Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mike Vallely interview. From the vault...

I was going through some old back-up disc's looking for an old review I'd done and came across this interview I did with Mike V. It as originally posted on my column I had on the Roadrunner Records site Metalshop, the site long since dead. Mike is such a kick arse skater and all round legend. I have had the opportunity to watch him skate and interview him a few times. The photo pictured below I originally took in about 1999 during the Black Label vs Deca Australian tour and got him to sign when I caught up with him again during the 2003 tour. I thought I would bring this interview out fromt he vault and dust off for you to read. It was quickly edited and really needs to be properly done... here it is in all it's rough glory...

Mike V interview.
Instore - Highpoint Shopping Centre, Melbourne.
27th April 2003.

US Pro skater Mike Vallely is one of the most focused individuals in the world. His honesty and direct approach have gained him followers and rivals. His intense attitude and style have earned him his tough guy reputation. From his never give up approach until it hurts to walk all the way through to his new video “Mike V’s Greatest Hits” showing that reputation in all its fist to face glory. Whether you are watching him skate, seeing him on the road with his spoken word tours or with his punk band Mike V & The Rats, one thing you have to admit is that Mike V always does ‘Stand Strong’.

I caught up with Mike during a recent visit to Australia at an instore at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne. As I approached him he was talking to some young skaters about a symbol they had drawn on their boards that morning. He was talking… they were stoked!

In the past you have been described as the Henry Rollins of skating, how would you describe yourself?

Well, I don’t know how I’d describe myself. I just am who I am. I see why someone might say that. I mean, when I was 14 years old I saw Black Flag play and it had a very profound impact on me. And that same show I picked up a poetry book that Henry Rollins had done and that had an even further impact on me. I reckon that as an individual he’s someone that’s had a great impact on my life at a very important time. And his work ethic and his approach to things I think, that you can find that in what I do and in my skating. I think I’ve definitely made my own path as well; I don’t really like to think that him or any other influences have overwhelmed my own output. You know I think I’ve got my own thing going for sure.

Before I was just watching you with the kids with the symbol they had drawn on their board and you were just talking to them, not pushing your ideas but just sort of having a chat and also listening to them. How Rollins is a role model for you how does it feel to be a role model for kids and how they look up to you?

Oh, well, you know I don’t really necessarily look at it like that. Pretty much across the board I interact with people the way I feel is important to. I mean a lot of times I will be talking to kids and they’ll go oh man that was a really good speech, no that wasn’t a speech, that was a conversation. I reckon that most people don’t even converse anymore, there’s really no communication between people and so looking at his board and seeing a swastika, whether I was Mike Vallely the professional skateboarder or me just hanging around I would perhaps say something because that’s who I am. So I interact, I really interact with people the way that I wished someone would’ve interacted with me when I was younger and as with other adults, it’s really do unto others as you would have them do unto you sort of thing. I think there’s just a proper way to handle yourself.

Things would be a lot better in the world.

Yeah, you know I do recognise the fact that obviously they know who I am, they’re aware of who I am and they want to converse, they want to talk and I’m totally open to it. I love the fact that those doors are already blown open, that you can get right into it with somebody because of the fact that they know who I am. I’m able to just jump right into a conversation. I have some common ground, I have some shared experience with these people, you know and I never met them before.

You’ve been skating for 19 years, how’d you first get into it?

Just really through Punk Rock music. I got into Punk Rock music and at the time skateboarding really went hand in hand with it and my buddies pretty much told me I had to get a skateboard. You know I got into the Punk scene and they’re like well you gotta get a skateboard too, so I got a skateboard too cause it’s just kinda part of the uniform but then I also saw Thrasher magazine and I stumbled across Bones Brigade Video Show video and I was just hooked on it and it became more important to me. Well I wouldn’t say more important than the music but just as or equally as important to me in a different way.

I saw your spoken word a few years ago, you spoke alot about music, how it changed your life, why do you think it had such an impact?

Well, who hasn’t been affected by music! It’s everything to us. You know, the human experience – music’s a part of it. I don’t know why, I don’t know, I think there’s something about really being able to really arr…

About expression…

Expression and the emotion that you can put into it. It’s just such a great way of communicating. You know songs have been handed down for generations and generations, stories and I think the song writing and music has really kind of captured that and enables people to communicate in a different way and a real broad way. Ideally I think that the music is something that helps people relate to each other and brings everyone together.

You also have a band going now, Mike V & The Rats, how’s it going and how did you get that started?

The guys in the band pretty much got us started and they rang me up. And they said hey we got this tape we want you to listen to and if you like it we want you to sing for our band. It’s an opportunity that I’d been pursuing for many years but had never really panned out, didn’t hook up the right people or whatever…

Kind of the next step to the poetry?

Yeah well the spoken word and the poetry was always… everything I’ve ever written was intended to be a song. I just never had that ability or that avenue to walk down. You know I didn’t have a band, so I figured I’d just go out and read the things (snickers). So these guys rang me up and they said hey here’s the tape, check it out, if you like it and so, I put the tape in, the first couple of chords I heard I was sold on it. I was yeah for sure and so it just kinda happened. But the guitar player for the band, he works at Accel Wheels so he’s somebody that you know I was working with and I knew that he had other bands and he’d been into the Punk scene for a while. The fact that he decided that he wanted to work with me, I was really stoked because he’s actually…

( At this point Mike’s family had come back into the store with some photos of them in a photo booth in hand and wanted to show Mike. Mike’s wife and eldest daughter thought they were pretty funny and were keen to show him what they’d been up to… )

…But he was somebody that I had known that he had been in a lot of different really good bands and I hinted around a few times (and said) “Hey man if you’re ever gonna do something let me know” but then when it actually kinda happened I was actually really happy, really glad for the opportunity and it’s something that we take very serious. You know, a lot of people kind of talked to me about it or thinking it’s just some sort of novelty or act but no, it’s very serious to us, very real.

