‘It’s my love letter to skateboarding, so I want it to be the best quality physically and emotionally.’
Photos by Jaime Owens
You are a skater, photographer, editor in chief, videographer and now founder and owner of a brand-new skatemag. What do you like doing best if you had to pick one?
I like being a skater the best. It’s what came before all the other stuff, so I would definitely choose that over the others if I had to.
You worked for both Skateboarder and TransWorld as Editor-In-Chief. If you can bring back one of the two mags you worked for, which one would it be and why?
Ah, that’s tough. That’s like choosing which one of your children you love more. So, in this fantasy scenario I’m bringing them both back to print and helping out with both!
Do you ever regret leaving your job at Jackass to work for the Skateboarder?
I have definitely thought about that through the years and wondered what my life would have been like if I had stuck it out with Jackass. I came to realize that I made the right choice for my life. My life was dedicated to skateboarding and that’s the sole reason I moved to California. And after 20-plus years in the skate industry, I’ve been able to leave some kind of mark there or at least contributed to the skate culture in a way that will always be part of the timeline of skate history. I’m very proud of that.
If I had stayed at Jackass, which would have been insanely fun, I’m not sure how I would have advanced from there. Would I have moved on to work in other areas of the TV/Movie industry in between the movies? I don’t know. But I do know that I would not have played any part in the history of skateboarding and that makes me feel like I made the right decision.
In the Nine Club you mentioned that you are a Southern Boy and want to be nice all the time. However, I am sure you had to make some tough calls as Editor in Chiefs where people got upset. What was your biggest call you had to make in this regard?
Both of the mags went through major budget cuts and downsizing when I was there and I had to be the one to lay off staff photographers and filmers who were my friends and that felt awful. That was always the worst part.
GrindMedia who owned SkateBoarder acquired the TransWorld Skateboarding publication in 2013. A few months later Skateboarder closed its doors. How difficult was it to transition from SkateBoarder to TransWorld?
Skateboarder was always running on borrowed time, especially the last few years of its existence. It felt like the bottom could fall out at any moment, but our company was an action sports group of magazines and couldn’t afford to be the “leader” in that realm and not have a skateboard magazine, so that always helped us with sticking around a bit longer. But when the transaction happened to buy the TransWorld titles, it instantly felt like things would change drastically. There was overlap with skate, surf, and snow mags and it was obvious you’re not going to keep doubles and triples of the same type of titles under the company umbrella. Still, I thought we might have a chance to stick around. I was wrong and it wasn’t a surprise at all. I was very sad for sure. But the silver lining at that moment was TransWorld was looking to fill a vacant Editor-In-Chief position and I felt like I had a great chance to just slide over to that role with my experience and with the company ownership connection. I was very fortunate to have that timing line up like that and quickly transitioned over to TransWorld. It was such a quick move that I didn’t have time to really think about any awkwardness with heading up a new crew. Everyone was awesome over there and made it easy to fit in.
The biggest drawback to all of this was with Skateboarder at the time, we were doing the whole digital first thing with the digital magazines every two months and really leaning into that whole concept. Then boom, that’s over and I jump right into making monthly print magazines like the old days and that was crazy to go back into that kind of production schedule.
‘I also really like Solo and Same Old from Europe. Those two mags are influences on Closer for sure.’
When you worked for skatemag, what was your view on ads that had nothing to do with skateboarding?
In the beginning, I didn’t care at all. I was just stoked to work at Skateboarder. Looking back at some of those issues recently, it’s wild to see Irish Spring Soap ads in there and stuff like that. Wild for sure, but you knew those kind of ads were always high dollar ones that help keep the brand afloat and made it easier for core skate brands to get a lower rate to advertise.
How do you handle this with Closer?
With Closer just starting and being small, I can obviously be very selective about who I want to advertise right now, and I like that. I want to keep the advertising to a minimum anyways. With the mag only coming our four times a year and around 100 or so pages (that will grow in time) I want to have as much room as possible for editorial. It’s totally based on the success of The Surfer’s Journal magazine and how they run their business.
