chops sits down with bob for conversation.
Everything has pretty much been the same with me. I'm still skating, I’m still somewhat obsessive about skating, I still creep around NY and NJ and I still pick up crap off the ground. The only thing that’s really changed recently is that I moved from Brooklyn to Queens. I also had to get a regular job a few years back so that I can have pieces of paper with designs of ancient symbols and dead men on them to give to my landlord.
I pretty much stopped being paid by skateboard-related companies to skateboard a few years back but that hasn't really changed anything.
What is going on with Traffic these days?
It's still there. Rick has his own way of running the brand. I'm sure it's governed by real Rick shit. The dude's got a lot to deal with. But I think Traffic is one of the realest brands that's come along in a long time. Hopefully it stays around for a long time.
But you’re still riding for them, right?
Yeah. I've been a bit focused as of late on this VICTIM project and the Greatest Misses project, but yeah, I still ride for Traffic.
What is the status on that Greatest Misses project? When can we expect this and what do we have to look forward to? I know its taken a few different incarnations over the years.
Yeah, it’s basically done. Should be available soon somehow, wink wink.
Honestly, I’ve barely heard from you since that amazing Traffic Report interview a couple years back which, in typical form, raised a bit of controversy. Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe some of the things people were claiming to have gotten from your words. Why do you think the things you say are so often seen as “controversial”?
I’m not sure. I think people like to twist things around to project how and what they're feeling about a particular subject. People interpret things differently. A lot of people like to call people bad names when they hear or see people calling people bad names. They'll swear the person's wrong for doing it, yet they don't realize that they're doing the same exact thing. If you read the interview, I didn't call anyone anything. I’ve had people come up and tell me that was the best thing they’ve ever read. I’ve never once had anybody come up to me and say the type of negative shit people say so easily over the internet.
That’s usually how it goes. Now going back a bit, my first introduction to you came in that golden age of Zoo York in the early 90s. What was it like rolling with that legendary crew back then?
It was interesting at first. Zoo, to me, has always been a bit of mess. They spelled my name wrong in the first ad. That ticked me off a bit. I thought, "How difficult is it to ask someone how to spell their name?"
True. But what made you choose to leave an operation that was right in your own backyard for SF-based Stereo? I know Hickey got on there as well but did you get any flack from some of the other hardcore East heads at the time for leaving?
Not at all. In fact, it was extremely easy to leave considering how crazy Zoo was run back then. Of course, getting asked to ride for Stereo back then was a no-brainer. I used to love Stereo. A Visual Sound is easily one of the best videos ever made. Mike Daher’s part is one of the best.
Your Penal Code opener. Did you realize at the time you were filming your debut video segment or did it just come about naturally through filming with Meza? And is it true you were bummed on the Van Morrison soundtrack?
Yeah, I didn’t like the song. That said, I didn’t like the Mad Circle song either. But yeah, I was just skating. I wish I would have known a little bit more about how video parts were constructed back then, I would’ve insisted on a "better" song. I think it’s important for skateboarders to choose their own songs because that is also part of the video part. It’s a big indicator of who that person is. If a person has a “good part” but a wack song then I think the part is somewhat worthless.
Though I gotta say that part is one of my all-time favorites but there’s a different vibe than the rest of your parts. What I mean is that there’s so much west coast footage, and while you definitely brought your own style to the locales, there are several iconic spots in there. Skateboarding was so different back then but you know it’s an easy target for your critics… What would you say to the claims that you were “spot-raping” in this?
There was no such thing as spot raping back then. There was like one dude who was skating off the beaten path shit back then. His name is Sean Young and he wasn’t even from SF. People went to SF to skate Embarco and everybody knows this. If you had the balls to skate Embarco amongst them dudes, more power to you. I wasn't out there to skate Embarco. In fact, I don't even no why I went out there.
My shit has always been to explore and know my environment. I want to go down every street and know every neighborhood. I'm a neighborhood junkie. In NY and NJ, every neighborhood has a certain characteristic or trait. A history, and I'm really interested in the personality and history of neighborhoods.
