All of those years filming Kalis, Stevie, and Pappalardo at LOVE, filming Dill and Jake Johnson in NYC—two decades filming the most pinnacle skaters at the most pinnacle locations at the most pinnacle points of their careers, and Bill Strobeck has never made a full-length video of his own. 2014 is the year, the time is now. Supreme's "cherry" is the moving picture of all of Bill's ideas of what a skate video should be. And we're all thankful for it. Read on.
Interview by Blair Alley
How was each city on the premiere tour? Which one was the best?
They were all good, but I felt like in LA everything clicked. I like that theater, there was the Dennis Hopper Hollywood star out front, I was super hyped on that. That made it so I could talk in front of the crowd easier [laughs]. I felt more confident because of that. I don't like talking in front of crowds. That first one [New York] was like, "I gotta go up there? Shit."
You seemed really comfortable when you got on stage in LA.
I know, I think I broke the ice at the one in New York. I had to go beforehand to check out everything, and they were like, "You're gonna talk right?" I was like, yeah. They were like, here take the mic, go up there. The New York theater was insane, there were balconies that went up real high and far back. I went down below and there was no one in the seats and I was pretending like I was talking, because there were like three people there with me. I left, went home just to change and get ready, and I was in my house pacing. Like fuck, I gotta talk? It was so anticipated for me, I was kinda freaked out—not even about the video at all but more about the speech. I ended up bringing the kids up there with me. I was thinking that'll be perfect, I'll be like, "These guys did a good job, you don't know who they are, give them a round of applause, you're about to see them in the video." Just talk about them.
After the first one, then the next one [LA], I was like rifling off jokes, I basically did stand up, I coulda done karaoke. LA was alright, by the time I got to SF, I was like, "Little Boy Blue, he needed the money!" [laughs] I could do anything. I understand how it becomes easy for performers.
All the premiers went great, LA was a good one for sure, the sound was good, all those kids were there, they had their families there. That was rad.
That whole night and the after party were so fun.
Oh my god, so fun man. It was rad that all those kids got to get in. They all got in, half of them got kicked out. I thought it was cool, I remember being that age and being like whoa, I'm hanging out with my adult friends and there're girls and stuff. I liked that.
Did the New York crowd judge as hard as you thought there were going to?
No they didn't. I think they were really psyched on it. No one knew what to expect, so they if anything pre-judged it. Everyone had an idea of what they wanted to see in it. No one knew what they were gonna get. No one had seen the video, none of the skaters had seen it. I really tried to stick to my guns. Everyone would come over to my house like, "Show us footage." I'm like, "I'm not showing you footage." Not even the people in it got to see their own footage. I wanted everyone to have the feeling of ordering from a skateshop and getting the video in the mail and not knowing anything and seeing it for the first time. Only a couple people had seen it, the people we had do the coloring and the sound and my mother, so no one had seen it really. There were times when the kids would be at my house and I was like, dang, maybe I should show them something to get them hyped. But those guys hearing what other people were doing was getting them psyched, and it probably made their imagination think it was way crazier than it was. I know some of the people in the video were nervous, like, "I don't know if I did good enough." But I wasn't gonna make anyone look bad. I wanted everyone to have an even amount of stuff. Some of the kids had more than others, but I cut it down to where everyone had an equal share in the video, because I knew after it was out that was it, that's forever.
How far into filming did you know you'd be cutting it into montages rather than parts?
