chrome ball interview #75: nate jones

Everybody has a .45

So as one of the icons in this arena, how does Nate Jones define the word “style”?

(laughs) First, how do you define the word “icon”?

(laughs) Such a good answer. But seriously, when it comes to aesthetics while performing tricks on a skateboard, you’re definitely in an elite group there…

Well, that’s a hard one because everybody has their own style. It’s like an opinion. That’s how I’d define it.

So it’s more about a point-of-view?

It’s an opinion. It’s like with anything concerning art and music. Some people like rap, some people like rock, some people like country. It doesn’t make one right or wrong, it’s just what people like. But there are also groups like the Beatles whose style transcend to a bigger mass of people. There are certain styles that more people will like. You can say the same thing about Mark Gonzales and John Cardiel. Again, it doesn’t mean one style is better, just certain styles are easier to appreciate. 

Was there ever a time, perhaps when you were starting out, that you tried to learn every possible trick you could, regardless of aesthetic? I’m presuming you started in the early to mid-90s when having good style commonly took a backseat to simply making the damn trick.

Yeah, when I started taking skateboarding a bit more seriously, I really wasn’t that selective about tricks. Like you said, I basically tried to learn everything I could. But I think everyone reaches a point, if they skate long enough, where you start to focus only on the tricks that feel comfortable to you. For example, I prefer kickflips over heelflips because they feel more natural to me. Little preferences like that. The tricks that feel more natural to do are always easier and more fun so I tended to gravitate towards those. So even though I really didn’t do all that many tricks in my parts and ads, I liked doing them and I guess it showed.

Did you have certain influences growing up that would go on to inform your skating in this regard?

I really began to understand style by going to skate in Cincinnati when I was younger. The guys I skated with there were all so very interesting to watch. They were all so cool and relaxed on their boards… smooth and effortless. They might’ve just been doing ollies or whatever but they all looked so neat.

I remember one time actually asking a friend of mine, “How do you get good style?”

He just looked at me and said, “It’s something that either eventually comes to you or it doesn’t.”

The point is that it got me started to think in that way. When you’re younger and trying to do every trick you can, it’s not always going to look good. That’s serious. You have to start going with what’s more natural to you.  

I have to imagine that Alien Workshop must’ve had a large impact on you, having coming from that area.  Did you ever try to get on that team?

I pursued it for a short time. I kinda knew Rob Dyrdek a little bit but there didn’t seem to be much interest there. This was also when I was starting to get product from Real so I just moved on. 

How did you get hooked up with Real while still in Ohio?

I just sent them a video and they called me up.

They originally wanted me on Stereo and while I loved Stereo, the company was already so different by then compared to when it first came out. Real still had that Nonfiction type of look going that I loved so much. Mark Gonzales, Keith Hufnagel and Matt Field… it always seemed like Real treated skateboarding as this relatable, real-life thing as opposed to how so many other companies saw it with the bigger, better, more punk rock approach.

So how did the move to San Francisco come about? Was that for skating and Real, specifically?  I know you’ve always had a soft spot for the East Coast scene, was Philadelphia or NYC ever an option for you?

Yeah, I was considering both Philadelphia and New York at one point. But after coming out to SF a couple of times and with Deluxe out there, San Francisco just made more sense. I knew that if I was going to make a run for it in skating, I had to have my face in front of the right people. I had to be going in there and handing off photos and footage... hanging out with the team. That was all stuff I wanted to be part of anyway and I knew it would work more in my favor to be actually out there instead of at a distance.

I had tried living in San Diego once before but it didn’t work out. So I was back in Ohio again and my girlfriend had just dumped me. I was pretty much bummed on everything and just out of desperation, I call up Jim to ask if there was possibly anybody on their way to San Francisco who was in the area.

“Actually, Gabe Morford and the Stereo team are driving back from New York and they’re going to be heading right by you on I-70.”

“Do you think they can pick me up?”

They came through the next day and I hopped in the van. That was in 1998 and I’ve been out here ever since.

That’s amazing.

Yeah, things just worked out. Like I was crashing at the Newell for a bit when Dustin decided to take a trip back to Australia. I sublet his room while he was gone and he never ended up coming back.  That’s how I got my room there. Some things are meant to be. Right place, right time. 

Favorite SF skatespot? And how did the hills treat you at first? Ohio’s pretty flat, man. I imagine there’s a pretty harsh learning curve.  

Union Square would probably be my favorite, for sure.

And yeah, I definitely took some harsh slams skating the hills. I skate pretty loose trucks and came to find out that bombing hills can be even scarier that way. I mean, you can always tighten up your trucks but who wants to do that? Once I get my trucks right, I don’t mess with them. So I definitely took a few good ones at first but then you start to learn which hills to take. You start figuring things out. Learning when to powerslide and when not to.

You had a small part in Kicked Out of Everywhere but Real to Reel is really what set it off. Talk a little about that one. Such a classic part.

Thanks, man.

Going back to Kicked Out of Everywhere for a minute, the only reason I had anything in there was because of my superstar guy, Tommy Guerrero. I’d just sent him in that footage for whatever and he insisted on putting it in the video. I really wasn’t expecting to be in it but it was cool to actually have footage in there. That was because of Tommy Guerrero.

He’s the reason I got on Real, period. He was the one guy who really backed putting me on the team. One of the most stylish dudes ever…

For sure.

On to Real to Reel, that was about a year and a half of filming with Dan Wolfe. The Gil Scot-Heron song we ended up using was actually Gabe’s pick and I love it. I thought Dan’s editing work was fantastic, too. Working with those two guys was such an honor as well as just being really fun. Back in the day, my friends and I always used to film everything we did in black and white because of Dan… just trying to get a little bit of that Eastern Exposure feel. So this was huge.

But I was happy with how it all turned out, for sure. Some of the stuff was just me skating around while some of those other tricks were actually work. There was a side of making that part where the company felt I needed more hammers. That was pretty constant feedback. It was definitely hammertime at that point.

There were a few things in there that they didn’t want to put in… the ollie over the California Street gap, for example. They didn’t want that in there. But it was fun! I actually enjoyed doing that.

