chrome ball interview #79: gino iannucci

chops and gino sit down for conversation. 

So why a sponsorship change at this stage in your career, Gino? And why FA?

A really good question. I even ask myself that sometimes, being at this point in my life and stage of my career. It was really a mix of a few different things. It’s not that I was unhappy with Girl and Chocolate. Not that at all. It had more to do with feeling like the years have been flying by but I’m still doing the same thing I have been with the same people. I felt the need for a change to stir things up a bit in my brain and hopefully on my board.

Fair enough.

When I heard initially that Jason and Anthony were doing this new company, I was immediately psyched. I was happy for them. Happy for Jason’s success. I’ve been good friends with him for a long time and it was nice seeing him do his own thing.

It wasn’t until I finally saw the Supreme video a few months after it came out that I was able to see what they were about… the young guys and the overall vibe they were putting out. It really attracted me. It was interesting because the rawness of the video reminded me of the old days. Just being out there skating. I liked that it all seemed a little different than what was going on elsewhere and I love how those kids are so into doing their own thing. How unconcerned they are with whatever else is going on.

It’s refreshing. I feel like skateboarding needed all of these new little companies. Before that, skateboarding was getting kind of boring to me. Uninspiring. Seeing those guys start a company along with these younger kids out there doing their thing… how they’re going about doing it interested me immediately.

Like I said, it was nothing on Girl or Chocolate’s part that was bumming me out. But a lot of it came from wanting to make myself feel like I wasn’t stealing everytime I came out to California. I needed some change.

Credit: Mementophoto

So this isn’t something you’d been contemplating for a while? It’s all just so surprising because you’d been engrained in Chocolate for so long, through so many ups and down.

I never thought I would ever leave Chocolate. I was going to skate for Chocolate until either the day they dropped me or I just quitting skating altogether. I grew up with Girl and Chocolate and I love those guys.

With FA and what Jason and Anthony are doing, it came down to everything in my gut and in my heart. Wanting to be part of something new, something fresh.

Leaving had to be a difficult call to make… after almost 20 years, that’s almost comparable to a divorce at this point.  I know there’s a lot of excitement and uncertainty there but probably a fair amount of guilt as well, right?

I’ll be honest, I went into a really dark place after I left and it took me a good month to get out of it. I won’t get too deep into it but it was definitely a depression of sorts. It was not a good time. Not to mention with the 20-year anniversary stuff going on and everything else… the timing of it was just horrible.

I don’t know why all this had to happen now. I ran into Dill one day at Supreme while I was out filming this thing with Federico. None of this was planned. It just came about naturally while all these anniversary events and things happened to be going on. Being part of those events, going to galleries in LA and New York and talking to people about Chocolate and the history there… it’s been really hard. It’s still hard. I still think about those guys everyday but I gotta keep my head up and remain positive. Change is good. I’m not expecting this to be some miracle in my skating where I’m going out there like I’m 25-years-old again but I do have a new state of mind these days that feels good.

I’ll be brief but I don’t think I handled leaving the best way I possibly could’ve. I’m not proud of that. But it was so difficult, I didn’t know what else to do. I had some good talks with Jason and Anthony about how they felt leaving Alien. They understood where I was at and were patient... especially since I was asked by Rick to hold off for a bit until after those anniversary events, which I was more than happy to do. I had too much respect than to just break out like that. 

Was there ever talk of Chocolate possibly taking your board away?

No, there was never talk of that.

There was a point in time, if I remember correctly, when I had a talk with Megan and was told my pay would be cut due to the way I was living. That was during all my legal drama and I was showing no signs of change. They looked at it as enabling me to continue being a dickhead.

With that said, when it got pretty bad for me, they were the first ones there to scoop me up and check me into a 30-day. Me being me, I called them up 3 days later to come get me because I had left. You can call that a slap in the face but like they always say, nothing will stop a person until they are ready to stop. I wasn't at that point.

How was your experience filming Pretty Sweet? I know you were said to have filmed a whole part but a sizeable chunk ended up going to Brick Harbor?

Yeah, I definitely had more footage for Pretty Sweet but I guess it wasn’t up to the standard that was being done by the other guys on the team. I’ll cosign that. That’s true. The filming probably wasn’t as on-point either. I wasn’t really filming with Ty or Federico.

But I was blown away by Pretty Sweet. I honestly didn’t know much about how the video was going down until I saw it in New York but I understood why so much of my footage wasn’t used. I think it would’ve stood out for the wrong reasons.

I will say there was a realization there that kinda put things into perspective for me. I was trying to get footage for it and while I knew that it probably wouldn’t be a full-part in the video, I at least wanted to come through with some stuff. That video was kind of a wake-up call for me as to where things were at now.

But then once I saw Cherry and what was going on in that video as opposed to Pretty Sweet, my perspective switched up again. It all doesn’t have to be Pretty Sweet all the time. You don’t have to worry as much about the filming and whether you’re keeping up with the type of skating that incredible skaters like Guy are doing.

I found myself battling this feeling that I didn’t even fit in anymore because the type of skating those guys were doing was so amazing. The younger guys, too. I guess that’s why Rick didn’t put himself in the video… because maybe he felt like he didn’t fit in either. I was bummed about that.

We all were.

Exactly. We just want to see Rick skate. You want to see footage of him skate because he’s an amazing skater. 

But that’s what people have been saying about you! I mean, I understand holding yourself to a higher standard, and on top of that, you have to deal with skateboarding holding you, in particular, to an even higher ideal as this style icon but does the pressure of being “Gino” ever jam things up in your head? Just like it possibly did to Rick in Pretty Sweet?

It definitely jams things up in my head at times because I do hear that sort of thing a lot. I mean, when I was younger with those 101 videos and the early Chocolate videos, I was only concerned with the tricks I was doing. Making sure that I was coming through and on-point.  I felt confident in what I was doing.

The “style” thing wasn’t a concern back then. It was about skating and doing good shit. All of a sudden, you start hearing so much about style that you start to feel like you’re getting love for the wrong reasons.

“Oh, I would rather see him push…” That doesn’t make me happy. It’s flattering but I’d rather get love for the actual skating. I’m sure there are kids out there who are looking at me like, “So? What’s he doing? He’s not skating.”

