Photography by Andrew Peters
Turn and face the strange. Ch-ch-Changes. Already away from home since leaving Brisbane for Sydney, Australia six years ago—PASS~PORT's and Nike SB's rookie pro—Josh Pall (also fittingly the holder of multiple real world passports) is pondering some imminent further moves. Wherever he decides to call home over the next year (LA, NYC, EU, or elsewhere), said locale will also serve as the backdrop for his part in the upcoming PASS~PORT full-length—tentatively scheduled for winter 2018. Raised on the wholesome/not-so-wholesome videographic trio of Jump Off a Building ('98), The Storm ('99), and This is Skateboarding ('03)—Josh sat down for a phone interview to discuss severing his working class safety net/side gig to jump headlong into skateboarding for a living, and the truths and fallacies of "lucky yellow shirt" theory. Come on in. The water's great.—Mackenzie Eisenhour
Where are you at right now?
I'm still in Sydney. I'm in the process of moving out. I'm packing up my house right now. Then going over to Europe in a week. But I'll still be based in Sydney after this trip.
Is there some possibility of you moving to LA?
Yeah. It's funny how word can get around when you just mention it to one person. But I'm in the process of figuring it out. It's a possibility. But still early. I never really thought about it as an option but maybe while I'm still relatively young it could be cool to do for a little bit. Something different. Get out of the general work vibes and just do the skate thing for a little bit.
Are you still working at a screen-printing job?
Yeah. I've actually got three days left and that's it. I've been there on and off for six years—pretty much the whole time I've been living in Sydney. It's been one of those jobs that was so flexible and the boss was always super cool so it's totally perfect for myself and most skateboarders situations. But at the same time it's so lenient that's it's almost like a safety net.
Yeah, like almost too comfortable.
Exactly. I haven't really tried to do anything else because it's always been there when I've needed it. So it's cool to try something new now. Of course it also causes a little anxiety like any new change. But it's not hard to find new work if need be. I've always worked so if I need to I'll find a shitty job to make a little more money.
If you did move to LA, what are the upsides and downsides from your perspective?
I think upside would definitely be more people skating every day. I've been out there for small stints. And it sort of feels like a holiday but you're out skating every day. There's always someone keen. Being on the board more is definitely an upside. Downsides, I guess just the obvious weirdness of being away from home in a foreign country for a long period of time. But I'll never know until I do it. I've always been pretty easy at adapting to different situations.
You already left home (Brisbane) to move to Sydney right?
Yeah. And that was a pretty spur of the moment thing. I moved with my mate Juan [Onekawa] and it was one of those things where it wasn't until I was down there that I realized like, "Oh shit, I've actually left a lot of my friends and my family behind." I'm never really stressed on those things being big decisions. It's more like, "Cool, let's try it. If it doesn't work out then we'll do something different." Worst case you get to have this great chapter in your life where you lived somewhere else.
Where would you live if you lived in LA?
Most of my friends live over by Silverlake/Echo Park. I guess that's the zone these days so probably around there. I just have to convince somebody to get a place.
I was told you build some beautiful furniture out of pallets. When did this become a thing?
Back in school I was just always into making things and building stuff, woodworking and all that sort of stuff. My dad was a carpenter and when I was younger we had a lot of tools around the house. I would build little jump ramps and grind boxes. I just liked the process of making something. So I did it in school and then after I moved out from home I would still make little coffee tables and whatever. At my screenprinting job there are always tons of palettes so it was just free timber and I would use that. It kind of turned into a thing. I made a couple of tables for people who would commission them. But it was hard in Sydney. It's kind of rare to have a back yard or even a garage so finding an area to build things is difficult. Lately, I bought a bunch of tools and have been making picture frames. You don't need as big an area to work so I just turned my living room into a little woodwork shop and would makes frames and canvases for some of my artist friends who needed them.
Keeps you busy.
Yeah. It's nice to have a couple of hobbies outside of skating.
Just a hand me down from my brother. I think it was a World Industries board. But it had a sticker over the top logo so I'm not totally sure. It had a bunch of dinosaurs on the bottom.
First video part you knew by heart?