There were a few other things they didn’t like but it was my part so they let me have what I wanted. The 5-0 in Union Square… I mean, it is just a 5-0 on a ledge. (laughs)

I got so much flack for that. So many people would ask why I even had that in there. I don’t know, I just liked it. 

Were you a big fan of the filming process? Nothing can drain the fun like having a camera shoved in your face.

Nah, we always had fun filming. There were only a few times that it felt like work… just when I had to go out and specifically get something big. When I had to go out and get those hammers. That’s when it wasn’t fun for me because I having to go do things that I didn’t really want to do. Those tricks weren’t my ideas. I was basically doing them for the video but when you’re being paid to do something, you have to compromise sometimes.  

Plus, I wanted the video to be good… and possibly make some more money, too! (laughs)

The big backside 180 down that triple-set, was that an example of hammertime?

Actually I did want to do that one. That was an opportunity that just came up and didn’t really take me long either. That’s back when I was going to L.A. a lot to film with Huf, which was always a blast. But yeah, that was one of the few times I actually had something for those hammer requests.

An example of hammertime was that backside flip down the double-set. That was a nightmare and just took forever. Not fun. 

You said Gabe picked out “Gun” for you towards the end of filming. Did you have any other songs in mind prior to that?

I had so many in mind, I can’t remember them all. From David Bowie to Creedence… so many. I was even thinking about going back to a Stereo vibe with some jazz stuff. I’d never even heard of Gil Scot-Heron before but when Gabe played it for me, I was just like, “Woah”.

It’s funny you say that about Stereo because I always felt your part had that same type of feeling to it.

Oh yeah, huge influence. Ethan Fowler, Jason Lee, Chris Pastras… all those guys were such a big part of my skating. I always felt that if those guys were able to be out there doing their thing without jumping down some crazy 50-stair rail, maybe I can keep doing what I’m doing and still be okay. Get some free product and work a part-time job or something.

Gotta ask, what’s it like being Gonz’s stunt double? Such an incredible ad, how did that come to fruition? And did you feel weird at all doing that with him?

(laughs) I guess it did feel a little weird but it was fun to do.

I think it was Jim’s idea. He’s usually the one who comes up with those types of things. I guess it was that 3rd and Army backside tailslide clip that was later in my part that gave him the idea. I was into it so we went down to 3rd and Army the next day or so and shot it real quick.

The hardest part for me was filming at like 10 in the morning. We had to get there when nobody was around. That almost killed me.  

Did you feel like you were ready to turn pro when you did? Looking back on it, do you think you were schooled enough in the industry side of things?

I don’t know if you ever really need to be schooled in the industry, you should just do what you do. The industry is always going to be the industry, no matter what.

As far as when I turned pro, it was just another day. From not being sponsored to becoming an amateur and then turning pro, it was all the same for me with the exception that I didn’t have to go to work anymore.

You weren’t nervous at all?

Nah, just another day of riding my skateboard. It doesn’t really change anything.

I remember reading your Slap interview where you seemed a little uncomfortable with the process of marketing one’s skating and image.

As far as “image” goes, I understand that. It’s what sells. You gotta have an edge of some sort for them to make you a product. They are selling you. I understand it, even though it’s not always a comfortable thing.

People are going to skate how they want to skate. That goes back to what I was saying about style. People want different things. Some of my friends love jumping down gaps and skating big rails… and I enjoyed some of that, too. It was fun but it wasn’t my pinhole. 

I remember people referring to you as the “Robert Plant of Skateboarding”? How would you react to that? I know you had a few classic rock-themed ads and graphics… how much of that was really you versus marketing?

Nah, I felt honored to be put in the same category as anyone from Led Zeppelin. That didn’t bother me at all. I knew what they were doing as far as putting out an image. The Doors ad and all that, I was into all of that stuff. I actually used to have that Jim Morrison poster so I thought that ad was rad.

I was actually hoping to get one with Mick Jagger in there somehow, too… like, “I got moves like Mick Jagger.” (laughs)

What about the Six Newell project? That seemed like a fun little project to work on in honor of your old apartment. Definitely a bit of a bro down, right?

That video was one of the best times of filming in my life. Just us out with the video camera, skating everyday. So much fun. Night sessions at the library with the crew. Ten of us filming each other with one camera, passing it back and forth. Just a blast. Almost all SF with no pressure of having to get whatever. Nobody telling me to get bigger stuff or my part wasn’t going to make it in. We filmed. We edited. We picked all the songs. The whole thing was all on our own. So much fun.

I always loved the ender in there. So amazing and so casual… and you’re actually smoking in it. I didn’t even realize that at first.

(laughs) Thanks, man. Yeah, it’s funny because someone brought that up the other day and I had completely forgot about that, too.

I remember smoking cigarettes while skating because I wouldn’t want to take a break but I didn’t remember smoking during that trick. Not that I condone it… such a nasty habit. 

Give us your best Frank Gerwer story.

Oh God. Where do I start? The best one? Jesus.

Alright… One time, Frank and I were on our way to this club we’d always go to on Thursdays for 80’s night. Of course, we’d been drinking a bit before we left and Frank had already put back a couple Jim Beam bottles. So here we are in this cab and when I look over at Frank, he’s got his head in his shirt.

 “What in the hell are you doing?”

Turns out, he’s puking in his shirt. All over the inside of his shirt. But the best part is that when’s he done, he just pats his shirt down like it’s all good. Doesn’t miss a beat. Cab stops, he hops out and walks straight into the club. No problem.

That’s the best. Going back to Six Newell, and I know this dude had some stuff in your part, what about Ocean Howell? Always one of my favorites, I can honestly see a lot of similarities between your styles.

Oh yeah, I was honored to have him in my part. He was a huge one for me. That part in Next where he skated to "Peace Frog"!?!

I actually got to stay with him for a little while… he wasn’t even really skating during this particular time but we were just staying there anyway. I remember his room was right next to the living room and he ended up bringing this girl home and having the loudest sex I’ve ever heard for an hour and a half. I just remember sitting there as he’s getting it on with this chick, thinking, “That’s Ocean Howell!”

But he was always so much fun to skate with. A big hero of mine, for sure. 

