A friend recently put Palace’s first (and for now, only) American acquisition in great context: “For a British company that seems pretty intent on staying British, you have to hand it to them. Out of all the Americans they could have put on the team, they chose Shawn Powers.”
The following is an interview conducted with Shawn at Tompkins Square Park late this past fall, by Lev Tanju of Palace Skateboards, with some help from QS. Photography by Brian Kelley and Emilio Cuilan. Videos by the Flipmode Media Empire.
Unlike past interviews from talkative, heavily opinionated individuals, Shawn’s personality yields brief, sometimes bizarre answers. His eccentricities have been well-documented on video, but this is about as close as you can get with words. At least 20% of the things you’ll hear him say in real life are Drake and Big Pun lyrics, so this came out surprisingly coherent.
Where are you from?
You lived there all your life?
Growing up in New York, who got you into skating? Who were the first New York skaters that you looked up to?
My friend Joey from Queens had a skateboard, and it started there. I’d see Harry Jumonji, sometimes Quim Cardona, Billy Rohan. But it was mostly people in older videos [that I looked up to.] Christian Hosoi, Jason Dill, Lennie Kirk, Fred Gall.
How long have you been skating for?
About ten years. Oh, Rob Campbell, too.
You seem like a lone wolf sort of dude, you keep to yourself. Do you skate mostly on your own or with people?
Both. When I come to Tompkins, I skate with everybody. Usually, I like to skate alone at night, and film with Joe Bressler and Peter Sidlauskas. I wake up at night, I feel more alive at night.
What’s your favorite spot?
Tompkins, Washington Square Park, Flushing, the Triangle in Queens, that’s where I learned how to skate.
Would you say you like to party a lot?
Sometimes it’s fun to party, but I don’t really go to parties. Sometimes I have a party by myself. I’ll buy a six pack and stay at Tompkins with the dunions. They’re like fifteen.
Who are the dunions?
Like all these little white kid rappers who hang out at Tompkins.
What sort of music are you into?
Everything? What about right now, who’s your favorite rapper?
What’s your favorite skateboard video ever?
[Slicky Boy skates by]
Do you hang out with Slicky Boy?
What do you like about him?
How’d you meet him?
Tompkins. On the cyph.
What percentage of people at Tompkins have you met on the cyph?
I don’t know, that’s a dumb question.
Give a ballpark.
I don’t know, I can’t do math.
Did you do well in school?
I hated it at the time, but now that I’m a little bit more mature and older, I feel like if I was more open minded and more aware throughout school, it would’ve been a better time.
Do you follow any sports?
No, but I respect them all. But I like movies about kids who do sports…and then do drugs.
Why do you like movies about kids who do sports and do drugs?
Because they all fall off.
That’s kinda foul that you enjoy watching people fall off though.
Can you tell us about your job as an elevator boy?
It was very intimate.
How’d you get it?
Through some Free Masons.
Give us a quick rundown of your work day.
I was in an elevator, it was like a jail cell. I wore a uniform that was similar to an inmate’s. I’d bring people up and down.
You ever have any weird interactions with people you’d bring down on the elevator?
This mom put her hand on top of mine. She told me she was a therapist. But she was like, “I’m a head nurse.” I thought that was pretty crazy.
…so you thought she was trying to give you head?
Yeah, I felt like she was feeling me.
Why didn’t you pursue it?
There were cameras in the elevator, and I felt like they were watching my every move. I felt set up. I still saw her every day, but she seemed nervous. Me too.
Why don’t you work there anymore?
Because I had a photo show in the elevator.
What does that mean?
I’ve been taking pictures for about a year now, and I took some of the pictures to work and taped them up on the elevator walls. And I didn’t wear the uniform, I just came it wearing whatever I felt like wearing.
What was the reaction like?
I brought a couple of tenants up and down, they loved it. Then the super of the building came around and got in the elevator for me to bring his fat ass up. He saw the photos on the walls and said, “What the fuck is this? Why are you not wearing blue? Why are you wearing color? I’m the only one allowed to wear color.” He took me to his office, and said I was fired.
What were the photos of?
All of them?
Most of them.
So you put a bunch of photos — wait, what neighborhood is this in?
Upper West Side.
So you put a bunch of photos of Brengar in an Upper West Side elevator?
That’s pretty tight. Who’s Brengar?
My best friend. Nah, there’s no such thing as a best friend. He’s just my friend.
What’s the story with the BB gun?
I used to date some girl, and some Chinese kid kissed her, and I ran up on him with a BB gun. I rang his doorbell, and told him to take a walk with me. Then I pulled a BB gun out on him.
What’d he do?
He started shaking.
What’d you do?
I started talking all this shit.
How’d it end?
I told him, “Get outta here, kid.”
Did the gun look real?
Yeah, I borrowed it from Brengar. I was living with him for some time. The day I moved out, I just took it with me.
How’d you end up living with Brengar?
I left my home in Queens and decided I was gonna stay on Brengar’s couch, and he didn’t give a shit.
Why’d you get into taking photos?
My family always collected photos, like we have giant bags of photos. So it came from that.
What do you take pictures of?
My friends, bums, signs, ladyboys, hot babes, bartenders.
You seem like you skate some weird spots. How do you find them?
I just go into an area that has a bunch going on. It’s kinda weird to explain.
What makes place have a lot going on?
The buildings, sidewalks, streets.
…there are buildings, sidewalks and streets everywhere. Not everywhere has spots though.
That’s up to you. It could be a spot to you, and not a spot to someone else.
You never go out and go, “I’m gonna skate some weird shit?”
I just get a feeling. ♬ I got a feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night… ♬
Shawn is currently filming a part with Joe Bressler for his new video, set for release in late 2012-early 2013.