If you know even the vaguest thing about skateboarding, you’ll know who Chad Muska is. Over the past decade he’s been one of the biggest names in skating, produced music for people like KRS-One, Raekwon, U-God and Biz Markie, created a bunch of gallery-exhibited art and featured on a series of video games you probably learned all the cheats for.
I caught up with Chad recently before a Supra demo at Frontside Gardens – a skate park in Hackney built out of material from a demolished local warehouse – to talk about art, skateboarding and the joys of Tibetan meditation.
VICE: Hey Chad. So, first off, tell me about the obstacle you've built at Frontside Gardens.
Chad Muska: Yeah, it's right in the middle here. I like the whole project that's happening here right now – using reclaimed materials to make this place. The idea was brought me – and paid for by Supra – to create an obstacle and help add to this place.
Cool. I saw you finishing off a mural earlier, too.
On top of the obstacle I was asked to paint a piece, too, so I was like, 'OK, why not?' I wanted to paint something that connected my skateboarding and my art together, and a representation of something that was inspirational growing up to me. Christian Hosoi was a major influence for me; I wanted to pay homage to one of his boards, The Rising Sun, and recreate that in a different way, writing "Infinite" above it. It represents something important growing up for me and will hopefully inspire the next generation, too.
How are you enjoying your UK summer residency so far?
It's been great. London is moving. There's a lot of energy within this city – it's what I've grown up around all my life. I thrive off this creativity and pushing the limits of fashion, music, skating. London's a representation of that movement. It's a blessing to be this old and skate with these guys and do what I love to do.
Chad Muska at Frontside Gardens
Have you been making the most of it?
Dude, we skated all day – until 11 or so. We pretty much had some food and hit the sack. I don't party like I used to; I'm a little more mellow, doing things I can use my mind with more: art, skating, design. I have nothing against partying, but I'm straying away from that world a little bit now.
I normally come to London and hit the whole nightlife scene, too, but at the moment I'm just staying more away from it. I like to wake up in a city and walk around early and venture into a gallery or museum. I've spent a lot of my life in a blur and I've missed out on a lot. I never got to see these places except for the skateboarding aspect. As a skater you see these places through a local's eye, but I almost want to catch up on the tourist aspect. People say “You've been to Paris – have you been to the Louvre?" Or, "Have you seen the Tate?” And I'm like, "I skated in front of them; I've never been inside them!"
You've had some involvement in the Long Live South Bank initiative. Why does it matter to you as a non-native Londoner?
South Bank is beyond London; it's a representation of the history of skateboarding, and it's just such an iconic place. It's also a meeting ground – someone can come from anywhere and meet skaters and be a part of the city. It's a cultural landmark, not just for London but also the world. Europe retains history when America is constantly ripping down the old. It's as important as Big Ben. The architects who designed it must have been thinking in terms of flow and movement, not just hard angles. And although it wasn't designed intentionally for skateboarding, it provides the perfect area to practice the art of skating.
Agreed. You've had a few art shows recently – do you consciously channel skating in your work, or is more abstract than that?
It's really the same to me. Whether you're painting, designing, photographing or skating it's all a type of artistic expression. At one point I thought I was escaping skateboarding through art, but I realised there was a direct connection to it. Where I'm at right now with my art is conceptual minimalism, which utilises elements that are all born of skateboarding. I use concrete, steel, resins and things that, in a way, represent my life.
The skate community has its own thriving art scene, but do you ever feel held back in the art world beyond that because you're a professional skater?
I'm sure there are all kinds of things people would like to say, but if I listened to the things people say I wouldn't be where I'm at today. If someone wants to challenge what I do, I almost like that even better. I truly felt that I have something to offer the art community, and I will continue to create these things until the day I die. Whether they're accepted now, later or after I'm dead, it doesn't matter.
Chad Muska for Supra
Are you still making music?
Not as much lately. I'm very obsessive-compulsive with every action of my life. When I'm skating it's just skating; when it's designing it's strictly design. Right now I'm more into scoring for videos, but music will always be there and be part of my life – even though, strangely enough, I'm listening to less music now. I'm more interested in natural sound. A lot of what I listen to is where my art's going; its very minimal and textual. I'm into a lot of meditative music, like singing bowls.
Yeah, that stuff's cool. Mostly a lot of Tibetan meditation. I like music that's suggestive and not necessarily literal.
What are your thoughts on a whole generation becoming acquainted with you through playing as you on the Tony Hawk games?
It's a little weird. We're in a generation of kids who might not have grown up seeing me skate as much because I've had some absences here and there in the industry. So you get a lot of kids coming up to you, like, "You're my favourite skater on Tony Hawk's." I wouldn't want that to be my legacy, you know what I mean? Although, anything that can turn kids onto skateboarding is a good thing, as long as they get out of the digital world and don't sit there and think they're skateboarding. Same thing for my shoes. A lot of people say, “These non-skaters are wearing your stuff – rappers, actors, musicians. That's whack!” That's not whack, because maybe they might eventually buy a skateboard. It's cool when things outside skateboarding culture embrace it.
Where would you say the boundaries of skateboarding are still being pushed?
Man, it's continuing to progress in ways we may have never imagined. That's beautiful because it not only ensures the future of skateboarding… things need to continue and progress, otherwise it gets boring and stale. We're reaching a divide in skateboarding now where there's the mainstream culture of contests, winners and the grand event, then at the polar opposite there's core skateboarding, street skateboarding, homies building a ramp in their back yard.
It's still skateboarding at the end of the day, but for me skateboarding was never about training, practice and contests. Skateboarding isn't about being the best, it's about having fun and the physical and mental challenge. What worries me are these show parents who want their kids to grow up and win big comps and prizes.
As long as skateboarding stays around I'm happy with it. It's been amazing to ride this journey out and continue to be a part of it and make a living off doing what I love to do. It's an amazing blessing and I never take one second for granted.
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