It’s so funny because every time Ocean comes up in these interviews, it always seems to involve some sort of champion lover-type fornication. So how did Rasa Libre come about? Why leave Real? Was it for creative reasons or more of just a bro thing with Field?

Matt and I were always super close, especially back then. Two peas in a pod. But we were both pretty unhappy with the overall direction Real was heading in. The direction seemed to be changing more towards what all the other companies were doing at the time with the big hammer tricks and everything. Matt and I wanted Real to stay with its same direction and to take that to the next level, not just joining in with what everyone else was doing.

I feel that Jim could tell we were unhappy but wanted to keep us there so he ended up coming to the both of us about possibly doing a company. Honestly, they probably wanted us out of Real to open up a few slots there, too. Who knows for sure. But Matt and I were excited to get the company going. Matt came up with the name and we brought Reese Forbes in as well. It was good.

One thing that I will say is that I started the company under the impression that it was both of ours, mine and Matt’s. I soon found out that I was wrong about that.

How much control did you have within the brand? Were you psyched on how it came out?

I feel like Matt had most of the control. He seemed to handle just about everything, to be honest. Michael Leon was our art director and he did his thing. I never really felt like I had all that much say in things. I basically said yay or nay to something; usually yay. Matt was really the brains behind the direction and product.

But I was really psyched on how it came out. Rasa was pretty much everything we had envisioned going into it. I really loved doing it… which made it a real bummer when it fell apart the way it did.

Yeah, what happened that it all seemed to implode so quickly?

There were just disagreements. Like I said, Matt had a lot of the control and I just don’t think he and Jim saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. It seemed like there were a lot of arguments and in the end, Matt basically said that if the company wasn’t going to be ran the way he wanted it to be, there wasn’t going to be any company at all.

But for whatever reason, when they were trying to explain to me about Matt leaving, I still thought that the other riders and I were going to keep it going. It wasn’t until I showed up on what turned out to be that last day that I found out it was over. Up until that point, all I was thinking was, “Ok, what do we do next?”

“Oh… uh… you’re done.”

It was definitely a shock but at least I was still on Thunder and Spitfire… or so I thought. The next month, both their ads came out with all the team members listed and I wasn’t on either one of them. So I guess I don’t ride for these companies anymore either.

How did you find yourself on Given afterwards? From what you said, it looks like you found yourself in a bit of a scramble there. Did you have any other offers? Did you really have any time to look?

Well, kinda.

During that first year we had started Rasa, I was down in L.A. for a Planet Earth clothing shoot. I was actually on the way to the airport with Kenny Reed to get dropped off when I get a random message on my phone.

“Hey, this is Jason Lee. I heard you’re in town. I want to meet up with you and see if you’re interested in possibly doing something with a new version of Stereo.”

Yeah, right. Someone is pranking me.  But whatever, I call the number back and it really is him. So I go meet up with him and Chris to go skating for a bit. It was real fun. Afterwards, we go eat and they’re both showing me all this stuff they have planned for the new Stereo. They ask me if I’d be interested in riding for them.

I end up flying home to think about it and talk to Matt and Jim about everything. The reason I hesitated was because I really felt like Rasa was Matt and I’s version of our own Stereo. I did meet with Jason a few more times and he actually offered me more money than what I was getting on Rasa Libre but I just felt like Rasa was what I should be doing at that point.

Later on when Rasa went down the way it did, I hit Chris back up to see if I could possibly get on at that point. He told me that Stereo was always interested in me but he’d heard through the grapevine that I wasn’t skating anymore. Someone had told him that I was only into playing music. This obviously wasn’t the case because I had shot more ads for Rasa Libre than I ever had for anybody else. Regardless, Chris wanted me to send in some footage and I did but nothing really came from it.

I ended up getting married and had a kid on the way. I knew Kris had always wanted me to ride for his company. He had actually asked me to ride for Hollywood back in the day. So I hit him up because I had to figure something out quick. A baby on the way with no job… bills need paid.

I got on Given, which was good. But it was around this time where even though I was still skating, I started to realize that all of my friends who I used to skate with just weren’t around anymore.  Shooting photos was difficult because I didn’t have Gabe Morford in the van now. It became more of this situation where I’d find myself with a photographer and some other kids I didn’t really know. It started to feel like work, not just having fun. It didn’t feel natural anymore.

Is that when you basically decided to leave skateboarding?

I don’t think I really made that decision. It was more of a realization that all of my dreams had come true and it was now over. As a young kid growing up in skateboarding, I got to travel the world, meet awesome people and get a bunch of free stuff. It was great while it lasted but I feel like I just woke up one day and knew it was over.

Some people think that sounds sad but it’s not. How many people can say that they lived their dreams? I look back on it fondly with no regrets… other than I probably partied a bit too much. I probably made some bad decisions and should’ve been nicer to some people but c’est la vie. 

What are you doing now, Nate? I know you have a band going…

Actually going to pick up my daughter right now.

Yeah, I have a band. That’s always something I’ve been passionate about. I love playing music and writing songs. I don’t find it to be a career-type of thing. I think a few people in skateboarding thought I was seriously trying to do a career in music next but I just enjoy doing it.

My wife and my kid are my day-to-day, basically. Being a good husband. I also work as a bartender for money. I’m a whore for the dollar (laughs).

Still skate?

My friend was in town a few weeks ago. I skated with him at the Berkeley park for a little bit but besides that, not really. I don’t have a lot of free time as I usually have “adult things” to do.

In your wake, it seems like skateboarding has become almost obsessed with style. Tricks now seem to come with a list of rules and faux pas attached. Popped a certain way, caught a certain way, arms down, etc. What’s your opinion on this alarmingly-uniform take on style? Is it missing the point? Is forced style even style at all?

Is that really going on?

Yeah, it’s almost like gymnastics. People are almost bounding their arms to their body because they think it looks better but it just ends up looking crazy instead.

That’s a pretty scary thing actually. Why are there rules? What are you doing? This isn’t an organized sport where you're supposed to do tricks the same way. This is self-expression. That’s what it’s all about. If there’s something that just isn’t a natural part of your skating, why are you doing it? Why would you force anything? Don’t. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

Varial flips are commonly placed at the top of the “don’t do” list… but you had a mean one and weren’t afraid to throw it down. What do you have to say in defense of this often-maligned trick?

