Tag: "Alien Workshop"

Atlas x Mark Suciu | Cross Continental

Let’s get a bit of history about Atlas in here to start off with. I’ve read that you guys started in 2007: what inspired you to open up? With everything heading to online in recent years, it’s really nice to see physical stores still opening up.

Ryen Motzek: Yup, May of 2007 is when the doors opened. I myself have always been into retail. I worked for the Gap as a teenager and then got a job at Deluxe San Mateo. My biz partner Mike Manidis has deep roots in skating, was AM for New Deal, ran a skate camp during the summer, and we both thought it would be fresh to get something good going here.

There’s something about the retail experience that when done well is really cool and fun. Skateboarding being the best thing ever only makes that experience that much better (good music, classic skate videos, good product and an anti-corporate environment).

San Francisco has always been an iconic and important place for skaters, especially to us guys overseas. We had our own scenes, but we all tried to emulate what was going on over there as well. The whole EMB era was pretty significant to us. How have things changed since that time in SF? When Embarcadero went, did the scene become more disjointed?

When EMB shut down, everyone headed over to Pier 7. That lasted about 8 years. San Francisco has definitely made an effort to make spots skate proofed. Security guards are everywhere, and most new buildings come out with skate stoppers or random object in the way of ledges, rails, and other things to skate.

However, every now and then a great spot will pop up, and I will say it feels just like the old days. People from all over heading to that particular spot to get it in while it lasts. I’d say that the Bay Area in general is the spot. For example, something will pop up in Oakland, and folks from all over the Bay will head over there. Caltrain DIY R.I.P.

SF is also renowned for the quality of skate stores. You’ve got places like FTC and Skates on Haight (who I used to hit up for stickers and tees back in the early ’90s), spots like DLX and (the sadly gone) HUF… and then other core places such as yourselves. Is it a competitive environment to work in? Or does everyone look out for each other?

I’d say that SF is a VERY competitive place, which is why we decided to do our shop right out side of the city in downtown San Mateo. It’s a great place, with a thriving skate scene, and is plenty away from other shops.

Atlas seems to occupy a pretty unique area: you’ve got the core brands and support your local scene, but you’ve got a great ‘art’ side to the business that seems to add to your business, rather than just existing as a token ‘cool thing’ to have. What inspired you to represent the creative side so much at Atlas?

Our goal is to put focus on the art of skateboarding, rather than the sport. There are enough things going on, such as big dollar contests, mall stores, television and other activities that do not pay much attention to the creativity involved with the lifestyle of a skateboarder. Skateboarders have a unique way of looking at life.


Who are some of the artists that you have represented and showcased at Atlas? Have you always created products to accompany these exhibitions?

Ryen Motzek: We have showcased the art of Greg Hunt, Joe Brook, Matt Irving, Mark Gonzales, and Allister Lee.

We always have product to go along with the exhibitions. We also do artist decks with those that we greatly respect but don’t always have a function tied into the project.

Let’s talk about your local skaters and the Atlas team (if there is one!). Has that grown much from your opening days? How do you support your local skate community?

There are plenty of locals; it’s actually pretty crazy how many are in the Bay Area. In regards to our “team”, we rather consider it as something else.. Perhaps just family, or “supporters”.

How did the Cross Continental project come about? I caught a glimpse of it online, which is what led me to contacting you in the first place: it’s not that often you see something so impressive come from a collaboration between a skater, his sponsor and his local store. What was the initial idea for doing this project?

Being that Mark Suciu has been down with Atlas since day one, it seemed like a proper fit to do something with Habitat.

We had a ton of great footy, and wanted to make it a little more special that just an online release. We did a premiere at the shop, and created a limited run of decks with Habitat for the premiere. We’re hyped on how it all turned out, and the reaction to Mark’s part was amazing.

Let’s kick off with a few basics: how long have you been skating and who are your current sponsors?

Mark Suciu: I’ve been skating for 11 years and I ride for Atlas Skateshop, Habitat shoes and boards, Thunder Trucks, Sml. Wheels, and Ruca Clothing.

How long have you been part of the Atlas crew? Are you local to the store?

I’ve been with Atlas since February of 2008. I always go to the shop when I’m on my way up to SF, and whenever I need to solve some board issues or just want to hang out.

The first time I became fully aware of you and your skating would have been in the Habitat video, ‘Origin’. But having read a few things since then, you rode for Powell and Alien, right? Before you got hooked up, did you ever have any aspirations to ride for anyone in particular? Or was that never really part of your aim in skating?

Yeah, I started riding for Powell when I was 13 and left to go somewhere else when I was 16. I didn’t have anyone hitting me up, but at that time I was starting to think it might be possible to get on a company I’d always wanted to ride for.

