Mikey Brunner – Colourgroup video part
Filmed and edited by Shqipron Bobaj.
Interview & Photography by Alan Maag
On the top bar on WhatsApp there’s the little circle with the picture. Click… It shows two heads: the smile of a stunningly beautiful young lady and a guy with a red cap doing somewhat of a funny face. The name on the bar says Michael Brunner. Doesn’t really fit. Michael Brunner is about as much a Swiss name as one can have. Like the guy standing with a bucket of milk next to his passively chewing cow, Matterhorn and the red white flag in the background and all. And on top of that the phone info says he’s from Kölliken in the Kanton Aargau. That’s basically the prototype of the no future village next to the freeway. Combine all this and you’re bound to imagine that 26-year-old Michael Brunner is probably a chubby gamer, hanging around the local gas station on the weekends, all into tuning his ten-year-old Subaru.
BUT! This Michael Brunner is more of a Mikey. A Mikey B. Mikey B – The fresh Prince from K-Town – half Swiss, half Madagascan. Hi-tech to deep down roots! Mountain peeks and Mama Africa – the best of both. Live and uncut! Sporting the freshness, hyping his homies. Feeling it. The kind of dude you’re just into when you see him skate. Sort of voodoo style, uncanny, yet on point. Catching those switch backside flips with the tweaky legs, if you know what I mean! The type of skater known as The Styler…
He skates with a crew based in Aarau, a town not far from Zurich and closely affiliated with the scene there. Colour Group, they call themselves, ‘cause they’re reppin’ quite a few nations. They’re Albanian, Brazilian, Korean, American, Italian, Serbian, Czech, Croatian, Swiss, and in this case, Madagascan. They drop one or two vids every year, produce their own clothing line and one of the few proper remaining skate shops has their back. It’s the positive, the tight, the light, which makes skateboarding so great, that they bring along. That ‘thing’ you can feel the fire in, the stuff you live off, the stories you’ll remember as the good old days. It’s the substance our culture is made of. And Mikey is a driving force within this positiveness.
So you can imagine how hyped he was when I wrote him back in November that Free would give us the chance to get something together… Since I must have deleted all the previous messages due to chronic storage problems it said:
Mikey, Free Mag wants to do an interview after all – now that it’s cold….
Whuat! Those bastards! Have you seen the temperatures?
We have the Wallride Hurricane and Switch K from Tokyo. And they like the Flip Wallride. Any other ideas?
Yeah, a bunch. Are you coming to the premiere of Tell It Like It Is this Saturday?
I’ll try. We can talk then.
Well, that was it until December 3rd. A month later, you can guess, it got cold and rainy. But on that halfway sunny December weekend I got to see another side of Mikey. On those winter days we had solo missions. Despite all his homies staying inside he was down to get something done and to sweat and freeze his toes off at the same time. And that’s the thing that separates the dedicated from the rest. To go out alone, temperatures just above zero, to get those tricks in, that’s something few skaters do. But it’s that little sign that one is willing to go the extra mile in life – the last 10%. If you have been shooting with so many skaters you get to learn that such behaviour is a sign of character, which will make those people successful throughout their lives. They get things done.
Otherwise the chat mainly consisted of temperature info and winter depressions. It kept on raining and with a few exceptions we didn’t get much time to try and shoot more. That was until March 3rd, when a deadline came in. We decided to go to his area. If you ever happen to be near Aarau, check it out. It’s a little city, which is perfect for a day trip, because there are around ten good spots all really close to each other in the city centre… Anyway, suddenly things went fast, especially since he hurt himself and had a few weeks out and also the question of what should be asked in an interview came up – which makes the insight into the chat a bit more interesting. Let’s check around the end of March.
Mikey, we have two weeks for a text, what do you want to talk about?
Mikey Brunner: Uh, I’m bad at that.
But you are an academic. You just did your Bachelor’s in Biology.
An academic who somehow snuck through all tests, yes, hahaha.
Are there interesting parts in your studies?
It depends on the results you get within the tasks. To show why they make sense is interesting, but bringing it all to paper, comparing data, etc. is tiresome.
Give us a positive example.
Studying how a cancer cell uses the mechanism of a human body to reproduce is quite heavy and super interesting.
You call that positive? Why? Is there good and bad cancer?
Well, actually all cancer is bad. We just call cancer that won’t spread into the whole body ‘good’, because it allows us to extract it where it is and if all cells are removed it should theoretically not come back. But if it’s ‘bad’ it has already begun to spread and reproduce and the cells will eventually end up in the bloodstream.
So you want to do cancer research?
No, that was just an interesting example. I’d rather do something with animals.
Ah, the animal doctor who gets all the chicks.
Hehe. Evolution is fun, isn’t it? Scientific Marine research would be the heavy shit, but I’d have to go abroad for that. So I guess it will be Zoology. Animal behaviour is highly interesting.
Why don’t you want to go abroad?
My lady, my friends, my family… I can’t imagine leaving them behind! But let’s see… After my civil service I’ll go travelling for a few months. Maybe Japan again, that would be sick. Our trip there was so cool, but I haven’t seen anything of the countryside yet. Maybe I’ll get the taste of it when I discover something else for longer.
Is all your family from Madagascar?
No, just my mother. My dad is Swiss.
Tell me about your mother.
