Pontus Alv: The Last Interview

I think it’s safe to say at this point that everyone has probably read a Pontus interview. The last few he put out became the subjects of heated month-long messageboard debates the second they hit the pages or screens they were published on. Whether you are a bright-eyed-bushy-tailed fan of his company Polar—discovering Herr Alv, the no-comply, and his Malmö brethren for the first time, or a seasoned student of Pontus’ journey—from Five Flavors (’98) and Europa (’00) through The Strongest of the Strange (’05)the following interview will hopefully stimulate equally as constructive a debate. It’s also apparently his last.– Mackenzie Eisenhour
PHOTOS BY Jon Coulthard

PONTUS-01
TBS (Train Bank Spot), Malmo, Sweden.

Note: This interview was cut from 7000 to 3000 words for the print feature. Here is the full unedited text.

How are you? Are you back from Poland?
Yeah. I’m back in Sweden now. I wouldn’t say I’m stressed out but I have the Spring board collection, the Spring wheel collection, and then this massive 50-60 pieces of clothing collection on my shoulders. I’m pretty caught up with work.

What’s new with Polar? Sounds like it’s growing. More money, more problems?
Yeah (Laughs). But bottom line it’s still a luxury problem so to speak. This past year it has definitely been growing. It feels like it has been doubling or tripling the business. Everything has been slowly falling into place but it has been a bumpy ride. To make a long story short—from starting in Germany with some people helping with logistics and production and then switching to other distributors—slowly building a global infrastructure. Working with the right distributors, the right people, the right factories, the right clothing production—I think slowly now it’s starting to fall into place. We made a lot of mistakes and learned from that. But you slowly find the right people. This entire year has been about building that.

Are you able to turn to anybody for advice on this stuff?
Not really. At the beginning of this year I started working in the UK with my partner, who used to be my UK distributor. He was doing an amazing job so he basically took over the entire logistics/sales/invoicing/paperwork side of it. It’s not very hard at the end of the day. You buy for 1 and you sell for 2. It’s basic math really. It’s not rocket science but you still need some organization—you get the production right, the prices right, and make sure that everyone in the chain, shops, distributors, are all making a bit of money.

Do you ever miss the early days now—just DIY skateparks and making videos? Simpler times?
I don’t know. I did that for almost ten years—just being very isolated here—and working with the skate scene and making my movies, which was great, but it’s only sustainable for a certain amount of time. You’re putting all of this time and money into these videos, which I love doing—but at the end of the day it cost me a shitload of money to do and the you just start thinking, “Well, I’m going to have to earn money somehow.”

I feel like those videos were the seeds for what is happening now though.
Oh for sure. All that work sort of set the platform and fan base for what we have now. With the following that we had from that it seemed natural to challenge the industry and do our own brand.

Since this is the Skate and Create issue I wanted to ask you your thoughts on the topic of skateboarding and creativity in a broad sense.
This is also, just so you know—this is my last interview.

This is your last interview?
For a very very long time. I’m not doing any more interviews after this one. This is the last one on my schedule then I’ve had enough of it for a very long time. At least for a couple of years to come. I don’t really want to open my mouth anymore.

Just over it? Do you want to talk about skating and creativity or should be stick to the less abstract stuff? 
No. I prefer if you go complicated because it’s more interesting for people to read than just the classic story. I just feel like every interview, maybe not every interview, but most of them just end up repeating the same things—my story. Which is normal of course. It’s just the way it ends up.

I think a lot of younger kids wouldn’t have known your story—Mad Circle/Arcade/Cliché then Strongest of the Strange and In Search of the Miraculous—so you sort of had to tell it over and over.
Yeah. Oh, they have no idea what Mad Circle is or was. It’s funny; I was talking to my artist Jacob (Ovgren) today about this. Another friend of ours was just in LA skating around and they were all super hyped on Polar in LA then he asked them like, “Have you seen his films? The stuff he did before?” and they were just like, “No, we never heard of them.” I think that’s funny though. Sometimes I think we take for granted that people know everything about everything. If you didn’t skate five years ago, why should you know what happened ten years ago?”

