November 25, 2011

Rick Howard Interview

With the teaser for the new Girl and Chocolate film dropping tonight/tomorrow Australian time, I thought it would be good to post the Rick Howard interview we did for issue 19. He talks about the upcoming film, as well as his history, starting Lakai, losing team members and Guy Mariano. Check it out!


This interview originally appeared in Issue 19 of Pop Magazine.

Portrait by Andy Mueller. Nose blunt by Joe Hammeke.

Introduction by Dave Keating
Interview by Steele Saunders

We caught Canadian Rick Howard just as he was stepping out to see Motley Crew with Mike Carroll and I wondered how many people in the crowd that night would realise they were standing with two of skateboardings most influential people. There’s no doubt that Howard changed the industry – although he dismisses the Fully Flared effect, he can’t deny that Girl Skateboards has created and maintained a massive following since its creation in 1993 and driven arguably the best trends we’ve seen in the last two decades. Here he talks with Steele Saunders about it all.

You’re going to Motley Crew tonight, you amped?
Yeah at the Hollywood Bowl, Whitesnake are opening for them too. Should be fun.

You going to pull out any of your old wigs for that or just go au natural?
I think I’ve got too much of a receding hairline for that one.  Mike Carroll should have something going for it though. I should pull something out though right?

It should be interesting; I’ve heard a couple of guys on the tour have already been arrested.

Apparently the initial concept for Lakai was hatched at a comedy night at Largo. That’s a pretty legendary comedy venue. Do you remember who was on that night?
Good question, I think it was guys that were from a reality show? I don’t think anyone big was on. So there was no major names, it was just a random night. It was kind of a meeting spot in the neighbourhood.

I thought you might be a closet L.A. comedy fan.
I like to when I can. There’s the Comedy And Magic club by my house. I live in Hermosa Beach, and we have a bunch of good acts that come through there, it’s kind of like a small venue.

How’s the Chocolate video coming along?
It’s actually finally getting to a point where it’s taking shape and it seems like there is a video happening. So we’re going to actually release a trailer sometime soon. We were looking to release at the end of this year but things have come up… Different scenarios, injuries, have come up. The guys just hit the road yesterday; they’re in Kansas on the way to Chicago.

In the current market are you going to just post it on to Twitter when it’s done? [Laughs]
Yeah, we should right?

I’d retweet it.
Will Twitter play an hour-long video?

Give it time.
We’re shooting for VHS on this one. [Laughs]

You might want to bring the VCRs back out. [Laughs] It’s obviously going to be available digitally somehow but I’d like for people to see it as big as possible rather an on a handheld device.

I think there’s something special about having the DVD on the shelf.
We were in New York this summer and we missed the Emerica video. We kind of just watched it on a phone. As long as it makes people somewhat excited to pick up their board. That’s all that matters, really, in the end.

True that. Did you see with the Emerica video those B-side clips they put up, which were kind of more fascinating than the movie.
Yeah, those were good. Are those on the DVD?

No, I think they’re just online.
Those are cool.

It sort of makes you feel like you’re at the session.
I always like that stuff.

How’s the Gino (Iannucci) footage looking for the video?
Gino footage, he’s been coming out. He’s been skating. What he wants to document — that’s up to him. You’re going to have to ask him. He’s done some stuff and having fun skating, but what he chooses to put out is going to be his call.

The last sort of full-fledged Chocolate video put Stevie Williams on the map with his part. Who do you think’s going to get that treatment this time around?
There are a handful of guys that are going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be like a Girl and Chocolate video, as much as Yeah Right had a lot of Chocolate guys, a lot of Girl guys… A little bit of everybody. But there’s Cory Kennedy which we haven’t seen a full part from yet. There’s (Sean) Malto, he had a Transworld part but… Have you seen a full video part from him? Not really right?

Right. He had a Transworld part a while ago. But there’s a few that haven’t had a company video part like Sean Malto, Cory Kennedy. There have been a few new guys we’ve been hanging out with, like Elijah Berle and Raven Tershy who’s been ripping parks for years now.

That dude is gnarly.
Yeah, everybody is coming in with good stuff across the board.

