Eric Koston Interview
I’m sure Eric Koston is sick of doing interviews, or at least I would be after flying to another country and doing almost a dozen in a couple of days. But if Eric was annoyed he showed no signs of it, in fact, it seemed like he rather enjoyed it. On an Uber ride from Bay Sixty6 in west London to his hotel in Soho we had a chat about the new Koston 3, Eric’s favourite era of skating and his future skate trend predictions among other things.
When we arrived at the hotel, there were a few questions left, so Eric searched around the hotel to find a place quiet enough to finish the interview. He could have cut our time short, but instead he obliged to finish the interview thereby cutting his time to change and shower before dinner across town to 20 minutes. What a legend. Thank you for your time Mr Koston.
Interview by Will Harmon
Flying over to Europe, doing interviews all day, then the next day going skating and being expected to put it on, it must be tough. How do you feel about it this kind of thing? And how do you deal with it?
Eric Koston: I knew coming into it I had a pretty tight schedule so I knew what I was in for. Today was a session at Southbank, which is fun – I want to do that. Yeah I’d like to get something good, if it doesn’t happen it always works itself out for some reason or another. If I can’t do what I really want I can always do a boneless on a bank or whatever (laughs), if worse comes to worse, but you can always get something. But like I said I knew what I was in for.
It’s a tough time of year.
Too bad your shoe didn’t get released in the summer…
Yeah tell me about it! (Laughs) It’s cold here!
Was the process of designing this shoe much different than designing your signature shoes of the past? I heard this one took awhile…
Yeah, this one took way longer than the one before – it took two years. This process was tougher as it just took awhile to get things right. It’s pretty obvious by looking at the shoe, there’s a lot going on there and there’s more even that you don’t see. So getting all those puzzle pieces to fit took a long time. There was a lot of trial and error; there was a lot of back and forth. There were arguments between the designer Shawn Carboy and I. We were like a married couple for two years, but it worked itself out.
When you were younger you were jumping down stuff a lot more, do you think the way you design shoes is different than in the past now that you’re older?
I still have impact in mind – I always do when I do my shoes. But with that I always try and find that balance with board feel. If you pad it up you can jump down anything I guess, but also you have to find that balance of not losing that connection to your board – because if you feel too far away you feel almost numb. It needs to feel thin enough that I feel connected enough. But I do always put impact into play… Even when I was testing my shoe I would go to my park (The Berrics) and once I was warmed up I would deliberately bail down the ten-stair. Just to see how much of a pain sensation went through my feet. I would ollie – kick out, frontside 180 – kick out, nollie backside 180 – kick out, so I could feel all those different motions of bailing.
No toe caps on this shoe, it’s definitely not trendy. I like the fact that you designed a shoe specifically for your tastes and not necessarily something with a sole purpose to sell a shitload of units. When you design a shoe, how much of the “is this gonna fly off the shelves?” angle factors in to your design?
Yeah that’s not the drive behind it. Because if that was, it would be noticeable and it would be something currently ‘on trend’. That’s not what this… It’s my third shoe you know. It’s kinda like my third album. The first album is usually like: ‘ok this band I like, this album’s good.’ The second album ‘Uh, I like the first album better…’ And then the third album it’s like ‘dude you gotta come out swinging!’ Because even though in a sense it’s not the most well-received design… It’s very shocking, but I wanted to do something that is definitely different and that actually does work. But I have that luxury because I have that first album still. I still have the Koston 1 out there. So I have that reliable classic that I can jump into and skate. It still works fine, but that also gave me that kind of luxury or that pad, so I don’t need to make that shoe again. So I wanted to make this (the Nike SB Koston 3) very forward and that’s what I did.
What particular era of skateboarding is your favourite and why?
Hmm, there are some good ones. I’m looking at the early-to-mid nineties. It was a lot of fun. Technical skating was getting cleaner and more powerful too. Sloppy flip tricks became popped really high and then thrown onto a ledge and sliding and grinding longer and styles became much cleaner. So that change of like ‘wow look how good this person does this trick’ that happened in that time, which was really cool. Skating sort of cleaned itself up – that mid-nineties, after 1992, it was cool to see it evolve. The most technical and advanced trick may not be the prettiest.
Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should…
Exactly. It was kinda cool to see it change into something smoother.
Regarding mixing friends and business… Leaving Girl after 20 some odd years, are you still cool with those guys?
