Via Josh Friedberg on Instagram. For any people ready to type up “What about so-and-so’s section?!”-comments, above is what the list looked like. The rule is we can only feature five though :(
The last edition of “Five Favorite Parts” wasn’t far off, but it was a bit more abbreviated that we would have liked. To switch things up (i.e. get someone talking about a part that isn’t Gonz or Guy), we went to the production side of things.
If anyone doesn’t know, Josh Friedberg was one of the principal creators of 411 Video Magazine, in addition to a one-time New Deal / 60/40 / People Skateboards teamrider. 411 was skateboarding’s first non-paper content mill. It laid the foundation for the sort of content you see populating the Hella Clips page each day, and did so regularly in the analog era, which sounds insane given the technological resources we have available today. Day in the lifes, Video Check Outs / Mag Minutes, tour articles, SKATE *Insert City Here* on the Ride Channel — all of these things have a big chunk of 411 in their DNA, in that it was first to take these concepts out of the printed page and into video form.
We limited the selections Josh could make to 411 sections. Here are the stories behind five of them.
If you came of age after the VHS tape’s reign had ended, or simply never knew how 411 began, below is a crash course on its creation story in Josh’s words…
I moved to California to skate for New Deal in 1991. I had been on flow for them when I lived in Kansas, then I went to Colorado and pretended to go to college for a year. I ended up skating in Denver or snowboarding in the mountains the entire time. After my first year of school, I told my parents I wanted to move to California to skateboard and luckily they were super supportive. I moved to a sketchy apartment in Costa Mesa because that’s where New Deal was.
I ended up getting a job at the warehouse. They figured out I could use computers, so I started doing some production work, like cleaning up board graphics for printing. When it was time to make a video, Steve [Douglas] and Paul [Schmitt] asked me if I wanted to do it and I wound up editing The Deal is Dead, and then the Underworld Element video after that with Rick Ibaseta.
I continued to work on little projects at New Deal. I was making a ‘zine to send out to shops and kids. We were trying to get screengrabs from videos into this paper ‘zine, which at the time was really difficult. I was having a conversation with Steve Douglas about how much of a pain it was, and said something off hand like “We should just leave it on video.” That triggered an idea in his mind, and he said something about how the guys who ran Rad magazine in the U.K. thought there would be video magazines soon, on account of how many frame grabs were being used at the time. Those two conversations came together and we talked for an hour about what a video magazine meant conceptually.
There really wasn’t a great template anywhere for us. After we came up with the idea, we were looking for something comparable, and the closest thing was this soccer video magazine. But it was just recorded games with commentary that they would mail to people. We gathered all the creative people at New Deal and Element, and had a meeting where we sketched out what a skateboarding video magazine was and what the sections would be. We made the first issue and tried to refine it from there.
411VM #1: Jeremy Wray Profile
We initially wanted Mark Gonzales to have the first profile, because he’s, you know, the Gonz. He’s always been fairly elusive, so that ended up not happening.
I had worked on the Color video with Jeremy before we started 411. Jeremy was in filming mode with Chris Ortiz, and such a beast that he had a ton of leftover footage. It was such an experiment. I remember it being tough to figure out a way to edit skating together with talking and information. It was rad that he trusted us enough with what we were doing. Footage wasn’t quite as coveted at that point; it didn’t take three years to film a video part, so it was a bit easier.
To this day, Jeremy has done some things that people haven’t done since. That frontside 360 he does down the double set in the Australian Vacation video is one of the gnarliest things I’ve seen in my life. People were struggling to ollie that thing.
411VM #2 — Tom Penny Wheels of Fortune
I went to Europe in 1993 and saw him skate firsthand. We did that London Metrospective in the first issue, and got a tape of Rowley and Penny skating Southbank on a VHS-C PAL, which was amazing. The process to get that footage transferred to NTSC was insane. It looked like hell but it was still rad to have.
411VM: Best of Volume 1 — Eric Koston Profile
Koston quit 101 and had a full video part ready. 411 was luckily in a place where we could get it out to the world. With all those Courthouse lines, him burning his Airwalks — it was fun and pretty definitive of the scene in California at the time.
When I made this list, so many of my favorites were parts that I didn’t edit because I just got to enjoy them when they came in. By the time I finished any part or video, I hated it. You’re forced by deadline to finish something that you could work on forever if you wanted to. That’s why Koston’s thing was cool, it just came in as a fully formed treat.
Rick Howard and those guys wanted to add something special to our first “Best Of” issue with that skit in the beginning. The way they approach stuff, especially videos, is incredible. Them putting time and energy into 411 with something like that meant a lot. When we started making videos, no one wanted to talk on camera at all. People went from bad acting in the Powell videos to not saying a word. Now, you can’t stop it. There are people whose careers are based on talking on camera these days.
We used to a ton of Gang Starr. We had a connection at EMI and wound up with a full catalog of music that we could use worry-free. We used 15 to 20 songs an issue, and if we had to pay for all that music we would have gone out of business. Steve Douglas had the foresight to make sure we had the music cleared from day one. I think all in all, we had 150 projects, and we got to use most of the music in them for free. Obviously, we didn’t always get to use the best music, and it’s funny looking back at some of the extremely suspect songs that wound up in the videos.
411VM: Best of Volume 1 — Zoo York Industry
The opening sequence of those guys skating down the street to that Booker T. song is so tight and looked like nothing else in the videos.
My parents got divorced when I was young and my dad ended up living in New York. I’d go visit him on Staten Island and take the ferry to skate the city every day. I remember Pang and Harold from around 1987, skating at the Banks and all over midtown. Skateboarding was such a small world then, it was crazy to reconnect with them while I was working on the Underworld Element video. Just a random kid from Kansas who met them in New York five years earlier…
411 #13 — Philadelphia Metrospective
Apparently, one of the tapes that those dudes sent in disappeared in the mail. I went to Philly after that part had come out. The rumor was Ricky Oyola wanted to beat my ass because he thought I deliberately left out footage to make them look bad, full “west versus east” beef style. I saw him at Love and said, “Why would I want to make a video I’m working on worse? I never got the tape.” He just said, “Cool” and that was it. All this build up and then nothing. I love Philly.
Our goal was to try and cover everything that was going on in skateboarding. If you look at those world report articles, they were from everywhere. The footage would look kind of crazy but it was fun to see what was going on in skateboarding around the world. The east coast was definitely a big part of it. When you’re based somewhere, you’re obviously going to end up with more footage from there. As much as it wasn’t an equal balance, I think we did a fairly good job of covering what was going on around the world.
At our peak we had around 200 freelancers around the world that we worked with. The video quality would be crazy sometimes, but we felt it was more important to represent those scenes than nitpicking how the footage looked. Once people realized they could earn money by getting involved, it really picked up. The caliber of the footage and equipment grew from there.
Thanks to Josh for taking the time to do this, and to Robert Brink for the connection. It’s going to be 51 degrees tomorrow, and the rain should take care of much of the snow today, so enjoy your weekend everybody.