éS and Crooked Tongues | The Foothills Project

Call me a cynic, but I’m critical and unforgiving on most skate-related collaborations, especially on anything that feels like it was shoehorned into a release schedule. I’m no longer part of the target audience for pure and functional skate product perhaps, but seeing companies unite over projects that have nothing in common with each other repels me from both brands. As a result, I don’t feature anything on Trashfilter unless I feel there’s some thought and substance behind it. Or unless I just like it a lot.

I was still part of the Crooked Tongues family back when the éS guys approached to work on a collaboration, and whilst I’d have liked to have been involved on this project, it was clear that Charlie and Gary at CT had the skills and foresight to do a more than adequate job. Once I’d moved on, I occasionally heard small progress updates on what was happening behind the scenes, and as soon as the guys had been invited over to Sole Technology’s headquarters I realised that this project was definitely happening.

Seeing an established brand such as éS take a slight detour from their regular path strikes a small amount of fear into me. Visions of past experiments from other brands flood my mind – it’s better to be a master of one area, than a jack of all trades when it comes to skate footwear. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see the resulting product range looks original enough to be a departure from the usual, but also something that holds true to my perceived image of the brand.

The Foothills shoe itself is something new, but looks familiar. Taking a little ACG inspiration (the side panels have more than a hint of Humara about them), but mixing it up with a more precise silhouette, the result is something that looks like it’d be at home on the trails or the pavement. If the toe panel had introduced a little ollie protection, I can’t see that you wouldn’t be able to skate in these too: the System 02 airbag is one of the best cushioning systems out there at the moment. The asymmetric tongue gives a similar fit to a Footscape, holding the foot nicely in place without becoming a hindrance.

As well as the shoes, the CT guys created an accessory for each of the colourways. Actually, ‘accessory’ isn’t the right word: the 3-layered jacket, Oxford weave backpack and ripstop cap would quite rightly be the key elements of most other projects.

The jacket is something that deserves to be seen in person, as no level of photography can do it justice in terms of design and quality. First thing you’ll notice if you pick it up, is that it’s not a flyaway cagoule. There’s some seriously good construction here, giving you the feeling that even if you encountered the low pressure weather systems depicted on the shoebox packaging you’d still emerge unscathed. It’s one of the best jackets I’ve seen since the last series of Acronym pieces. The backpack is no different: a heavy-duty piece of luggage, tough enough to deflect bullets. Sturdy zips, comfortable straps and plenty of securing mechanisms. The cap is a simpler affair, but still matches the quality shown elsewhere.

I have a feeling that these will be slow-burners, as the project is a bold move for both brands. Instead of going for the hype-market – the easy option of re-presenting established crowd pleasers in new colourways – this is something new and progressive that doesn’t target anyone in particular. If you want something that’s both functional and looks good, then you don’t need to look any further. And if for some reason they don’t resonate with you, you can’t do anything but applaud a genuine approach to creating something new.

The éS & Crooked Tongues Foothills collection has been produced in extremely limited numbers, going on sale at crookedtongues.com and in selected retailers from 20th August 2009.

Sneaker Freaker x AIAIAI earbuds

Finding decent headphones is always an issue for me. After spending a lot of time trying out different styles of in-the-ear pieces, I decided I’d never find the perfect fit for my lugholes: every pair I’ve tried have either fallen out after 10 seconds, or I’ve had to jam them in so hard that I’ve risked brain damage. Spending £180 on a pair of Ultimate Ears Super.fi ‘phones turned out to be a total waste of money – after all, who’s gonna want to buy secondhand foam that’s been jammed into your ear? No-one, that’s who.

So, I’ve been sticking with my Audio Technica headphones for the past few years. They’re great, but hardly inconspicuous… and I fancied something a little stealthier. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a set of these AIAIAI ‘phones in my mailbox the other morning, courtesy of the guys at Sneaker Freaker. These aren’t any old ‘phones though: the SF team have given them a special makeover with a slick colour treatment.

Firstly, they fit really well. A selection of interchangeable tips – soft foam or latex – gives a custom fit, so that’s a big plus point. But the nicest feature is a multiple-function button on the leads. When used with an iPhone, the button answers incoming calls (and, as you’d expect, hangs up as well). When using the iPod function (again, on an iPhone), the button functions with a single push to play or stop the music. Push the button two times and the iPod will forward to next song. They’ve got the standard 3.5mm jack plug and therefore will fit iPods, iPhones, most MP3 players, laptops and all kinds of stuff.

You want technical data, right? Here you go:

Driver unit size: 9 mm
Impedance: 16 ohm
Sensitivity: 106dB/mW at 1K Hz
Frequency Respons: 20-20K Hz
Rated power input: 4 mW
Maximum power input: 20 mW
Microphone Operating Voltage: 3∼10 V

All that really matters is that they sound good, fit well and look great. And you can buy them here from the Sneaker Freaker store for $60USD.

Crack & Shine

To finally have this book in my hands after months of waiting for it to come out is a great feeling. I’d seen various preview images from the project over the few weeks before release, which just fueled my impatience further, and after seeing the launch exhibition I knew that it was probably going to live up to my expectations.

