An Interview with Todd Falcon
Although skateboarding waves the "No Rules!" flag pretty fervently, I've found that most participants are actually doing exactly the opposite. There's an unwritten dress code that most skateboarders adhere to, as well as a list of acceptable tricks and companies that are considered OK to support. Like most subcultures that began as anti-establishment, if you stick around long enough eventually you will become the establishment. That being said, I've always been a fan of the true misfits within skateboarding. Somewhere near the top of that list would have to be Texas' own Todd Falcon.
VICE: I'm sure you've answered this question a thousand times before, but is Todd Falcon an homage to Tony Hawk? If so, why did you choose the bird man as your spirit animal?
Todd: Indeed! I came up with Falcon in 1985 as a name I would use if I ever went pro or needed an alias. Hawk has always been my idol for ramp, and Mullen for street.
Hawk was as amazing then as he is now, and I always looked at him as an inspiration to defy limits, so I purposefully chose the name as a tribute.
When did you turn pro? Do you think there's something less than genuine about having a pro model for your own company? Not passing judgement, just curious.
In 2003. Personally, I do not think it is less genuine, as many riders have been pro for their own companies, like Hawk, Alva, Magnusson, Hosoi, etc.
How you get there is apparently different for many pro riders. As I mentioned, I was not looking for this whole pro thing. I couldn't have cared less. I stuck to skating for myself, inventing my own tricks, and living in my own world of rules about it—but then everything blew up fast the moment my footage got out there.
The next thing I knew I was on a Birdhouse DVD, my "Falconslide" was licensed in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, magazines and newspapers were doing cover stories on me, I was invited to pro competitions, pro demos, etc. So I started doing my own skate videos. The boards came out of fan demand, and I formed a team for a couple years, toured and promoted the DVDs, boards, and everything else.
True, but each of the riders you mentioned were initially turned pro by previous sponsors and carried their models over to their own ventures. I'm not trying to bust your balls, I've just always found it interesting that the only thing you have to do to become a professional skateboarder is essentially proclaim that you're a professional skateboarder.
You raise a valid point indeed. When things began, I received calls from Birdhouse because they were blown away by my original tricks. Shortly after came the magazines, videos, DVDs, and games, as I mentioned.
I never considered myself pro at that time, but others persuaded me to release boards because I was being included in the pro circuit competitions and demos, and my name was suddenly everywhere. I had offers from companies, but I turned them down in order to create my own company, Falconskates, because I am very picky about my work and I did not want another company deciding what my board would look like. I guess that's a director thing, but I always want to create my own art that is unique and individual.
Then came the THPS games. I already had a handful of sponsors in 2003 including Tail Devil, Softrucks, Blue Water Clothing, and several local parks. I loved all the odd companies and underdogs, so I figured it would be cool to help them out.
Then came the DVD part in the Birdhouse disc and tours, so I finally just gave it a chance since I seemed to have some sort of branding already. It just seemed natural to offer the fans what they kept asking me for—it was for them more than anything. I didn't—and still don't—care whether I am considered pro or a kook... What people think about my skating doesn't bother me, because I am focused on my film career. I am glad that there are fans who appreciate my originality and it is amazing to see so many skaters doing the Falcon Stomp. Skateboarding is my art and I have my own outlook on it. I appreciate EVERY single fan that I have, and I am totally HONORED to be able to say that I have so many throughout the world.
Did you make a conscious decision to skate differently than everybody else, or was it just a natural progression of your interests on the board?
Throughout my whole life I have done EVERYTHING "differently," or as I consider "my way," because the whole point of life is to do what makes you happy. So the first week I ever stepped on a board, I was already inventing tricks that nobody else was doing because that's how I think—outside the box—constantly and with everything including skateboarding, my film career, my music, and all my art.
The first pro board I ever rode was a Caballero, it was a silver deck with a blue dragon, and while others were doing street bonelesses, I decided to do them with both feet down on the ground and jump super high, throwing my arms to the side in a "Christ" kind of pose and calling it a "Super Boneless." That was the first week of skating for me. Others had never seen that style of boneless, and they said I jumped super high. It was done in a very fast motion, the way you would do it on a ramp.
I have always loved creating my own world and living within it in my mind. I’ve never cared what anyone else thought, and I’ve stayed on that path from the very beginning.
Some of that sounds rehearsed, and I don't mean that in a rude way. It just sounds like you've had practice explaining your motives. Was there a moment in your childhood that you decided to pave your own way through life? A traumatic event or something that opened your eyes to how short life is?
Nothing opened my eyes to life as far as skateboarding; I just began doing things my own way from the start. I decided to create my own rules—it was that simple. I just did tricks that felt natural for me. My thinking has always been: What is the next level that doesn't exist yet? And that is what I want to create. I have a constant need to create.
The event that did change my life and my path eternally was not skateboarding, it was the horror film Friday the 13th. After seeing that movie, I immediately began making Super 8 horror films as a child, way before I started skateboarding. Everything I made was modeled after that film. It was—and still is—my greatest inspiration as a film director.
Did you skate street when you were younger, or has most of your skateboarding been relegated to mini ramps and flat?
Yes, I did skate a lot of street back then. In fact, it was a half-and-half balance back then. I even have a lot of old street footage in early team videos that I self-produced for fun back in the late 80s and early 90s. I skated all terrains from my early years through my young adult years. I mostly skated vert back then, and even had a couple original vert tricks such as the backside stale eggplant, backside stalefish nosepick, and grinding variations.
In the spirit of taking things to the next level, did you ever consider creating your own obstacles to skate? Danny Way has the Mega Ramp, what would Todd Falcon create?
I was always thinking about creating a surrealist skatepark. It would have the usual ramps and street course, but it would also have objects that are uncommon, such as round bathtubs, ramps leading up to lengthy tables with TV projection screens, retro furniture with skateable edges… things like that.
It would also have a few rooms with mini ramps made of Plexiglas with LED lighting and horror—carnival and clown imagery painted across the ramp surfaces. There would be LED lights shining from the eyes of the characters on the ramps, colorful lighting flashing in the room, and even a strobe challenge, because I used to skate my ramp with nothing but a strobe light flashing in the 80s.
The park would be very original, creative, and next level.
Is this something that you see becoming a reality in the future, or is it just a dreamscape?
It's something I thought of 15 years ago, but because of my film career I have never been able to pursue it. If I had investors I would create it and have someone run it!
Are you able to make a living off of your film career, or do you have a day job to pay the bills? I'm always curious how (or if) people are able to make an actual living doing what they love.
So far, yes, I have been directing horror films for 25 years, each with a successively larger budget and broader distribution.
My 2012 film, Zombiefied, was the first true slasher film/zombie film cross-over hybrid. It was signed and released worldwide last June by Celebrity Entertainment, and it has been receiving excellent reviews from major horror critics, so that will help me move on to a bigger project!
Back to your skate career. How many tricks have you invented?
That is the question that sometimes draws a negative reaction. Because I have been inventing since 1985 and kept a typed list of the tricks, I know it ends at 2,155, which is a zombie 360 varial to truck driver to Jokerflip 1/4 to primo to double flip to primo, 50-50. That was a ramp combo. (A zombie is a fakie tail stall to Falconplant.)
Not only do I have a typed list, but I have each and every trick on video and each session was dated starting from 1988 to present—the library of tapes is massive. I wanted to document each trick and the day it was landed.
Do you think that the number is balked at because it counts combinations of maneuvers as invented tricks? I'm guessing the dude who did the first nollie flip crooked grind nollie flip out probably didn't claim that he'd invented a new trick. What are your thoughts on that?
I definitely think some do not accept variations as new tricks, but even the root tricks were variations.
If you think about it, the Madonna, invented by Tony Hawk, is simply taking the front foot off the board during a lien to tail, so therefore it's a variation, but it's a counted and named trick. Similarly, the 540 is a variation of a 360, but was named a McTwist by McGill, and a 360 flip is a variation of a 360 shove, with a flip added. That logic showed me that pros would call tricks by new names when they were just variations, so I simply followed this rule of naming logic.
The difference was that the root trick I invented always starts first, with a variation following. Looking at my list, here are a few unique tricks I invented with variations.
Root Trick - Pretzel: Fakie ollie pop board upright vertically with tail resting on deck and wrap front foot over board holding board on graphic side, then release board and jump onto board down ramp)
Popsicle - Pretzel to impossible into ramp on entry
EsPlant - (Named for Tony Evjenth from Es Footwear—R.I.P. Tony) Boneless to pretzel
Root Trick - The Falconplant
Falconplant - Fakie ollie back and set front foot onto deck, catching board midway onto back foot like a seesaw, and jumping back into ramp as board drops back forward.
Stage Dive - Falconplant to 540 heelflip, catch back onto back foot and jump into ramp as board drops back forward.
Karate Kid - Falconplant with the "Karate Kid" pose (arms stretched all the way out in the "Crane" position)
Falconstomp - Running high jump into the air landing on one foot on the bottom of the board and heel-to-toe roll the board up to topside, primo, etc., all in one motion.
Hopefully that sheds some light onto the naming logic.
Do you ever feel like you've been shunned by mainstream skateboarding? Was it your dream to achieve universal acceptance in the industry, or are you OK living in your own strange niche?
I have NEVER followed the mainstream with anything I do—I make my own rules for my skating, my music, and my horror films. I actually had no desire to enter the skate industry as much as I did. Skating for me was and always will be just a creative expression of individuality.
Do you follow contemporary skateboarding at all? And do you have a favorite skateboarder of the moment?
I do not follow contemporary skateboarding. I never followed it very closely, but since I became so busy directing horror films I don’t follow it at all. However, I will say that I am pleased to see my former Falconskates team rider Ben Raybourn is now with Birdhouse. The irony!
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Todd. Before we conclude the interview, would you like to plug any of your current projects?
My company, Screamtime Films, is gearing up for a short film project, followed by my next feature called Broken, and possibly Zombiefied 2. My sister company, Galaxy Film Productions, is doing a drama film called Carly in 2013 that I will be working on with my co-owner Scott Frank. As for my main branch, Screamtime Films, I have many irons in the fire, so I am trying to figure them all out at once. Zombiefiedmovie.com is the official site for my new slasher/zombie film. The original Zombiefied is available on DVD from these and many more online retailers: Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Frys, Barnes and Noble, and more. You can also follow me on Facebook for Zombiefied, Screamtime Films, and Galaxy Film Productions.
I also belong to a group on Facebook called ANYSKATE, which is a place where original and creative skaters connect.
Previously - The Trading Tortoise