(laughs) Well, it’s half of a 360 flip so it can’t be all bad! If you like doing 360 flips, 180 varial flips can be fun, too! Just go halfway!

I don’t know, man. It’s one of those things… fashion and trends, man. But everything comes back around. 

On the subject, what’s the secret to a good 360 kickflip?

The best way to do one is just through practice, man. Get it down to where you can do it every time. Get more confident in it so you can start putting in less effort. They always look best when it seems like you’re not even really thinking about it. That’s what I’ve found.

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Nate. Anything you’d like to add? Words of wisdom or a couple thank yous?

Words of wisdom: life is short, enjoy it while you can. Don’t take anything too seriously and don’t do drugs.

And I’d like to thank Matt Field, Tommy Guerrero, Jim Thiebaud, Jeff Taylor and my friends and family for the support.

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chrome ball interview #74: kris markovich

 chops and markovich sit down for conversation.

Alright, Kris, I want to put this on record: you don’t get the respect you deserve as a legend in the history of skateboarding. Straight up. Why do you think people tend to focus so much more on your sponsorship changes than all of your accomplishments over the years? That has to drive you crazy, right?

It used to but I don’t really give a shit anymore. To be honest, I look back on everything now and I feel kinda torn about things. Growing older and being in a totally different place in my life, I would’ve probably handled a few things differently now. But, at the same time, I am who I am now because of those situations. I’ve dealt with a lot of bullshit but now have a thicker skin because of it. I’ve learned patience.

I know that me leaving all those companies has almost become the joke of the industry but I feel that anybody else would’ve done the same thing I did in those situations. They would’ve walked out of there with middle fingers high. There were valid reasons for every single time I left a sponsor. 99% of it probably came from me being stubborn but there were reasons.

I realize that my actions are what put me in those situations but at the same time, I can honestly say that I never bent. I always did me and did what I wanted to do.

But you’re so important to the development of street skating! Yet I’ll see a list of “pioneers” or whatever and your absence is unfortunately quite frequent.

I’ll admit that I do feel overlooked sometimes. One possible reason why I don’t pop up on some of these lists could be from where I purposefully checked out of skateboarding for a while. It’s easy to forget when you’re out of sight, out of mind.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I had fun skating and I met a lot of amazing people. But at the end of the day, skateboarding is what I did, not who I was.

How’s Elephant going? Stoked to see you back in the mix.

Elephant is amazing. It’s good to be part of an operation with someone like Mike who kinda understands what I’ve been through in my career. Let’s face it, Mike’s been through quite a number of companies, too. (laughs)

Yeah, I was actually going to ask if you guys had any bets on who was going to leave first?

(laughs) No, but there were jokes about putting a stipulation in my contract entitling Mike to beat my ass if I quit. I’d literally have to fight Mike to leave.

For the record, how many board companies have you ridden for?

All of them, right? Isn’t that what everybody says? (laughs)

Honestly, I don’t even know. If you have a second, we can count it out. As far as just board sponsors: Epic, Toxic…

I didn’t know Toxic…

Yeah, it goes Epic, Toxic, Dogtown, G&S, 101, Color, Prime, Element, Foundation, Hollywood, Blind, Crimson, Given, Elephant. How many is that?


I also somehow rode for Foundation while I was still riding for 101, if you want to count that. Not really sure how that happened. (laughs)

We’ll get to that but I have to ask, is there a company in there you now look back on and regret leaving?

There’s a few that I regret leaving, for sure. To be honest, I regret leaving Element when I did from a strictly monetary point of view. I do feel like I played a part in getting that brand to where it is today, coming up with Featherlight with Paul Schmitt and everything only to get burned in the end. It’s cool to have progressed skateboarding with a better construction but that thing bought people houses. I didn’t really see any of that.

That’s a shame. So going back a bit, your early career is an interesting one because while I know you turned pro for Dogtown, the first time I really remember you getting any shine was later on with that post-Alien G&S crew. How did that all work out like that? And being from the South, were you ever an option for Alien back in the day?  

Yeah, I actually stayed with Duane Pitre for a week down in New Orleans back when I was still in Pensacola, riding for Dogtown. I was a senior in high school so getting to take a week-long trip at that age was pretty epic. All we did was skate. I remember he had a box of those Street Chomp boards with the super steep concave. He gave me one and told me that I should try to ride for G&S.

This was still kinda floating around in my head when I went out to the NSA Am Finals for Dogtown. Dogtown was still pretty good at this point. Justin Girard had just left but Oster was still on and some of the new guys, like Wade, were killing it. But with Justin leaving, the company needed a new pro. I actually didn’t know this at the time but they had told my Dad if I placed in the top 10, they would turn me pro. He didn’t tell me beforehand because he didn’t want me to get nervous. So I go skate, luck out and get second place. Even though nobody knows who the fuck I am, Dogtown now wants to turn me pro! Obviously, that quickly changes my whole outlook towards quitting.

So I start working on my board and hatch a plan to move out to California. My mom, my sister, myself and Ted Newsome all hop in a car and head out to San Francisco. Unfortunately, things don’t really work out. We can’t really find a place in our budget and we’re blowing through money by staying in hotels. Things are starting to get tense. Luckily, my Mom hooks up with some people she’d gone to school with down in San Diego so we head down there to take a little break and regroup. A few days later, we actually find a house in Carlsbad so we decide to stay.

Didn’t you get in the mix with Gator down there for a while?

Yeah, that just came from skating in San Diego. Gator and I were skating together almost everyday after moving down there. But at the time, I was still riding for Dogtown, Venture and K-9 wheels and they were pissed I didn’t move to San Francisco. They actually wanted me to both skate for them and work in their warehouse.

All of a sudden, my next paycheck was only $50. When I call to ask about it, they told me they weren’t going to be giving me “free money” since I wasn’t working in the warehouse…. which still doesn’t make any sense to me since they were selling a board with my name on it.

But I’m stressed because I also had my family to think about on top of all my sponsorship problems. It’s funny because it was actually Gator who gave me all this career advice… I mean, he was still Gator!

That’s hilarious.