But at the same time, I also get pissed off because it has become this thing where every time there’s a video project coming out, people started talking about a full-video part from me. I’m 41-years-old. When does that stop? When do people stop expecting a full-video part? Most probably already have at this point actually, but for Pretty Sweet, I kept hearing about this full-part I might have. I was already in my late 30’s by then, my body is not the same as it was when I was younger. I have injuries.

There are just so many things that make it difficult for a full video-part. Inspiration is a big part of it and that’s not always there. It’s a mix of things: you get tense, you get bummed, sometimes you just don’t care. Sometimes I’m at a spot and if I don’t look on-point, I start to worry that whoever else is there will be disappointed in me. A lot of things get in the fucking way of skating.

It’s this weird thing where I’m totally appreciative of this pressure while being annoyed at the same time, if that makes sense. I need to get on it enough to get where I don’t give a shit about the worrying anymore. 

Guy once said that if it wasn’t for Keenan, the Girl crew might have never gotten to know you due to your quiet nature. Do you feel his passing was a factor, along with your own personal struggles, that helped push you underground?

I just never felt fully comfortable around those guys. That’s just the way I am. I’ve only really been comfortable around the guys I grew up around back in New York. I guess that’s why I’d always head back there to skate and hang out, to be around those guys.

Being in LA, it was just different. I never felt a close bond with those guys. I liked the dudes. It was cool, we hung out and partied but it was a bit superficial.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve dealt with Keenan’s passing. I will say that it was something I saw coming. With how things were going, I knew that it was going to happen and I wasn’t surprised when it did. Not to say that it wasn’t tragic when it did happen but I could see something like that was coming.

But yeah, if it wasn’t for how outgoing Keenan was, things would’ve been different. As his roommate, when there was a ton of people hanging out at the house, they probably wouldn’t have been there half of the time if he wasn’t there. And to be honest with you, I would’ve been content with that. (laughs)

I don’t know if it pushed me more underground or not. I really don’t know how I’ve dealt with everything. I still trip out on it occasionally. I loved Keenan and loved being around him. I know it’s affecting me on different levels, for sure.  

What would you say is your fondest Keenan memory?

For whatever reason, when I think of the good times with Keenan, I always think about he’d come stay at my house on Long Island when we were young. I remember how every time before he left, we’d end up wrestling each other. Trying to beat the shit out of each other… but not in a bad way. We’d totally be laughing the entire time. Just two kids having fun. For some reason, we’d do that every time, right before he left to go back to the city.

It reminds me of our relationship, how I felt about him and hopefully how he felt about me. Just close friends. He didn’t want to leave and I didn’t want him to leave but fuck that, let’s get this going. I’m gonna wrap you up right now with the headlocks and shit. That’s the kind of shit I remember. 

Coming up with Keenan, Huf and Keefe, I’ve always wondered how come you never got on Fun along with those dudes? I know you sent sponsor-me tapes… why Black Label? And did you send tapes to any other companies back then?

You know, that’s something I’ve never even thought about until now that you mention it.

I didn’t look at companies the same back then. I didn’t look at them in the way of who would I like to ride for, which one was more my stee. I didn’t really give a shit who I got product from.

It was more about knowing Lucero. He was a big-time pro… fuck it, I’ll send a video. I don’t know what attracted me to them. Maybe I saw a Max Evans ad or even a Dill ad. Not sure. I just sent them a video and it’s all history from there.

Funny thing is, I remember being at an amateur contest in Bricktown, New Jersey and Dyrdek asking me if I was interested in riding for Alien. This was right when I got on Black Label and I didn’t want to leave them so quickly like that. I was hyped Dyrdek was down to sponsor me because I respected him a lot back then but I wanted to stick with the Label. I don’t know if I ever told Lucero that. 

But yeah, Black Label was the only board company I ever sent a tape to. Them and Gullwing! I got on Gullwing somehow and was actually riding those for a while. 

Crazy! So you were getting steady coverage until blowing up an issue of Thrasher with not only a switch flip down the Hubba 6 but also a back heel down the Gonz Gap. How did that go down? Did you know both those heavy photos were gonna drop in the same issue like that?

I don’t think so. I was young and na├»ve. You just try shit and sometimes it goes down. That day happened and it was a good day. I didn’t really know that back heel was going to come out as a Thunder ad or that they were going to be in the same mag. I was just happy to be skating and getting photos. I definitely didn’t know it was going to be a “career starter” or anything. I didn’t think of things like that.

But you still don’t feel like you really made that back heel? Was that your first time at EMB?

Yeah, that was my first trip to SF but no, I’m still not happy with that one. You can see it! I land it, roll for a bit but I’m off-center on the board and then jump off.

People tell me all the time that I’m crazy for thinking that but as a skater, I like to think we try to be perfectionists.  I recall going through the same thing filming tricks for 101 videos. Landing them and not being psyched on how things looked in the footage. If it didn’t look the way I wanted it to, I’d try it again. Most people do this. I just didn’t get the chance that day to try it again like I would’ve liked to. But I definitely didn’t do it the way I wanted to. Whatever, it is what it is.

But yeah, all that stuff was the same day. It was the day I was leaving to go back to New York and was just killing time before going to the airport. It was myself, Liversedge and Keenan and we decided to go down to EMB. I remember Jaime Thomas and Matt Pailes were there. We started fucking around on the 7 with some tricks and ended up over at Hubba. That’s when the switch flip went down. Gabe was there and got the photo. After that, we went back over to EMB and got up on the Gonz to check it out… it was like, “Fuck this, let me try something.”

That was one of the scariest things I’d ever done, at least back then. The runway was so sketchy, man. It’s so skinny and it’s all the way up top and to the left… if you hit a rock or fly off the side, you were done. It was a pretty sketchy gap, too, at least for the time. 

What was the story behind that mysterious David Schlossbach company that was going to be under Rocco with you, Lotti and Dill?

Yeah, that was an interesting one. Jason and Jeremy Wray were involved because something had happened with Color. I don’t know if it had fell through or what but I remember being introduced to Dave Schlossbach back then through those guys. Dave and Lotti had this idea to start something and were looking for riders.

