Australia, Breaking His Face & Turning Pro with Josh Pall

josh-pall-interview-title-speedway-skateboarding-magazinejosh-pall-interview-speedway-skateboarding-magazine-photo-thomas-robinsonEasy Josh, what time is it in Oz right now? About half nine/half ten?

I’m half ten. I had an early night, I was just going to bed and was like, “Oh, fuck!” Emailed you and then fell asleep. Got the interview anyway I guess, (laughs). But yeah, just woke up.

Sorry for the delay getting back in touch with you…

Oh man, it’s sweet. Yesterday I was helping my girlfriend move out and then when you were actually calling me I was talking to Middsey (Chris Middlebrook), the Nike TM over here. He just got back and every conversation with him is at least an hour long. Just catching up and stuff so could hear the beeps come through and you trying to call but yeah, we made it, (laughs).

Let’s get this going then. So, you got on Nike SB shortly after Gravis went under, how did that come around?

Gravis pretty much went bust overnight and I just kept skating like normal and got shoes off friends or whoever. Then Middsey had a chat to me and was up for it, he gave me some shoes to try out and that’s pretty much it. I was just about to go on a little trip to New Zealand with some mates and from there it continued. Then I officially got on and started filming this part.

Have you stayed in touch with any of the guys from Gravis since everyone went to a couple of different companies?

Yeah, I guess the majority skate for HUF now but I skate with Sammy (Winter) pretty much every  day. Still keep in touch with Dylan (Rieder) and Austyn (Gillette) a little bit. I’m still friends with Tom K and Terps (Kevin Terpening) but I haven’t seen those guys in a while. I try to keep in touch as much as I can.

Did you grow up skating with Sammy?

I actually grew up skating with his little brother, Bill. Sammy was a few years older than I was and we were  sort of the grommets. But then you reach a certain age and everyone starts skating with each other. We went to the same high school and I have known him since I was probably twelve years old so I have been skating with him a long time.

Did you study after high school or just get absorbed into skateboarding as a career?

To be a skateboarder you just skate and get any shit job you can, (laughs). But I didn’t go to university or anything. Early on I figured out what is the point going to study for four years if I don’t even know, or like, what I’m doing? Just study for the sake of finishing high school? I grew up in Sunshine Coast which is two hours north of Brisbane. I moved to Brisbane, which is a major city in Queensland, and just skated and  got a job, trying to be as free as you can and not jump into a fucking full time job or full time study straight away.

With cities of the scale Sydney is, scenes can be cliquey and divided. Was that something you encountered when you moved there?

Nah, not at all, everyone was super friendly and good mates. There was never a need for that, you just skate with whoever was around that day. But it goes through states, Melbourne has a few little cliquey scenes and stupid shit like that but it’s all pretty friendly over here.

Sometimes it feels there is a misconception that there is nothing to skate in England outside of London. Are there areas in Australia that are actually really good but get brushed off because they aren’t major locations?

Yeah, but I kind of see it like if you’re a team coming over to skate Australia you almost have got to go the major cities because you’re going to get spots and stuff done. It depends who you meet up with or who shows you around because they will have good insights all just on local knowledge. Definitely stuff gets slept on but there is so much in the city and close by. I have been to London once and honestly it’s the roughest ground I have ever skated, the roughest city. I always thought New York was so hard to skate but… Nah.

Did you know Nick Boserio and Alex Campbell before you got on Nike?

We did a trip in ’07 to Osaka and that would have been the first time I met Alex and maybe Nick. I knew those guys for years but they both lived in Perth so we never skated together and then when I skated for Nike we actually hung out. But it’s like I said before, everyone in Australia pretty much knows everyone within the skate scene because it’s so small.

Nick seems pretty intense. That’s the vibe his skating gives off anyway. Is he really like that or is he actually pretty mellow?

He isn’t really mellow  but not an intense guy I don’t think. Just always down for a good time and gives off a good vibe. I guess you could say he is the dude that gets the party started as lame as that sounds, (laughs). But nah, he’s super friendly, he won’t vibe you out or anything.

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How did you meet Trent Evans and end up riding for Pass~Port?

I met Trent back in the Sunny Coast. He actually grew up half an hour south from where I did.They used to run skate comps where he is from and back then he ripped. Well, he still does rip. He’s five years older than me so we didn’t really see each other or skate together for years and years. He moved on from the Sunny Coast and I was still there. Then we skated in Brisbane together and once I moved to Sydney him and a bunch of mates moved maybe six  months later. In Sydney, when I moved, there was about ten other people than came down from Queensland and the Sunny Coast. It was like we almost didn’t leave. Eventually he asked if I wanted to ride for Pass~Port and eventually I said yes.

Who were you riding for before Pass~Port?

Habitat. Sparkes was the TM of all the Burton companies. I was fucking stoked on the company; loved the boards and everything so I was under the impression that I might as well just stay. Don’t wanna be one of these dudes that jumps and changes to the next thing so when Trent asked me I was like, “I don’t know man…” (Laughing), I didn’t say ‘yes’for a while then I just figured fuck it, my friends ride for it and Trent is running it. I wasn’t even thinking of what would happen with  Habitat.  It changed distributions over here and it seemed stupid not to skate for a company that is Australian with all my friends. After that it was a no brainer.

