Chris Franzen Interview

March 2, 2014

photo: Blabac

photo: Blabac

The genesis of this interview took place about five years ago, when Chris emailed me after reading this post.

 In the years between then and now, a certain subdivision of skate nerdery concerning who has done what over a Cali picnic table flourished. A legend grew of someone switch 360 kickflipping over one.

 Off flat.

 A few months ago, Chris posted a sequence on his instagram account of him switch 360 flipping over a picnic table. It was as if a new dead sea scroll was unearthed. It seemed like a good opportunity for an interview, both about the trick and about  LA County. The video has earned status as one of the most celebrated #lowimpact vids ever, yet its creators are still shrouded in mystery.

 In the following interview, Chris tells his story, provides a perspective into the inner workings of the industry around the turn of the century, and elucidates a window back in time to a definitive era in Los Angeles.

 Where are you from and how did you get into skating? 

I am from Breckenridge, Colorado and I started skating in 1985. I remember being infatuated with skating after seeing the movie Back to the Future.

note graphic

note graphic

Describe a typical day skating in LA in the late 90’s when the pit, USC ledges, etc. were all active spots. 

Skateboarding’s funny; no matter where you go, it’s super territorial. My prospective was heavily clouded with drugs, but I remember it always having a heavy overtone of competition at all the popular spots. If you were able to ignore the competitive aspects and just enjoy the actual moments skating, it was amazing.

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“Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become.”                                                                                                   –Mary McGrory

You don’t have to be an MIT physicist to deduce that New England has been killing it lately. Exhibit A: The World Series win. Exhibit B: the Patriots’ continued status at the top of the AFC East, fueled by a series of improbably last-minute comebacks, Brady’s superhuman confidence and Belichick’s analytic genius (more on this later). Exhibit C: The rise of Eggs as the most chill street spot on the East Coast and possibly in the United States (more on this later as well). Even the Celtics and Bruins have won championships in the past few years.

The only victory left for New Englanders is an honest-to-G*d Patrick John Ladd video part. For a board company video. #Physical or iTunes.

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scan via skately.com

scan via skately.com

“the NSX pull out the driveway/feelin’ like Scarface. desperado on the case”

-Royal Flush, 1997

Right when I moved to California, I bought a ’95 Civic Coupe. I had it for no longer than a month. I completely totaled the fucking car.” 

-Caine Gayle, 1997*

I first saw the 101 War Report promo on a VHS cassette tape that also contained Da Deal is Dead, some SMA video, and maybe Vision Barge at Will. In addition to the innovative “jogger” narrative element, the footage of McNatt piloting a silver NSX seemed to communicate a theme. Like, a futuristic car for mad futuristic skating, or some shit. The NSX symbolized Rocco’s New World Order and foreshadowed Clinton-era economic prosperity. While conceptualized as a supercar or some shit, it still had that Civic DNA deep down in its rear-situated engine.

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I have never lived in a skate house, and I never will.

Let me clarify–living in a skate house would be sick as fuck. However, my age precludes me from doing so. This is a fact. As one ages, the possibility of doing certain things quietly disappears over the horizon. Joining the Marine Corps. Doing the whole “Barcelona” thing. Even the quintessential cross-country road trip would require logistical planning comparable to staging the D-Day invasion.

During the time I skated the most and the best, I lived in one of those weird NYC living situations with a bunch of random people whom I never saw, except for the Asian “landlord” dude who rode his bicycle around the Columbia campus. It would have been fucking sick to live in a skate house back then. I started thinking about this topic because, in the aftermath of the Kalis EL, a particulary vivid account of an evening at the San Diego Alien House surfaced on the SLAP messageboard—I assume from CBI or Police Informer. So vivid and powerfully nostalgic was this story—the likes of which one rarely reads in skournalism—that it reminded me of that one scene in The Great Gatsby when Nick goes to a party at Gatsby’s house for the first time: Read the rest of this entry »

thanks for clarifying that; I was under the impression that you dudes operated under a strict code of conduct

Back in the late Nineties, one of my drinkin’ buddies periodically wore this orange Poison shirt—the same color as the “go directly to jail” card in monopoly. I thought this was cool because, as you probably remember, bright primary color shirts, like yellow and orange were cool at the time–like those first run of “[INSERT CITY NAME HERE] 04” Fourstar shirts. He and I also often contemplated starting a sincere hair metal band. However, I am not sure if he knew how to play an instrument. I don’t think he even had a band name, which is the element one usually creates first in this kind of endeavor. All he had was one song title:

“Unprotected Love.”

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In all honesty, when I started this project two summers ago, I did not consciously intend for it to take as long to complete as the Menace/All City/City Stars video. I’m not nearly that “meta.”

However, it certainly seems appropriate. I had the outline on my wall the whole time; other shit just kept coming up. Now, the time is right. I will try to post five exhibits per week until I get to exhibit “AA.”* Who knows if I will adhere to that schedule, though. Again, this doesn’t seem inappropriate. Setting and reaching short-term goals and building them into long-term goals is not very menace tech.

To refresh your memory, the original post, including a rationale for this shit and exhibits A-G, can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »