Let’s kick off with a stack of predictable questions to warm the audience up a bit. What is your own personal background? Have you always skated? What is your current day job?
Chops: I started skating in 1988 after a friend of mine’s older brother who skated brought in a copy of Animal Chin. I have just turned 33 years of age and currently work a dead-end job at a real estate office with a bunch of old ladies. They have no idea about any of this and seem to think I have a developed a strange fetish for colorful Nike sneakers all of a sudden.
At one point, I actually told one of them about the shoe and they called me a liar.
Whilst a lot of our readers will know of your site, there will undoubtedly be a few who haven’t discovered it yet. When did you start Chrome Ball and what inspired you to begin the lengthy process of scanning and uploading?
I started Chrome Ball in April of 2008 as a side project and diversion from some of the other hobbies I have (graphic design, photography, filmmaking)… however CBI quickly took the main focus: it kinda just took off, so I went with it. The response was pretty immediate. Within a month, I had comments from Andy Stone and Andy Jenkins. I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t.
Epicly Later’d, Beautiful Losers, Bob Shirt, Police Informer and Seb Carayol and Mackenzie Eisenhower’s articles got me inspired in this whole ‘skatehoarding’ thing. I figured I had the mags and there were definitely some things I wanted to put out there that I wasn’t seeing.
I’m just stoked on skateboarding and want to stoke other people out as well. Plus, I don’t feel nearly as crazy remembering some random ad from 1988 if I know there are a few other people right there with me.
That’s exactly how I felt when I found your site: there are other people out there like myself! Able to recall largely-useless but personally-meaningful information and details. Chrome Ball feels like a secret club, in a positive way. There are so many things mentioned in your posts or in the comments from your readers that resonate with me: have you been surprised how many likeminded people there are out there?
It’s nice. Its good to know I’m not crazy and that other people remember this crap too.
Gotta admit, there are some readers that got me beat hands-down on some of these details though.
Neil Blender’s great skating and artwork and the first Alien video and ads are the easy connections to make, but what made you choose ‘Chrome Ball’ as the title? Have you corresponded with Neil much?
I’m glad they’re easy connections for you because I couldn’t tell you how many people have asked me why I named the site after pinball.
Blender’s always been such a huge influence on me since I started skating in grade school. Just his creativity and overall demeanor. I thought it would be a good reference for those old enough and I liked the uniformity and format of the title with the number count.
And there’s been a bit of correspondence, yes.
Most sites and blogs allow commenting on posts, but I can’t think of many others where the comments actually add so much to the original post. Reading personal stories from former pro riders (such as Eric Ricks) and other people who each add their own strand to the posts is a big part of the site’s appeal. Have there been any specific posts that have impressed or particularly surprised you? Do you spend much time moderating or are things kept fairly sensible?
Comments are the lifeblood of the site. It’s what I feed off of and keeps me motivated. The interaction and the different interpretations. Always appreciated. And when pros get on there. It always stokes me out.
I honestly don’t have to moderate at all. People keep it pretty sensible. Sometimes people get on there and disagree with something I’ve written… and that’s fine. I welcome debate… although someone usually ends up arguing for me before I get the chance to.
I think I’ve maybe deleted two comments in CBI’s existence and I believe that was because they were random racist remarks from anonymous readers
How do you fit time in your daily schedule to update the site? Have you got a list of future subjects that you work to or is it generally freestyled from post to post?
A post usually takes around 3 hours. And yeah, it can totally be a pain in the ass. Luckily I stay up late and don’t sleep much so I still find time to do other things.
The posts started out as just having one scan each – not these 10-scan monstrosities I do now. They just sort of grew over time.
I always have a few candidates in my head floating around. Whenever I think that I have enough material collected and feel like a post of theirs would be interesting, I go for it.
I’ve got little slips of people lying around all over my apartment. Some people seem to think I’m this sort of Rainman-esque type character with a mental index of Thrasher magazine floating around in my brain. Sorry. Not nearly that interesting!
This is where I have to send a special thanks to my girl Peel for putting up with all this.
I just had a partial cleanse of old magazines in my house: once things stop fitting into my bookshelves and piling up on the floor, I convince myself that it’s time for a cull. Slinging piles of $5 magazines into the recycling pile kills me though. How do you handle the storage situation? Do you keep whole copies of mags or do you just clip certain pages?
