Andrew Reynolds Interview

Ph: Acosta.

‘It’s good, thanks. So much talking!’
That’s the reaction I got when I sent Andrew Reynolds this interview to look over, and I’m not exactly sure why but the ‘So much talking!’ bit made me chuckle. I think it’s maybe because I kind of expected something to that effect… The conversation you’re about to read was the first time we’d ever spoken, so by no means can I claim that I ‘know him’  but what instantly struck me was just how inherently modest he came across. To the point where you could tell he was thinking, ‘but do people really care about me enough to want to read all this?’, which, given how much of skate nerd he is himself, I found extra endearing. Like if he was in front of an interview with Kareem explaining the back story to that mid-line Trilogy pager check, you know he’d want to read it. It was also felt in the way he answered a lot of questions I asked him, especially the ones touching on the post-Stay Gold phase of his career and how he had to adapt to thinking about filming a little bit differently. There was a very down to earth ‘vulnerability’ (for lack of a better word) in the way he opened up about all that stuff, which really made me think about how much easier it would be to be a big name pro skater/role model if you were convinced that you were the shit, and that no matter what you said in interviews or what footage you put out, the skateboard community would just lap it up…
Or he was just hinting that the piece needed a tighter edit. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Interview by Arthur Derrien

Andrew: Jacopo showed me all the footage he got on the trip he went on for you guys… It’s insane! He filmed like a video part in 10 days!

Yeah he’s on one at the moment…  So stoked he’s on Baker, he’s such a good dude.
Yeah and it kind of happened naturally you know? Just from me being a fan of him.

Yeah I was actually going to ask you how that came about… I always thought it was interesting how up until him nobody from Europe had been put on.
I guess when we first started a lot of the European guys that we knew were involved with Flip Skateboards so we couldn’t really put them on… And from there… I don’t know, I’ve always tried to keep the connection between the people that get put on the team pretty natural, and I guess there just was never a person that popped up who was friends with so and so or something. That actually kind of happened through P-Stone with him… P-Stone was always speaking really highly of him and we were really tight with P-Stone. Then when P-Stone passed away, in a weird way suddenly it just made sense in my mind, like ‘he’s the one’. For Jacopo, for P-Stone and for Baker I knew it was the right thing to do. And he’s just beyond the best ever, everybody knows it. Kader only rides Jacopo boards knowing he’s the best skater. Same with Rowan, everybody…

I guess that sort of leads me into something I was going to ask later on… At the time when it started Baker was one of the few companies that had formed organically from a super tight group of friends. Obviously there’s others, like Girl for instance, but it wasn’t really that common back then. Did all of you guys being so close from the start ever actually make it harder in some ways? I can imagine it would make taking some of the tough decisions you have to take extra tough…
Yeah I mean it’s extremely hard. There’s definitely been moments when I’ve hated being in the position I’m in you know? But at the same time you want the company to last and to still be good in the future; it’s my little baby you know. It’s all of ours. And people take different paths, which might not always fit into the vision of what I want for the company sometimes… Also you do just have to give a lot of people a shot or you’ll never find good guys for the team. And it can’t always work out.
I’m at the point now where after doing it for 20 something years I almost want to say to anybody that’s getting sponsored, and not just by Baker, to just anybody getting into this thing, that you need to remember that it’s not going to last forever, and that if you want to have a 2 year career or a 15 year career: that’s up to you! Because some people don’t take it so well when that time comes and they have to figure out what comes out after skateboarding. A lot of pro skaters and people in the industry look at it like ‘everybody did me wrong’. But it’s life you know? And yeah it’s really hard to break to someone you’re close with but I’ve had to learn to speak up and explain that I wish I could have everybody pro ‘til they’re 80 years old, but skateboarding just doesn’t work like that.

Would you say the age up until which you can be a professional skateboarder is getting pushed back though? Like you’re 43, I know JB Gillet is 43 as well… Off the top of my head I can think of a lot of pros that are also in their 40s now…
Yeah because if you do the right things and get in with the right companies you can definitely be a pro skater up until at least my age; I mean Tony Hawk is 53! Actually we’ve been skating with Ron Chatman a lot recently because he’s doing some of the art for Deathwish now and it’s been so sick! He still skates so hard, is still involved in skateboarding and he still loves it. There’s lots of ways you can stay in it, it doesn’t just have to be going out filming video parts.

What about at the other end of the spectrum? Like I know you got sponsored and started going on trips quite young, and you’ve always been really good at seeing people that could fit Baker from a really young age, but do you think it’s possible to get involved in sponsored skating too early?
It depends on how you were raised and what kind of skateboarder you want to be. I see a lot of kids out here who have parents who are so wrapped up in what they are doing, that see what their kids are doing as a business, and they’re actually messing things up for them. But then you’ve got kids like the three that I sponsored from Pedlow skatepark – Zach, Kader and T-Funk – they just skate. If your goal is just to skate and one day go pro then I think you’ll be fine. Everybody saw Kader as this tiny little kid and now he’s coming up, he’s growing up, he’s getting better and better… He just loves to skate and you can’t really go wrong if that’s your deal you know? If you’re one of those young kids with parents that are trying to get you into the Olympics to make money off brands and stuff though that’s different. And I’ve experienced it, there’s been times when the parents are all on me like that, and for me at Baker that’s a sign of ‘oh no you’re at the wrong place’, you know? And I feel bad because I’ve had to turn really good skaters away because ‘no, we don’t do that here’. It’s just another type of hard decision… I feel bad but I’m protecting what we have. It’s really important for me to keep skateboarding the way it is, I want it to keep it being about having fun, you know?

And what about in terms of missing school and stuff… Like say if for example Primitive hit up your daughter Stella tomorrow saying they want to put her on, start taking her on trips, etc., what would you do?
If there was a break from school I think I’d just do what my parents did… If there was somebody there that I trusted I think I’d be okay with it and say ‘yeah go try it out!’ She’s 15, which is kind of when I started going on trips. I mean how long can you keep them sheltered for, you know? I felt that same feeling watching Kader grow up, but at the same time it was a whole different thing because he’s not my kid, and because he’d be like, ‘cool I’m getting an Uber, I’ll be there in 20 minutes.’ Like ‘What?! You’re 13 and you’re just taking Ubers all around LA?!’ but that’s what he had to do. And looking back on it, it was kind of the same thing for me. When I was 14 I was all over the place, by 15 I was flying all over the world. And I’m fine. They figure it out…
And I talk to Kader like I’m his dad you know, like we talk every day. He probably tells me things that he maybe doesn’t want to tell his mom for instance, and I’ll try to help as much as I can but at the same time I know from my own experience at that age that you’re not going to listen to what anybody says. There’s always points in life where if you get in trouble or if some bullshit happens you just have to figure it out yourself… You’ve got to accept that they need to learn from experience most of the time.

And does that go for everything? Like for me one of the best things about Baker has always been how honest and authentic the brand’s felt. The videos made you want to skate but also cherish all the moments around the skating when you’re just being silly with your mates. But then obviously some people would argue that by being that ‘honest’ they glorified certain behaviours that could be seen as self-destructive. And then obviously you’re sober now… So my question is: does the ‘learning from experience’ extend to the drinking and drugs given what you’ve been through and where you’re at now, or do you actively try to tell people to stay well away from all that shit?
I’ve had this conversation with myself many many times, especially being sober. Obviously if I see someone getting into hard drugs and it’s bad I’ll step in and say ‘yeah, that’s going to be a problem for you’, but at the same time, I can’t stop anybody from doing what they want to do. People are always telling me ‘did you see? Kader’s smoking weed!’ and all this, and I’m a bit like ‘uh what, really? He’s 18, smoked some weed and drank a beer? I don’t know what to tell you… To me that’s completely normal.’ Do I tell him on the side that it is something that can turn into something bad one day? Yeah I tell him all the time. But at the end of the day I have to look back at when I was in my early twenties, doing every drug on the planet and fucking up. I had Atiba who was sober going ‘you’re going to really lose all this if you keep this up’ and I’d just be like ‘yeah yeah’. My whole family would tell me, everybody… But it would just go in one ear and out the other until it got bad enough to where personally I had to say OKAY, I need to do something here. But I’m the only person I’ve ever listened to. Until I realised it was a problem I wouldn’t take it from anybody. And you know I go to programs for all that stuff and it’s a known fact that unless somebody is coming and asking you for help, you’re just wasting your breath.
Then about people that feel like we were glorifying it in the videos and stuff… I feel like if I’m going to make a documentary about say the Rolling Stones or something else that’s happening in the world, I’m just going to show what’s actually happening. And like imagine trying to film the Baker team without weed?! There would just be no footage. And yeah obviously that stuff can cause problems for people, but I’d rather Baker was truthful about how the world is, how kids are, how it’s funny to fuck around when you’re young and dumb rather than to try to hide it.
And all these young guys on the team, they know I’m sober, they know that if they need help they can call on me. And I’m trying to be a good example, you know. I’ll gladly help them or anybody that comes to me, but as far as trying to preach it, nah, that’s not me.