We were down. I remember Jason and I started filming with Dave everyday for a promo video. He’d pick us up and head out to all these spots I’d seen in videos. The big spots that everyone skates. We’d just go and try shit that hadn’t been done there before.

The company didn’t end up working out. We needed another rider and tried to get Markovich but he wasn’t interested. Then Lotti broke out for his reasons and it was done. This was actually around the same time all the Girl guys left World and Plan B and Dave thought he could maybe get Jason and I on 101. I even remember him asking me about it.

“What!? Natas? Are you kidding me? Of course, I’m down!”

Natas was into it so it worked out. But honestly, I did feel a little weird about getting on the team when I did. I felt like I was being a bit of a replacement for these amazing skaters. I wasn’t sure how people were going to take to me but in the end, I didn’t give a shit. It’s fucking Natas, I’m down and that’s it.

The footage that we were stacking for the promo ended up being used for Snuff

Natas has talked about bouncing ideas off riders and Dill has spoken about helping him edit the 20 Shot intro… did you ever contribute like that to the company? Were you down with the artsier side of 101?

I was completely into it. 101 was amazing. I was always psyched on the graphic ideas they came up for me and I always loved the fact that I could bring them ideas. I think half of the boards I had on 101 were my ideas for the graphics. I loved that stuff. And, of course, whatever was done that I didn’t do was incredible. I was down for all of it.

I have to ask about that “Lifestyle He Is Accustomed To” ad because it’s literally the reason I started this website. How’d that one come about? Was that one of your ideas or Natas’ and what is it in reference to?

That was Natas. I don’t even know why we did that ad, he just thought it would be cool and I was down for it, too. It wasn’t in reference to Black Label or anything. But it was cool burning $20 bills to light cigarettes because in reality, that’s really what it ended up being like. Just taking any check I got and blowing it. Taking it right to the Beverly Center and getting new Clarks. Making sure that I was going out that night with a new set-up. 

Photo: Natas

Which 101 video project would you say is your favorite? And how were those parts to create as far as overall process and productivity? That was 3 straight years of classics!

As far as the skating goes, I really like Trilogy. I’m proud of how that one came out. I like 20 Shot as well, even though it wasn’t that big of a part but just because of the time and where our heads were at with skating and everything.

Like you were saying earlier with Jason, I never got to work directly with Natas while editing but I did get to help edit my Trilogy part with Soc. It felt good because I really had control over it. Start it here, end it there. Make sure there was this much time before the trick so you can see the skating prior, making sure there’s enough time after the landing so you can see the ride away. You want to get a better idea of how that person really skates, not just the trick. That was important to me.

But those didn’t even feel like projects at the time. It’s not like now where you’re constantly working on this video that’s coming out in four years and you have to film with so-and-so every time you go out. It was nothing like that.  It was more like putting out another video with all the stuff we’d been doing.

During those days, we were always out filming, whether there was a video coming out or not. There was no soul skating at that point. We were young and thirsty to do what we thought were really good tricks on our board. We wanted to do our thing. Call up Soc and he’d be there… next thing you know, you had a bunch of footage so when it was time to put out a video, you were good. It was so much simpler back then. 

Photo: Kosick

Who’s idea was it to put that quote in front of your Trilogy part? Was that just part of the Ghostface mix you used or was that put there intentionally?

Its funny, the guy who did that mix actually just walked into the office. But no, the quote was my idea. Obviously, I’ve always been a big Wu fan and they always had the cool quotes from movies and kung-fu flicks before songs. Well, I wanted my own quote. I wanted to find one that fit how I felt about skating and put it in front of my part. I can’t remember what movie we found it in but we happened to dig it up one day at Dennis’ apartment. It was perfect. I wanted it to be my own statement because that’s how I felt at the time and still do. Everyone has their own style.

I know Dill got kicked off for stealing but how did 101 end? Were you leaving because 101 was dissolving or did 101 dissolve because you left?

Dill did get kicked off but it was Natas leaving that made me decide to leave. That’s when it was over.

I kinda knew that Chocolate was down for me already, Keenan had already mentioned it. So it was always in the back of my mind and, of course, I was super psyched. I grew up admiring those guys. So basically once Natas left, I was out. You could say he set the pick. 

You mentioned earlier about how you never really felt comfortable with the whole Girl/Chocolate crew. Do you feel this initial discomfort effected your filming of Chocolate Tour?

I think the reality of it is that I’ve never felt comfortable with myself, period. That’s what I’ve come to learn as I’ve gotten older. When you’re young, you think it has to do with being around these guys and it’s kind of uncomfortable because you hold them in such high regard, but as you get older, you start to really break yourself down and how you are as a person. I think I’ve just always been a quiet person, never too social besides those initial friends I grew up with.

So… which one was Chocolate Tour again?

The GZA “Publicity” instrumental and Gino’s Skatepark…

Oh yeah, I get Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Tour mixed up… and honestly, I tend to forget about that Chocolate Tour one. But no, I thought that part came out cool. I was happy with the skating. 

Were you into doing all the skits and stuff? Chocolate videos always seem to have some kind of premise to work with.

At first, I’d never done anything like that before so I thought it was interesting to do. The first time I ever did anything like that was with Spike for a commercial that was supposed to run in Japan. Just a random commercial, no skating involved. It was me, Keenan and Ben Sanchez with a couple of chicks in a car driving around LA. It was a full-on production, which was a little weird and uncomfortable, but it was all so new to me that it was still exciting.

I didn’t feel comfortable with the acting on Chocolate Tour at all. Not at all. I didn’t like having the spotlight on me like that… people screaming “action”, it didn’t feel natural and I didn’t take to it very well.

It’s not that I wanted it to be a regular skate video without the skits, either. By that point, Spike had already put out a movie and it was cool to see how he works and how the whole movie thing goes. I just wasn’t into the camera being on me as much back then. 

How do you define the word “style”?

The first thing that comes to mind is that style comes naturally. It’s nothing forced. You see a lot of people out there faking their style and you can always tell. They’ll land their trick and end up doing something with their arms or whatever and you can tell it’s completely exaggerated.

Everyone has their own way they skate when they’re really going for shit, when they’re not really concerned with how they look after they land the trick. That’s when you can really see it.

