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How Skateboarding Learned to Love House Music

The sounds of Chicago, bucket hats and smiley faces are becoming staples of skate culture.

by Daryl Mersom
Jan 7 2016, 11:28pm

Palace skater Blondey McCoy (photo via Huck)

Since 2015 the choreography departments of premier skateboarding fashion houses around the world have been racking their brains for electronic tunes that go well with videos of dudes doing things on skateboards. All of the graphs produced so far in 2016 have shown a positive correlation between the use of house music in edits and board sales. The bucket-hatted masses are a testament to that. Wait, didn't you know that the humble bucket hat —once so beloved of both Hunter S Thompson and Chris Evans— is the signifier of the house/skate aesthetic? Shame on you.

Given this, it's no coincidence that Palace pushed the bucket hat in 2015, and certainly, what we're thinking of in this piece as the 'house aesthetic' has been a pervasive influence on their output. For one, their clothing often references the genre, and the Palace smiler hood nods to the glory days of the second summer of love, back when you're dad was necking pills in a field in Wiltshere like there was no tomorrow. With their most recent drop, the majority of which probably sold out in nano seconds, they went explicit with it, releasing a rather fetching square bag that, "holds records or 5.8 ounces of weed." Which is nice.

Not content with producing sell out range after sell out range, and collaborating with the likes of Reebok, Adias and the Tate, Lev Tanju's crew teamed up with the UK's coolest label, Will Bankhead's Trilogy Tapes, for a limited edition 12" with Theo Parrish, back in 2014, and late last year a follow-up appeared, featuring Omar Souleyman and Rezzett. Which isn't a bad run for a skate company.

It goes even further than that with Palace, though. Rory Milanes is a DJ and collects house records. In an interview with Grey Skate Magazine he describes how he got into house, saying that, "I got into dance music from a famous nightclub. It sounds a bit clichéd but it was Berghain (in Berlin). I saw an amazing DJ there called Moodymann and he was playing disco and soul and house records and it was just a new sound to me and it was exciting".

It is not just Palace that are drawing on house music. After being inspired by Palace, former Girl rider Alex Olson created Bianca Chandon, a company that evokes the culture of house music. In an interview with Hero Magazine he writes that:

"I met my friend Andy Brown, he's a DJ, and he was always talking about disco and saying I should skate to disco. There's the whole 'disco sucks' thing so I discounted it but I went to this party and they were playing all this old school house which made me really curious about the history of it. Andy said I should check out this documentary Pump Up The Volume which gives a great breakdown of the whole thing, it's brilliant".

With all of these connections, it didn't take long for the influence of house music to be felt in skateboarding videos. Peter Sidlauskas (Bronze), Lev Tanju (Palace), and film-maker Johnny Wilson have all used house music in their skate edits, creating some of 2015's freshest feeling sections. The editing together of skate footage has indeed benefited from this new type of soundtrack – and whilst many film-makers still use hip hop (it will always go great to skate sections), contemporary videos are marked by their eclectic song choices.

When Vaporwave enthusiast Peter Sidlauskas peppered his Jenkem mix (a series of mixes made by skaters for the online magazine Jenkem) with tracks by Galcher Lustwerk ("Parlay" and "I Neva Seen"), Contact Lens ("Good Question") and 18 Carat Affair ("Desire"), people took notice. Yet skaters that were into this sound had some trouble finding track lists, and most of the songs in his Bronze edits are notoriously hard to find, as he says in his Transworld interview, he prefers to use tracks with low view counts"

"I spend a lot of time on Soundcloud and Youtube. You really get lost in the related searches of a really good song, and you find yourself digging into a whole black hole of the internet and all these crazy ass songs. I don't want to seem pretentious and hipster [...] finding all these weird songs, but I do like finding these songs, 'cause I remember as a kid watching skate videos and I loved when there was a song in the video and then they wouldn't put the song title in the credits so you would have to find it out on your own. You have to Google the lyrics and try to find this song".

Sidlauskas' skate video Trust uses electronic music alongside early internet references to depart from the way skate videos have traditionally been edited, and offers what we might call skits, to break up the footage. The skits give the piece a distinctive feel, not just offering the documentation of great skating, but also add humour.

When Bronze and Palace collaborated on a series of boards emblazoned with the Bronze gold bolt logo (the company originally portrayed themselves as a hardware company), the edit they released opened with 'Still' by Person of Interest (the edit also featured tracks by Unfinished Portraits and Moodymann). Who knew that Detroit's finest was every skater's favourite musician? There we were thinking they all listened to Papa Roach.

The opening track of Palace's Endless Bummer goes perfectly with the bucket hat adorned front 180 and the spliced in DJ clip. The VHS footage evokes 90's skate video editing and together with Bronze, the strength of the aesthetic has led to countless imitators. For a mad moment, people even began shooting Instagram edits on their brand new Iphones with the VHS filter.

Johnny Wilson is another skate film-maker that has adopted this new sound in his videos. In his recent edit, Sequence, he uses "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Saint Etienne. Rather than being arranged around skaters, the edit seems more reflective of a session, with particular spots cropping up again and again. The edit mixes lifestyle footage with a host of different skaters. And again, the music choice gives the edit a fresh feel.

In Rack Wilson uses another Moodymann track ('The Day We Lost The Soul' at 3.47) and in doing so draws attention to the consistency of Polar rider Hjalte Halberg's lines. That final fakie tre flip would have looked a lot more thugged out if "56 Nights" was playing instead. But there you go.

We should not forget that skate edits have been open to all types of music from their inception. As soon as people began editing clips together, their unique tastes spread through the medium, to reach people all over the globe. Just look at the difference between Spike Jonze's musical influence on Fully Flared and the soundtrack to a Barrier Kult edit.

Yet it seems that part of the zeitgeist right now (which might be denoted by the following goods: house records, bucket hats, out of date high fashion brand pieces, pink caps, and sports brand garments that aren't made by Nike) involves the mixing of these two worlds, so that skate edits from all over the world move to the Chicago sound.

Grab your bucket hat and your board and let's all go clubbing, yeah?

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