THRASHER Interview

‘I think the reason for the mag’s success is that it hasn’t changed its vision or voice since its inception.’

Michael Sieben
Managing Editor

July 2022

Can you tell us something about Thrasher that people do not know?
I think when people envision Thrasher, they picture some huge entity, but in reality it’s just a handful of people working behind the scenes to make things happen. It’s not some huge corporation; it’s just some skateboarding fanatics trying to make cool, fun content for people to enjoy.

You could have sued Target for copying your illustrations for their exclusive Shaun White collection in 2011. I quote: ‘So I got all of the benefit of having my imagery available at one of the largest retail outlets in the United States without having to deal with any of the financial benefits. Total win for me.’ Would act the same way today?
Actually, I couldn’t have sued Target or Shaun White. The appropriation of my aesthetic was unethical, but not technically illegal, as it wasn’t an outright copy of any of my designs. I was totally being sarcastic when I wrote that, though. I’m still pretty bummed about the whole thing, but I try my best not to dwell on the past. However, I still think it was really crummy of them to knockoff my style.

Do you feel there is sufficient designer/illustrator coverage in skate mags whether printed or online?
I think mags and online content destinations do a good job of showcasing artists and designers. But I think where we really shine is in the skateshops themselves. Pretty much everything you pick up in a shop has some sort of graphic on it. The skateshop is our gallery.


‘It’s not some huge corporation; it’s just some skateboarding fanatics trying to make cool, fun content for people to enjoy.’

How did you land a job as Managing Editor at Thrasher?
I had already been working for Thrasher as a contributing writer and illustrator for almost a decade before being hired as the Managing Editor, and I had a really good working relationship with everyone there. When the editor positioned opened, I basically just threw my name in the hat and said I was interested. Luckily, they were willing to see if the job could be done remotely from Austin, TX. That was in 2013, so I guess it worked.

What does a normal day as Managing Editor look like?
Basically touching base with all of our contributors to make sure that the text components of the mag are all accounted for and being worked on. Things are fairly mellow during a magazine cycle except for about 10 days before we go to print.

What does a crazy day look like?
Editing mountains of text, writing miscellaneous departments for the magazine, banging out captions for different features. At the end of the day, Michael Burnett and I fill in all of the gaps in the mag, so there’s usually plenty to work on as the monthly deadline creeps up.

If someone wants to become Managing Editor, what advice would you give?
Be a fan of skateboarding and skateboarding culture, practice writing, practice writing, practice writing and sit patiently because I have no plans on going anywhere anytime soon.


‘The skateshop is our gallery.’

What is the secret of Thrasher to print after all these years?
I think the secret is staying engaged and excited by skateboarding while at the same time having the historical perspective to be an authority on the subject matter. We also have the magazine seamlessly blended into the website, YouTube account and social-media channels. We’re not trying to ignore the current landscape of information dissemination.

Apparently, you can check the health of a mag by the size of its issue. For example the Sep21 issue is 242 pages thick. Has this been a good month?
Every month that we get to promote skateboarding is a good month. But Evan Smith’s cover of that issue embodies the Thrasher ethos pretty well, I think. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. But, yeah, the mags we’ve been publishing lately are pretty massive. I think we’d pass a wellness check at the doctor’s office.

I would imagine that you guys are getting flooded every month with content/pictures. How difficult is the selection process?
Mike Burnett is the Editor in Chief and the Photo Editor of the magazine, so he’s the one making the tough calls. I know it’s difficult, though, because we’re kinda the only game left in town.

Is Thrasher equally bombarded with sales as you are the only international one left or has it become a struggle too?
I’m assuming you’re referring to ad sales? I don’t have anything to do with that arena, but we often have to bump up the page count of the magazine to accommodate ads, so I have to assume they’re not in short supply.

What is it like to be the only international skate mag left that still prints?
It’s honestly kinda lonely. The Joker secretly loves having Batman around.


‘Be a fan of skateboarding and skateboarding culture, practice writing, practice writing, practice writing…’

‘…and sit patiently because I have no plans on going anywhere anytime soon.’

Will there be a revival of print, you think?
I went into a bookstore a few weeks ago and the periodicals section had hundreds of magazines, so maybe this decline of print is just a conspiracy theory spurred on by digital companies. But truthfully I think if you want to have a successful magazine these days, you also have to have a reach beyond your pages in the form of a robust digital media platform.

What are some of the challenges Thrasher faces today?
Convincing kids that reading can be a fun, worthwhile activity.

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?
In terms of skateboarding magazines, I don’t think this is anything new. Advertisers take out ads in the mag not only to promote their brands, but to hopefully get editorial content. I think Thrasher does a good job of balancing our own content with advertiser’s requests, and at the end of the day we don’t print anything that we think is wack. We also cover content any way we see fit versus taking cues from advertisers.

How difficult is to finance Thrasher but being authentic at the same time?
I think the reason for the mag’s success is that it hasn’t changed its vision or voice since its inception. I think people are drawn to the authenticity of it.

What are some type of ads Thrasher would never publish?
Probably won’t see a Berrics ad in the mag.

What were discussions like when Louis Vuitton knocked on your door with their Lucien ad last year?
I have no idea. I wasn’t a part of that conversation—if there even was one. But I’m sure it had to do with Virgil Abloh’s (RIP) role at Louis Vuitton, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anybody with something bad to say about him. I thought it was pretty cool, but I’m typically drawn to the head-scratching ads regardless of the era.

Which are some of the skate mags (printed or digital) that you like reading and why?
I peek at what other media outlets are covering so that we don’t rehash information, but, honestly, if I’m not working on Thrasher I’m probably reading a Vonnegut novel.

What other projects are you working on?
I have an Emerica capsule coming out in 2023, and I’m also working on art for a Pro-Tec helmet that I believe will be coming out next year. My buddy Mike Aho and I are planning on filming an Internet Shack/Camp Ramp ten-year anniversary episode with Volcom at some point next year as well.

It has been 4 years since you relaunched your board company Roger. When you look back, are you happy where you are today and what are your plans going forward?
I’m very happy with the current state of Roger. The team has grown organically over the past few years and there’s nothing forced or fabricated about it—it’s just a genuine group of friends who would already be skating together. And everything is funneled through No Comply, my local shop, so it’s all very close to home. As far as future plans, we have a lot of video projects currently in the works, and we’re going to be switching to a new manufacturer in the very near future. I’m using that opportunity to fine tune our art direction and incorporate more of my fine art style into the graphics as opposed to things relying upon jokes or visual puns. People often tell me how much they liked Bueno skateboards, so I’m going to channel some of that aesthetic back into Roger.

Last question. A bit pointless for someone working at Thrasher as I assume you can interview anyone you like. Anyway. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
I’d like to interview Matt Hensley at some point. He was my favorite skateboarder when I was a kid and I’m still very much a fan of his skating and old video parts.

‘The Joker secretly loves having Batman around.’