THE ANDREW REYNOLDS INTERVIEW
THE ANDREW REYNOLDS INTERVIEW
There are very few individuals that have been at the top of their craft for over 20 years in any subculture. As we know, it’s hard to gain momentum, and even harder to keep it. Andrew Reynolds is one of those extraordinary people, pushing a relentless career for several eras of skateboarding. He is as much of “the Boss” now as he was during the 90s. Unlike other legends who slowly transition into photography, art or industry jobs, Reynolds has maintained his position by progressing his skateboarding well into his 30s, staying on top of his empire day by day, trick by trick.
Are you a millionaire?
Well…if you have one million dollars, are you a millionaire?
Sure, I’d say yes.
Then, maybe somewhere around there. I’m probably close to a million. If a couple of things hadn’t happened in my life and I would have made a lot of different decisions then I’d probably have triple or quadruple the amount I have right now. I wish I would have known some things that I know now. Like… I’ve had a Lexus SUV and this Mercedes and that BMW and an ex-wife that had a BMW and a house in the hills… So much shit, that you can’t take with you, for so much money, and I could have just been driving this beautiful Ford Victoria the whole time and been just as happy. But I guess you live and you learn.
A while back you started downsizing your life, selling a lot of stuff and moving to a smaller house. Why?
I just knew having a 5 bedroom house, with me and 1 kid was just ridiculous. I just wanted to live in a house.. a normal house. I lost money on the whole deal too. A some point I had a lot of Cadillacs cause I like mob movies and Outkast and everything influenced me so much I always thought I had to have a Cadillac. Just something happened where I didn’t want it at all anymore. I wanted a junker, I didn’t even care. Now, I do not care about any of that. House, car, nothing. If you have food and you have family and your friends, and some kind of shelter, then none of that stuff is important at all.
You have been sober for over a decade now, but how did you initially get into alcohol and drugs?
Just growing up in a small town, I think that’s what people do.. they party you know? Maybe people are bored or looking for something to do, it’s just part of growing up I guess. I was 16 or 17 and most of my friends were older too. I fell into it. Even when I was 16, if I drank I would always go until the point of puking or blacking out. I was too young to know about alcoholism. If I blacked out and threw up the next day I just thought, woah, we were partying! Around the same time, we got into smoking a lot of weed. Dirty south, driving around in a car smoking weed. That’s what everyone does, still to this day. It’s like a southern thing I guess, like listen to some Outkast, smoke a blunt. I remember one time I saw Elissa [Steamer] at an intersection and we passed a blunt from our car to hers.
Then when I was 18 and moved to California, everybody I looked up to like [Tom] Penny, [Chad] Muska, they were killing it and in California, that culture was even more accepted. We would smoke, drink and skate, that was just normal. Dustin [Dollin] was doing drugs from a young age and one night he brought over some cocaine, put it on the table, and I just did it. There wasn’t a thought in my head that it was a bad idea or anything, it was just like weed.
So then some months later someone had some, I did it again, and then from that point on, like 19 on, I pretty much did cocaine. Later, we were hanging out with a few different people, and they were smoking crack and doing more drugs. I started smoking cocaine on weed… whatever was there. Ecstasy… It was just an experimental time in my life and I was just doing stuff, but every single time regretting it. Every time was my last time, and I would wake up in the morning and be like fuck, what am I doing? This is dumb. I don’t really wanna do this. But after a couple beers and some weed, everyone’s partying and next thing you know it’s like something clicks in my head – there’s no more rules… Let’s go. It’s because I’m an addict. Not everybody lives like that but if you’re an addict and an alcoholic then that’s what you do.
Did any substances help you skate in any ways?
Hell no. No. I feel confident in saying that weed, drinking or drugs doesn’t help anything. Nothing. For anybody. I really believe that. I think that anybody that says like, “Oh when I get high I skate better,” or “If I drink a beer I’ll just try anything,” it’s all bullshit. A clear mind is only really where you can focus and do a good job at things.
Your rider and friend Antwuan Dixon just got out of jail. Any news or updates on him?
Well, I don’t really wanna put his business out there like that. He’s on his own path, I’m not sure what he’s doing. I don’t know.
It seems like a lot of board brands are cutting their teams down right now. You recently cut Spanky and Braydon too. Moving forward do you think skate teams will be smaller? Just like 3 or 4 guys representing an entire brand?
I really don’t know. It seems like that, but at the same time, I grew up on liking the team. That’s kinda what I’m about. That’s our family. When I was a kid, it was a Plan B video, or 20 Shot Sequence, it was like, “Oh man, that’s such a sick team!” They hang together, skate the same spots together and have a good time. I will personally try to stick to that vibe. For Baker that’s what we’re gonna be about. I wish everyone could be pro forever, to tell you the truth but it just can’t be like that. I’m reasonable about it. The cycle of things, you know? It’s all part of skateboarding.
We interviewed Jay Strickland a couple years ago (Baker’s former creative director) and he was still unhappy about how things ended with him. Are you guys on good terms now?
I saw him in New York a few years ago. I don’t think it’s so much the situation that he got let go from Baker or whatever. I think it’s more of a personality thing that he’s not really able to let it go. It seems like he’s the type of person who, if someone dissed him at a taco shop or whatever he might never go there again. Like that whole situation was 15 years ago, it’s crazy. In New York we had a long, good talk but I don’t know, I’d totally be open to being cool again or whatever.
Jamie Thomas has been known to motivate / incentives riders to get tricks for video parts..Have you ever bribed your riders to land tricks before?
Never. I kind of just leave everybody to do their thing. But like, if we’re all skating as friends it’ll be like, “Hey, 20 bucks on this!” But yeah, no lists of tricks, or pay raises if you land this or that trick. I try to give everyone freedom to do whatever they want. I like skaters like Keenan and Gino who came out with a lot less footage but the value of it is way higher. So who am I to say what’s better or how many tricks someone should or shouldn’t do.
You skated for Tony Hawk’s company, Birdhouse during the early years. Any things that stuck with you?
Yeah definitely. If you go see Tony Hawk at a demo, you’re gonna see him kill it. Some people that have more of a cool guy type of attitude might not agree with that but to me I think that’s the coolest thing ever. If I go to a demo, I’m gonna try my best to kill it, for the kids, because that’s why they are there. I always learned that from him. I saw Tony in the worst shape, biggest swollen ankles, so tore up, on tour for 3 weeks, and every single time, just go out and nail it. No matter what. No matter what type of family thing was happening or how shitty the whole tour was, he’d go for it every time and never say a word or complain about anything, ever.
Do you ever feel trapped or unhappy with your recognisably or fame?
Oh, hell no. I like it. I made a joke to Spanky the other day because we got some free Starbucks, and it’s not something that someone would maybe want to admit or say. But when we left, to get a laugh out of him, I was like, “That’s one of my favorite things ever!” When someone recognises us and gives us a free cup of coffee. Yes! What a blessing, just in life. And they feel good too, they got to hook someone up. Like if Nick Cave or someone I looked up to came in to my work place, I’d be like, take some shit! Here! And both of us would feel good. Kids are always cool, kids are awesome. So no! It’s all great.
You are in your mid 30s and still are jumping down gaps and stairs. Any health or fitness routines or secrets you can share?
I come from a time in skating where stretching and being healthy was not part of the whole deal. That’s a new thing. You see guys at Street League, they stretch, they might even have a personal trainer with them. Trust me, if I could eat fried chicken and smoke cigarettes and not stretch a day in my life and skate like I was 22, I would. But for me, it’s a survival thing to keep skating. I’m sober too, I don’t smoke cigarettes, no drugs, no alcohol so that’s a huge help. But a lot more goes into it the older you get.
Right now, I stopped eating meat and dairy and I just mostly have smoothies. I have a plant based protein powder called Vega I use too. From what I’ve learned, the reason you get sore after skating is because your muscles tear and lactic acid comes out and that’s why you are sore. The protein is what your muscles need to repair themselves, so after a hard session skating, it’s best to get some protein in you, cause it’s gonna help you not be sore the next day.
I always try to go back to more fruit, more vegetables, more water, more stretching – that feels best. I can skate fine if I don’t, but I definitely feel better if I do. Honestly, if I drank a big bottle of water, like 3 of those a day and stretched every single day, I feel like I could skate pretty good up until my 50s probably. A little bit of work goes a long way.
Some skaters have told me that when they try really difficult and scary tricks they black out in between tries. Has that ever happened to you before?
Definitely, it’s something that I’ve talked to Jim Greco about. The blackout is what you’re searching for constantly from trying a trick. Even when I was really young I noticed it because I would skate a lot of contests and stuff in Florida and people afterwards would say like, “Oh that was cool they were playing Zeppelin,” or whatever and I would just be like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” For me it was just silence the whole time I skated. With Tampa Pro and stuff, it’s just total focus and silence. If I’m able to tell what song was playing at a contest or demo afterward, that’s how I know I didn’t really want to be there.
Besides not hearing the music, is there actually any blackout throughout the run or trick?
I mean, you know what you’re doing… I think it’s the reason people pay money to learn how to meditate and do yoga to quiet their mind, you know? It’s like the most extreme form of that. I think that’s why when skaters don’t skate for a couple weeks are like, “Ahh, I gotta get out and do something!” because you’re so used to that feeling and escape your whole life. You need it.
You were a character in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games. Did you make some nice money off of that?
Well, for the first game they gave all the characters royalties off of how many games were sold. Then after that, everybody saw that the characters were getting really noticed off of this game. There was a time, when a quarter or more of the kids at demos would say, “Oh I play you on Tony Hawk!” not, “I saw your newest video part!” So for the first game, everybody got paid. Elissa Steamer, myself, whoever else was in it, we were laughing – we got like one check for royalties that was like $190,000 or something. We were like what! This is amazing! But then some pro skater, I don’t know who, went in to the offices and wanted to be in the game too. He told them he didn’t care about the money, he would be in the game for free. So management was like, well.. these guys will do it for free, let’s just give them a flat rate for the next game. So that’s what they started offering for the next games. It was a flat rate of 10k or something… But what are you gonna say, you know? I wasn’t in any position or felt like telling them that I didn’t want the 10k. And it was such a big game, so everyone said yeah. I really love that Elissa Steamer got $190,000 out of it too [laughs] that’s my favorite part.
On the old Baker 3 DVD you wrote, “With videos like this around, we’re never gonna get in the Olympics..” Now years later, with the Olympics possibly around the corner, do you think differently about it as an older guy?
Ahh, I’m not that judgmental about that type of stuff at this point in my life. Honestly, I don’t really care. When you look at the world, and you think, there’s people starving and there’s all this other trouble… I don’t really have to worry about skateboarding in the olympics.
I like when Kareem [Campbell] is skating through Hollywood with his pants sagging down real low with some Reeboks on. I like that. I like Baker and Palace. Jon Dixon, Ricky Oyola, and east coast skaters… Wes Kremer, Grant Taylor, all Deathwish, everybody. That’s what I like in skating. There’s always gonna be that raw side of skating, now there’s just the other side too. I think the Olympics will kinda balance things out. In other sports, is there a really polished clean side and then a roughneck side too? I don’t know… I don’t really care about it. Somebody is gonna make a lot of money though, I know that.
Well wouldn’t company owners like yourself profit from it because skating will reach a huge global audience and you will be able to sell more skateboards?
No. That’s where I think people are mistaken. I think Nike and Mountain Dew and all those guys, not anything against those companies but I think they are imagining that they’re gonna make a whole bunch of money off of skateboarding. But I own some skateboard companies and there’s not that much money in it. I see the truth. There’s not that much money to be made. Actual skateboarders, who are breaking boards and wearing out shoes? I don’t know.
I just went to a Zumiez contest in Nebraska and there were like 30 people there. People think skateboarding is bigger and there’s more money to be made off of it than there actually is. With everybody in the world wearing the Janoski shoe and how it took off… it made people say, “Wow, a pro skater’s shoe can sell like that!!?” because it had a pro skaters name on it. But his shoe just happened to be like a Chuck Taylor or something. Stefan killed it and made a good, timeless design, but it was a once in a lifetime type thing. That and some of the fashion stuff kind of led people to believe skateboarding is something that it’s not.
I think skating is small to tell you the truth. I see how many boards my guys sell. I see how many boards my top guys sell. It’s not that big, which is cool. I think it’s cool for us, for skaters that are owning companies in this small culture, and these other people trying to get in thinking it’s gonna be something else and it’s not. I wanna see when the money doesn’t come back around and if people change their mind. We’ll see.
Is there anything else you want to accomplish in skateboarding before your professional career is over?
I feel like Baker, Pissdrunx and our whole crowd, might have done some damage, and I’d like to try and repair that as much as I possibly can. As much as I can do to steer a kid away from drinking and drugs and that whole lifestyle. I feel like that’s a good job for me. I want to keep skateboarding and keep it unique, small and fun. Just those things really.
You feel like the early days of Baker could have sent out the wrong message and led some kids astray?
Yeah, it’s just one of those things where there was no lying. It was all the honest truth. It’s like if Beagle made a documentary about us, that’s who we were. That was Baker. I can’t change that. But by being an example now, that you don’t have to do that to look cool.. A lot of kids come up to me at demos and have said like, “Man, I started getting wrapped up in some stuff but I checked into rehab and went to AA and I don’t do it anymore.” I’ve heard that a lot. Who knows, that could have saved somebody’s life. That’s more important to me than just, “Oh, that’s my favorite skater.” I might have saved a kid from like a heroin overdose or something. That’s way bigger than skateboarding.
Interview: Ian Michna
Original Illustration: Anders Nilsen