Graphic by Requiem For A Screen
Skate videos have long been a portal for musical discovery. Except in recent years, it has began to almost feel like …filler. If one editor finds success with an untapped genre or artist, there is always an avalanche of imitators. If you find that “how has nobody skated to this?!”-song, the answer to your question is often “someone has, it was just in some video you missed.” And a popular song? Forget it, it has been in twenty kids’ IG edits since the day it got uploaded to YouTube.
(Don’t even start with the dude editing his “Trip to N.Y.C!” video to Big L right now.)
Choosing a song that makes an impact, and gets people tracking it down is hard when our attention spans are their fickle 2019 selves. We reached out to five people who routinely put out edits (i.e. not the guys dropping one full-length every few years) to get their thoughts on how the process of selecting music in skate videos has evolved.
Given the speed at which parts, montages, and even full-lengths come out in 2019, do you find it harder to select music in videos today? Has your process in finding and choosing music changed at all over the past few years?
Jake Kuzyk — Vans’ Courtesy & The Antisocial Video: It actually might help. There is so much coming out now with all different types of songs and skating that I think people are open to more variation and obscure choices. In the past, it felt like you had to pick something that fit perfect.
Grant Yansura — WKND: Parts of it are harder because of so much shit coming out, but also Spotify makes it easy to listen to whatever whenever, and Siri can tell me what song is playing in the background of the mechanic shop I’m at right now. My process has remained the same: I usually rely on the skater to give me a list of songs, and I narrow it down or suggest something in that genre.
Antosh Cimoszko — An Ensemble of Vancouver Edits: I’m not sure if I find it harder, but I like to keep footage on ice for a bit and stumble across a song that fits well. My process is usually to see what my friends and I have been making or listening to, and gravitate towards that. The edits I make are usually for within a certain time period, so it’s nice to have a song that’s apart of that.
Peter Sidlauskas — Bronze: It’s a nightmare at times. Five years ago, I feel like a lot of the Vaporwave, Soundcloud rap, and lo-fi stuff was untouched in skate videos, but then it got a little blown out. Then you got to find another genre of music while still trying to stick to the original image. A while back, I used Nirvana in a video and people were sending me messages like, “You’re ruining the aesthetic.” But you have to try new things — even if it makes people cry.
YouTube has gotten stricter with music rights and copyright violations. It’s hard to tell which song is going to be the one to get your video taken down. I used “Know Yourself” by Drake in the Trust video, and that was probably during the first month it came out. I thought for sure that YouTube was going to take down the video, but they never did. Solo Jazz was on YouTube for three years, and it got taken down because of a Cam’ron song. Then, a couple months later, it was back up? I have no idea how this shit works.
“Songs that are too obvious sometimes get overlooked, and end up being the best songs when someone finally uses them.”
Jacob Harris — Atlantic Drift: I think I find it easier to choose music these days, but I don’t think it has much to do with the glut of skateboarding content. I’m not claiming that I choose anything wildly different from anybody else, but I feel like the field is wide open and you can do whatever you want now — the rules are less rigid. It feels more about having a voice than it used to. And I think once you get into the stride of finding that voice, it becomes really easy. Not to say that you find a type of music and stick with it, but perhaps you find a tone that can treat music in a certain way when put over video, and then it becomes about keeping your ears open and understanding how music can affect images in different ways.
The tone of videos seems to sit in some space where people are almost self-consciously embracing types of music that they might have been embarrassed to before. Or maybe there’s some re-examination of the value of different types of music that have been put in the back of the closet for some time. Music in and out of skateboard videos always had to do with identity creation. It feels like a pressure valve released somewhere, giving people more space to play with things in so many areas of culture.
Do you follow any rules when selecting songs now that you otherwise would have been more lenient on a few years ago? For example, avoiding certain genres or songs that may be too popular? Is anything too obvious anymore?
Jake Kuzyk: I think I was more critical of those things in the past. There are exceptions based on what you’re making, and how many people might see it. Sometimes I really like the obvious track — that song or artist you have always known but never thought to use can go so good when it’s right.
Grant Yansura: Songs that are too obvious sometimes get overlooked, and end up being the best songs when someone finally uses them. A classic radio song can go a long way if the right person is skating to it.