How much do think the brand being rooted in Oz defines the graphics and direction?

I think so for sure because there has been a bunch of Australian board companies before but this is the first one that has been… I don’t know how to say it. I think they keep it Australian, they keep it to Australian humour and the whole aesthetic is pretty local. Most of the graphics and every-thing pretty much comes from the culture here you could say. There has only really been maybe four or five Aussie board brands and they have never really got to a big enough level within the whole industry here. Pass~Port is by far the biggest and has been for a while now. We have always been run by the major US brands. Now I guess we get the smaller brands but they aren’t local small brands they are small brands from the UK and wherever.

There are a lot of brands outside of the US having a more substantial impact on skateboarding. Why do you think that is?

It’s just one of those things, that kind of sounds stupid to say, but it is the trend now – the time for small companies. Trent and all those other little board companies are starting to get more  recognition and more people are jumping on board with the small brand. Trent has been around eight or nine years now and he has always been there but now it’s kind of cool to support something that’s not so fucking big, a little more niche. That gives the opportunity for more people to turn pro or have their skate career where they live. But even in my case, Dean (Palmer) or Callum (Paul): we’ve got a board with Pass~Port but still work. If you want to stay where you grew up, you’ve got to do what you got to do to support it. We all work, skate and just hang out with our friends.

What do you do as a job?

I’m a screen printer.

Do you have a lot of input into the graphical side of Pass~Port with working as a screen printer?

I don’t apart from when we did my board but that was just me saying what I wanted on the side of simplicity. At the screen printers I just do a lot of printing, I don’t do any of the graphical stuff there either.

Do the people you work with know about what you do as a skateboarder?

Yeah, there’s ten of us and I started when there was probably only three so we’re all super close. Obviously they know that I skate. My boss has actually been super cool, he’s one of those dudes that wants people to succeed so he will let me go away, come back and still work. I’ll go away for months at a time then I get home and he’s like, “Yeah fuck it, come back.” He has been supportive and knows I’m not going to be there forever or print t-shirts for the rest of my life so he lets me go off.

“I have been to London once and honestly it’s the roughest ground I have ever skated, the roughest city. I always thought New York was so hard to skate but… Nah.”

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How has it been seeing Pass~Port grow since you first got on three years ago?

When I got on I kind of didn’t know what was gonna happen with the brand. It could have stayed the same  or could have just fizzled. I mean it wouldn’t have fizzled, Trent wouldn’t have let that happen. It’s cool to see, Trent being my friend. Seeing him succeed each season, run of boards and new product or whatever – a bit more each time. It was kind of weird when you started seeing people in the street wearing a t-shirt. I’d text him: “Hey just seen some random  dude, don’t think it was a skater, wearing your t-shirt.” It was the coolest thing but now you see that shit everywhere.

You mentioned the graphics stick to Australian humour so what was the idea behind the guy digging featured on your debut board and the motif running throughout your part?

works-josh-pall-passport-skateboards-graphicSomeone asked me the other day: “What’s with the graphic, is it someone digging themselves a hole? Or digging themself out of a situation?” I like the idea of someone digging themself a hole, digging themself a grave, (laughs). Marcus, who does a lot of the Pass~Port graphics, and Trent had more of an idea than I did of what it was going to be. He drew that up and I always just wanted something simple. One simple picture in the middle of the board, nothing covering any of it and they came up with that. Before, my name was in the dirt with the shovel, it was real big and we changed it. There’s a guy in there smoking a cigarette and I don’t smoke so it doesn’t really reflect me directly I guess, (laughs). A lot of Trent’s stuff is to do with working hard or working classes so it’s an Aussie bloke digging a hole… I think it’s funny that he’s flipping the bird.

How did the shoe collaboration come around? Was it already in the works and coincided with you turning pro or were there plans to turn you pro and then the idea for the collaboration followed?

I got on Nike and then after a little while it was, “Should we do a welcome clip?” Me and Middsey were trying to do that. I think Brass and Alex were doing their Two Up part, or starting to, so it turned from a welcome clip to a full part. Once that got in motion, Middsey kept thinking one step ahead: “What about you getting a board when this comes out?” I always thought it was pretty iffy getting a pro board. If I was happy with the part and Trent wants to do a board, he can do one. But I didn’t want to if I wasn’t stoked with what I produce.

Anyway, we just kept filming for the part and eventually Middsey says, “How about we do a shoe with it?” and I was like “Fucking hell!” Turned into a board and a shoe from a part. Putting the pressure on. Brass and Alex had theirs and the Two Up shoe which was fucking sick. Middsey was the same with me: “We’re going to have a part for you, we’re going to have the shoe launch, the board…” Then at the last minute “Yeah, we’re gonna make this book.”A one minute welcome clip to all this shit and I was working full time so hopefully it turns out alright, I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Fuck, in the end I got hurt in the last few months of filming and then that was it. I completely broke my face and was in hospital. Whatever we had was going to be it because the launch was in two months. Middsey made an edit and I was actually stoked with that, as stoked as I could be. We were already too far in but I’m happy how it all turned out.