When I was younger I wasn’t thinking so much about what boards I wanted to ride, it was more like which group of skaters I dreamed about hanging out with. And that was pretty much always the Alien team. So I waited it out a couple months and before I knew it I was getting boards from Kalis. I was so psyched. Even though they eventually switched me to Habitat and I didn’t get to skate with those guys, it was still so amazing to me.

I don’t think I threw my board the entire time they were sending me stuff, all I had to do if I was getting mad was look at the graphic and I’d be stoked.

After ‘Origin’, it seems that you racked up a steady stream of coverage, but before that, you had a lot of online footage that people often refer to. Has filming always been a pretty consistent part of your life?

Mark Suciu: Yeah, I’ve been filming tricks ever since my parents got a Hi-8 camera when I was ten, so it’s always felt natural. I guess it’s a kind of a fascination I have with the progression side of it.

Let’s get to the recent ‘Cross Continental’ project. How long was this in the pipeline? Who came up with the idea of travelling across the US as the background thread for the film?

That footage was from somewhere around November 2010 to the end of Nov 2011, and the two cross country drives were in August and Nov of 2011.   

It started as just a solo Atlas part that I could put out whenever and make exactly how I wanted. Near the end of the filming I talked to Habitat and they said they wanted to back it and that it needed a name. The footage we had already told the story of the cross country missions, so I think it was Joe Castrucci that tagged the name Cross Continental on it. There was really no planning it out. 

How did the ‘On The Road’ clip tie in with everything?

That was just all the footage of the preliminary tricks at the spot. We were kind of just warming up with the HD and  then switching to the VX. Also, as it was a Field Log edit, it helped foot the bill for a couple of our hotels.

‘Cross Continental’ had the feel of some of the older videos that I’ve always liked. Alien’s ‘Memory Screen’ or ‘Photosynthesis’ spring to mind. Putting less emphasis on cutting-edge visuals and more focus on raw skating: The lack of any slow motion really gave it a high level of re-watch factor for me. Did you get involved with the editing or contribute ideas towards the filming at all?

I wasn’t at the editing table, but I knew all of my ideals were. My friend Miguel Valle, who filmed it, grew up with a lot of the same inspiration as I have, so we’re definitely on the same page. We would talk constantly throughout the process. I chose the first song and was picky as hell with the tricks, and he took it all from there.

Everyone who’s mentioned the film has talked about the switch backside noseblunt on the rail and the frontside varial heel into the fountain at Love Park. I really like the quick-fire bank-to-stair tricks and the line that opens with the backside 180 fakie nosegrind (which I think is at Love). Were there any other particular things that that you were really pleased to get for the video?

I would say the longer line at the SF Library and that bigspin into the rock in San Jose are my favorites. That line was probably the most thought out clip in the part and also the most exhausting. I nearly threw up after the first two hours. And the bigspin I had wanted to do the whole year I was filming; it ended up being the last trick I filmed for the part.

The accompanying Habitat board was really nice too: did you know that was coming out when the video clip was launched? Is this technically your debut pro board?

When Habitat joined in they told me about it, and I got to see the first draft of the graphic in November. I’m so psyched to have it, and also to be the reason that Atlas and Habitat got together. But no, it’s not a pro board.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012? Anything we should be watching out for?

My friend Justin Albert and I are putting out an all San Jose part with some homies. It should be out really soon. (editor: you can check that video here!)

Other than that, I’ll be travelling around from coast to coast, just filming and enjoying it.

Gravis Footwear | Dylan Rieder slip-on

Unless you work in the design field yourself, it’s often hard to get a gauge of what goes into a skate shoe. Who is the Gravis design team comprised of and what are the individual titles?

Kelly Kikuta: Our global product team consists of Joe Babcock, Luz Zambrano, Kyle Plummer, Shinobu Mase, Takashi Sato and myself.

An obvious question, but an important one: how did you approach designing Dylan Rieder’s new pro model shoe? The end result is clearly different from any other skate shoe on the market, but there’s clearly something good going on here.

Our main goal was to design a shoe that embodied Dylan’s vision. He wanted something unique, something different. He has an eye towards high-end fashion and we interpreted this aesthetic into his shoe. Working closely with Mark Oblow our Creative Director, we injected Dylan’s style and personality into a silhouette the skateboard market had yet to see.

How involved did Dylan get with the design? Having read interviews with other skaters who’ve simply added a signature to an already-popular silhouette for their own models, it seems this was a little more involved.

The relationships we have with our team sets Gravis apart from everyone else. It’s been one of our most consistent traits from the inception of the brand. We made sure every aspect of what Dylan was looking for was brought to life. I still remember the day he tested the shoes for the first time in our parking lot. To see him be able to pop tricks like he did was validation that we accomplished something special.

Were there any other ideas that didn’t make it to fruition? Were there any unreleased samples produced?

Kelly Kikuta: Actually, we really lucked out with Dylan’s shoe! The first prototypes came back pretty spot-on, not a lot of tweaks were even necessary. Overall we were able to build a shoe that had every aspect and feature he was looking for at the time.

With a non-standard shoe – or rather a product that doesn’t rely on an existing style so much – is it a challenge to introduce it to the consumer market?

Yeah, I think the challenging part in introducing such a unique design was gaining the acceptance. We’ve always had our loyal Gravis supporters since day one, but launching such a unique skate shoe like this really tested that. At the same time we gained a lot of respect for taking Dylan’s lead and designing a shoe that had never been done or seen before in skateboarding.

Everything feels very ‘premium’ with the first Dylan model. A small number of shoes were released to a select number of stores – I recall an element of excitement that is normally reserved for the latest Nike SB or Lakai release. Was the slip-on intentionally released as a limited model?

Dylan’s shoe is not a limited model, although we offered a limited color way (the Oxblood edition) to select stores, the Dylan shoe is available to all of our skate retailers. We have a small collection of styles based around Dylan: those models really compliment what we’ve done with his first shoe and will be available to a larger consumer base.

The Gravis skate program is relatively young compared to some of the core skate shoe brands, but the product has been really strong and the skate team is one of the best out there. Do you need to keep a close eye on the rest of the industry or are things more organic?

Kelly Kikuta: First off, thank you! That’s a huge compliment. We back our team 100% and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished as a brand in such a short time. Skateboarding has become so competitive at all levels these days that you have to stay on top of what the other brands are doing. We feel we have the ability to produce product that competes with the other brands and at the same time sets us apart from the pack. We want to be different and build shoes that give skaters an alternative to what’s currently saturating the shoe walls. That really comes down to being inspired by our team and bringing their visions to fruition.

With the backing of Burton, are you able to take advantage of their own research and development when it comes to creating new product?

Being backed by Burton has been helpful on a multitude of levels. Jake has been extremely supportive of what we’re doing and makes sure we have all the right resources available to us. We definitely wouldn’t be where we’re at today without the support of Burton.

What’s up next from the Gravis skate program? Is there a full team video due in the future at any point?

The launch of Dylan’s video was been a huge project for us. The guy flat out destroys it! Mo, Oblow and everyone involved in that project did an amazing job… good work guys! We’ll definitely be following that up in the near future. In terms of product, we have plans to launch a new Arto Saari model in the Fall of 2011 – look out for that!

There isn’t really much point in writing a review of the Dylan Rieder Gravis promo video. It’s a web-friendly freebie, but featuring content worthy of a premium release. I might be from the era of Ed Templeton and Rodney Mullen’s ollie impossibles, but seeing Dylan pop one clear over a bench in this video blew me away. Sugarcane in a pool? Chest-high frontside tailslide to flip out? Fakie flip over a rail, into a bank? Check, check and double-check. The little guy we saw in the Quiksilver ads grew up big.

Seeing him skating his private park with Biebel, Mariano, Marc Johnson and AVE and rolling around popping impossibles over the crowd barriers at Street League just confirms his status. I might not be able to rock a pair of jeans like that, but in the same breath I will never be able to skate like that either.

Gravis pulled the stops out with this video. Expertly filmed and edited (Greg Hunt has been a long-time favourite of mine), great music choices and minimal-but-slick graphics throughout. I hope Arto gets the same treatment when his model drops later this year.

The final thing to say – yet perhaps the most important to anyone who’s still wondering how you can possibly skate in leather slip-ons – is that I have been skating in them since I got a pair. Switching from a pair of Lakai mid-tops to the Dylan shoe is a definite head tweak. Whilst I have relied on some ankle protection since breaking my ankle for the third time, the feeling of freedom was actually refreshing. For tricks like 360° flips or pop shove-its, these give you a proper feeling for the catch.

As you’d expect, these are lighter than anything else out there. What you lose in foot security is made up for with suppleness and comfort. No laces means no frayed bits of material hanging off broken eyelets. Minimal seams and panel joins mean there are no obvious areas for abrasion too. And where you’d normally mourn the lack of ventilation holes, the clever construction is one step ahead: thin layers don’t retain the heat like padded tongues do. Thin layers don’t mean flimsy construction either.

Three weeks into my wear test and I can safely say that these are the eye-openers of the decade, in terms of comfort. The fact I can ignore the ‘no sneakers’ rule and walk straight into the pub afterwards is the icing on the cake.


Chrome Ball Incident | Nike Dunk SB

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?

Whole magazines.

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

“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.”

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.