Freshly racked from their website, here’s a brief account of what to expect: Featuring forty of the most exciting and prolific graffiti artists to have lived and painted in London, Crack & Shine is the only London graffiti book ever to be published.

It’s funny to read that: I’d never really thought about whether London had been properly portrayed in a graf book before. Little bits here and there, token features in foreign compendiums and a scattering of magazine cuttings. All had generally been disappointing tributes to one of the rawest and progressive scenes out there. Graphotism tried its best at times, Hold No Hostage was dope, Bomb Alert went a step further, but magazines seemed to be as far as the coverage went.

And that’s where this book steps in. Even the title of the book is spot on, referencing the dominant dub style of many of London’s elite writers. If you weren’t down, you weren’t gonna find out very much and outsiders who tried to muscle in were dealt with in a variety of ways.

In the words of Dreph, “The London graffiti scene was a closed and unforgiving one. Information was guarded.”.

So taking on the task of documenting the history of London’s graffiti scene was clearly never going to be an easy job. For each person you pull out as an enigma, there’s another twenty who deserve just as much exposure. Whilst there have been whispers of another book in the making over the past few years, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Crack & Shine was more than just rumours and was actually being printed. So I paid my £25 (via their website) and waited for the book to arrive.

First of all, the book isn’t a thrown-together collection of blurred photos and egotistical quotes. If you’re wondering what to expect, maybe flick back through your graf mag archives, pull out issue 9 of Graphotism and remind yourself of the DDS feature. All the good things that were in there – Brixton roof entrances, unseen full-colour panels, yard shots etc. – are all present and correct, but surrounded by loads more things you won’t have seen.

Instead of simply being a nice picture book, there’s great text to accompany everything. Interviews and quotes from people who shaped the way London looks today are given generous amounts of space. So instead of a collection of ‘Q+A’ journalistic nonsense, you have people like Bozo giving a first-hand account of painting Farringdon with Fume, Fuel, Teach and Elk. Or the background behind Zomby and Sham’s Christmas trackwalk up the Northern Line (I was living in Tooting at that point and remember taking flicks of the damage the week after). You’re probably not going to get that kind of personal account anywhere else.

There’s a strong emphasis on Tubes, which gives a harder edge to everything, and the mix of featured artists generally keeps to the core groups that have been out there relentlessly. You get hardcore writers like Zomby, Teach, Diet, Fume, Sub, Siege, Drax, Prime, Sub, Steas, Dodo/LDS, Pic, Grand, Fuel and Elk showcased alongside newer (and equally prominent) groups and individuals such as TPG, ATG, Vamp and Neas. You could sit and point out omissions perhaps, but it won’t make you look very clever.

Sput and Revok’s perspectives as foreign visitors sit a bit awkwardly on first glance, but when you read through their accounts, it’s an interesting angle and something I’d never really thought that much about.

Aside from the excellent collection of graf flicks from the writers themselves, there’s a lot of great portrait and in-situ photography from Will Robson-Scott that adds an extra level of aesthetic to the project. The sharp layout, clean use of typography and other little details (I liked the page titling at the top of each ‘chapter’) make the whole book reek of professionalism.

It feels like a lot of the right people were involved throughout the entire process of making this book, so you don’t feel like you’re putting money into the wrong pockets when you purchase a copy.

Go and grab one of the 2000 copies from the Crack & Shine site before it disappears off the shelves. Easily one of the best graf books I’ve seen to date.

Hold Tight London DVD and t-shirts

The Hold Tight London project is one of those little shining examples of motivation and creativity that deserves some coverage. Bringing together groups of skaters throughout London and presenting the accumulated video footage as a series of regular episodes online, it’s one of those things that you can easily lose a few hours working your way through. The skating is top notch and the filming and editing by Henry Edwards-Wood and Morph raised the bar considerably.

The recent ‘Extended Episode 12″ is a 24-minute DVD production that adds a little competitive fun in the form of ‘North V. South’. Hailing from Fairfields in Croydon, I’ll always be biased towards the southside, but I’ll grudgingly admit that the Northern section is equally impressive. With the support of Slam City and DVS, the guys were able to get this one professionally duplicated and out in the shops. Check out the saucy little Quicktime trailer below that I’ve poached from their website.

To celebrate the release of the project, DVS got a couple of shirts printed up, featuring the photography of Sam Ashley and my good buddy Dom Marley. I’m always partial to a photo of Fairfields, so, as nice as Sam’s photography always is, the South shirt gets my vote here!

Pick up the DVD directly from the HTL mini-store here – or head over to Slam City and purchase the shirts and the DVD in person.

Blabac Photo | The Art Of Skateboarding Photography

Mike Blabac was always on my photographer radar if I ever needed to name one of my favourites. When I heard that PowerHouse were releasing a book of his work, I knew immediately that this would be a definite purchase. I tried to work the angles to get a review copy through, but ultimately it was my man Ray who came through for me by grabbing me a copy at the book launch night in London. I wasn’t keen on Amazon’s ‘6-8 week’ delivery projection.