But Mikey Taylor was staying with him and Shannon May, who I’d already known, had come out. I immediately started hanging out with those guys and G&S just made sense.

In the interim, while I made the move out west, that’s when all those dudes had left to start Alien Workshop. Duane knew what was going on with me and Dogtown and was talking to all the Alien guys about possibly approaching me for the team. I don’t really know how far it went at Alien but I feel I was definitely a possibility. Unfortunately, by the time it got back to me, I was already on G&S and working on Winona Ryders. Duane told me afterwards that with me being on G&S after all that, they decided to move on.

How seriously did you take filming for Winona Ryders? Just asking because while the part was sick, it also had the crazy escalator thing and the bare ass ender...

Honestly, it was still a little weird. That was my first real taste of the industry and I was still trying to figure things out. All I knew was that we were going to film this video and get tricks. I always took it seriously but it was never calculated. We’d just go skating. And I didn’t know anything back then. I was the new kid… new to the team, new to California. I never had spots I wanted to go to; I was just in the car mobbing out everyday with the crew.

There really wasn’t much of a sense of camaraderie on the team, though. We were all so young. Willy was super fucking little! But I remember all of us really taking things out on Mikey Taylor all the time. It seemed like everybody always had problems with him. It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t like him, he just always seemed to say and do corny shit. We couldn’t stand it.

But I’ll give that dude some credit, he came out with a pretty banging video part there for having a jacked knee. At that time, if you got a bad knee injury, your career was done.

Why the beads in the mouth?

Perfectly reasonable explanation: it came from seeing myself making the worst faces in photos. I still do, actually. Check it out for yourself: slow-mo a video part of mine and check out my face. I’m sure it’s not good. 

But living in Pensacola, 3 hours from New Orleans, there were always Mardi Gras beads around. Every kid has some in their junk drawers. They actually started off as something to chew on during classes to not be bored. I’d always remove 2 beads and push 2 together so the string would be between my teeth. I’d wear this around school not even thinking about it.

So once I started taking skate photos with them in my mouth, I noticed that I’d have a normal face. So it became this thing I did to not have stupid faces in all my photos.

Is there any truth to the story that you wanted to lay claim to the “Rick Flip” as the “Markovich Flip”?

No, never. Rick and I used to skate together all the time back when he rode for Blockhead. He actually had a sequence of it in a mag around the time I met him. Plus, he did one that in that Blockhead video down the Bank of America little three… the ones by that double-sided curb everyone used to skate in Carlsbad.

But it was Rick who first showed me that trick. And because of the way he showed it to me, I learned it real quick.

I have heard that before but it never came out of my mouth. I remember when we filmed Stun, I did it in a line. Maybe more people saw Stun than that Blockhead video? I don’t know… but I learned it after Rick, from Rick. 

How did 101 enter the mix?

It was over the summer, back with they used to have all those Europe contests. All the companies would go over there on separate tours with everybody meeting up at contests they had coordinated on the weekends.

I was there with G&S and was already having a bit of animosity towards Tom, the team manager. But it was cool. I was 18 and out of the country for the first time so I was stoked. So what happened was, on our first night in Barcelona, the team all goes out and I end up getting jumped by these dudes trying to steal my wallet. I get the shit kicked out of me but luckily, my teammates handle these little Spanish men and beat their ass. But it turns out Tom didn’t help. He could’ve, but he didn’t.

So I was bummed on that. Then there was more drama after Tom spent all our per diem partying... I was over it.

Everyone is in Barcelona for the contest by this point and I find Rick, who had just quit Blockhead. We start talking to Danny Way about what’s going on and he tells us to hop on with him and H-Street. He tells us to get to the nearest shop and trade in all our stuff for H-Street boards. We can ride those for the rest of the summer but when we get back, he’s going to talk to Rick and I about this new company he wants to do called NXT.

If you notice in some of Danny’s clips in Questionable, he’s riding one of his VW boards with NXT written on the bottom in marker.

So I quit G&S and Rick and I go through Europe for the rest of the summer with H-Street, getting money by hustling and selling stickers.

Meanwhile, back home, Jordan Richter is staying at my house … and he already knows the whole plan with Ternasky. But he starts telling me that all of a sudden, Mike’s asking him all these questions about me. I hadn’t even met Mike yet.

Long story short, Rick and I were supposed to fly back to California and go to this meeting where Plan B was basically going to start. I end up flying back to Memphis to stay with my Dad for a week instead.

I call home from Tennessee and remember Jordan telling me that he needed the number of where I was at, somebody was going to call me. It was weird.

I get the call and I can’t even remember who it was but all they say is, “Oh, you’re on 101 now.”

Evidently they already had the big meeting for Plan B. Natas wasn’t in on the meeting but he wanted me for 101. Up to that point, it was just Natas and Gabriel and he wanted to start expanding it. So I went with it.

I like you better on 101 anyway. Speaking of: what was the story behind those 902101 and Marky Markovich ads?

I want to say the 902101 ad came from Natas and Leigh Petersen. 90210 was huge at the time and they were just a bunch of fucking pricks. I know Natas wanted to make fun of them so we went with it. Anything goes.

The Kris Kross/Marky Mark ad was along those same lines. Marky Mark was all over the place to the point of it being annoying. “Good Vibrations” was everywhere, just like that “Jump” song that Kris Kross had. It was huge, so yeah, we had to make fun of it. 

Honestly, the only reason I even agreed to do that ad was to get those black Shelltoe Adidas. As long as I got those shoes, I didn’t give a fuck. Plus, the trick I had for it, the backside heel over the little Carlsbad Gap, was good enough to balance the rest of that out.

So talk a little bit about that classic Water Gap ollie you did for your TWS interview. How did that go down? And is there video anywhere of it?

No, there’s no video of it. There’s so much shit I did with Sturt back then that I don’t have footage of. That’s just how he is. I mean, if you want some Sturt stories...

Of course.

Alright, here’s a quick one that will help explain things better. There’s a shot of me somewhere doing a Japan Air down the Valley double-set. I’m not sure what magazine it ended up in but I’m wearing a bright yellow shirt.

