Skateboarding is more than a sport; it's a bridge to outsider culture. And since the first filmed clips were put to songs, skateboarding videos have been influencing the discovery of new music. There are countless examples of bands that have reached a new audience through skate videos, but five -- Suicidal Tendencies, Animal Collective, Three Six Mafia, Band of Horses and the penultimate soundtrack to skateboarding, Dinosaur Jr. -- stand out from the pack.
Music is a natural counterpart to skating, giving voice to emotion, aggression and styles loose or precise. It is the basis for the edit and the vibe of the video part, be it a dreamy, ethereal, folksy segment full of long lines and slow-motion airs or an onslaught of fast cuts, big handrails, dangerous drops and shredding guitars with double bass kickers.
In addition to setting the tempo of the edit, song choice can make or break a video part. When it works, it fuses with the content, creating an indelible association between the rider and the song. Conversely, when the song doesn't work the part either ends up getting fast-forwarded or muted. The following are instances when the pairing was a success.
You'd be hard pressed to find a band tied more directly to skateboarding than Suicidal Tendencies. Their self-titled first album is the benchmark for skate rock: the cover photo was shot by Glen E. Friedman, artwork by Lance Mountain, it featured the skate anthem "Institutionalized" and even the music video had Natas Kaupas skating around. They were a thrashing battle cry, reviled by authority and parents and embraced by skateboarders. Suicidal Tendencies' music has been included in numerous skate videos, including Danny Way's revolutionary mega-ramp part in "The DC Video" and even in the "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" video game.
Skaters embracing Suicidal Tendencies was a natural progression, as singer Mike Muir grew up alongside his brother, Dogtown Skateboards founder and professional skateboarder Jim "Red Dog" Muir. "Suicidal was first 'adopted' by the skaters, long before the punks and metal," says Mike. "Having lots of skaters saying they love listening to Suicidal Tendencies and skating is something we are very proud of, and we will always do our part to support and encourage that bond. And, of course, being in so many skate-related videos is a major bonus."
In Girl's "Pretty Sweet," director Ty Evans used two Suicidal Tendencies songs off their first album for two of the youngest team-riders' parts. Skate videos not only introduce skateboarding fans to new music, but to classics as well. Evans explained that the youngest Girl riders often have an obscure selection of music on their iPods, usually including only a band's most popular song. In the tour van Evans would indoctrinate the kids. "I'd play the whole album for Cory [Kennedy] and Vincent [Alvarez] and Elijah [Berle] and they were just loving it," he says. "That kind of thing is so cool, sharing and passing on the stuff that you learned to this younger generation. That's what it's all about."
Animal Collective band member Dave Portner (aka Avey Tare) is familiar with music's relationship to skateboarding both as a skater and as a performer. "I skated up through high school. I definitely can recall a strong connection between skating and music, and I think it still exists today," he explains. "Whether it [was] just listening to jams to get psyched on skating -- I used to skate and listen to music like Pavement in my garage all the time -- or getting into certain songs through skaters and skate videos, the tie between them remains very strong."
In 2009, having already released eight albums, Animal Collective was introduced to skateboarding fans via Alien Workshop's "Mind Field" video. Animal Collective's always had a broad and diverse fan base, but having their song "My Girls" prominently featured in Jake Johnson's breakout part and "In The Flowers" used for veteran Workshop pro Jason Dill, the band noticed more rippers in the crowd. "It does seem like more skaters have gotten into us in the past couple of years," Portner says. "It's sweet that we've permeated that world."
Three Six Mafia
Obsessions run deep in skateboarding, whether it's the refusal to skate a board with a red top veneer, the determination to land a trick with "good arms" or repeatedly reviewing the same videos or individual parts. Specific videos and songs get drilled into the minds of fans. Baker Skateboards has made a string of particularly addictive videos and in every one they've used music from Three Six Mafia.