The storage situation is kind of ridiculous here. Subconsciously, I think I started the site as way to have a valid excuse not to throw any of them away.
I’m already finding myself trying to pick up copies of things I threw away or lost years ago. Pretty frustrating and annoying.
Have you ever had any requests to remove anything from the site? I’d be disappointed to hear that anyone had flexed the ‘copywrite laws’ upon you…
Well then I won’t ruin it for you! It wasn’t a post that I did for the Chrome Ball site though. Let’s just say that a few months ago, I did 2 ‘kingsized’ posts on the same day – one for CBI and another for the website of the world’s largest skateboard magazine involving the same skater. One of my all-time photographers reportedly flexed over there on the copyright issue and it was taken down. Fortunately he left CBI alone.
I was bummed but I can’t complain. I understand that this is both his art and his livelihood and I do operate in an area that one could hardly consider ‘legally sound’.
I reckon all of the best artists operate slightly outside of the law.
At the time of writing, you’re just over 500 posts deep, which is incredible. Are there any other projects or major developments in your future plans for the site?
I’m kinda just making it up as I go along… It’s gotten me this far.
I’m a big fan of the web and a lot of my daily life seems to involve being online, but even if people suggest that print is dying, I don’t think anything online will ever replace the feeling of picking up a physical magazine or book. Chrome Ball celebrates print by displaying it online. Did you intentionally set out to bridge that gap? Do you prefer print to web, or do you see equal merits in both?
Print is dying but I don’t think it will ever completely vanish. Information is processed so quickly that its just so hard for the mags to keep the pace. I’m not sure kids just starting to skate today could do a CBI-type site in the future. I guess it would be just a bunch of links to whatever remains. CBI works because in the ‘80s, you had a very finite amount of information regarding skateboarding that everyone just studied over and over again until the next round of mags came out.
I think you’re right in that nothing online with ever replace the physicality of a magazine. What do you do when you find an article online you really dig? You print it out so you can “have” it. At least I do… but then again, I’m old.
How did the project with Nike come about?
Completely out of the blue. I had been receiving some shoes every now and then from a reader over at Nike that dug the site. Well, one day the guy emailed me while I was at work and wanted to set up a time to talk on the phone later that night. I didn’t really think too much of it… I actually thought he wanted to do some sort of Nike-sponsored trivia contest on the site or something. Needless to say, I was shocked when he brought up designing my own shoe.
I only told about 3 or 4 people during the first 6 months of the process cause I still didn’t really think it would actually go down. It just seems so unbelievable.
Honestly, Chrome Ball was supposed to end at the end of August, 2009… I was about ready to announce it on the site when Rob called and asked me to do the shoe… giving the site an extended lease on life. I’m glad he did. That Rob is a solid dude.
You mentioned that you wouldn’t have done the project without Neil Blender’s stamp of authority: how did he respond and how involved did he get in the design process?
Blender already had a project going on with Nike at the time, I just rode on his coat tails. He did the low-top and I did the high. He gave us the okay to use the artwork and name but other than that… he let us do our thing. Thanks Neil.
In the offering, there’s a hightop Dunk, based on the classic Airwalk Enigma colourway and with a little graphic reference to the era when everyone was hacking down their shoes. Was that particular period of skating your favourite? Were there any particular scenes, skaters or companies that you followed religiously?
I just thought it would be a nice touch. It only made sense for the sneaker to be a throwback since the site itself is so rooted in the past. Busting out the fresh new gear for 2011 doesn’t really make sense for a site that spends all its time talking about 1992.
The scissors are just a little nod for the older dudes that remember the whole shoe mutilation craze. Younger dudes think it has something to do with rock, paper, scissors… which I quite enjoy but is not the case.
At first, there was gonna be an embroidered perforated line all the way around but we 86’d that.
One thing that I particularly like about this collaboration was that the hightop is only available at certain Nike SB accounts and not online (in the UK, at least). If you want the shoe, you have to go to a physical skate shop, put your money on the counter and buy them in person. No purchasing multiple pairs online and reselling them on eBay later on. Was this a stipulation from you or was it something that the guys at Nike suggested?
That was something the Nike guys suggested and I loved it. Those guys are pretty good with this whole shoe-selling thing.
Seriously though, there is a misconception about the people involved with Nike and while I can’t speak for the whole company, everyone I’ve met in the SB division have been straight-up, life-long skaters that still very passionate about it. Most of whom either formerly or currently still work for a lot of the board companies these doubting Thomases think of as their favorites.
