Tell me about Hardline and Hardcore. How did you get hooked up with them; what were the teams like; what about the operation of the companies? In one of your conversations with Tom Smith you said that both Hardline and Hardcore “fell hard.” What happened to them?
Hardline was family and loyalty… that’s what sticks out in my head. Simply put, things fall apart, you know? A small business in a brand new, small industry (even today-what is the industry, 25 years old even?) is not a cake walk. The way I began to become part of Hardline went something like this… I am pretty sure I got into Hardline from the ground up. Well, my friends Mark Bishop, Matt Davis, Kevin Elam—a whole bunch of us really—and I would watch skate videos all the time, like “Dare to Air,” “Mad Beef,” or “The Hoax” and then go skate, and then come back and watch them again. We were kids, right? Anyways, a lot of stuff was filmed so close to where we were that we would drive to those spots and skate them.
One day, we decided to track down T-Bone Films. They were about 8 miles away from where I lived. I know, right? Stalkerish I guess. I was about 14 or 15 years old, don’t remember exactly, but I think when we showed up at Evan’s door we just rambled on about how cool and great the videos were. I think it was suggested we go and skate at the park that A.J. Jackson used to set up on the weekends in front of his apartment in Venice. Some time passed. We kept going to skate there and developed a kind of community with A.J. and the local skaters. One Christmas day, Mark and I decided we would go and see if A.J. wanted to skate, not even thinking he had his own life and actually might have plans on Christmas day. So we show up and buzz his intercom. We were all excited to go skate, so he answers and we ramble on about how we wanted him to come with us to U.C.L.A. to skate and he proceeds to explain he is having his family over for Christmas dinner, but he said to come back and promised he would go skating with us and show us some great spots.
From there, still 15 years old, I think, things just began to snowball into Hardline developing more and more. All I did was skate. I would dream of skating all the time. Hardline was the closest consistent thing to a full family feeling I had ever experienced (that I did not rebel against… ) at that point. A.J. and Kay, Tim Blackstock, Tracy White, Ralph Koch, A.J., Jeff, Eric Rendon… So the Hardline office was at the N.I.S.S. headquarters in Venice for a while. The company was run by Kay and A.J. Being a kid, honestly, I don’t know how things went down behind closed doors, but up front it was marketing, sticker making in-house, clothing design, meetings, shipping, phone calls, photo shoots, and skating. I think the skate park A.J. provided in front of his place in Venice played a big role in developing the community/scene there. A.J. has without a doubt been someone I took with me in my heart as time went on. He always put me in check when I needed it, and there were plenty of times I needed to be brought back down to earth. I had hung around my friend Mark while all of this was developing and he would take me to where he worked from time to time, Jinx Clothing, and we would B.S. with his boss, etc. I remember at one point, Roof Top (BMX) and Jay Miron were riding for Jinx, so there was always talk about this and that. The point is, it gave me a peep show to what I would later experience with Hardline.
Hardline expanded really quickly once it took shape. A.J. is really the person to talk to about all this. When I said “fell hard,” I mean what went up, came down. From my experience, A.J. cared more about us having fun on skates than making a buck off of us, and that is what I loved. He always made it clear that he would support opportunities that other companies might offer us, and he did. I dabbled here and there with research and development of a skate with Salomon, skating for Razors, and decided Hardline was who and what I wanted to invest my time and energy in. It seems like we just wanted to skate. There was a time when Hardline was (maybe most of the time) the blacksheep in skating, but was in the middle of it all too. Brian Smith, Rawlinson, B. Love, Neda Gane… so many people were “down” and supported Hardline.
Being on the same team as A.J. and Tracy with Hardline, and Brian Smith and Brian Bell and all them with Hardcore, was always inspiring. Getting to skate with all these pros around me was a big influence too, something to shoot for and soak up. One person that sticks out in my mind is Dominic Sagona. He always represented Hardline with absolutely no incentive as far as I know. Just thinking now, I think some of my favorite times skating was with Carlos Kessell, Tracy White, Paul Beeman, Ralph Koch, A.J, Alex, Rene, Jacob, all them. I think it was Chris and Jess that first put me in the Box and Daily Bread Magazine… time flies.
At one point, A.J. arranged for a few of us skaters to go up the west coast, skating the whole time. We drove around in an R.V. and got to hit up Am Jam in San Jose or Sacramento… I forget. We went to the S.F. NISS event on that trip, too. A bunch of skate parks on the way—wow, memories. One day at the Hardline office I remember being sat down and invited to two events, the X-Games in Rhode Island and The ISS Finals in Amsterdam. It was at that point that I really began to understand how much bigger skating was than just skating. A.J. would make sure we got to go to the tradeshows for the industry. It was there that I got my favorite pair of skates I ever had, a pair of K2s from B. Love… THANK YOU! I skated those in to the ground. Ha. At some point in time, Ralph and I had this gig at the Viper Room in L.A. Tracy was busy or something, so Ralphie hit me up… my God. We ended up dressing up like martial artists and rollerblading around on this small stage with some back-up dancers to some sort of Techno thump thump song… it was hilarious.
Tracy White had been skating for a while, and showed me the ropes so to speak. There was a part of him that always kept me motivated. I remember one day he literally came to my place banging on the door because I had got into a rut and was wasting time pretty much doing nothing. (Thank you brother! I know I was a bitch sometimes.) So it was easy to look up to him and watch the way he handled things. I may not have been able to put into practice all the positive things I experienced and learned back then, but I feel those experiences are the back bone of who I have become. Loyalty, honesty, and some form of humility that may hold me back, but I am very comfortable with that.
It was a trip, being so close to the industry. We would skate with everyone we used to see in the videos and it’s just funny looking back. Tracy and Carlos are like brothers to me; the amount of respect I have for them and A.J. is something that inspires me and keeps my head up as life goes on. By the way, Tracy had twins with his wife, Heather! Congratulations you two! There were so many cliques within cliques for Hardline. People may not have been officially Hardline, whatever that even means, but you had the N.Y. cats, Jose, Jon, Joe, Calvin, Ray; the people from up north, Kody, Kyle, Webby, Pat Lennen, Richard Seril, Tyler, Dayton. Hanging out in NorCal was great back in those times. Maxi Broome came outta nowhere from Florida, sheesh… long time. So many people supported Hardline.