There’s so many different things that can come across in your style. The way you grew up, what you were exposed to, music, your natural agility… all those factors are involved when it comes to style.

What about your trick selection? You have your classic staples like back tails and such but are there instances where you’ve purposefully tried to be different? Fakie varial kickflips still stand out as yours but you were also pushing backside 360 ollies, 360 shoves and no complies when nobody else was.

I don’t feel like I’m the kind of person who really thinks outside the box and I think my trick selection proves that. I’m a pretty simple skater. I used to get a little more technical when I was younger. But usually, my tricks just come from feeling good. If they felt good, they looked good and I trusted that. It comes across. It’s as simple as that.

360 shove-its always felt good to me so why wouldn’t I do them? It’s the same thing with those fakie shove-it flips. I remember the first time I really started doing those was at the Adams bump in LA near USC. You knew you just had to stay confident in how it felt. 

So what’s one trick that feels terrible to you?

Oh man… tre flips. (laughs)

Bullshit! You have a good tre flip! That one in 20 Shot at Black Rock!?!

Nah, I never had them like that. Never over something or down anything. Never consistently. There would maybe be a day here or there where I would have them lovely on flatground but then they’d be gone. I could never hold on to a good tre flip.

That’s probably the worst trick for me. I fucking can’t stand them. (laughs)
Photo: Blabac

Talk a little about the making of your Yeah Right! part and filming back on Long Island, away from LA. And why Guns N Roses? Such a good choice but definitely not expected… getting your Long Island Iroc on.

(laughs) Italian retard out cruising…

So good.

Yeah Right! worked out because I had just moved back to New York and met up with an old friend. I was bummed on LA and over how I was partying a lot. My friend Brad, who ended up filming most of that part, had a tattoo shop with a little mini-ramp and some props and we just started skating together a lot there. Just having fun.

At the time, I was more about wanting to be at peace with myself than concerned about skating. But we’d just go skate and it slowly turned into that zone of wanting to film.  We started going to spots that I’d known from when I was younger and got into a rhythm. Things started to happen. Knowing that the video was coming out, I was sparked and wanted to come through. The motivation was there… I can’t explain really why. I think Brad helped me out with motivation with his even knowing by just having fun. We started getting clips and it turned out being pretty good.

As far as the song goes, I had some ideas but it was Mike Carroll that actually brought that song up to me. I remember we were at Ty’s house at the time editing and he threw it out there. It just so happened that I was listening to the Guns a lot at the time and when he brought it up, it just made sense. Fuck yeah, I’m down for Guns!

Photo: Reda

It pretty much went straight into Hot Chocolate right after that…

Honestly, I didn’t really like that part that much.

During the filming for Yeah Right! I was really motivated and psyched on things. I was skating a lot and ended up being pretty happy with how my part came out. It was afterwards, when watching the video as a whole, that I started to notice a change in skating. That maybe for the first time, I was falling behind. I didn’t feel like I was really pushing the envelope anymore. People were really progressing at that point. I began to feel that my skating was starting to look basic, a little more than usual.

I felt it even more so with Hot Chocolate.

Photo: Colen

I know you were going through some legal stuff at the time but what was the story behind that WESC tour of Long Island? That’s a tough watch, man.

Oh God. I do and I don’t regret that one. It was at that time where I was going through a lot of personal shit. Tripping on skating and my future... just about life, in general. I was in a bad place upstairs.

I always feel like I want to be truthful about everything but maybe I was a little bit too honest with that one. Stopping by the rehab I went to… what are you thinking, dude? But whatever, it’s a part of my past and I was being honest. I was just in a bad place so I figured I’d take them out to the lighthouse, a place that I still love to this day. I thought it would be nice but to get into all that stuff, I’m not too happy about.

Describe your relationship with Guy Mariano. You two seemed to share a mutual respect that was always cool to see. I know he spoke very publicly about trying to motivate you into putting out a part like his Fully Flared comeback. How do you feel his comeback affected your outlook on your own career and people's expectations of your output?

Like I said earlier, there was a lot of time spent partying back in the day but we were never really close back then. No offense but none of us were, at least that's the way I saw it. Just superficial party/skate friends.

Things changed a bit when Guy got out of rehab and started skating everyday. At the time, I was trying as well but still a little up-and-down. With him being through what he gone through and my understanding of that, I felt we had a cool friendship. We spoke a lot about those topics and whatever else besides skating… normal shit!  We skated a lot and it felt good. I felt we were finally getting to be real friends.

As time went on, there started to be some distance. He was doing great, onward and upward, but for me, the conductor couldn't get me off that fucking roller coaster. I look at it as someone growing, moving on and flourishing while the other stayed stagnant in the funk. It's only a matter of time until they drift apart and rightfully so. I moved back to Long Island and then getting caught up with the legal drama, I just drifted away and became distant with him and everyone.

As far as his comeback and its effect on me, it was a trip. First of all, I was pushed back after he put out that Fully Flared part. If I heard anything about myself possibly returning like that, I’d laugh and be bummed at the same time. There's only one Guy and I never put myself on his level. No comparison.

I would see his production and bug out, wondering how he does it. He keeps coming harder and harder… which would make me question myself and where I stood. Then reality sets back in and I remember that there's only one Guy Mariano. Special. A great skateboarder.

Anyway, let’s turn the page, I'm just going to continue doing me with no comparison to what anyone else is doing. No format so lets roll! 

Fucking Awesome!

So with the new sponsor and a renewed interest, what are you hoping to achieve?

It’s mainly just a change of mind. I feel happy to be part of something that I believe in.

As far as footage, I’m just going to continue what I’ve been doing. When I feel inspired to film something, I will. If not, then I won’t. I’ll be skating, though. You’ll be seeing me out there. It feels good. It always feels good.

In Hot Chocolate, you said, “Hopefully I’ve left a positive impact on skateboarding… I don’t know.” Are you happy with your career to this point? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

That’s a good question. Yes, I am happy just for the simple fact that I’ve been able to do this for this long. I never would’ve thought that I’d still be skating on the professional level at age 41. Still feeling good with the desire to skate and how good it still feels. It actually feels better at times now than when I was younger because I was so obsessed with learning tricks back then. I remember ending up crying at the World Park sometimes. Now it’s more of an appreciation of being on your board and how it feels. Appreciating the stuff you can do. It’s just a different mindstate.