Fully Flared seemed like such an odyssey. Have you changed your strategy at all for this one, to sort of keep it a little bit non-odyssey?
We didn’t have a strategy; we just kind of stopped… After the Lakai video we… Everyone kind of went out on camping trips and did a lot of traveling and touring and it just kind of took shape on its own. Now we’re at a place where we can take a look at it and see what we want to do conceptually, you know? See what kind of tricks Spike has up his sleeve for this year. That’ll be fun.

Speaking of tricks that Spike might have up his sleeve, I met Owen Wilson a couple of years ago and he was so stoked that kids thought that he skated that handrail.
I’ve heard that from a couple of people. That’s amazing. Did he roll with it? I hope he rolled with it.

He just thought it was the best thing ever that kids thought he could skate.
That was a fun day, for sure.

When you were seventeen and you moved from Canada to California, to live the dream, what was your initial sort of memories of hitting California? Skating for Blockhead?
Those days we lived — I lived with the owner Dave Bergthold in San Diego where that Blockhead ramp was. It was really fun living there and a lot of fun sessions, lot of different people coming through there, like Chris Miller that was awesome.

Chris Miller skated that ramp with you?
All kinds of people, yeah Gator used to come by, Tony Hawk lived pretty close. He had a few sessions there, it was fun. We were just in the middle of nowhere just pretty much skated the mini ramp every day.

Chris Miller on that ramp would have been amazing.
God yes. I didn’t get to go but I saw something of him at the Vans Combi Pool and he’s like — he’s even better.

It’s insane.
Early memories, that house was pretty — after a while it was getting — we were in the middle of nowhere so I had to get out of there and see some city life. Danny (Way) lived nearby, Danny would come mess around. Shortly after I ended up skating with Danny on Plan B, I wanted to get out of there and skate with Mike and a bunch of those guys. It was good to get out of the country lane.

See a curb again.
It was awesome but all day every day…

You had mastered every chink-chink combination and it was time to leave.
Yeah. Extreme combos.

You seem like a pretty positive person. Were you bummed when Rocko bragged about stealing you in that advert to the Tracker guys? The ad where Rocko was slagging off TransWorld and those guys. He sort of said “Sorry about stealing Rick Howard.”
No, I don’t think — the hardest part about the whole thing was how cool Dave Bergthold and the Blockhead guys were — that was the hardest part of the whole leaving to Plan B thing. I mean, that was the nature of what World Industries was in those days, wasn’t it?

Pretty much.
Poking fun at everything, which was pretty rad, I liked it. Not the fact that — I just liked the aesthetic of it all.

When the Questionable video came out, when you were filming it, did you have any idea what you were doing to skateboarding? I remember seeing that video and going “Ah! Skateboarding is now like that.” When you were filming those tricks, were you excited to get it out?
It was exciting to learn new tricks and it was different than what I done previously where my part was just what I’d done that day. I knew it was a different style of video like the H-Street videos that were all about — based on the new tricks, something like you hadn’t seen before. It was fun to be skating like that… Pushing each other and learn new stuff. It wasn’t really a conscious thing but in the end, just putting a lot of those parts put together is awesome. I don’t know what business I had being in that video.

When the second Plan B video came out, I know Mike Carroll talked about the pressure and he really found it unfun doing the second one, how did you find it?
I had more fun. Maybe at that point I was spending more time in L.A. and hanging out with Guy (Mariano). I was just in a different place at that time. Being back in L.A. was fun, but for sure it was back to having to outdo ourselves scenario. But I think we were still learning new tricks and doing whatever at the time. It got stressful towards the end there, for sure. Turning into what we almost ended up doing with the Lakai video.

I think it’s more what other people anticipated more than — you know, the expectations of it all. That’s what makes it stressful. We didn’t really set out to — those early videos were just fun and do whatever. It is like the opposite of where we were at with the last video, Fully Flared.