All right so Back to Skate and Create—obviously everything you’ve done—creating the company, creating the DIY spots, creating the videos, creating your own skating—it’s all creativity. 
Yeah. I would say it was the main force in everything I’ve done since I kind of officially left sponsorship—I mean I’ve had sponsors throughout with clothing sponsors and shoe sponsors, but when I left Cliché (’03) that was really my last big board sponsor and for me everything has always started from the board sponsor and the rest grows out from there. The board brand always sets the direction for whatever else is to come, or at least that’s always the way I saw it. The shoe deals and the clothing deals just tag along. Some people might disagree with that now as far as Nike and Converse, and all these big non-skater owned brands involved—there’s a big political discussion with that and it’s always hard to say what’s correct or not or if there even is a correct way or not.

no_comply_180_5_0_grind
No-comply 180 fakie 5-0. Polar promo Wallride, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah [’12]

“I just kind of felt that for once I wanted to do something that represented me as well as my entire vision of skateboarding.”

It’s tough to try and be a purist. Even if you have the most skater-owned board brand people are still going to say, “Yeah, but look he’s getting money from Converse which is owned by Nike.”
Exactly. And yeah, sure, in an ideal world everything would be done and run by skaters. But running a shoe company isn’t always the easiest thing. I don’t have the answers.

What about Skate and Create vs. Skate and Destroy?
I think both concepts are cool. One doesn’t take out the other. You actually need both. Sometimes you feel like you need that aggression in your skating and you just want to go “destroy” the park. Charge it. But you also have to create the park before you destroy it.

Yin and Yang. Create to Destroy?
Yeah exactly. You need one to have the other.

I wanted to go back through some of the old shit but if you’re over it we can skip it.
I mean, we can make it long and then you can edit it.

I guess going back to when you left Cliché. That seemed like such a critical juncture for you. I still wanted to hear more about where your thoughts to break away from the industry came from.
I think I was pretty much a sponsored skater; I grew up as a sponsored kid, through Mad Circle, Arcade, and then to Cliché. With all of that, and being involved in different tours, and video projects—I just know from a rider’s perspective the amount of work that goes into filming a video part. From a rider’s perspective, where you always feel kind of like, ”I put all of this work in and I have this vision for my video part and I want it to be like this, this, and that” and then in the end you’re kind of like, “Fuck. It’s not right. It’s not what I wanted. Is it the entire companies direction? Is it the way it was edited?” Or maybe how people have sort of portrayed you to fit with the company image. Which of course, I’m doing now with my riders. But some riders don’t mind. They just don’t want to think about it and are just happy to be skating.

They trust you in the way you will portray them?
Yeah. I was pretty much that way when I was skating for Mad Circle. I was hyped on all of the stuff that they did and just wanted to skate. Even if I hated the song that they used for my Five Flavors (’98) part (laughs.)

He’s going the distance. He’s going for speed.
(Laughs.) Yeah. That Cake song. I hated that thing. I was just a kid—maybe 17 or 18 when that came out. You’re just like, “Okay, cool. Sure. I don’t know.” Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that I felt—going through all those years of being involved with different projects—I’m not saying that all of it was shit, or bad—some of the stuff those companies did was rad. Cliché Europa was a good video, Mad Circle did some good stuff, and so on—but I just felt like it was never fully me that was represented in the videos. It was never the way I wanted to be portrayed. That was just how I felt. Not only for me, but the entire way that they portray skateboarding as a culture. I just kind of felt that for once I wanted to do something that represented me as well as my entire vision of skateboarding.

Makes sense.
Even if you have one great video part—that great part has got to sit in a great video. Many many videos in the history of skating have had one amazing part and then the rest is kind of not very good. Or they have a really good part or two but the rest of the video doesn’t really have any concept. Even if that one part is amazing, everything else gets kind of lost. I think it was me just realizing all of these things and then the challenge of like, “Well, I want to just make one video that represents the entire vision I have of skateboarding.” Along with my video part and my friends video part—everything kind of fits together as one big piece.

