Pro Skater Leo Romero Is the Mexican Johnny Cash
And he gets tons of handjobs.
Professional skateboarding has a lot of downtime. Injury, rainy days, hangovers – all are valid reasons for a skater not to do his or her job on a given day. So most people in this profession have hobbies to make their lives of leisure a bit more fulfilling when they are off their boards. Leo Romero is no exception, and he has started a band with his bros called Travesura.
I’ve loved the quick-witted, sharp-tongued Leo ever since 2003, when he told me he’d never had a hand job. Since that interview 11 years ago, he has become one of the gnarliest, most respected skateboarders in history, and I imagine he has received many hand jobs. His band recently dropped its first EP (which you can download for free), so I decided to interview him for the 100th time in our long friendship to find out about becoming a rock star, fights, groupies and folk-music mosh pits.
VICE: When did you decide to become a rock star, Leo?
Leo Romero: I haven’t really decided to be a rock star, but I started playing in front of people a few years ago just by going to open-mic nights.
Were you nervous at all? You’ve skated demos in front of large groups of people, but this is a whole different monster. The first time I tried stand-up I had to go in the bathroom and puke before I took the stage.
I was at first, but I tried to psyche myself up by thinking of it like a demo. But it’s definitely not. It’s way more personal than a demo. So I just got drunk the first couple times. There were little butterflies in my stomach at first, but it got easier. Sometimes you get too drunk and think you sound awesome, but you’re just shit-faced and sound like crap.
Photos by Grant Hatfield
How does playing music differ from skating?
There are a lot of similarities in it, actually. Like you mentioned, I’ve skated demos in front of a lot of people. You’ve seen guys kill a demo and have a great day, and you’ve seen them bomb a demo. That’s how it is performing live. I like that because I can relate to that feeling of, OK, today fucking sucks. I’ll try again tomorrow. Playing music is the same way – if it’s a shitty night you just say, “Fuck it, there’s nothing I can do. I’ll restart tomorrow.”
Do you smash guitars like boards? Is that part of your act?
No. I never smash them because I really enjoy my instruments. I just beat them up a little bit when I’m playing.
Have you ever pulled a Thrasher King of the Road move and smashed other people’s guitars?
No, because that’s kind of fucked up. People enjoy their instruments. That would be fucking lame to do something like that to somebody.
What if they sound super shitty?
Then that just means we’re going to sound way cooler.
Are you a better skater or musician?
I’d say I’m a better skater. Then again I am getting older so I could just be saying that to toot my own horn.
Are you a better musician than Jereme Rogers is a rapper?
I don’t know. He’s pretty fucking cool.
You’re a liar. How would you describe the band and your sound?
Every song sounds crazy and different. Some are a lot folkier than others and some are rockier, but it’s a rock/folk/blues type band.
You said in an interview that the three musicians you would have most liked to tour with were Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis – three of my favourites. Are they big influences on your sound?
Yeah. I would say Johnny Cash, for sure. I wouldn’t say I sound anything like that, but I’ve written songs in that vein. Elvis didn’t write shit, but he killed. Everyone who plays music wants to be Elvis no matter who the fuck they are.
Are you working on becoming a pill addict in the tradition of Elvis and Johnny Cash?
No, not at all. I think I might be getting a little too old for that shit. I mean, I don’t think you’re ever too old; I just think you can cause some serious damage if you start doing it late.
Good. I was going to warn against it. I can tell you from experience it makes you very constipated, and I think your scrawny ass would look silly with a potbelly full of impacted feces.
Yeah. I think I’ll pass on that, as cool as it sounds.
Who gets more groupies? Leo Romero the pro skater or Leo Romero the musician?
Neither, actually. The guy who gets all the ladies is the drummer, Mark Moros. I think that’s usually the case in every band. Drummers are the crazy ones fucking shit up and doing chicks. Mark gets drunk and starts acting the fool. We went to a bar after the first show I ever played with him, and he pissed on the bar. When they tossed him he said, “What the fuck? We just nailed a show down the street! Fuck you!” The bouncer was so confused, like, “You just played a show somewhere else? Who cares?”
I don’t have any groupie stories about myself, but my friend Eric Evans licked a girl’s butthole on the staircase once. She was leaving the show and he was like, “Can I go down on you real quick before you leave?” She bent over, pulled her underwear to the side, and he went to brown town.
Are there lots of fights at your shows?
There aren’t fights, but there are mosh pits.
Folk-music mosh pits? What are those like?
Fucking crazy, man. They go off with a bunch of our friends. Sometimes it’s a mosh pit, and sometimes it’s like a wresting match. I’m a big wrestling fan, and a lot of our friends are big wrestling fans. Sometimes when we’re playing it’s like WrestleMania – people getting pinned and choke-slammed and shit. It’s pretty rad.
Your dad was never a big fan of your skateboarding. Is he a bigger fan of your music?
I don’t think he likes our music, but I think he’s mellowed out and respects the fact that I like doing it.
Where can people buy your EP?
You can download the EP for free. And if you go to our shows we give out CDs for free.
Free? How the hell are you going to make any money like that?
First we have to get ourselves out there; then we make the money. I’m going around to record stores and asking if they’d mind giving out our CD, and they’re like, “Well, let me give it a listen first.” It’s like I’m on flow again.
Dude! You’re Leo Romero. You gotta walk in those record stores with your pants off and your dick out!
Into a record store that knows nothing about skateboarding? I’ll try that.
Be like, “Do you know who the fuck I am?”
“No, sir. Get the fuck out of my store.”
“And put some pants on!” So is this your retirement plan? After skateboarding, do you plan on being a professional folk singer?
It’s funny, because I was at a show in San Diego and some kid was like, “Hey, dog. You still skate, fool?” I was like, “Fuck. How long ago did Made [Emerica video] come out? That was only a few months ago.” It’s funny, because I’m obviously still skateboarding and I’m actually filming for the full-length Toy Machine video now. All I do is play music and skateboard.
A lot of skateboarders are also talented musicians. Who are some of your favourites?
I like Ray Barbee and Josh Harmony a lot. I like the way they play. When you watch someone play and they’re boring, you can’t get into them. It’s like watching a tech guy skate a demo, like, “He’s good, but he’s fucking boring.” You watch someone like Ray Barbee play, and he’s always nailing it. But Josh Harmony is my favourite because he’s a singer-songwriter.
Who is the most boring skateboarder out today?
I don’t know, man. Probably me if people are asking me if I still skate.
Download the Travesura album for free here.
For show dates go to travesuramusic.com/