‘Big Shout Out To The Empanada Lady’ — An Interview With Marcello Campanello

Intro + Interview by Adam Abada
Headline Image by Christopher Zipf
All Other Photography by Jason Sherman

Flushing Meadows Park’s globe looms large in New York skateboarding. It is probably the second most recognizable New York spot next to the Banks.

Just like the eye-catching blue ground at the globe, it was hard to remember where I first noticed Marcello Campanello’s skating. His movements tempt me to use descriptors often left to non-skateboarding journalists: whirling, spinning, twisting, leaping. I noticed him in local projects, namely: Canal videos, and then saw him popping up in Diego Donival’s project Goodily. With the help of Instagram, I knew he was an Astoria Park staple, but I didn’t know much else. It wasn’t surprising, though, when he surfaced on Karl Watson’s Maxallure board brand. Now, designing graphics for Maxallure and with a stockpile of clips, is as good a time as any to find out more.

+++++++

What’s up, Marcello? I’m happy to be doing this. Where you from, what we doing?

Yerrr, how’s its going man. I guess we’re over here doing my first interview. I was born and raised over in Flushing, Queens. Been doing this skateboard thing for a little while.

How’d you start skating?

I think it was from playing so much Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 with my brother when we were younger. I would always play as Kareem Campbell or Bob Burnquist. They had the best fits. That was the only video game I would play.

My brother and I were also pretty into sports. We never watched them, but we played them. Then, one Christmas, my mom got us skateboards and that was that. I remember we couldn’t skate outside because of the snow, so we skated in the basement. A lot. When the weather got better, we decided to stop playing sports and continued to skate every day.

Were you skating Flushing Meadows at the time?

Not at that time. One day, we were skating at a local school and we met this older kid named Jon. He hopped off the bus and told us he was trying to make more skate friends. He mentioned this spot: the globe located at Flushing Meadows Park. We got my mom to drop us off at the globe and we ran into Jon again, but this time he was with all of his high school friends. I’m still good friends with all of them to this day. I like to think that if it wasn’t for the globe I would’ve never met my boys.

But yeah, once we found out about the globe, we were there almost every day. My mom would take us straight after school and we would stay til late. The globe had these flood lights that would turn on at 5 or 6 P.M. We’d stay there pretty late for a school night, you know, 10, 11, 12 o’clock. About eight years later, they built the Maloof skatepark. I was never really a big fan of that park though, so I would stay posted at the globe.

How did Flushing influence your skating?

We played a lot of games of S.K.A.T.E. over there, so it improved my flat ground. The ledges that surrounded the globe were pretty tall for me as a kid, so I made sure to get my pop up so I could skate them. Luis Tolentino, man. When I first started going to the globe, I would see Luis blasting ollies and 180s over trash cans standing up, easily. I’d never seen someone do that before. As a kid seeing that, it inspired me to get to that level. Also, seeing Rodney Torres there on the daily was pretty sweet. He was with Official Skateboards at the time; they were always a big deal to me. Whenever they pulled through, we all were skating our best.

Wild to have Flushing as your local.

It’s crazy because it’s such a good spot, but it’s just “too far” for some of the city kids.

I remember one night Luis was climbing the Globe to put a Famous sticker as high up as possible. While he was doing that, I looked over and I saw Rob Campbell hitting on my mom and sister. What’s funny is earlier that day, he heavily insisted we traded trucks. I couldn’t say no: I gave him my blank eBay trucks and came up on a pair of Destructos. I have countless stories about growing up skating Flushing, but I have to give a big shout out to the empanada lady, you’ve brought me food when I’ve needed it the most.

Are there any Queens spots other than the globe that you think don’t get enough attention?

At the time, the globe was the only good known spot we went to. All the other spots we skated in my neighborhood were pretty low key. That’s if they were even considered spots. With no car, we couldn’t go too far. There was one spot that I’ve seen the homie Peter from Bronze and his crew make their way to. It was this spot behind the Pizza Chef: these perfect Philly step manny pads with a bank on one side. The floor kinda sucks though; it gives you O.D. razor tail. Other than that spot, there was a pretty good five-stair hubba not far from me.

But, growing up skating in that area – have you ever heard of the Mojo Bench? It’s a bench that CCS used to sell. A bench that had three different levels on it. One of my friends had one. In Queens, we have all this open space, so when it came to wintertime, we’d have a parking garage in Long Island we could bring the bench too. That’s where every grind trick got learned — on that bench.

You mentioned Peter from Bronze. To take it further back, did Flipmode fit into the picture at all for you?

Yeah, skating with my older friends, I learned who they all were. We respected Flipmode a lot and looked up to most of them. There was one guy on Flipmode who was a good friend of ours named Pedro Garboza; we looked up to him the most. Pedro was like our mentor in skating. He knew what was cool. At the time we had no idea what “style” was until Pedro broke it down for us. He would say stuff like “you have to cross your arms when you pop,” and that tight pants were wack. We all wore tight pants.

One day, we were at Main Street [in Flushing] and we see Pedro. We told him we were about to take the train into the city, and he was like “Nah, follow me.” He takes us two blocks away, up this random alley, and the next thing we know, we’re waiting on line for this bus with Chinese writing all over it. It’s a bus that takes you straight from Flushing to Chinatown Manhattan for $1.75. Once we found out about the Chinese bus, that was the only way we were getting downtown. Pedro is a real one. Side note, Peter recently told me Pedro only responds in emojis now. He’s already on the next wave. Maybe we should re-do this interview with only emojis.

How did you start getting sponsored?

