What’s up Will? What’d you do today?
Hey Dave, I just got up a couple hours ago, went to McDonald’s to get some breakfast, and will be locked in the library all day. I’m a graduate student, and it’s been “finals” time for the last month, so I’ve been inside a lot these days.
Let’s start this off the right way - when did you start skating / what did your first setup look like?
I started skating back in March or April of 2000. My friend Ben had just started skating a few months earlier. I remember bumping into Ben’s mom in the post office, and she said Ben had been having a great time skating, and some switch flipped in my brain and I just really wanted to start skating. There was this Baseball card store in Lexington Massachusetts called Hit and Run that had a small board supply. My first board was a World Industries wet dream board with blue Thunder trucks and extremely dark purple spitfire wheels. Looking back, that setup was awesome!
I think one of your more notable accomplishments was your appearance in the “making of” PJ Ladd’s WHL. How did that all come about?
So there was this skate shop chain called Blades Board and Skate, and the people who worked there were a little bit sketchy and my mom didn’t really trust the staff. We had been shopping around for my first set-ups and my folks were not really feeling Blades Board and Skate, so that’s why I got my first board at this Baseball card store I had bought games and toys at many years earlier. I needed a new pair of shoes at one point, so my mom took me to the Coliseum in Melrose. This was fall of 2000 when I was in sixth grade. I got a sweet pair of Reynolds ones in all white for really cheap on sale. Matt and Arty (the owners of the Coliseum) were really friendly guys, and I was a huge skate nerd, and I think they both found me kind of eccentric and interesting to talk with, even though I’m ~15 years younger. I was always hanging out at the shop and when the VHS video came out Matt and Arty wanted me to do a screening with Colin Fiske, and a couple other people to make sure the video looked all right before it premiered in the Davis Sq. movie theater in Somerville. Obviously the video was amazing, and I was so hyped to go to the premier, which was around April of 2002. The PJ DVD came out in October or November of 2002 I believe. I think we filmed the making of literally a week before it came out. Again, I think Matt and Arty saw me as this kind of weird and eccentric but interesting kid who could add some flavor to the making of section. I think they wanted someone in there who was a bit younger, and I was 14 at the time; everyone else was in their late 20’s and older at the time of the making of. Everyone in there was kind of a nut if you remember, but all cool guys.
Did you predict Jereme’s future?
Haha, so here’s the backup story. I had never met Jereme until the Premier for the Wonderful Horrible life VHS. There was this blonde kid asking me who’s part I was excited for. I said Jereme’s part to the kid because I had seen the part a week before, and it was awesome. It turned out that kid was Jereme (someone told me this a couple years later). He started kind of making fun of me saying. “The Dungeons and Dragons premier is down the hall, are you looking for it?” Then I’m like, “Fuck this dude”, so when the making of came out I just said I think Jereme’s going to be a murderer when he grows up which is the most random thing to say. I think it’s because Matt and Arty said he was listening to a lot of gangster rap at the time. Back in the day it was against the “Coliseum code” to listen to rap music, but now it’s my favorite type. So I was 14 at the time and I didn’t see Jereme again until I was 18 when Mister Rogers Neighborhood premiered in Boston. Eli Reed was still living in Boston in the warm months, and he’d be out skating Aquarium with all of us. Eli took a bunch of us up to Torey, Lamar, and Jereme’s hotel room before the premiere. Jereme was super cool and we all had a great time. Jereme was hanging out and skating with us a couple years ago after he quit all his sponsors to become a rapper. I remember him saying, “I’m starving,” and buying fried dough, eating a bite, and then claiming he was full. He’s a nut, but a really genuine guy and still kills it skating. He really wants to make it as a rapper, and had this Ipad and headphones, and was just rapping to himself the whole time. My friend Thompson and I were going to a party in Central Sq, probably at some kind of grimy spot, and Jereme wanted to come, and we’re like how can we lose this guy. It’s kind of amazing, Jereme goes from making over 2 million dollars a year from Red Bull to getting denied going to a semi-dirty Central sq. party.
Tell me about PJ's van.