Overall, I can’t regret anything. I’ve always done what I wanted to do and luckily, I’ve been able to be me for this long without really trying to conform. I’ve never had to follow a certain type of format as far as being a professional skater. Just being myself, for better or worse. Being the type of person I am, I can only do me and that’s it. 

thanks to dill, fa, mighty healthy and gino for taking the time.


chrome ball interview #78: ryan fabry

 chops and ryan blow some bubbles.

So let’s start this thing off with a little background, Ryan. I know you came up out of Las Vegas but aren’t you originally from Minnesota? Is that where you started skating?

Yup, exactly. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was there all the way until I was 17-years-old.

Do you feel your ATV-brand of skateboarding came from growing up in that type of climate? Some pretty harsh winters to deal with in Vertisota.

(laughs) Yeah, that’s what the Minnesota environment created. You’d be street skating as hard as possible all summer long in downtown Minneapolis but once it started to get cold, you had to move indoors. The thing was, there was no such thing as an indoor street course back then. It was vert or possibly a mini ramp but that was it. That’s one thing that was weird about skating everything back then because I’d have vert influences who were almost completely different from my street influences.

All that stuff attracted me, though. Just like in Powell videos, the Bones Brigade would be out skating street and end up at a vert ramp. That’s where it came from for me and it was in my blood.

But you’re right, there often was a strict separation between street guys and vert dudes. I have to imagine people tripping out on you being able to skate both so well. Did you feel people often tried to pigeonhole you into a certain terrain during your career?

There were times where I’d be out skating street and head over to a ramp only to get vibed. The vert dudes would be vibing me for being a “street skater”... which was always weird. But that didn’t matter. It usually went away after a few runs.

What was cool back then was that it could go in any direction. I remember filming for the A1-Meats video… it was anything goes. Whatever there was to film me skating on, that was cool. Mini-ramp? Cool. A parking garage? Let’s go. You want to skate vert!? Sure!

It became so different after that because the demographic switched. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing how advanced street skating got but it’s almost like skating got a bit of tunnel vision. It was only street skating for a while. You had to be in this one exact format or it was hit the road, Jack.

What led you out to Las Vegas?

That was purely because my family moved here. I was still considered a minor so I had to go where my family went. This is where we ended up.But I was lucky to be on Planet Earth because that meant I already had a ton of ties out here through H-Street.

I always figured Lotti got you on Planet Earth after moving. You were already on back in Minnesota? How’d you swing that?

Yeah, that came about through this skate camp back in Wisconsin called Lake Owen. It was under the Woodward umbrella.

Yeah, it had the hardwood floors.

Exactly. Ken Park, the old vert guy, used to sorta run that camp and I ended up getting a job there one summer as a counselor. Not sure if you remember but Ken was actually partners with Chris Miller when Planet Earth first started. He became my link to the company and started flowing me stuff.

The problem was, being in Minnesota, I was often lost in the mix being so far away from California. It wasn’t like I was really sponsored. Dude would send a few boards every now and then but he’d never answer my phone calls. I felt pretty ignored.

It all started to pick up once I got out to Las Vegas. That’s when things started to come together.

Did you have much interaction with the more legendary street pros on those H-Street teams at the time? The squad was so big, was it difficult breaking through with that crew?

I remember some of my first trips to San Diego and being able to go to the H-Street house. Skating was so cool back then. Seeing guys like Donger, John Reeves, Chris Livingston and Sal Barbier… they all had these very recognizable looks, almost like characters out of a comic book. Like you couldn’t mistake someone like Donger for anybody else. It just shined through. Nowadays, you can go to any skatepark and the most ripping kid is wearing a Potsie button-upshirt with a pocket protector and some flooded jeans but back then, you’d walk into a room with those guys and feel like you were in the presence of superstars!

But there was a sense of competition though, for sure. You had to prove yourself. I remember my first time at the H-Street House, they all took me down the street to what was called School W.

The one with the fence people ollied over.

Yup, I remember going there with those dudes and it was almost like my little initiation to see if I could hang or not. Ollieing the fence was the big test to prove yourself. It was like if you could do that, you basically passed step one. You might be able to be down with us. 

A1 Meats’ Dancing In the Dirt is what gave the world a proper introduction to your skating. How long was that filming… maybe 3 days? Were you hyped on how it came out?

It really was a short time to film. I think they came to Las Vegas for a long weekend and that’s when the majority of filming went down. I did film a little bit after that in San Diego but that was it. In those days, you just hooked up with a person for a couple days and that was it. That was your part.

But yeah, I like how it turned out. It was a good mix of everything: a lot of street skating but with some mini-ramp and vert stuff as well. I was really happy that it all got to be in there like that.

The only real drawback was A1 Meats being on the brink of going out of business at that time. The video barely got released. I never even owned a copy.

Not to be on your nuts but your part was super ahead of everybody else in that thing… 360 flips down huge gaps and stairs when most could barely fling them on flat, kickflip nosegrinds on proper ledges and then a McTwist on vert?! This was 1991!

Thanks, man. Honestly, that kickflip nosegrind was a pivotal moment for me. It was the first day I ever met Matt Hensley. He had come along for the session and you can barely see him in the background but he’s sitting on a powerbox when I made that trick. The thing was, I had never even made that trick before. I’d messed around with it but never thought that it could actually happen. I just tried it that day because Matt was there and I figured I could at least pretend like I could do it. But then on the first or second try, it just happened. I couldn’t even believe it but Matt saw it go down and went back to Mike Ternasky to tell him to really hook me up.

Before that, I was just some small amateur dude on Planet Earth. All of a sudden, I’m on H-Street instead of Planet Earth and I’m getting hand-delivered packages from Tony Magnusson with more skateboards and gear than I’d ever seen in my life. And it was all due to Matt Hensley seeing that kickflip nosegrind… regardless to whether that A1 Meats video came out or not.

It all comes down to timing and being in the right place. You can be the baddest dude in the world but if the right people aren’t seeing it, it won’t work out.

