Jacopo Carozzi Interview

Nollie 180 switch crooked grind back to regular, Fontane Bianchi. Ph: Sam Clark.

The interview you’re about to read took place in London. Jacopo had been gathering photos for a while and the trip was basically his last chance to get anything in before the deadline. Predictably it rained almost every day for a week. Less predictably, on the one day that it didn’t, he trapped a nerve in his back as he was tapping his Oyster card on the way to the first spot. He was in so much pain that at one point he had to lie down on the floor and was struggling to breathe. It’s easy to imagine how taking yourself out in such a ridiculous manner (especially after not having seen dry ground for days) might affect the morale. On top of that, since all we do in this country is go to the pub when we can’t skate, it was decided that pool would be the replacement activity. Pool… That famously relaxing pastime for people with fucked backs. Completely oblivious to all this and not even considering that it might not be the best day for it, I told him I wanted to record his interview then and there. Guess how he took it? He thanked me, repeatedly telling me how grateful he was to be given this opportunity. It blew my mind… a) because it finally hit me that he’d probably been having the worst day ever, b) because nobody ever does that, and c) because in this particular case I really felt like I should be the one thanking him. He’s already had the cover, he’s already been asked by Reynolds to be in Baker 4, he’s already going on trips with Koston…. It’s not like he’s desperate to come up; he’s basically already made it. Anyway with that in mind here’s Jacopo, not in his first language, and on a ‘bad day’. It should give you a pretty good idea of how much of a legend he is.

– Arthur Derrien

Have you had an interview in a magazine recently? In fact have you ever had a proper interview?
Jacopo Carozzi: I had one in Kingpin but that was ages ago when I was living in Australia.

Oh yeah I forgot you did a stint over there! What was the deal with that?
I don’t know, a bunch of my friends from Italy were going over so I thought I’d check it out. I ended up being there for like eight months… I was in Melbourne mostly.

I bet you loved it.
I did… But I think Australians were a bit weirded out by us to be honest. It was quite a big group of us, all Italian, all sleeping in the streets most of the time…

Sleeping in the streets?
Yeah I mean we didn’t have a place to stay the whole time we were there so we’d camp or sleep in playgrounds or on beaches… We’d just skate every day and travel around. It was really fun.

That is a long time to be doing that…
Yeah. At first my Visa was just for three months, then I extended it to six, then at the end of that I broke my wrist so had to stay there a bit longer to get surgery.

How did you afford to live out there?
I was already getting a bit of money from Nike.

And you were how old when you flew out there?
I was 17. Thinking back on it now I can’t believe my mum let me go, ha ha.

How old are you now?

Backside nosegrind, Rosolini. Ph: Sam Clark.

Ok so apart from that brief period in Australia you’ve always been based in Milan right? Is that where you’re originally from?
Yep, Milan born and raised!

When did you start going to the train station?
Probably like nine years ago or something. It’s been there forever though, like the OGs have been skating it for a very long time… Before that I used to only skate this indoor park and I remember everyone would complain about me only skating there. They’d call me out for never skating street and I’d be like ‘this place isn’t going to be here forever so I don’t care what you think; I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.’ And I was right, it was only there for like four years and we haven’t had one since. So now I’m almost every day at the train station. Even on days I’m not skating I’m usually there just to hang out…

Last time I was there most of the spot wasn’t even dry and there was still like 20 skaters, I couldn’t believe it. Is it like that every day?
Yeah pretty much.

What would you say spending time at the plaza taught you that being locked up in that skatepark didn’t?
The first thing is it made me realise how lucky I was to have a huge free space we could skate every day like that in my city. There aren’t that many left in the world… We’re all super proud of it. And there’s so many guys that have gotten really good just from skating those round ledges.
Skating aside, you also learn a lot just from spending so many hours in a place like the train station, which is obviously quite dangerous. I mean these days it’s a lot better but back in the day it used to be so sketchy. You’d see dudes shooting heroin, so many fights, people getting robbed… Nobody really fucks with us too much though because we’re there every single day and it’s not really like we have anything that would be of value to the dudes causing trouble. Plus the plaza is kind of divided, with certain groups having their own sections. Like we’ve got the left side when you’re facing the station, then the drug dealers have another bit, the homeless people have another bit…

Nollie heelflip Indy, Cagliari. Ph: Joel Peck.

