Mike York Roll Call

“How can I have so much love for the game?”

-Andre Nikatina a.k.a. Dre Dog a.k.a. Nicky, “Rise And Fall Of A Rap Cat,” Conversation With A Devil

If you’ve ever met Mike York, you could probably guess that interviewing him is essentially more about you listening than him answering your cute little questions. Generally, he’s about ten steps up on anything you might have spent two weeks meditating over. So f-k an intro, and honestly, don’t even read my questions. Instead, sit back with a cool glass of Hypnotiq and let Yorkatron drop science on you ’til Einstein returns from the dead and takes back the A-bomb. In summary, here’s one of his quotes: “I woke up one morning and my leg was just, like, better. I just been on it again. It feels so good.” You dig?-Mackenzie Eisenhour

When did you first hear about Chocolate?I was riding for Stereo at the time. It was funny, ’cause I knew all the dudes from skating the Embarcadero-Rick (Howard), (Mike) Carroll, Shamil (Randle), (Sean) Sheffey, et cetera-but I was like the only dude that wasn’t from the World Industries camp that ended up on Chocolate. They had just taken a huge chunk out of World, Plan B, Blind, 101, et cetera … and all that to start Girl, and I knew that they wanted to keep the teams kind of small after the whole H-Street, like, 150-dudes-on-the-same-team thing, so I had already heard about this second sister company under Girl through them. At the time, they had already alluded to me being a possibility for Chocolate, but I wanted to stay loyal to Dune (Chris Pastras) and Jason Lee at Stereo.

Was Girl already catching heat from (Steve) Rocco?Conversation With A Devil

Yeah, I mean, back in those days, companies would usually wait like four or five years before even thinking about starting sister companies, but Girl and the homeys went straight back within less than a year and grabbed a whole nother batch from Rocco for Chocolate-Chico (Brenes), (Richard) Mulder, Gabriel (Rodriguez), Daniel (Castillo), Jovantae (Turner) … all those guys were snatched up right after the first Rocco mutiny. I was hearing all about it just ’cause I knew all of ’em and I was crazy into it, but Stereo had been good to me, so I made the decision to stick it out.

What changed the decision?Conversation With A Devil

Stereo kicked me off. Straight up. I kept seeing the concaves and what Carroll was skating, so I kept asking Dune if we could switch up the boards a little to keep up. I’m up there (in SF) skatin’, real into my board and all of that, just lookin’ at what the dudes I looked up to were picky about, so I started getting picky, too. I just wanted to skate like them. They were the dudes I looked up to. At first I was like, “F-k it, I’ll ride anything.” And Carroll’s up there talkin’ ’bout, “I can’t ride this tail, it’s too steep.” So when I got to that level were I realized like, “Yo, this board is f-kin’ up my performance.” I started callin’ Stereo. Finally, Stereo was just like, “Look, nobody else is complaining about the shapes or concaves, so you can take your complaints and take ’em elsewhere.” See ya. They had a secret team meeting about me.At that point, Jason Lee had already stepped down to do the Hollywood actor thing, and I think Deluxe was pushing Dune for a new image. Stereo was already switching away from a jazzy, SF, street, cruisey-flavored company to what eventually ended as a nondescript punk-rock-god-knows-what mishmash … so Dune calls me up and is like, “You know, nothing personal, but it’s not workin’ out” and they kicked me off.Conversation With A Devil

So how did you rig getting kicked off what was still one of the biggest companies in the industry at the time to getting a spot on the even hotter ticket at Chocolate?

Well, see, this is where it gets crazy, ’cause those guys already had me in mind. They were already callin’, and they had Mulder, Daniel, Paulo (Diaz), Chico, all my homeys, and everyone ready to go, and they were callin’ me like, ome on, York, what’s up?” The whole time, I felt that Stereo had been good to me, so I told ’em, “Look, I can’t quit Stereo, they’ve had my back and all that.” Basically, I wasn’t gonna turn around and shit on Dune and J. Lee just ’cause a better offer came along. It wasn’t broke, so why fix it? Then I get the call from Dune. He kicks me off Stereo, I don’t think I even took the receiver off my ear, called up Rick (Howard)-two minutes later I was pretty much on Chocolate. I was the last dude to get on the team.Conversation With A Devil

How did you go from last dude to get on to the first dude to introduce Chocolate in Goldfish (’93) with the “Chocolate Pow” skit?Conversation With A Devil

Man, those guys were tellin’ me about “Chocolate Pow” months before I even got on the team. I thought the whole thing was a joke. I mean, back in those days, you just didn’t do something like that. I thought they were joking. Once I got on, they’re telling me that I’m gonna be drinkin’ some chocolate-milk bottle, cruisin’ around in 70s gear at the beach in Santa Monica. I mean, to this day, every skit Spike and Howard tell me about, I think they’re joking, like, “Yeah, we’re having a burning board in the video. We’re having Owen Wilson in the video.” It’s so insane, I just can’t believe what they do. Even the cowboy thing (Las Nueve Vidas De Paco, ’95)-I’m thinkin’ like, “Okay, we’ll throw on some cowboy hats and have some plastic guns and whatever.” All of a sudden we’re in boots with spurs, full gear, on location in the desert with rusty six-shooters, filming a real Western. The “Chocolate Pow” skit was crazy, ’cause back then, like, everybody judged you so hard on your gear. Like, if you showed up to the Embarcadero with a new Blind shirt and a Blind board, that was like, “Damn, this fool’s got stature. He’s hooked up.” No Range Rovers, no diamonds, no nothing. As a top pro, you took the damn subway to the spot. Maybe if you were Koston, you had a Civic.Conversation With A Devil

