For those who werenít into skateboarding back in your heyday or maybe werenít even around, can you give a little overview of when you started skating, who sponsored you, and what videos people should check out to see you in action?
When I started skating is kind of hazy. Because I kind of started when I was really young, like six or eight, but that was just sitting on my ass on my friendís plastic board. We had a game called basher where weíd try to push each other off the board. But then I kind of got into it where I religiously did it every day when I was fifteen. And my first sponsor was Liberty which was Mike Smithís company and kind of affiliated with World Industries. We had a Liberty section in the World Industries Rubbish Heap video, and thereís a couple Speed Wheels, like Santa Cruz wheel videos like Speed Freaks and something else I forgot the name ofÖ.Wheels of Fire? And some other videos I forgot the name of.
Do you think being sponsored now means the same thing it did back then?
I donít really know what itís like to be getting sponsored now. It had to have been tougher back then, Iím assuming. Just because it wasnít such a big thing as it is now. Itís pretty much mainstream and it wasnít mainstream when I did. It was me and one other guy who were the only skaters at my high school and we got rocks thrown at us and all these dudes would talk shit. And then ten years later they were listening to punk rock and on skateboards, so itís kind of funny. Itís sweet revenge in a weird way, I donít know how though. So I donít really know what itís like now. Iím sure thereís so many companies, thereís a lot more companies and they all need riders. But I have no idea. Thereís also more competition and more people doing crazy shit.
Are you still close or friends with any of the guys you used to skate or do videos with like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Mike V., etc?
Yeah, I think Tony Hawk is the only guy Iíve been in contact with recently. He asked me to DJ a couple of his events, which didnít really even have anything to do with skating. He saw me DJ one event and we were acquaintances back in the day. But all the guys I was really close with Iím not really in touch with, besides Mike Smith, who I occasionally talk with when he comes out of a rock, like heíll call me up and come looking for me to try and get this company started.
What was it that initially drew you to get into skateboarding and how does that pull compare to what drew you to get into punk rock?
I always tell people theyíre exactly the same thing as far as the pull I was gravitating towards. Like with skating it was definitely an outsidersí thing, but it was also something that was really fun and I was really shocked that a lot more people didnít do it. And I actually started getting into punk rock through skating. I built ramps at my house and people brought Black Flag and Minor Threat and 7 Seconds tapes over and weíd listen to that while weíd skate. Aggressive music kind of helped skating, believe it or not. They both started with the same need for something like that. Starting was kind of the same thing. We had no parks like they do now. So I just wanted to get it started up and see what happens and I find it really strange that Iím still doing it. I love it, but itís crazy. Kind of a happy accident that has brought me a lot of joy in my life, and I probably would have killed myself if it wasnít for that.
Is punk rock still important to skateboarding and is skateboarding still important to punk rock in the way it was in the Ď80s?
I donít really have my finger on the pulse of skating anymore, so itís hard to say.
What about from the punk rock side, are there still a lot of people that get into punk through skateboarding?
I donít think so, I think itís just whatever you listen to, thatís what you listen to. I could be wrong. I do know, thereís a lot of people that grew up in the same era that I did that are almost religious about punk and skating. I was talking to Jamie [Barrier] from Pine Hill Haints about it and every time I see him heís like, ďMan, you really had the knack to pick your shit manÖskateboarding and music, those are the two things!Ē And to hear him talking about it kind of confirms it, like it was always hand in hand. And back then Thrasher was almost half a music magazine, and a lot of the stuff I didnít understand until people started bringing tapes over to my ramp. And Iíd be like, ďAh! I saw them in Thrasher,Ē and then Iíd go back and grab that issue and read up on them.
So a lot of the music I learned about was either people bringing tapes skating or watching skate videos. Especially the contest videos where theyíd always have music playing for people to run and it was hard to find out what it was. Youíd have to like, bring the video over to a friend who was kind of an expert and be like, ďWho is this?Ē And itíd be like, ďOh, thatís Souixsee and the Banshees,Ē or something, you know? And it wasnít all straight up hardcore punk, there was a lot of good stuff, even goth stuff, just a lot of good underground music in general.
When it comes to your own music, since you have so many bands and projects (Toys that Kill, F.Y.P., the Underground Railroad to Candyland, and Stoned at Heart to name a few), how do you decide what outlet will be used for a song in the songwriting process?
Sometimes itís hard. Sometimes Iíll just know right off the bat. Like, Iíll just write ďToys that KillĒ or ďStoned at HeartĒ right next to it when Iím writing lyrics down but sometimes itís on the fence and Iíll ask Jimmy our drummer. A lot of times me and him just jam, and Iíll ask him his opinion like, ďWhat band does this song belong to?Ē Sometimes it doesnít matter itís just more like if one of the bands is recording then whatever song Iím doing at the time will have to be for it. If it is like, really mellow and itís for more of a hard type thing then I just wonít even bring it to recording at all. Itís hard but itís not really. Itís better to have more songs than not enough.
In 2010, your solo album Clown Sounds came out, youíve got the Clown Sound studio, and now youíve got the Clown Sound iOS app. Can you talk about where that idea came from?
One night I was just up at 2:00 AM and couldnít go to sleep so I just started searching around on how to make an app and found this website that actually helped you make it really easy. And it was like, by 6:00 in the morning I was almost done with it. So I was like, ďwell, might as well do this!Ē It was one of those things where I didnít even think of it before midnight that night, and then like six hours later it was pretty much done. It was really weird; especially for an app it was so easy. Everything just snowballed, especially with the studio, too. We just started buying gear and it kind of turned into that without even knowing how it happened.
The label you run, Recess Records has now eclipsed twenty years and is still going strong, while youíve also been able to take your bands to international recognition. How important do you think it is to have a specific vision, if not a legitimate business plan when it comes to starting and maintaining viable projects like these?
Iím really the wrong person to ask about a business plan! Everythingís always been either a happy accident or just something I thought of and started it the next day. Now, when I think about something Iím in the position where the next day I can start it up. The label was started on accident; all the bands were kind of started on accident in a weird way. I think Toys that Kill was the only band that was kind of like, ďHey weíre gonna do this,Ē and there was a little bit of discussion before it. And then we just started practicing as Toys that Kill. Every other band itís been where we just start jamming and then itís like, ďWell, what should we call this?Ē Which I kind of like. I think it would be more successful on a bigger level if you actually did some planning but I canít do that. Iíll live with that [laughs].
Apparently outside the punk world--and even in it, I guess--Billie Joe Armstrong is a pretty big deal. How did it come about that his band Pinhead Gunpowder found its home on Recess Records?
They just asked me to do some shows and I set them up with some shows in San PedroÖlike three shows they were just gonna come down for the weekend. They did some shows that were on a more advertised scale, but they wanted me to book these more low-key secret shows and it was really fun and then they just asked if weíd put out their record. So that was pretty much it.
I noticed an anomaly in your webstore: You stock LPs of Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. when most of the rest is pop-punk. Are you an M.I.A. fan?
Yeah! I donít even think Iíve sold one of those, but when I first started branching out and getting a lot more of other labelsí stuff I just wanted to get stuff I listened to and for the most part it worked, but only if itís something thatís kind of punk, you know? Iíve sold a few records that have been surprising, like Captain Beefheart and stuff like that but for some reason no one really buys those records. Well, they do from other places. But I just try to get what I like listening to.
That makes sense. I think I read M.I.A. actually lives in L.A., or at least sometimes. If she needed a guitar player or any sweet pop-punk vocals on her next record, maybe she could look you up?
That would be awesome. It wouldnít happen but obviously I would jump for joy on that one [laughs]. Maybe I could set up some shows for her so I could sell those four LPs I have in stock!
You had Clown Sounds come out last year, the Underground Railroad to Candylandís LP came out just like a month ago, what other stuff is going on right now or coming up?
Weíre doing a new Toys that Kill record when we get back. We actually kind of started recording but we had some malfunctions in the studio. But we were just gonna do a seven-inch of a couple songs that are gonna be on the album for this tour, but we havenít had time. So when we get back weíll do that. And our other band Stoned at Heart did an album last year and after that we might start on that. Iím trying to space it out to where thereís at least a month instead of just jumping in to a new album. Even though thatís technically jumping into a new album. But itís different for Toys that Kill because we actually have all these songs and thereís no burnout.
Is skateboarding still a part of your life and to what degree?
It is! Itís not as much as it used to be. But I really like skating mini-ramps, thatís my favorite. For some reason I avoid pools and vert. I tried skating vert a couple years ago and tore my ACL just knee-sliding. Like, nothing crazy happened, I just knee-slid and it was like, ďOkay, I guess Iím too old for this.Ē But it was that big Vans vert ramp so it was like knee-sliding like twenty thousand feet or so. But yeah, I think I will always love skateboarding to some degree and I want to do it a little bit more than what I have been.