Joseph Biais Interview from Issue 5
I’ve known Jibz for years now. At first he was a little harsh to me as I was the standard sponsor-me tape kid, but later he became one of my best friends as I grew up. Even if it sounds cheesy, it’s nothing but the truth saying that he is one of the best dudes I know to live, travel and skate with. After having some top-class breakfasts and taking his fair share of power naps he would always be down to lead the crew and show people new spots, and, obviously adding in some frontside boardslides to his emperor status. Joseph is a grown-ass man now; nevertheless his commitment to skateboarding still remains the same since day one. I can shamelessly say that I really look up to him especially for this. Wherever we are, once at the spot he behaves like a little skate rat going for it at the skatepark for the first time… During trips for example, it isn’t rare to see him getting a lot of footage and still be texting Parisian photographers Max Verret or Alex Pires to arrange some back-home suburbs shooting missions. Anyway this introduction won’t be too long, but the reasons I’m kissing his ass so much is this: I’m deeply in love with him and he saved my life by getting me water out of nowhere during an industrial park long trick battle I was having four years ago. Keep killing it
at living life Joseph! -Val Bauer
Interview by Arthur Derrien
Hey buddy! How’s everything? Are you still in Dubai?
Joseph Biais: Yeah I am! I’m out here with the Öctagon crew. There’s Rémy Taveira, Edouard Depaz, Loic Benoit, Val Bauer and Clément who does the brand. I wish I could get this camera to work so I could show you where we’re staying, it’s pretty mad. Apparently this Air BNB we’ve got is in one of the sketchiest towers in Dubai. It’s supposed to be where all the hookers stay. So it looks quite fancy from the outside but inside it’s fucked: cables hanging out of every corner, building stuff lying around everywhere. Basically our floor looks like it’s still under construction.
What about the skating?
So far it’s okay… To be completely honest I was kind of expecting there to be more spots we could actually skate. We watched We Are Blood and a load of tour edits to make sure there was stuff out here but it turns out you can’t skate a lot of it. You know that neighbourhood in Paris called ‘La Défence’ with all the banks and stuff? Well Dubai is a whole city that feels and looks just like that, only it’s boiling. So security there is crazy…
Did you bump into any skaters out there? Is there any kind of ‘scene’?
I mean we bumped into a few young kids, but there definitely isn’t a scene out here. The closest thing they have to a skate shop is one of those crap mall shops… I think they’ve got an insane skatepark though. Only nobody uses it… We might check it out at some point.
Sounds like such a bizarre place.
It really is. Then are so many little things that you wouldn’t expect. Take the metro for instance, I didn’t realise there was going to be a separate female carriage. It’s pretty weird. The other day we jumped on the first carriage we saw as the train was about to leave and this rather angry female officer instantly came to kick us out (it happened to be the ‘girls only’ one). So we made our way to the ‘mixed’ carriage and noticed that where the female carriage ends and the other one starts was rammed with dudes perving on the chicks. It was such a weird scene.
That sounds horrible.
When I went to India there was a similar set up, only the perving was even gnarlier. They’d be giving the girls (in the female wagon) the dirtiest looks… Which is kind of ridiculous as they are the exact same girls they’d see walking around outside.
I guess it’s just that there’s a high concentration of them or something.
Yeah… Anyway coming back to Dubai, I was also not expecting there to be such a high proportion of Westerners around in comparison to Emiratis. It really seems like the vast majority of people in the city are just white expats…
What about the city itself?
Oof. All the buildings are so fucking high… Even our flat that’s on the 32nd floor is nowhere near as high as most of the buildings that we see around when we look outside. Earlier we skated this spot that was at the bottom of that Burj Khalifa tower (the tallest skyscraper in the world) and I couldn’t get over how far the top of the tower was from us. Like even if it were horizontal it would still take ages to get from one end to the other. On top of that all the towers are really close to each other so when you are in the centre you can’t see the horizon anywhere. This makes it quite confusing city to navigate your way around, especially since it’s so spread out. Taxis are really cheap though so we’ve just been getting them a lot.
I bet that kind of architecture is perfect for the whole futuristic vibe you guys go for in the Öctagon edits though.
Yeah it is, but I’m still a little bit worried by the fact that we haven’t actually managed to skate that many spots yet.
Are you guys trying to make a clip from this trip?
No we’ve already been working on a new clip for a while now, so we’re just trying to get the last few
bits out here.
What’s the deal with that one?
I don’t actually know, haha. We (the skaters) have completely been left in the dark this time. Joaquim (the filmer), Clément (the guy running the brand) and Nicolas (the guy who does the graphics) are the only ones to have seen anything. I think they did some studio shots with some girl so I’m assuming she’ll be involved somehow but that’s literally all I know.
Do you have someone showing you around out there?
We’ve got a friend from Canada (Marc-Antoine) that has family out here so he came out at the same time as us and showed us around a bit, but when he wasn’t about it was quite difficult. There just aren’t that many spots so you really need to know where they are. It’s not really one of those cities where you can just cruise and easily find stuff.
And when you do actually find something I bet you get instantly kicked out…
Kind of yeah. Plus we keep hearing that the police here are super-gnarly, like if you get caught with weed on you they’ll put you in jail and stuff. Everyone has been telling us that if security calls the cops on us at a spot we should immediately bail. Our Canadian mate that I mentioned earlier said he’d been put in jail a couple of times just for skating… We’ve started to relax a little as nothing bad has happened but at first we were definitely a bit scared.