Started out with a welcome part and dug yourself into an entire collaboration then?

Yeah you got it!

Are there any tricks in that part with a good story behind them?

Some, I honestly went back to four or five times (laughs). It doesn’t work out, so you say “Next time,” and then it’s “Fuck! I have to do it now, I’ve  been here twice,” or three or four times or whatever. The nosegrind in SF, it’s the little bank-stair-bank thing, that was the third time being there and it was three trips different trips to America. I went there the first year, tried it and think I had a smith grind on it that was a ‘Check Out’ and I nearly nosegrinded it. But it went dark and the next day we were leaving. Then we ended up on a trip up there with Chima (Ferguson) on a Vans mission while they were filming for the video and tried it one morning. It didn’t really work out in half an hour and was holding these guys up. Then went back on another trip with Brass and Andrew Peters.I was like, “Alright I’ve  got to do this ‘cause I’ve  fucking been here twice.”  It took five hours. Guess it worked out in the end.

josh-pall-initials-graphic-passport-skateboards-nike-sb-australia

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Why go with a blacked out Blazer for the collaboration shoe?

I used to have a pair of all black Blazers when I first got on and really liked them; I like all black shoes in general, hadn’t had a pair in a while really. The idea was to make an all black shoe that wasn’t jet black and had a bit of definition. We had this design one night and I went to bed thinking “This design fucking sucks.” I woke up and said “We’re not doing that, let’s do this.” I guess I got the waxed canvas from skating for Gravis. All the fine details like the embroidery for wear and tear so the swoosh is gonna stay on. And mainly the heel piece, that was from the pair of Blazers I had years ago which was the comfiest thing ever, so I put that on.

What’s the story with the injury you mentioned a minute ago?

There’s this hubba at Central Station, down the road from my house. I drive past it every day going to work always thinking: “Wouldn’t mind giving that a go one time.” It was getting towards the end of filming so I might as well try it soon. Then one day I went down there and gave it a go, just jumped onto it, got kicked out and thought, “Sweet, come back tomorrow.”

I went back the next day and ended up with a few of us skating. I was trying a boardslide and it’s quite long. I was fucking scared, (laughs).After trying it for fifteen minutes security came out so it was the last couple of attempts. I kind of rushed and just jumped on it, I guess I just went the wrong way, got my legs caught and it just whiplashed me to the ground and went face first with no hands down or anything directly on my left eye and cheekbone. I had this huge gash on my head. I was conscious the whole time and thought I just split my head open. But my jaw and teeth, my bite was a bit off. “Fuck! What’s wrong with my teeth?” I went to emergency and told them my teeth feel weird but they were intact. Didn’t feel broken or anything. I got a CT scan and the doctor pretty much told me I broke my whole face.

My left cheekbone was crushed, my nose and into my other cheek was broken and had a few breaks around both eye sockets. I’ve got five plates in my head. It wasn’t good but I feel pretty sweet now. I’ve still got a bit of numbness in my head which is fucking driving me crazy because it’s so itchy but I can’t feel it. The injury happened maybe three months ago, I started skating two weeks ago. It was just my head that got hurt, usually I’ve had rolled ankles and you get back skating a bit sore. My body feels sweet, I’m just a bit weird thinking: “Don’t fall on your head.” Just confidence, but I’ve been taking it real easy, I think it’ll be alright. Just try not to fall on my head again (laughs).

“I guess I just went the wrong way, got my legs caught and it just whiplashed me to the ground and went face first with no hands down or anything directly on my left eye and cheekbone.”

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That’s heavy! I’m glad you’re okay. So, I couldn’t find that much about you whilst I was writing these questions. Are interviews usually not your thing?

I’ve done them if they’ve come up, I guess I’ve never been the most outspoken person or anything like that. Two or three little magazine interviews, other than that they’re pretty sparse. Then in the last two or three months I’ve probably done the most I’ve ever had with the video part and whatever. Never shied away, just not out there, (laughs). Seriously these days with the whole fucking social media thing going on you can find out anything. Just look at their Instagram and they’re into cars or something. Shit like that.

passport-skateboards-flag-bearerHave you got anything else in the works for the rest of this year?

We’re all going to Tokyo in October so that’s the next thing coming up, that’s going to be the whole team and a couple of the mates. Maybe twelve of us for two weeks. I think it might be separate, like a Japan clip. But we are just starting to film for the actual Pass~Port video so you can look forward to that in about two years or however long it takes, (laughs).

Thanks Josh, sorry for keeping you on for so long. Anything you would like to end this on?

No worries man. I mean, fuck, thanks to everyone that helped make this happen obviously. Cheers for the interview and hello from Australia, (laughs).

Sweet, well it’s nearly three in the morning and I’m off to bed. Enjoy the rest of your day man.

Yeah, get that. Good night mate! (Laughs). Take care.

Portrait courtesy of Thomas Robinson. Thanks to Keen Distribution and Trent at Pass~Port Skateboards.

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