In today’s cutthroat battlefield of dwindling board and shoe sponsor options, many a soldier has been left behind for good when their current backer either cleans shop team-wise or outright kicks the bucket. This potential scenario has come to pass twice already for Josh Matthews—with éS throwing in the nylon swishy towel in ’11—and most recently with Think turning out the lightbulbs in ‘14. However, in both instances, chance phone calls have come at exactly the right time for Josh to not even miss a paycheck. On the occasion of his recent welcome video and addition to Organika, along with the re-release of his sleeper hit Perpetual Motion part—I caught up with him following his recent move to LA from Berkeley and covered anything from the proper way of enjoying the Grateful Dead to the finer points of chewing Cocoa leaves.
Intro and Interview: Mackenzie Eisenhour
What’s up? Did you just move down to LA?
Yeah. Actually just a week ago. Fuckin’ made the big move man (laughs.)
What side of town are you on? Eastside?
I’m in North Hollywood. The HUF filmer is like a mile away. Scuba (Steve Chalme) is like a mile away. It’s perfect.
Biebel’s park is right there too.
Yeah. Biebel and AVE’s park is like right down the street.
Was this a big move though? Was it a big decision?
Yeah. It was talked about for a long time. We were actually going to do it a year and a half ago. We drove down to look for a place and the car we had blew up on the way down.
That’s never a good sign.
Yeah. It took a shit on the grapevine. We were like, “Yeah, all right. Let’s just move to the East Bay for now.” At least switch it up a little bit.
Who is “we”? You and the lady?
Me and my girlfriend.
She’s from Oregon too?
No. She’s actually from Arizona. She wanted to move down more than I did actually. She likes the heat and could be closer to family back in AZ. I’m gone so much too so I was kind of like, “Well, I guess you’re going to have to live there more than me anyways so…”
Biggest change from Oregon so far?
Probably just driving honestly. All the roads. I kind of like it. Coming from Oregon, outside of living in Vegas for three years when I was younger, I’ve always had small streets, maybe a couple freeways. I’m from a small town with maybe a hundred thousand people or something.
LA is funny though. North Hollywood can almost feel like a small town too sometimes.
Yeah. It’s super mellow here. We were looking at places in Silverlake or on that side and I was just like, “I don’t know if I would abide well.” I’m not really in that scene too much. I’m close enough if I want to jump into it, but I don’t want to feel judged every morning when I’m drinking my coffee.
It’s a tough crowd over there. You gotta have your pants rolled up right.
(Laughs.) Yeah man. Roll up your pants wrong and you could ruin your whole day.
How did you end up getting on Organika? Did you kind of know Think was winding down?
Dude. I didn’t. The timing was actually just super crazy. Karl (Watson) called me out of the blue. I hadn’t even been thinking about switching (no pun intended). We talked for a little bit and then I just slept on it. Before I even told Think what was going on—this was like a week later—they made some decisions that foreshadowed what was about to go down.. That’s when I was like, “All right, well this is good timing then anyways.”
That’s cool. You skipped that whole uncomfortable “I quit” phone call.
Yeah. I didn’t have any real stressful moments over that so I feel super lucky. A lot of people aren’t getting those options these days too.
Board brands are tough these days.
Real tough. It’s in a really weird place right now.
Almost like the early ‘90s all over again.
Yeah. We went on that Organika trip recently and like half the wall at the any skateshop is filled with small brands now doing different shit. It’s good to see the small brands doing well though. It’s rad to see that culture is alive and well.
Organika and the other Kayo brands seem like one of the few “bigger” companies that are still picking up steam.
Yeah. They almost fit in this weird niche where it’s sort of neither fully corporate like Element or something but also not like an independent upstart. I’m psyched on Organika too because it seems like they haven’t really done too much over the last few years, so it it’s not like tied into a mold or anything. There’s room to take it in all kinds of cool directions.
What was your connection to Karl?
I knew him a little bit. I would see him at spots or I’d just see him around and you know he just complements everybody. He was always super stoked. Then he called me and I was thinking like, “This is weird. I wonder what he’s calling me for.” I thought maybe Organika was doing like a clothing brand or something (laughs.) I hadn’t even thought about it board company wise. But it worked out good.
Did you talk to any of the other Think riders when that went down? Did they just get let go?
I mean Russ (Milligan) and Adrian (Williams) were kind of already doing other stuff. Russ just had a kid and Adrian was going back to school. Joey (Guevara) and (Kevin) Coakley were the new additions that we were trying to show that we were doing something. Both of them sort of left around the same time. Lee (Yankou) kind of got left hanging but I think he’s figuring it out to from what I’ve heard. It’s a bummer for Think. It sucked. It just didn’t do what we wanted it to do.
