Kalis is one of those dudes that has been around for many of the ups and downs of real, old-fashioned, straightforward street skating these past two decades. The Pier, The Banks, Love Park, the Barcelona exodus, hiding out in Chicago instead of a schoolyard somewhere, etc. Since this is the sort of thing we tend to try and keep going over here with QS, as much as the park/plaza climate of today seems to push us all in different directions, it seemed only natural to sit down for an interview with someone who has been through more than a handful of eras in street skating.
To start it off, what have you been up to this past summer up until now?
I moved from Michigan to southern California.
Any particular reason you moved out to California?
Quite frankly, I was just tired of flying out here so often. I’ve been flying out here twice a month to be involved with stuff. Everything’s a little bit different now, because the internet now has videos and web blasts, and all this shit is happening so fast that they want you out here. And I couldn’t be so instant living in the Midwest, just trying to skate and film.
Is it because skate media and all that has changed so much recently, that you have avoided doing it up until now? It’s like, everyone moves out to southern California but it seems like you’ve been everywhere but there.
When I first got put on, I moved out here, just to see and I couldn’t deal with it. But it wasn’t really necessary for me, because I was trying to take care of my business elsewhere and I didn’t really have to be in this mix. But now, you still don’t have to move out here to be in the circle of pro skaters or whatever you want to call it, but it’s just to be as relevant as you can be, you have to produce five times more than you used to. Before it was like, do your thing, shoot your photos, film you video part, and it gets released at whatever date it comes out. Now it’s just like… you got warehouses, podcasts… It’s just like non-stop now.
What’s it like to finally be on a team with Stevie after you guys have been associated with one another for pretty much all his career, but a large portion of your career as well?
It’s the illest thing ever. It’s no sweat, no people breathing down necks, its just homie shit. “What do you want to do for this thing?” And you just have a little pow-wow and boom, it’s done. It’s so easy to brainstorm because we’re on such the same level, in terms of what we think about, what we want to do, and the future and direction that we hope to see skateboarding go. It’s just some back in the day shit, like it was growing up.
Do you guys still get a chance to skate together out there?
We haven’t much because he spends most of his time in Atlanta, and I’m out here, but now when we talk on the phone, we get to talk about shit that we’re both involved in, even though he’s doing his thing there and I’m doing my thing wherever I’m doing it. Even though I live in southern California, all my street skating stuff happens elsewhere. We got this new warehouse cracking in Atlanta, so we will be [skating] soon.
Is there truth to the fact that he was supposed to have got on Alien way back, like in the mid-nineties?
Oh yeah. There’s a lot of truth to that.
So how did that end up falling through?
The dudes at Workshop didn’t trust his capabilities. I thought it was a done deal, and then they just said “No.” There was a second chance when we did Seek, Stevie was going to ride for them, but he had a chip on his shoulder because they wouldn’t put him on Alien [back then]. And I pushed hard to get him on Alien and they wouldn’t do it. So he was going to ride for Seek, which was under the same umbrella. That’s when he decided like, “You know what? These dudes didn’t really dig me then, and now, I actually came up, so now they’re thinking about fucking with me? Fuck it, I’m going to do my own thing.”
Did they not trust him in terms of actual skating abilities or that he wouldn’t treat skateboarding as “a job,” for lack of a better word?
I think they were scared of like the “hood” factor, you know? I really don’t know. But that’s what I got out of it; they were just worried that he would not produce. It definitely bummed me out though.
What was the overall reason that you left Alien?
It was kind of a mix of stuff. I had a lot of stuff — I don’t even know how long I was on there, maybe like 12, 13 years — and throughout that there were these little hits. Like, Stevie was a big hit. And all these little things grew. And then Marquise Henry was another big hit. Then my video part was another one. The “Kalis in Mono,” the reason why that actually came out was another one, and then the direction that they were going just wasn’t my direction. I’m not really trying to be Habitat. We already have a Habitat, and they were changing Alien Workshop and what the foundation was to me into something else with no regard, and not wanting opinions. When I gave opinions they didn’t really give a shit, so I was just like, “Fuck it, I’m out.” I told those dudes six or eight months before I quit that I was over it. Like, “I skate for you guys, I get paid, that’s it.” I used to talk to the owner of the Workshop like every day, for like an hour a day. And then the first lie, and the second lie…and it’s like, “You got to be shittin’ me.” Then I wouldn’t speak to the dude for like six months. I would call and maybe he was busy or whatever, but it was just so different, whereas it used to be so personal and then all of a sudden it was just like, “We’re doing something else.” I was just like, “I’m out too then.”
Do you mean kind of the direction they were approaching aesthetically? Because it’s been like an artsy company, but it sort of had that “edge” to it, if you want to put it that way, I suppose. The reason I ask is…I was like maybe twelve when Photosynthesis came out, and being from around here, all the kids, myself included — like Jersey, Philly, New York — Alien and Habitat back then were kinda their companies and shit. I remember when Seek came out, a lot of us were like, “What the hell is this company?” A bunch of new people got on Alien and then it’s like, Seek is their “hip hop guy” company. Alien was sick back then because it was a diverse mix, but it seems like they kind of started segregating the teams a lot more at that point.
Well, you’re kinda right. It was just a feeling, like before, everyone was cool with each other, and it was like nobody got on the team unless everybody was like, “Fuck yeah, let’s do this.” Seek happened because we wanted to do a world company, where it was like riders on the team, but it wasn’t like, “He rides for the Euro team” or “he rides for the Brazilian team,” but just, “This is our team and we’re all homies.” Like, Flo and Caralino are two of my favorite people and skaters, and we didn’t want to rock with them on some Euro team shit. Flo was like, “I want to do this and show the world we can skate for U.S. companies.” And it was working and we were filming, and I thought our video was going to be sick.
The story I got told was that there weren’t enough graphics people and they weren’t able to spend enough time on the company, so they just deaded it. They just deaded it overnight. They wouldn’t bring Flo and Alex back on board with us, which was another thing that pissed me off, and they just wouldn’t do anything. They were just like, “No, we’re over it.” We were like, “Hey, well wait ‘til the video comes out, and see what happens,” and they just deaded it. So, I went back over to Alien, and I think that was the time when they were slowly changing into this new direction that they were going. It was never the same.
One of the last straws was, I was in New York, filming for the Mind Field video, and Grant Taylor showed up at the Pyramid Ledges. And I had known about Grant being on Alien, but never really met the dude. So, I saw him at Pyramid Ledges, gave him a nod, and the dude didn’t even say “What up.” He didn’t even say what up. And then he’s trying to film a noseblunt slide on the ledge and I’m like, “Yo, where’s the fuckin’ respect dude?” I’ve been riding for Alien mad long, here you are trying to do your thing, and you don’t even say what up? You’re with your Nike dudes and doing all that and you don’t even say what’s up to me? Fuck that shit, that was wack to me. And that kind of made me step back and look at Alien like, “What’s going on? Who are these people?”
You got along and skated with Jake though, right?
Jake is ill as fuck. The dudes sent me his footage and I was like, “Let me go meet this dude.” So, before he was actually on the team — even though I’m sure it was inevitable regardless of my opinion — I went to New York, and met up with him. We skated all through the city. That’s my whole thing, the dude’s footage is sick, I want to see like what kind of skater he is. Me and him skated for blocks and blocks, laughing and shootin’ the shit, and we had to wait for Bill and Greg and those dudes being like five blocks away. That’s when I was like, “This dude is the real deal.” He’s a skate rat, skate nerd, holding on to cars going down the avenues. I was down for Jake one hundred percent.
You’ve seen the Dylan Epicly Later’d thing?
What was your take on what Dill said with that whole “upriver” conversation that they had on there?
You know what man…that whole shit makes no sense to me. I was pissed. I have no idea where he’s coming from with that shit, because to tell you the honest to God truth, while I was out there for mad years skating every single day, that asshole wasn’t doing shit. He wasn’t doing nothing. I remember in that Dylan thing he said like, “We were in the van,” and shit. I’m like, “Motherfucker, you weren’t in the van.” I was out there doing one man goddamn demos and traveling all over the place doing my thing, number one, because I liked it, and number two, I respected the company I skated for and understood the money that I made came at a price. So I would do it. Meanwhile, Dill, who knows what that dude was doing. He was the homie, I shot the shit with him, hung out with him, and did all that. When I watched that shit, it broke my heart. You didn’t do shit, dude. It took him three years of begging to get on the Workshop before they finally put him on, and then he just fucked off forever. And he’s going to put some shit on me, talking about I’m upriver, fuck him dude. He doesn’t even know what upriver means. That means you’re in the joint, dude.
Yeah, I think the expression is “upstream,” but he kinda switched it. “Up a creek” or whatever.
I had respect for Dill because of who he was. Even though, a lot of times he’s full of shit, or tells some dumb stories, or is always talking about drugs. It’s like, not that he gives a shit, but I give him no respect now.
Alright, I guess to get the whole controversy stuff out of the way, what was the reaction over at DGK after that Manny Mania incident? Because it seems like skateboarding has gone a fairly long time without a straight-up fight between names that we all know. Between the internet being what it is, and general gossip, how did they approach that situation?
I don’t really know. Darren had a problem with Stevie, and he went up there to do what he thought was the best thing for him. That was it. I don’t even know if there’s still beef. Stevie doesn’t seem too worried about it. DGK…they don’t really give a shit. Spencer…it sucks that it happened, but that’s just old skate shit. You can’t really expect to run up on somebody, even if there’s an argument and the majority of the people there are either friends of Stevie or old acquaintances. When punches get thrown, skaters just come in. I think Spencer’s natural reaction was just like, “Get off my dude.” He’s the DGK team manager, you know what I mean? Everyone thinks it sucked though, and it shouldn’t have happened where it happened. But nobody’s trippin’ on it. I met Darren a couple times and he’s a cool dude. That was some shit between him and Stevie and I think it just stayed between him and Stevie.
You seem like someone who’s always had “a spot.” First it was a lot of Pier 7 footage, then the whole Love era, then Barcelona. Since we’re at a point in time when we’re losing so many spots, especially in the big cities, what’s been the biggest adjustment for you throughout the course of your career?
Probably this, with all this new warehouse stuff going on. I don’t mind skating warehouses or parks, it’s not that bad. You can do all your dream tricks and all that. It’s just hard for me to deal with the fact that there are no more crews anymore. There are no more name spots that you go to. The reason I had what you call “the spot,” like the Pier, or Love, or in Chicago it was the Art Institute and the Post Office, or in New York it was the Banks…we just filmed there all the time because that’s where we were all day. That’s where we spent all day. That’s what I miss. That’s the hard part to adjust, when you actually go to a spot, and you try a trick for however long, and you’re not there living, you know what I mean? You’re not there, going to the store, shootin’ the shit with your homies, getting up and skating around. To me, that was the lifestyle. That’s the skateboarding I know and I was raised in. Barcelona right now is still the closest thing to that. You can go to MACBA and chill, drink beers and if you feel like it, you can get up and film some shit. Now, skateboarding has kinda lost its life. It’s a certain side of when you loved doing it. Now it’s kinda weird.
There’s always like that side shit, like for example, all those black and white clips Fat Bill posts. They’ll have some lurker from Love or something like that, and it really adds to the atmosphere of everything. That kinda thing seems lost because we don’t really have hangouts anymore, and if it’s a private thing, it’s kept a lot more pact.
It’s losing the lifestyle of skaters, like the dudes that just didn’t give a shit, they just wanted to go to the spot and hang out with their homies and just skate. To me, that’s the best video footage you can have because it’s real natural. When someone’s filming a video part, of course they’re going to go to all these spots, but there’s not that much home turf anymore. Like, “This is where I’m from, this is where I live, and this is where I skate every day.” To me, that’s important, it’s just not there. Now it’s boring.