I was actually going to ask you why nobody skates that other side. (Editor’s note: If you’ve never been to the spot, everything you see in videos is just from half of it. The exact same spot is replicated and brand new, virtually unwaxed, on the other side of the plaza.)
I’m sure we’ll move over there at some point but what happened is that they skate-stopped the plaza a few years back, first by putting fences all the way around the spot so you couldn’t even get to the ledges, then with metal caps. At first we broke through a bit of the fence so we could skate just five metres of the main ledge, then we made that whole section skate-able. Since this was the only part we could skate, all the other groups that use the plaza got to pick a zone from the other sections. What’s funny is that after we did that they asked us if we’d rather have a skatepark or the train station and since we said the train station they just let us be. The police just leave us alone, even if we’re smoking weed, drinking beers or whatever they never come and give us shit because they kind of know we’re regulating that side of the plaza, keeping
it safe.
Also having older guys there that are always keeping you aware of certain things is amazing. It’s taught me a lot… We have this one guy called Sudan, he was one of the first people to skate the place and he sees everything that’s happening on the plaza. He can seriously see from so far away ha ha! We call him eagle eye. He’s always looking out for
the kids.

If you guys would see anything sketchy go down do you ever interfere?
It has happened… I used to see this group that would repeatedly rob Asian tourists and it got to the point where I couldn’t just stand there watching it without doing anything. So I went over once when it was going down, grabbed one of them, put them on the ground and gave the person their phone back. I sort of made it seem to the tourist like they weren’t actually stealing from them, that it was all good… I think that happened a couple of times actually. Usually we try to stay out of it though.

Nollie kickflip backside nosegrind, Columbus, Ohio. Ph: Ben Colen.

Who do you hit up to go skating? The Stinky Trouble guys?
Yeah pretty much. The first person I call if I’m going skating is Bobby (Aref Koushesh). He was in Australia with me; that’s where Stinky Trouble started.

What’s the story behind the name?
We were in Nimbin, which is a small village up in the mountains, where weed is legal and they have a big-ass skatepark and after a week of sleeping in playgrounds there we were like, ‘fuck we can’t do this anymore…’ so we decided to sneak into a hotel. We’d hidden our bags in bushes and so for a bit they really thought we were part of the hotel. We were like ‘damn we’re pulling this off!’ Until at one point we both took our shoes off… We instantly looked at each other thinking: ‘there’s no way we’re getting away with this now…’ And we didn’t ha ha. They instantly caught on to us and we had to run away ha ha. You have to remember we’d been homeless for a while at that point and that it’s hot every single day in Australia. Our feet would be like steaming after every session! We laughed about being ‘stinky trouble’ so much that it ended up becoming our crew’s name. We even made ourselves some beanies and shirts and stuff…

And you put out all those clips too right? Do you make those?
Yeah I learned how to use After Effects and straight away got really into it.

What about some of the other stuff you do, like all those distorted photos?
Ha ha, I don’t really know what to say about them… It’s hard to explain, they’re just images that look interesting to me.

Crooked grind through the kink, Cagliari. Ph: Joel Peck.

Like little smoking aliens?
The Alieni Piceni! That started when me and Yoan (Taillandier) were in Ancona (central Italy, by the sea) filming for this downhill part. The Piceni are a population that lived there in the Bronze Age and if you look them up, the most famous representation of them shows them looking like these dope little aliens. I liked them so much that I started drawing/painting them on stuff while I was out there…

I’ve been told to ask you about neon lights. I heard you’ve developed some sort of addiction?
Ha ha, I guess you could say that. When I moved into my new place I decided that I wanted to make it as comfortable as I could. One day I walked into a store and found a disco light for really cheap, so I thought I’d try it out and as soon as I plugged it in I was like, ‘damn being in a room like this is sick! It’s like the party room now’. Then I got addicted, ha ha. I just needed more and more and now I’ve got different coloured neon lights in every corner… I’ve got a bunch behind the TV that reflect off the walls, a big reflective Stinky Trouble logo: it looks crazy. The first few times I had people over I had no idea what they’d think but people seem to love it!

