pro skater other than Hawk that has the balls to sign their name to a video game…
The only other one I've heard of is the Greg Lutzka game, but I think it's called dizmS.K.A.T.E.
Yeah? Well…the guys that are developing it are old school skaters and hardcore gamers and they approached me. I'm really happy with the results I've seen. I think it will be pretty well received. People can play different eras of my career. It gives you all my tricks, but there are over 40-some tricks, so they can skate how they want—they're not just stuck doing bonelesses like me [laughs]… like, "This games pretty cool, but all I'm able to do are a bunch of f—king bonelesses!"
So, as far as real skating, I called you yesterday and you were out rolling, right?
Yeah, I've been skating up at the Berrics a lot. The sessions are really good there. That Battle Commander was the first thing I filmed in a while that I was happy with. It was just good to have people to skate with. I filmed it with Guy [Mariano] and those dudes around, you know? Everyone just wants to skate there, so it gets you psyched.
For how good he is, Guy also seems like the ultimate fan, even of other pros. It just shows he really loves it, you know?
Well, he was put on a pedestal and he's never come off that pedestal, despite everything in between—that's quite a feat in itself. I actually have a funny story about him. In the early nineties—probably 93—I was living in Huntington Beach and I went over to skate the high school and I saw that whole entire posse, Guy, Koston, Howard, Rudy Johnson, that whole group of people, and I came around the corner and they were all there. Maybe I was imagining it, but skating in those days had become really cliquey. Things had turned over so fast that I was lost in the tilling of the soil—I was churned up in it—and I was intimidated at the time, when I came across the younger skaters or the cooler skaters, you know? I wasn't attached to a brand that, by association, would make me cool—I don't think I've ever been. So, they're skating the staircase with a ledge that's lower than a curb, going up to it, sliding onto it and doing those early nineties tricks, like noseslide, k-grind, noseslide, k-grind—shuffling along the ledge and landing with no speed—and they're not having fun. You could just tell.
It's funny, because I think the basis of a lot of skating came out of that era, but people also look back on it as a kind of dark age, where wheels were the size of bearings, flip tricks where pivoted all over the place and people went really slow.
Skating was really theirs at the time, though. And, even though some of the style and the tricks were kind of corny, there was still something really special about that time. They were advancing it in their own way, so that was really cool.
But, for me to show up at that time, self-conscious and feeling like I wasn't in their group, I remember I felt really out of their league. So, I was like, I gotta get the f—k out of here. So, I skate away, do a big 180 ollie over a bench and then a big halfcab and I'm just thinking, those guys think I'm a dork. "I'm a dork—all I did was a 180 ollie and a halfcab." But, a week later, I saw Lance Mountain and he's like, "I talked to Guy Mariano the other day and he said he saw you at Huntington High and you made them look like a bunch of kooks" and I was like, "What?" "He said you came through and you just skated timelessly, like the old days." And, I just couldn't believe it at the time, because what they were doing was the shit in skateboarding. But, now I look back and it's cool to see that Guy was that perceptive—that in tune to what was going on—that he realized what they were doing was kind of just a fad, you know? It's that perception that has allowed him to stay on a pedestal, even when he was out of skateboarding, I think.
Read Part Two on Thursday: Brooklyn Banks, 80s skate beatings and micturations, the Ducks fight, Vallely misperceptions, CKY fight, Element Shoes, the accessibility of Lance Mountain and Vallely in twenty years.