There is a veritable blitzkreig of news stories popping up all over the interwebs this morning. With a million things to choose from, we’ll just keep this to the bare essentials. First things first, I’m stoked to be able to link to this new Politic edit announcing some incredible news about one of my favorite skaters. Also, the new GX-1000 edit just went up and the skating and cast is epic. And finally, we have the honor of getting to host and announce a new project from out of Philadelphia which is destined to be a hit. Please read further for an exclusive interview with Chris Mulhern about this new incredible video piece and the project it’s connected to.
What’s happening Chris? So you moved back to Philadelphia last year
after a stint in LA. What brought you back?
Yea, I was in LA for about 8 months working for The Berrics, handling a lot of the documentary style content that you see on their site. Colin Kennedy had reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working with them and so I decided to give it a shot. It was really difficult for me to adjust to LA, and before moving out there, I had never even visited. I worked with some really awesome people on a daily basis, but it was hard to relate to a lot of the projects I was on. Luckily, those guys understood where I was coming from, and we worked it out so that I could be here in Philly getting them some east coast content. I had made so many connections here over the years, that it really made perfect sense. And with NYC only a couple hours away, there’s just endless projects to work on. Everyone at The Berrics has been really good to me and I’m psyched I can work in skateboarding from this side of the country.
Having seen what I believe is your entire body of skate video work, I would surmise that you’re a pretty huge fan of the city of Philadelphia. What is it about the city that you’re so in love with?
I do really like it here, and right now there’s such a good scene. I think for years that was missing, but a lot of people are skating again. Obviously it’s not the best city on earth, but it’s far from the worst. I hear so many people say this place sucks, or why do you want to live there? That actually really motivates me to stick around and continue working on projects in Philadelphia. I think Center City just looks so good in footage, so much better than most other cities. I think I’ve filmed/photographed City Hall a thousand times, but I still never get tired of looking at that building. And when you film a line at LOVE or Municipal, you have this amazing backdrop… you see that clock tower looming in the footage and you just know it’s Philadelphia.
It seems like the city’s popularity has always been on a roller-coaster ride through time. For the longest time it wasn’t even on the map and then BOOM it exploded in the mid-90’s. And then it died down and then BOOM it went off again in the early 2000’s and then there was another lull and another revival with Ricky and Traffic guys. What was the era that most inspired you as a skater growing up in the area?
When I first started taking the bus to Philly, it was during the “Photosynthesis/Mosaic” era, the tail end of the 90’s. I remember seeing Kalis, Wenning, Pappalardo… just all these guys from the videos. And back then videos were such a big deal, really because only a couple came out a year. So when you saw someone from “Photosynthesis” in real life, you were really fanning out. One time while at City Hall, my friends and I were sitting on the bench, too intimidated to skate. Ricky Oyola was there doing front 5-0 to front board across the long curved bench, and he skates up to us and says, “How you guys gonna get any better just sitting around?” So we started skating a little bit, and within minutes he was screaming at all of us for getting in his way.
Well, I personally felt like for a while there you were the main voice of the Philly area with all of your indie video work. It’s been one of those scenes that’s always had a dedicated filmer or photographer that was really pushing the local skaters. From Kelly Ryan to Ryan Gee and from Dan Wolfe to Bill Strobeck. It’s a pretty impressive history of video/photography. Did you ever know any of those guys and or feel a particular affinity to either of their styles?
Most of these guys were filming well before my time, but I would see Bill Strobeck and Gee almost every weekend at LOVE when I was a kid. It didn’t even dawn on me back then that what they were doing with
their cameras would have such a long lasting impact on skateboarding. And I didn’t meet Dan Wolfe until last Summer when he was here filming a REAL clip with Ishod Wair. He actually saw me filming with the VX3 Hi8 camera and just said “What the hell are you doing with that thing?”. What he did for Philadelphia in the mid-90’s basically inspired this entire “Philadelphia Experiment” project. I really wanted the whole thing to be a nod to what he, Ryan Gee and Bill Strobeck did here. The goal of the edit was to touch on every era of Philadelphia skateboarding, and have it be represented as accurately as possible.
Yeah, when I first saw that Rick footage pop up I was confused for a second, it took a minute for me to figure it out. But once it clicked I got really stoked.
Well, so I know you’ve been doing tons of work for the Berrics, but I kept seeing samples of other stuff you were shooting (patricularly that VX-3 stuff) and was wondering what it was going towards. What has motivated you to keep shooting street skating on top of all the other work you do in your day job?
I just really enjoy using cameras, so even when I’m not working, I’m still using one. And like I said before, there’s a really awesome skate scene here right now, so I can’t help but go out and film late at night or all weekend long. And what got me into filming in the first place is the idea of doing independent projects and working with whomever I want. It’s been 3 years since I put out “This Time Tomorrow” and so I felt like it was time to find a project of my own to really put a lot of effort into.
So…...Caste. I think people will immediately start Googling this name the second they see this new video piece. What exactly is it?
CASTE is a brand that myself and Chris Fireoved have started. We’ve been brainstorming for a long time now, just trying to come up with a creative outlet where we can produce video pieces like the “Philadelphia Experiment” and have tangible products to accompany it. I think in the beginning a lot of people will assume we’re just a skate clothing brand, but that’s not the case. We’re going to create
all kinds of different products that correlate to each individual project.
