It’s good to see that SK8FACE is happening — this is one of those documentaries I’ve been hearing about but assumed would never actually happen, because I saw the original trailer in summer 2008. It takes a minute before I give up on something, but I’ve officially called off the search on the Bunker 77 documentary about Bunker Spreckels’ life. This project however, charting the history of the skateboard graphic, is ripe for some good use of animation (The Man Who Souled the World did a damn good job with the World Industries aesthetic) and the Kickstarter that director Matt Bass launched the other week will turn 400+ hours of footage into a real contender. Having spent a few hours lately reacquainting myself with Sean Cliver’s books and this — which I still think is one of the most impressive home collections of anything, ever — I was pondering the lack of films on the topic. The video above indicates that Bass has managed to pin down the main offenders: Templeton, Phillips, Gonz, Mountain, Blender, Rocco, Cliver, Gessner, Schmitt, Lucero, Humpston, McKee, Kaupas, Campbell and several more.
Can I just apologise for the lack of word count in this year’s posts? I’m working on a book and an exhibition, plus a few other things and my lack of stubbornness in not chucking up the same stuff I keep seeing elsewhere means I’d sooner say less than up some shitty lookbook, or the pitch somebody sent me for a wooden bow tie. Actually, I should’ve posted something about that bow tie. After that I’m scheming to do something a little more substantial online so I’m looking to put together a team of UK-based writer/camera folks who are as nerdy as me and obsessed with similar crap to make something interesting. But I’ll talk more about that at a later date.
Salutes to bobgnarlybd for uploading this episode of FUEL’s Skate Maps show from 2003 (co-produced by Eli Gessner) that follows the Zoo York team on tour. RIP Harold Hunter.
Is it finally time to officially mourn Zoo York’s demise? Being taken over by a brand called Iconix who dismantle an established skate program to put loyal ZY riders like Zered Bassett and Eli Reed out in the cold is a low blow that indicates that the brand’s finally teetered over the edge its been wobbling on for just under a decade. Having been in business for over 19 years, it’s a real shame too. If you’re wondering why a situation involving a brand that frequently makes TK Maxx appearances irks me so much, is because of the history. I can still remember spending an afternoon on a J.R. Hartley style phone-around to every skate shop that advertised in ‘Sidewalk Surfer’ in the hunt for the black Zoo York hoody with the white letters — for those old enough to remember, there was once a point when that seemed as hardbody as a Supreme shirt. Post-Millennium, it all seemed to take a gradual slide.
The Zoo York story actually pre-dates 1993 by a couple of decades. While there’s no official tie between the two entities, the Zoo York Soul Artists, led by ALI, who founded the collective did give permission for Zoo York to use the name. It’s frequently forgotten that Zoo York Soul Artists (RIP Andy Kessler) helped spawn the Zoo York Recordz label, that released several records between 1981 and 1983, with ALI performing on ‘Shoot the Pump’ under the J Walter Negro name. You can read more about that label in this 2005 blog entry. I know a few graff nerds out there too — so can anybody confirm that the top picture (taken from Norman Mailer and Jon Naar’s ‘The Faith of Graffiti’ is the fabled Zoo York wall? (Edit: Mr Sofarok forwarded me this link.)
This Karmaloop video on the 1993 Zoo York mastermind Eli Gessner, explains how he was affiliated with the original squad, but after SHUT’s closure, Rodney Smith spoke to ALI, leading to Eli and Rodney setting up Zoo York 2.0. Having built it on the back of Eli’s work with an early Phat Farm, those shirts appearing in 1995’s ‘Kids’ during the park scene (lettering and a subway design), with Justin Pierce (RIP), Javier Núñez, Jeff Pang and other Zoo Yorkers making up the film’s cast. It was a decent piece of global marketing — especially on the back of the movie’s controversial nature.
1997’s ‘Mixtape’ video (salutes to scottieb1 for upping it on YouTube) reinforced the power of the team and the brand — that authentically NYC mix of street skate (with shades of classic 411) and gutter hip-hop, with Harold Hunter (RIP), Roc Raida (RIP), Anthony Correa and Peter Bici making memorable appearances. 1999’s ‘Peep This’ and ‘Heads’, 2001’s E.S.T. 2.0 and 2002’s ‘Unbreakable: Mixtape 2’ (Akira Mowatt is currently doing his thing with the After Midnight brand now) were all a strong visual reinforcement of the Zoo York sensibility.