He had told me to meet him there that day. When I show up, its summertime and I know school is out but there’s all these maintenance workers around the gap. They’re out trimming trees and there’s branches and shit all over the place. There’s even a crew out there trying to sweep up everything. But on closer inspection, I realize it’s Sturt! He had stolen one of the school’s maintenance worker uniforms and he’s up in this tree, cutting down branches and hanging flashes! Even better, he also has the real maintenance crew out there working for him! It was crazy.

So good.

But yeah, the Water Gap. We were already shooting things for the interview when I noticed it one day while out looking for spots. It was back in this weird little area close to my house. It’s actually a relaxation lake for some local businesses with what are supposed to be sculptures out in the water. The place looked sick but there really wasn’t any way to get out there.

So Sturt and I agree to meet out there… just to look at it. That was it. All I said to him was that there was something cool I might be able to do if we can figure out how I can do it. But, of course, when I show up, he’s got this contraption already built with two ladders and a walkway for me to climb up. He had it all figured out.

So we shot it right then. No need to come back. But that’s also why there isn’t any footage of it. It was just Daniel and I.

You’ve had more than your share of classic graphics over the years but the Rocco ones are always the most notorious. Which one is your personal favorite?

The Lowrider one was fun to do. Just to spoof on Sal’s graphic, even though some people thought I had beef with him. That idea actually came while Sal and I doing a small tour in Illinois. He kept talking about how sick his graphic was and I told him right there that I was going to make fun of it. Just as a joke, though. He was down for it.

Basically the same thing when we had that board making fun of Zorlac, specifically Scott Stanton. That was just a way to fuck with Scott because he was a friend of mine from back in Florida. People thought there was beef there, too.

I know I did.

Yeah, but if I had to choose my favorite, it’s probably the first 101 graphic I ever had with the thumbs-up Martian.

Talk a little about your video parts in 1992: 101 and Union. Was that filmed one after the other or simultaneously?

I filmed the 101 video first, mostly with Ricki Bedenbaugh. He was still learning how to film back then but that one is totally raw. Total punk rock. Union’s Right to Skate came afterwards with Jamie Mosberg.

Actually, the Union Video was a real relaxing time for me. I loved filming with Jamie because he was more professional than anyone I had worked with up to that point. Plus, he was working with Sonny Miller, who did The Search. I’ve always been influenced by surfing so it was a good time all-around. Just hanging out, smoking a ton of weed, watching footage and listening to music. That’s actually how I first heard Tool, which is what I used for that part.

There was no stress at all. And the amount of footage I had from skating everyday with those dudes was retarded. It was maybe five months of filming and I probably had an hour’s worth of footage. It was also the first time I got to watch my part come together as we went so I could really put some thought into how we were building it.

So I know you skated the stairs a bunch but were you the first to ollie the Carlsbad Gap?

Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t really know for sure so I can’t claim it.

But that classic kickflip cover you drew all over, that was a first, right?

Yeah, that was one afternoon. We were all at this am contest in Encinitas and decided to head over there.

I don’t know how many tries it took me to actually make it. Dyrdek did a switch ollie down it that day, which was amazing. I remember trying a frontside half-cab down it and getting blasted. Tried a 360 flip as well but basically did an airwalk while my board went floating off into the sky. But I gave it a wing.

Kickflip worked, though. Rob was pissed. Then I drew all over the photo for the cover, not realizing that it was the only one they had.

Confusion in the marketplace: the Foundation ad with you ollieing the double-set while still on 101? Or were you?

You know, I’m still a little fuzzy on how all that went down.

There were rumblings that I wasn’t happy on 101 but at the time, it was all because I was trying to find myself in the creative sense. I wanted to give more input into the company and felt Natas could’ve been more open. Honestly though, Natas was already established and amazing… plus, it was his company that he had made successful on his own. I just felt it could’ve used more focus.

Somehow, I ended up hanging out down at Foundation, talking to Tod about everything. There must’ve been a miscommunication because Tod seemed to think I was about to quit 101, which wasn’t the case. I was psyched on Foundation and what they were doing but I wasn’t trying to leave at that point.

But within a week, they’ve thrown my name on this “Happy Penis” board and put an ad together. So fast! I remember getting a call from Transworld to come check out my new Foundation ad and being like, “Uhh… I didn’t quit 101.”

In the meantime, Natas and I had worked stuff out and I was psyched again. I still had to explain everything to him and Rocco, though.

I don’t really know what was going on with Tod and Rocco at this point. I know they’d always been friends but I do remember Rocco saying how he was going to teach Tod a “little lesson”. There was a thing between those two guys for a second there but nothing long-term.

Didn’t you fight Danny Way around this time?

Yeah, that was fucking stupid. (laughs)

Out of respect for Danny, I don’t want to talk about that one. It’s all water under the bridge and we were just stupid kids.

Fair enough. So your first venture into solo territory, talk a little about Color. Did you ever try starting that up through Rocco prior to leaving? And weren’t you afraid of Rocco seeking revenge?

I knew Rocco well before he blew up in the World days and I feel we always had a special relationship. He was one of the first people to really get how I was. We had this understanding he called the “the 24-Hour Markovich Period”… which mostly stemmed from me being a piece of shit, getting hammered and calling all my sponsors to quit.

“Oh, he’s just being Markovich. He’ll call back tomorrow and sort it out.”

I probably quit Rocco’s companies 20 times over the years but he knew not to really take it too seriously. I’ll admit I’m not the easiest person to work with but he got that. He’d never fuck with me.

At the time, I was butting heads with Natas creatively again and already doing the Union thing with Metiver. Oblow was my best friend back then and he was in heavy with Union, too. We started kicking around ideas and ended up driving to Santa Cruz to talk with Metiver and get weird. Color came out of that.

I did talk to Rocco about everything and he told me to do what I had to do. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to him or Natas and they were fine with it. That’s why it wasn’t a big thing to come back to World with Prime… but at the time with Color, it felt weird to start another company under World after leaving 101.

We brought up Frankie Hill earlier but how did that massive backside 180 down his namesake gap happen for the Color video?

We’d gone up to meet Adam McNatt and skate the Powell park a little bit. I brought up wanting to check out that school so we head over there. It’s funny because I remember running up to the top of it and kinda tripping on how big it was.

