Interview by Earl Sweatshirt
Photos by Ben Colen, Rob Collins & Jared Sherbert
Collages by Requiem for a Screen
Quartersnacks has long operated around the idea that your friends are your favorite skateboarders. You know every quirk and anecdotal backstory to your friends’ individual ways of skateboarding. Interviews, for that same reason, can be tough. You only really know half the story from watching someone in videos, or reading other interviews they have given to people who are paid to write about skateboarding. Sometimes, a friend knows the best way to lead someone into a conversation about why they skate the way they do, and are the way they are as a person. Quartersnacks is proud to present an interview with Sage Elsesser, conducted by Sage’s longtime friend, and current roommate, Earl Sweatshirt.
What’s your whole name?
Sage Gabriel Carlos Atreyu Elsesser.
What got you into skating?
Probably my dad. I feel like he just knew a lot of skateboarders. But also, in kindergarten during show and tell, a kid had a skateboard. He was sitting on it and I was like, I need that — whatever that is. Then my dad got me a size 8 board. I was like 3, 4 years old. The board was taller than me.
When did we start chilling?
We started going to the same school. I remember there was a time when I went to the blacktop, and I was in like 3rd grade, a tiny child, and you were in 6th. Then we actually fully reconnected at the alumni carnival. Our school used to have an alumni carnival every fall towards the beginning of the school year.
Didn’t you bring me my board?
Yeah, camo Alva grip!
Definitely camo grip to match my camo fucking Air Force 1s. You brought me my board, I didn’t even know you that well.
I saw you put your board behind the trash can and I was like “where are you going?” “I’m going to smoke…weed.” I remember going to school the next week, going into the janitor’s closet and I saw the board. I took it and gave it back to you. So from there, you were like, “let’s skate.” We lived in the same neighborhood, like 10 minutes from each other.
When did you get good at skating?
The definitive moment I got good was during halftime of a soccer game. I was 12. I seen a kid at the park with a board, and I was like “let me see that.” I did a heelflip in cleats. So perfect. Stationary. Everyone on my team was like “what!” My coach was pissed. Lowkey, I was like, “I’m a skateboarder.” That felt good, and I remember telling myself, “this weekend, I’m gonna go skate.”
When did you start doing impossibles?
8th grade when I moved to New York. I didn’t know Aidan, but we moved out here at the same time. We just clicked when we met, and then Aidan taught me how to impossible.
Photo by Ben Colen
When did you see the definitive change in your style happening? Because there was the Sage that I was skating with, little fake Crip, post-Ice Cream team video Sage…and then there was Joy Division Sage. Was it when you moved to New York?
That’s what did it, moving to New York. I came out here for 8th grade. I’ll give it to Aidan — I went skating with Aidan and I was trying to like jump down, or just do my thing, crooked grind something…
L.A. shit. Aidan was just like — switch boardslide, nollie lip, nollie half cab, 180. White tee, black pants. He showed me Leo Valls from Magenta, and it was all powerslides and I was like “whoa, that’s different!” I loved that shit for a minute. I had seen Mindfield before, but I revisited it around that time, like, 8th grade. I was like “this is exactly what I want to do.” Then, Aidan started getting hooked up by Workshop.
How did you first meet Aidan?
Through L.A. friends, because we moved out to New York at the same time. We became best friends right when we came out here. He went straight to Harlem. Aidan used to buy ounces of shake — that was the first person I started smoking weed with. Being bad. The craziest shit is that we were at my friend Fermin’s crib and some Bloods pulled up like “Yeah, Lil’ Red!” Aidan’s like “Yeah, what up!” while doing the perfect B’s up.
Aidan was the first bad ass, the first one that was like “I don’t give a fuck, I just do me.” And that’s how he skated. So yeah, I was just like, absorbing Aidan. I think you remember that time, when it was like, “Yo, there’s this kid who skates 12th and A who just does nollie lipslides and looks the best.” Everyone was tripping on him.
When’d you meet TJ?
Same time as I started skating with Aidan. I hated TJ. I was so confused to meet a kid that was so devoted to being bad. He was just bad and cocky. I seen him at 12th and A and then I started skating with him when we both got on Supreme. I remember Bill asking me like “what do you think about that kid TJ?” I was like “that kid sucks!” Remember, he would snake you or be like “the fuck out my way!” It’d be like “shut the fuck up dude, you’re two-and-a-half!”
He had like a Terry Kennedy learning curve. He learned how to ollie, then learned how to kickflip back smith in like a year.