The first thing to note is the weight and size of the book: it’s really not a ‘pop it in your backpack’ type of deal and truly deserves a key spot on the coffee table. 224 pages deep, with a hardback cover and bold black sleeve means that it’s going to be hard to ignore. Whilst the nicely composed pages of text that break the book into rough chapters are really nice, it’s the presentation of Blabac’s photos that make this such an epic release. All of the major image highlights get the deserved full bleed page treatment, but there’s some nice slide and contact sheet presentation pages as well. Stevie Williams holding a manual perfectly still for a DC shoot? Check. Josh Kalis launching a freshly caught tre over a bin? Check. Danny Way flying over the Mega Ramp? Check-check-check: all the boxes are ticked in this one.

Whilst I recognised a lot of the photos from past magazines, it’s great to be reminded how amazing some of them are. One of my favourite photos of all-time is included, which is the shot of Bobby Puleo and Brad Staba rolling through Union Square in SF back in 1996, disturbing a flock of pigeons. The shot of Scott Johnston doing a backside smith behind the parking meter is another photo that was pinned on my walls for a while.

As I flicked through the book, I noticed that a lot of the photos didn’t have captions, which was fine for most of the pages (as I could usually work out who it was skating), but frustrating on others. Needless to say, I had jumped the gun: everything’s taken care of properly with a nicely laid-out index/caption section at the back of the book, with little stories and info about each shoot. Absolutely flawless.

It’ll cost you in the region of £30 to own this book, but it’s well worth it. Check out all the info over at the special section on the DC site right now.

Andy Jenkins Interview

Bend Press The Art Dump Girl Skateboards The Art Dump Bend Press Crail Tap The Art Dump Bend Press

Matix ‘This Is Progress’ Book: Celebrating Ten Years of Matix Clothing

This landed on the Trashfilter desks with a hefty thump: the large cardboard box was quickly opened, as I had no idea what was inside. A 280-page book about the past decade of Matix clothing? Call me ignorant, but has it really only been 10 years since the guys started the label? It feels like they’ve been part of skating’s DNA for considerably longer.

If you’ve never stopped to appreciate the work and thought that goes into creating one of the truly genuine skate brands, this book will blow you away. From the original 4th July conversations in 1997 between Tim Gavin, Daewon Song and the guys, through to the first collection in 1999, via pages of initial identity and design ideas, and right up to the some of their most popular and interesting pieces, this book is far more than your average backslapping catalogue.

The Matix team members (and a host of affiliates, such as Giovanni Reda) get asked the same five questions based on the idea of progress, each giving a little insight into their own thoughts. Whilst there’s enough reading material in there to keep you occupied for a few nights, it’s the collation of the stunning photography that gives the book permanent coffee table rights. Mike Dytri’s fantastic design and layout skills shine throughout: the result is a clean, easy-to-follow, and (most importantly) interesting journey through the brand’s archives.

Seeing the September ’98 cover of Thrasher in the book brought back memories: Marc Johnson frontside heelflipping in the original yellow Matix promo tee took me back to standing in Slam City Skates discussing what the range was going to bring. Over the years, Matix have managed to get a bunch of tees (and several other items) into my wardrobe. Association with the right names gave the brand immediate credibility: the original team line up of Rodney Mullen, Rudy Johnson, Tim Gavin, Marc Johnson, Daewon Song, Sean Sheffey, Jeron Wilson and J.B. Gillet has gotta be one of the strongest line-ups for any clothing label launch.

I was initially led to believe that this book was a promo-only treat, but I’ve found a bunch of places online offering it since, so make sure you jump on it and grab one. Thanks to the guys at Revival/Podium for sending this one across – book of the year for me, so far!

adidas Campus 80s (House Of Pain)

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

With the right people pushing the buttons over at adidas, the product range keeps getting more and more impressive. Confidence is definitely high, so when I heard that this special ‘House Of Pain’ 80s Campus model was coming, I had a feeling it’d be good. Initial reports I’d seen online, based off PR-approved photos, seemed a little lacklustre: even though I had decided I liked them already, I felt it was worth holding back any judgment until I’d seen them in the flesh. St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be the perfect day to put this little post up.

I’m glad I did hold back: this is definitely a shoe that looks better on the foot than perfectly lit, white-backgrounded – and then viewed on a computer screen. Even with my shoddy camerawork, you’ll get a much better idea of how the shoe actually looks in the flesh.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
First round visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
Production round visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

The first thing you’ll appreciate, aside from the classic Campus shape, is the quality of the suede. When asked what the deal was on this, C-Law at adidas says, “Yeah, it’s a nice heavy vintage looking suede called ‘Teasel’ that costs a bit more. We were briefed to come up with some holiday pack shoes that had more substance, both in design and concept than your regular St. Patrick’s Day shoes (for example, white with shamrocks all over it etc.). Production wise, everything we wanted – we got”.

That explains the premium feel to this version – and also why the theme went a little deeper than the usual Irish iconography employed by most. Everything here seems to be top quality, from the uppers through to the detailing and embroidery.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the band, the affiliation does nothing to detract from the fact that this is a good-looking and well-considered shoe. The initial idea for the House of Pain connection was then developed with House Of Pain’s Danny Boy, back and forth via phone calls and e-mails. In case you were wondering, the ‘Fine Malt Lyrics’ embroidery references the group’s debut (and arguably best) album from 1992.