Time to throw a few facts into the mix for the sneaker fans out there: do you have any idea how many pairs have been produced of both models?
Oh man… I don’t know. The low is actually all Blender and I don’t have anything to do with that one. The high is mine and I believe it’s a “quickstrike”. Not really sure on the numbers.
Sorry sneaker fans.
I’ll make up a number then, just to screw up anyone searching for facts to include in their eBay listings: 1730 pairs. How long did the process take from initial concept through to final production models?
It took a year from Rob’s initial call to when I actually saw the finished product. I had the concept the first night we talked… we ironed out the materials a little after the first sample but pretty much everything was done real early. Really the only thing that changed from the first model was making the swoosh rubber.
I’ve heard that the waiting is the hardest part. They’re right.
Are there any production samples out there that didn’t make the final cut? Perhaps a bright yellow NTS-inspired model or a 540° Prototype with a lace saver?
Not that I know of… though I did have that idea for the prototype with the lacesaver. Maybe that can be the Trashfilter Dunk.
I’ll hit you up when Nike get in touch. It may be too early to ask this, but are there any plans for a follow-up project?
No plans as of yet. I can’t believe I got the chance for the first go-around to be honest with you.
“That Nov. ’95 TWS is definitely a good one. Guy, Koston, Ari portfolio…
Honestly, the only other ones that really stand out for me personally are the first few issues of TWS and Thrasher I bought when I had just started skating.
Everything was just so new and fresh. Just being bombarded by all that creativity”
“This one always hurts my head… ”
Gonz – Video Days
Mike Carroll – Questionable
Guy Mariano – Mouse
Henry Sanchez – Pack of Lies
Ricky Oyola – Eastern Exposure 3
(I really wish I could fit Gino’s Trilogy part in there…)
Duane Pitre’s Olives
Blender’s Coffee Break
Lance Mountain Future Primitive
Mark Gonzales Gonz N Roses with the suit…
-tie-Rodney Mullen’s Summer of 92 with the boobs or 101 Gabe Rodriguez vs Crusher
Police Informer: http://policeinformer.blogspot.com
the ‘tap: http://www.crailtap.com
“Not sure what it is about this shot… maybe Neil’s scowl. Whatever it is, I still want a Volvo to this day. Some people’s genius transcend the act of riding a board with wheels and Blender has always been that dude for me.”
“This is the one right here. Something about this ad… perfect. Probably the main reason that I started Chrome Ball is that one day I tried to find this ad online and I couldn’t.”
“I honestly can’t say that this is one of my favorite ads… but it obviously made an impression.”
“This photo is perfect. The end.”
“This is another one of those where I’m not exactly sure what it means, but I honestly hope I never find out.
I think I’ve told this story a billion times over on the site but I saw J.lee skate at a demo in Columbus, Ohio in ’90 (he took Jeremy Klien’s place on the tour, who evidently had gotten sick) and he remains the best skater I’ve ever seen in person. The loudest ollie to boards and ollie to tails ever… and the tre flips were decent, too.
He was one of my favorite skaters at the time and he totally lived up to my damn-near-impossible 12-year-old kid expectations.
I got his autograph three separate times that day.”
“I was a huge Quim fan back in the day, sideways tan cap and the whole nine… regardless of his brand of department store shoes these days, he still gets the pass with me.
CBI trivia for those who care: the blog was almost named ‘blood, sweat and lampshades’ but was changed at the last minute because I thought the reference was too obscure… because ‘chrome ball incident’ is so obvious. I never said I was smart.”
“This is in the first skateboard mag I ever bought, TWS Feb 86. I remember being blown away by the artwork and not even knowing for a while there after that Lance actually skated too. The creativity I found in that first skatemag I ever picked up is still inspiring to this day.”
“I’ve often heard that whenever Gonz and Natas would go streetskating at this time with other pros that our heroes often felt they were speaking another language and inevitably the visting pros would resort to sitting down and watching. This spread from ’87, for me at least, demonstrates that point perfectly. ”
“Because it’s fucking Cardiel.”
“My favorite cover of all-time. Just the timing of it… street skating was blowing up, the fuse was lit on the timebomb MC and Slap was a fresh new magazine. Everything seemed possible.
I’m actually supposed to be working on MC interview questions right now but I’m typing this… I guess I should probably go.”
Filed Under: Features