Meeting… Josh Stewart!

Photos: Pep Kim

Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

"[…] the second I plugged it into the sequence and watched it to his footage, it was so striking I realized it was a brilliant idea."

 Pepsi Kim

It might have taken a minute or two for us to finally put out this interview, but…
A) The DVD is now fully available all around the world. And B) Josh can't really give a hard time to anyone about taking their time, can he?
So, yes, the final chapter of the Static series did take quite a while to get done, but it is worth a bit more than its weight in gold, as in a time of total saturation of images, very few projects even get the chance of a second replay… While, we all already know that this one is here to stay, as in it will have a heavy replay value that might only grow with the years. Yep, we are talking “classic” status here, and as Josh explains here, it does take a bit more than having a bunch of talented skaters around…
Benjamin Deberdt

It seems to me the final chapter of Static has —apart from finely picked skating, and pristine filming— a strong focus on "sound", to put it loosely… Is that something you had in mind, from the beginning?
You're actually the first person to notice and point that out. I would say that it didn't really develop as a focus until the last year of working on the project. Shooting so much 16mm film, I started realizing that something was missing from capturing the bizarre feeling of the underground subway system of NYC. And once we started taking audio recorders onto the trains and capturing sounds to tie in with the visuals, it was striking to see how much more it pulled me into another world, once I plugged in sound effects and background noises. I wish we had more time to develop the audio experiments we were doing in the last few months of the project. There was so much more that could be done with it.

I believe Steve Brandi's part will reach classic status real quick just from its soundtrack… Can you tell us who came up with it?
I'm usually really tough to work with on skate videos because I usually have song ideas for each video part and I have a hard time caving to someone else's idea. So when Steve brought that song idea to me I was immediately hesitant. And already started making excuses for why I didn't think it would work. But the second I plugged it into the sequence and watched it to his footage it was so striking I realized it was a brilliant idea. It's such a relief when you know you've found the right song. And this one was all Steve's idea.

 Pepsi Kim

Dustin Eggeling, backside nosegrind 180

Years ago, I labelled "The Olly Todd rule" the idea that a part should never have a better song than the skating displayed in it. As in, you can't just slap The Doors on your skatepark throwaway footage… Is that something you can relate to?
[Laughter] Oh man, that's hilarious. Dude, I couldn't agree more. I get so bummed when I see an incredible song used in some crappy online edit. But, honestly, at this point, there's so much skate media out there that you almost just have to ignore it all and use whatever you want. I mean, you obviously can't use a song that's already been used in a classic video part. But if you have a great song saved up and edited to a part and then another video part comes out with that song, I think it's fine to still use it. It just depends. That actually happened to me with Vivien Feil's part. I had his part edited to the same song for almost five years. And then about four months before the NYC premiere, an online video part went up on a European mag's website with a kid skating to the same song. I was so fucking bummed. But, fortunately, I had a back-up song. And in the long run I ended up liking that backup song more anyways. But, holy shit…

It is pretty obvious that a part is a collaboration between a skater and a filmer, but do you let the people you film influence you at all, or do you know what you will do, and just dish it to them?
It really depends on the skater. I mean, most of the time I have an idea in my head and I am going to do whatever I can to see it through. I'll entertain the skaters ideas or suggestions, but ultimately I feel like I'm thinking about the video part in the context of the look/feel/vibe of the whole video as a single piece. And the skater is usually only thinking of his part as if it was a stand alone project. So there's often a disagreement or argument in that process. But I've had my ideas flipped on their heads many times by skaters who have great ideas. Even though it often takes me a while to warm up to them. I'd say three great examples are Ed Selego's part in Adio Shoes One Step Beyond, Bobby Puleo's part in Static II and Steve Brandi's part in Static IV. And what's funny is those are probably three of my favorite parts I've had the pleasure of being involved in. But the songs for all of them were picked by the skater. And they're all bangers.