The whole post 9/11 ‘Unbreakable’ campaign was one of Zoo York’s finest moments and when eckō acquired the brand in 2001,externally, Zoo York seemed to operate as it always did (though Mr Dave Ortiz did once mention to me, that the tiny inner bird print during the early days with eckō was a joke about how a little bird might rest on a big rhino) — the Nike Dunk SB from 2002 was part of that carefully curated approach to entering the skate arena with credible partners. Greg Lucci and Sal Barbier were a smart addition to the brand to maintain some energy and creativity. In 2003, Zoo York were tapped up to make some non-SB Nike Blazer colourways too. Pharrell wearing the brand before every rapper dressed like an explosion in the Karmaloop warehouse was no bad thing and Bad Brains in some magazine ads was a good look, but the 2004 use of Ashton Kutcher as Zoo York’s frontman was a truly strange moment. 2006’s team up with Lady Sovereign was just as baffling. But having the homie Grotesk as art director ensured their visual direction was on point.
But then having Skechers producing Zoo York footwear? Uh-oh. Zoo York’s tumble into a sub Route One world of big store basements and slashed prices was conferred when it was singled out in the equally mediocre HBO show ‘How to Make it in America’ as an example of a brand losing its edge (some kind of revenge by Zoo York OG Eli Gessner who was a creative consultant on the show?). Which leads us to Zoo York 2012 — I like Kate Upton as much as the next man, but it felt like an M&Ms commercial with bonus boobs.
I’m no stranger to the difficulties of losing your edge when the cold, hard truths regarding cashflow come in and I’m fully aware that explaining cultural cache, credibility and limited editions to a suit is like trying to discuss Sartre with a rampaging bear, but to lose all your ties to the early 2000s in such a calculated way is a kiss of death in the long run. Still, there’s plenty more companies to pick up the team riders you’ve discarded like a McDonald’s bag. Salutes to the real New Yorkers like SHUT, UXA, 5Boro and Supreme.
I can’t work out Jay Electronica at all. The track with Mobb Deep was heralded on Twitter as the second coming of pretty much everything and turned out utterly unremarkable and I have a feeling that many will die of old age waiting for that album to release, but Jay seems to have made some of the most bizarre career choices of any rapper ever — that suited role in the near decade old Benzino video that leaked earlier this year, where he babbled about Satan and Eminem, despite working with Denaun Porter later on in his career pales next to his Daily Mail appearance — the culmination of his friendship with Zac Goldsmith is that he’d been boning his brother Ben’s wife, Kate Rothschild. Illuminati theorists everywhere must have damn near erupted. Was Jay on some strange mission to break up powerful unions from the inside, or did he just want to sow his oats? I’m thinking it’s the latter, but I want to believe the former. What next? Currensy becomes part of the Mittal family?
‘Black Moon’ doesn’t involve drivebys on skateboards or anyone hitting their head on the concrete to beat defeat. It’s Louis Malle’s once-maligned, 100 minutes of glorious confusion, originally released in 1975. If you can kick back, spark one up and go with the flow, there’s something in here about nature, sexuality and, um, talking unicorns. I’ve never really read into this film any more than I’ve attempted to decipher Jodorowsky’s very best, but to have this weird contemporary fairy tale in Blu-ray format via Criterion in a couple of months is a winner.
As has been noted before, where, say, ‘The Holy Mountain’ feels like a director’s shamanistic mindset translated onto celluloid with an earnestness that pays dividends and makes the escalating madness so compelling, Malle doesn’t seem quite so strange and there’s a sense that he woke up one morning and decided to do a surreal film. That contrived senselessness and 1970s look actually makes me admire it a little more.
The original poster is one of my favourites, with that block lettering and bird/moon interface, but kudos to the Criterion designer who took on the challenge of not recycling the existing imagery with a Rorschach/face/unicorn hybrid and a particularly elegant font. ‘Black Moon’ isn’t the easiest film to summarize visually, but as ever this imprint comes correct.
Shit. That wasn’t much of a word count, was it?
Time for some barely connected discourse.
Seeing as any mention of Black Moon evokes some NYC spirit of a frequently referenced era, with all this Mobb hype I’ve been desperately hunting 2006’s Supreme Mitchell & Ness ‘Hennessey’ baseball jersey — a definite one that got away — that was part of that collection that included the long-sleeve shirts . I thought the Prodigy book might explain a little more about the ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’ but apparently P may have been too cracked out during the video shoot to shed too much light on them. Why were Hav and P’s tees lacking an ‘N’? Could they only accommodate ‘HENNESY’ or was there more to it? Gotta love the ‘QUEENS BRIDGE 95’ on the back. P knew they were important – hence their inclusion on the legendary 2008 ‘TRENDS PRODIGY HAS SET SINCE 1992 AND STILL IS SETTING IN 2008 AND BEYOND’ list, “#6 CUSTOM MADE FOOTBALL JERSEYS WIT HENNESSYand E&J ON EM“
After his Supreme shoot (the real Skateboard P?), Prodigy has been getting his streetwear on via a Mishka interview and shoot, but 40oz VAN NYC got involved a couple of months ago, with a shirt inspired by the legendary ‘HENNESY’ efforts too. They repaired that spelling as well, and managed to get a shot of the Mobb in the shirts too. That’s good going. Now they’re putting out some H.N.I.C. ones too. Somebody still needs to reinstate the typo.* But as Mr. Ben Rayner recently pointed out, who’s fucking with Project Pat’s ‘Tennessy’ tattoo in that classic font?