An all-black ‘Kartel’ version to be given to the band (and no doubt a small group of friends and affiliates) didn’t get as far as the sampling stages unfortunately, but the final released product in its dark green incarnation is still my favourite of the three possibilities.

1500 pairs of this shoe have been produced and they will officially launch at Concepts in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day, along with a matching Celtics jersey. It looks like these are going to be available online at a number of different places, which should go some way to appease the people who were dreading having to scoop them up from eBay.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
Scrapped ‘Kartel’ (friends and family) version visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

I’ve been sent some very interesting record label-inspired ‘anniversary’ product news that will appear shortly. With collaborations like this Campus as a frontrunner, I’m definitely looking forwards to seeing the new ranges.

Lakai Limited Footwear ‘The Final Flare’ DVD

lakai final flare

When I received my review copy of ‘The Final Flare’, I was slightly nervous. How the hell was I going do justice to a 3-disc special edition version of one of the best skate films ever?

If you’re looking for a breakdown of the main feature, then the first thing to do is to go back and re-read the original ‘Fully Flared’ review here on Trashfilter. The bonus material – we’re talking SIX hours’ worth! – in this special edition is well worth a completely separate review, so I’m going to briefly break down each of the three DVDs in this box one-by-one.

Let’s kick things off and set the scene with one of the official ‘Final Flare’ trailers:

Looks good, huh? Read on homebones…

lakai final flare

Disc One (SD DVD)

Contents:

Original Fully Flared Release
Fully Flared Trailer #1
Fully Flared Trailer #2
Koston Speechless
Fully Fished

I’m not sure if there was anything on here that I hadn’t already seen, whether it was on the original release of ‘Fully Flared’, on Crailtap or on Lakai‘s site. That said, if you didn’t already purchase the original release, then you’ve got your money’s worth right here already: the two extra discs in the box are just icing on the cake. If you did buy the first release of ‘Flared’, then just stick this disc in, remind yourself that this is the best skate film since ‘Video Days’ and ‘Questionable’ and re-watch the main feature again.

lakai final flare

Disc Two (SD DVD)

Contents:

The Final Flare Documentary
Unused Footage
Beware Of The Flare
Alternate Edits
Photo Galleries
Commercials and Video Vaults
Battle Commanders (Koston and Mariano)
All Blu-Ray Features (from Disc Three) Converted To SD
Australia Promo
Canada Promo… and a few other bits n’ pieces

As I already owned ‘Fully Flared’, for me, disc two is where the full value sits. There’s a hell of a lot of extra footage on this DVD. The ‘Unused Footage’ alone is almost 25 minutes long – and has a lot of sections you won’t have seen before. Watching this just re-emphasizes the effort and work that the team went to on this production. It might have been nice to see it grouped and arranged by skater perhaps, but that’s just a personal preference and being picky – this footage is better than most other skate companies would put out as their final edit.

Everything on here is worth watching (alternative edits have never really appealed to me, but I liked them here), but the two killers come in the form of ‘Beware Of The Flare’, which documents the team travelling through Europe over a period of three weeks in March and April of 2002. I’d seen this before, but it’s a great bonus feature to own here. Biebel and Johnson totally annihilate the continent, while the French Connection (and my fellow Londoners Jensen and Brady) do themselves proud.

‘The Final Flare Documentary’ is a sixty-minute extravaganza showing you the behind-the-scenes point of view. If you thought making a skate video was simple, then you should educate yourself. The amount of time, effort and money that went into making ‘Fully Flared’ is unbelievable: gruelling tour schedules (seriously), injuries and stress (let alone the amazing filming and editing)… It’s amazing and inspiring to hear the team talk about the pressure they felt on making this the best film ever. For me – and probably many other 30-something skaters out there – it was Guy Mariano’s ‘comeback’ that resonated the most. Guy talks openly and frankly about where he was in his life before deciding to pick up his board again. To hear how Rick Howard and the Lakai guys embraced his return and helped nurture his desire to be back at the forefront of skating again is genuinely heartwarming – and reminds you that the supportive and involving nature of skating is well and alive. An amazing film that everyone should see.

lakai final flare

Disc Three (HD Blu-Ray Disc)

Contents:

New Full Length HD Feature
Weekend At Biebel’s
Guy Medical Leave Of Absence
Vincent Alvarez commercials and Chocolate Introduction
Fully Flared Intro
Fully Fished
TWS Awards Interviews
Photographer Photo Gallery

For those of us fortunate to own a PS3 or a regular Blu-Ray player, this is a great addition to your DVD library. All the juicy visuals and grading from the original feature are shown as they should be in glorious HD quality – but it’s not the original version of ‘Flared’. It’s extra unseen footage cut to different music. Unbelievable… Just how much footage did they manage to collect? The intro sequence viewed in this quality will blow you away, if you’ll pardon the pun. Brandon Biebel is definitely one of my favourite characters on the team and I really liked the ten-minute ‘Weekend At Biebel’s’ documentary that they put on here.
Guy talks about his injury and subsequent surgery without making you squirm too much and the Vincent Alvarez ‘Welcome To Chocolate’ commercials previously only seen as web-quality clips are here in HD, which looks great. A perfect end to the trilogy of discs.

lakai final flare

Mike Mo’s Easter Egg footage and Carroll’s section from TWS’s epic ‘Modus Operandi’ are worth seeking out if you can find them (try ‘cleaning’ someone’s ear on the second disc’s menu…) and the bonus 46 page booklet that comes in the box is a great read, packed with all kinds of old ads and giving you a real idea of the production timeline.