Do think that the full-length video is still the best way to communicate that vibe?
For sure. I mean, every skateboard company or independent filmmaker—that’s where we get to see the full picture—the tricks, the clothing, the styles, the riders moving. You get to see how they express themselves—how they express themselves by the tricks they choose, the spots, the songs they choose, the editing style that the company chooses. All the tools are there to play with, you know you want to portray this guy with this music. There have been so many classic parts where all those things kind of work together as one piece and then it becomes epic. Of course, those videos are not easy to do and I still believe there are only a few—10, 15 videos that you can truly call classics.

The majority of videos are pretty forgettable.
Yeah, and once again, from a skateboard company point of view it can also be the most dangerous tool in the book.

PONTUS-04
No-comply pole jam. (Click to enlarge)

It’s true you can really blow it.
The company might look sick, like they got a sick team, they got some cool graphics, they got a cool name—all right, well that’s all fine and proper—but then everybody is waiting for that final video piece where it’s all going to come together, to really show what these guys are really about. And we’ve seen a lot of examples where everything looks good and then the video comes out and it’s like not really what we expected. It’s kind of crappy and then the company just fades away.

It seems like that has happened a lot recently, over the past couple of years with the big companies waiting so many years and building hype. Sometimes it just looks like they tried too hard.
Yeah. Or they just kind of lost their direction. Or they don’t know who they are anymore. I’m not going to mention any names because it’s such a small industry. I don’t want to talk shit on my colleagues in the industry and say what they should do or not do. Who am I to sit here and say that I’m doing everything right because I’m definitely not. It’s just about making a good video that speaks to skaters and that makes skaters go, “Wow. This was an amazing piece of film. I got great emotions from it and now I want to jump out of my couch and go skate with my friends.”

Well, whether they know your history or not, kids out here, the kids I skate with at Stoner Plaza for example are feeling what you are putting out. They are seeing your videos and having that response. And they are also elevating you sort of as the new Messiah. Like skateboarding is forever searching for the new Messiah, like Jeff Grosso said that that was what everybody wanted (Steve) Rocco to be. Now they have kind of given you that card. You are the new direction. Are you aware of that stuff?
Definitely there is a lot of eyes now on what we are doing. I’m aware of that. But, you know, it’s not only me or Polar, there are a bunch of people out there—like what Bill Strobeck is doing with Supreme, I’m still really excited to see what Fucking Awesome does and so on. But yeah, Palace and Polar is definitely on the radar in a lot of people’s eyes. And they’re excited because they feel that we can maybe bring something out that they haven’t seen before. Or maybe we can do something different.

Everybody is always searching for the miracle. Just like the video title. I feel like skateboarding has been searching for that forever. Searching for Chin. Trying to find the magic.
Yeah. I think as much as I want to say skateboarding is in a great position, I also want to say that I’m really really tired of this… I mean it’s a business yes, and it’s all those things. But I have to say the biggest thing that really destroys skateboarding now is the way we are consuming skateboarding. Right now, to make something that is… The pressure on my shoulders or on anybody’s shoulders that takes this stuff seriously… To make something that is really really going to make a change—just to get that attention from people today, to get people to actually sit down and watch something for 25 minutes is hard. These days when there is just so much web clips, every week, it’s just a new company video released on Thrasher or on Transworld or on the Berrics or whatever website and everybody is competing for views. People are just hammering out clips left and right. Fuck the quality or what it is even, it’s just like “Fuck it, put it out.” Clips, clips, and clips. What’s the point? Just pumping out shit. Just more, more, more skating. Okay, but shouldn’t maybe someone stop and think at some point like, “What is this about?” Filming a bunch of skate tricks, throwing it together to a song, and dumping it on the web? Isn’t there more to our culture that we should try and talk about or try and express and connect to?