Are you filming a Welcome part like Eli (Reed)?
Yeah. It’s supposed to come out this week actually. We just did a tour and filmed on that. My board that’s coming out has like a map of the Oregon trail on it, so for the tour it was just Karl, Walker (Ryan), and myself and we just drove the trail from Kansas City to Portland—going through all the small towns and trying to follow it as much as possible. The tour video from that and my part are supposed to come out around the same time.
Looking back, and since we’re re-releasing it, were you happy with your Perpetual Motion (’13) part?
I’m still stoked on it. I haven’t watched it in a while. I’m not the biggest fan of watching my own parts (laughs.) But I remember thinking that maybe the music was too quiet. Maybe it was just on that song. I love that song. I wanted it louder (laughs.)
Did you choose the Grateful Dead?
Yeah. That was me just texting back and forth with Jon (Holland). I wanted to pick something that had a connection to Oregon and those dudes (The Grateful Dead) were always in Oregon, Eugene especially. So I texted it (Touch of Grey) to him and he was like, “Dude! I’ve always wanted someone to skate to that.”
I love that song. I was psyched when I heard it at the premier. It’s kind of different from the normal version though. Like the verses are in a different order or something.
Yeah. I know what you mean. It was funny though I was reading comments on the video when it came out and some kid wrote, “I didn’t get the song choice at first until I got super stoned and it all made sense. (Laughs)”
Did you guys go to Bolivia recently with Levi’s?
Yeah. Me and Joey (Pepper) and (Dan) Plunkett got to go on that trip. They don’t have an official team but what they’re doing instead is basically building skateparks in all these places that don’t have them. So that’s always cool to help out with stuff like that anyways. I had never been to South America and it was pretty crazy actually.
I saw the photo of Joey (Pepper) chewing cocoa leaves on your Instagram. What was your take on those things?
(Laughs) Yeah. There were plenty of those going around. They almost just make you feel normal. They’re supposed to come with this little chunk of lime, like the mineral lime. And if you eat it with that it’s supposed to activate it a little bit and like your gums go numb and you’re like, “Oh shit, it’s working!” But they taste like shit man. Like literally, they grew in cow shit. And then you’re already sketched out to eat anything because everyone was dropping like flies. They had eighty dudes working on site and like four toilets that were just blown out with no toilet seats—everybody just hovering with diarrhea. It was gnarly. I made it to the last day we were there and got sick.
Dysentery is always a rad souvenir to take home though.
Yeah right. Yay.
Did they finish the park while you were there?
They finished like seventy percent of it. They still had the opening party and we got to skate a bit of it. I know Chet (Childress) and Al (Partanen) stayed behind for another week and skated more.
Those dudes are just living the dream. I saw you guys went to the other park they built in India.
Yeah. India. Then we went to Copenhagen. Then this one.
It’s a cool idea from Levi’s.
Yeah. It’s rad too because they’re not slapping their logos all over the parks or anything either. They’re kind of like, “Well, skaters have been wearing their pants forever anyways.” The dude Eric doing it just gets it too.
Yeah. I went to the thing they had at Biebel’s park and met those guys and I thought the whole program was rad.
I think kids are way more stoked to have pros come and build a park then just show up and do a demo or sign some autographs.
How did you end up on getting on HUF?
One of Scuba’s best friends, well both of our friends when I skated for éS, this guy Hayden was always around and he’s the shoe designer now over at HUF. When it first started he was sort of team manager. They didn’t really have one but he was the closest thing to it. Anyways, the day that I got the call from Scuba that éS went out of business—like two hours later Hayden called me and was like, “Heard the news. Let me know if you need shoes.” So it just kind of happened from there. I had seen the shoes through him and was already stoked on them.
Damn. You have good luck with getting the right calls at the right time.
(Laughs) You’re telling me man. Talking about them now it seems really lucky.
What’s next for this summer?
I’m actually leaving Friday for a US HUF trip. Two weeks of driving from Oklahoma to Buffalo (NY). And then after that, I’m going to Germany and they’re going to premiere that Bolivia documentary that they filmed while we were out there. So that’ll be cool. Probably some other random shit, but I can’t complain.
Last one I had. Oregon Hall of Fame picks?
Silas (Baxter-Neal), Matt Beach, Josh Falk, Red, Osage Buffalo, Sebo (Walker), and (Tyler) Bledsoe.