Monday, July 14. 2014
The Skateboard industry is forever changing. A few months ago Alien Workshop and Habitat Skateboards went out of business. JENKEM mag has recently done an interview with Habitat business man and filmer Brennan Conroy discussing the future of Habitat Skateboards which at least for the moment is here to stay. Read the interview here.
Monday, July 7. 2014
Tuesday, June 10. 2014
Friday, May 23. 2014
If you have never heard of Spencer Hamiliton (Spenny) then you should probably get out from under that rock you've been living under. He was born in Ottawa, but now calls Vancouver home. I'm lucky to call him a friend and you're lucky to be reading the attached interview with this sick dude. He's a big deal and has recently been blessed with his third colourway from Supra Foootwear. Recently Spenny and I took some time to recap on how he got on Supra and some of his best moments travelling with the team.
Spenny when was the first time you heard about Supra shoes? How old were you at the time? And what did you think about the company?
I was pretty fresh to Vancouver; I was 17, I think, and working at Underworld Skateboard Shop. I thought supra was so badass.
I remember some of Supra’s original team came to Vancouver to kick it at the plaza and skate the city for a week back in 2006, at the time you weren’t on Supra yet. When did you start getting some shoes and how did you end up on the team?
They were looking to start flowing someone in Canada; I had an interview out in Concrete at the time. I was working at the shop while they had their signing and was going out filming all the time with the people showing them around. I was at the right place at the right time. I got to know Antwaun and the team manager Dennis martin and things just started to snowball.
Supra is doing tours a couple times a year. How many different countries have you been to with the Supra team?
Fuck it's been a wild ride. I have been to over 12 countries in the last 4 years. All in 2-3 week tours. It’s been a fucking blast.
Supra is definitely setting the bar for holding international tours featuring legendary riders. What is the craziest Supra trip you have been on, and why was it significant?
All the trips to Asia and the one we did more recently to Mexico City and Costa Rica were absolutely insane. Those places rarely have pros let alone legends travel through and do demos and signings. When it does happen people travel from all over to come see the madness. It's amazing. Manila in the Philippines is always really crazy. We'll hit like 4 or 5 shops in 1 day and then a demo at night with hundreds and hundreds of kids. We had a signing in Mexico City that lasted like 4 hours. Easily a thousand kids, but such good energy from the people and all of the team, it's like a huge party or something. Kids are giving you tons of weed and obviously there are drinks on deck. Then you go skate some spot in the gutter and get filthy and come back to reality.
Travelling with such big names has to draw insane crowds. Who on the team get’s mobbed the hardest by kids when you show up at demos?
Antwaun was by far the all time wildest for a riot at a demo. Free Twuan.
But lately lizard is the ultimate crowd pleaser. He's the most energetic person I've ever met. He's a ball of radioactive chaos constantly turnt up even when sober. So fun to be around. Neen, Stevie and Muska are up there too. Then of course Greco, penny and Erik are always huge hits too. The whole team kills.
How was it at first going on skate trips with people that you grew up looking up to?
The first trips with any new team is always a little intimidating.
It takes time to truly feel comfortable. Seems like so long ago now but I always just tried to skate my ass off and have fun. With supra that's never been an issue.
Who do you usually room with on trips and who brings the most positive vibe?
Lately it's been Neen Williams. We're pretty similar in our day-to-day lives so it just came natural. Boo is another good roommate though. It's nice to room with people who take care of themselves (clean, don't oversleep, eat good food). Brotherhood.
What previous Supra Models have you had colorways for? And why are you most stoked on the Cuba model that has just released?
I've had one for the team model 'amigo' and one for the 'Ellington' as a pro-am collaboration. Both were an honor to have, but the Cuba really hits home for me. It's my favourite shoe. It's awesome in function and fashion for skating and chilling.
Do you have any up-coming trips or video parts that you are currently working on?