That time instantly solidified you as one of the 90’s first super ams. Were other pros tripping on you?

That’s kinda hard to answer because in skateboarding, things usually go two ways: either you become instant best friends with your peers on that same level or they all became jealous enemies and try to keep this motherfucker out of here. Luckily, I felt like it went the friendship way for me.

So you weren’t close to Ternasky prior?

I’d never even met Mike Ternsaky before that.

It’s funny because around the same time that A1 Meats video came out, I was hanging out with Jordan Richter a lot and he was actually trying to get me on World Industries. So not only was Matt Hensley talking to Mike about me, he’s also hearing that Jordan is trying to steal me for World Industries. I remember it seemed like all of a sudden, Mike just grabbed hold of me to stake his claim. “He’s with us, that ain’t happening.”

I always figured Ternasky strategically kept you out of Now N Later for the Plan B defection but I guess you weren’t even an option for Plan B until after A1 Meats.

Yeah, it all came from Hensley being there that day as well as being pretty tight with Danny Way. We hung out a lot at that time. When it came time to start pulling people for Plan B, it was those two guys who threw my name out there and brought me along.

But I actually did go out to film with Lotti for Now N Later at one point. He was filming with Daniel Harold Sturt who basically punked me out of the video. Here I am in awe of going out to film with Lotti when this guy I’d never met before starts yelling at me!

“Listen here, you little fucker. I’m not here to wipe your nose or take you around to where ever. If you want something filmed, you fucking tell me, alright? But honestly, I don’t really give a fuck about you.”

What the fuck is this guy’s problem! I was just a young kid getting threatened by some big adult! Fuck him! This guy’s a dick! It honestly freaked me out to the point where I didn’t even care about filming anymore. He intimidated me out of even trying! (laughs)

So how did you originally hear about the plan to leave H-Street?

It actually started out when I got a call from who I think was Tony Magnusson, basically warning me about Mike. That Mike was trying to do something and that he was asking people to leave the company but it was all bullshit. Don’t listen to him, everything was good.

It was such a weird call to get at the time that I didn’t even understand what it was all about.

“Ummm… Ok… well, whatever. I haven’t talked to anybody but I’ll keep an eye out.”

But after that, I started to hear these little rumors about Plan B from a few different people. I knew there was a Back to the City contest coming up in San Francisco and that Mike Ternasky and a few of the others who were supposed to be in this new company were going to be there.

I knew I had to get up there, not even to be in the contest but just to be present. At the time, Ken Park was trying to make another new company… not sure if you remember but it was called 1 More Skateboard Company.

Jason Carney, right?

Yup, Jason Carney was the main dude but it started off as Ken wanting me to be the main dude. He already had graphics drawn up for my pro board and everything. I was down for it but as soon as I heard that I was even a possibility for this new thing, I started to think differently.

It’s terrible but I basically used Ken Park to fly me up to San Francisco and check out the contest as a way to talk to Mike Ternasky. That’s when we sealed the deal where Mike said, “If you’re down, we want you.”

I wasn’t about to let that one pass me by.

Wasn’t Carney also an option for Plan B though? Anybody else you remember possibly being in the mix? Kanten Russell?

There were a lot of people on the drawing board and there were a few close ones, for sure. It was really loose, though. Basically everyone would be sitting at this big table and Mike Ternasky would throw out names that could go just as quickly as it came.

That’s kind of the thing: someone’s name could be thrown into the hat for two seconds before getting taken out but in the meantime, some bystander has already left the room and spread the rumor without knowing that person was no longer an option or ever really was.

But yeah, Jason Carney was a close call. Kanten Russell was actually thrown out by that filmer David Schlossbach. He was a huge Kanten Russell fan and tried to promote him for the team but it never really made it that far. A lot of people will say that the whole team rose up against Kanten but it wasn’t really like that.

So that rumor where the team had to recreate Kanten’s video in Questionable in order to keep him off the team wasn’t true?

(laughs) Yeah, I heard something similar to that as well but no, that’s not true. That’s just people coming up with extraordinary sounding stuff.

What were those early days of Plan B like? Was there any sense of camaraderie within the team?

Yeah, it was awesome, man. We had Christmas parties and shit.

I do remember there being a bit of a split with Mike Carroll being in San Francisco. It was always like Mikey and Rick up North. They’d come down to visit and at the time, Mike must’ve really despised Southern California. Back then, Mike had a bit of a reputation for having an ego and being a bit of an asshole but we were all so young. Everyone was cool as shit.

I was living with Sean Sheffey in Poway, California at what was basically a flop house with different pro skaters coming and going. It’s funny to look back on now because all these kids would be so excited to see Sheffey and I skate… just because we were on Plan B, we got treated with such respect but in reality, we were living in a $500-a-month apartment with no furniture. Here’s this dream team of skateboarders that people look up to and we were really just living like scumbags with hardly any money. I think Sean had a bed but the rest of us were sleeping on the floor.

Do you recall getting any flack from other skaters who weren’t down with the idea of a “super team”? I know several World and Blind riders quit because of Rocco’s Plan B acquisition.

Yeah, a lot of people were bummed on it and I’ve never really been able to figure out why. At the time, there was a little rivalry where if you rode for World, you hated H-Street and vice-versa. I know Jason Lee and Gonz had their little gripes against Ternasky where they thought he was like a “skateboard coach” or something. I will say that Mike did do some goofy shit at times. I remember him timing Tony Magnusson’s runs with a stopwatch once. “Try to get three more tricks into that :45 second run!”

That kinda stuff was easy to look at a little crazy. I know Gonz was supposed to have a trick in the Contests and Demos section of Questionable but he called up Mike personally to have him take it out. He didn’t want to be in Mike’s video.

There were those who actually thought it was ruining skateboarding, that Plan B was turning it into a football game. But none of that stuff ever really effected me any. This whole thing was my introduction to sponsored skateboard life. I was too in awe of everything to realize if it actually was good or bad.

Did you have much interaction with Rocco?

I did. The first official tour I ever went on was Plan B with World Industries for the summer. Rocco and Ternasky each drove a van and that was my first introduction to Steve. And I will say that any rumor you’ve heard about him is true, no matter how hard it seems to believe.

This was Rocco in his heyday of shopping sprees and throwing money around. $500 to do a trick. $100 to put your bare ass up against a window. If he had $200,000, he was spending $200,000. That’s how he was, laughing like a little kid in a candy store. He’s obviously a brilliant man but he enjoyed it all and went for it.

Do you have a best Rocco story from that tour? And how did he jive with the way Ternasky managed your team?

There is a bunch of stuff that is too fucked-up to talk about because of other people being involved so I can’t really share the best ones. But Rocco went for it so hard, man. He was always the ringleader of everything. Going out to buy a bunch of pies so we could drive around in the middle of the night and throw them at innocent people… like that clip of Colin doing it in the video. Shit like that happened all the time. Blowing up all the fireworks in a hotel lobby. He was the mastermind. But it all felt okay because it was like your Dad telling you to do it. Go ahead, it’s okay.

I don’t know if you ever heard these stories but Rocco was definitely down to buy hookers for the team. I won’t name any names but if you had a good day of skating or did well at a demo, you could get a hooker that night. I mean, I wasn’t even 18 yet and this is the type of thing I’m experiencing. I couldn’t believe it.

Mike was against all that shit. “Woah, woah… we need to reel this in!”

I remember he’d come to our room in the morning and there’d be 40oz bottles and whatever else lying around. He’d try to pinpoint it on people. Who did this? Who did that? It was always followed by a stern talking to where we’d all feel ashamed about everything. We didn’t want to let Mike down. Even though Steve said it was fine, most of us still had that moral obligation where we knew we had to behave better than that.

So after breaking out with your A1 meats footage and now being part of this highly-anticipated video, did you feel any pressure with filming Questionable?

I didn’t feel pressure but I honestly wasn’t so happy with how my Questionable part came out. At the same time, I had a bad experience in life outside of skateboarding after somebody slipped acid in my beer while on a camping trip in Minnesota. I ended up having this crazy bad acid trip where I basically thought I was losing my mind. It fucked me all up and I honestly didn’t really talk about it for years out of fear that doing so could make it happen again.

So I’m going through this thing where I’m afraid of simply living altogether while at the same time trying to get Plan B thing off the ground.

Not the best foundation for a solid video part.

Not at all. I just wasn’t on top of my game.

The thing with that part… remember when you brought up feeling pigeonholed into skating a certain way? Mike did push street skating in my part, for sure. I would’ve preferred it to be like my A1 Meats part where I’m skating all kinds of different stuff again. And it was to a degree, everyone had their parts and there was the Mini Ramp part.

Some of your best clips were actually in that mini ramp part instead of your main part! But everything was so street-focused by that point.

The whole thing with Questionable is that it felt very structured. You know in school when you have to write an outline for a report? The production felt regimented where you had Subsection A with tricks 1,2 and 3 before moving on to Subsection B with those tricks. I just don’t work like that.

Was “Bubbles” your song choice?

Bad Brains was my choice but I still don’t know how I wound up with “Don’t Blow No Bubbles”. That’s a strange one. I still love Bad Brains to this day but I swear I had a different song of theirs I was pushing for. “Bubbles” is where I ended up. Whatever.

On an amateur squad of only three people with the third being Colin McKay, were you aware of what Pat Duffy was putting down at the time?

I did to a degree but not everything. Pat Duffy was such a badass, man. He was finishing up high school in San Francisco at the time but he came down to San Diego for a weekend and ended up doing a bunch of stuff for his part. The double-kink handrail, the backside 50-50 on the bank to rail where he ollies back in and then that 50-50 down that super long straight rail… like 23 stairs. He did all that shit in one weekend. Pat actually did that long 50-50 twice after Matt Hensley asked him to do it again after he missed seeing it the first time. Pat did it twice in a row.  

I was in Las Vegas at the time but I remember Jake Rosenberg showing me the footage when I came back, like “Check out where Pat’s part is at.”

Oh man. Like, what can you even do after you see all that shit? Holy shit!

I know that footy was probably meant to motivate but didn’t that fuck with your confidence? That’s nothing on you, I’m sure the rest of the team had to be tripping as well, right? He’s the other “street” am, a complete unknown, and he’s filming one of the best video parts ever!

Fuck yeah! We were all tripping! I don’t remember anyone saying anything specifically but it was obvious! We were just like… fuck! You could just tell. The dude was out of control! I can’t even put into words or an emotion what it was like for us dudes following Pat Duffy in that video. He was the only dude who could do that shit! The backside smith down the handrail through the kink!? You could maybe find somebody else willing to TRY it. But nobody had that shit. Pat Duffy was the only motherfucker and nobody knew who he even was!

I still don’t think anybody has been able to repeat how Pat came out like that.

Did you know Matt Hensley was planning on retiring?

Yeah, even early on with Plan B, he had made it clear that he was done. I don’t remember the exact trick but someone had done a kickflip to something to kickflip out and Matt just looked up and said, “I don’t even want to have to do that.”

It didn’t look fun to him or appealing. He didn’t want to have to try that 6,000 times, he just wanted to skate. In the most respectful way, he said it just wasn’t his skateboarding anymore.

Alright Ryan, so we have to address the elephant in the room here… I don’t know how much you want to get into things here and I respect your privacy but I ask because Sheffey has gone on record to me saying that it was all a misunderstanding. I’ve even seen a recent photo of him with his arm around you. What’s your side of this story that has become one of the more notorious stories in skateboarding?

It’s hard to put in the right words due to respecting Sean’s privacy. I saw that interview and I appreciate and respect how Sean addressed it. I’m not going to get into the full details out of respect for Sean and his family but to make a long story short, obviously something went down there.

At the time, it was the Sheffeys and myself who were the main people living in that apartment in Poway. Things had got to a point where Sean had moved out to the beach and I remained at the apartment. Basically, things ended up the way they do with partying and shit like that. I’m not blaming anything or making any excuses but I do believe the lifestyle did help lead things a certain way.

I’ve seen where Sean said that it was all a big misunderstanding and things got out of control and then went on to compliment me as being a great skateboarder. I appreciate that. It was a fucked-up situation, fucked-up circumstances. Things should not have gone down the way that they did but it did. It’s not the first time in history that this has happened to good friends and it’s not going to be the last time but it is always a fucked-up thing when it does occur.

You brought up that photo. For years, I was unsure what was going to happen the next time I saw Sean but fortunately, enough time had passed. I actually thought he was going to probably kill me but he approached me and squashed the whole deal.

Did it ever get physical between you and Sean back then?

There was not what I would call a fight. There was what I would call a beatdown.

You can’t get in a fight with Sean Sheffey, especially 20 years ago when he was in his prime! It was like approaching Mike Tyson!

That’s what happens when you’re on my end of the deal. That’s what happens to you.

Obviously Sheffey and the bodily harm he could inflict is one thing but did you also realize you were playing with your entire skateboarding career as well?

It just wasn’t there in my sight. I just wasn’t thinking, man.

So is that why you got kicked off Plan B?

Basically so. I had gone back to Las Vegas and I remember Mike calling me in the kindest way, basically saying there was no way it could work out. There needed to be some time there. He offered to help me get on another team, which I appreciated but declined. I was just going to see what happened on my own.

But there must’ve been a ton of board companies interested in you, right?

It was strange because while there were a lot of offers, none of them felt like the right thing. Nothing really felt like home to me. My divorce with Plan B basically felt like the end for me. It just felt like it was over.  

How’d you end up on Birdhouse? I gotta say, the Slacker graphic was top-shelf.

That’s a weird one. I can’t even really remember how it went down... it doesn’t even sound real. There must’ve been some kind of misunderstanding. But there was this guy that I’d known for years who was now working for Birdhouse that we all called “Birdhouse Tom”. He was always throwing out Birdhouse as an option, saying that Tony was down to get me on the team but I really wasn’t sure. I just kept saying things like, “Okay, maybe. We’ll see.”

Nothing committal. What happened next was this one time when we were at a movie rental store, he picks up this movie box with that picture on the cover and says,  “Check this out! This kinda looks like you! That would be a badass board graphic, huh?”

I just agreed with him like, “Yeah, that would be a cool board. Yeah, whatever.”

I didn’t even think this could happen but through a few light conversations and saying I liked that idea as a graphic, not necessarily for MY graphic, I ended up with a pro model on Birdhouse! I was never even officially on the team! I was actually trying to get on Toy Machine at the exact same time that Birdhouse board came out. I still don’t know how that happened.

It seemed like you did go through Birdhouse, Toy Machine and Evol all pretty quickly. What was going on there? None of them felt right?

Toy Machine was pretty cool but by the time I got there, drinking and drugs had really taken its toll and had become the major focus of life. All that stuff started at a young age and just advanced as I got older. The life of a skateboarder, you have zero responsibilities and nothing but time. Skate when you want. Wake up whenever you want. Do whatever… Drink as much and do as much drugs as you want.

That’s just where my head was at. Skating was still going good. Ed was happy with shit. The thing was that Ed was having budget problems though his first financial backing with Brad Dorfman from Vision. Toy Machine was struggling so it came down to Ed needing to cut everything back, including some of my pay.

I felt that if he was going to cut my pay that I’d just quit the team. In all honesty, I was actually bluffing but it backfired. He just let me go… which sucked. But at that point, I couldn’t really backpedal like I was joking or something.

Evol actually wasn’t until like a year or so later. By that point, I had just given up. Fuck it. This shit isn’t really panning out for me but I’ll take some free boards if I can. I got on Evol though Chris Hensley, Matt’s brother who was Team Manager at the time. Evidently, Tony Mag was still pretty mad about me leaving for Plan B back in the day but was willing to squash it and look past it for a second chance. He was also working things out with Mike to become friends again before he passed.

Honestly, though, it was just a big waste of time. Even though I was skating, there was still too much partying on my end. All I wanted to do was collect whatever money I could and have a free lifestyle.

Do you feel like the Sheffey incident stained your reputation for the rest of your career?

Well, even now after 23 years, it’s still the first question anyone wants to ask me. Most people are either too scared to ask or are trying to find some kind of way to lead up to that subject. It got to a point where it didn’t matter what I was doing, people only wanted to hear about why I got kicked off Plan B. The skateboarding didn’t matter anymore.

I see videos of mine on YouTube and there’s some 16-year-old kids making comments about something that happened before they were even alive. It’s crazy. 

So what are you doing now, Ryan? I know you’re working in construction. And I still see some footage every now and then and you’re obviously still ripping.

As far as the industry goes, even though I could still probably pull off that lifestyle where I’m out couch-surfing, selling boards and drinking beer, I’m just so fucking over that shit, man. Waking up and heading down to the park to sell a set of wheels, not knowing if I’m going to be able to eat a sandwich that day? No way, man.

You gotta have zero expectations and goals to keep that kind of lifestyle up and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I lived that way for years. I needed to enter the world somewhere. Unfortunately with skateboarding, you can get so used to partying and all that free time that you’re fucked when it comes to the real world. Luckily, I was able to figure things out and now have a solid career as a Journeyman Glazier. I make more money in a week than I ever did in a month skateboarding. I’m not bragging and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that if I never was able to bite the bullet and find a way to make it, I’d be in trouble. I figured if I was going to work a job, I at least wanted it to be a good job and earn more than minimum wage doing it.

Through all of this, I learned life was actually good. I quit drinking and drugs many years ago. Being completely clean, I’ve found a new appreciation for life while still being able to love things like skateboarding. I love doing it, I love watching it… seeing all the things that go down, its unbelievable.

Good to hear, man. And I can’t thank you enough for doing this, Ryan. Anything you’d like to add?

Beyond anything, I always want to spread the message that if people are struggling with drugs and alcohol… if they think they have a problem, looking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of good judgement.

I might seem like I got some sort of unfair shake in skateboarding, I entered it as fast as I left it, but I left with my life. There have been a lot of pro skateboarders that didn’t escape with their sanity or their lives. Being able to enjoy life is what it’s all about. It’s not the end when skateboarding is over just like it’s not the end if you develop a drug or alcohol problem, there’s always an option.

special thanks to rob sissi and ryan for taking the time... and the honesty.