I guess your room looking like a nightclub leads me on to my next question: you’ve recently started DJing right? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I don’t know, I guess I used to always be the one playing music at house parties, just mixing tunes from my phone and one day I just decided to go for it and buy a console. And yeah especially with how my room is right now, I really get into it, ha ha. I’ve been listening to a lot of Nigerian disco and pop music. There’s this album called Doing it in Lagos that’s really sick. Otherwise it’s mainly to old techno and house music. Stuff like Yoan used in my train station part… Or guys like Larry Levan, Ron Trent, Tom Trago, Floorplan, Frankie Knuckles or Giorgio Moroder who I think is one of the best. I’m not sure if this is going to come across right in English but I’m quite picky, I feel like my mood gets really affected by the music that’s being played; I can’t just pretend to like something.

Ollie, Catania. Ph: Sam Clark.

Do you ever go to big nights in Milan?
Not really, the people are kind of a bit too crazy for me to be honest.

Yoan (Taillandier) is the person who told me to ask you about your passion for neon lights and the DJing. How have you two ended up spending so much time together recently?
The first time I met him was on that Free trip with you. I’d never properly filmed VX before that and he’s such a good filmer; I was so happy with how all that came out. And he’s just the friendliest guy and we got along really well straight away, so when I found out that the guy had lost my train station part, I decided to start all over again with Yoan.

Wait, what do you mean ‘lost my train station part’?
Basically I’ve had the idea of filming a part at the train station for a long time but it was hard because there are no filmers in Milan. I mean there is one, but he’s busy most of the time. Anyway so I did it with a friend that lives a couple of hours away and films HD. But by the time we almost had enough to make a full part he went to Barcelona without downloading any of the clips and got his bag stolen at MACBA, with all the tricks and the cameras in there…

Fuck so you’ve filmed that part twice?
No the HD part was completely different, I didn’t re-film any of the same tricks. I was so over it; I wasn’t mentally prepared to try the same stuff again.

Nose bash, Catania. Ph: Sam Clark.

I seem to remember you watching a lot of old videos to get hyped before going skating. Is it still the case?
Yeah definitely. I’m always putting something on before I go out…

If we were about to go skating now, what would you watch?
Probably Henry Sanchez in Sight Unseen. That fakie heel manny!

I love that one. The song… All that Marcus (McBride) footage…
Ah man he’s so stylish. That nollie flip he does… I wish I could nollie flip like that.

Something we haven’t talked about yet is Baker.
Man I’m still tripping on it. It’s still insane for me to think that I’m riding for them.

Tailgrab, London. Ph: Joel Peck.

How did it come about?
You know when you get a text from a number you don’t have in your contacts and it pops up on your phone as ‘maybe:’? Well I got a text out of nowhere from ‘Maybe: Andrew Reynolds’ ha ha. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It took me a while to actually open it… Anyway all it said was: ‘Hi it’s Andrew Reynolds, come to LA, it would be good to get you on Baker.’ My first thought was that it must be a mistake; he must have gotten my number mixed up with someone else’s… I just replied that I was keen; I had to. He’s always been one of my favourite skaters. How can you say no to Andrew Reynolds? You just don’t.

So you went to meet him in LA?
Yeah I was going on a Nike trip around America and Scuba (Nike US TM) hooked me up with a ticket so I could be in LA for a few days first. The day I went over to meet him at Baker Boys I was sweating so much ha ha. I was terrified. And then when I finally saw him I thought ‘this guy doesn’t even look real! He’s like a statue or something!’ To this day I only met him that one time and we didn’t even talk about me skating for Baker, that’s the crazy thing! Then when we were on that Nike trip Scuba casually asked me what size boards I skated so I told him, not really thinking anything of it. A few days later I snapped a board, so told him I had to go back to the hotel to put a new one on… Only when I got there, there was a box of Baker boards waiting for me with a hand written note from Reynolds!