Heading to the Midwest at the end of May for a 2 week Supra tour. Couple places I haven't been so I'm looking forward to that. I think the tour is Chicago, Ohio, Detroit and somewhere else. Then going around England with the supra guys right after for a few weeks. Going to be a busy next couple months. So stoked for summer.
Anything you want to say for a final thought or anyone you would like to thank?
Tuesday, May 13. 2014
Monday, April 21. 2014
This weekend I took a moment to catch up and talk with Studio Skateboards owner Jai Ball. Talking with Jai about what's new with Studio, when can we expect to see their new video, and the difficulties of running your own brand.
How’s it going Jai?
I'm good Twa!
Good to hear, I want to start by saying I feel like Studio has a lot of momentum behind it right now. I see kids skating your boards everywhere I go, and with your new video on the way things are only looking to get better. But I think for the sake of anyone reading this interview we should still start at the beginning. So, when and where was the idea of Studio created and how long has it been a company for?
Darrell Smith came up with the name Studio somewhere around 2004-2005, it was a small clothing line at the time run out of London, Ontario for a season or two. It was officially registered and re-launched as a skateboard company in the fall of 2008 in Montreal. So it's going on seven years now.
Who was on the original team and who is on the team now?
The original team was the original three owners; Darrell Smith, Ryan Blaxall and myself. Jean Mat Vincent and Andrew McGraw were added shortly after.
Right now the team is; Wade Fyfe, Mike Fyfe, Bryan Wherry, Joey Larock, Chris Melvin, Kyle Macdonald and myself.
When you first started contacting shop buyers in Canada was the attitude generally positive or skeptic?
At the start it was a bit of both. We knew a lot of shop buyers at core shops from our years of skating across Canada and many of them welcomed us with open arms. Some shops were indifferent, they see a lot of new brands come and go. They want to see a brand that can sustain itself and is a proven success before they put in an order. My biggest realization was that skating is very localized, what's working in certain areas does not always translate to others.
You have been operating Studio for seven years how has the mentality changed towards the brand? Are shops more aware and open to carrying Studio or is every account still just as difficult to acquire?
It has definitely gotten easier and the first video helped a lot. People need to know what you're about, and board graphics alone aren't going do it. I think once people understood the culture behind Studio the product started moving faster. Stores started to hear more buzz and actually wanted to carry it instead of me having to over pitch it.
In the last year you have added Bryan Wherry and released a Pro board in his name. How did Wherry joining the team come about, and how does he fit into the company?
Well as you might know, Wherry was supposed to be on the original team. As we were getting ready to launch the company, he was getting flowed Cliché through Supra Distribution and was still a little on the fence, finally Cliché decided to fly him out to Lyon to meet the team and skate for a few weeks. Obviously that was an amazing opportunity for Wherry. We were super happy for him and wanted him to see that through. That being said we always kept in touch. He ended up getting me on HUF Canada back in 2011, and we would always talk about him getting on Studio. Finally when I moved out to Vancouver he was already skating with Wade Fyfe all the time and the timing was just right. He's a big part of the brand, his years of ripping and being a positive force in Canadian skating is a great addition to the team. His multiple video parts, magazine coverage, reputation and personality made giving him a board a no-brainer.
In the last 6 months I have noticed that Studio boards are everywhere in Vancouver. Your last few lines of boards have featured work from local Vancouver artists. Who are these artists? And why do you think these new lines of graphics are resonating so well with skaters?
Yeah the scene here has been amazing, thanks for the support! The last two seasons I've worked with LJ Brownlee (Wherry's roommate). As I was getting settled in Vancouver last winter LJ was just finishing design school and was eager to help out. He came up with some great original concepts and logos and helped bring some of my ideas to life as well. We have very similar taste so every time he showed me something I was like, "Yes"! We also worked with Martin Davis from New York. Wade Fyfe connected us with him for a board graphic last fall that worked out great. This year we've got Vancouver artists Jonathan Stewart and Derrick Fast in the mix. My mantra is simply to make good art. The styles and artists can vary but it has to evoke something, even if it's a very simple graphic, which last year's boards were. We put a ton of work and thought into them. The graphics aren't geared towards twelve year olds either, I like to give skaters a little more credit when it comes to taste and art. If skating wants to claim "art" status, there can only be so many beer logo rip-offs.