Isn’t that the culture at large too though? Outside of skateboarding, it’s like a human problem.
Yeah. For sure. Everywhere, everything is just overloaded right now. Just an overload of information and it’s really hard to try and make something that can stand out or be really something different. If you succeed with that, then maybe there’s a chance that people will actually stop and watch, and think, and feel—like really watch, not just skim through once. But you can’t just get away with a cool clip any more. There has to be so much more to it for it to even to stand out. At the same time it’s actually really easy to stand out because the everything that people put out is just the same shit over and over—week after week.

kickflip_wallride
Kickflip wallride. Cliché Skateboards, Europa [’00]

“I’d rather shut down the company than wash it out.”

Let me ask you about the direction of skating specifically. Obviously the return of no-complies, wallrides, and slappies it all makes sense. But is it another trend? Like when the one-foot came, everybody had to have a tailgrab one-foot, then it was the impossible, then it was the pressure flip or whatever and onwards. To me the no-complies, fastplants, slappies and all that are almost like a rebellion to the Street League kind of ledge/rail format. Does that make sense?
Yeah. But I think it’s just also like, people want to have fun. Those tricks are fun. People can connect to it. If you watch say those types of Street League type of skateboarders—who are super amazing skateboarders that can push these crazy tricks down rails and stairs, like switch tre down fifteen stairs or whatever trick they do—it’s amazing to see that level of skating, but if you are an average Joe living in a small town you’re just like, “I’m never going to be able to kickflip back noseblunt twenty-stair rails”. That’s always the biggest trick. If you ask me it’s like, “What videos do you really enjoy?” The videos that you can some how relate to. Like, “Hey, I could actually do some of these tricks.” You connect to it and you feel like you can picture yourself being a part of the whole thing. When people put out these amazing super stunt skateboarding videos, pushing it to the furthest level possible, that’s rad in one sense, but to me personally as a kid I could never in my wildest dreams believe that I could do that too. I respect it. I understand it. But does it make me want to go skate? No.

It’s not accessible. 
Right. Whereas then I see some other video with some guys just having a fun time and shredding, with good style and they’re smiling and enjoying cruising down the street—still doing hard stuff, don’t get me wrong. Still doing cold raw street skating but maybe not stuntmen skating. People see that and think, “Yeah, I can do some of those tricks”. I think the mixture between a couple of bangers, a couple of cruisy dope lines, some fun, good looking spots or streets and the whole mixture of everything—that’s how I always wanted it. That’s how I see skateboarding. When you go out and skate, some days you’re having fun, some days there is a banger, some times there is nothing special and the videos themselves should represent that. They should represent the average day, the amazing day, and everything in between. Like, “This is how it is.”

It seems like it has always gone in that cycle. When Powell was too stale H-Street/World/Plan B, etc… came with all the crazy technical progression, then when the technical stuff went too far, Stereo/Girl etc… came with the cruisier stylish side again, then once the schoolyards got boring, Eastern Exposure came again with the wallies, pole jams, and raw streets… and onwards… 
Yeah. For sure. And that’s the thing too, there’s room for everything either way. There’s room for the fun stuff. There’s room for the stuntman stuff. But maybe right now the fun stuff is more popular again because people can relate to it. It makes sense. We’re just having fun and other people just want to have fun riding their skateboards. That’s a big thing and it still somehow gets lost. We don’t want to kill ourselves. We just want to cruise around a bit. But I think that is still very much only a California thing. In California people are pushing the boundaries of what it is possible on a skateboard. Which is cool, but the rest of the world—the East Coast, Europe, Japan—everywhere else in the world outside of California—or outside of America at least, people are just out riding a skateboard trying to have a good time. We’re not trying to kill ourselves or change skateboarding. We just want to enjoy it. Or maybe push it in different ways—style, flavor, and creativity maybe. Making small things out of nothing but maybe it’s more interesting to watch. Like the Japanese scene—they’re not pushing 20-stair-rails, they’re just trying all these other directions and playing around with it. It’s all creativity.