I read an interview with Megan (Baltimore) where she mentioned that when she left to go to Girl she told the guys at World she was leaving to write children’s books. How did you exactly break the news?
She actually made a children’s book. I think Spike talked her into doing it. But what we told Mike Ternasky (Plan-B owner) was we were going to — we didn’t tell that many people, there was this contest in San Fransico, Back To The City and that’s where we saw Mike and it all… unfolded. We went on a trip before that and that’s when we decided. We all wanted to do something different. I remember the only person I told was Mike (Ternasky). I met up with him, me, Mike and Mike Carroll, and explained we were leaving. We definitely — I wish because Mike was a good friend, that it would have been handled differently, we were so young at the time.

There was always talk of the wheel invoice that was like the final thing. What was the wheel invoice?
I don’t know what World’s version of it was. I don’t know anything about an invoice but there’s a lot of talk of different things. I don’t know. I read that somewhere but I don’t know, was it a royalty off a wheel invoice? I don’t know. There’s definitely some — a lot of different opinions of what was going on at that time.

Was Henry Sanchez meant to be an original member?
Yeah, that would have been cool. We wanted him. He’s insane. You’ve seen him skateboard! He ended up just hanging at Blind, he wanted to stick it out. He was definitely one of the guys that we had talked about. That’s for sure.

What was the defining thing with Girl Skateboards that you wanted to be different than all the other companies you’d skated for?
Everyone has a say. Efforts on everyone’s part, so just a team effort. There was a lot of things going on at that time that it was the natural thing to do. It’s not like people had plans and strategies and stuff like that. It’s like these were the people we skated with that were good at the time. I knew Andy Jenkins who helped graphically and Spike helped the video and photo aesthetic of things. It was just all a group thing, it still is. We all still put in the same efforts as we did the day we started. That was the main idea, that it’s kind of a cooperative effort. Everyone has a say on the matter.

When the Goldfish video came out it had a way more fun feel to it than a Plan B video? Was that a conscious decision or was that just you guys were just mucking about and filmed it and put it in the video?
We just wanted to have fun. They were kind of serious those Plan B videos hey. So we had to bring back some fun.  We’ve got to keep that feeling for this next video.

Get that jump ramp back out.
Definitely! Yeah, it’s a challenge to keep it fun. You don’t want to miss the launch ramp session, some hot moves for sure.

Running a company and being a professional skateboarder has worked for very few people. How did you manage it and was there a point where…
I don’t think I’m there yet.

You’re not managing it?
I don’t think I am. Am I? I’m still skating with my friends and they’re really good at skating. [laughs] It’s definitely progressed. It’s a really good team effort to so I’m able to go and mess about. But I have to skate or else I’ll lose my mind. We had to build that little park in the back just for times we’re stuck at the factory. I don’t think I’m managing any more. I skate with Malto, Cory and all those kids and it’s insane. The level of skating now.

It’s intense.
I’m in a time warp. I’m stuck in 1980-something. I’m delusional. I wish they’d kick me off.

You look down at your feet and you see Airwalk Enigmas.
[Laughs] Shit.

When Yeah Right came out, they had — you had a big feature in TransWorld with heaps of interviews. I remember being so pissed that not one person asked where Guy Mariano was, because that’s all I wanted to know. Obviously he’s back and his story’s out there now, but at the time was it hard to keep his situation under wraps?
Yeah, kind of. Nowadays it’s a different climate, it’s information overload. It was his business and it wasn’t my place to speak on. Everyone knows everything now right?

Pretty much.
Which is cool, but that wasn’t the time to talk him. I do like the mystery. We gotta bring back the mystery. Hopefully play our part in that, but we’ll see if we can do it when we put this video out.

When he started skating again and you started seeing clips like that fakie five-o half cab flip out on the bench, were you tripping how he just got back to the top of his game after being out of it so long?
No cause that’s Guy, he can skate. He’s been like that forever so it was just nothing — he was having fun doing it, doing it for the right reasons. Having fun for him is just pushing himself and it’s always been pretty amazing to see.

Obviously with that episode of Epically Later’d, how he came back is one of the best stories in skateboarding…
Yeah, as a friend personally… yeah. Not even as a skateboarder but just that he got healthy. I guess you could call it a comeback…

Having supported the Girl company for so long, I was proud of how it all worked out. That you guys stuck with him.
For sure. We’ve known each other probably over twenty years now, so we had to get him though that regardless. The fact that he wants to do something now in skating is great, that he’s enjoying it.