Supreme in New York City is showing Studio support with a full run of each board line on their wall. As a Canadian brand how did you get your boards in Supreme?
I met Pryce Holmes through Wade Fyfe in Vancouver a while back. I have always been a fan of his part in the "Baby Steps" video. Anyways, we started talking and he was down to carry the brand. We did a Studio trip to NYC last summer and hung out a bit, we also did a board last fall with artist/Supreme employee Martin Davis. It's been great for us our only U.S account is Supreme. I'm stoked and thankful to be working with them.
Being a Canadian company in this industry is difficult. What barriers have you faced when trying to push Studio boards into the American market?
I think the barriers are more mental than anything. How do you create something that stands out and will appeal to skaters everywhere? I try to focus on the overall aesthetic being on point. Making solid edits and videos so that when the products enter a foreign market it's not just another piece of wood with paint on it hanging there. Obviously skating was invented in California and you want to be accepted in the States, hopefully we create something of value that gives back to skating in some way and people will take notice.
What stigmas do you feel fall around Canadian companies? How has Studio succeeded in overcoming these stigmas or stereotypes?
Tall tees, beer drinking, hockey playing, FSU. These were the no-goes when we started Studio. I watched Canadian companies, and U.S brands represent Canadian riders that way for so long. I mean I love both hockey and beer, but that doesn't mean it should be your brands entire art direction. I guess we did the opposite and it worked. I never related as a skater to the Canadian clichés, growing up in MTL we loved the NYC, Pulaski, Love Park, Pier 7 and scenes like that. We were lucky to have Berri Square, Peace Parc and tons of downtown street skating. Studio is just an extension of that feeling.
In the last year you moved from Montreal to Vancouver. How did this effect Studio? And what was the reasoning behind this move?
It was a tough decision that took a while to make. Montreal is such a large part of my identity, and in turn Studio's identity. I'm born and raised in MTL, and I spent the greater part of my skate life promoting the scene there. I think it's a beautiful city with a lot to offer. But when we finished “Mood Lighting” I felt the first chapter of the company was done. I always wanted Studio to be a national/international skateboard company. I lived in Vancouver from 2006 to 2009 and met my wife Laura during that time. We moved back to Montreal for five years and felt it was time to head out west again. With half the team still living on the east coast I felt Studio was well represented and I could move on and focus on growing the company. So far everything about it has been positive. The weather is great and the scene is strong and very supportive of Studio.
Tell me about Studio’s new video project. There was a lot of positive feedback from “Mood Lighting”. What’s the new Video called and when is it set to come out?
No name yet, I'm hoping for a spring '15 release. Everyone got a foundation of footage going last year, so now it's on.
With every company trying to transition to HD footage why is Studio making their new video with only VX1000 footage?
Damn, I don't even know. I mean I remember talking to few people after “Mood Lighting” came out, asking them what they thought; continue VX or HD? I remember Joey Larock saying, "Maybe VX1000 is just our thing". Enough filmers were still rocking VX's and it's always been my favorite. It goes well with super 8 as well. It's funny because before Pretty Sweet came out everyone was saying VX would be dead after that. I think it had the opposite effect and now people want that O.G. flavor. At this point, if they're still working and there are still tapes to buy, we'll be using them.
Any final thoughts about anything I didn’t mention?
Just that when you support Studio you're supporting a completely independent and skater run company that uses locally made boards. I work with skaters and artists who truly care about the life of skating. Bryan, Wade and myself have been involved in the Canadian scene for a long time. When we're out there filming ourselves, or coming up with board graphics it's all for the pure love of skateboarding, to add to the legacy. There are a lot of takers out there, throwing porn stars on boards, never making videos, doing ads with "flow riders", you have to give as well, and at least attempt to create something that makes people proud to be a part of this culture. I've dedicated my life to this for the feeling I get at 7pm on a Sunday, skating an alley downtown somewhere with friends, laughing and joking while the sun goes down, trying a trick or cheering someone else on, knowing that I'm doing exactly what my heart desires at that moment. That love goes into everything that Studio does.
Friday, March 21. 2014
I have only known Cephas Benson for a little under a year. I met him last summer while he was visiting Vancouver and was crashing at 1611 East. Cephas is that type of good homie you just enjoy being around. He's the type of guy that can just always make you laugh. He is quick witted and will always let you know if you're saying some stupid shit, in a joking manner of course. Never at a loss of words with the ladies and always coming through on his skate I present "Don De La Cephas Benson".
Yo Cephas what is good my man? Why don’t you tell everyone where you’re at right now?
Tweezy, what's cracking playa? Things are good, I'm chilling in Toronto and spring is around the corner, hyped to get back in the streets but it’s minus 18 today.
Damn that is super cold. What part of Toronto do you live in?
I’m living in the east end of the city a few minutes away from the Ash Bridges Bay skate park. Super easy to cruise to the park and get trapped there all day. I think I should make a concerted effort to skate more street this summer. Less bunting, what you think?
Yeah less bunting is always beneficial. Ty James says you need to help your mom with some yard work this summer (laughs). Anyways you where just in Miami how long where you down there for and who were you with?
Tell Ty he’s a bunter. Yeah, I just got back from Miami a couple days ago. I went down for 15 days with my homies Donovan Jones, Koty Brown, Keith Simmons and Devin Guiney.
Is that your first time down there? It seems like a hot spot for everyone out east.
It was my third time down there. It's a cheap and quick flight to that 25 degree weather, can't go wrong. I’d say Barcelona is still the hot spot for skaters though, felt like half the Canadian skate scene was out there this winter.
I heard you had a little trouble getting out of there what happened and how hectic was the situation?
Yeah, on the way down Keith was on our asses to get to the airport early and we chirped him for being so stressed on time. Karma bit us because he flew home 5 days before us without a hitch. With no Keitho for our return journey to crack the whip, we missed our check in time by 6 minutes. We were skating through the airport like mad men trying to make it on time but we still ended up blowing it. We ended up having to chill on standby for 5 hours. Keith got the last laugh.
Who was down there filming and what are you guys doing with the footy? Are you working on anything in particular right now?
Devin was out there with us filming. Koty, Dono and myself are working on a video for Adrift skate shop called Stuck Up Kids. Me and Koty have been sitting on a bit of footage so we figured if we filmed a bit more new stuff and got everyone else on the team to contribute some footy we could put something decent together.
That sounds fucking dope. Who else is having parts in the video, and when is it expected to come out?
At this point I'm not sure who is having parts but Koty, Dono and myself will and we'll see what happens with everyone else. Can't speculate too much at this point. My dude Sebastian aka Bass of the once great bassmotion.com is going to edit the video. He edited the original Adrift video Stick Up Kids in 2005 but hasn't edited a skate video in years. It’s going to be cool to see what he comes up with.
What else is good you have made some moves in the industry in the last year from Red Star to Expedition. What happened at Red star? Has this been a positive change?
Yeah, couple changes happened this past year. Had a great run with Red Star, those guy are the homies and I thank them for everything they did for me. Just felt like it was time for a change and then an opportunity with Timebomb and Expedition came along. Spence and Wade had some input on putting together the Kayo Canada teams, they put my name out there and it worked out don de la stoked. Other than Expedition, my dude Geoff Smith who works at Faction Sales out here hooked me up with Stance socks and I got on Mypakage a bit after that. Fresh socks and underwear? Positive change for sure.
