Photo via NYSkateboarding
There aren’t many individuals putting as much patience and passion into the craft of skate videos as Josh Stewart. His latest project, Static 4, took almost half a decade to complete (Quim Cardona managed to grow dreadlocks in the time it took to finish the video.) Though we luckily caught Bill Strobeck, creator of the other marquee video of 2014, before his barrage of interviews started to drop, we weren’t so lucky with Josh, who has discussed the making of Static 4 to great extent in recent interviews. Instead of a straightforward Q & A, we asked him to discuss five of his favorite sections by other people for some insight into what inspires his work.
Rob Dyrdek — Alien Workshop: Memory Screen (1991)
I think it’s the best video ever made as far as art direction is concerned. Even 25 years later, Memory Screen still pulls you into another world more than any other video since. Alien Workshop has been relevant for twenty-plus years because of Mike Hill’s original art direction and whole vibe the company had in that video. I was on a road trip with Scott Conklin around 1997 where we stopped through Workshop in Dayton, and at one point Mike Hill crept out of his cave and hung out with us for a while. He told me that he edited the whole video from one VHS machine to another. The editing was completely analog, and that video was still really intricate for the time. Today, you have technology to manipulate every possible frame, and knowing that made me appreciate the brilliance of Memory Screen even more.
Bo Turner & Scott Conklin have parts in Memory Screen and those dudes would stay at our house in Florida a lot and skate with my brother, who rode for H-Street at the time. They were locals, so I was already familiar with them. Dyrdek, as weird as it is to start with him, was more unknown to me, and his was the part that probably best represents that video.
Mike Carroll – Plan B: Questionable (1992)
My brother had been trying to get me to start skating since the mid eighties. I finally started around 1988, but once I did, he never took me street skating. I’d skate parking lots of grocery stores by myself a lot. This older kid would sometimes drive me around skating to other towns. One day we ran into this dude at a spot and he said “I have the new Plan B video.” I didn’t even know what Plan B was. I didn’t know what the “skate industry” really was at that point. We went over to his house to watch it, and I had never even seen anybody do a noseslide on a curb in person up to that point. I was still learning how to manual and kickflip. To go from never seeing someone do a noseslide to watching Questionable was like taking a caveman into Kennedy Space Center. Carroll’s part in that video was the best combination of skill and style. I watched that part more than anything is in my teenage years.
My brother moved to S.F. to skate for Life Skateboards when it started, and I went out there to visit him when I was 15. I skated Embarcadero after watching the Plan B video, and it was a pretty surreal experience to go from never knowing those tricks existed to seeing those guys skate in real life.
Back then, when I skate video would come out, you’d worship the music they used and then you’d have to go to the record store and look for that tape. The H-Street videos always had Operation Ivy and Sub Society, and I remember looking for those. Doing the work to find the songs was a frustrating but rewarding experience: “I found the Operation Ivy song from the H-Street video!” But that Hieroglyphics song [from Carroll’s part] never appeared. I probably looked for it 100 times at different record stores. I never found it until the internet came into existence.
Mike Daher – Stereo: A Visual Sound (1994)
Mike Daher was another Floridian skater I was familiar with from him skating with my brother. He and my brother were big rivals back in the eighties contest days. But when A Visual Sound came out, he had reached a whole other level. His part is one of the raddest video parts ever because of it’s beautiful simplicity. I probably watched Ethan Folwer and Jason Lee’s parts a million times too, but those are the more obvious ones.
If I was gonna list the most perfect skate videos, based on a combination of art direction and skating, they’re definitely A Visual Sound and Memory Screen. I think Jason Lee and Pastras edited it, but the Super 8 stuff was shot by Tobin Yelland. That video captured San Francisco as the epicenter of skateboarding at that era. It was almost risky for its time; using jazz for the whole soundtrack. No video ever felt like A Visual Sound. It puts style front and center. It’s definitely one of the most perfect videos of all time.
Ricky Oyola – Eastern Exposure 3 (1996)
Paul Zitzer was from Milwaukee, but lived down near me in Florida. He was a big personality. He had such a sick style on vert; he was like a street skater on ramp. Him and Mike Frazier were the dudes we looked up to. He introduced me to Eastern Exposure, because Dan Wolfe was coming down to work with him on a little part for it. I was filming a part with Paul for my little video called Cigar City at the time. The day Wolfe flew in, I went over to Zitzer’s house to show him the final edit of my video. We all sat down to watch it, and as soon as I hit play, Wolfe had to leave the room to take a call. I remember being so bummed because he was the first important videographers that I’d met and I really wanted him to see something I worked on.
I can’t really say there has ever been another video that singularly influenced the way people skated as much as Eastern Exposure did. West coast skating was very unattainable; you had to be grinding big rails or be super technically advanced. Even though none of us had the style of Barley or Forbes, it was way more relatable than California videos. To this day, when people use the term “east coast” as an adjective, I think they are referencing Ricky Oyola’s Eastern Exposure part. It was a huge contrast between driving to a school to skate for the day and a guy skating three blocks through traffic doing a line. A completely new era of skating was created with that video. There are video parts that are technically better, but as far as the vibe of the skating goes and what came after it, for me, it’s the best street skating video part of all time.
Jamie Thomas — Toy Machine: Welcome to Hell (1996)
I did the whole “California dream” thing after I finished high school. I drove out to San Diego and got my first job filming Danny Supa for Treefort. Then somehow, I ended up at Jamie Thomas’ house with Chad Muska, right before the Toy Machine video was supposed to come out. I got invited to be the filmer on their Welcome to Hell road trip. I remember there being some meltdown between Jamie and Muska at the premiere of Welcome to Hell. They ended up taking Muska’s part out of the video right after that. Only people who were at the premiere got to see it. He eventually quit, and a lot of that footage ended up in Fulfill the Dream.
Throughout the road trip, Jamie wouldn’t let me or anyone watch the video with Muska’s part. They’d be going to shops and premiering the video, but Muska’s part had been removed. On the last stop of the tour, which I think was Chicago, Jamie called me into his hotel room and finally let me watch it. Muska’s part was really sick, but Jamie definitely had the part of the video. It was another one of those parts that really marked an era. You can be as “east coast” or whatever as you want to be, but there was no way you didn’t love that part and the whole video altogether.