But anyhow, when I showed up at EMB for the first time, Mike Cao called me a "t-dog"(tourist dog) right to my face. That was 94 or 95, the heyday of Embarco was done at that point. That was, I believe, when the sand volleyball courts were plopped down in the middle of it. Anyhow, I will always be indebted to Mike Cao for that. That taught me a lot. That's how skateboarding and your spot/spots should be. I treat street skating the way Salba treats pool skating, what can I say. May God bless Mike Cao.
Talk a little about your involvement with Eastern Exposure 3. Wasn’t Tim O’Connor’s part was originally supposed to be yours? What happened there?
I’m not sure. I actually thought it was originally supposed to be Kim’s (Quim. We always pronounced his name “Kim”). That’s how I understood it.
Were you more focused on filming for Penal Code at the time when Underachievers was being filmed? Is that why you only had a few clips in EE3? What did you think when you first saw Underachievers with its strong East Coast Philosophy. You had to be hyped, right? That was like a golden-era back then.
Uh, I'm not sure. I can't even really remember if those two videos were happening at the same time. Filming is tricky with me. I'm not the type of dude who can just film anything and I'm also not the type of person that does film just anything. Everything I film is stuff that I really want to film and that fits into what I'm trying to say with the part. I've always been like that. So with EE3, Dan and I didn't really spend that much time together. Therefore we didn't have much footage together. NYC has always experienced filmer droughts. It's tough to be a filmer here. Dan was primarily in Philly.
To answer the second part of the question, when I saw it, I just thought it was normal. That's what we were doing, and skating here.
But it was kinda surprising to see you leave Stereo post-Penal Code when your career really seemed to be on the upswing. I always heard there was some beef with you and Ethan Fowler. Any truth to that? Why’d you leave?
I didn’t leave, I got kicked off. There was no beef between that dude and I. I looked up to homeboy. I just got cold-called one day from Dune and he said basically that they couldn’t continue to sponsor me. He didn't tell me why. I was super-bummed.
I heard later that it was because Ethan didn’t like me or some shit. God bless Ethan as well.
Now your Mad Circle 5Flavors part is more like what we traditionally expect from a Bobby Puleo part… a unique take with spots I honestly haven’t seen since. Was there a conscious effort to make this part more in line with your personal view of street skating?
Yeah, I guess at that point, I had spent more time in SF and was beginning to creep around more. SF is small compared to NY. I don’t like skating around other people so I have a tendency to look for spots where I don’t have to be around others. I tell you what, that schoolyard spot with the bench into the bank is one of the best spots I’ve ever skated. That bank was so shit rough. If you fell on that, it was cheese grater time. In fact, it wasn’t even a bank, I think it was just rocks.
A classic East Coast company that fell through the cracks before it had the time to shine: what is one thing about riding for INFMS that people would be surprised to learn? And why did it fail? That video is still amazing. Just too ahead of its time?
Surprised to learn? That it was run behind the scenes by a bunch of non-skateboarders. I liked those dudes, but my God, talk about doing everything ass backwards.
INFMS happened because I saw Geo Moya riding one of their boards one day and it was basically the exact same size and shape as the Girl board I was riding. I asked him what board it was and he told me it was an INFMS board. I was somewhat surprised but it was Chapman wood. I think Geo may have hooked that up for me. Next thing I know, I was up in their office getting boards and they asked me if I wanted to ride for them.
After Mad Circle ended, I really had no idea what to do. I was never really in that scenario. I had already moved back to NY from SF and was living uptown. I seriously didn’t know what I was going to do because I don’t think I was trying to buy boards. Shit, I don’t even like being on the same block as skateshops. I panicked when I realized no boards were coming in the mail for me. Luckily, for better or for worse, I saw Geo riding that board that fateful day.
What made you decide to give Enjoi a shot? A sick team but it just seemed a little odd with you hopping on a Dwindle team. Were you looking for a more stable operation following the INFMS experiment?