He was like “Oh, I can kickflip? How do I go to back tail?” Remember that little kicker they had at 12th and A? I saw him backside flip off it and was just like “oh my God.”
Remember when we locked him out on the balcony when he was butt naked in some Emericas?
He used to do shit like get naked in a room full of the homies. He used to come over to the spot in Hollywood and his whole objective would be just to piss people off. He got naked one time and we all collectively just shoved him out onto the balcony. He had a towel on, he just got out the shower and we were all like “put some fucking clothes on.” He’s like “nah, I’m straight.” We took the towel and put him on the balcony for a long ass time. Fifteen whole minutes maybe.
Photo by Rob Collins
Let’s talk about Sean.
The first time I met Sean bro, he came to New York on a trip and I was a full fan because he had a part on Youtube in a video called It’s Real. I met Sean through Aidan. They had a crew called NAWAKWA. I grew up skating with little hood kids — literally, the kids I grew up skating with are both in jail. It’s crazy to me to think that. But I saw them and I was jealous of the fact that they skated together and had a filmer and shit. They would go to spots and put up montages and it was like, “whoa, I want to meet these kids.” Then I moved to New York and I got to meet them. I’d met Aidan, then Aidan introduced me to Sean, and me and Sean just clicked. Since then, I feel like we’ve been best friends.
What about Kevin Bradley?
The first time I met Kev was on Fairfax — he was being cool as shit. He was out front the Diamond store doing kickflips with his backpack on, stationary. Same kickflip he’s got now. He smoked a lot more weed than me and was better at skating than me. Nothing has changed besides the fact that maybe he filmed more stuff back then. I’m not trying to dog him, but that was VX1000 Kev where it was like “take me to the biggest gap and I’ll kickflip it right now.” Now Kev is like “I’m the best skateboarder in the fucking world. I can just smoke weed all day, I don’t give a fuck.”
Who were some other huge influences on the way you skate now?
Probably Dill. I’d say before I met him, my biggest influences in skating were Kevin Booker and, you know what? I really liked Colin Provost. I now say this because I didn’t know who he was. I remember going to some weird demo when I was 10 years old. Colin Provost was there and I liked him because he was the youngest kid. He made me feel like I could do it too. He signed his name on my board with an “X” above the I. I was like “whoa you’re cool, that was weird.”
What about Bill?
Oh man. I kind of idolized Bill. After I moved to New York, I watched those YouTube videos: Pappalardo, Dill, and Alex. That’s exactly how I wanted to skate in New York. This man Bill, I think I saw him out one time, and he said what’s up to Aidan but didn’t say what’s up to me. I was so bummed. I was just looking at Bill like, “oh my God that’s William Strobeck YouTube.com channel.” Then, I think I was friends with him on Facebook or something, and sent him a message like “Hey man, I’m sorry for not saying hi to you!” He was like “Yeah, no problem shrimp, next time say what’s up!”
Photo by Jared Sherbert
Do you want to beat Johnny Wilson’s ass for dating your sister?
I could beat Johnny’s ass. Do I want to? No. Johnny’s a fucking sweetheart.
Talk about his thighs.
Johnny got some thick thighs bro, and it’s a known fact that Johnny got a butt.
Does that make you want to beat his ass less? Johnny’s butt cheeks as a “don’t beat me up” voucher?
Tying those together makes me feel like, ah, just let him live. I love you Johnny.
“You’re dating my sister…but you’re thick.”
Dude, Johnny’s gonna read this and be so upset.
So, you can beat Johnny’s ass?
You know what? I’ll keep it honest, Johnny might beat my ass. I know I’m faster than Johnny and I’ll definitely hit him with a few jabs, but he might hit me with some over the shoulder take down.
What made you start grabbing your board?
I was in Milan on a Converse trip, and I tried to ollie over a big ass rail. I remember I ollied, and the board just flew past my head and I caught it, grabbed it, and just landed on it. My problem is that I can ollie high, but when I ollie, I have a lot of hang time so my board starts to fall from my feet. So in Milan, it was like I can just cheat, grab the board, and be sure I’m gonna land it.
Wait, so on the record, grabbing your board is cheating?
Take that how you want it. It’s not cheating because you still have to get down there and grab it, and I’m gonna go ahead and be a cocky little young man — nobody can ollie higher than me…maybe Chris Pfanner and O.Gs like Andrew Brophy. When I grab, I’m not going on transition.