So I’m skatin’ across Santa Monica in this 70s gear, and I remember Wee-Man and all these other dudes roll by and just start clowning. I’m riding this little slalom board. But Rick and Spike always knew what was up ten years before everyone-like ten years before Hollywood bit off Dogtown and decided it was cool.Conversation With A Devil

Conversation With A Devil

How was that whole Western thing? Was that the first time you shot serious-film style with Spike?Conversation With A Devil

Amazing. I mean, first of all, for a lot of us those were our first actual video parts in that video. It was my real first part, and I kind of knew that getting the first part, going back to the Plan B (Mike) Ternasky formula, that kind of meant you were going pro next. So I was stoked. After all the skating stuff was done, we end up in the middle of the desert, with all these production dudes around, and it was weird ’cause we were kind of messing around and Spike’s yelling “action,” and all of a sudden it dawned on us we had just stepped into this totally different world.

How was it having Chico break the bottle over your head?

Oh shit. We only had one bottle, like those Hollywood fake bottles, ’cause someone had busted the second one on the drive up. So we only had one take. We practiced a few times with a water bottle, and then Chico just busted the “real” one on me. That was so fun right there. Those things are like super light, too.

If it was nominated for the Academy Awards, who would have taken best actor?Mike Carroll, easily. Or Tim Gavin. Little Gopher was pretty ill.

A lot of people always took some “multiethnic” meaning out of the name “Chocolate.” What were the early years like, and was the multiethnic take bogus or accurate?

I mean, people put their own take on it. Just ’cause we had a couple “non-white” dudes on the team, they’re gonna go make their little ideas about what Chocolate started as. But Chocolate was never about any of that bullshit. I think the beauty in Girl and Chocolate was that they both just kind of flowed out. There was no preplanning and all the kind of rigged marketing ideas some companies have behind either team. It was organic. That’s what to this day makes Girl/Chocolate, to me, different. We were just a group of friends, and it was like, you spread the tablecloth over the table-and that tablecloth just fit perfect. I think everybody that saw us doing it took it as this huge game plan, and I think that’s basically why it hasn’t been duplicated since. Everyone else tries to premeditate their thing. Ours wasn’t tried. It just was. It was almost like destiny. The first couple years were amazing, and to this day it still is amazing.

Were there ever any moves where trades were talked about between the two companies?

No. I’ve seen it happen with shoe companies or other groups, but that’s all just really about business. They’re looking at their numbers and taking it all business, whereas with Girl and Chocolate, that whole family thing holds true. Of course we’re a business, too, but they look out. I mean, we’re all friends, and I think the fact that we put that first a lot of the time has been part of why we are what we are today. It just seems a lot different from other companies.

Well, some multimillion-dollar company doesn’t own it. I guess that might help, right?

Yeah, exactly. And, it’s not like, “Oh, Rick McCrank’s not sellin’ boards right now and MJ is, so let’s trade him to Girl or Chocolate or whatever.

Describe in three words James Kelch.Commander In Chief.

Best Kelch EMB moment you ever witnessed?

Oh my god. I have too many, so many. God, I guess the one time he tried to ollie some girl we called “Big Bird” ’cause she was so big. She was sittin’ at the bottom of the stairs, and he just said it. Like, “I’m gonna ollie Big Bird!”-joking.

Did she know he was gonna ollie her?

No. I mean, nobody did-we were up top, and she was just sittin’ there at the bottom. He says it, and before we even realized, he just went and did it, but he hung up on her head. It was insane. I don’t even think she got hurt-that’s how big she was, like an Amazon or something. It was not from this world. She was one of those chicks just tryin’ to kick it or somethin’. Total criddler. Nobody was really feelin’ her. And Kelch just hangs up on her head.

Longest rail you ever played Pat Duffy on?Um, probably the curved church rail I noseslid in the first Chocolate Tour (’99) video-that ten-stair curved rail with the kink. Straight outta Locash. To be honest, it wasn’t really fun at all. I wanted to get my “big” trick.

What’s wrong with twelve year olds and twenty stairs?

I mean, nothing, man. Just expand, don’t be an artist and paint the same red circle on every painting. You might want to try a blue square or an orange triangle! Even though it’s cool when your favorite skater does it, I mean, you could have more tricks than Daewon and never even know ’cause you wanna be Trainwreck.