Yeah. The Japanese scene has been rad over the past few years.
And it’s all about communicating a feeling. It’s our language. Does this language speak to you? Does this video give you feelings and vibes.

People have definitely been feeling the videos you guys have put out.
To be honest, I’m just trying, every single day—I work six days a week—I’m just trying to wake up, make good looking products that are good quality and so on, trying to put out rad skateboard graphics, that when people see them in the store they have a laugh or maybe just think like, “Yes, this is sick. I want to ride this board. Or I want to hang it on my wall or whatever”, then just trying to make videos that people are hyped on. Something that they watch and then they go, “Man, I just watched this video for 20 minutes and now I’m hyped on skateboarding and the culture and all I want to do is ride a skateboard all day long.”

Tree wallis. (Click to enlarge)
Tree wallie. (Click to enlarge)

I thought it was interesting how you talked about the board brand being central and then riding for different board brands you could really feel when you had the cool card or not. Like you mentioned that on Mad Circle you were the shit and then you got on Arcade and people treated you like night and day differently. It seems kind of fickle in that sense. Like there are a lot of guys out there that are just sort of cool by default.
Yeah. I think that’s really just the way it is, you know. You ride for Mad Circle and they make cool shit and make you look good, they do cool graphics/art direction and present you in a cool package. Same kid moves to another company and maybe all of a sudden that package isn’t so attractive. And all of a sudden people are like, “Well, maybe that cool guy isn’t that cool anymore.” It’s funny, you see a lot of examples like that through the years. Some really sick guys have changed sponsors and all of a sudden the package changes.

Sometimes even a bad shoe sponsor can kill it.
Yeah. And again, it’s about expression. And all of those things do matter. The brands you represent matter because those brands are going to represent your personality. Those brands become who you are in a way. These kids ride for the cool brands, with sick sponsors, so they must be cool. But that’s also why it’s so sensitive. All those things matter. I like that about it though. Like, “Hey, this guy is super good but he has stinky sponsors. He’s not going anywhere.” Meanwhile, there’s another guy that is just as good or maybe even not as good, but he has sick sponsors so he’s got the whole world in his hands. It’s weird but that’s the way it goes.

You are your paycheck sort of.
Yeah. And sometimes there are limits of course, where things just get a little bit too cool. But bottom line, these days I’m older and I’m not as caught up in all of that. I met a lot of fucking assholes that just because they ride for certain brands and think that they are the hottest shit in the world—which they probably are as well—but a lot of the time these guys have been absolute dicks. It’s like, “Well, cool for you that you have all that going—that’s great for you—but to me you’re just a fucking dick and that’s it.” Then you have some guys that aren’t the coolest shit, like they didn’t get on the cool brand but there still super rad skaters and you can have the best session together. There have been all kinds of versions of it, like the super cool guys with super cool sponsors, or just the super cool guys all the way—either way, bottom line, being on the cool company doesn’t give you some free card to be an asshole. We’ve seen that way too many times. I’ve been a dick. I’ve been caught up in bullshit. I’ve been caught up in thinking I’m the hot shit or whatever. You get older and you learn, “Well, I’m just a human just like everybody else.” Nobody is above anybody else.

What about the company cycle. Like how Powell was hot then they became not hot, H-Street and World came and were hot, then they both burned out, then Girl and Stereo came and so on. That cycle from this amazing creative seed blossoming into a business and then eventually it becomes a mall brand seems to be inevitable. Will Polar be the same?
It’s an evil circle I can tell you that much. It’s always the same. It starts like, “Hey, there’s this cool new brand. It’s small. It’s underground. It’s run by these cool guys and we love it because we can’t get a hold of it.” Like when World (Industries) first started it was exactly like that. And then all of a sudden there’s all this demand and then that brings hype and then slowly the companies get their shit together. They get their business model together, the production, the distribution, and everything. And then, of course, when a companies growing, the company’s costs are also growing so it’s like, “Oh shit, now we have to widen our distribution channels to make enough money to supply the riders, team, video production, ads, and all of those things that you have to do. And then all of a sudden people look at it and are like, “Well, it’s kind of big now. I don’t know. It’s not cool anymore.” And then all of the sudden they lose some of that support and all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, we don’t have the core support anymore but we have this massive company with all these bills.” So you widen the channels more and more and more.

Until you get to Flameboy territory.
(Laughs.) Yeah. So there’s always that balance; you have to keep it small and tight—not blow it out but at the same time you have to some how keep it sustainable. Because small and tight is not really sustainable for very long. Eventually you have to pay the team. Eventually you have to pay your artists. Eventually you have to pay for the music in the videos. Eventually you have to pay the filmer. That’s when it gets tricky.

pontus_alv_line
Pontus Alv, In Search of The Miraculous [’10]

“The world wants Jake to ride for Polar. But nobody knows what Jake wants (Laughs.)”

At the end of the day too, skateboarding is a youth culture rebellion thing too. The new kids coming in want to knock over what the older people before them built.
Yeah. It’s all inevitable. It’s a challenge. Now we’ve been around for almost four years and people are still excited about what we do. That’s great. But it’s a challenge to be able to keep going without becoming stale. The real trick—when people know your next move, when people know what you’re going to do—then you’re dead. People will have no interest in it anymore because they can calculate every move this or that brand is going to do. It’s not exciting that way. It’s about how good of a chess player you are and how much you can surprise people.

I thought (Alien) Workshop was a good example of that. It just had the best possible roots and creative vibe, artwork, everything, and slowly even that became formulaic and kids don’t feel it the way we did when we saw Memory Screen (1991).
Yeah. Exactly. You become kind of like a prisoner of your own art. Like, “I created this thing and people love it. Now I’m stuck with it.” You have to sort of paint the same painting for the rest of your life. You almost have to kill your own art to move on, but the next thing you do might not necessarily be received as well as the first idea was.

If you got to that point with Polar, where you knew that you either had to start shrinking it to keep it authentic and exciting or just let it become blown out—would you kill your own art so to speak?
I don’t know. I think for me I do this company for the main reason that I want it to be relative in the skateboard culture. When kids start to feel like we’re not doing cool shit and they’re not hyped on it then I’m not hyped on it. I definitely don’t want to do this just because it’s a job and I need to pay the bills. Just putting a bunch of graphics on a board and shipping it out and that’s it. I don’t want it to just be a big machine. I still want people every time they watch a video we have made to be like, “Whoa, that was something else. We haven’t seen that before.” But of course, there is a limit to how much one person can do. There’s a limit to how much one artist can do. As far as the riders too, there’s a limit to how much effect they can have. After a certain number of video parts it’s hard to keep making exciting new ones. But I think ten years is a good life span for a company. I think after that it’s time for other people with fresh ideas and fresh energy to take over. I think it’s a natural cycle. It’s like the music industry or any other culture where there is a mix of creativity and business. There is a time for new people with young ideas to come in and be the new pioneers shaping the future of skateboarding. I accept that. I grew up in skateboarding and I’ve seen those cycles. I’m not planning on holding on to this just because. If I feel like our shit is old and I can’t be relative, then that’s it. I’d rather shut down the company than wash it out.

That’s rad. When is this full-length video coming out?
That’s the next step for us. I got pretty much all the footage; it’s ready to go. I just don’t have time to edit at the moment. I have a planned editing schedule from January through May 16th—which is the official release date and is also my 35th birthday. But May 16th is what I told my riders as far as a deadline. The plan is to have a birthday party and have the premiere. It’s all filmed and done though. We’ve been collecting for maybe a year and half or two. We’ve built up a nice archive. I’m excited about it though. There are still so many people that don’t know anything about our team so it will be cool to showcase that.

It seems like Polar blew up just from people knowing you and the graphics. The team hasn’t even really been a huge factor yet?
Yeah. There have been things leaking out here and there but never like an official thing like, “Here is actually the full team in full action so to speak.” People might have small Instagram clips or web clips here and there but this will be the full story.