Frontside bluntslide. Ph: Acosta.

Earlier we spoke a little bit about this idea of pros progressively having longer careers, which is obviously amazing. We all want to see our heroes do it for as long as possible… But realistically nobody is going to skate in exactly the same forever, so this pursuit of longevity sometimes means slight adjustments in the way filming is approached as they get older… What was the post Stay Gold period like for you? I can imagine that if it’s been years and years of pushing the boundaries of how big you could go, coming to terms with the fact that you’re going to think about what you film a bit differently would be tough. Were you ever worried you wouldn’t know what to film? Or that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it in the same way?

Yeah… I was asking myself all those questions for sure. I’m not scared to say that my life is skateboarding and filming parts. Even more so than running a company or whatever you know, like that’s what I care about. So from being 12 up until however old I was when Stay Gold came out, I’ve been pushing it and pushing it and pushing It… That’s the only way I knew how to film. That’s the only way I knew how to get noticed: ‘today I’m going to outdo myself and do the biggest, craziest thing’. I looked at Jeremy Wray or Jamie Thomas or Tom or Geoff Rowley like, ‘I want to do that and if I come around them I want RESPECT’ haha. You know what I mean?’ So after that yeah I had to come to terms with that kind of being over with, and to be honest with myself: ‘physically, am I going to be able to do tricks off Hollywood 16 or Davis? And the answer is no. So then comes the question, ‘well what am I going to film then?’ And you hear all these people that are your fans or your friends saying ‘people just want to see you skate’ but it’s hard to hear that personally because you’re like ‘yeah, but people want to see me do really good stuff, not just ‘’skate’’’. But then when you flip it around it’s like do I personally want to see Mike Carroll put out a bunch of ledge lines? Yes, of course I do! So I had to learn to trust that. What’s challenging for me at 43 is just not the same as what was challenging for me at 30, just like how a later Neil Young album is going to be very different from his early stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worse or better. I really have to look at it as an art form and remember that even the little things – like for example the way my arm moved in a certain clip – might resonate with certain people that like to see me do what I do. And it’s only once I was able to trust that that was true that I was able to be like fuck it, I’m just going to go out and film. And some of the things I’ve been doing have been taking me a lot of time to get them the way I want, but then I see the footage I have for the little part that I’m working on right now and I’m completely happy with it you know, I love it! And you know what, also I know that if I had to I could probably go and fakie flip a 12-stair right now if I had to! Although I’d probably have to chill after haha, that would be pushing it. But then also what’s good is that now nobody cares about all that anymore! It’s the perfect timing for me haha. Everyone just wants to film long lens, look cool, have the homies in the background… So I’m like ‘oh, alright, well that’s what I’m doing anyway!’ haha. The big hammers craze it’s – I mean some people are still doing it – but it’s a lot less like ‘you have to do it’ than it used to be.
Me and Ellington always joke about how different what’s expected from a person filming now to what was expected when we were in our 20s. Like yeah sure, we can wallie off some shit haha, no problem! But obviously I still do really try to challenge myself when I’m filming, and it may not even look like it sometimes because I’m doing different stuff but I still have to go back three or four times to get clips sometimes, and I really think about how it’s all going to come together.
So yeah anyway it took me a while, but right now I’m stoked… Like I filmed a couple parts between then and now that I wasn’t crazy about and spent a lot of time thinking ‘but what’s the point of filming that trick when I’ve done that better somewhere else, why would I even bother?’ Luckily I eventually managed to let it all go and accept that ‘you know what? It might look sick!’.
I was really hyped on that part AVE put out recently, the one that was only like two minutes long… Like that’s another thing that helped me come to terms with not doing all those huge gaps and all that. My competitive side was like okay, well let’s talk about who’s doing what in their 40s! That was a good way for me to get fired up… Fuck what everyone else is doing, what’s AVE doing? Then you have something to work towards, and I’ve always needed to have that.

I mean the fact that you have dudes like Carroll or Heath who were some of the absolute best ever and that now you just will not see skate now is a probably good indicator of just how hard it must have been for you.
Yeah I mean Heath actually came down to my house recently and I was like ‘we should go skate man!’ and he was just like ‘Nah I’m good’.

Haha, yeah. Like ‘uh… What?!’
And then coming back to what we were talking about before, you know what’s a big thing now that I’d never been the best at? Finding spots. But recently I’ve been lurking certain neighbourhoods and I have found a lot of good stuff that I’ve gone to film on. Like it’s really fun and I’m down to do it but it’s hard and it takes a lot of time which I don’t always have… There’s certain people who are really good at that and that’s such an advantage. In the old videos everyone skated the same spots like ‘I’m gunna go to Carlsbad’ or this or that rail or whatever, but these days that’s looked at as kind of lame. And that’s a whole new thing I have to think about alongside everything else that we just talked about…
I’m still such a skate fan and such a dork about every little detail about skateboarding… Like deep down I still feel like a little kid trying to fit in. Anything I see I want to do. When I moved to California I noticed that what was done was to go to a certain spot so and so was skating, so I’d just go there and do that. Now that that’s faded away I’m like ‘yeah let’s go look for spots’! I watch a lot of little kid homie videos and hit them up like, ‘where’s that? Or where’s that?’ I’m completely into it now. I don’t want my parts to look like some washed up video part from 2005, I want it to look sick you know. And it’s down to the filming, the spots, the tricks, everything… I’ll see footage of like Chris Athans or whoever, and draw inspiration from them and think ‘I want to do something like that’ but then it always comes out in my own way. I’m always trying to come up with ideas that will help filming parts feel fresh to me. If you saw a part right now, that was just people doing tricks on all the famous spots, super HD… It would just feel so generic and boring. It’s done.

Yeah I mean more than ever it’s about the full package; which is great because now people can’t ignore how important the filmer’s role is in all this.
Yeah and you can always see when the skater and the filmer have an awesome relationship… Like take Bill and Tyshawn in “Blessed”, what they had and what they were both willing to do: that’s why you get that result. There’s that on many scales though… Like Rowan and his friend Fletch that he films with! That’s it he only films with Fletch, they go surfing together, they’re always looking for spots and fixing them together… And it’s because of that relationship and them being such good friends that they get so much good shit.

Do you think Stella getting a bit older also in a way also shaped this new phase of your skating? As in suddenly you had a bit more time to just be out cruising with your friends rather than having to make every session count because you were needed at home so much.
When my daughter was born I had a nanny that would help me with taking care of her, so when I was out I was paying money… So a part of me was always a bit like ‘do I really want to be out here just bullshiting around or do I want to get my shit and go home?’ And yeah it had been like that for years… And yeah what’s really cool about the way I’m trying to film and skate and my lifestyle right now is that my daughter’s at an age where she kind of wants her space… Like she’s happy to just be in her room chilling, sometimes I feel like I don’t even see her! So it’s perfect because I just want to go out and roam around with my friends. I can see her becoming more and more independent, and you know… Like the biggest part of the job is from when they are born up until now. In three or four more years she might not even be living here anymore, which is crazy to think about… Like that I won’t be going around dropping her off at school and stuff, I’ll just be going around skating with my friends all the time again. I feel like we’re still a long way away from that happening though haha.