Now it’s all these plazas. It’s like, are people ever going to start treating those plazas like old spots, like Love Park and shit?
I mean, have you been to that 12th & A spot we have in New York?
There are kids that we have out here that only skate there, and you never see them at street spots, but you’ll see them every time you go there. Some of those kids are so good, and can do all this crazy shit first try on a box and it’s just like, “Damn, go downtown and film that on a spot.” And they just don’t leave.
It’s kind of the same shit that’s going on out here. Whether it’s inside warehouses or outside plazas. The whole thing is weird, I’m glad I’m in my thirties in time. I’m not going to have to deal with it — well maybe I will for a while. But I’m a little worried about the whole thing.
Did you lose touch with a lot of those dudes from the Love era? It seems like skate spots really keep people together, especially if they’re not your go-to person to call, but you still see them at the same spot all the time. Like, a lot of those early-2000s dudes seem like they just went and did their thing in all different directions once that spot was gone.
I still talk to some of them on the phone, or if I go to Philly, I’ll see them. But it’s still not so much, like a lot of those dudes moved, and I moved. We keep in touch, but we don’t necessarily try to call each other and say what’s up. But if we end up in the same mix its always like great to see them. A lot of them moved on, or quit skating.
Where do you go to film stuff, since you mentioned that you don’t really skate southern California spots?
Chicago, Frisco, Philly, New York. Same shit. I’m trying to keep some kind of city shit alive in my world, you know?
So the process of filming a full-length video part hasn’t really changed?
Nah, not for me. It’s just a little bit more boring now. I go to downtown Chicago, and I go to a spot, and there’ll be ten of us, but only two of us skating because other people are looking out for the bike cops or some shit like that. It’s a little bit harder to catch motivation for me. It’s always fun cruising though. I wish we could just make cruising videos.
This is random, but I have a homie from Texas who told me to ask you about skating in Dallas with a gun.
My Dallas shit was pretty gnarly, dude. A lot of my skater homies from Dallas, that’s like some of my real family, not blood family, but they’re pretty much like my brothers, and it was rough in Dallas. We thought we were like skateboard gangsters. Their families were all like from gang families, L.A. families and Dallas families. So when we were skating, we were some little badass kids, and we took that into the skate world. So, we were running the skate parks and the Dallas skate scene. Yeah, I had a couple guns, and they had guns. We had a car and drove around in lowriders on Daytons, and drank 40s and stopped freeways, got into fights in the middle of freeways, and robbed skate shops. It was some pretty gangster ass shit. I’m not saying it was real, because it could never be that. But I probably went to jail when I lived in Dallas, maybe 15 times. It wasn’t until I got locked up for six months in a mental institution, which is a whole other story, and was real close to quitting skating. Then there was the Jamie Thomas story after that which brought me to California, with just the clothes on my back.
But a lot of my dudes from Dallas are dead, or locked up. Some of them are just getting out right now. When I first moved to California from Dallas, I still had a little bit of that in me, I still had gold fronts, tec-9 earrings, and tec-9 pinky rings. But I phased that out of my life, because as the days went by, another friend in Dallas was dead, or going to jail for shooting somebody, or got shot. And I just completely phased it out. A lot of my Dallas homies phased it out too. It’s sad. So, I don’t really try to portray any of that shit anymore. But it’s a part of my life that was there, and I learned a lot from it. I learned what true friends are and how people can flip on you in a second.
But Dallas was crazy, we used to have ill beefs between the Arlington kids and the Dallas kids. I never had a problem with Richard Angelides, but some of his homies that he grew up with, we’d make them put on boxing gloves and box us in the bowl at the skatepark. I love that place, man.
To wrap the whole thing up, what’s next? Any video parts or anything like that coming out?
The first of the year is a DGK video, not necessarily a full-length video though. If I was going to guess, it’s going to be fifteen to twenty minutes long, just like, “This is what we’re about, this is what we have been doing.” I think it’s going to be a sick video, which should prepare for the full-length video. From what I’m hearing, that’s going to be a year after this video drops.