When you look at printed publications in general, it looks like that advertisers become more involved in the editorial aspect. What is your take on this?
With Closer, I definitely want to get away from that. This goes back to The Surfer’s Journal model. It’s to steer away from that advertorial style content and to work with brands that believe in your vision and support what you’re doing no matter if they have content in the magazine or not. If you’re working with rad brands, then the editorial will come naturally in time. I don’t want to be in the situation of “I’ll give you this, if you give me that.” It should be all about the audience/ subscribers. I want to make great content for them and gain their trust and support knowing they are not constantly being sold something, which I hope will lead to brands supporting that. And I already have brands that believe in this project from the beginning, and they didn’t ask for anything extra. They said, “We believe in this, and we want to support it. Whatever you need.” That goes a long way for me, and I’ll always hold that support and trust from them dear to my heart.
‘That’s the foundation of any skate mag; rad photos.’
How do you start a skatemag from scratch?
A shit ton of phone calls and emails. More than I’ve ever made in my lifetime in a six month period. Ha. For real though, it was a giant eye-opener to have to start from scratch. I knew instantly that I had to build a photo library first. That’s the foundation of any skate mag; rad photos. And you build from there. So, I called every photographer I’ve ever worked with over the past 20 years and said, “Please send me any photos you can spare that haven’t been published anywhere. I don’t care if you’ve posted them to Instagram. If they are rad, then I want to print them.” That took a while for the photos to start coming in. Then after getting lots of photos is when you can look at what you have to see what kind of features you can build around them.
How is Closer different to other remaining print skatemags? You call it a Premium mag so I am wondering what that means.
The premium line is in regards to the paper; really nice quality paper. I want the magazine to physically feel better than anything I’ve made before, while I also want the content to have a genuine feeling to it as well. It’s my love letter to skateboarding, so I want it to be the best quality physically and emotionally.
You are starting off quarterly, surely the ultimate goal is to publish Closer monthly to live up to the Skateboarder legacy. However, in The Nine Club you stated that you will never do monthly mags again. What if both the readers and advertisers request it?
Going monthly will never be the goal. (laughing) Making monthly magazines is an infinite loop of always being on deadline and just trying to get the next issue out the door. You don’t have time to think. You don’t have time to breathe and really think about rad ideas. I think the readers will appreciate the timing of the magazine coming out only a few times a year and keeping that feeling of excitement there. I would say the goal to grow would be into the video realm. It would be cool to make Closer a video outlet with high quality documentaries and skate edits that are well done and only come out periodically.
‘The biggest drawback to all of this was with Skateboarder at the time, we were doing the whole digital first thing with the digital magazines’
How did you keep yourself busy between TransWorld and Closer?
I took a long breather. As much as I was sad about getting let go from TransWorld, I was also excited about just taking a break and doing some soul searching about what I wanted to do next. I was on some sort of monthly, bi- monthly, weekly web, deadline for 20 years and that’s draining. I just wanted to decompress and refocus. And once I realized that I wanted to start my own magazine, I just started making those phone calls and sending those emails. I also skated every day. That was amazing to really focus back in on skating hard and pushing my limits to see how far I could go at 47 years old.
Which are some of the skatemags (printed or digital) that you like reading and why?
I like Sam Muller’s new magazine 2001. It’s awesome to see him start up his own thing to help fill the void that was here in the U.S. skate magazine market. I also really like Solo and Same Old from Europe. Those two mags are influences on Closer for sure. Mess Mag is awesome and Backside!
Last question. I am sure you can interview anyone you like but if you could pick one person right now, who would it be and why?
Neil Blender because he is incredibly important to skateboarding and why we are who we are. He’s also incredibly elusive with interviews…except he was in the Tony Hawk documentary which was awesome!
‘A shit ton of phone calls and emails. More than I’ve ever made in my lifetime in a six month period.’