I didn't know what I was gonna do, I had no plan. I was kinda nervous when I started filming, like dang man, I got the gig. It's a video that I knew everyone was going to want to judge. I improvised the whole thing. I felt like if I was gonna go forward having an idea, it wasn't gonna be that in the end anyways. So while I was filming, I was just logging the footage. For example, I edited that part with Gonz and Dill in Paris trying those tricks over that bar—I had that edited without the background when I came back from Paris and that was the first trip. I made something to show those guys at the office. I sat on that the whole time, I didn't even look at it until toward the middle [of filming], then I was like, oh I'm definitely gonna use that somewhere. So we ended up filming over at my buddy Dan Colen's studio, he makes those paintings, and I asked him if he'd want to do one,then I asked the girls if they'd want to make a kiss painting. We spent a couple hours doing that, it was super random, and then I was sitting on that footage. I knew that I wanted to put that in there, but I didn't know where, and then it just struck me—it would be cool if the girls were in the background and Gonz and Dill were black and white. The mix between something that was so pretty and those guys stressing, that's what it's like to actually skate and not everything is landed all the time. I felt like the mix between those two was a positive/negative. That worked out like that, but to get back to your question, I improvised the whole video from beginning to end. The reason they became montages is because I didn't really know what to do. I like to see certain things next to certain other things, I wanted people to have to guess and to have to watch it again to understand who it is that was in it. There're no names in it and the names at the end aren't in order. If you know you know, if not you gotta ask people—for me that's the fun part. It's like watching the demo section in Questionable. You were like, "Who was that guy?" You knew who Sheffey was, and Carroll and Howard, but there were a couple guys like, who the fuck was that? You had to find out, that's what I wanted to do. I want people to have to watch it more than once. I wanted to make it how it felt while making it.
I was real inspired by Hokus Pokus when I was younger. I could only get videos when I was 14, 15 from the video store and Hokus Pokus happened to be one of them and I was glued to that thing. I was so into the vibe of it, it was raw, I felt like the H-street kids were cool. These people in Hokus Pokus aren't like the people I go to school with. I wanted to be more like them than the people in my school. So I was hoping to give the same feeling that I got when I was younger to kids nowadays. I know it's a different time and things get leaked and things are just different, and I don't really understand so much because I was around back in the day when none of this was happening. I was hoping to give a sense and feel of people hanging out and having fun and if you wanna film, you can, and if you're gonna try a hard trick, cool, but if not I still wanna document it. It is a skate video and there is really good skating in it, but there are moments that are fun and those kids were excited to be in it. I don't even know what the question is at this point [laughs].
How was Dill as producer?
We put Dill as a producer because he was one of the people that definitely made it happen. He really painted the picture of like, "This is gonna be one of the last, if not the last video in my career." This is it, him and Mark, they're going to still skate, but the try-hard shit, they're pushing on the end of their careers. Dill's like 37 but he's like, "No one, even myself, wants to see me skating when I'm 40." I understand it and dudes skate way past their 40s, but I can understand seeing someone in there 40s and seeing someone at age 18 and being like, "Damn, that fucker's old, what's he doing?" Gonz is like, what 45 now? You're still stoked to see anything from him because he's so creative. But it gets to a point, where there's a difference there.
Dill painted the picture for the guys in the office like, I wanna do this, I've always wanted to do this, and this is a great thing for Supreme. I don't think anyone thought they could do it. They had all the right people though, we brought those kids into it, and then Gonz and Dill, they do stuff for Supreme all the time, and then a bunch of people that really wanted to be in the video. Koston or Guy are super busy but they wanted to go out and do it. It was sick. It was really fun to see everyone together at schoolyards or skating through the city. I couldn't have asked for anything better. The energy and the collaboration between everyone as a whole was perfect for me.
Who's idea was Reese Forbes' indy over the table?
That was Reese's idea. I hit up Reese to come hang out, and we were just at the schoolyard. I was like, "Let me just film you for fun." It took him a few to get the fakie flip, so he just did the indy a bunch of times. I remember being super hyped. He thought it was for fun but when I watched the footage I got psyched. Damn, Reese, he just looks so sick. It's a simple line but it works. I'd go skate if I saw that. I just felt like I should put him at the beginning of a section because I've always been a fan of Reese's and no one has seen stuff of him for awhile. I wanted to make him look fuckin' rad so that's where I put it.
How did the Scott Johnston footage come about? Did you hit him up or did that just happen during filming?