*Shouts to Alex for alerting me to this Hennessey mesh jersey sighting. I also recall an anecdote from someone (a skater?) about obtaining the actual one from the video.
On a New York subject, Mr. Charlie Morgan put me onto the Smart Crew’s blog and their ‘NYC A-Z Series’ highlighting some acts of lesser-known gulliness.The Canal Street instalment touches on topics raised in T.J. English’s ‘Born To Kill’ — a worthy supplement to the awesome ‘The Westies’ by the same author.
Aaron Bondaroff linked to a YouTube upload of ‘Apple Juice’ — a 1990 skate documentary made by the crew from New York’s Skate NYC store. You owe it to yourself to visit the awesome NY Skateboarding site’s blog and read the piece about the store there. While you’re there, read the previous entries too. Skate NYC’s roster included Harold Hunter and Jeff Pang, and the images that accompany the blog entry are crazy — the hangtag that accompanied Harold’s own t-shirt is especially amazing, and the below video they’ve unearthed is amazing too. And what’s the current status of the ‘SK8FACE’ documentary?
It was NYC’s skate culture 8 years before this kind of proto-hype lunacy:
When I was a child, I had a plethora of crappy sweatshirts bearing fictional baseball leagues and rally-related imagery. They were hastily cobbled together and I was once quizzed by a kindly doctor as to whether I did actually play baseball, which made me embarrassed and caused me to spin an outlandish lie which I’m sure he saw right through, but opted to play along regardless. That fills me with an odd feeling of embarrassment and nostalgia — the same nostalgia that led me to pick up this dumb but awesome RRL sweatshirt from the American Graffiti collection.
I think there’s some 1930s and 1950s influence in the collection, but beyond the references to some Bonneville Salt Flat hot rod legends, it just reminds me of that goofy sweatshirt. Like Garbstore’s 1950s-themed Mechanic Sweat, this design’s saddle sleeved assembly gives it some extra personality — the detailing on the underarm is even more severe than the British interpretation of vehicle-themed fleece cotton and the mix of marl colours is a winner. It also looks like some pyjamas I had when I was a toddler. Again, I believe that’s a strong selling point when it comes to sweatshirt purchase.
On that note, I recently saw someone selling Polo Western Wear jeans from 1979 on eBay with excitable talk of it being a proto-RRL. Wasn’t that the ill-fated Ralph Lauren GAP hookup that bricked even harder than RRL did in 1993?
You can’t win. You wait until the weather gets extreme enough to wear the outerwear you’ve been stashing and the country’s weedy infrastructure stops you from leaving the house. Of course, it’s fun to toddle around the house in a Doublegoose bomber jacket, but seeing as there’s only about 48 hours in the UK when you can wear such a garment, it would be nice to be able to take a trip to the office in the ludicrous coats I’ve stockpiled.
Sickness is keeping me bedridden today, so the length of the traditional Sunday blog entry has been severely compromised. There’s a certain joy in knowing that while you’re static, you’ve missed out on nothing, as friends and family have been unable to do a damned thing because of a relatively small mass of frozen water. When I’m laid up with a fairly innocuous level of illness I tend to become severely retrospective. Fuck my feeble “sniffle”—when you start getting nostalgic, the trouble begins.
It’s even more curious when you find yourself getting all wistful for incredibly technical, progressive apparel. Its been fun in 2010, working on some Arc’teryx-related projects. It’s one of my favourite brands (and this site can occasionally lapse into a fansite for their products) so it often seeps in here. Circa. 2000, it was some outlandishly priced and aspirational product that my crappy call centre job couldn’t fund. From the Alpha pieces to the LEAF line – whose Armour Compatible Layering system and hefty Echo packs in various camo patterns are the type of thing that makes me want to make idiotic purchases if I had the necessary credentials—to the mighty Veilance collection, its maintained my interest over the last ten years.
If taped hardshells aren’t your thing this week, you need to go down and ‘2nd Magazine’s ‘Down Jacket Catalog’ is the best source for alarmingly comprehensive images of goose feather filled nylon. That publication’s available from Superdenim right now. It might be the done thing to cite something a little more cerebral or offbeat, but I’m not going to pretend that the first ten minutes of ‘An American Werewolf in London’ with those overdressed yanks visiting the Slaughtered Lamb was the thing that really sold the goose down to me. Though George Costanza’s GORE-TEX supersize version, as bargain brokered by Frank Costanza is always worthy of note.