Black Dave Interviews Eric Koston About Classic Videos and Modern Skate Culture
"I've kind of just always been motivated to skate."
Eric Koston has been such a prominent fixture on the skate scene for so long now that to list all the cool shit he's done is to veer between adulation and redundancy. Dubbed the "greatest street skater of the modern era," Koston's presence is seen everywhere, from classic videos ( Goldfish, Yeah Right!, Fully Flared) to co-founding a renowned skatepark/training facility (The Berrics) to being immortalized in Tony Hawk's video games.
To get a fresh perspective on Koston, we enlisted New York rapper and skateboarder Black Dave to throw some questions his way. Black Dave—whose Skate Life EP came out earlier this year—brought some deep knowledge and a more than a few superfan nuggets, all of which made for a stellar back and forth.
Black Dave: What's good, Frost! First off, thank you for taking some time out to do this interview! Seeing you at the NY Store (Supreme) and doing a First Try Friday with you at Berrics is definitely sweet, but this interview tops the list! I'm gonna keep it real! I'm a young buck, my first time ever seeing you skate was on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 video. The video had you going around with your laptop with some clips from your menikmati part. What was it like coming from a young pro skater to a character in one of the biggest selling sports games in history?
Eric Koston: It was pretty insane. It's funny because back then we didn't really take it too serious or realize how big it would be. It just seemed funny and kind of cool because we were going to be characters in a video game, which is amazing. And then seeing the game was fun. We didn't realize then how huge the impact would be for skateboarding and the growth of it. For it to be recognized by the general public, like non-skaters, the civilians. At the beginning we didn't see that coming. I started getting recognized by super obscure people who didn't skate. They'd come up to you, this random dude, and, "Dude, you're in Tony Hawk: Pro Skater!"
You have always raised the bar in skateboarding with every video part. The video that really took skateboarding to the next level when it came out was, Yeah Right! From the NBD's, cinematography, skits, and legendary video parts, the video changed the game. How important is it to you to keep upping the ante in the game?
That's kind of the evolution of a skateboarder, they're always trying to progress in some form or another. It might be learning a new slappy for a dude that's just not as gnarly as Shane O'Neill or technically gifted as a guy like that, where a guy like Shane is doing something that's completely out of this worked, more like Tony Hawk: Pro Skater. Every skater has that in them, that element that pushes themselves. Whether it's Nyjah doing ridiculous stuff on the last attempt at Street League or Shane O'Neill's gnarliest part of Scuba Steve getting last part in the Tired video. There's some skaters out there who relate more to Scuba than Shane O'Neill.
I've always wanted to know what happened in beginning of your part when you were screaming at the dude for smashing your window and taking your wallet. What really went down, and did you get your wallet back?
Here's the story: we learned all this in hindsight after we caught this guy. So this guy was a junkie and we were in Vancouver. I guess in downtown Vancouver, he was accused of breaking into a car, but they couldn't pin it on him, so they threw him in the back of the car and took him to this suburb that was like 20 minutes outside Vancouver, near Hastings Skate Park. They dumped him off there and apparently he immediately started breaking into cars and taking stuff. He broke into three cars, one was Tony Ferguson's car, one was our rental van—we were in town filming—and another dude that was also at the park. So this guy was just smashing the windows and grabbing what he could grab. I had left my wallet and cell phone in the glove compartment of the van. So somehow I saw this rukkus, the other guy kind of chasing the dude, and I saw he had a duffle bag and I kind of put it together. I knew all my shit was in there, so I was like Fuck! I ran over there and saw the window of the van smashed out and the glove compartment was empty. I saw the other guy trying to corner the junkie near a building and just charged over to try to catch him, and we just sandwiched him in. We were actually filming stuff at the skate park, just screwing around, so Ty had the camera ready and just ran over there and filmed me. Some guy told Ty that the cops had been called, so if I hit the guy, he might want to stop filming. Ty told me, so I just held the guy until the cops came. It turned out the guy had just taken out my wallet, grabbed the cash, and thrown the wallet in the backseat, so I found it back there behind some seats in the van. When the cops came, they asked how much money was in the wallet, and they gave me that much back from what they found on the guy. They just handed it to me.
Nowadays it seems like most skaters either have one lane: contest skaters or dudes who are out filming and putting out video parts. You've always been consistent at both. Winning two Gold X Games gold medals, but still dropping video parts and interviews along the way. What keeps you motivated to keep going?
I've kind of just always been motivated to skate. Contests, they've become important over the years, but kind of the in the past, and I still have a bit of that mentality, it's good and important, but I don't think it's what totally defines a pro skater. It definitely an aspect of it, which collectively will kind of define a guy, but I don't think winning X Games was a defining moment of my career. I went and did them because it was good to promote the brands that sponsor you, you know, that's your exchange, you got to put them back out there because they're supporting you. If you do well, awesome. Go out and test yourself, see if you can land as much as you can land. You go out there and you try. You do well, great; you don't do well, great. I don't think you should go out there and be super hard on yourself if you sucked in a contest. You had a bad day, it happens. You're not going to rip every day.