Photo by Jared Sherbert
Don’t apologize. What’s it like with all these kids who will come up to you in the fucking Sean Pablo-Sage Elsesser kit from 2012-2013. How do you handle it? Because I remember seeing that shit. When we would go out on tour and go to the skatepark or whatever and there was some kid in a tucked in shirt with Chucks and a beanie…
At first, the first trip where Sean and I saw it I was like, “Yo Sean, look at that kid!”
Sean kept going on that type of style: everything real skinny, with the Chucks, like he’s in a band. Your shit has kind of gone back to more what I’d seen you on when you were little, you know what I’m saying? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it’s the result of travelling…seeing yourself in a different context like the London sport wave, France sport wave…let’s talk about that evolution, going from tiny sport to Void and Joy Division back to like, expensive Roadman.
I would say that that weird hardcore phase came from not knowing what to do with my anger. I’d listened to Joy Division and fell in love with that. I knew Void and Gorilla Biscuits, and then Ben Kadow was like “check this out, check this out.” In like 9th and 10th grade it was like, self-induced depression.
Bro, it’s not exclusive to you, teenage angst. I got into Joy Division at the same time like “What mom? What? I’m looking up serial killers on Wikipedia!” So there was the Void, Joy Division version of that, which I feel like we both dabbled in. Then there’s TJ’s version which is like, “I’m bout to pull my dick out.”
Nak’s version? Nak is Nak, that why he is who he is. He’s always been himself because of his parents.
Dude, Nak’s parents used to have him shitting on dudes. Just like, full ‘Lo Sport track suit with the matching hat.
It’s because his parents are like encyclopedias of culture. Nak is on some whole other shit. That’s why he is the way he is, you can’t tie him down to anything.
If any of your friends pulled up in a blue leather jacket and Tru Religions, you’d be like, “dude, you’re out of your mind.” Nak is not kidding. “Hi, I’m wearing Tru Religion pants and I’m also wearing a blue leather jacket — with no shirt under it, if you were curious. Hi, it’s me, Na-kel.”
Photo by Ben Colen
What’d you grow up on? Culture-wise, music-wise, steez wise…
Both of my parents are very…earthy individuals. My pops is an interesting dude. He’s a rastafarian drummer who’s initiated in Santeria. He’s from Chile and he’s been through a lot. I really think that, the thing that really defines who I am from growing up was my dad being like “this is weed, I smoke it, and you’re going to see me smoke it for the rest of your life, so get used to it.” So when I went to elementary school and middle school, kids were like “yo, weed!” And I was “Yeah. Weed. Cool.” In middle school, my homie was like “Yo, I got a little bit of weed!” And I was like, “Your shit look wack. My dad’s got bags like this!” There was a lot of honesty, especially with something like that. He was like “do what you want, I support you as long as you’re happy.” My dad would drive me to Venice, sit, smoke and watch me skate around. I feel so bad for kids with parents who are like “fuck skating.” That’s so weird.
There’s a lot of kids whose parents recognize that they’re posers. Like, “what the fuck are you doing? You’re going to be an accountant, stop doing what you’re doing. You’re a fucking poser.”
That’s different. I’m saying young kids specifically. If you’re 11, 12, you’re figuring it out.
If you’re really passionate?
Yeah, and I think my parents saw that the most. “Oh, you really like this.” I remember asking my mom like “Mom, can you get me a board?” It’s fifty bucks, you know? I would just be like “One day mom, you’re never going to have to pay for anything.”
Knowing you so well, you’re hella good at a lot of shit that you try — whether it’s music, skateboarding, basketball, soccer, whatever. You’re good at whatever you decide you want to be good at. What do you think made skating the one?
I never felt good enough at skating…I still don’t feel good enough. Being around the people like Aidan, Dill…all you have to do is be yourself. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m just going to do what I like to do. I’m not out here trying to hurt myself. I’m trying to do what I’m good at. I’ll frontside tailslide forever because that’s what I’m good at and I like that feeling. It’s on you.
Let’s talk about music. Music growing up, what music you like. You have a wild rhythm. Your rhythm is very good. Rhythm is not some shit that everyone has. Where does it all come from?
It comes from my dad, straight up and down. I feel like I’m good at art because of my dad and I’ve got rhythm because of my dad.
But you can’t play Anedra though. You grew up in a music house.
Anedra’s the truth. My mom is a singer, my dad is a percussionist.
Alright man, well, you know, it was blessed talking to you, it’s been a great spring break. Just to sign out, you can beat Johnny Wilson’s ass?
Yeah man, I could beat him up.