I go to ollie it first and just get served. You have to remember, I was probably riding 45mm wheels at the time. But I try a few more times and either keep falling forward or zooming out, over-correcting and then under-correcting. Landing bolts everytime but not riding away.

I finally land it after 10 tries or so and I’m just like fuck it, I’ll try a backside 180. I give it a go and kick it away. It’s funny but I remember Adam McNatt saying to me, “Hey, if you land with your feet on the board and ride away, you don’t have to do it again.” 

It’s something about the way he said it, I just remember thinking, “That’s the weirdest thing anybody has ever said to me.”

We’d been smoking a lot of weed at the time and I was starting to think that maybe Adam should lay off that shit for a bit. But then again, it did make a little sense. So as I’m rolling up, I’m still thinking about that… and I make it! Third try! Maybe Adam isn’t so burnt out after all!

Insane. But why a Smiths cover versus the original?

Well, it’s no secret that I’m not an emo dude. I realize that people live and die by the Smiths and I do like a handful of their songs but I am, in no way, a fucking Smiths or Morrissey fan. I didn’t have that loyalty to not use a cover. Plus, that Tree People version fit bitter.

So how did your Color become Prime?

Well, Color was never “mine”. It was Metiver’s, Oblow’s and mine equally. All I did was skate and do some of the art.

Honestly, it was never my choice to leave. There just seemed to be a few really fucked up things with Metiver. I understand having to cut corners financially but it was starting to be done on graphics and all types of shit that he wasn’t telling us about.  I also don’t think Metiver treated Oblow the way he should’ve. I had no problem with Metiver but Oblow was over it. He was my best friend so I backed him.

We tried taking Color back over to World but Metiver owned the name. That’s where Prime came in.

I have to imagine that Fight Fire with Fire part has to be among one of your favorites, right? That 360 kickflip ender is still incredible.

Yeah, that bump was super fun. I was with Al Boglio that day, just messing around on it.

But I don’t know, man. Art Bars was one I put a lot into but you’re probably right in that the Prime video was probably the most technical for me. I like different parts for different reasons but that Prime video was a lot of fun.

How do you respond to Clyde Singleton’s comment about Prime being “the whitest team in skateboarding history"?

(laughs) I think he’s spot-on. I fucking love Clyde.

Prime did have a good run, though… but you seemed to leave quite suddenly.

I left Prime right after my Dad passed away. The company ended up staying around for a few years at World after I left. They did another video and everything. It wasn’t until it got turned into another cartoon brand that everyone else left.  But it didn’t end when I quit.

When my Dad died though, I just bugged out. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. It was a really hard time for me. I ended up quitting everything for a while there, all of my sponsors and even skateboarding as a whole for a few months. What brought me back was realizing how bummed my Dad would be for me to have gotten this far just to quit.

Once I started feeling a little better and skating again, I started talking to Dave Duren about possibly getting on Element. That Transworld part I had, that was kinda like my sponsor-me footage to get on the team. I was riding Element boards in it but I wasn’t even on the team for most of it. I could’ve probably gotten on by name at that point but I wanted to show everyone that I was still skating. I wanted to prove myself. 

Third Eye View felt like a bit of a resurgence, too.

I was just on a good one at that time. It wasn’t a “fuck you” to anybody, I was just into my skating again. After coming out of that darkness with my Dad, I felt like going off.

I hate to bring this up but it’s like when Jake Duncombe was filming his Blind part years later, his Mom had just passed and I know he used that as a motivator. Caine did the same thing in the Color video after his Mom had passed, too. Still one of the gnarliest things ever done on a skateboard is that four-kink rail he boardslides in the video. Its retarded. He did it at night with no lights and I remember sitting there watching him talk to his Mom as he was trying it.

“I don’t care, Mom. I’m going to do this and if I don’t make it, I’m coming to see you!”

Then he just handles it. So gnarly. But looking back on it, I was probably tapping into that same type of thing for Element, too.

I always felt like my Element parts seemed a bit Frankensteined, though. We never really did a regular video project, they always seemed thrown together from different things.

Hollywood had a much different look than Color and Prime… was that just an attempt at something different or was that just where you were at the time?

It had more to do with my level of input to the brand. With Color and Prime, I was really only choosing the graphics I liked. That was as far as my hand went into the state of those companies. Hollywood was the first company I took an active role in the direction of.

One thing I’d like to clarify is that Hollywood wasn’t my company. It basically came from being on Foundation and sticking out as an oddball because I didn’t look like I was in the Ramones. I wanted to do something within Tum Yeto and Tod and I were able to work something out where I was paid as both a rider and creative director for Hollywood while he kept 100% of the ownership.

So when I quit, it wasn’t a matter of me quitting my own company. I’m not really clear on how all this happened but I know towards the end, Tum Yeto salespeople were being told not to push Hollywood.

In my opinion, I think it had more to do with Hollywood possibly starting to overshadow Foundation, like how Toy Machine and Zero had done earlier. Foundation was always Swank’s baby and had just gotten its wings again with Art Bars after having to limp alongside those other companies for so long.  With Hollywood starting to blow up, I think Swank got scared Foundation would suffer again.

So it came down to picking up my paycheck one day and it being half of what it was supposed to be. No explanation why. I finally get a meeting to find out that they’ve cut my creative director title, they’re cutting the riders’ pay and they want to kick Nuge and Belmont off the team. I wasn’t about to let that happen but they had cut my budget to the point where I really had no choice. I told them to cut my pay instead. Take my money and spread it out to the team, I’m not kicking off my friends. I quit.

I know you gave up a lot to do Crimson and Given. With your artwork guiding both in similar directions, was the real difference between the two just backing? And how did Blind factor into all of this?

The whole reason I did Blind was because we were supposed to be splitting from the Grim Reaper kiddie stuff and getting the company back to a more art-focus, like when Mark was doing it.

In the end, being on Blind was awesome and we were able to do the video and everything but that artistic return never happened. I mean, I was cool to use the Reaper a couple times for certain graphics or whatever… but I’m a grown-ass man, I don’t want that thing on all my boards! (laughs)

After I left Blind, I actually didn’t have a board sponsor for a few months. But I was still riding for Hurley, which was paying the bills, so I could afford to float for a while.

