I’m ending this thing off with Ian because he was the first dude I ever met who was getting coverage in videos when I was growing up and first started going to the Banks. A common question throughout all these interviews has been, “Who would you see?” The best things about spots like the Banks when you’re a kid is that you get to see people you’ve been watching in videos (it wears off pretty quickly, I know.) Nowadays, you might bump into someone trying a line downtown for some shitty web clip, but it’s not the same as showing up to the Banks in August and seeing Dill, Muska, and Jamie Thomas occupy the same spot simultaneously.
In Ian’s case, he was always around, he was always recognizable, and if you were a little kid, he was by far the most approachable dude out of any older skaters you might’ve run across when you were younger. So while a lot of these stories might make the people who frequented Banks sound really stand-offish, there were exceptions to the rule.
Hopefully, everyone enjoyed these interviews. Thanks again to Ted and The Chrome Ball Incident.
Interview by Ted Barrow on September 30, 2006
I benihana’d that shit. That was my claim to fame — a benihaha over that shit. Yeah, dope.
When was that?
It was ’93, baby. Yeah, that’s when I first – Brian used to do benihanas and I thought it was sick.
Did you skate both the Banks and Love?
I’ve been to two out of four, and I was there when two out of four monumental events occurred. The Banks, I was here, I’m from New York. Love, I was there, my man BW put it down. Pulaski, I never fucked with. When I was in DC, I wasn’t skatin’. I was on some other shit. And EMB, I just wasn’t into Frisco. I missed the EMB shit. I saw the new one. I wasn’t into the old one. I wished I did, I wanted to see it.
[gnats buzz around our bench by the dirt]
This place is insane, that we’re sittin’ at. I don’t know what they are, but they’re annoying. I suggest we move. We have to get out of here. [Looks around the empty park, full of dirt and gnats.]
Yo this is so wack, what they did, I can’t even believe it. I’ve been skating this shit for over 15 years, and the only motherfuckers who ever sat back he — actually there was never no seats here — the only motherfuckers who was back here was skaters and homeless motherfuckers more or less. That was before it was all terrorist-crazy and all that, so you know. Motherfuckers used to have their little shop set-up back there in the corner. And they would just sleep and chill. Like now they got all these stupid-ass benches and shit over here. Nobody even sits on these things. Look at us, we’re the only ones here. They got a fuckin’ chess table. This shit is… just stupid, like who the fuck plays chess like this? Out in the open in the city? It’s just weeds and shit. You’ll probably get like West Nile and shit when it’s raining from the mosquitoes.
When did you first start coming here?
Oh, shit. Damn, like ‘88 maybe. Late eighties. When I first started skating, it was like these dudes on my block used to write graffiti, and they used to skate, and the name of their crew was Twisted Skates, and that shit was dope. That shit was hard to me when I was little. And they used to have these graffiti stencils on their boards. I was like damn, I wanted to write graffiti. So they used to skate around and write graffiti, I started writing graffiti and skating around.
Probably like ‘89, that was the first time I ever came to Manhattan. I came here by myself; I saw all these people skating. I just live over the bridge and shit, so I just walked over the bridge, and you used to be able to just walk down them steps and you’d be at the Banks. So motherfuckers are skating here and shit, I just seen it, I was like “Oh shit, skating!” and I just like started skating. I would come here like, not every day because I was still young, but I would come on the weekends and shit when it would be crowded. And it was just wild, skating that shit.
Who would you see?
A lot of the old fools, like this dude named Mohammed. A lot of the Brooklyn dudes, this little kid named Cosmo and his brother Wylie. They was brothers, they used to ride for Shut back in the days. Cosmo was the young one and Wylie was the old one. The dude, Jamal. Who else? A lot of other old random motherfuckers that don’t really skate no more. But those were the dudes that I remember and shit. Oh you know who else? Hamilton used to be down here all the time. John Carter. Yeah, John Carter was here. Oh yeah, my son Kyle. Kyle James was here. He used to hustle Brian out of games of S.K.A.T.E., that shit was funny as fuck, man. These motherfuckers [laughter], yo, they’d play S.K.A.T.E., right? At the banks. It would be called S.K.A.T.E. at the Banks. So this motherfucker Kyle would skate the banks, and he’d fuck up. So Brian would come over to the steps and kickfiip them, and Kyle would be like “Nah, you cheatin’. You cheatin’. You can’t do that shit!” so Brian was kinda shook, so he’d be like “Alright,” and they’d go back around the corner to the banks, and then he would do a trick on the bank and then Kyle would just take his fuckin’ bread. That shit was funny. It used to happen every fuckin’ weekend.
Some days Kyle would just walk through, no board, nothing, and he would walk up like, “Yo, let’s play S.K.A.T.E! Let’s play S.K.A.T.E. for a dollar!” and he would grab a board, and the hustle would begin. It was just funny watching him hustle other motherfuckers too, cause, you know, first glance you don’t think the motherfucker can skate, let alone stand on the motherfucking board. This is way back way before all these dickheads like Ali Boulala tried to skate around in boots and shit. This nigga was skating around in boots because he didn’t have skate shoes, not because it was the cool thing to do. Just because he was coming from somewhere else, and he was skating in motherfucking boots. So this motherfucker would just show up like “Lemme see your board, man,” and nobody would say no, so they would give him they board, and he would just start skating, and you’d be like “Oh shit! This is crazy!” And sure enough, Brian would be there, doing his little nollie 180’s and shit, Kyle would just show up, and take his money. Brian would be heart broken.
I’ll never forget this. One time, me and Kyle had a fight at this spot called the Humps. That’s this shit by the Trick Rails [C.I.A Ledge]. So one day me and Kyle were skating at the Humps, and I don’t know, something happened, and I ended up focusing his board, like, “Man, fuck you.” For some reason I had a knife, too, and I pulled out the knife. Cause, you know, Kyle’s a big dude, he’s bigger than me, and we would’ve fought, but I had a knife, so he didn’t really want to fight. It was just wild [with] people standing there. Like, all the white boys from Staten Island, Loudmouth Chris, the dude Lonnie with the long hair, a few other loudmouth white boys from Staten Island. That was all that was from Staten Island, just white motherfuckers. So Kyle just walked off, he just broke out, went home and shit. I seen him a few weeks later and everything was cool and shit. But other than that, I used to get Kyle to skate other shit. Like “Yo, just leave the fucking Banks.” He would never leave the fucking Banks. If he could have been pro for skating the Banks, he would have been pro. But that motherfucker never left. Occasionally you might see him at the Seaport, but he wouldn’t be doing shit. He would just be there.
Somehow he could skate ledges. He could do switch crooked grinds, but that was the era when it didn’t matter. Motherfuckers would do a switch crooked grind and it would look like complete shit. There’s plenty of videos that document this proof of things looking like complete shit.
Where’d you get the footage of him in your video from?
Oh… [chuckle]. It was filmed by Doug Brown. Somehow it ended up in my video, they say. Allegedly, Doug’s camera was stolen at one point in time, and I got the footage of Kyle James. But I ain’t steal that shit.
Do you have any stories from those contests back then?
I never lost. I’ve got all trophies in my crib to prove it. From like 1989 to like ’92. Actually, I got 3rd place once and I was mad as fuck.
Who beat you?
Some dickhead. I don’t even remember his name. It’s some asshole that doesn’t even skate no more, that’s like the wild shit. Yeah, but. They was all [at the] HiB8 contest, where Steven Cales used to be at. Steven and Ivan. They were sick. They still are sick, just no longer on a skateboard.
The HIB8 was the big New York shit.
Do you have any board jacking stories?
Not really. I never paid any attention to it because it ain’t never happened to me. Nothin’ too crazy, just the usual, you know, let me see your board and then skate off with the shit. Motherfucker just straight doing a manny on your shit, you just watching him go down the block. Just like, “Bye-bye skateboard.” For the most part, it was pretty peaceful when I was around. No problems with nobody. That was before rollerblading was around and shit. BMXing was around, but those motherfuckers wouldn’t come in here.
Why do you think that was?
Just like skateboarding, it wasn’t evolved to that point where they were jumping over the wall and shit. Grinding on shit, you know. It just wasn’t that evolved.
Now I know that you still skate here a lot, more than a lot of other people, but do you think that as a spot, the Banks are kind of dead now?
Yeah, pretty much. I mean, this was the place where you’d be “Yo, meet me at the banks at 12 o’clock,” and you’d meet up here, and next thing you know it’s 5 o’clock. You’d just be trapped. Now [when] you meet up at 12, you’re definitely out of here at like 12:30. Like, this shit’s nothing to really have fun with.
I don’t really know. I guess the big banks just ain’t as fun as the little banks was. You could just do more with the little banks. It felt better just to push around and ollie on, do tricks and shit. It was just different. Then you could actually skate over the wall and shit, it was more fun.
What about sitting on the wall?
Yeah. That was the whole highlight, motherfuckers would just sit on the wall. I used to sit on the wall and just watch, just watch fools skate the bottom of it. Yeah that shit is wild, now that you think about it. Nobody would really ollie over it when people were sitting on it. But motherfuckers would just line up and sit on it like it was bleachers. I filmed some shit, actually, sitting on the wall. Some random professionals that came here, and I was just sitting on the wall filming that shit.
When did people stop skating the Banks as much?
Definitely after September 11th. That’s when it got all fucked up. Because after that, that’s when they started turning it into a parking lot, and then once it became a parking lot, you had to wait until there were no cars to skate it. If there were cars, there’d be one in the way [of the bank], and that’s when it went all downhill, after that September 11th shit. So, Bin Laden, he basically ruined skateboarding in New York. Nothing else did, just that dickhead just fucked it up.
What was it about this spot?
Either way you look at it back then, everything you skated was downhill. So it’s like the most central place to get to for everybody. You’d either take the train, or skate from your crib, or walk over the bridge, and this was that central place. It was easy for people to get to and while you wait, you could skate, and there wasn’t really no boredom going on. So, this was just that meeting place. Every city or whatever the fuck has their meeting place, and this was the one in New York. It wasn’t like no Astor Place shit, where motherfuckers would just show up and be bullshittin’ all day, no skateboarding. People actually skated here.
Is that because there wasn’t as much attention from the outside?
Nah, not really. We used to skate Washington Square back in the day. It was different. Washington Square was an actual skate spot. Like, Tompkins was never a fucking skate spot. Union was a skate spot, and to a degree Astor was too because people used to do mannies on that shit, but, I really don’t know. It just became like you said, a place for people to get watched at. The wild shit is like, motherfuckers ain’t even doing nothing that required watching. You know the level of skateboarding that some people could have been on and then you see the level of skateboarding that people are on. And when you see that you’re just like “Man…”
There’s always something weird about doing tricks in front of people that don’t really skate. You go for the easy land, the crowd pleaser. In California, you don’t really do that.
Nah. Hell no.
You’re not really paying attention to what everybody else is doing.
Nah. You’re definitely not. Yeah, it’s way different.
[Group of kids show up at the Banks and skate past it]
So these kids have just shown up at the Banks, and they’re annoyed because there’s nothing to skate. Just as I would be if I showed up here and found out there’s nothing for me to skate, and that’s the problem. A lot of the older people come here, and they want to skate this shit, and there’s all these bike dickheads down here and fucking 12-year-old kids skating around with helmets and shit. Not to discourage kids from skating with helmets, some of them need it, but back then there wasn’t none of that shit going on. It seemed like everybody knew what they were doing. There weren’t no rush-to-skate tricks. Some of those kids down there can’t even ollie straight, but they try a fucking kickflip front board. You see those dickheads who come here? Motherfuckers can barely front board. [Lost girl wanders around.] This chick is lost, you see that shit? This is some back in the day shit. There are always some random, weird motherfuckers walking around here. Yeah, I used to love that shit.
Like the people that used to live in the anchorage?
Nah. They used to just live there. They didn’t fuck with us. They used to sit out there and watch us skate. They didn’t really do shit actually, they just lived in the thing. They really didn’t do anything, actually, to be exact. I’m thinking about it now. They didn’t ask for shit. They didn’t really have to. If you put it onto perspective, they had it good. If you go skate, and it’s like ten of y’all, and somebody takes off their jacket, leaves it behind and goes to buy a water and get some food, those motherfuckers got it. So, you know, they were good. They had all kinds of free shit. They were fully clothed in skate gear and they had food all the time, cause fools would just leave shit.
Any good Burger King stories?
Yeah, it was wild for a minute, they tried to tell us that you couldn’t come in if you came in with your skateboard and shit. But that shit went out the fucking window. We used to have beef with the motherfuckers that used to live – you see those buildings right there where Burger King is? Well, these pieces of shit who used to live in those buildings, we used to skate across the street from Burger King, and these motherfuckers used to throw eggs down, and water, all kinds of nasty shit. So one day we seen some kid talking some shit about skateboard this or skateboard that, so we fucked money up. Straight let him have it. So, ever since then we’d go back over there and these motherfuckers would throw shit down at us. It was wild.
Were you at that contest when Kyle got stabbed in the head with the key?
Nah. Wasn’t there. That was some funny shit. Kyle robbed the kid, but the kid defended himself, and stabbed Kyle with the skate key, and everybody fucked the kid up. But that’s how it is, you can’t come here, it doesn’t matter who the fuck you are, and you know, fuck with one of the local motherfuckers and not get fucked up.
Who was the kid?
Some random dickhead. I don’t know. He’s probably some famous motherfucker now.
What’s up with Kyle now?
Yeah, he’s got five kids and he drives a petroleum truck.
A petroleum truck?
Yeah. I got pictures. He puts oil in buildings and shit. He’s a wild dude, he claims he wanted to skate again, I gave him a set-up, dude never went skating. That’s some bullshit. When I used to have a store, he’d be proclaiming, “Yeah, let me get some kicks, I need to skate, blah, blah, blah…” I gave this motherfucker some shit, and never seen him again. For two years after that. Whatever, that’s the way he is, I don’t expect nothing more, I don’t expect nothing less.
Did you skate with Shane?
I used to skate with him, he was from Brooklyn, so you know. We had a little Brooklyn connection. Him and this dude named Jimmy. Jimmy was his dude. His little friend, he was Indian. He wasn’t an actual Indian, he just looked like an Indian. He was Guyanese or some shit, he just looked like an Indian.
What about Bum Juice John?
Oh, that’s my man! That’s my dude right there! He’s from my hood. I don’t know where the name Bum Juice came from…it’s wild. A bum-ass nigga gave him that name. Another, I won’t say his name, but he knows his name.
What, you don’t like him?
Nah, he’s cool. He just goes through his little funny phases and shit. I remember when homie was little, I used to give motherfuckers clothes, boards, everything, and then some days, motherfuckers act crazy. Cause I get free shit, motherfuckers think they entitled to get free shit? Like “Yo, gimme this, you got a board, blah, blah. What difference does it make?” What do you mean what difference does it make? It’s not really free. I worked for it. I skated and did some tricks and…fuck, man.
But whatever. Bum Juice John. He wasn’t really that wild. He was just unorthodox on his board. That’s all. I wish I had footage of him skating, but I don’t.
I’ve heard some stories where he sounds a little unorthodox off his board…
Oh, he was a raging alcoholic, that’s for sure. He’s crazy. He’s out of his fucking mind. He was living in some shelter, last I heard, in East New York. Shit, he was just like the classic New York skater.
What do you mean?
Had some sort of ability, could have made it, but just fell into everything else that was wrong in the world and didn’t make it happen.
Nah, he didn’t get gassed, he was never anything to be gassed about, but he just started hanging with motherfuckers partying, drinking, and before you knew it, he was just a complete drunk. Just like how certain other motherfuckers could have did it but didn’t. The only New York motherfucker to actually do it was Keenan. I mean, you got to count Keith, too, but I don’t really count him, because he never moved back to New York. Actually, Kennan didn’t either. Motherfuckers from Long Island don’t count. They were dope and all, but they don’t count.
Do you think locals skated the Banks better, or out of town dudes?
Of course those kids from the suburbs did, because they had that bullshit around they way. They all had launch ramps in their garages. Brian had a fucking skatepark in his driveway. You learn that shit… Not too many city dudes do tricks over the wall, it was unfortunate.