It seems like Nike Canada has been stacking up more of a team lately? How long has Nike been hooking you up for?
Yeah, Nike recently put Chad Dickson on. Super stoked on that. TJ Rogers is also repping the swoosh these days. The ship is definitely going in the right direction. I've been on for 8 or 9 years now, kinda crazy I didn't realize it had been that long. Thanks for making me feel old.
You have been living in the east most of your life. What’s the best part about living in Toronto?
Yeah, I grew up in Montreal but didn't start skating until I moved to Toronto. Best thing about living in Toronto for me is just my comfort level out here. Got my family, friends, skate spots, just all the essentials. I love to get out of here and do some travelling to skate but this is my home base for sure.
Do you and Wade meet up and play hockey?
(Laughs) Nah I bunted on hockey this winter. I meant to get out and play shinny a couple times but I suck at ice skating and don't have my own skates. Been playing a bit of men’s league basketball though, Nike hooked up some Hyperdunks, they call me brother dunks a lot these days.
Who else do you kick it with in Toronto? Who is killing it in the skate game out there?
As far as skating, I'm usually out with Dono, Koty, Morgan, Wade, Noah T, Duncan, Kyle Sodoski whoever else is out really. All the Ash Bridges locals. Everyone I mentioned is killing it. TJ is steady killing it if I had to pick one person. Kills the perfect California spots but he also gets down and dirty on the rugged Canadian spots. He reps Canada pretty hard in his video parts, it's dope.
Who is a young kid no one out west will have heard about that you think is coming up?
My little homie Kirk Roach is coming up. Fool learns tricks so fast, in the winter I usually see him once a week at the indoor park I work at and he seems noticeably better every week. Might be a while till his name gets out there but he's on the right path don de la skate rat.
You ever think about moving out west? What keeps you where you are?
Nah never really thought about moving out West, I love Vancouver but it doesn't seem as good for skating as it once was. Great place to visit but I can’t see myself living there. It's nice kicking it at Third Beach with you and all but I'm not about that dab life so what would I do while you, Spence, Wherry, Cameo, LJ and everyone is at the Dab Lounge all day? You're all dab write offs (laughs) just kidding. I could see myself moving to Montreal for an extended period of time though.
Ok, easy on the dab rant. (Laughs) What the fuck does “Don de La” mean?
(Laughs) Don de la doesn't mean a damn thing. It's just basically filler in a sentence. However, it's a nice way to bridge two thoughts or add emphasis to something you’re saying. For example: Let's meet up tonight don de la beers. Translation, let's meet up tonight and have some beers. Or the emphasis way - Yo Spence that was a sweet kick front blunt in Korea don de la BUNT!
What is the best pick up line you have ever used in the club?
I don't mess with pick up lines. I'm a gentleman, come on Tweezy. No, but seriously I can't even remember. Troy, my drunk alter ego probably has some terrible lines up his sleeve but me, I don't have any lines except maybe "yo yash really good ma?"
Did it work?
Unfortunately I don't think that has ever worked. I usually get hit with a "pardon me?" So I gotta squirm out of it "I'm sorry, I meant how are you on this fine evening you sexy thang?". SLAP. Ouch.
(laughs) All right, we gotta wrap this thing up. Who is hooking you up these days and who do you want to thank?
Word. First and foremost, I would like to thank you Ian Twa aka Tweezy aka Brother Chongo. Thanks to Jacob and Jesse Williams and the whole Adrift Skate Shop fam, Oliver and Craig at Nike, Tyler at Timebomb for hooking up Expedition, Brown at Onedist for hooking up Kr3w, Geoff and Homer at Faction Sales for hooking up Stance, Dave and Danny at Centre for hooking up Diamond and Indy, Dez and Mike at Mypakage, and Karl at IS eyewear for hooking up shades. Also thanks to Will Jivcoff, Rich Odam, Jeff Comber and Josh Hotz for shooting these photos. It's a don de la wrap.
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