So there isn’t an actual team then? None of the skaters in this edit “Ride” for Caste?
No, we don’t ever plan on having a team, as the whole point of the brand is to collaborate with as many people as possible. Independent projects are increasingly rare these days, and so I want to have an outlet where I can work with anybody, regardless of who they are and what they’re passionate about… whether that be skating, art, photography, music, the possibilities are endless. It’s not necessarily about having certain people wear or use CASTE products in the edit or anything like that. We want to start on the video pieces first, and work to formulate something physical that can relate.
So it’s just more of something that represents your creative video efforts. Like, almost, an excuse to keep producing original video pieces but without tying yourself to any specific skaters or team?
Yea, exactly. It’s a way to work with friends and whoever we end up meeting in the future. Obviously it will be difficult, as this is only a side project for all those involved but the goal is to take our time with the media pieces and make sure they’re done right. CASTE has been a collaborative effort thus far and has linked all our ideas to create something we all support. Although we all share the same vision for the brand, the handful of individuals that make up CASTE come from many different fields, backgrounds and tastes. We feel like this culmination works really well though, as we hope to cater to a broad audience.
Well, I hate about 90% of videos I see online these days. But this new video was exactly the opposite for me. I was really inspired on many levels. And the idea by tying it into the Philadelphia Experiment as a way to go retro was fucking brilliant. Where did you get ahold of those vintage clips from the 90’s?
Most of the old Hi8 footage was given to me by Ryan Gee. I worked on a “Shoot All Skaters” clip with him last year, and must have logged close to 50 of his Hi8 tapes… the nostalgia on those tapes was unreal.
I had no clue that he was filming with Ricky Oyola, Matt Reason and Serge Trudnowski just prior to Dan Wolfe coming on the scene in the mid-90’s. And the best footage from those tapes was the moments in
between all the skate tricks, just incidental stuff that was so insignificant back then… but looking back on it today was just incredible. I actually got the initial idea for the “Philadelphia Experiment” clip while working on this Berrics project with Gee. I thought it would be cool to fix up the same exact Hi8 camera that he shot on, and maybe just go out and make a little montage with it. But that idea for a little montage turned into a year long project… and I’m really glad it worked out that way. Ricky’s “Quicker, Quicker!!” clip from LOVE was obviously filmed by Dan Wolfe. I think everybody has seen that one, but it’s just such a classic that I felt it had to be in there. And as for the unseen clips where Ricky is yelling for the cars to hold up… they were shot by a filmer from Washington D.C. named Andrew Foote. I think that nollie flip that Ricky does in the opening line to the Hi8 section is my favorite trick in the entire clip. Obviously there are so many key people missing from this edit, namely Josh Kalis, but I just wasn’t able to track down any unused Hi8 clips of him. I really wanted to avoid reusing footage, and kind of use this edit to shed some light on some unseen gems from the past.
Well, I’m jealous. This is such a sick idea. I mean, the video was done really respectfully by showing who’s holding it down in Philly right now but paying respect to the skaters who built the foundation and gave the city it’s original vibe. You must’ve had a blast working on this?
Yea it was an awesome project to work on, especially filming the Hi8 stuff. With HD, you have to be so damn precise and if you’re in the wrong spot at the wrong time, the footage just looks terrible. But with the Hi8 footage, I almost had to intentionally film it a little sketchy, just to give it that 90’s feel. It was nice to not worry so much about how the footage looked… I could just go out skating with my friends for a day and basically film everything. We didn’t stress over how hard the trick was or how big the ledge looked. That stuff was completely irrelevant in 1997. I was really psyched that Ricky Oyola was even down to push around a few days and get some modern day Hi8 clips for the edit.
How many different formats did you guys shoot for this project? I think I counted at least 3.
The majority is HD and Hi8 footage, but we also shot a bunch of 16mm Tri-X film. I really wanted to include the “Photosynthesis/Mosaic” vibe in this clip, and I felt like shooting on actual black and white film was the best way to do that. Sure, we could have shot HD stuff and made it black and white, added grain, etc but you just can’t beat the feel of real film. One of my favorite shots is the time lapse on Broad Street, where the camera is on the median as cars pass by… I think it’s just before Suciu skates the blue rail at LOVE. Just the way the headlights streak on actual film emulsion is something that HD can never recreate. We even tried to replicate a couple shots from “Mosaic”, like the SEPTA bus passing by City Hall… if you watch the intro to “Mosaic”, a bus passes by the camera to reveal Danny Renaud cruising around the fountain. I wanted to reproduce the same shot, but this time after the bus passes, a demolished City Hall is revealed. The edit is just full of subtleties like this that most people will never even pick up on, but those who look closely will see it.
So are we to expect more pieces like this in the future?
For sure, we already have a few ideas for our next project, so if all goes well, you’ll be seeing more from us in the coming months.
Dope….well, I hate that things have to cycle so quickly these days so let this one simmer a while.
So, as people will notice, we’re carrying some of the Caste stuff here on TOA, how else are you going to be getting it out there?
A few select shops in the states carry our stuff, as well as our own online store. As we grow, so will our stockists, but for now, we’re just maturing as a brand organically and taking things slow.
Well, thanks for sharing this with us on the TOA site. As usual, amazing job and thanks for keeping our attention focused on one of the raddest skate cities in the world.
So here is the first offering from Chris Mulhern and Caste. Dope stuff. Enjoy.