Ask motherfuckers about this kid Ariel. He was a dude I didn’t really like until we got older. He was from Brooklyn, but nobody was really cool with him. Ariel Cottrell. Ariel was like, for back then, he was one of those rich kids who had all new shit. Back then, if you had all new shit, you was either sponsored, or you were rich. But being rich didn’t really matter back then, because we were all in the same boat. At first sight, you’d be like, “Wow this dude is sponsored, he’s probably like the sickest dude ever.” They you’d see him skate, like, “What the fuck is going on?” Every week he’d be out here with a new pair of shoes, new board, everything. With all of us like struggling, hand me down shit. We didn’t like him because he had new shit. But somehow he was the first person in our little group of skaters to make it into a video. He was in 411, and he did a nose-wheelie around the crooked benches. That became his spot. The Ariel Benches. Mister Burns [Anthony Pappalardo] took those from him, though.
You know what got crazy? When the Seaport came around. Then shit got wild. More and more pros started coming to New York. That was around the time when Kalis started coming here. Kalis made a bet with Rodney Torres, I’ll never forget that shit. To this day, you can ask Rodney Torres about this, Rodney Torres will tell you that Josh Kalis owes him a hundred bucks for doing a noseblunt slide at Pyramid Ledges, and Rodney believes Josh owes him a hundred bucks. And he will never receive his hundred bucks, even though Josh is a millionaire probably.
But, anyway, not the old Seaport, the new one. That’s when shit got crazy. We didn’t really skate the Banks that much then. You seen it in the videos, Seaport was the shit back then. So we skated the Seaport, all day, every day. We would skate all night, sleep at the Seaport in the morning, like wake up on the benches, me, Brian, and Anthony. One morning we slept there, and motherfucking Lennie Kirk was there. We woke up with Lennie. Lennie praying and shit, and chanting, doing all kinds of wild shit. And that’s when it went all crazy, after Lennie Kirk showed up. Everything was wild. Everything went downhill.
This is like 1998. That’s when they first got on Alien. Lennie Kirk was here, whole bunch of dickheads. Josh Kasper. Harsh. He did tre-flip the banks rail, though.
It made no difference, but back then it was sick. There was lots of dickheads coming in and out of the city. That’s when the mass exodus of people coming into New York started happening. It just got saturated with people from other places.
The best era?
Shit, man. Any time before September 11th. That was it. More people. Actually, it depended on your mood. If there were a lot of people that were really good, you wouldn’t get as much time to skate, because motherfuckers would keep doing tricks, but it would always push you to try new shit. Sometimes when there’d be nobody here, it would be boring. You needed the energy. You know what was always funny too? About the Banks? How they had these steps here that would lead to nowhere. Like these steps lead to nowhere, and they always have. These motherfuckers, [lost tourists walking up steps] it’s so funny. I don’t know why these steps were here.
How often would you and Brian ollie the steps?
Every day. He had a routine. He’d kickflip them ten times, switch ollie them ten times. He’d benihana them at least twice. He’d nollie them. I got footage of him beninahaing the steps.
Brian used to stash shit here, which was funny. He used to have a bunch of used boards and shit, and they would be just sporadically spread out all over the banks. Up on that ramp right there? The cars would come, so this motherfucker would climb up the ramp pretty much as far as you can go and stash boards up there. Like if he broke a board during the course of the day, he’d have some shit stashed up at the banks. He’d come back, get a board, put it together. He would stash shoes and shit. It was crazy.
It’s absurd. Yet again, two more people are coming to the steps that lead to nowhere, and yet again we are surrounded by a mass of bugs. They got shit growing here and stuff. Back in the days there wasn’t anything growing here.
It was all good until September 11th. I don’t even dwell on that shit, it was just something that happened. I’m past it, and through with it. Except for the fact that skateboarding was fucked up. I remember when it happened, to my mom, I was like “Damn, the best ledges in New York just got fucked up.” And she was so pissed at me. She was like, “What about all those people that died?” And I was just thinking about the skate spot and shit. She was just so pissed. I didn’t know any of the people that died. Not to say I didn’t care, but I was thinking about skateboarding.
I’m no good with the Banks stories. Ah, fuck it.