Actually I got another cold call, this time from Marc. I think he and Jerry were both on the line and they basically just asked me to ride for Enjoi. I had nothing else going on so I decided to give it a shot. I sorta thought it could work. Definitely odd in retrospect but I thought it was a good odd for the both of us.
Also, I was away from those guys in San Jose. So it sorta worked. But I was bummed when Marc left. He actually tried to get me to quit but what the hell was I going to do? It wasn’t like he was offering me to ride for Chocolate. And as you can probably tell, I don’t have a hard-on for too many skateboard companies out there. So quitting wasn't really an option.
How did Static 2 come about? I’ve always wondered how you guys went about filming that one… cause it seems like there’s footage from all over the place, very ambitious for such a relatively small video. And who’s idea was to skate to the Kinks’ “Shangri-La”? A perfect fit.
That was my idea.
A lot of the Static 2 part was filmed by Alex Mucilli and a lot of it was filmed even before I had been asked to be a part of that project. That, again, was just me filming my skating.
Alex lived in Philly and I would go down there or he would come up here. Then he moved up here and, as many people find out, it’s hard to live in NY and do “skateboard shit” unless you have some gravy train shit going on. So Alex had to get a job and that was pretty much the end of us filming together.
It happens. What are your thoughts about the “cellar door” cliché that seems to be so closely associated with you? It has to get on your nerves at this point. It’s always been part of East Coast skating… why do you think that concept has been so attached with you throughout the years?
I mean what can I say, NY has a ton of cellar doors on its sidewalks and nooks. That’s just what I saw when I was growing up skating here, so it was natural to use them. I've always skated them. Does it annoy me? No. I like skating those things. They’re very challenging objects. A lot of people have this perception that those things are "easy" to skate. You hit that lock or that handle, it could be Beth Israel time.
I know you’ve spoken about the cookie-cutter nature of today’s pros, as far as skating the same spots and looking the same. But hasn’t it always been this way? Especially in the 90’s where everybody dressed almost exactly the same… I actually see much more variety these days in both styles of tricks and dress, don’t you?
Hell no. There were really only two dudes in the 90's that sorta dressed the same and had "perfect style". I thought that was Koston, and then Rene Matthyssen. Didn't you think Rene Matthyssen kinda had a Koston-esque thing going on? I know in retrospect it seems odd, but back then that's what I thought. The denim jeans, white shirt. Perfect switch frontside flips, same haircuts sorta.
Anyhow, to me, every kid on the internet has that same picture-perfect style these days. That machine robot perfection. It’s fine though. I’m actually amazed by it. It’s like you’re watching a video game. Many, many kids have it.
And then there's this highwater pants fad shit with the Vans replica/Nike boat shoe that every sneaker brand makes. The Adidas/Converse shoe is also a popular formula. Throw that in the mix and you can't tell who's who anymore.
But that said, I don’t really watch too many “new kid video parts”. It seems like everyone I do watch either has highwater style and/or perfect robot style. Which like I said, is all well and dandy, but not my thing.
I think the last video part I watched was Todd Congeliere’s part in the Liberty video.
So sick. But what’s your opinion on Mark Suciu’s latest “City of Brotherly Love” part. Dude definitely puts down some amazing stuff but what do you feel about his claiming Philadelphia so hard for a kid from the West Coast? He obviously has an East Coast fixation…
Did he claim Philly? That would be ridiculous if he did. I don’t know, I watched the part once. I was super surprised to hear that he put my Static 2 part as number one on his top video part list. I appreciated that. But it surprised me as well.
You know skateboarding, especially in NY and Philly, is a lot like hip hop. To me, just like in the early core philosophy of hip-hop, I feel there should be a focus on finding your own shit. You know, like to have a good hip hop song, record or style, the beat, the rhythm and the rhyming style always had to be something that no one else had ever heard or been done before. I suppose that is one origin of the word "fresh". It always had to be some out of the crate type shit. You couldn't be using someone's style or beats, or be coming from somewhere not within the 5 boros and think you were legit. To me, that's what this part sorta was. It wasn't an "ode to Philly". That's ridiculous. It was more like "I want to be like those dudes and skate the shit they skate." You just can't and shouldn't bite someone else's shit. Your immediately considered wack if you do that. It's like a code of the streets that true practitioners understand.
I also feel in a place like Philly or NY, I think it's extremely important to pay your dues in those places. Funny, I mentioned "Code of the Streets" and Guru is from Boston. But you know, that dude earned his place in hip hop, especially in NY. It's too bad we can't interview that dude and hear that story anymore. That's prolly a crazy one.
Anyhow, there's a big regional pride/repping thing which comes from it being so hard to survive in places like NY and Philly. In NY at least, this place is a damn rat race. With skating, you know, there's only limited resources. So to me, I frown upon tourist types coming in and running through the resources. He coulda done all that shit in California, where he's from, and I think I would have appreciated the part that much more. That regional mentality in skateboarding in NY and Philly, connects back to hip hop in the 5 boros. You know, "Manhattan keeps on making it, Brooklyn keeps on taking it, Bronx keeps creating it and Queens keeps on faking it". There's a heavy "pay your dues" competitiveness here. It's very frowned upon by the locals to have some kid come in and chomp shit, especially if he's being escorted on the gravy train. The locals, I think feel like, all those resources you're coming in here and chomping on could be used by the locals that actually live here. That's at least how I feel. So to me, even though homeboy was doing some crazy twist in-twist out shit, and no doubt the kid is amazing, you know he didn’t find all that shit he was skating. And I don't mean the Love shit, cause that's a no brainer. That's right there. I mean the other stuff. Which is fine, you know that shit's the norm now with the skatepark mentality. I feel he probably requested to be taken to the other stuff, as well as Love, so he could emulate a certain style or time period. That's kinda wacky to me.
The other thing that I immediately felt or noticed was that it seemed like the part was basically sponsored by a corporate entity, Adidas. So I’m watching it thinking to myself that first off, Adidas is basically paying for this kid to go out to Philly to mimic and skate all this shit that took Rick and other's years to unearth and nurture. Second, they’re paying this filmer schmoe to hold this kid’s hand to these spots. They're paying to put the kid up, put food in his mouth, fly him home when he gets homesick and wants to see Mom and what not. Fly him back when the weather was manageable. I mean come on. Personally, I thought the part was basically a simulation or portrayal of someone who actually is from or around Philly. Amazing skating and all, but a simulation of someone who is actually a Philly local. Ridiculous. The dude’s from San Wherever or wherever he's from. He's not from Philly. And I don't think Philly should be used as a backdrop for a fake Philly part, Habitat's hanging on to the past, or Adidas corporate enterprises. Let's be real here.
Of course, I’ll get called a dick on the internet for saying that and all, but that's just how I felt when I saw it. Like it was some raw Philly dead of winter shit… Come on.
Do you think the rise of skateparks is dumbing down the current generation of skaters? That maybe they’re never learning to search out different things to skate since a no-brainer round-up is so readily at their disposal?
Are you kidding me? Jesus, it’s an epidemic. Just go to the skatepark and count the number of kids with earphones in. Could you imagine? Earphones in a skatepark! It’s like texting while driving. How discourteous can one be to others! I swear to god, I almost ran into a kid texting on his phone at the LES park the other day. I shit you not.
But I digress. Yes, I suppose.
You’ve seen more than your share of ups-and-downs in this industry. What should the kids know about the skateboarding industry? What’s skateboarding industry rule #4080?
Kids watch your backs.
Well put. But so much has been made about what people don’t like, what would you say are your Top 5 personal favorite video parts over the years that you wish everyone would watch?
Well, I don’t wish everyone would watch these but they should watch Mike York in Las Nueve Vidas de Paco, Olly Todd in Portraits, Guy in Mouse, Julien in Skypager and Mark in Video Days.
Excellent choices. Best and worst things about skateboarding in 2013?
Best and worst? All the skateparks being built in NYC.
Nice. Alright Bob, that’s all I have. Can’t thank you enough for doing this. Anything else you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom or perhaps a favorite quote?
“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Special thanks to Robert Brink and Bobby for taking the time.