Scott was so psyched on the project and he came out a lot. He's a busy dude, he's got two kids, works nine to five, but he put in time. I wanted him in it for sure. Me and him are like brothers. I'm so hyped that he's in there. He was hitting me up while I was editing like, "When's this coming out? I can't wait!" I'm like, "Dude, you're not in there. Sorry, it just didn't make the cut." And then [laughs] you know it just shows up. I love that shit—the element of surprise.
You pranked Scott Johnston!
Yeah, I just wanted everyone to be surprised. I don't think Reese knew he was gonna be in there.
He was at the premiere though. That was sick.
I didn't even get to see him, I was super bummed. He called me from the car after he left like, "I'm so stoked for you. That video actually makes me wanna go skate for real." I was just overwhelmed by people afterwards. Paulo [Diaz] to Greg Hunt were there and all that. A lot of those kids' parents were there coming up to me, "I'm so proud of my kid! Thank you!" I felt great.
Who coined the name "cherry"?
Well, I had a list of names and "cherry" was in there. Trying to pick a name that is gonna be forever, that's like trying to name your kid. It's crazy. It drives you nuts, especially when I'm editing the video and they're like, "We need a name ASAP!" The name is because of the video footage of Sean Pablo and the still of it on back cover of the video, it's him holding the board that says 'Take my virginity away.' The whole video is based on that: It's my first full-length video I've ever done, it's Supreme's first actual skate video. I felt like it was poppin' the cherry of everything. It was the first time anyone was gonna see those kids, half of them I heard lost their virginity during the making of the video. "cherry" means more than a few things to me, the color, the taste of cherries, the word "cherry," like "That shit's cherry," means it's mint. It's subtle and it also means everything else.
Really good name.
It's perfect for Supreme as well. You can even use those emojis. It worked out, it's the best name I could've come up with.
Did you get more footage of Pappalardo or are his tricks in the video all he got?
I feel like everyone asks me that question. It's so funny how everyone is so nutty over Pappalardo. He got one other thing, but it was a longer clip and it just felt dragged on for me. No he didn't really have much more than what he got, and I didn't go out with him a lot either. He was around a lot, like with the boardslide in the water—he wasn't trying to film that. He just did that, there were 15 of us there. He happened to be fuckin' around and I had the camera out filming someone else. I didn't want this video to be like how people are skating today. Dylan is up there and a lot of the stuff in his part is really hard, but he wasn't going out to one up the last video part of somebody else. Everyone was doing what they were doing and Dylan just happens to be really fuckin' good. Dylan wanted to keep his momentum up. Anthony doesn't have anything to prove. Back in the day, Anthony was what Dylan is. He's an interesting kid and at the end of the day he's my boy so he's in the video. There's a lot of personality footage that no one's ever seen that I have of him from those days.
Describe the scene that led to the crackhead lady flashing her tits.
[Laughs] That's really funny. I was in LA, Supreme was closed for a month to redo the store to put out the new line for the year. It was the day they were reopening and the line was literally five blocks long. Na-kel and his boys were hanging out and I wanted to film the line of people. I went to grab my camera from the car, on my walk back, that guy and that lady were in front of Canter's and they were being real funny, drinking whiskey. They asked me if I had any money so I pulled out my camera and asked them about the line down the street, you know, get 'em going. The guy was like, "You can't film us unless you give us money." The lady was tipsy and was like, "You wanna see my tits?" I was like shit yeah. The guy was like, "If you pay us five bucks." I was like well hold on real quick. I went and got Na-kel and said, "Yo do you have five bucks?" He did and I was like loan it to me, and come with me over here. This is gonna be tripped out. She started pullin' 'em out, that dude was counting the money. You saw six seconds, that footage is 30 minutes long. I was like, "Yeah, pull your milkies out!" After a while she started saying, "Want me to pull my milkies out?! I'll pull my milkies out!" I love that that shot's in there [laughs]. It's really interesting.