I tell the kids to try everything, experiment. You might have a better back tail than anyone, but you’re only trying to nosegrind a rail ’cause you like McCrank. Don’t limit yourself. I wear tight jeans when I feel like it, and I wear baggy jeans. I wear all kinds of shit. I listen to all kinds of music. Be versatile. I listen to hip-hop. That don’t mean I don’t know what a Sex Pistols song sounds like in my iPod. I tell people I’m a technical slasher. I’m tech-hesh. To all these kids claiming punk rock, they should realize that I’m more punk rock than they are. Punk rock is antiestablishment. And from where I’m standing, I’m more antiestablishment in skateboarding than every kid jumping the same set the other kid jumped yesterday. Everyone skates a rail, well, then I’ll skate a ledge. That’s punk. Now I’m the dude with the baggy jeans that people don’t understand. That’s what being punk was all about from day one. llshit. I think the beauty in Girl and Chocolate was that they both just kind of flowed out. There was no preplanning and all the kind of rigged marketing ideas some companies have behind either team. It was organic. That’s what to this day makes Girl/Chocolate, to me, different. We were just a group of friends, and it was like, you spread the tablecloth over the table-and that tablecloth just fit perfect. I think everybody that saw us doing it took it as this huge game plan, and I think that’s basically why it hasn’t been duplicated since. Everyone else tries to premeditate their thing. Ours wasn’t tried. It just was. It was almost like destiny. The first couple years were amazing, and to this day it still is amazing.

Were there ever any moves where trades were talked about between the two companies?

No. I’ve seen it happen with shoe companies or other groups, but that’s all just really about business. They’re looking at their numbers and taking it all business, whereas with Girl and Chocolate, that whole family thing holds true. Of course we’re a business, too, but they look out. I mean, we’re all friends, and I think the fact that we put that first a lot of the time has been part of why we are what we are today. It just seems a lot different from other companies.

Well, some multimillion-dollar company doesn’t own it. I guess that might help, right?

Yeah, exactly. And, it’s not like, “Oh, Rick McCrank’s not sellin’ boards right now and MJ is, so let’s trade him to Girl or Chocolate or whatever.

Describe in three words James Kelch.Commander In Chief.

Best Kelch EMB moment you ever witnessed?

Oh my god. I have too many, so many. God, I guess the one time he tried to ollie some girl we called “Big Bird” ’cause she was so big. She was sittin’ at the bottom of the stairs, and he just said it. Like, “I’m gonna ollie Big Bird!”-joking.

Did she know he was gonna ollie her?

No. I mean, nobody did-we were up top, and she was just sittin’ there at the bottom. He says it, and before we even realized, he just went and did it, but he hung up on her head. It was insane. I don’t even think she got hurt-that’s how big she was, like an Amazon or something. It was not from this world. She was one of those chicks just tryin’ to kick it or somethin’. Total criddler. Nobody was really feelin’ her. And Kelch just hangs up on her head.

Longest rail you ever played Pat Duffy on?Um, probably the curved church rail I noseslid in the first Chocolate Tour (’99) video-that ten-stair curved rail with the kink. Straight outta Locash. To be honest, it wasn’t really fun at all. I wanted to get my “big” trick.

What’s wrong with twelve year olds and twenty stairs?

I mean, nothing, man. Just expand, don’t be an artist and paint the same red circle on every painting. You might want to try a blue square or an orange triangle! Even though it’s cool when your favorite skater does it, I mean, you could have more tricks than Daewon and never even know ’cause you wanna be Trainwreck.

I tell the kids to try everything, experiment. You might have a better back tail than anyone, but you’re only trying to nosegrind a rail ’cause you like McCrank. Don’t limit yourself. I wear tight jeans when I feel like it, and I wear baggy jeans. I wear all kinds of shit. I listen to all kinds of music. Be versatile. I listen to hip-hop. That don’t mean I don’t know what a Sex Pistols song sounds like in my iPod. I tell people I’m a technical slasher. I’m tech-hesh. To all these kids claiming punk rock, they should realize that I’m more punk rock than they are. Punk rock is antiestablishment. And from where I’m standing, I’m more antiestablishment in skateboarding than every kid jumping the same set the other kid jumped yesterday. Everyone skates a rail, well, then I’ll skate a ledge. That’s punk. Now I’m the dude with the baggy jeans that people don’t understand. That’s what being punk was all about from day one.

Biggest difference between SF and L.A.?

Driving. And most of the footage looks better in SF.

Last question-how many Mike Yorks are there in there? Do they have names? Oh, man. That dude is bipolar as a motherf-ker. Every skateboarder is bipolar. That’s why we do this. I got all of ’em, but I think I’m just one. I’m a real emotional dude, and everybody loves the happy emotional York, but they don’t want to touch the sad/angry emotions. Whatever. I’m just a man. That’s all I can be.e.

Biggest difference between SF and L.A.?

Driving. And most of the footage looks better in SF.

Last question-how many Mike Yorks are there in there? Do they have names? Oh, man. That dude is bipolar as a motherf-ker. Every skateboarder is bipolar. That’s why we do this. I got all of ’em, but I think I’m just one. I’m a real emotional dude, and everybody loves the happy emotional York, but they don’t want to touch the sad/angry emotions. Whatever. I’m just a man. That’s all I can be.