Photo by Brendan Jaccarino
Fancy Lad Skateboards co-owner and only pro, Colin Fiske, shocked the skateboard world last week when he released a 57-minute-long skateboard part. To put it into perspective, the average part is around three to five minutes. We live in an age of hyper competitive and curated skateboarding, where skateboarders film months, sometimes years, for what will end up as a handful of tricks in a big-budget skate video. In this landscape, Colin's part—and his whole outlook on skateboarding—is a welcome throwback to a simpler, some might say more fun, time.
Over the past five to seven years I’ve found that responses from skaters to questions about chasing the "Skate Dream” have shifted from going on adventures with pals/seeing the world, to being rich and famous and the best. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just a different outlook than the one I came of age with. A more jockish outlook. At the tail end of the 80s and through the 90s, very few people aspired to be professional skaters. There wasn't any money in it, and so the Dream back then was simply to avoid growing up for as long as humanly possible, while also seeing as many wonderful places as you could (generally on a budget that consisted of change found in couch cushions and ashtrays).
So it was refreshing to have a chat with Fiske, who was one of PJ Ladd’s backup skaters in the most successful skateshop video of all time, Coliseum’s PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life. I’d never spoken to Fiske before, and I made a poor assumption that the Boston bike messenger surviving on food stamps would be somewhat bitter about missing the chance at living the Dream that his PJLWHL co-stars PJ Ladd, Ryan Gallant, and Jereme Rogers did. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Twelve years after Wonderful Horrible’s release, Fiske’s dream remains as pure and wonderful as ever: “The dream was just to get tricks on video and blow other people’s minds," he said.
I can think of nothing more mind-blowing than an hour long solo skate part (aside from mailing Julien Stranger a ransom note and your toenails, of course).
VICE: You just put out the first—and more than likely last—57-minute solo skate part. What the fuck? What’s the thinking behind it? Do you have a terminal disease?
Colin Fiske: Yes, Chris. My cells are mutated. I’m not proud that I went and did something like this. There is no excuse, really. Kids: this is not OK to do.
But seriously—what were you thinking?
There’s no real reason that I did this. All these parts are like on one hard copy each in existence, so I saved it in the web all in one, with some movie clips that I think are really cool, too. We have tons of footage on VHS tapes around the house, and we had this one other video which got lost and no one ever got to see it. I wanted to take all the footage I had left and put it in one spot, so I just sat down and edited it all together. That’s not even all of it. I couldn’t filter out enough of those wallrides where I touch my hands on the walls.
Did you expect people to sit and watch all 57-minutes in one shot?
Oh, fuck no! I didn’t even make it for people. I don’t really think ahead. I didn’t review it or anything. I just put it together and didn’t go back because I’m not about to watch it for a full hour. I just immediately put it on YouTube, but after having watched it again I can see there’s a lot of shit that I shouldn’t have put in there because I can’t sit through it. Like I said, my god, how many times have I touched the wall with my hands? And there are so many repeat tricks. But I guess that’s one of the joys of YouTube; you can just skip around.
Was your 57-minute opus in any way a commentary on the nonstop ultra-short webclips that the internet is inundated with daily?
I didn’t actually have that on my mind when I did it, but you can think of it that way. Did you just use the word inundate? I don’t know what that word means. Truth is, I just want hard copies in VHS or DVD of videos because it’s so much easier on my brain. Every time I go near the computer my eyes or brain swell. I literally feel it swelling and it’s no fun. I watch the shit anyway, but every time I do I try and think of a way out.
So you’re not on skate-porn tube sites, like Hellaclips, every day?
Fuck no. I don’t watch skate videos at all. I have to limit my time on the computer so I only go on the BoneDeth BMX and Animal Bikes websites, both of which are just BMX shit. It’s just what gets me psyched. I'll watch a skate video if somebody sends one to me because I love skateboarding, but if it’s on my own, I just watch BMX stuff.
When did the fascination with BMXing begin?
I BMXed before I skated. I always BMXed, but then three years ago I bought an all black BMX off craigslist for 300 bucks. She fit real good, and because my muscles are bigger than when I was a kid, I was just immediately better at it than before.
Are you considering a pro BMX career? You do realize pro BMXers make even less than unemployed bike messengers.
I can’t do tricks and I'm not about to start. I jump a lot of shit—trash bags, whatever. I can’t table top, though. I can’t 360, but I do want some pegs. I bet I can do handrails. I wanna get on those rails.
Are you still a bike messenger? Ever gotten doored?
My body is covered in scars. Yeah, I was doored a long time ago. I got my third eye open now though so that doesn’t happen any more. I've been doing that job since 2005, I think—best job I've ever had. It's fun being a bike messenger because it’s pure—no need to video the stunts. I went through a car window once a few summers ago. All these pedestrians were looking at me laying on the ground with their stupid eyes. I was laying there, side open, leg bone out, clavicle snapped, just chilling with some dude holding my blood in. I radioed a dispatcher to send a kid to finish my run. Ambulance dudes show up, scissor my clothes off, and right as they did it started to hail on me. I looked up at everybody's dumb looking eyes and I could not stop giggling. They couldn’t stop Bob [Burnquist], they can’t stop Fiske.
What’s the story about you sending your toenails to Julien Stranger?
I vaguely remember that. People tell me it happened, so it must have happened. What I can make of it was the free boards stopped coming so I sent a ransom note and I drew a picture of a bloody toe. The Big Lebowski was on my mind the whole time; I was just thinking about how funny I was. But I guess it turned out to be not so funny on that end... On my side all my friends think it’s great. I can see how that sort of thing might upset someone though. No hard feelings, Julien. Thanks for the boards, guys.
What was Julien’s reaction?
I didn’t ever talk to Julien again. I don’t think I’ve ever actually talked to him. He was like a shadow government for me that was sending me boards. But I am really grateful. They sent me a shitload of boards when I was a kid; it was awesome. But sometimes you just overstay your welcome, and when you’re a kid you don’t realize it. Tony Vitello told me Julien was really weirded out by it and he humored the idea of calling the cops on me, though obviously he didn't.
What happened with you and Heroin Skateboards?
I am a child. Fos is a child. It’s simple. I just sent him my parts edited up and he didn’t like the music so he dismissed me. No hard feelings. He’s got Gou Miyagi now. Gou is a nasty agro righteous fellow. But I am still down for Fos.
Do you think there’s a curse to PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life where everyone who was in the video will eventually go crazy?
All skaters are crazy. In fact, I think all people are insane. Who isn’t? Children pretend, grown ups pretend... they have linked gluten to schizophrenia. I don’t fuck around with gluten. I've tried schizophrenia, but that shit didn’t take with me.
Who were you riding for when PJLWHL came out?
I never actually made money from skateboarding. I never had cash in hand. The only money I ever made was $1000 (£600) from that PJ video, and Fos gave me some money for food when I was in Europe for three weeks, but that’s it. I maybe made $2000 (£1200) from skating. What was your question?
Doesn’t matter. Let’s keep talking about this. You’ve made $2000 in 12 years from skateboarding. Have you given up the Dream?
No, no, no. The Dream is always there. I got plans. I got this one trick that I have to build a special board for… it’s going to blow your mind.
But when that video dropped and everyone was getting scooped up did you think you were going to get scooped up too?
No, I never had that idea. Never once have I had that thought. That was never the Dream. The Dream was just to get tricks on video and blow other people’s minds, and it doesn’t matter whose. If it’s just people near you or the whole world; whatever happens, happens.
Never any aspirations to move to California and be a big-time pro?
I went to California for a little bit but I wasn’t good enough. I was hanging around with tons of people who were way better than me. I understood that. I think maybe my diet was wrong. I ate a shitload of candy. I can’t fully blame it on that. But the reason I got so much footage is that I went filming with my friends and it was always a good time. It was never stressful like filming for a company, or for work, or with people you didn’t know.
When Wonderful Horrible Life was being filmed were you all one big crew?
Yeah, we were just one crew. We went on a bunch of road trips and laughed the whole time. Nobody knew anything. When you’re young you don’t know anything. You’re not smart—all you know is skateboarding. So we just laughed the whole time. And no one did drugs back then. Nobody. No drinking, smoking, or anything. I think that’s why we did so well.
Were you shocked by the success that video had at the time?
The success of the video was probably just fake hype from Arty and Matt [owners of Coliseum Skateshop]. It was just them talking it up and sending out promos. They kept going on websites, chat rooms, and message boards under different names and saying it was the best video and talking it up.
Come on. You’re downplaying it. Everyone, everywhere loves that video.
But maybe they were sneaky enough to make everybody believe it was the best video. And because they kept talking about it, everybody kept talking about it. But yeah, it was a good video.
Got a good PJ Ladd story from back then?
Yeah. We shared a moment one time. You know he’s really elusive and doesn’t really talk about anything, but we shared a moment. Him and I were skating the financial district all night and we were going to get water and I had crashed on a crack. I was on the ground in pain in the middle of the street, and I turned around and PJ is on the ground writhing in pain, rolling on the sidewalk because he had also crashed on a different crack at the exact same time as I did. We really shared a moment there. I saw him laugh and I was I like, ‘Yeah. Sick. I’m friends with PJ.’ I haven’t talked to him in years, but that was the height of our friendship right there; we both fell on a different crack at the same time. It was a good time.
What’s next for you? An even longer video part?
As for our company, Fancy Lad, it’s doing great and we have a new video coming soon. And our new boards will come equipped with flint drilled into the tails and held with the strongest glue made from the best horses in America. We’re calling them Pony Tails. And for me, I have a few stunts in mind that I’ve been thinking about doing for two years. Hammers. I have to get to them. I have one 25-foot gap on a bike with a downhill run up onto a flowerbed. As soon as I get a bigger sprocket, I can do that. It’ll be the biggest gap I’ve ever done and I’ll wreck a bunch of flowers, too, not that I’m into wrecking flowers—but it so happens that I’ll run through a bunch of flowers on the landing. The other trick I’ve been toying with is switch casper slides. But my foot kept slipping off because the nose is curved, so I got my man in New York who's going to make me a special skateboard without a nose or a tail. It’s just a flat part and I’ll put griptape on the bottom side of the tail and I’m going to do a switch casper slide firecracker down this seven-stair that I know. It’s going down. So that’s it. One trick. I don’t have future plans. I have two tricks and then after that happens…why stop?
Just think of another two tricks.