 Pepsi Kim

Quim Cardona

Years ago, you mentioned to me that "helping older skaters see the value in their skating is often the most difficult aspect of my job.". How does that transfer into a couple of the older heads being given heavy, and deserved, spots in the video?
Yeah, usually the raddest skaters, the ones with classic styles that we all know and love and want to see more of don't see what it is about their skating that people like. So, often, I would find myself in the role of a motivational speaker, trying to convince skaters the value of their presence on a skateboard. I think it's awesome that a lot of these dudes don't have huge egos and don't see themselves as deserving of the hype around their skating. But it gets to the point where I would have to beg some skaters to just trust me, and that people just want to see them skate. I'd say that Ricky Oyola's Static II part is a great example of that. He seriously wanted me to only use two tricks of him. He didn't think any of it was good enough and he didn't think he deserved a part. And then, still to this day, people will tell me that's one of their favorite parts and that he should've been given the last part.

 Pepsi Kim

Jahmal Williams, ollie up kickflip fakie

Once again, the "Egypt Egypt" track on Jahmal Williams hit me hard… Could you explain to the kids how much of an amazing pairing this is?
[Laughter] Dude. It's funny because there are so many times when working on a project, I've said: “I wish I could explain to everyone who watches the video why we did this!”. Now is my chance! Well, there are a lot of things I could say about it and bore the whole world with, so I'll try to condense it to a few sentences. 'Egypt Egypt' is by Afrika Bambaataa [teaming up with electro guru Egyptian LOver, Ed's Note], who is one of maybe two artists credited with laying the foundation of hip-hop music. It comes from an era when b-boying (breakdancing) and hip-hop went hand in hand, and it captures the vibe of the NYC that we all glamorize as the golden-era. Jahmal used to b-boy before he even skated, and he is one of the personalities who helped lay the foundation of east coast/underground skateboarding. And, considering that the overall theme of Static IV is based around the aesthetic of the underground subway of NYC, it just seemed to be the ideal song.

Once the “obvious” candidates were in, how did you pick up the members of the new generation? Because, so many people deserve exposure, right now…
That's a good point. It would be impossible to look at the current scene and, say, pick out my top fifteen dudes to represent the Static vibe. It more came down to strong personalities and people I vibed with. I originally only had about four parts picked out for the video. But throughout filming, different skaters would end up rolling around with us and certain dudes like Brendan Carroll or Kevin Tierney had such rad, humble personalities and were so fun to hang out and skate with that I'd end up wanting them involved in the project. Then there were skaters like Jake Johnson or Vincent Alvarez, whose styles and personalities are so unique and in line with the style of Static skaters of the past, I wanted them involved despite the fact that they weren't really “underground”. It meant a lot to have them involved.

 Pepsi Kim

Now that you can finally retire, who is it that you are watching, being excited about their documentation of skateboarding?
Whoa man! Slow down! [Laughter] I never said I was retiring. I may be having to bring the Static series to an end, but I will still be involved filming and doing fun independent projects here and there. I just can't work on a long term skate video that takes four to five years to film any more. My body can no longer take the abuse. That being said, there are a lot of interesting videographers out there doing exciting work. And the whole video world is so open now that I think we're going to see talented unknown video-makers popping up out of the blue. I'm usually more stoked on anything that's just blatantly different than what everyone else is doing. So Peter Sidlauskas' Bronze videos are always entertaining, Pontus Alv's work is always exciting to me, a lot of Japanese videos have been impressing me as well, like Takahiro Morita's work and Shinpei Ueno's videos. But I think that with all of these new tools available to video-makers, we're going to see some really bizarre and amazing stuff coming out of places we never expected, and video-makers we've never heard of. Skateboarding is ready for some really out-of-the-box filmmaking and I can't wait to see what pops up out of the minds of the underground skate scene soon.

You can and should obtain a DVD copy and the attached booklet that comes with it, over here if you are in the States and here if you are in Europe.

And, in the meantime, here is a great example of all the soundtrack work that makes Static IV stand out:

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