Unfortunately, I end up blowing out my ACL on a Hurley trip down in Orlando. So I’m totally laid up for the next 8 months.

At the time, I was in the process of starting a wheel company with Charlie Thomas. That was already in the works from before. But I also knew that no board sponsor was going to put me on their team injured… why not start a board company, too?

Makes sense.

I reached out to a few people, found a partner who will remain nameless and we started Crimson. The one thing we were lacking was an artist. We hadn’t really budgeted that in because it seemed more important to put that money elsewhere. So basically, everyone just looked at me. They’d been down in my studio and seen all the artwork I’d been doing while I was laid up. I still wasn’t able to skate at that point so the next three months became more of me in the studio with a bottle of wine, this time working on Crimson graphics.

Once we finally launch everything, Crimson just takes off, man. We had a really great first year. I was recovering from knee surgery and making money. Arthouse Distribution is set up. Things were good.

The downfall came after my wife and I moved back to Atlanta for a while to recharge. I thought we had a business plan in action but as it turns out, this fuckwit partner starts embezzling money after we move. I never see a dime of royalties while he’s out buying big-screen TV’s and a new truck. Red flags start popping up and it immediately becomes apparent that I want nothing to do with this dude. We get a lawyer. 

The battle for Crimson actually started over the phone while we were back in Atlanta and lasted for 6 months. All I wanted was to leave with the Crimson name and the team. He can fucking have Arthouse Distribution, which at the time had Heroin, Teenage Runaway and Destructo and was actually doing very well. But this dude was so fucking greedy, he couldn’t let Crimson go. He was willing to let me out of my contract but demanded me sign a different contract where Crimson would be exclusive through Arthouse for 3 more years… which, why the fuck would I do that?

He’s the whole reason you’re leaving!

Exactly. So basically, everything’s fucked. We’re dealing with family stuff on top of this asshole and we’re completely stressed out. It gets to the point where we couldn’t handle it anymore… so we decide to wash our hands of it all and walk away.

Just like that?

But this is where it gets good. I made sure to talk to the team first. I explained to them everything that had gone done and they had my back. Fuck that guy. We are the reason why Crimson was successful, not him. So we start orchestrating a plan: if they receive a specific text from me, that was the signal. It was about to go down.

I call this partner and tell him that I was now willing to settle for only the money we initially invested in. That was it. He could keep the rest: Crimson, the distribution, everything. I’m washing my hands of it. I even give him this whole spiel about how I was giving up on skating professionally and that I had an art job lined up. Write up the contracts. Good fucking riddance.

Like a pig in shit, he quickly became the happiest dude on the planet. For $30 grand, the embezzlement goes away and he gets it all. He sees his golden opportunity and has those contracts written up in a heartbeat.

He flies me out to California to sign the papers. I really just want to beat his ass but decide to play the whole thing through. It’s a 5-minute exchange. The warehouse is just crickets when I get there… nobody is saying a thing.

“Are these the contracts?”


“Where do I sign?”

“Here, here and here.”

I sign the contracts.

“Where’s my money?”

He points to the table and there’s two certified checks for $15 grand each. I grab them and walk out.

“Charlie, can you drive me to the bank?”

The drive to the bank was maybe 10 minutes and the whole time, I’m texting the entire team. I text everybody.

Just as we arrive and I’m getting out of the car, I hear Charlie’s phone blowing up. I shut the door. Charlie is the team manager of Crimson. I walk into the bank and deposit both checks into my account: $30 grand. As I’m walking back to the car, I take off my sweatshirt to reveal one of the first Given shirts underneath it. Charlie is looking at me from the car with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face.

“Everybody on Crimson just quit.”

He was just sitting there… shaking his head and laughing.

He told me later that when he walked back into the warehouse after dropping me off, everybody had the same half-laughing, shell-shocked look on their faces. They couldn’t believe it. My former partner had experienced the happiest 20 minutes of his life… and now he’s fucked.


Yeah, he tried to keep it going for a while but there wasn’t much he could do.

That’s straight out of a Scorsese film!

(laughs) Yeah, so basically the reason Given looked so much like Crimson is because we tried to do it the same way. I wasn’t about ready to let this dude take my ideas and direction. Fuck him. It’s still my artwork.

But it got to be too difficult. Given was doing well but we were spread too thin. We still had a bad taste leftover from Crimson and with everything else we had going on personally, I just shut off. She kinda felt the same way. If my heart wasn’t into it, why should her’s be?

We tried to get some help with distribution and ended up going through Switchboard… which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I never had a problem with them personally, it just felt sub-par. I wasn’t proud of what I was doing and was worried that Given had turned into some type of budget company. I had to step away.

 What’s the concept behind the face you paint? What does it mean to you?

It’s all my thoughts and feelings. The easiest way I can sum it up is that I can draw a face 20 times and never get the exact same thing. How they look all depends on my mood. It has to do with the rhythm of it. That’s the easiest way I can put it.

And yeah, I get comments about doing the faces too much. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get defensive about it. I’m not doing this for them, though.

Things like the Water Gap seemed almost unfathomable back in ‘92, now there’s switch tres going down it. What are your thoughts on today’s death-defying stair counts and hammertime?

I have an opinion on that but I’m afraid of putting it out there due to the negativity. Not meaning that I’m gonna talk shit, it has more to do with a fear that something bad is going to happen. I don’t want to say that and put it out there but skating is just so gnarly now.

In saying that, I think it’s totally amazing and I don’t want it to stop. Jaws and those dudes… I get psyched whenever I see it. You have to trip on the size and the consistency because at that level, your margin for error is basically zero.

I actually feel that I respect it more than most people because I know that fear. Maybe not on the level of where they are but I know how it is to step up. I had that same feeling, just on different scale. It’s just that scale is really dangerous now.

Did you ever think it would get to this point?

Oh yeah. I knew it would only get bigger and bigger. Just like when you think it has reached a point where it can’t get anymore tech, it always does. Skateboarding will always continue to evolve.

Do you feel like you had some hand in that?

I think that I maybe opened up people’s perceptions on what is actually doable but I don’t really know. Maybe I was a catalyst there… I’d like to think so.

big thanks to kris for taking the time.

buy kris' art here