I’m fine with them you know. I haven’t really talked to them very much lately, since it happened as well. But I’m not necessarily totally holding a grudge and I’ve tried to look at all sides of… I guess the argument, and see everyone’s viewpoint: mine versus maybe what they see. And I’ve been ok with it, some of it I’m not totally ok with it, but also I want to just move on. No matter what I do I still just have to move forward and get beyond that and not be hung up on what happened. But it did happen, and like I said I need to move forward and it’s more important than being hung up on why and what events unfolded to get to this point. But at the same time I never really wanted to ‘ok I’m just going to ride for Girl for more than 20 years and just drop it’ especially when I’m 40. If I had an idea I was going to start this new company I should have done it a decade ago. It wasn’t in the plan that’s for sure, but it is what it is, and it’s fine. Things are kind of progressing now. It’s slowly, because we are doing it from the ground up and it’s interesting and I think it’s going to be fun once some pieces are in place and it get’s rolling.
Yeah that was my next question actually, is there any news you can share yet about the new board brand yet?
Not necessarily because it’s just not totally there yet. It’s not as far evolved as I think public perception… I think people had an idea there was something going on, and I think they sniffed out the fact that there was something not right. And that had been going on for a while. I was trying to figure out what it was to be honest with you. It hasn’t been as masterminded as people think.
When Lucas quit Lakai, he was still on Fourstar, now that you’ve quit girl, are you still on Fourstar?
No, I’m not on Fourstar as well. I was an owner, so was Guy (Mariano).
Yeah trust me, there are a lot of details in that one. The Devil’s in the details…
I’m sure there is…
The process for filming a full video part comes harder and harder with age. Do you think Chronicles 3 will be your last full video part?
I don’t think so. But my standards of a full part versus today’s standards of a full part are different. That is the shift and change that is happening. Guys can just whip ‘em out in a year or less than a year, and that’s considered a part. Whereas the parts I’ve done in the past often take four years.
Yeah so it took a long time to do those things. You know trying to figure out new things, go new places, which definitely makes it tougher to do more, but also if I’m going to do on (a video part) I can’t get too caught up in trying to do something that is so far beyond me that it’s going to drive me insane – because you sort of lose the fun it… You don’t want it to not be fun.
You’ve been in the game a long time. You’ve seen skate trends come and go, heck, some the shorts you wore in H-Street’s Next Generation were longer than kid’s trousers today. What’s your prediction for the next skate trend?
(Laughs) It’s true! Hmm, I think if you were going to go with what’s happening and what has been taken from now and sort of the next stage it would be that mid-to-later nineties era. Maybe that’s the next style: oversized baggy jeans, but with a lot of extra length at the bottom. The bunch up style, it would go under your foot, but (Peter) Smolik had that stuff S.A.G.: Smolik Athletic Gear. It had like a technical thing, Velcro, so your pants wouldn’t go under your heel, because it would tear up your pants otherwise. It was sketchy, because I’d done it before too, having pants too baggy, especially when you are at a park or something – when you run down a ramp and you have fabric under your heel and you slip out, do the splits or something, it’s super sketchy. He was on to something… Smolik was just ahead of his time. Maybe the next thing is incorporating in technical features into styles of clothing.
You could be right. So what do you think of the state of skateboarding in 2016?
It’s cool. You know seeing young kids gravitating towards this old style of skating, which was what street skating was to me when I started in the late eighties. Basically it’s those tricks: slappies, wallies, no-complies, body-varials… That’s was innovative at that time because all those tricks were brand new in the late-eighties and it’s really funny to see kids that weren’t even born then doing stuff like that. I think it’s cool because that stuff is fun. It’s really casual skating, but I think no matter what I still think progressive skating is much more interesting. It’s way more intriguing. It’s what pushes the future to get better at skateboarding. So that can’t go away, and it’s not going away. Guys need to keep pushing those boundaries to keep it new and exciting.
Yes because at some point this regurgitation of late-eighties skateboarding won’t be the flavour of the month…
Yeah it might go away… Or hopefully those guys will take that and evolve it to be a mix of progressive skating with a bit of retro. That’s why this old stuff is cool, because you are already seeing that…
Yeah like Lucas (Puig) did a nollie heel body varial to switch crooks…
Yeah that’s another way it can evolve and become a new thing. We’ll see, but hopefully that’s the way it goes. Hopefully it won’t get too wacky… I mean some of that stuff, you would think it’s kind of wacky, but when you see it you think: ‘That was crazy!’ and it’s really cool.