Obviously now there’s guys whose whole image is sort of being a wasted public spectacle. Do you sort of see that and think someone’s got to do something here?
Yeah, it’s hard. It’s happening a lot. Their friends should help definitely — depending on how close you are, but yeah, you can see it. I don’t know. You could talk to Guy about that. You can only do so much though. A person has got to want to get help themselves. You can step in but in the end it’s up to the individual.

At the start of the Lakai documentary, you said something like ‘People did tricks, nothing changed’ and then laugh. How close or far from your true feelings is that?
Oh man, has it? You saw me, I was just kidding around, I don’t know. Has it changed?

The names of tricks got longer.
Yeah, a lot of dancing, right?

Obviously there’s a Fully Flared style of trick.
Yeah. I think that’s been around though, hasn’t it?

I think it’s back…
Yeah. I guess, maybe it’s back? Or maybe they forgot about it and people just brought back some old stuff with a new variation.

And a few more pushes.
I don’t think, I guess I don’t believe it. I was lying. I don’t know. [Laughs]

You put out indisputably one of the key videos in skateboarding and then just after you lose guys like Alex Olson, (Anthony) Pappalardo and (Eric) Koston from the team, is that disappointing or is that just what happens?
They’re all different, unique situations. With Alex we wanted to work with him and do something that we couldn’t at the time. With Eric, that’s kind of why where we’re at right now, bringing the whole thing in-house. They’re all different, unique situations, but I’m happy for all those guys. The situation is we’re doing good, and Eric’s happy and he’s got a good thing with Nike and same with Alex and Converse has done some cool stuff with Pappalardo so I’m happy for those guys.

My sort of perception is that the board teams are a lot more personal than the shoe team. Would that be right?
I guess you could say that but… it’s all the same for us. Yeah I guess it seems that way.

For instance, like Koston left Lakai but if he left Girl that would freak people out.
Yeah, that would. I can see that. It wasn’t like he left… if he was part of it now… it would have been different. But he left at a time where — I don’t want to be negative. But there was reason why he left. I didn’t disagree with his decision at that time.

It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to leave one of your companies; which guy hit you hardest? That you were most upset about?
They’re all friends and every one that left has gone their own way and it’s a part of business. There are people that we’ve done stuff with and haven’t we haven’t known that well, but not too much over the years, but yeah — it’s always a hard thing.

Obviously you dodged a bullet when Jeremy Rogers left.
[Laughs] Did he leave?

I have no idea. Tell me.
I think that worked out for him. He’s got his own company now, right?

Were you more worried about Mike Mo (Capaldi) switch flipping the stairs that were going to blow up or watching Danny (Way) jump out of the helicopter into the mega ramp for the first time?
Oh man, Danny — I actually couldn’t believe that. That just kind of happened spur of the moment, where he went up in the helicopter for a view of the ramp and then it kind of just happened on the spot. But actually knowing Danny I knew he could do that. The Mike Mo thing was so much preparation and so much built up, the stairs were built up, props, and pyrotechnic dudes, explosive guys, lighting to do it. There was so much, it was like probably shot a month before the premiere. Spike was really busy with Where The Wild Things Are, There was like a lot on the line for him to make that and for him to fail it was like… I don’t even want to think about it. Basically what we all went through for that video, I would probably say the switch flip was the most nerve racking. The fact that the kid couldn’t hear for four days afterwards. That was the serious part. It was a real napalm bomb that went off and Mike Mo ruptured his ear drum. It was pretty sketchy.

That pretty much —
I’d have to go with the Mo switchfoot. Danny sounds crazy right? Jumping out of a helicopter plummeting into a vert ramp like for the average person that’s crazy. But if you know Danny [Way], that’s nothing for him. Maniac.

After that napalm explosion, have fireworks never been the same for you?
Yeah, we just went on a trip and bought a ton of fireworks, and it’s like yeah — it’s going to be a hard one to match. I’m retired from doing fireworks.

Thanks for the time Rick!

by POP Magazine