An Interview With Bill Strobeck About Supreme’s “BLESSED” Video

Photo by Jared Sherbert

Keeping an almost three-year-long video under wraps — especially in the social media age — is next to impossible. Except all things considered, nobody really knows what to expect from Supreme’s upcoming “BLESSED” video, which comes at the tail end of a year already stacked with incredible full-lengths. We tried to extract as much as we could from Bill about the process behind the video, the legacy of the last one, and where they had to go from there.

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Skateboarding seems like it moves faster each year. Between “cherry” and today, has any change in skating really surprised you?

I don’t know if much has changed in skating. All the social media stuff was going off when we were doing “cherry” already. It’s so crazy to make a video like this for two-and-a-half years, watching all these other videos come out while you’re filming it. You’ve got so much more to think about. Before, you weren’t worried about if somebody is gonna do tons of psycho shit at the spot that you just filmed something at before you have a chance to put it out.

Would you be watching new videos with that in mind?

Yeah, before the next trick comes up, I’ll be thinking, “This dude looks like he would skate the same kind of shit we were at.” Now, even if somebody posts of a photo of a spot, people might see it and think, “Oh, I forgot about that spot, let’s go there tomorrow.” We were skating this one spot for a while, and all of a sudden, somebody hit me up, like, “Dude, no one’s skated that shit for six years, and since you guys are skating it, people are trying to film there.”

Why do you think that happens? I’ll see it, too. A spot will have been sitting there forever, one guy tries, and it’s like, “Oh, you get 20 minutes,” then it’s in every video. It’s like a collective consciousness thing.

I don’t know, and I’m more into going to classic shit, you know? Like, if I’m going to L.A., I want to hit the school yards. In 15 or 20 years, people will still recognize those spots: “Courthouse, that’s New York, schoolyards are L.A.” They are going to rip out the little things that people hit, but in 30 years, those are going to still be here. I want what I make to last a long time. I’ve seen gnarly parts come out, but I just don’t like the spots.

Do you or the skaters consciously prioritize filming at those type of spots?

No, but all of those kids have an aesthetic of their own — they’ve always thought those spots looked cool. Sage impossibled the table in “cherry” and that was one of the first times I ever went filming with him. Aidan has been raised on old videos, and he’s got an older way of thinking. They already know.

You’ve never had to be like, “This spot looks boring?”

Not really. There are some spots that look cool, but they just don’t translate much on video.

What’s an example of something that doesn’t translate?

Some of those hills in S.F. There will be some that look mellower on video than they are in real life. That makes the GX videos so much crazier because you can tell how steep they are, but then you go in person and realize they’re even more psycho than how they look in the video. They’ll go to hills in L.A. and they’re not even hills to them.

I could see someone film a whole part in, like, Orange County, California, and I’ll be like, “I just can’t like this.” It’s not even about the skater, it’s more about all the spots.

What’s your favorite spot in New York?

I always like the bank-to-ledge in the Bronx [Ed. note: the “Mraz Ledge.”] I feel like if I’m not worried about getting kicked out, I can film how I want. Then the Banks, Pyramid Ledges, T.F. West. I love New York the best, but sometimes it’s not the most productive place.

Do you feel like “cherry” had longevity?

I do. And it’ll continue to last, also because of having Dylan in it, and unfortunately with him passing away, the memory of him will keep it going.

I’m sure he shaped the direction of the new video as well.

He’s a big part of this video, whether he’s in it or not. The name is based off of him, and he’s really missed. I thought about him a lot. Supreme made these Dylan tribute shirts for friends and family after he passed. While we were filming for the video, people started getting tricks in them. There’s a lot of stuff in the video where I see Dylan. Like, there’s tricks at some of the spots that he skated. Then, Rowan did a trick at a spot, and you see something that Dylan skated in the background as he’s rolling away. There’s little hits. It was real natural to keep him in mind; I wanted him to be proud of this, and I hope he can feel it when it comes out.

Did your approach towards filming this video change from the last one at all?

No, but it’s funny, because it feels like you’ve got to go out with specific groups of those dudes now. When they hang out together, it’s fucking amazing, but when it’s like, “Hey, I want to go skate” — some dudes will go off and do their own thing because they know a couple of other people are going to just sit around at certain spots.

Paris seems like it revitalized as a skate city in the past couple years, why did you begin traveling there so much more?

Vincent, Kevin, Greg and all those guys had their own little thing going. It was really quiet, but those little Bloby videos were magical. It started getting a lot of shine because of République, and all the kids hanging out there. It’s a melting pot for skateboarders.

I remember the first time I went there, someone back home asked about it, and I came up with, “Imagine if Union Square had a bunch of ledges and you didn’t get kicked out.” Like, think about how different skating in New York would be if the back of Union just had like, five ledges.

If République was over in Union Square, we would be up there probably doing this interview right now. It’s like the Banks. If they had opened the small side of the Banks and they were still skateable, we would all be kicking it down there.

Even when the big part of the Banks was open last year, it was so sick to be down there: you felt like no one was watching you. People were doing graffiti mid-day, just huge pieces. Skateboarding itself is kind of just a place to hang, and you need to feel like you can do whatever you want.

Are there any videos from the past couple years that got your particularly hyped?

The GX videos, Pablo Ramirez and Sean Greene in particular. The stuff they did in “Adrenaline Junkie” was phenomenal. Like, I won’t post other shit on my Instagram really, and I posted their shit because it was too sick not to. That whole revamp of the S.F. scene makes me psyched on the city. We went there during this video, and there were times when I really wanted to live there.

A lot of people come back saying the opposite, saying they’re getting priced out because of the tech boom.

No, it’s still so fucking raw there. The tech is part of it, but mixed in with it is just like, one-eyed midgets with no teeth smoking crack. You can’t walk around New York and feel anything near the level of crustiness S.F. still has. I’m into that feeling of, “maybe I should watch my back.”

Photo by Jared Sherbert

While you guys were filming for this video, people in New York would tell these crazy little snippets about what they heard T.J. was trying. Was filming with him for “BLESSED” different than the other projects you’ve worked on together?

T.J. worked real hard. I was setting my alarm for 4:45 A.M. some days. My alarm would go off, and at the same exact time, he would be calling me.

“Yo.”
“What’s up?”
“I’m gonna take a shower and head down.”

This isn’t like he’s up the street; this motherfucker’s coming from The Bronx. So, he would skate up to his car, which is like, six blocks from his house. He would get in the car, and hit me up again, “Yo, I’m on my way.” We were going to Madison Square Garden to try a trick, which he didn’t get for the video, so I can talk about it and not spoil anything. Security is so fucking gnarly there. We went every day for like eight days in a row at one point, and by the last day, the security guards were already hanging outside before we even got there.

We’d meet up at Big Screen Plaza every morning at 5:15. He warms up by ollieing down the three there, then ollieng over a chair. Trying to get warmed up at 5:15 in the morning is crazy, especially after driving there and probably staying up until 3:30 playing video games at his house. It would get to a point where it was getting a little lighter out, and he’d say, “Let’s go around the corner.”

We’d walk down the street to the spot. We’d maybe clear stuff that was in the way, and then he’d ollie that double set, which he did first try every time. And then he’s trying a fucking gnarly trick. The security guard would come out, and T.J. would be like, “Call the cops.” The guard would go downstairs to Penn Station, and then come up with cops after he tried it five more times. The cops would be like, “Hey y’all, you’ve got to leave,” or sometimes we’d get chased.

That’s crazy.

There was a day we showed up up and there were puddles everywhere, because it had rained the night before. I’m like, “You want to try it?” And he’s like “Fuck yeah. I didn’t get up this early for nothing. Go get some Bounty towels.” I went and got a bunch of paper towels and a mop. We started mopping it all up, whatever, it’s starting to dry up, he starts trying, and the security guard comes out. The dude knows us. You’re dealing with fuckers that ain’t giving up. They’re as crazy as you are.

But when it didn’t work out there, we’d go to the car wash bump-to-bar or some other spot in midtown. It was like, “Yo, I don’t want to go home without getting something.”

In general, this definitely feels like a “bigger” video.

We weren’t together all the time like on the last one. Johnny [Wilson] and Logan [Lara] definitely helped me out a lot, and never really needed me to tell them what to do.

Did you have any sort of inner dilemma about needing to make this video different than “cherry” was?

This was so much not like “cherry.” I was more into giving the viewer a sense of being with us, in a way. Watching skate videos, especially nowadays because they’re pumping them out so quick, you just see trick, trick, trick, right? And if you’re someone who wasn’t there, you don’t know how much shit has gone into trying to get one of these things for the video — just one. I want to show that there was something a little more than just trick, trick, trick, trick, trick, alright, video done. Look at Questionable. There’s other things in those videos that are like, Carroll at the end credits bleaching his hair and eyebrows. That shit is important.

Are there certain types of tricks, spots or even skaters that make those other things flow better?

With this video, there’s not a real narrative — there isn’t a set thing — but there is an underlying story. At the beginning of filming a video, you don’t know what you’re going to do. You have a feeling, but the shit curves and changes the whole time. I wanted to do something different for this than I’ve done for the others, and there were a few particular tricks where I was like, “Hey, I really think you should get this for this video, so within these next two-and-a-half years, will you please get it? These will be the base of the video, so if you guys get these, I’ll make sure that you’re hyped on where I put them.” Some things took three trips, and by the end, we got all of them.

In your videos, the extracurriculars to skateboarding have always had a presence. Did you have a particular line of inspiration that made you emphasize things surrounding the trick more?

You need a certain type of person to film. The things that happen before and after tricks are equally as valuable as a trick. Like, my mind isn’t blown from a skateboard trick. I care more about documenting the lifestyle and personality stuff that happens with who I skate with.

I’ve been filming for 20 something years, and I’m trying to entertain myself, too. I can’t just be like, “Let’s go to this spot and try this trick.” And then the next day, “Let’s go to this spot and try this trick.” I want to entertain people who aren’t skaters, too. I want to provide them with so much more than what they’re going to get from a single trick they don’t understand. I want to make them understand it, but to keep them glued to it, I need these other things, and I think I’m real lucky to have the people around that are entertaining. Because I’m a fan, you know what I mean? I’m a fan of all of the kids I skate with.

“BLESSED” will be out on November 23, 2018.

Previously: Five Favorite Parts With Bill, An Interview With Bill (February 2014)

7 Comments

  1. Great interview super hyped for this video!! Bill certainly knows how to keep us waiting

  2. With all this corporates try to manage the scene and shit… this confirms Skateboarding is safe…

  3. been looking for guidance on acceptable ways to wear my pants in 2019. “blessed” will help me stay ahead of the game?

  4. I have high expectations for BLESSED but I think Bill warrants those expectations. So excited for this shit to come out


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