I had all this extra B.A. footage that never got used in a Nike video, so I edited it to a Nirvana song. I showed it to him and he was hyped — I don’t think many people could pull off a Nirvana song, but B.A. is an exception to that rule in my opinion. Thrasher couldn’t get the rights, so I had to go with this other song that Brian liked. I guess I try to avoid the painted nails of skateboarding music. I think I’ve heard four Jesus and Mary Chain songs used this past month, so I guess I would try to avoid using something that gets so easily thrown over some half-decent skating. I love that band, but it’s too easy.
I’ve been trying to work a Sublime song into an edit for the last four years, but I’ve got to wait for the right moment. Sublime is sacred to me — you can’t rush art.
“Knowing that someone spent hours and days trying to find a song, and never found it makes me happy.”
Antosh Cimoszko: Using some classic house can be pretty hard. It’s almost become like rap, where everyone already has an established feeling towards a song or genre, which makes them think about that rather than the video they’re watching.
Peter Sidlauskas: I’ve grown to hate a lot of music over the years. I can’t stand hearing house music in edits anymore, and a lot of nineties hip hop is played out — but I’ll appease the skater if their heart is set on a track. Shawn [Powers] really wanted to skate to Mobb Deep, so fuck it, I’ll use some Mobb Deep.
I don’t like using anything too popular, even if I’m really hyped on it. When “Mo Bamba” came out, I edited some footage to it, and it looked really good. Then, after countless Instagram skatepark edits, it’s like “Nah, I can’t use this.”
I can get really crazy. I wanted to use this song “Vienna” by Ultravox, but then a Jenkem Mix came out where Strobeck had that song, so I didn’t use it because I thought people would think I was biting. Sometimes, I don’t even want to play a song I want to use around my friends because then they might use it in an Instagram clip — I’m fucking insane! I try digging hard to find songs that no one will ever find. I like seeing comments like, “What’s the song at 23:14? I can’t find it anywhere!” Knowing that someone spent hours and days trying to find a song, and never found it makes me happy. I don’t think we should be using songs from Joy Division, anything Wu-Tang, and Matchbox 20 anymore.
Jacob Harris: I’d be hesitant to use a sort of sixties sound, or prog rock that was over-used at a certain time, but I think that’s the case for most editors? That’s just an example and that said, I think it could work to comment on what people imagine to be a more pure era in skateboarding. I think that the underlying assumptions of that music are laughably redundant now, and using it straight just aligns people with a type of naivety or hope that the world has been contradicting so forcefully for a few years.
I doubt anything can really be off limits. People digest skateboard videos in way more complex ways now, so things can be played with a lot more.
Are ABD standards on songs as rigid in the hyper-speed era as they once were? Do you ever worry someone already used a certain song and you just didn’t catch it? Does it matter?
Jake Kuzyk: I still try my best to not overlap. If I find a song and realize it was used by someone who I respect, then I’m not gonna go for it. But if it’s something small that I didn’t really connect with, and I found it myself, then I’ll use it for sure. I search online too, ask a few people who would know, and if nothing comes up, I’ll run it. But it still matters.
“There’s so much music in the world, and music in general has been used so rigidly in skateboard videos up until this point. There’s not much of an excuse for reusing things.”
Grant Yansura: I think that matters if it was something memorable. I accidentally re-used a Dave Coyne song for the Alexis [Sablone] intro to WKND part. It wasn’t on purpose — I just missed The Storm when I was a kid, and so did Alexis.
I straight up have a curse with songs getting used right when I’m ready to drop something. For Sir Palmer, I had this Leonard Cohen track that I’ve been wanting to edit to for years. I wanted to edit a whole video that fits in this ten-minute song. Thrasher ended up getting the rights for quite a bit of money. We got the green light months in advance, I’m editing to this song for so long, and finally finish day of the premiere. Someone at our office puts on Lee Yankou’s part in a Blue Tile video that came out the same day, and I hear the same Leonard Cohen song. I was editing to that track for so long that I thought I was just going crazy and my head was turning every song into this Leonard Cohen song. Thrasher posted the video, even though they already paid for us to use that song. So many emails going back and forth about getting this song — then somehow same day, same channel, same song.
Thrasher ended up having to pay for Lee to skate to a different song so that they wouldn’t get in trouble for double dipping. I hit up the Blue Tile dudes, and they were cool about it.
Antosh Cimoszko: It happens. I don’t really think it matters, unless it’s really obvious, like a classic old part or something.
Peter Sidalauskas: There are some songs that are very sacred. I can’t name them all, but obviously a song that was in a classic video part could never be re-used. C’mon Ragdoll.
With sites like skatevideosite.com, it’s easier to keep track of what’s been used. There are things that I’ll let slide, like if a song was used in a “DVS Goes to Argentina Summer 2011 Trip,” then I won’t care about re-using it.
Jacob Harris: It really depends on how it was used before. I think if I had a vision for something, I wouldn’t let it get in the way, but if it was used really well in the past, I’d want to respect that. It happened the other day actually: I was quite excited by a song, then I searched and realized Mark Appleyard skated to it! It’s from a historically referenced era in skate videos, so it would look ignorant to use again.
It’s crazy because there’s so much music in the world, and music in general has been used so rigidly in skateboard videos up until this point. There’s not much of an excuse for reusing things, but that said, I don’t really care or think about that too much.
What’s the last skate video you saw where you were really hyped on the music?
Jake Kuzyk: “BLESSED.” All the Frog, 917, and Alltimers clips. A diverse soundtrack is the best…jump around, but have it all connect.
Grant Yansura: I had Jake’s CONS part song stuck in my head for a few days after. I think that video had a good soundtrack.
“I think that it is important to show the time. You don’t have to question it down the road.
Antosh Cimoszko: I like the Polar soundtracks. Jake Kuzyk’s videos. I think the Atlantic Drift videos use sound in general the best. Any @dustykook Instagram montage.
Peter Sidlauskas: I liked the new Polar video soundtrack. I kinda feel like he was influenced by Bronze by using 18 Carat Affair and Dean Blunt? No? Hey Pontus.
I’ve been fucking with the Jim Greco movies and the music he uses. I used to hate on them, but they’ve really grown on me.
Jacob Harris: Dan [Kreitem] will probably hate me saying this, but I love the music in Yardsale videos. They feel like kids inhabiting almost the same benzo-infused and absurd landscape, wherever they are. It’s this feeling that videos can give: a kind of aesthetic-ized dream that you know deep down isn’t true, but might be much better to live in than trying to participate in the world. There’s such a feeling of escapism and youth to those videos, and that feeling is what I think a lot of us skateboard to feel.
What’s the last song you edited something to where you were particularly happy with the result?
Jake Kuzyk: Dustin Henry in Courtesy. I’m close with Dustin and we have made a few parts now, so it’s easy. We usually use a song that we have both been listening to a lot around the time of video. I think that it is important to show the time. You don’t have to question it down the road.
Grant Yansura: I was hyped on the Jawbreaker song that I edited Caleb and Evan’s intro to WKND video to. Trevor Thompson got Caleb and I to go to a Jawbreaker show, which got us all hyped on them again. I haven’t really seen anyone skate to them since Shimizu in Nervous Breakdown. He was at the premiere and patted me on the shoulder: “Jawbreaker eh…good choice!”
Antosh Cimoszko: I’ve been having fun editing to ambient-type music. I’m always toying with whether I should add music or leave it out and roll with skate audio for sections, so it’s a nice in-between to edit to.
Peter Sidlauskas: I was pretty hyped on Shanahan skating to Mayhem — not sure if he was. Every time John has a part, it is edited to nineties hip hop, so it was nice to do something different.
Jacob Harris: The last thing I used that I was really hyped on was in this Taipei trip we did with Carhartt. I used this weird recording of an eighties Bob Dylan song that I found on YouTube — it has this vibe that fascinated me. It’s this super redundant, cheesy, contrived and stylized song that somehow contains some feeling of truth despite or because of all of this.
There’s also this Dylan video from the same era, for a song called “Tight Connection To My Heart,” and it’s a collection of all of the worst aspects of that time. It’s an insanely literal and visually clumsy piece of work that should smother any meaning or authenticity, but somehow, there’s something I love in it. I wanted to pin down this feeling, and I felt that I did an ok job with it. I think it’s pretty easy to relate to this embarrassed and torn down Dylan — like if you watch the video, he really doesn’t want to be there and there’s this huge production going on around him. He makes eye contact with the camera all the time, and you can see his soul on screen. It’s just been completely torn out and pissed on, and it gives me this feeling of the indignities involved in living life and performing within our society. This feeling is so painful but kind of sweet: being trapped inside a film you didn’t choose to be in. I genuinely don’t know whether the director was a prescient genius or a total goon because the video is playful at times.
I don’t think I communicated any of what I’ve just said through my skateboard edit, but there’s something of the feeling I’ve described in the edit for me, and that makes me happy. I usually find this level of explanation a bit detrimental to, well — anything really — so I regret talking in this way, but also it’s fine.