What did it say on there?
Something along the lines of ‘no pressure, just know that we’d love to have you on the team’, then an explanation of all the different shapes. Stuff like ‘8.2, Lizard likes it… I quite like this shape because…’ Kind of like instructions for each board. When I got home that note went straight on the wall in my room!

Ollie up to backside wallride nosegrab, Catania. Ph: Sam Clark.

The first European ever to skate for Baker… Are you going to be in Baker 4?
Yeah Reynolds has asked me to film a full part. Honestly I still can’t believe it… But yeah, that’s my main focus right now.

I remember you saying he encouraged you to stay in Milan and film there rather than going to LA. American companies have come a long way ha ha…
I was actually about to book my ticket to LA when he saw this clip I’d just filmed at the train station on Insta and was like ‘actually please stay in Milan, we’d really love to have some footage of you skating the train station in the video’. At first I was a bit like, ‘Really? Again?’ but then I realised I still had quite a few things I wanted to do there and he said he’d come and visit with the whole team, which would be really cool.
Also (and I’m really not trying to talk shit on America or anything here) I understand why that makes sense for them. European skateboarding has so much flavour right now… Just the fact that you’re always travelling between countries means that your parts are full of all these different kinds of architecture that varies so much from country to country. You don’t have that as much in America. Don’t get me wrong I love going there! I just think Europe is maybe more entertaining.

I think you can say that. It doesn’t take away from all the cool stuff that’s going on over there. Like everything the Bronze dudes are doing… How did you end up linking up with them?
They were just at the train station one day so I offered to show them some spots and we instantly clicked. It’s weird becoming friends with such a tight crew so quickly… With them all being so close I didn’t really expect it to happen like that. They were all just really easy and friendly. They were in Milan once, then next thing I know I was going to visit them in NYC!

Slappy nosestall pull-over, Catania. Ph: Sam Clark.

You sound surprised ha ha… You realise why that is right? It’s because you’re the most welcoming person ever. Remember that last time I was in Milan? You were sending me pins to spots all day. You couldn’t even skate yet you still went out of your way to help us… Not very many people do that; of course you’re going to make a good impression.
I don’t know… I just want people visiting to feel at home! I’m not one to keep spots because I’m envious what they might do there or something. I love this city; I want people to enjoy it.

Okay maybe one last question to wrap this up. This whole Olympics thing is a real shit show in England at the moment. What’s going on in Italy? I’m guessing you’ve been approached about it?
They approached me but I’m against the Olympics; I don’t want to have anything to do with that.

So you’d rather see some stinking Red Bull hat dudes misrepresenting your beloved Italy than being involved yourself? What if Italy started a program with you, Bobby, Luca Crestani and a few more Italian legends? Would you still not be down?
No, ha ha. Even if I got offered a million bucks I wouldn’t go. It’s not because of what the Olympics are; it’s about what’s coming up because of the Olympics. Like people being drug tested for Marijuana for example… We’re skateboarders, we know what we’re doing and we know what we need. To have someone that doesn’t skate tell you that you can’t smoke weed because you need to compete in the Olympics is ridiculous. Fuck that, I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t do.
I’m also worried that because of the Olympics, big sports shops like Decathlon are going to start selling a lot more skate stuff, which inevitably will fuck up the real skater-owned shops. I want no part in that.
Plus I’m over travelling far for contests. If I’m going to travel to the other side of the world it’s to stay a while, film and really appreciate a place. Not just jump on a plane to spend two days in an overcrowded skatepark in hope of qualifying for the Olympics. That’s boring for me. I feel like now more than ever skateboarding is going in two different directions. You can become an athlete that goes to all the big contests and will do the Olympics, or you can keep doing it the OG way…

And spend your days grinding those lovely round ledges at the train station, drinking beers and smoking when you feel like it, chatting away about trick ideas with your friends…
Exactly. I have nothing against the Olympics or the people that choose to participate in them; it’s just not what I want skateboarding to be for me.

Ph: Joel Peck.