Originally printed on DSL #33
The video « Wheels Of Fire » from Santa Cruz skateboards was, for me, a revelation. What I used to do, in my street, my ghost town, finally meant something. Skateboarding and music, together in a video, resounded in my head, and all my being seemed to belong to this culture.
I remember that some bits of the video were played by a band called 8days, sung by lead singer Claus Grabke.
The same dude that you can see ripping the ramp with Christian Hosoi in «Raging Waters».
A skateboarder who played music the same way he skateboarded, with exactly the same energy?!?
I’d known it from the start that skateboarding wasn’t just a sport, and Claus was the living proof. It fitted together so perfectly: Skateboarding and music. I was 9 or maybe 10 at the time, and I was totally smitten. That’s what triggered my passion for music, and is probably the reason that I got to where I am today. I even did a cover of Claus Grabke’s song «What’s So Strange About Me» on my first album.
Producer, skateboarder, engineer, musician, etc… it seems like you’ve had more than one life! If you could only choose one, what one would it be?
I can’t choose, and thank God that I never had to. I think that my personality is made up of all those things rolled into one… I loved doing all the things you just mentioned, and other stuff you don’t even know about. For example, I love motorbikes. I’ve just built a garage in my studio, that way my son, my mates and me; we can do our bikes up together.
Time for a flashback, let’s go back to the famous Santa Cruz good times. It must’ve been amazing to be this young German kid, icon of an entire generation, influencing all these skateboarders.
That period in my life was so crazy. From a 12-year-old kid who used to skate around the streets of his hometown to one of the most bankable skateboarders at the time, it was a dream come true…
Just thinking about that period helps me sleep better, puts me into a better mood when I’m feeling down. I lived one of my biggest dreams, and I never sold myself in order to do so. I’ve been skateboarding since 1976, had my first sponsors in 1977, my first pro model by TITUS SKATES in 1981 and my first offer from Santa Cruz in 1983.
At the time, I had to turn them down, through loyalty to my first sponsors. I then went with Powell Peralta but I left the day my pro model arrived, we weren’t getting along, so I started skating for MADRID SKATEBOARDS, with whom I went on tour all over the US (heads up to Bryce Kanights, Mike Smith, Bill Danforth and Beau Brown).
I started skating for Santa Cruz, summer of 86, and it was awesome! I’ve skated on quite a few test boards. I’ve worked on special shapes and different types of wood with Tim Piumarta at the Santa Cruz factory.
I’ve been able to do my graphic designs with Jim Philips and have my own pro model. I owe so much to the Santa Cruz crew, words could never express my gratitude. Santa Cruz is actually going to bring out re-editions of my old pro models, starting with « Melting Clocks », which’ll be out shortly this year.
I remember the video Wheels of Fire (Santa Cruz, 1988), and that song you wrote with your band at that time, Eight Dayz. How did you come around to playing music?
I’ve always been a huge music lover. When I arrived in England for the first time in 1978, punk had just hit the country and I went out and bought a load of records. I’d been dreaming about forming a band for some time (my brother always used to play in these groups, which highly influenced me) and when I met my guitarist, and my bass player we started rehearsing together and wrote some songs. The track “What’s So Strange About Me, » was recorded only a week after the creation of our band, and was the second song we recorded. The first was « Politicians”, which you can find on the collector’s album that we’ve just released.
At the time, music and skateboarding went together perfectly, didn’t they?
I think it did go perfectly together, but I knew it wasn’t the same thing. I didn’t want to be considered as a skater who played for skaters, if you see what I mean… I wanted to play for music fans everywhere. But yeah, the vibe was sure the same thing as skateboarding!
This magazine edition is brought to you by pro snowboarder and musician Trevor Andrew, who’s a huge fan of your work. He recently did a cover of your song, « What’s So Strange About Me.” Do you realise the impact you’ve had on an entire generation?
I’ve heard Trevor’s version and I love it. It’s great to think that my first band and I have had such an influence on others. I mean, nowadays I’m a musician, and my other bands have had much more success than Eight Dayz ever did. I’ve toured around the world and played the biggest festivals with groups like « Thumb”, “Alternative Allstars », « Claus Grabke » and recently with my son’s band « The Picturebooks. » I understand that Eight Dayz has a special significance to skateboarders and snowboarders and I’m proud of that!
As I was saying, you’ve gone through several phases in your life. You were a pro skater, you created the first skateboarding magazine in Germany, created brands such as Homeboy, produced the group Dog Eat Dog… it seems that every time you start something, you follow it till the end, and then you go start something new. Was it like that with skateboarding?
As soon as I got to a certain point in skateboarding, when I thought I’d done it all, I left my sponsors that same day and started buying my boards just to skate on, just for having fun. I only wanted to associate skateboarding with good times/sensations!
Friends of mine started earning some cash without even skateboarding, just through being an « oldy, » using their faces on brandnames… that was never my thing. I went directly into music without asking myself why, and kept skateboarding for what it should be: a fun activity, and not a full time job!
You reckon it was better before?
Skateboarding was at its prime at the beginning of the 80s, when the skaters reinvented skateboarding after it’s death at the end of the 70s.
Skateboarding then became punk and underground. Everyone knew one another, we were a small crew… it was an innocent movement.
The people of that era will back me up when I say that skateboarding lost it’s virginity in the 90s.
It’s not cool anymore, it’s crap, ugly, kaput… the X Games killed off any existing vibes it had; we’ve lost the energy, and don’t give a shit about our history.
For me, skateboarding isn’t a sport, it’s an ANTI-sport.