A Conversation With - Tony Hawk

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A man who needs no introduction; Tony Hawk is quite simply one of the most influential skaters that ever dropped in. He not only brought the sport to levels of visibility not yet seen, but he also redefined the scenes involvement with video games and music. Bringing countless new skaters and bands with him along the way. Now with the launch of the Tony Hawk Signature line, and a capsule collection in collaboration with photography legend and friend Anton Corbijn available exclusively at London based luxury fashion retailer BROWNS. Tony is again pushing new boundaries for the culture /

Hi Tony and firstly congrats on the launch with Browns.  I would like to start by going back a bit, because I feel like as someone who has skated since childhood you have been a part of that journey. One of the reasons I picked up a board was Gleaming the Cube and Back to the Future. Which is going back some.

Ha! Yeah I hear a lot of people say they started skating from Back to Future.

Yeah but Gleaming the Cube is the one that made me really want to go out and properly skate. I mean this was obviously quite early in your career as well. At this point when you were doing this feature film with Christian Slater, did you think that skateboarding would ever become what it would become? Or was it still your hobby at that point?

At that point in my life, I was basically right out of high school going onto the set of the movie. Like literally after graduating high school. And then had to live in LA for a couple months to do that movie. So in my eyes that was my career. And I didn't go to college specifically because I had all these opportunities. So I wasn't thinking about it as a hobby, but I didn't know how long it would last. I just didn't think in bigger terms, I was just happy to go do that thing and then go on tour. It wasn't like; oh these are all the stepping-stones to a huge career. I mean, as far as I knew being in a Hollywood movie was as big as you got.

Yeah especially for a kid at that age as well to be doing those things.
For sure, and I literally had a part in the movie. We had done stunt double stuff before, but to have an actual part was crazy.

Did you do Police Academy? I seem to remember you being in that?

Yeah I was a stunt double.

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That's mental. So the relationship with Anton, when did you first see his work and know oh it was that guy who took that shot?  

Oh well his stuff with Joy Division for sure. Yeah obviously I probably wasn't old enough to understand that it was linked to a certain person and then recognize his style. And then it was probably the mid eighties when I realized that oh all these images and bands that I love have been documented by him.

Ok so in terms of you guys getting together and working. What was the process?

Uh, well, the request went out to have him shoot for this line and he was on sabbatical for lack of better term and they said, you know, it's not likely he will give you an answer if any very quickly. And then the message got to him and the answer came back very quickly that he was interested. Then the most difficult part of that was setting up a date for us to be in the same place at the same time.

Did Anton have any history with skateboarding himself?

He knew about the skate scene in Amsterdam, and we connected over a ramp that was outside the Van Gogh Museum that I skated in the mid eighties. And he knew all about that. But I don't think he was ever like really connected to skating, more that it was just through the music that was associated with the scene.

So you didn’t know each other before then?

No we didn't know each other. But we had plenty of mutual admiration of the same types of artists and bands. And we had met a lot of the same people. It was just fascinating to hear his stories about early punk stuff and the kind of situations that he was in. And the people he was drawn to who were for lack of a better word “influencers” back then. Where that he just loved their style, their art or their music. And he wanted to document all of that.

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“Anton and I had plenty of mutual admiration for the same types of artists and bands”


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I remember reading a story about him and New Order in NYC. He was commissioned by a magazine or something to document them while they were touring, and he was having such a good time just hanging out with them that he totally forgot to take any photographs over those few days. So at the end of his assignment, when he was due to go to the airport, he was like” oh shit I haven’t taken any photos”. So he went and got some throw away cameras from a nearby store, went through them really quickly and then went to the airport. But they ended up coming out amazing!

Ha Yeah. That sounds like his style.

So how involved with the design process on the capsule launching with Browns were you?

It's more like, once the concept of the pieces are there and they're sent to me, and I will feedback what I like and what I don't. It could be something small like “this should be turned a little bit more and maybe this should be more prominent”, but I don't involve myself too deeply in the physical product because I feel like we have experts in this field who know what they are doing.

I know you're a big music fan and you were heavily involved with the music selection on Tony Hawk Pro Skater. That first video game was kind of a transforming moment in the music industry as well as skating. And you not only put many of those young skaters on, you also put those bands on a new level of visibility. Is it still possible to do that with today’s modern technology? I mean to help spotlight artists or bands you like and help them to progress.

Oh it's always possible; it just takes the right vehicle. So I think my best comparison to how it works today is if you were to put out a viral or social media clip, and you have a new band attached to that that does the soundtrack. And that is where people get interested. It happens to me all the time. I mean I'll do a little video clip and use a song that I love as the soundtrack. I then get a lot of people hitting me with “What is that song, who does that song?” So that's always a fun way to get people to discover new music.

We used to record the soundtracks from Skate videos via the AUX output on the back of the VCR’s so we had all the tracks. That's how we discovered new bands back then, so that is a new version of that journey of discovery.

Yeah for sure, and we knew that people were recording the audio from our skate movies back then. So in fact with the first Birdhouse movie, we made sure the sound and music were on separate channels so when you recorded them you could take out the skating audio.

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“What Danny Way did in that first DC film, that was a revolution for vert skating.”


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One final question, and it’s something I like to ask skaters of a certain stature, what is your favourite film clip by another skater? Everyone has one…

Oh wow… Um, well in terms of being a vert skater, when that DC video came out with Danny (Way) on the mega ramp. He kept that so under wraps, and so when it finally came out it was like wow that's crazy how big that is. And then it just kept going, and it was like now he's got a rail and now he's doing this you know what I mean? Like the thing just kept unfolding and each thing was next level for what vert skating was.  And what then became the advent of the big air ramp. But um yeah that was a revolution.


Tony Hawk Signature Line X Anton Corbijn is available exclusively at Browns East /

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FashionGraeme Gaughan