Everyone wanted Jake (Johnson) to get on there (Polar). It didn’t work out huh?
Yeah. We all wanted Jake to ride for Polar. The world wants Jake to ride for Polar. But nobody knows what Jake wants (Laughs.) I don’t know. I heard several rumors that he was on Krooked, and then I heard that he was back on Alien, then I heard that there was some new company called Mother starting from one of the Alien guys. I still don’t know who he rides for.

Was it cool when he stayed with you in Malmö?
Yeah. He stayed like 10 days over here. It was good. Jake I think is just going through stuff in his life and with himself. He had that motorcycle accident at the beginning of the year and was still recovering from his knee injury, recovering from losing Alien, losing other sponsors and trying to figure everything out. It takes energy all that stuff. For sure, it would be great if he skated for us but at the same time he’s my friend and I just want him to be happy. Our door is open and he knows that. I just want him to do whatever makes him happy. Because when we have a happy Jake in the world we’re gonna see rad skating come out.

Do you know if TOA is growing at the same rate as Polar? People have sort of compared it to the new World/Blind/101/Rocco conglomerate.
Theories is a distribution company and it’s also Josh (Stewarts)’ own little brand. I would say his business is definitely growing. I couldn’t really say anything else.

Wallride nollie out.
Wallride nollie out. (Click to enlarge)

Is the relationship more him just as the US Distributor or is Polar tied to TOA like a brand home?
He’s the US distribution for us, Magenta, Traffic, Hopps, etc… His whole thing is just trying to push that platform like he did before with his videos. To sort of push an alternative to the California scene. I see them as very separate. There is the California scene and then there is the kind of East Coast and global scene. I feel like the East Coast, Europe, Japan, and Australia are all kind of connecting now and on the side of that is the California scene where they kind of do what they do.

You’re somewhat anti-California it seems.
No. I’m not at all.

It’s like a symbol of the old order to you.
Yeah. The industry is there. They do things their way and that’s the way they’ve always done it. And then there is outside of California where we kind of do things differently. It’s just different. I’m not hating on it I just think it’s different. They have their vibe and we have ours.

The kids here in LA are basically into the same stuff as the kids out East or in Europe too.
I wouldn’t call it a revolution or anything, but there is new shit, there is new energy coming in. There is the Supreme videos coming out, there’s Fucking Awesome, there’s us, there are alternatives and people are hyped on it. People are still hyped on the old stuff too. It’s not like that’s just over with either. There is room for all styles—that’s what’s exciting about skateboarding—there should be different visions of it. And then as a customer and as a skateboard fan you can decide like, “Well, this is who I fit and connect to. I want to ride Baker boards because that’s my cup of tea, or I want to ride a Krooked board, or I identify with Antihero, Girl, Chocolate or whatever.” I don’t see it as a big competition. I don’t see it as, “Hey, to be the biggest brand we have to take these guys out because we’re the shit.” We just do what we do, they do what they do and in the end it’s up to the kids to say if they want to buy Polar boards or Girl and Chocolate.

What about the geographic distance?
Yeah. I’m so far away too. I’m in Malmo, Sweden. I’m isolated from absolutely everything, just here doing what I do every day. If people like it and back it that’s rad. But that’s what Alien did too. They moved themselves to Ohio. They moved themselves from the heart of the industry. I think that location wise it’s good to be a bit removed. I think there is a bad side effect of everything being in LA. If everything is coming from the same place, it gets hard to come up with new perspectives. Sometimes it’s good to be far away from everything.

All time favorite Swedish skater?
For new guys, not that I want to hype my riders or anything (laughs) but I’m a big fan of Oski (Oskar Rosenberg-Hallberg). For the older skaters, I always like Gorm Boberg. For me, just the way he was skating back in the day, like he would just skate that little fountain. It was super tight with shit tranny and it was just rad to see all the stuff that he managed to do on it.

All time favorite board company from the past?
Basically everything that Marc McKee was involved with. Early days of Blind/World/101/even Liberty. All those graphics were just so amazing to me as a kid. I loved it.

