"This world is big and wide and half insane. Take me where real animals are playing"
—Animal Farm, The Kinks (1968)
Few board brands have meant as much to as many people as Habitat and Workshop. Both are infinitely more than simple manufacturers of plywood pressed skateboard decks. They are ways of life; think tanks for singular and unique visions—defining the music we listen to, the places we travel, the way we dress, the tools we use, the artwork, photography and videography we elevate and engage, and the creative ideals with which we pursue them all.
Joe Castrucci joined AWS in 1998 when he applied for a design job listing posted in the Cincinnati Enquirer. After launching their sister brand, Habitat in '00, his dual outdoorsy/urban artistic vision became the living and breathing soul of the brand for the past fourteen years of Photosynthesis-ing, Mosaic-ing, and Inhabit-ing.
With the future of the company hanging in the balance since the announcement of DNA distribution's demise this past May—here is the full story of Habitat's new home at Tum Yeto, the return to it's creative DIY roots, and a new lease on life outside the corporate shell of shareholder shackled mediocrity. Praise the lord. Habitat lives! Here's Joe.
Interview and Intro: Mackenzie Eisenhour
Can you give a broad strokes statement as to the current state of Habitat?
We survived a bizarre 2-year run under corporate ownership that almost took us out and the brand will now be a part of the Tum Yeto camp.
Is the team still intact?
Yes! Luckily. I’m so grateful everyone stuck it out.
What can Habitat fans do to help the brand right now?
Amazing question. For the first time in a while we are skater-owned and operated so I don’t feel any shame in plugging the brand. We have been absent in skate shops lately due to mismanagement and almost zero product availability. Ask your local shops to get a hold of Tum Yeto and order some of our Fall 14 products.
Can you give a brief description of how you first got involved with Alien Workshop?
I started working for AWS back in 1998. I was 20 years old and my friend Nick told me that they were hiring a graphic designer. They put an advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I applied for the job and also sent a video reel with my application. Don Pendleton got the design job and I was hired to make videos and work with the team. It evolved into much more than that and eventually into Habitat.
What was your background prior?
I just did local skate videos and even made small runs of boards with friends.
How influential was Mike Hill for you graphics-wise? How about Don Pendleton?
Mike was a huge influence. He was the first real designer and filmmaker that I had ever met. I probably learned more than I even realize from working in Dayton with Hill every day in those early years. Don and I worked in the same office. He was always a much better and faster artist than me so he kept me on my toes. It was a perfect place to learn and grow as a designer.
How did the idea of starting Habitat originate?
It actually started with talks between Rob Dyrdek and I while I was in LA filming for Photosynthesis. We wanted to start a new brand. We have really different taste and he was super busy so it sort of ended up being my baby from the start but he was always supportive.
What was the initial concept as compared to AWS?
I really liked the East Coast and rawer street skating. I think cities are the best backdrops for skateboarding but I love nature so the idea of coexistence has always been a constant theme. Both brands were rooted in visual arts. It took a few years for Habitat to find a voice. I think '03 was probably when things started to take solid form.
Best memory from the Photosynthesis ('00) inauguration part?
Ha. I’d have to say the early trips to NYC were my favorite part. I would stay on Dill’s couch and film both teams during the day with Bill Strobeck. That was incredible.
Best memory from making Mosaic ('03)?
We had some epic Europe trips. Traveling, skating, filming and talking with friends for weeks is the best experience you can have in this business I think. Creating the soundtrack for that video was an incredible experience as well.
Best memory from making Inhabitants ('07)?
I think the Ohio trips were the best in this Era. I had an amazing house at the time with a pool and woods. My office was there too. The team would stay there and we would chill, skate, and watch footage.
Best memory from the Origins days ('10)?
Traveling to Mallorca and Spain with the team was so much fun. I think pros get slightly numb to the travel experience. I’m in the office so much working that being a part of a high-energy skate trip in these amazing places is forever inspiring. I really enjoyed hunting for music for that video as well.
Best memory from making Search the Horizon ('13)?
Again, the team travel and levels of creative energy and friendship found on the road are unbeatable. We partied a lot on the trips for this video and the Austyn Unlimited part. It didn’t seem to affect the productivity, although Brennan (Conroy [Habitat TM/Filmer]) might disagree. Working with HD really changed the game. It was really evident in this video. New cameras are just full of creative opportunity and endless picture quality.
What team rider would you say has best embodied Habitat through the years?
I think they all do in some way. Seeing everyone skate together over the years has been so surreal and inspiring. I was bummed to lose Austyn (Gillette). I don’t think I’ll get over that one. Haha.
What have these past 14 years of Habitat meant to you, and what does Habitat mean to you today?
It is forever changing and I like that. I guess for me it’s a creative outlet that I want to explore and expand upon. We got a bit lost in deadlines and business bullshit and sort of lost sight of the original intent of the brand. I want to make cool stuff that inspires people and is true to the people involved with the brand. There isn’t enough time in the day to make it as dynamic as I picture it.
From what you know of the situation, can we officially say Alien Workshop is no more?
I have learned to stay out of AWS business so I don’t know much. I do know it’s a fucking amazing entity that was created by sheer original thought and gnarly sacrifice.
What has Alien Workshop meant to you?
It was my youth. All of my twenties were spent working with the people and ideas that are the Alien Workshop. I literally grew up with Habitat and Workshop.
It’s official! Habitat Skateboards is “Moving Right Along”.
Habitat will be joining the Tum Yeto Collective. New products available this Summer. Check us out at Agenda booth # BX57
Filmed & Edited by Joe Castrucci
Produced by Joe Castrucci & Brennan Conroy
In association with Tum Yeto
With Special Guests