My first skate video was Toy Machine Jump Off a Building (1998). My brother bought me that for Christmas. So that was the first one. I liked Elissa (Steamer). My friends and I would try to do that line where she does the no-comply and then the switch one. We were backing her. But a couple of the videos on repeat would be Osiris The Storm (1999) then later Emerica This is Skateboarding (2003). We weren't really into individual parts, we would just watch the whole thing over and over. Even just for the music. In school, I remember having an iPod Shuffle with like only skate video songs on it. My friends would be tripping. They only listened to the top 100 or whatever was popular then and I would have like Janis Joplin or something from the Toy Machine video. They'd be like, "You listen to some weird stuff dude."
First pro you fanned out on?
I went to a few demos when I was younger. I went to an etnies demo and Bastien (Salabanzi) was there. I can't remember too much though. I think my memory is fading. I'm almost worried about it [laughs]. I remember going to a C1rca demo on the Gold Coast and even seeing Dennis Durrant skate back then was a big deal.
Is there a Nike video project in the works?
I'm not a part of any Nike videos at the moment. They are making a video for some of the younger dudes in Australia. I'm just working towards—we're trying to do a full-length PASS~PORT video so I'm working on that.
That was my next question. Any schedule for that?
We're hoping for the end of next year (2018) I think as far as deadlines. So I have some time but not that much time at the same time. I'm just real hyped to be a part of a full-length team video. Growing up watching those team videos like Toy machine or Emerica—I really like being a part of a larger team project rather than what's going on right now with a bunch of online single parts. So I'm pretty psyched to see how it turns out. Trent (Evans) from PASS~PORT has always got cool ideas. He's probably just has hyped about how he'll make the video cover as he is about the content that's going to go inside.
It's funny how you didn't remember specific parts from say Jump Off a Building. But Ed's artwork, the music, and the vibe—it's more like you're selling the whole team as one rather than just one single superhero. So you get to do that now with PASS~PORT.
Totally. That's it.
Would you ever live in Europe? What would you see as the pros and cons to that one?
I never thought about it seriously but I do have an Austrian passport through my dad. So that would make it easier. Even with this EU trip coming up next week everybody is worried about booking their flights home after and how long they can stay but I'm just like, "I'll worry about that later."
Right, you don't need a Visa with the Austrian passport. I was told you have discovered the secret to getting tricks in yellow shirts. How does yellow bend the time space continuum?
I don't know how this got around either [laughs]. I think I had this yellow shirt and somebody was telling me about these compilations online of all these legendary tricks in yellow shirts. I guess those people are way more into it than I am. But I actually ate complete shit and broke my face in my yellow shirt (—Ed Note: Josh crushed both his cheekbones and eye sockets slamming in 2015. He now has five plates in his in head.) I just saw it yesterday. It's a work shirt now but it still has all the blood stains on it. So maybe mine wasn't so lucky.
Jesus. They do look good on film and photos. The contrast always pops on like a grey background.
Denim jeans and yellow shirts. It's the uniform.
What about NYC?
I always thought that would be the place if I were to go to America. The longest I've stayed is maybe six weeks. It's just totally different if you're traveling through verses living there but for me it was sort of waking up every day like, "Fuck, what do I do today? Everybody else is working." But it's super fun to skate. A few years back we were there with Alex Olson the day he had that footage ripping the bag out of that guys hand or whatever (cherry ['14]). It looks sort of bad in the footage but he really did ask nicely many times and it slowly escalated. Anyways, after that happened we were skating away with Alex and all these undercover cops in like taxi cars pulled up from every direction. It was crazy how well organized they were.
So having witnessed that one you feel Alex was justified?
Yeah. It looked way worse edited down like that.
Best memories from the Gravis days? Best Dylan memory?
In Sydney, we spent a lot of good times just going to the beach. There's this bar Ching-a-Lings we used to always go to and it was kind of the skater hot spot. During the summer everybody would be drinking the "Gentleman's beverage"—Jameson and ginger beer. Sydney life when Dylan was around was really fun for sure. It's almost been a year. I still can't believe it.
Is the world doomed? Who will save us?
It's pretty crazy. I try not to look at the news as much these days. I used to read it every morning just as something to do but after a while it's just all so negative. Even today I came across an article involving North Korea nuclear shit. I guess you just never know. You could get nuked tomorrow. Who knows? Just enjoy the moment you have right now and hope for the best I guess. Go skate.
To tide you over until that PASS~PORT video drops, revisit Josh’s Nike SB part from 2015. Still sweet: