ITS HARD TO IMAGINE A MORE CONTROVERSAL GUY THAN A CERTAIN MR S. ROCCO. TRYING TO SET UP A MAJOR SKATE CORPORATION ON THE DOORSTEPS OF THE ESTABLISHED GIANTS WOULD BE HARD FOR ANYONE, LET ALONE FOR A FAMOUS BIG-MOUTH AND CLEVER-DICK LIKE OUR MR ROCCO. MIND YOU HOT SH*T MIGHT EMANATE FROM THIS VAST ORIFICE, AND 'CLEVER-DICK' IS JUST WHAT FOLK CALL SOMEONE WHO IS SMARTER THAN THEM, AND AN INNOVATIVE SKATER TOO.
INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN KLINE ON 15TH AUGUST 1989
Well I’m not too sick’ and I’m feeling great [sarcastic]. Well, where do we start?
At the beginning.
Well, I was born, started skating, stopped skating and started the business (SMA). That’s pretty much it. Are we done? When I was about 11 my Dad got my brother Pat a skateboard for his 10th birthday and he got me one too. When you live at the beach it’s just something you do. You surf, you skate, you skim-board, you just do all that kind of thing. Well kids, I really skate, hard to believe but true. I don’t skate as much as I used to and I’m not as good as I used to be, but I still skate. Street skating, for me, evolved from freestyle. You go hang out with the ramp skaters and they would be doing hand plants and grinds in a pool and where I live down here in Redondo Beach there were no pools or ramps to ride, so when we got bored after freestyling we would do grinds on curbs and tried to do flatland inverts.
It all started as a joke, people used to laugh at us for doing it. Before long street style became an actual thing. People use to always make fun of me for street skating. After that it became an actual event like freestyle and ramp riding. At first it was pretty cool. They had a picnic table, some parking blocks and crap like that for the obstacles at first, then they kept building bigger and bigger objects until they became giant vertical things and before you know it, these contests had nothing to do with anything that you would normally do on the street. That’s why you have guys like Jason Lee and Mike Vallely who are two million times better than the vertical guys on the street but there’s no way that they can compete with Tony on a 10 foot vertical ramp. I have a guy on my own team who is only ten, his name’s Chris Branna and you could take any of the top four guys from the Savannah contest, with the exception of Danny Way, and put them in a parking lot and he’d make them all feel bad. And he’s our worst team rider.
None of the law suits that have been brought against me have actually been to court, there’s just so much crap that goes on. It all started with Lucero and when he quit and went to Santa Cruz, but we already had his stuff in production and that pissed off Santa Cruz, so he got bummed and this and that and now it all finally blows over. Then there was the deal with Skip (Englom of Santa Monica Airlines) that he let me use his name (SMA) then he said I couldn’t after I’d already spent all this money. We had a legal battle there and spent a measly $20 thousand in Lawyer fees and that didn’t even get to court. Who knows? Tomorrow Greenpeace will probably be suing me for Kill the Sealife ad. Disney didn’t know I was making boards but they saw Winnie the Pooh in an ad and sent me a letter saying not to use him in ads anymore. So I wrote back saying I would. They never said anything about boards. So I changed the graphics because I figured I was pressing my luck. It takes a lot for me to realise that.
What about you being the team captain at Vision?
It was a nightmare. They had all these guys on the team that all wanted to do stuff and you want to do it for them so they were happy but Brad wouldn’t let me do anything. He always wanted to have his hand on things. But he’d wait so long to do things that people would get bummed and would end up quitting or whatever. That’s why things are falling apart for him. Brad used to have Christian Hosoi, Lester, Jeff Phillips and they all left. Now that I’ve done it myself I can understand his point of view on how things get hectic but you have to realise that the guys come first. I have problems with my team, Mike Vallely walked into my office and told me he quit and I had no idea what he was talking about. Rodney had to call him up and straighten things out. It’s all over for Mike, he’s trying too hard.
What did you do for Venture?
Venture was fun. I did the ads for Venture. Not the great ads they have now, I did the lame ads when they started. I did the Venture future heir ad. I heard a story about Brad and Stacy looking at the ad for the first time at an NSA board meeting. Brad saw it and said "What the f**k is this?" and Stacy was saying it was hilarious. Go dig up back issues of Thrasher and see the old Venture ads.
Why do you like flying so much?
God, I used to fly all the time but after a while you just feel like your number is gonna comp up. So I don’t like to go anywhere now. I flew to Hawaii, that was the first time I’ve flown in over a year. I know it’s totally irrational and maybe I’ll get over it soon. It’s just flames and blowing up and shit. If there were plane crashes where half the people survived I’d be thinking that I’d be on the surviving half. But when 400 people die out of 400 even an optimistic guy like myself, can’t get out of that. How did you know I didn’t like to fly?
I know everything. I’m omnipotent.
Why don’t you just do the whole interview?
It wouldn’t be as much fun that way. What do you do for fun?
I have a keyboard and I make up stuff and sure people laugh but its fun. I play chess, pool, ping-pong. And I did skim-board, that’s really fun. I’ve been doing that since I was eight.
Why did you get a pig?
I got a pig because RL (Osborne, Steve’s room-mate) has two dogs and he got a Sharpee puppy and I didn’t want another dog so he said "Well then, let’s get a cat." I hate cats, they’re so damn lazy. I told him if he got a cat I’d stuff it. So, I saw this article on how pigs make great pets, which is a bunch of bullshit. My pig has the biggest attitude problem I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’re not feeding him, he’ll have nothing to do with you. We just walked in the laundry room and he was in the dryer eating lint. All he cares about is eating. l got him at a pig farm, I paid $1,500 for it but I don’t care. I’ll use him in the video so I can write it off tax wise. Someone had to buy him. Now I can have pork chops.
Have you ever sold out?
We’ve sold out of boards. What I think this means is have I sold out like selling your soul? I sell out everyday.
How did you start your business?
It all started with Hell Tour. It didn’t go so well so I got kicked off Vision. The shop owners weren’t happy with how we did the tour. We would take the demo somewhere else because there was no reason to skate a bad place. I had a meeting with Natas. Him, Gonz, Mike Vallely and I decided that we were all going to skate for the same company. This was when Mike was on Powell still. We had a meeting with Santa Cruz, I told them that I could get all these guys and he laughed at me. He didn’t think much of Mike Vallely. Skip Englom said don’t get bummed just start your own thing. So he took me to the workshop, showed me how to get boards made, and he took me to the screeners and showed me how that worked. So I cashed out all my credit cards and got stuff going and Lucero came to me and said that he wanted to get stuff going too. So, we got a warehouse and things were tough the first couple of months. The boards these guys were making were horrible. The guys at the wood shop wouldn’t listen to me. After a while, when they saw the boards were better, they started listening to me. Now they listen to everything I say. I could tell them to make everything upside down and they’d do it. When you spend Â£100,000 per month people listen to you.
The boards got better then we got Jesse to ride for us. Then we got Hartsel. Next we got Rodney Mullen and Mike Vallely. Oh and Jason was the first guy I got. I saw him in front of the Long Beach Trade Show and 0 was saying "Yea, he’s good" so I asked him if he wanted to be on the team. He said "o, you can’t put me on until you see everything I can do." So he made me go skating with him in Hermosa Beach. He just was skating so well. That’s about where we are today... Bankrupt. We only shipped $12,000 out today. Vision probably shipped about $300,000, but I guess if we’re selling to K-mart and Mervyns...
How will skating die?
Well, like all things the only way things die, besides accidents, is when things get old. Now things are getting old because you’ve got the same guys doing the same things in magazines all the time. It happened in BMX, you’ve got some old fat bald guy out there riding a bike and he’s been doing it so long that nobody can beat him. Kids don’t want to see old bald guys, they want to see kids like them. That’s why it’s so important for young guys like Ray and Jason to win a contest once in a while. Danny Way is a great example. Danny should have won Hawaii, but he tried too many hard tricks. He went for it, which is what skateboarding’s about but to some, skating’s about status quo, business as usual.
Do you feel what you’re doing matters?
Yea, I do. That’s important. I try to make skateboarding fun and exciting. And I’m trying to teach the guys on my team a little about business so they can have a future.
What have you learned from life?
If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. That knowledge is the most important thing you can have, learning to do things by myself. If someone came and took all my money away from me it wouldn’t matter because I’d still have the ability to do everything again. You can’t take that knowledge away.
What will happen when you die?
Oh God, Rodney and I thought of the hottest thing yesterday. When we die we want to leave all of our money to a terrorist group so they can build atomic bombs. Then have a big tombstone and have it like a big mushroom cloud and have it say "See you in a couple of days."
How do you steal team riders?
Well it’s pretty damn easy. The object is to find someone that’s been on the same team for a long time and then all you do is offer them a large amount of cash. At first they usually don’t want to do it but then you just twist their arm and threaten to kill their parents. Whatever it takes. The object is to steal, steal and then steal some more. Everybody we’ve got were stolen. The other teams, they don’t do that. Like Powell. Stacy didn’t steal Tony from Dogtown or Lance from Variflex or Steve from Santa Cruz. Those guys rode for Powell from birth. Stacy found them wandering the streets, there’s no stealing involved for those guys. But when we do something it’s stealing. Now, we stole the Gonz. Mark wants to do something now. He couldn’t go any further with Vision so he wanted to have his own deal and be able to do his own thing. His company is called Blind. He and Jason are going to be on it, I’m just the money behind it. Money for everything.
Why does everybody hate you?
I guess because I’m an asshole.
What have you done for skateboarding?
Hopefully, if all goes as planned, I will be the second person, to have killed skateboarding. See, at World Industries we work day and night to bring skateboarding to a grinding halt and we couldn’t do it without your help. Keep sending in those bucks and it will all be over painlessly.
Does Religion play a part in your life?
It is a major source of irritation for me. I don’t mind anybody who is religious but I really hate it when they try to cram it down your throat. They’re always worried about saving your soul. When a religious person gets close to me I try to drag them down the hill. That’s my objective. They’re trying to pull me up and I’m trying to pull them down. It’s like do unto others as they do unto you.
What do you think of the NSA (National Skate Association)?
I think that the NSA is doing a really great job showing kids what skateboarding is about. Giant vertical walls, tricks that you can never even hope to do. Without the NSA skateboarding would certainly have been dead a long time ago. We’re taking it out of the streets and we’re pulling it into stadiums where it belongs. Thanks. Just remember skateboarding is supposed to be fun.