Favorite part from Five Flavors (’98)?
I gotta say Karl Watson. I love that song (Ween, “The Mollusk”). I remember when I watched it it was so emotional, just beautifully edited. I’ve always been a bit of an emotional dude and I like when the skate films have a bit of feeling. I always loved those H-Street videos for that. Those 16mm slow motion montages, like the skate camp one (Hokus Pokus) are so good.

Frontside 50-50.
Frontside 50-50. Mad Circle Skateboards 5ive Flavors [’98]

“I don’t want to talk shit on my colleagues in the industry and say what they should do or not do.”

Favorite part from Gumbo (’99)?
Steve Hernandez. Steve was rad. Or that guy Tyler Moore.

Favorite part/memory from Europa (’00)?
Jeremie (Daclin) for sure. I was with him at the time and the way he was charging with his skating was really impressive. He was running a company at the same time and going out every lunch doing a crazy trick and then going back to work.

Do you ever talk to Jeremie (Daclin) anymore? It seems like he would have good advice on all of it.
Yeah. After I quit Cliché there was a bit of a beef because I left and all that. But then time goes by and you re-become friends. I would see him at tradeshows all the time here and there and now we talk and email each other. He sort of went through the same journey starting Cliché. Just doing everything by yourself. Hustling and dealing and working 7 days a week and still filming and skating. He went through the same things that I’m going through now. We talk about that. He also just sent me that Marc McKee “Last Supper” board they did. They seem to be doing well as a company though. It’s rad to see.

Favorite part from Strongest of the Strange (’05)?
Scott Bourne was a big contributor to that whole film. Just meeting him in Mongolia, being with him on that trip, and getting to know him. It was sick. Right at that time he was sort of over the whole US and was moving to Paris and just told me that he had a whole video part just waiting at home. It was cool that he believed in the project enough to put that part in it. I had never even done a video at that point.

Favorite part from In Search of the Miraculous (’10)?
Johan Lino-Waad—the guy that has the last part in the video. He’s a good friend and he just had a knee injury again so he kind of can’t skate anymore. Before that video part he was one of the new kids in the city during the late ‘90s and then he blew his knee out, got all fucked up on alcohol and everyone was saying it was over. It was sick for that part because he came back and killed it. He was my skate mate at the time and we just went on all of these fun missions and trips. He meant a lot to that project and worked hard to make it happen.

Favorite memory from Promo 1 (Wallride, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah)?
Maybe just all the TBS (Train Bank Spot) footage. The stuff I had in the beginning was actually meant to be for an Emerica part. I had filmed all of that and showed it to Emerica and they weren’t really feeling it. That was the moment when I realized that they couldn’t really see my vision. After that I was just like, “Fuck it, I’m over it” and I ended up using all of that footage in the first promo instead.

Favorite memory from Promo 2 (No Complies & Wallrides)?
The whole thing. They’re just fun to do. It’s so short that you can just really have fun with it. I want to get back to that now. We’ve been so busy with just two of us really running everything in the company—doing all the work. We’re looking for more people now to help out. But now with the full-length video coming I can get back to that in the new year.

Last two, all time best no-complies?
Of course, I gotta say Ray Barbee. All those lines in the Powell videos, dancing around on the flatground. And then, I also gotta say, Jake (Johnson) probably has the highest one. He can pop some serious height with no-complies on flat. Kevin (Terpening) too.

All time best wallrides?
Natas has a badass style when he does that whole line in Streets on Fire (’89). When he goes down that alleyway hitting the wall. That one, when you saw it as a kid, it just looked like he was surfing. Gnarliest wallride dude today? You gotta give that one to Jake too. The one he did in Static of course, whether you wanna call it a wallride or a bank ride. If not that one, you can just look at the wallride he did in New York over the doubleset in Mindfield (’08), or even all of the fucked up combos he did too—nollie back wallride, I also saw him almost land fakie ollies to switch wallrides. Jake’s on some heavy wallride shit.