Are you playing lots of gigs with the band then?

We’ve been really lucky. We’ve played lots of really good shows with pretty decent and / or popular bands. Luckily I’ve been able to use the fact that a lot of people in these bands know who I am and they invite us to be on the gig without ever hearing us, just cause it’s me. So we get in there and then we get a chance to just go out and do our thing and it’s been awesome.

Are you going to bring the band out here or are you coming out again to do a spoken word tour?

Yeah, we’ve been talkin’ about it. I imagine in the next, within the next year the band will have come down and I’ll probably have come down again on a spoken tour.

When you’re going for a skate what do you do to get pumped, before a demo for example where you go nuts. Do you listen to a particular band?

Well before a demo I try to listen to some uplifting music but yeah mostly stuff that’s pretty heavy, pretty loud, pretty aggressive, and it’s always different but probably the most consistent thing would be Rollins Band. And then beyond that I don’t know, you know, like on this tour I don’t really (listen to music), cause I’m travelling with my family I haven’t really listened to any music or anything I just rely on the fact that here we are, it’s time to go. But I do try to, I do. I think music’s important to get you pumped up and get you amped and get you in a certain state of mind, you know, get focussed but it’s not everything. This tour I haven’t, like I said, I haven’t had the headphones on. You can’t really have the headphones on when you are travelling with the family but when I travel solo it’s headphones right up until the second that I’m gonna skate, you know…

Get pumped…

Yeah, I just like to, I take it serious you know. It’s like… the older I get the more so, the more I have to take it serious because it used to be easy to go out and skate. Now the body hurts so bad and I need that extra motivation, I need to really feel like I’m going through a process. It’s not so easy anymore as just standing on the thing and going you know. For me it’s like I wanna deliver, I wanna do the best I can every step of the way. I do all these… I have all these different rituals I go through just to put on a demo but some of it is probably corny and unnecessary but you know getting your own self mentally prepared for what you’re doing.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense…

Yeah, I mean I know that if I went to see a demo or I’m gonna see a show I expect the person that’s skating or putting on that show to give it their all. So it’s important to me that I feel like I’m doing everything I can to deliver.

And now with your board company too, you have your hands sort of everywhere at the moment. What made you want to get that started, was it the freedom?

Yeah, the opportunity arose and I’m just not the kind of guy that can just ride for somebody else. I started skateboarding cause I wanted to do my own thing and this is just a natural progression of that idea. And having the opportunity and being able to do it with a really good company this time around. You know, I’ve done other companies in the past but they were always gambles and there’s really not a whole lot of gambling with this particular version of doing my company. So I’m pretty excited about that. You know, right now I’m involved in it but at the same time, the skate industry’s kinda down, the economy’s down, and when that happens, you know, it really becomes about the dollar and it becomes about can you make money – can you not make money so I kinda backed off with the board company right now to let the people that worry about the dollars and cents run the board company because I’m more interested in those time periods when there’s a little bit more creative freedom. And my overall goal with the board company is to have that kind of creative freedom. But right now it’s really not, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, you know we’re in a mall.

Skateboards are sold in malls now. It’s kind of a different scene so I try and put my energy where I feel it could be most effective. And that’s why say going to do a demo, I think I’d rather put my creative energy into that, I’d rather put my all my effort into those kinds of things as compared to say working on board graphics or advertisings because that doesn’t really speak to me right now. There’s a time and a place for that though I mean. I’m very much interested in the artistic aspect of the boards and what’s being said on the boards and what’s being said in the ad’s but I just feel like that right now, this season of my life, I need to focus more on the actual one on one type of interaction. And on top of all that I’ve found with the band I’ve got a million things going on, so the long way around to say that yes the board company is very important to me, it’s something that I’m going to be very involved in, I have been very involved in but right now I’ve just left it to be what it is. Because right now it’s just about supply and demand and I’m not interested in supply and demand.

You’ve had the elephant graphic on everything right back to when you first started, what’s the symbolism of the elephant for you?

Yeah. Initially it started just out of seeing a National Geographic program about elephants when it was time for me to come up with a board graphic. I just saw this special about elephants and it just talked about how you know this beautiful peaceful creature, this largest land mammal was endangered. It was being poached for its tusks. I didn’t understand how that could happen and so initially the elephant was on my skateboard… for me it was a reminder of how beautiful and of how ugly the world can be at the same time. And I guess that was the idea then and I think through the years it just came to symbolise something more to me. And now with the board company I think it’s you know this idea of ... well I don’t know if it’s for me to say…

Can I say, I see it as strength, you know “stand strong”…

Yeah it’s about that and it’s about enduring. I mean you know I think there’s a lot there. I think there’s a lot of story there but you know I think it’s open to interpretation. I don’t know if it’s for me to really (say)… I have my own ideas but they might sound a little silly actually spoken you know…

Mike Vallely: Tumblr // Elephant Brand Skateboards

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