So when I first started hanging out at the Coliseum, I remember seeing this guy skate down the large hill before you get to the Coliseum. This was around 2001, and I was reading the mags a bunch. I remember reading about the Vans Triple Crown, and I thought if you won that you were the best skater. So that day, I was in the Coliseum, and I was saying, “Ryan Sheckler won the Vans Triple Crown (maybe it was another pro, don’t remember), how crazy is that?” Matt at the Coliseum said, “PJ, who skates for the shop, came in second in the Vans Triple Crown.” I’m like, “Who’s PJ?” Matt said he was in the corner of the shop like ten feet away from me. PJ was the guy skating down the street. He’d always drive this old green Plymouth Van. I remember it would constantly break down in front of the shop. The tailslide PJ does on the van in WHL in the line at Windows was that green van. Another rags to riches story-- Plymouth vans to Land Rover’s LOL.
Didn't something happen with you at a Popwar demo?
Ah, so when I was 14 and the PJ DVD had dropped, I was a very impressionable young lad. Arty thought that Flip was the best company around, so I by default thought that Flip was the best company around. Arty really pushed for Flip to take PJ on as an am, but the problem was that PJ was locked into a contract at Element (really GIANT distribution). Basically Arty was telling everyone how wack GIANT was and how PJ should be on Flip. Popwar at the time was under GIANT, so I already thought they were wack, and had preconceived notions about the whole team. Rob Gonzalez pulled up with the team, and at all these demos the Red Bull women would be there handing out Red Bulls. I think I had 7 or 8 Red Bulls. When I was 14 I wasn’t aware of the concept of self-confidence, but looking back I had a lot of it. Being in that video kind of made me feel like the shit everyday walking into school. That video sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and people knew who I was all around the world. Arty loved me at the time, and I think having Arty kind of back whatever came out of my mouth just gave me validation to say whatever I wanted to, to any pro or whoever out there. Everyone hated on varial flips at the Coliseum, so obviously I hated on them too. Rob Gonzalez at the time did a lot. So I just went up to Rob and said to him, “Stop doing varial flips and let PJ leave.” I was talking shit on Transworld because I thought Thrasher was the best mag out to the photographer Brian Uedya [Transworld photographer]. Brian and Rob took me into the team van, and told me I couldn’t be mouthing off to these guys. I think I made them all feel kind of down. In retrospect I get it, but I really meant no harm. They really didn’t want to give me a free board, but I’m a master of getting boards in product tosses, so you know I got one :D.
You were also in the intro of Riding Shotgun with Weiger, what’s the story behind that?
Ah man, Lance Mountain, Weiger, and Jani were all in town for that tour. I thought Weiger was the best back then. Long back tails, and I just told Weiger how dope he was in my silly way like in the ending of that video. Weiger was under the weather but he thought I was funny. Jani found me annoying I think, as he told me to calm down, and Lance was loving it and gave me a free pair of Adidas. Again, I had a lot of self-confidence, and was sitting with those guys while they were signing autographs.
Wasn’t Filho in the intro, too?
He was. Him and Zach Crockett were in the intro. Fork, and Zach were all Coliseum locals before WHL dropped and grew up in the town next town over from the shop. So yes, Coliseum was a local shop.
Lightning Round -
Bill Strobeck or Bill Danforth
Bill Strobeck. VX and Photo fo’ life!!
Willy Santos or Billy Marks?
Willy Santos. I have relatives out in San Diego, so I’d always go to his shop. Santos is really nice, and even recognized me from WHL.
Will Fyock or Torey Pudwill
Torey Pudwill. Such a nice guy. I met him at the Mister Rogers Nbd premiere. It could be someone else but I remember Fyock whining at a bayside expo contest. No one likes a whiner!
Alright - Standard question here, what’s your favorite VHS era skate video?