The Lakai guys should feel proud of this contribution to skating. This special edition set surpassed all expectations, even after everyone had seen ‘Fully Flared’. That’s not the kind of goal most sane people would set themselves.

P.S. For anyone who was hoping to see the ‘Slow Motion In Regular Motion’ section from the second disc, which had to be axed after the packaging was printed due to lack of disc space, the Lakai guys have put it as a free download on iTunes via their site for all to see. Thanks dudes. Or you can simply watch it here on Trashfilter courtesy of the official Lakai YouTube channel.

Made For Skate: The Illustrated History Of Skateboard Footwear

I had the chance while I was still involved with Crooked Tongues to go to (and report on, alongside Mr. Warnett) the launch of the UK excursion of the ‘Made For Skate’ exhibition over in East London’s Brick Lane. After being introduced to Jürgen Blümlein and Daniel Schmid from ‘Made For Skate’, it was clear that this wasn’t just some backslapping endeavour for a major sportswear brand. These guys were skaters, had a genuine personal history in the skate scene and were trying their best to give an accurate account of skateboarding footwear.

At the time, at Crooked, we’d toyed with the idea of doing a sequel to the ‘Sneakers: the Complete Collectors’ Guide’, but perhaps purely about skate footwear and its influence – and to be fair, I was one of the people who discredited that idea. It just seemed too much of a job, and remembering the experiences I’d had when writing the first volume, it was going to take a lot of time to hunt down the shoes and imagery we’d need to make it a success.

Having seen this book in the flesh, I know we made the right decision. There’s no way we could have put the time in to make something of this calibre. Hopefully without sounding like too much of a cock, I’d say my skate knowledge is pretty good, but this book uncovers a lot of stuff that I’d never seen before.

Sensibly broken down into a generally-accurate timeline structure, the book is a weighty tome, tipping the scales at 400 pages, meaning that you’re not going to speedily flick through a pile of non-contextualised pretty pictures and then leave it on your coffee table. I got sent my copy two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to digest the contents.

I’m strongly adverse to anyone writing about anything to do with skating, unless they had some form of direct relationship with it, but this book was put together by the right kind of people. It’s not perfect, but it’s not going to be bettered for quite some time either.

Having spent a fair bit of time analysing the content, overall, it’s a really impressive effort. A slight German bias in places doesn’t spoil the writing, but it’s noticeable and there are several sections where I’m wondering if anything was lost in translation. It’s clear in places that different people have composed different sections of the text, due a significant switch in writing style.

The imagery and photography is pretty amazing: lots of archive ads pulled from old skate magazines, plenty of photos of rare shoes (albeit some absolutely battered to death!) and plenty of background content I’d never seen before.

There’s a heavy Sole Technology presence, which is a credit to them and their position in the world of skating, but I’d have loved to have heard a bit more from DC Shoes, DVS and Lakai instead of so much emphasis on the early era of skate footwear. I think a slight expansion on the past decade’s brands might resonate a little better with the audience who this book is aimed at.

That said, some of the old stories about particular times and photos are terrific: if you ever wondered the reason why four of the five handplanting Bones Brigade members were wearing Air Jordans at the Animal Chin ramp, well, that story’s in here. As is the story about who was scheduled to have the first professional shoe before Natas Kaupas. The background behind the Nike vs. Consolidated battle is laid out as well, which is amusing and interesting.

I liked the various sections on some of the brands that got lost in the ether over time and it would have been nice to hear some of the reasons why the shoes didn’t succeed from the people who bought them and were riding them (for example, I was getting sent free pairs of Axions in the mid ’90s – and, in my opinion, the real reason they didn’t take off was that the visible air bubbles continually blew out!). This slight gap is fortunately filled with words from the shoe designers and the pros who endorsed the shoes, so it’s not a deal breaker in the end.

It’s a big heavy book as mentioned above and that comes at a price that might keep it out of the hands of those who would most like to own it. At £40 (in the UK), it’s not likely to reach the full audience it deserves until it’s reprinted in paperback unfortunately. The special edition Nike SB slip cover version (and the limited-to-24-pairs hyperstrike edition Nike Blazer shoe sent to special people only) let’s those in the loop know who may have helped out – and fair play to Nike for stepping in and supporting something as adventurous as this.

Overall, this is a great book well worth the space on your coffee table. Go visit the guys over at Made For Skate and send in your own stories and images to keep this important archive and resource growing.