The first episode of Epicly Later'd featuring Koston
My personal favourite contest moment of yours was the Back Noseblunt on the barrier at the City Hall in Philly. What was a few of your favourite and least favourite contest experiences?
That one was pretty fun, the city hall one, because they really took over a skate spot. It was fun because, I remember the Lakers had just won the NBA championship and we'd beat Philly, so I was getting heckled. I was getting fucked with so hard by the crowd because I'm a Lakers fan. I probably had a Laker colorway on or Laker sticks on my board, so I was getting heat. Philly fans are gnarly across the board, whatever sports team it is, so like at X Games, dudes were definitely heckling me for sure. I was totally fine with it, I thought it was hilarious. They should have been pissed at me, I'm a diehard Lakers fan and had taken them down. It was fun skating that spot and getting ridiculed by the fans.
Your birthday was a couple months back. Happy 40th! You've been in the game through it all, from the H-Street big pants, small wheels days up to now. Seeing hundreds of skaters, brands, and trends fade away. What's the key to remaining in the game?
I don't know if there's necessarily the key, I just think its just wanting to be in it, be apart of it and help push it. And help it grow. I think that's the key. That's been my only job, if you want to call it a job. It's what I love, so it's hard to get away from it.
Another thing that's evolved in skating is the way we interact with each other. Social media gives skaters an outlet to put up clips instantly. Instagram, which you post to daily, is the main resource for this. What are your thoughts on how personal fans get with their favourite skaters nowadays?
It's a double-edged sword. It's good and its bad. It's mostly good, the bad is a pretty small percentage, they usually are the loudest. But for the most part, it is good. But getting to connect with someone, whether it's me or Paul Rodriguez or Guy Mariano, whoever that person connects with, that's pretty awesome. It's their favourite dude, so its pretty sick that they get to have that hand-delivered into their phone directly to them when it happens or the day it happens. The negative side is the guys who are going to give you shit, but that's part of it. It's funny because people have this louder voice because they can hide. That's the shitty end of the sword. It's kind of creating these cowards, which is sad. But like I said, that's a small percentage. But that's what happening, the world is moving so fast and social networking is a huge part of it and that's a reality we have to face. We just have to embrace that and use it for the good of our industry.
You and Steve Berra came together and put together the most notable training facility and media site in skateboarding, The Berrics. Companies like Habitat, Sole Tech, and DC have had training facilities but never made it into a network like you guys did. That place must be a constant inspiration. How did The Berrics turn from a thought to reality?
Well, it kind of just dawned on us after a while. Steve and I started to realize that what we were seeing behind closed doors is actually something we both thought would be amazing if kids could see it. It was really just for the pros or AMs that lived around LA, the guys we knew, to have park, a place where we could skate and not be bothered by security, cops, etc. We realized, man, if kids could see this, it'd be insane. It'd be really cool for them to actually see what was going on, to see these guys' personalities, to see different people that skate together that they didn't think skated together or were friends with each other. We wanted to give them that sort of inside look because the only time they get to see a pro is when a tour happens in the summertime and that doesn't happen every year, it's every two years, or whatever. We realized we can actually give this to people without having to wait for a summer tour every two years to get near their town. We saw that the Internet is an easier way to deliver that to our fan base.
Was The Berrics always something you always wanted to do, what's next in store for the park?
Uh, geez, there's plenty. There's plenty more to do. There's plenty more creative things to do in every aspect of skating and that's what we're going to do.
The Crailtap family always seems to have fun in all the videos you guys release, Chomp On This was my favourite. Are there any plans to release a new Chomp in the future?
Who knows? Some of the guys still have some footage sitting on deck for if there's a sequel. Never say never. We'll have to see. Just wait.
You skated to GG Allin's "Bite it You Scum," and there was also some night vision clips of you dressed as him partying. Are you a big fan of GG? Why?
When I was younger, when I was 13/14, I heard about him. I didn't see anything of him on video or anything like that, because I didn't have access to anything like that when I was that young. But I heard about him and I'd only heard his music, I'd heard how gnarly he was as far as his stage presence: shitting on stage, eating glass, smashing bottles on his face, butting himself, whipping stuff, hurting himself, all that stuff. It was all purely rumour. It's not like I'd been to a GG show at 14. But it's always been this ongoing joke. It wasn't super real to me behaving that way in public, it was gnarly. It wasn't until many years later that I was actually exposed to his concert stuff. You'd go to a Tower Records and you'd find a GG Allin in Concert on VHS back in the day. That's how I became obsessed with him as a teen; that was a Halloween costume, it's an alter ego. Like I said, I don't think I could comfortably behave like that in public.
With Pretty Sweet coming out back in 2012, It's been awhile since a video with you has dropped. Any plans for a new part from Girl or Nike in the near future?
I've been working on a Nike part for Chronicles III, which has to come out beginning of December. So that's what I've been doing for a little over a year now. I've got a handful of months to finish it off. That's the next video part planned.
Thanks again for doing this, Frost! I'll see you out skating soon! Any last words or anyone you wanna give a thanks to before we wrap this up?
I don't have any last words because it's not the end. Maybe I'll have some last words later.
Check back in the coming weeks for interviews with some of Koston's collaborators.
Follow Black Dave on Twitter.