Are guys going to be hitting any other cities out there?
We’re meant to be hitting Abu Dhabi in a few days. Apparently the city is way easier to get around and has way more spots.
You still work full time for Carhartt right? Is it easy for you to take time off for stuff like this?
Reasonably. I mean I take it as holiday leave, so it’s not like I get special treatment because I skate for the brand or anything. Most of the trips I go on I usually tend to organise with my friends so we work around each other’s schedules. Plus I don’t really get invited on that many trips to be honest.
And what exactly is your role at Carhartt?
I think what it says on my contract is ‘Skateboard Marketing Coordinator’ but what it comes down to is being Bertrand Trichet’s right hand man. The two of us basically take care of anything that has to do with skating in the brand. That includes taking care of the team, organising events, working on products and countless other tasks. It’s extremely varied so I’m really learning about loads of stuff.
Plus what’s good is that since it’s such a small team all the initiatives really come from Bertrand. There’s nobody above him telling him to push certain products or do things in a certain way. He’s completely free to do what he wants.
It’s kind of crazy that such a big company only has one person (or two now that you’re there) working on all their skate stuff… In fact I’m always surprised by how much Carhartt invest into skateboarding. Especially now that you’ve explained how small the ‘structure’ is… Bertrand is really killing it.
That’s because there are two completely separate Carhartts. The American Carhartt is a proper workwear company that genuinely makes tough clothes (gloves, overalls etc.) for workers – like Caterpillar or something. Its purpose is 100% utilitarian; it’s not trying to be a fashion brand. But that’s a completely separate Carhartt from the one we have here in Europe. Our one is Carhartt WIP (Work in Progress) and it comes from someone that used to import the OG American Carhartt goods to Europe buying a license to make his own Carhartt clothes. I guess he saw the rising popularity of workwear inspired clothes and went for it. Anyway this entity of Carhartt (WIP) is based in Germany and from the very beginning they decided that it wanted to be associated with skateboarding.
But the guy that started it doesn’t skate or anything?
No just from very early on he was convinced that it was that would help build his brand’s image and he stuck to it. Although to be perfectly honest I doubt most people that wear Carhartt know about the association with skateboarding… Or have any idea how much they do for it.
Which makes it even cooler that they keep investing money into developing that side of it.
Yeah but you can see how it would make sense for them, skateboarders are so influential in fashion and other spheres that there’s definitely something in it for them.
You guys have an office in Paris right? What was it like being in the city during the time of the terror attacks?
I was actually in Marseille with my girlfriend that weekend but two of the bars that got attacked are 100 metres away from the Carhartt office so it still hit me pretty hard. Getting the taxi home after the trip and driving past the carnage was pretty emotional… It’s definitely the event I’ve felt the most directly affected by. You just can’t ignore this stuff when it has happened so close to you. And even after a few weeks, when I thought I’d start getting over it, I’d walk past those restaurants every day on the way to work and still feel something.
It really seems like they targeted one of the neighbourhoods with the highest amount of ‘young’ people. It’s crazy how many skaters live around there… Wasn’t Vincent Bressol (legendary French former Cliché pro) in one of the bars that was attacked?
Yeah. I didn’t hear this directly from him so it might not be 100% accurate but apparently he was in one of those bars and when he heard gunshots he dived over the counter to protect himself. He heard the whole thing go down just a few metres away from him and I think a woman that was standing close to him got shot and pretty much died in his arms.
That’s so gnarly.
Yeah… The horrible thing is that when something like this hits the area where you and most of your friends hang out you’re bound to hear these kinds of stories a lot. In fact the night when I heard it was all kicking off I gave Rémy Taveira a call and when he picked up he was super close to one of the restaurants where a shooting was taking place and about to walk right into the mess. He had no idea… Needless to say that shortly after that he and everyone around him were sprinting in the opposite direction.
What adds to it all is that the place where people come to pay their respects to the friends and family members they’ve lost is the statue in the centre of Place de la République. So there’s basically been a constant flow of mourners at our local skate spot since the end of last year…
And before that there was that guy that climbed up that statue, fell from the top and died during the techno parade…
Oh man that video was horrible, I really wish I’d never seen it. République is a stage for all sorts of madness…
Oh yeah the stuff you guys must witness there on a daily basis…
I don’t actually skate there that often to be honest so I’m probably not the right person to ask but yeah, I’m sure the diehard locals would have some funny stories to tell. I tend to get a bit bored when I spend the whole day at the same spot… I like discovering new spots.
I can tell from the photos in your interview! Who do you usually go on missions with?
Guillaume Périmony, Rémy Taveira when he’s about…
From the outside it really feels like Paris is getting an insane amount of attention these days, being a local does it feel any different from a few years back?
Yeah definitely. It’s as if suddenly every skateboarder in the world wanted to film an Instagram clip at République, it’s mad. Not to mention all the recent Supreme hype… Towards the end of last summer on certain days there’d be like 250 skaters on the spot, 200 of which I’d never seen before and would be wearing Supreme.
What do you think of it all?
I think it’s great. The Supreme people didn’t just decide to come to Paris, open a shop and make shitloads of money… The skaters came over, shot some photos with Alex Pires, hung out with the Blobys and really promoted our scene. They did it properly. I feel like Barcelona’s been through something similar, so has Berlin. I’m stoked now it’s Paris’ turn! It gives the Blobys and even loads of other Parisians proper exposure.