The first one that comes to mind is Photosynthesis. So that baseball card store hit and run had a trick tip video in it that I bought to learn to ollie and stuff. I thought all skate videos at the time were trick tip videos. My mom took me to blades board and skate and there’s this video display by Alien Workshop. I asked for this orange trick tip video, and that video happened to be Photosynthesis. Yes, I didn’t know non-trick tip videos existed until I got Photo. I was amazed, and believe it or not Dyrdek had my favorite part when I first watched it. I loved the song and the jumping over of fences. Believe it or not, I didn’t like Wenning’s or Dill’s part right off the bat. It wasn’t really until I started skating a lot of ledges that I really appreciated how amazing Wenning’s part was, and until I could appreciate and recognize great style that I could really appreciate and love Dill’s part. Blueprint’s WFTW is a close second.
What has been your favorite era in Boston skateboarding?
My favorite era was when it was all new for me. Up until WHL I read a lot more about skating than I actually skated. When I was in eighth grade, the Lexington skatepark was built. I loved it; there was this metal ledge and big drop you could do tricks off of. I’d go everyday after school and skate there for hours, even though I lived in Winchester, the town next door. Gavin Nolan, John and Tommy Wisdom, and this kid Richie would be there. All these kids represented Concepts in Harvard Sq and they got free Nikes, and I still am friends with all of them. I was young and impressionable and started really wanting Nikes too and wanted to go to Concepts and get a tee. I was allowed to go to the city on weekends, and would skate Copley Sq, Aquarium and windows in Nikes. My favorite era for me was when I had become really good friends with everyone downtown and was skating there everyday. Ariel Perl had just gotten back from New York, and we’d skate and film together everyday at eggs. It was just go to eggs, try the hardest trick possible there, and just not care about your tricks at AQ and skate flat. I think Boston now is probably just as dope, even though to me it doesn’t look it looking in from the perspective as an outsider. My whole body isn’t in skateboarding anymore, so I can’t reap all the highs it has to offer. For me skateboarding is the most fun and rewarding when you really care about it a lot. Like when you’re trying a trick forever you get it, and you feel amazing, but with that comes the lowest and most frustrating lows of not being able to do your tricks and wondering if you’ll ever be able to do it again. To me having my whole body in skateboarding is what makes it the richest experience it can be and that’s always when the scene has felt the best. I can look at it now externally and kind of think of how cheesy the Instagram stuff is, or how having really good videos come out on VHS was great, or how it was dope back in the day or this or that. I’m so busy with coursework right now, and trying to figure out relationships and careers that realistically I can’t have my whole body in skateboarding. I still skateboard though and I think it’s the most wonderful thing. It is the best stress-relief to me, and puts whatever irrational thoughts I have into perspective. I’ve learned so much from skateboarding and the people from it. Looking externally though, my favorite Boston era is the EST 1-3, Steve Costello and Zeb footage with Adidas-- fresh to death!
How do you feel about the “everybody is good” era of skateboarding that we live in?
Ah man, I’m so out of the loop with who the newest pros and ams are that I just don’t really care. YouTube has allowed kids all over the world to see what’s possible right off the bat and every kid is just learning every trick at their local skatepark. To me this robotic style of skateboarding is just so sterile, like a sparse metal doctor’s office. There’s really no culture or antics involved it seems. To me going into the city was only half about skating. You’d see people get stabbed, get into great conversations with strangers, there would be parties and you’d be chilling with the homies, and just witness crazy stuff skating in the city. It really doesn’t matter how good someone is at skating in Boston, it really matters if they’re a cool person and fun to skate and chill with. So at this point in my life skateboarding is a lot more localized to myself. Unless you’re out skating with me when I skate or are friends with me, you’re usually not too relevant. For instance Gavin is a great skater but he’s also a good person and interesting to talk to. I’ve seen Gavin try tricks for many hours and not film a thing. He’s been building his skateboarding foundation for years and hasn’t been on the media’s radar until recently. When I watched Gavin’s Zoo York part it felt raw and real because he’s a friend of mine. Obviously the part was amazing too.
Thoughts on the new Boston park?
I think it’s great! I was on the design committee for the park when I was fifteen, and I’ve seen several media spikes regarding the park in the past 12 years. Every time the skatepark has been in the media, the park is supposedly about to start being built. This has happened in 2006, 2007, and 2012. I really didn’t think the park was going to get built. I really wasn’t excited for the park until I saw it, but it’s amazing and has more transition than you could ever dream of. I think in the next 5 years or so we’ll start to see a trend: there will be a lot of inner-city kids who may not have a lot materially, don’t have a lot of parental supervision, and will start lingering in the park. Some of these kids will really like skateboarding a lot, and their parents won’t care, they’re there for 12 hours a day-- these are the kids that will get really good at skating and some of them I think will probably be in the mags and videos. I think the world should get ready for a new wave of inner-city skaters with unique personalities. I think this park will be great for kids in Boston and Cambridge and will keep a lot of them out of trouble.
What in your opinion, is the hardest trick on a skateboard?
I’ve always been more of a nollie heel type of person. I’ve been able to do some nollie flip tricks but they never came as naturally as the nollie heels for me. Every trick though in skateboarding is hard for me though which is one of the reasons I like it so much. I love things that are challenging for me.
What caused you to become such a knowledgeable source of not just general skate stuff, but specifically the local scene? It seems like you know everything about every skater to have passed through the area.
I started skating in the city when I was 15, and started coming in everyday from the ages of 17 to 23. Before YouTube, there was only a small number of sources where you could get information about the Boston scene without being directly in it-- Zoo York Mixtape and EST videos were good history lessons but you really had to be out skating with everyone to know what was up. I’m obsessive, so I learned everything I could from the old mags and vids as I could about Boston, but just being around everyone was how I know everything I do. I became friends with everyone who was skating everyday or coming up in Boston. Going to the Lexington skatepark and being around some of the city skaters made me really want to start skating in Boston. When I hung out at the Coliseum after Wonderful Horrible life I was a bit cocky. For instance during the Hot Chocolate Tour, Concrete Wave and Coliseum were hosting the filming of the Boston skit through the city. I have no recollection of this, but Nate Keegan told me many years after this took place that I was talking to my friend (several years before I knew Nate existed) and said, “Those kids are wearing Concrete Wave shirts, they must be posers.” In retrospect that was a totally stupid thing to say. I still had that Wonderful Horrible Life arrogance. It turned out one of those kids wearing a Concrete Wave shirt was Nate. At the time I guess he hated my guts, but now we’re good friends. When I started skating the city I tried to be nice to people, and people eventually liked me for me and accepted me. I became friends with and skated with everyone in the know in the city. I’ve seen people come and go over the years, so I’ve lived the history of Boston skateboarding for some years. I learned from skateboarding in the city that to get along with people it’s easier to just be nice to everyone until you have a reason not to be, and that most people are good people, so you should continue to be nice to them. I’ve got a weird memory. I suck at remembering things like song lyrics-- like really suck, but I’ll remember what tee-shirt and shoes someone was wearing skating back in 2007. I think being around skateboarding in Boston combined with my memory strengths have allowed me to build a deep framework of Boston skating over the years. It’s hard for me to have multiple interests at once, so when I’m into something, I kind of immerse myself in it. Back then I was totally immersed in skateboarding and Boston. I still skate now, but I’m totally immersed in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Predictions for the future of the Boston skate scene?
I think eggs will be a wrap in a couple years and I think kids will have to find new places to skate. They’ll be a lot of new gnarly rail transition skaters coming up due to the park. Before eggs, we’d skate at Chinatown courts during the day, as there were some boxes there, and skate tons of flat in financial and AQ after five. What I’m trying to say that if eggs is un-skateable the skaters will be resourceful and figure something else out. Believe it or not, I like Aquarium much more than eggs!
Zeb Weisman, Ariel Perl, Nate Keegan, Gavin Nolan, Thompson Bond, Seth Thompson, Brett Star, Brett Sullivan, Ben Ogilvy, Apple Tom, Jonah Miller, Spongie at Concepts, Steve and Kevin at RAW, everyone at eggs, Chris Valone, Josh Swett, the Coliseum Days, SML talk for giving me the opportunity to do this interview, the Wisdom Bros, Richie hope to skate with you soon, Matt and Arty at Coliseum, and anyone else I forgot.