She’s funny, loud, beautiful and kind. She’s working a lot, a smart-phone addict and she just discovered YouTube. And always on the phone with a headset, haha… She writes incomprehensible text messages and keeps on talking French with me and others although we don’t understand… Besides her work she has her projects in Mada’; building a house and a restaurant at the airport, where my relatives are working. She’s trying to help them wherever possible.
What is your relation to Madagascar?
I’ve been there a few times and have a good relation with my relatives. Unfortunately I don’t have as much contact as I wish because of the language barrier. I just speak the language a tiny bit. But I have to go back soon to visit my grandparents. There’s always a big feast and they slaughter a cow when we come!
The country is stable, right?
Well, the president and his staff bathe in money, whereas the people really need help. But there’s no war. There are even a few skaters down there! They definitely have some special traditions too.
Do they have Voodoo?
They have their own beliefs. You should Google them! Like the burial tradition, which is a huge celebration of life. There is no mourning, but a party! They dance on the streets, brass bands are playing and they drink their Madagascan rum. Within a big clan easily 500 people can come together from all over the island to celebrate the meeting of the dead and the living. They touch the corpse to say goodbye. I must say it was a bit weird at first to say goodbye to my granddad in this way, but it was comforting after all.
Wow, seems like your family down there leaves an impression. Any other stories?
Haha, yeah, I remember when we were there last time my uncle was insisting in having one of my painkillers. I didn’t get why, ‘cause he seemed to be fine but I gave him one anyway…. Turned out that he believed it would make him immune to alcohol ‘cause he had seen me taking the pill. But our half Swiss bodies can absorb more… You can imagine how that mix of painkiller and a false assumption turned out, hahaha…
At this point the interview broke off again and it took us a few weeks before deadline pressure kicked in again. It was difficult to get back into such an interesting topic, so I decided to just roll things up from behind and see where it would take us. That was mid-April.
Mikey, we need to finish this! Who would you like to say thank you to?
Is the interview over?
No. But I don’t have a better question at the moment.
Thanks to my family, for allowing me to have such a carefree life and backing me in all my decisions. They have always had trust in me, supported my skateboarding in every case and gave me all the space I needed. Thank you. My lady is just as supportive and lets me skate as much as I want, haha. She’s such a wonderful person and always takes care of me. Then the whole CG crew for all the good times on and off a skateboard. For all the healthy laughs I had because of those guys. They are all so different from one another but miraculously form such a tight crew. I’ll have to mention Skipi (Shqipron Bobaj) especially. With his dedication and endless hours of filming he keeps on pushing and pushing us forward. We would be nowhere without him. And you, Alan, the most relaxed photographer with that great eye for the special details. I’m so happy that we did this together. Without your motivation it wouldn’t have turned out as good as it is now. I owe you a six-pack. Then Kölliken, the village I come from and the city of Aarau for being such wonderful places. Not to forget all my other friends who bring such joy into my life. And my sponsors: Huf Switzerland, Quasi Skateboards, John at Bridgecity Dist., Brütsch at Home Street Home Skateshop, the Colour Group and of course Chance GF for the friendly support from Japan. That’s about it.
And what are you thankful for?
Well, for being a healthy human being who has free will over how I can live my life and choose where I want to go to. I’m thankful for never having been forced to do something I did not want to do. I have always been supported and met so many wonderful people through skateboarding.
Are you ever unthankful?
Hmmm… I don’t think so. But maybe we take certain things just for granted. Like food or clothing, for which we should be more than thankful. I guess I don’t value everything as much as I should. The little things, you know. If you value the little things, life is more enjoyable.
Yeah, we tend to forget those ‘cause we’re all a little bit in love with ourselves, aren’t we?
I guess we are, yes. Especially with skating you have to be a tiny bit narcissistic. At least I’m that way. If I don’t feel my style, what I wear, then I don’t feel comfortable and can’t focus on skateboarding. You have to be a bit vain, because you can only show your skating to the world without having a problem if you’re happy with yourself.
How do you mean that?
Well, you get filmed and pictures are taken of you, so you show your personality through skating. And everybody reflects on how they might look. Just like in art.
So you’d compare skateboarding to art: it can be regarded as beautiful and aesthetic without having the claim of being better then something else?
Absolutely. Every one of us considers how something could look, but regardless of who likes it and who doesn’t, you should just follow your own taste and vision.
So therefore competition is counterproductive?
Yes. To compare skateboarding is weird, no? Alone the question of who is better just can’t be answered if you ask me.
But people do it all the time. I’m sure you have certain aspects of skateboarding you don’t like.
Yes and no. Everybody should skate how he or she feels like. Me not liking skating contests ‘cause I don’t feel like I can show my way of skating there doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t go for the contest hype. Do you know what I mean? The last thing skateboarding should do is to constrain people. Everybody should drop what he wants to drop.
Yeah. Being modest allows us to understand that different façades mostly have positive backgrounds.
I always have to think how people would say that varial flips are wack. How sad is that? Who knows how crazy my varial flips would look like if I hadn’t listened to those morons as a kid!
Hahaha, that’s almost like religion; we are aaaaall soooo tolerant and spread love – as long as it’s not a fucking scooter kid.
Hahaha… Yes man, that’s it. We should be less hypocritical and skate more.