Baker's filmer, Ryan "Beagle" Ewing, remembers, "The first time I heard Three Six was in [skateboarder] Brad Hayes' pickup truck, and I had to buy every Three Six thing that I heard of and every solo album." The Baker team riders got on board with their filmer's fixation, influencing their cult-like following of young fans to pick up on the Memphis, Tenn., rap group. Baker team rider Bryan Herman skated to them in Pharmacy's shop video "Chilly" and more recently in "Bake And Destroy." When asked about the natural fit between Three Six Mafia and Baker Skateboards, Herman simply states, "Because we just get buck."
Band Of Horses
Although Band of Horses has, thus far, only been included in Lakai's "Fully Flared" soundtrack, it was enough to send droves of skate fans to iTunes to buy their songs "The Funeral" and "Is There A Ghost." In fact, the link between the Band of Horses songs and Lakai's Guy Mariano is so well established that in a YouTube search of "the funeral skate" the top result is Mariano's part in "Fully Flared."
The Grammy-nominated alt-country rockers from South Carolina proved to be the perfect fit for Mariano's surprising comeback. Ty Evans edited Mariano's part to "The Funeral" and still had a ton of great footage, so he listened to the follow-up Band of Horses album and found "Is There A Ghost." Evans explains the poignant tone of the choice: "Both the songs have some really cool meaning with Guy's back story; 'The Funeral' is his introduction and then 'Is There A Ghost' is like the rebirth and the icing on the cake."GUY MARIANO'S "Fully Flared" VIDEO PART
For his supporters, Mariano's return fulfilled their hopes, and the redemptive qualities of the Band of Horses songs highlighted the emotional re-emergence of one of skateboarding's fallen heroes. Mariano recalls, "When I saw my edit with the music, right away I felt that it was perfect. Music is such an important part of the edit. The messages and tone of both songs really captured my journey, from my absence to my comeback and all the hard work in between."
Used in more skate videos than any other band's, for more than 30 years the music of Dinosaur Jr. has inspired generations of skateboarders to hit the streets or the mini ramp and to seek out their records. Santa Cruz, Blind, Toy Machine, Transworld and many other brands have amped up viewers by using Dinosaur Jr. in their videos, but none more so than Alien Workshop.
Alien Workshop filmmaker Greg Hunt remembers his initiation to Dinosaur Jr.: "Mike Vallely's part in 'Speed Freaks' and Rudy Johnson in 'Video Days' were huge influences. I would have definitely not listened to Dinosaur Jr. at such an early age otherwise."
The collaboration between the Ohio-based skate brand and the alt-rock legends happened organically. Hunt lays down the history of the association: "I think [Dinosaur Jr. front man] J Mascis was friends with Neil Blender and those guys before Workshop even started. I know there was some Dinosaur Jr. in the G&S video 'Footage' that they'd made, so I think it all stemmed from there. But I'm sure everyone would agree that the 'Memory Screen' [video] intro with 'Little Ethnic Song' was what really sealed it. Since then, they've always kept that connection with J going."
They did more than just stay connected, even featuring Mascis himself in Omar Salazar's part in their 2009 video "Mind Field." Intimate footage of Salazar and Mascis skating and of Salazar playing guitar at his home solidified his place on the team. Fellow pros Mikey Taylor and Grant Taylor also had the honor of using Dinosaur Jr. in their "Mind Field" parts.OMAR SALAZAR'S "Mind Field" VIDEO PART
For Salazar, getting to interact with Mascis was mind blowing. "I still can't believe the amazing opportunity I had to skate, hang out and play music with him," he says. "He is a man with few words. He showed me his old skateboard collection. I remember talking to Greg Hunt about how we would watch J doing his thing, and the most amazing thing we saw was that every time when it would be silent J would all of a sudden begin to play air guitar and hum out sounds; we were experiencing a genius at work! He was making music that only existed in his mind. A true pioneer of radical music."
Skateboarding videos have introduced skate fans to a huge variety of music, from jazz to metal, classic rock to reggae. In the changing viability of brands making full-length skate videos, it's great to remember that more than skating is being learned and absorbed through these projects; the sense of connectivity that makes kids feel engaged is just as valid a reward.