Do you still skate with Stella a lot?
She kind of took a little break from it for a bit. Like she broke her wrist real bad in a bowl and then got knocked out skating one time, so after those couple of things she was like ‘I’m going to chill…’ But then she recently went to a skate camp with her friend and came back more sparked up on skating than ever. It’s funny though because when she went I kept saying ‘hey you haven’t skated in a while so don’t think you’re just going to lipslide a 10-foot bowl or something!’

What was it like for you to start seeing her getting really into it? I know you mentioned the skate coach style of parenting earlier and I can’t really imagine you ever being like that, but have you ever had to check yourself like ‘oh shit am I being pushy here?’ Like from getting too excited about her learning a new trick or something?
No I don’t think so, just because that’s not really in my nature. But when she was younger and learning a lot of tricks I was definitely a very patient type of dad… Like if she’d want to go to the skatepark I’d put all my stuff aside and so that. If she wants me to film with the phone to try to learn an axle stall on a two foot quarter for I’ll definitely be there at the bottom for two hours like ‘yeah, do it, you’ve got this!’. That’s just what you do as parents. But beyond that I’m not going to force her to do anything, if she likes it she likes it, if she doesn’t whatever, that’s cool too. I just like that she’s probably going to be able to jump on a board and smith grind a quarterpipe her entire life. Plus you kind of realise how it will have an effect on everything in her life… Like she went to a new school and was like ‘I just have to go where the skater people are’ and I’m a bit like yeah, it is just easier when you’re young to have that to connect around, you have stuff to talk about… But also I’m sure later on in life when it comes to jobs or whatever it’s probably going to be the same haha. Sometimes when you end up somewhere new and there’s skaters you just feel like ‘well I guess those are the people’.
The other thing about watching Stella learn how to skate was seeing how it was for her to be almost always completely surrounded by boys. And seeing how little support her and her friends would get going to contests and all that sort of thing… It’s definitely one of the things that helped me decide that Elissa was getting on Baker. Like I speak to the parents of some of the girls she hangs out with that are going to the olympics and nobody is paying for them to go out there… And then you look at everything Elissa has done… I want her to have a board on Baker for life.

Did you watch the Olympics at all? Do you think anything positive will come from skateboarding being in there?
I was recently eating in a restaurant and they had it on so I watched it a bit and I was just like ‘damn, these people don’t fall?! Come on, how?!’
I mean I don’t know… Sometimes when I see four TV commercials in a row with skateboarding in them I can’t help but wonder, is this going too fast? I can’t help but feel like with this rise there has to be some kind of fall. You know what I mean? You know in the 80s when suddenly it was dead, sometimes I’m a bit like ‘are we just doing this to ourselves right now?’
But then also competition is competition, whether it’s Street League or the Olympics or whatever, it’s all the same. They’re going there for the same reason… And I grew up skating contests so I can relate to that feeling.
Is it helping? I don’t know… If you think of Baker as like the equivalent punk music or something, with some people being like ‘uh it’s not real music, it’s annoying’ and then the Olympics are just be like top 40. They’re just two completely different things. And think of how much sicker that side existing makes someone like Sean Greene for example? Just by them existing it probably made so many companies want to use their platform to differentiate themselves from all that. I think it’s necessary.

So this piece should be coming out around the same time as your little Vans colourway pack, and I’ve only seen the Half-Cab but it looks banging, which sort of had me wondering: with brands having used your name to sell skateboard products for so many years now, have you ever had shit come out where you’ve been like ‘Come ooooon… Seriously?!’ or have you always managed to keep a very close eye on that stuff?
I mean half the time it’s probably Baker stuff to tell you the truth haha. Sometimes I look back at some of our early graphics and I’m like, ‘what were we thinking?! Haha. That’s my fault though. But to be honest I can’t even say because all of that stuff changes so quickly, like shoes were huge back then and are so insane to look at now that I have to tell myself yeah ‘I guess that was cool at the time, you know?’ But there’s not really anything that I’m super embarrassed about or anything, I’ve always been with really cool companies that have allowed me to sign off on stuff. And I usually just agree to stuff because I want to be nice and not tell the person no…

We always thought it was funny that you essentially poached Riley Hawk from Birdhouse, how did that one come about?
Okay I’ll do my best to do the quick version but it starts with me meeting Willy Santos when I was 14, we were on G&S together. Willy was going to go and do Birdhouse with Tony Hawk and as they needed some ams, so one day Tony called my house. I remember my mum going ‘it’s Tony Hawk on the phone!’ I think it was actually quite a quick call, like ‘yeah I’ll go with Willy, that sounds great’ and then I think I sort of just went back to skating my mini-ramp. Then after years of skating for Birdhouse, there came a point where I had a conversation with Tony about how I want to start a company with this group of guys… And I was VERY passionate about our idea. It was like ‘we’re going to do this no matter what…’ Not in a lame way but yeah ‘we’re doing it whether you can help us or not… Would you be down to help us?’ And he completely was like ‘yeah, of course, anything you want, that’s what I did.’
It really taught me a lot seeing how he dealt with that. Him leaving Powell to start Birdhouse and then me years later leaving Birdhouse to do my own thing: that’s great. That’s how I have to look at it if one of my guys ever wants to leave to start something: that’s good. This is what you should be doing. So for years Baker was distributed under his distribution company, Blitz. And then we grew and grew until it got to the point we decided to start our own distribution. Alongside all this Riley was getting really good at skating and starting to hang out with Slash, Nuge, Rowan and all those guys… And I kind of heard that as a young skater he maybe didn’t always feel the best just riding under what his dad was doing. So me and Bryan Herman went up to Tony at this skate event and just asked him, like ‘hey I don’t reeaally know how to put this but uh, how would you feel about Riley being a part of Baker so he could kind of go out on his own and we could support him, put out parts of him… And he was super into it! He just said that we had to check with Riley, who ended up being super down to do it.
Now the next part of all this is that years later Blitz distribution died and so Birdhouse was being done just out of a little warehouse somewhere, super lowkey and since I know Tony has a million things going I mentioned to him like ‘hey we should to distribute Birdhouse out of Baker Boys it would be sick!’ He sort of said ‘nah now’s not the time’, then I think I asked again a year later and got the same sort of answer, but then third time when I was telling him how much our distribution had grown and that he could easily do it he was like ‘yeah now’s the time, I don’t want to be dealing with it anymore’. And I always trip out: like we sell the Tony Hawk boards! haha. It’s like a joke, if you need Tony Hawk products, you have to come to me! Looking back on everything I’m always like ‘how did it come to this?!’ You know? And the final part is that Stella has to one day go pro for Birdhouse! Then it’ll be complete.

I love that. Maybe this is a good one to end this on… Wholesome.
Yeah… I honestly can’t believe how it’s all come together. Like he’s helped me out so much throughout my whole life. And I know that we just sell his boards through our distribution and that it’s not that big of a deal, but the fact that I can help him in any way is such a big deal for me. He gave me everything. Taught me so much about how to do this. People don’t know that when Birdhouse started there was no money, he was constantly struggling, barely getting by, touring for months in a beat up van. I just have this image of him knee sliding at a demo on a clear vert ramp with two tweaked ankles, and you can see on his face he’s like ‘argggh every time’ but then he’s just killing it, day after day after day, and never ever complaining. He’s awesome; just a raw super talented skateboarder that loves inventing tricks and doing stuff nobody else can do.

Okay, absolute very last question: if you could just watch one part before going skating next time, what would you put on?
Uh, right now probably Nik Stain from Johnny Wilson’s new video. I love that he just goes fast and has a really recognisable style. Or some GX dudes actually, but then again I’d maybe feel a little bit stupid putting that on and then going to warm up at the skatepark haha. Or just any Grant Taylor part… But to be honest what I usually do is just catch up on whatever’s just come out in the morning, then go skating. When’s this Jacopo thing coming out?

On the 23rd of September! So this Thursday 🙂