How did you cast the video?
We had an idea of who we wanted. There was no cast. I was like, hey you wanna be in this? Those kids came into play, and after a while with those guys they became my main focus. I was staying at Dill's and he lives a half a block from the shop, and Sage and Na-kel would be there like, "Let's go skate! Let's go skate!" They were really psyched which got me so psyched. I'd be hitting up the pros and I wouldn't get calls or texts back sometimes. Enough after three texts, I'm going out with these kids and they killed it. I'm hyped for them and I think it's a great start to something that's gonna be bigger for them. The people in the video are who put in the effort to be around me when I had the camera. That's how it was at LOVE Park when I was there. For years that's been the case. Like back at Embarcadero, Kelch ollied up the stage, they filmed it, it was random and it was mixed into a video. It was spontaneous.
Did you consciously go for a '90s soundtrack?
No, I had ideas for songs at the beginning. INXS was one of the first songs. I really wanted to see Dylan skate to that. I feel like Dylan wouldn't have picked that song if he had given me a list of music, but I felt that vibe of who Michael Hutchence was—I just felt like INXS was real sexy, and it was fitting for Dylan. Dylan's footage was epic enough to have a song that strong and I'm glad he trusted me. I had a different song for the first two parts, which was one long song, but we had problems getting the rights for it. I took out the song I had in there and put in the Jane's Addiction song and it literally matched and I didn't have to edit it. For some reason it went better. I was like, "Holy shit we gotta get this." That [Jane's] song and that video for Stop came out when I first started skating, like the era of the Speed Freaks video. I was so into that song, I had the tape, the vibe of that song was so cool to me when I was younger. I felt like what a perfect time to bring that song back and put it in this first intro section. I wanted the kids to remind me of me when I was that age. It's really fast paced, and they're all falling and stuff, it's a good intro to the video. It's funny, the soundtrack is like one of those '90s CDs you get with the greatest hits. A lot of those songs are classics but they've been forgotten. The Cypress Hill one, Kevin Bradley is just high all the time, he's the Kush Cowboy. "I wanna get high," it's just perfect. I was entertaining myself for sure during the making. I felt like if I was excited about it, for example, SJ would be excited about it, and it would bring him to a place where he's like, dang I miss that time in my life when we were all hanging out and nothing was serious. And I wanted kids these days to have something to look forward to and also look back and see all that type of music, especially with like the Group Home song, they don't get that now-a-days.
Click through Dylan's 20 Questions interview from our January 2014 issue. All tricks seen in "cherry"
Now that the video is out, are you happy with it or are there things you want to change?
I'm really happy with it. I've watched it a bunch of times and I'm not sick of it at all. I feel like I made something that I wish somebody else would've made for me today. That style video is what I've wanted to see, it's just that I had to make it. I saved all my ideas for this video. To see those kids in the video, their reactions and people coming up to them afterwards—that's the video for me. I'm glad my first full length was for Supreme.
Did you edit this one laying in your bed, too?
I didn't. I eventually got a desktop and had to sit at a desk—I was hyped, the screen was crystal clear. What was I doing editing on a laptop this whole time? I can't believe it. I didn't know, though.
What's your take on releasing a DVD or online video nowadays?
All I can do is explain that when I ordered Questionable, I waited on the mail for it, I think two weeks before it got to my place. When I got it, I was so excited to have this thing in my hand that I watched it 300 times basically. People have been hitting me up through Instagram, they add my name, and it's like "Premiere at Jimmy's house, tonight!" And they'll have a photo of the screen they pulled down and a projection on it. That fucking gets me hyped. It's so organic and original and such the way I always wanted it to be.
I like things about the internet, I can watch an old documentary or interview on someone that I would've never gotten to see, but as far as skateboard videos go—it's just so saturated with horseshit. Supreme put out the DVD, it got ripped the first day, it was online for two days before it got taken down. That's 70 thousand people right there—even though I was flattered, it felt cheap to me that it could go online that easily, all that hard work. I'm sitting there doing premieres and people are coming up to me saying, "I watched a little on YouTube, but then turned it off." Kids don't really give a shit, and let me tell you right now, if I was in the middle of nowhere, I would've watched it and probably posted it. There is something that's missing and it is getting that Questionable VHS in the mail and bringing it to your friend's and having everyone come over to watch it, and everyone going skating afterward. And that's what I still want. Part of making the DVD is to have something to hold and collect, like "I got a copy." The iTunes is better looking than the DVD. The iTunes looks exactly how it should. So I do like that too.
The video ender, Dill's nosegrind, were there any other runners up or was that locked in for a while?
Dill had that and I thought it was gonna go to the Vans video, but I told Dill that if we got it, I'd give him the last trick. Dill's last videos are now. He's been so involved with Supreme and skateboarding in general, we gotta end it with Dill. That trick is fucking gnarly. I felt like Dill deserved it. He was busting his ass for the video and not getting as much as a lot of people cause he'd get hurt. I like how that clip ends, not just the trick, I like how it ends—he goes back and there're all those people high fiving him and yelling and the camera gets shaky. It cuts to black great. I felt like it fit.
What advice would you give to up and coming filmmakers?
Don't go out of your way to do what you see other people doing, it doesn't work. I've done it. When I started filming there were times when I was filming like Jamie Thomas because I was psyched on it. A lot of people didn't like how Jamie filmed in those Zero videos, but I thought it was original and I liked it. If you're really trying to get someone to notice you—look at how French Fred filmed those long lens angles rolling from behind. You notice that it was filmed different and it was interesting.
Palace was doing the VHS stuff for a while and I just started seeing all these other people doing it and I felt like they were diarrhea-ing all over Palace's art. "We're gonna do it too, it's cool." If you're really trying to stick out, try your own thing.
Last question. What's next for Bill Strobeck?
I don't know, I'd like to do something non-skate. I'm always gonna be doing stuff in skateboarding with whom I like, but I'd like to do a scripted film. I can't say right now. My heart says I wanna do something like that. Maybe a short film, maybe have some girls involved.
That never hurts.
It's great, that's something skating will never have, [laughs] ever. I know a lot of girls here that are willing to play a role or take a photo. Everyone's so cool like that. Maybe something non-skate, I'd like to do.
Congrats on the video Bill! It's amazing.
Thanks man, thank you so much. I'm stoked you like it. I'm actually stoked you got to go to the premiere in LA, it was really strong there. One last thing I'd like to say is—these kids, they knew that they were getting filmed for this video but they weren't acting at all. They were being themselves and that's special to capture, money can't buy that. I think after a while, like five, six video parts, you know how to be in front of a camera. I like in Questionable when Colin McKay and Danny Way are wrestling and they're just little punk kids and they wanna go out and cause trouble—that's missing in skating, man. It's really about that and capturing that essence of what I think skating is. It's not just going out like, "Jimmy meet me at the handrail. Let's do this." It's more about, let's go fuck around over at this place and maybe we'll run into the other guys, maybe run into some chicks or whatever. It's just fun. It's hard when you have a deadline, but the kids in this video—there is no deadline—that's just them being them. Even if we're not filming, hanging out is just as fun. Questionable really nailed me, Tim & Henry's even more so. I watched it so much that I couldn't handle the music anymore. I would turn down the volume and just put my own music to it and try different songs to it, and that might have been my first type of editing [laughs]. That's what I did for this.
Randomly I've been going back and buying all VHS skate videos on eBay. I kept a lot of the ones I really like, but I'm like into skating again. I want the originals. I have a VHS player. I just watched Virtual Reality a couple nights ago from beginning to end the way it's supposed to be watched and I was so hyped. VHS still looks cool and so is skating.
Follow Bill Strobeck: @williamstrobeck