Joseph Rivera ‘Vandal Squad: Inside The NYC Transit Police Department 1984-2004’

I wasn’t initially convinced that buying a copy of this book would be in graffiti’s best interests: putting money into the pockets of someone who did his best to eradicate New York of graf was probably the opposite of what I wanted to do. Once I’d obtained a gratis copy and read through it, I thought I’d give it a quick review so you can make your own mind up on whether it’s for you.

Half of the appeal of writing for me was the accompanying folklore and events that surrounded the act of painting. Hearing that so-and-so got chased out of a particular train yard or another guy escaped police capture by hiding in a rubbish bin was all part of the reason I wanted ‘in’. But hearing these stories from the other side of the law does make for interesting reading, regardless of whether you’re an advocate of graffiti or dead-against it.

Rivera was one of the early members of the NYC Police Department’s Vandal Squad in the 1980s: any criminal activity that took place within the NY Transit system would be investigated by these guys, leading to the arrests of many of graf’s most infamous writers. He worked with the Squad through the ’80s and early ’90s, racking up a tally chart of large proportions. So, instead of a boring account of police procedures, you get a fairly unique insight with stories including plenty of names you’ll recognise: Seen, Revs, Deck, O’Clock, Crack (AKA Fat Joe), Skuf… Endorse it or not, it’s interesting reading.

One of the most interesting aspects of the accounts is that Rivera doesn’t take a disrespectful tone about the writers. Instead of mocking them and making them sound stupid, he often shows an appreciation for their artwork and also lays the story straight on the infamous ratting-out rumours that spread around when high profile writers got busted. In particular, the Cope and Revs sections are pretty revealing – and the fact that Rivera openly admits that some of the most-wanted writers were never apprehended gives you a feeling that most of this isn’t glorified storytelling.

In all, if you ever had an interest in the NYC Subway scene, fancy something a little different to read and want to see some decent photos (including examples from Jamel Shabazz and Peter Sutherland) that you may not have seen before, this is worth picking up.

Data time: it’s published by powerHouse Books, it costs about $30, there are 168 pages and it’s all rounded off with an interesting message from Cope on the back cover.

Alien Workshop ‘Mind Field’ DVD

Firstly, I’m not going to be reviewing every skate video production that comes out. I can barely keep up with Youtube clips, let alone the releases and premieres for all the major productions. That said, if you find yourself reading a skate flick review on here, then that means that it’s probably worth your time checking it out for yourself.

I’ve always liked Alien Workshop. There was something creepy and genuinely different about their vibe from the get-go, and it hasn’t got tired over the years: you know what you’re going to get with any footage they release, so injections of interstitial treatments and bizarre sepia-tinged clips don’t get in the way of your viewing pleasure. I was there in 1991, buying their first video release (‘Memory Screen’, with its weird yellow VHS cassette) and recalling that 15 minutes of actual skating in a 41 minute long video was a little… unusual. Something here was different.

The one main thing that has changed since those days is the team of riders. Some are still there (Rob Dyrdek, for example), but there’s always a healthy draw to their productions through the new blood and seasoned pros that are on the roster. With ‘Mind Field’, their fourth video, Alien had the tough job of topping 2000’s ‘Photosynthesis’ – arguably one of the best skate videos of all time.

‘Mind Field’ has been on the boil for a good few years, so expectations were already high before even considering the vast talent on the team’s roster. Leaked photos, advertisements and messageboard rumours kept the interest levels at a premium, maybe second only to the pre-launch of Lakai’s ‘Fully Flared’. Enough babble: if you’ve read this far, you already know all of this. I could have searched for a download, pestered people for a torrent file… whatever: like the Habitat video… or the Stereo box set… or any other production that I actually cared about, I was willing to hold out for the proper DVD release. You get the main film, a nice little 60-page book showing the making of the production, some bonus footage (which, truth be told, I haven’t explored yet)… It’s a nice set. So, what’s the feature like then?

It’s really good.

Opening up with plenty of ‘Memory Screen’ visual references (was that Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis I saw and heard there?), things were off to an interesting start. But when Omar Salazar’s section chimes in with his vast amount of pop and stair-hopping, you soon realise that this is two steps beyond. Gone are Steve Claar, Bo Turner, John Pryor, Scott Conklin and the others (although Duane Pitre does supply some music in this one). Gone is the experimental feel that the scratchy 8mm footage once had. This is big business.

Omar’s in for the opener, as mentioned already, and he proves worthy of it. It might not blow you away like Mike Mo did on ‘Flared’, but it’s a great opening section to the hour-long film. Lots of needle-threading (including an interesting hedge hop), rail pounding and ledge/Hubba antics make for a great section. Whether I preferred this to his Nike ‘Nothing But The Truth’ part is hard to say, because in that film his part stood out slightly more. The game’s been raised in terms of editing and production (and by the lack of terrible subplot) in this one. His ender is amazing.

Jake Johnson can skate switch as well as he can regular. Fast lines, peppered with confidently popped and caught tricks makes for a high adrenaline watch. The Jersey barrier wallie to tailslide on a rail is dope, as is the fakie heelflip down the Brooklyn steps. Wallride over a double set? No problem.

Arto Saari had a lot of hype to live up to, thanks to things such as his Skateboard Mag cover (that double kink backside lipslide, which incidentally is just as amazing to see here), but he manages to bring it to the table. Arto doesn’t need to show you 300 different tricks: I’d rather see a tight selection executed with smooth perfect style, which is exactly what he does here. It’s a good section. The popped pivot to fakie on the bank to wall (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it) is perfect.

Dylan Rieder probably had one of the most anticipated parts here, and with good reason. A relaxed flowing style with plenty of pop on various terrains gives a well-rounded part. The ditch lines are fast and fun, while the last trick – a vast fakie 360 flip down a big five – is an impressive end to one of my favourite parts of the film. Oh, and I liked the Segway interlude that followed.

Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from Rob Dyrdek and Steve Berra’s contributions to ‘Mind Field’. Both are plagued with the potential disinterest from skeptics, to the point of where I think they’d have to skate twice as hard as others just to get some recognition. Dyrdek’s been busy with all kinds of projects, whilst Berra was out of action for a while with injuries. To hold that against them before viewing their sections is a little presumptuous: both skaters have turned in short-but-very sweet parts that I really enjoyed. Dyrdek does a particularly dope switch tailslide flip out and Berra is the king of half-cab flips down sets of steps and over gaps. Both skaters did the lesser-spotted fakie double flip (Rob’s was off a bank, Steve’s amidst an amazing line), which made me smile.

Josh Kalis comes through with a great part. Despite having filmed a multitude of video contributions for the last God-knows-how-many years, his section here is classic Kalis: it’s been said many times, but Josh is a contender for best tre flip ever. Lots of clever manual trickery, some slick ledge work and plenty of switch goodness. The switch bigspin heelfip over the block at Fort Miley is an immediate rewind, and he has switch backside tails on lock. Strike up another win for Philly’s finest.

Grant Taylor had a highly anticipated section. Seeing him mature as you watch his part is amazing – the little guy at the start is a man by the time he hops the bump in the playground to frontside boardslide on the fence gate. Watch that move carefully – it’s amazing. I liked him flying around the waterpark as well: that place looks amazing to ride.

Mr. Big Socks, Jason Dill skates as you’d expect: fast, fun lines, using a variety of street obstacles. His part is short, but adds another element to the team line-up. What else can you say about the guy?

Tyler Bledsoe… Oh man. Watching him recently on The Berrics site, I had high hopes for his part and the bespectacled warrior turns in a contender for top section here. Yeah, it’s that good, honestly. A sick frontside boardslide shove-it popped over a rail kicks his section off with finesse, but he goes off: perfect backside bigspin to frontside bluntslide on rails, a huge bigflip down the Carlsbad gap… I won’t spoil it for you by listing everything, but he has all angles in his repertoire. This guy is going to be one to watch. Top three here, for sure. Mikey Taylor’s style stood out to me in the DVS film and he continues where he left off. Backside nollie flip/tailslide at speed, super long crooks down a man-sized rail… a huge nollie heel down a 10 set… An amazing section – and a nod of respect to our recently departed Van Wastell was a lovely touch. Anthony Van Engelen’s up next and, to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. Maybe I’d neglected to check out enough of his previous footage to realise just how good his part was going to be. Massive ollies, some sick lines (one high speed street line ends with a switch crooked grind up a ledge, popped out to 50-50 around a corner. I can’t really explain it, but it stuck in my memory immediately), a massive switch frontside noseslide to fakie on a bank to wall, a vast fakie nosegrind down a big rail… Lots of super-good tailslide-to-noseslide variations too. Another amazing section – and could’ve been curtains in any other video.

But… that duty goes to Heath Kirchart here. There’s no point trying to do his section justice in a website write-up. You can’t do it without bombarding everyone with superlatives. You feel that Heath worked hard on this section and the proof is there for all to see. The best double flip out of a schoolyard bank, over a picnic table… catching it at its peak… and then rolling away like he was in ‘Goodfellas’: “I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you?”. Insane curved Hubba 50-50. Transition debauchery at a park, nosegrabbing 360s higher than most people can jump on a trampoline. The closing trick is amazing. I’ll leave it for you to try and decipher.

With everyone proclaiming to be online journalists, I have little doubt that as soon as the premieres had shown, kids were running to their Blogger accounts to write up their take on the film. There seems to be a trend of downplaying things just so you can have that critical edge on the next guy, but I think it’s too easy to take something apart instead of enjoying it for what it is. Don’t listen too hard to online opinion (including mine, probably): go and see ‘Mind Field’ for yourself. It’s a very good skateboarding film.

adidas Superstar Skate (Silas Baxter-Neal)

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

When adidas decided to get things moving officially in the skate world, they didn’t half-step. Gonz has ridden for them for a while, but instead of ploughing all their funds into poaching 30 pro riders from other skate shoe brands, they’ve slowly grown the roster with a steady stream of amazing talent. Dennis Busenitz, Tim O’Connor, Nestor Judkins… even some homegrown talent in the form of our own Benny Fairfax. The team is a good mix of diverse skaters, picking points for style and originality rather than simply going for household names and superstar points.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal
adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

So, to hear that Silas Baxter-Neal had joined the team was simply another step in the right direction. Having been voted Thrasher’s ‘Skater Of The Year’ for 2008 is no accident: if you didn’t already see his section in Habitat’s ‘Inhabitants’ video in ’07, you need to get acquainted. Habitat currently have a well-worth-the-download video clip (16mb Zip’d Quicktime file) of Silas on their excellent site, so definitely check that one out while it’s still there. Go on!

With the current glut of skate footwear monstrosities cluttering up the sale racks, I’d suggest that maybe one in three pro skate shoes is really deserved. Silas deserves to be part of the 33.3%. And, with the Portland adidas crew on the design duties, you could be sure that they weren’t going to release a metallic silver knee-high hockey boot for him to ride in either.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

adidas had a big thing in their favour when starting up the specific Skate division – they’ve had a DNA strand in skate culture since people began skating. My personal affiliation was with the early ’90s EMB/World Industries scene, when everyone was rocking Campus, Gazelles and Superstars, reappropriating their intended uses and realising they were good to skate in. So whilst they’ve introduced some great new silhouettes, seeing updated Skate versions of these classic models is nothing but a good thing. Why disregard history?

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

Silas’s shoe is a Superstar Skate – a comfier and more supportive version of the iconic rubber-toed basketball shoe – but given a thorough dousing in the 3-stripe colour swatches. Black, brown, orange, grey… The combination looks amazing and sounds even better in the official adidas colour names (‘Loam’… ‘Lava’…). The suede upper is a nice touch too, giving you serious consideration as to whether they’re actually too nice to go skating in. The forest silhouette artwork around the heel panel is a nod to Oregon’s license plates, adding a considered personal touch to the shoe.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal
adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

I’m not about to sit down and write sprawling reviews of every sneaker that comes through the Trashfilter in-tray, but these have had people talking every time I’ve worn them and have quickly become my favourite winter sneakers.

Thanks to C-Law and Danny over at adidas for the imagery and background info.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

Original Fake | Room Shoes

Original Fake room shoes

Wack. As a rule, slippers are wack. For the past fifteen years, I’ve stuck to wearing sneakers indoors – and before that, it was socks all the way. It’s taken a long time for anything to steer me from this opinion or for anyone to convince me to take a look at wearing something specifically for indoor situations. But these little sleeping bag booties from Original Fake did just that.

Original Fake room shoes

To be honest, as much as my love for Kaws extends, I never really checked out his collaborative Original Fake clothing label with Medicom. I’d seen the various denim and cotton products and whilst they looked good enough on the blogs, they were never in my sights when out and about. As far as I can work out, other than the folks at Goodhood, there isn’t anyone else stocking the label in London. Fortunately, the guys over at The Glade in Berlin included these in their November mailout and I hit them up to see what the deal was.

Original Fake room shoes

OK, they’re not inexpensive. In fact, you could probably pick up a couple of pairs of sneakers for the same price. But they’re far more acceptable than treading dog-muck into your mum’s living room rug. Filled with down feathers and with a drawstring toggle on the cuff, they’re pretty much the most comfortable things you’ll ever slip onto your feet. The little non-slip rubber bits on the sole seem to work as well. The subtle Kaws ‘X’ eyes on the top, the stylish little heel tabs and the slick-as-hell packaging soften the blow of cashing out your Paypal account.

I think I’ve gone on about these long enough: rock a quick Google search and see if you can source a pair for yourself. They came in black, olive – and a smashing orange colour.

Skatebook

skatebook

Skatebook is a quarterly, 350 page, hard bound, coffee table book featuring skateboarding’s most iconic personalities, moments, events, eras, brands and the culture as a whole.”

That’s what the ‘About’ section on the Skatebook site says, so I figured that was more than enough information needed to try and find myself a copy. The first stumbling block was that there’s no international postage from their US-based site. Dammit. Living in London might be good sometimes, but it spoiled my chances of easily getting a copy of Skatebook – and there are no UK distributors either, so that angle was firmly lopped off at the root too.

Luckily, a quick Google search uncovered the guys at Unicron in San Diego, who were happy to send me the last two issues. Not only that, but Kevin at the store was kind enough to track down a copy of the long-gone first issue. Now that’s the customer service I was searching for!

skatebook

The three books arrived fairly swiftly – and the first thing I noticed was how big and heavy they are. Bigger than an ’86 Transworld, heavier than a set of Gullwings. The hardback cover on issues two and three takes this publication out of the ‘magazine’ section and firmly into the coffee table zone; I had them on my desk at the office and all day people kept flicking through them. If you like your skate literature word-heavy and packed with lots to read, you’re probably looking in the wrong place, but the photos are amazing.

skatebook

There are too many great pages in these to do a full review of each issue, but some of the features I particularly liked were the Fucked-Up Blind Kids/DGK parody retrospective, the Cardiel section, the Danny Way pictorial spreads, the Hosoi article… and… well, there’s a hell of a lot more.

If you ever felt the need to stick something substantial in your bookshelves, then Skatebook is probably a good decision. If you ever skated, you’ll find plenty to keep you amused. But even if you’ve never experienced the graze of tarmac across your knees, these are still well worth the $19.99.