Achieving the perfect harmony between footage and music is a priority for cinematographers and the ability for a song choice to make or break a video part is a time honoured cliche.
In the first of this series devoted to the audiovisual links which shape and continually redefine our musical taste as skateboarders, Static auteur and Theories of Atlantis mastermind, Josh Stewart, shares his thoughts on an eclectic mix of videos, spanning three decades, underpinned by the music which scores specific sections from them.
Sometimes pairings of skateboarder and song are simply good matches and often music can sway our opinions towards those we we previously had little interest in. However, sometimes song choices hold much deeper meanings. Case in point – Steve Brandi requested ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ for his Static IV part as it resonated with his feelings about people finding out he was gay.
“Static IV was a tough period for me and that’s part of the reason why I chose that song, too. I thought maybe some of my friends that I told in skateboarding might say something and people may be hearing things through the grapevine. So I thought, “You know what? This song might mean something to me down the road.” It’s like a piece of art in my portfolio as a skater … I thought that song fit well but it was also very personal to me,” said Brandi, in an interview with Stewart last year.
Considering this intrinsic link between skateboarding and music, no title lends itself to this series better than that of Stereo Skateboards’ first full-length video (which makes an appearance in this instalment). Furthermore, Stewart’s interest in conspiracy theories stems from youthful encounters with the Alien Workshop team it’s fitting, and of little surprise, Memory Screen takes the opening spot. There’s another iconic, albeit forrest-hued, offering from The Sovereign Sect thrown in alongside some early ’90s classics and, perhaps, Kate Bush’s best known hit – Bronte references aside…
Read on to find out what Stewart had to say about some of his most cherished video part soundtracks and download a mix of them here.
‘A Little Ethnic Song’
by J Mascis (Guitarrorists, 1991)
Introduction, Memory Screen, Alien Workshop, 1991
There probably hasn’t been any other section in a skate video which captured my imagination or stuck with me the way the opening of Memory Screen did way back in 1991. Although proper video introductions have been all but abandoned, by most modern skate video makers, I believe there is nothing more important or more effective for grabbing the audience’s attention and giving them a fully immersive experience. Mike Hill’s choreography of incredible visuals set to a specially-made song by J Mascis just takes the cake.
‘The Knife Song’
by Milk (1991)
Jason Lee, Video Days, Blind Skateboards, 1991
Something has definitely been lost with the immediate accessibility of all media in the 21st century. When Video Days came out in the early 90’s there was no internet and the CD was cutting edge technology. So, when I first heard J Lee’s song in this video part, not only was I obsessed with it, but the only way to listen to it would be to watch, or record it off, this video part.
‘Carry the Zero’
by Built to Spill (Carry The Zero, 1999)
Cairo Foster, The Reason, TransWorld Skateboarding, 1999
In the golden era of TransWorld videos, with Ty Evans at the helm, TWS introduced skaters to a lot of rad new music. Perhaps their greatest contribution was Built to Spill, which graced my ears for the first time in Cairo Foster’s part in The Reason, who were then backed up as a new musical staple for me with Marc Johnson’s incredible part in Modus Operandi .
‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ Theme
by Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1966)
Sean Sheffey, A Soldier’s Story, Life Skateboards, 1991
This is still one of the raddest introductions to a part ever made. It’s so simple, yet so powerful, and it was an amazing way to introduce the larger than life personality and talent of Sean Sheffey to the world of skateboarding. I watched this part so many times before going out to skate as a little 14 year old. It’s insane and still gets me hyped to go skate to this day.
by Del Tha Funkee Homosapian feat. Hieroglyphics (1991)
Mike Carroll, Questionable, Plan B, 1992
There’s probably no video part which better captivates the feeling of my teenage years than Mike Carroll’s part in Questionable. Mike was light years ahead of any skater outside of California, especially all of us in Florida at the time, so this part was mind-bending.
From his skills, style, the way he dressed; down to the weird hairstyles throughout his footage, I worshipped Mike and this part.
But man-oh-man, the song was just perfect. It fully represented everything rad about the early ’90s. It was impossible to find the song at record stores for nearly a decade afterwards which made it only grow in importance and mythology.
by Herbie Hancock (Takin’ Off, 1962)
Guy Mariano, Mouse, Girl Skateboards, 1996
When a song challenges what you expect to hear in a video part, and it works, it has a much longer lasting impression on you. This part was such a perfect marriage of style and innovation. Combine that with this amazing song and we’re still worshipping the part to this day as an example of perfection.
‘A Whole Lot Less’
by Sub Society (No Legs to Stand On, 1989)
Matt Hensley, Hokus Pokus, H-Street, 1989
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, H-Street videos were filled with original music nobody outside of the San Diego area had ever heard. Bands like Sub Society and The Cry were small bands made up of either skaters or their friends. This music created an overall audio tapestry which filled the background of this era and captured the punk and angsty vibe of skateboarding in the late ’80s. Of all these songs, this one stuck with me as the most memorable and is still one of my favourites.
‘Introduction’ / ‘1st Segment’ / ‘2nd Segment’
by Mr Dibbs (Primitve Tracks, 2000)
Habitat Skateboards section, Photosynthesis, Alien Workshop, 2000
Again, I can’t stress how powerful original music can be in a skate video. But the music Mr Dibbs made for the Habitat section of Photosynthesis was made in a style which was also pretty new in itself. The simple sampling of machine beats with audio samples had a very ‘Habitat’ feeling to them. When this part dropped everybody became an instant fan of Habitat and anyone who says they didn’t is either lying or has awful taste.
‘Running Up That Hill’
by Kate Bush (Hounds of Love, 1984)
Nick Jensen, Eleventh Hour, Jacob Harris, 2013
I wanted to include a song from a more modern video and Eleventh Hour is one of the best of the last decade. This song came out of left field and, as such, it was a slight shock to the senses. The driving pace of the beat alongside Nick’s charging lines through London really captured my imagination and, with such a unique song choice, left a lasting impression on everyone lucky enough to see this part.
by Ululation (Ululation LP, 1984)
Mike Daher, A Visual Sound, Stereo Sound Agency, 1994
It’s less about this exact song than it is about the feeling this entire video gave me and everyone who saw it at the time. The overall vibe was so unique and such an amazing immersive experience. You would have to be an idiot not to be completely inspired by it. Mike Daher’s skating and style were so fresh, powerful and his song was so iconic it has remained burned into my subconscious for decades.
Introduction by Farran Golding.
Photos courtesy of Pep Kim.
Further reading: ‘Josh Stewart talks Life After ‘Static IV’ & Theories of Atlantis’