I first got sponsored by Rival skate shop in Tribeca. Rival was Vinnie Ponte’s shop, and my good friend Dom worked there at the time. We hung out there all day drinking Red Bulls and playing S.K.A.T.E. on the front steps. I remember one day, I went to drop off some shit and he was hanging out with Reakwon from Wu-Tang, and it was the first time I smelled weed.

It’s not like I got much, but just being able to say I was sponsored was a huge thing. For a while, I was skating drop-offs and then I met Yaje [Popson.] He would always give me Alien and Habitat boards when I needed them. Soon after, he introduced me to the T.M. and I became flow for Habitat. Also, my good friends Jon and Esti started a wheel company called Canal.

In my mid-twenties, it was difficult to see how things were going to pan out. Not many people from New York “make it” in skating. I was kinda stressing, but that’s when Karl Watson reached out about riding for Maxallure. Man, Karl’s done a lot for me. I swear, a couple days before Karl hit me up I was like, “I gotta get a job. I don’t think this is working out for me.”

He hit you up?

Yeah, I was super hungover one day and saw a message from Karl Watson. I went back to sleep and when I woke up, I thought it was a dream. I was so nervous about texting him back. Funny thing is, he told me he was nervous about asking me! After he told me, that kind of broke down the barrier a bit. I love Karl to death. I went to S.F. and stayed at Tafari’s house and clicked with Jonathan, Lil Dre, Demar and a few others on Maxallure. Karl is super motivated about his team and company. Being with it from the beginning has given me a lot of opportunities. I got to design the Maxallure logo, you know the MXA one.

What was that process like?

I mentioned to Karl that we should have a logo and then he got back to me weeks later with something that looked like a university logo. I thought we could come up with something better and more unique. I didn’t have Adobe Illustrator or anything, so I told my buddy Dom my ideas and he helped me play around with the font and stuff.

I showed it to Karl and he was like “this is it. “That started it up. He asked me to be the head designer for Maxallure. I’m on the phone once a week with Walker, the team manager, for hours chopping it up figuring out future graphics. It’s nice to have something other than skating. Since this is a new company, we’ve been finding the good manufacturers to use for clothes and stuff. I’m looking forward to more cut and sew stuff in addition to graphics.

What made you have the confidence in yourself to be able to do it?

I’ve always done photography and have developed a good eye. When it came to graphics, it was just about learning the technical skills to make my visions a reality.

Alright, more New York stuff. Are you Italian?

Pssssssh – O.G. Italian. My dad’s a full-on cigar-smoking, pasta-eating, wine-making Sicilian. I’m actually wearing his pinky ring right now. My mom is from Ohio. She’s Irish, German, Dutch, and a little bit of Native American. My mom’s the only one in her family from Ohio, and my dad’s the only one in his family in Sicily that moved away. And they met in New York.

My parents were a huge part of my skating growing up. My mom was the one picking me and all my friends up and dropping us off. My dad would build ramps in my backyard, which had a brick floor. I think I got good at skating rough New York spots because I was constantly skating on those bricks. It sucked, but I got good at it.

What was the difference between Queens as a borough and the city?

I grew up in the suburbs, so we were skating stuff like driveways and dead ends. I got my license when I was 17, and have homies in the city who are 30 and have never driven a car. It was still annoying to get into the city, though, so I would stay in Queens, drive around and scout spots no one had ever seen before. Queens is so sick; it’s so diverse. I actually heard that Elmhurst is the most diverse neighborhood in the world.

Outside of the globe, did it feel disconnected from the skate scene to you?

In Queens, there were guidos in this neighborhood that would pick on us – they tried to throw eggs at us and call us names. In the city, you’d see different fashion senses – tight pants, guys wearing makeup and nail paint – in Queens it was very one way. That shit changed, luckily.

You have a lot of footage on Instagram – you got some stuff stashed for your part?

Oh yeah. I got some minutes. A lot of people want that automatic dopamine hit of getting the likes and comments on Instagram. Going out with skaters that are younger than me, some of them don’t even care about getting a clip for the video. It’s kind of a turnoff for me. For me, posting on Instagram is more stressful than filming a real clip. I always wonder if it’s worth it.

You mentioned real Queens shit. What’s some other “real Queens shit” we can end this on?

Hmm, let’s see. Well, we’ve been making our own wine since I was 12. We stomp the grapes ourselves. We drink a lot of wine, so we cut the middleman out. We do it around the same time every year, and I always try to bring a couple different homies every time so they can experience it. We make 150 gallons every October.

Are you a wine connoisseur?

Honestly nah, I don’t know too much about wine. But my dad knows. He has a formula. Hopefully, one day, we’ll see Campanello Vino on the top shelf. That’s my dream for my family. Also, my family in Sicily would bug out if they saw their last name on a skateboard or a shoe.

You’re doing a lot. Skating is a job now, like you wanted it to be. How’s that?

It does change a lot. It’s a job for sure, but the most fun job I’ve ever had. It’s hard work, even more so because of how fun it is. Sometimes, you forget how much you actually need to get done.

Maxallure has a little video coming out soon that I have a few clips in, but I also have a bigger project that I’m working on getting out by the end of the year with Diego Donival. I also have a couple ads coming out in Thrasher and feel really lucky to be doing this. And to be talking about it all with Quartersnacks. I’m out here. The parts are coming. Queens get the money. R.I.P. Suba and Dece. Love y’all.

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate the energy Marcello is dishing out. Godspeed to him and his family in all their endeavors. Thanks again for the quality content, Snack!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *