Jake Baldini and Matt Andersen's Rust Belt Trap, a video that blends spot hunting and small town culture in a tasteful and thoughtful way that's rarely seen in skateboarding, was easily one of our favorite videos to come out last year. After first viewing, we knew immediately we wanted to highlight it in some way. When we reached out to Jerry Mraz to speak about the video, however, he refused to take the spotlight for himself and instead offered to sit down with Jake Baldini and Matt Andersen over some Coors Lights and chat about small town life, exploring post-industrial America, and some of the wild storties they have from filming. After a few weeks, we finally got a hold of their transcript. Read on for a glimpse into the filming of Rust Belt Trap before watching the video in full on Thrasher or watching individual parts and montages on Jake's YouTube channel.
Jerry Mraz: What was your shittiest summer job?
Matt Andersen: I was a housekeeper for just over a year at a Christian Conference campus, my parents set me up with that one. The summer I was there was not a good one. Smelly kids all over the place trying to get into the bathrooms while I was cleaning the toilets. Cleaning up after people is horrible. Nobody takes into consideration that someone has to clean up your mess after staying in a rental room. I got mad respect for hospitality workers. Always leave a tip because more often than not, they are well underpaid. I can make a mean bed tho.
JM: On the island they say that the millionaires cut the billionaires lawns. When are you going to start your own lawn mowing company Jake?
Jake Baldini: Ha! I probably should have already. It’s a fulfilling gig honestly. I’m on hiatus from landscaping for the time being though.
JM: What does anthracite coal mining have to do with skateboarding?
JB: The small old towns that were a product of the industry and history that helped inspire the theme of this video.
MA: A lot of the towns we skated in the video are there solely because of anthracite coal mining. If the coal was never discovered, there would be no mine. If there was no mine, there would most likely be no town. Without the town and the people who lived there, the spots we skated would not exist. Thanks but no thanks to the coal companies who created the towns and exploited the people there.
JM: Tell the readers about the Saint Nicholas coal breaker.
JB: It was the last standing anthracite coal processing facility of its kind, built in March 1931 and demolished in March 2018.
MA: The one you see in the video was actually the second one built there. The original was built in 1861. It was the last of it's kind. Shoulda been a historical landmark.
JM: Maybe too precarious for that to happen.
MA: When we discovered it for ourselves it was in the process of being torn down. It was sketchy as hell and I'm pretty surprised nothing caved in on us while we were in there.
JM: I'm still kicking myself for not trying to harvest some machines from that shop on the 3rd floor. What does a coal breaker do?
MA: It's a processing plant for the coal. The big chunks would be brought to the breaker to be broken down into smaller chunks. In the piles of coal were pieces of slate which were picked off the conveyor by little kids.
JM: Did we see a ghost in that one coal town or was that just a product of meth and black lung dust?
MA: I think he was a mixture of both.
JB: He was an interesting product of the land.
MA: It's dangerous to assume someone smokes meth.
JM: I have a pretty good meth radar.
JB: He was symbolic of a poor, totally depleted town But he gave us his version of the towns past and future.
MA: He gave us donuts picked out of the dumpster and told us about The Coal Company's conspiracy to buy up the town and mine the vein beneath the Main Street.
JM: Describe the scene across from the “Mexican” bar when the kid on the quad rolled up.
JB: Homie pulls up on a Suzuki four wheeler at 10:00 PM in a quiet rural town. We were there skating a spot, fully lit up and banging on a cellar door.
MA: We had to tie up a sign with a shoestring to the ceiling of and overhang directly over the spot.
JM: In the middle of the town mind you.
JB: He rides up on the sidewalk looking totally out of control and asks us what we’re doing. He was clearly not in his right mind.
MA: He was bleeding from his leg. He told us he had ran over his own leg with the thing.
JM: Bloody brand new Jordans on. He split in hurry but then came back I think...
JB: We continue doing what we were doing when he comes zipping back up the alley next to us. He gets off the quad and his phone goes flying out of his pocket and I think it broke. We start talking to him again when the cops come cruising up the street.
MA: The cop asked what was going on and somehow the kid disarmed the situation and didn't go to jail.
JB: They didn’t do shit! We thought we were busted and they just sent him on his way, pushing his four wheeler.
MA: He tried to jump it pushing it down the hill.
JB: I don’t remember if we kept skating or not.
JM: How prevalent is the "us versus them" mentality in these heartland towns?
JB: Hard to say, you can see that everywhere.
MA: In Central Pennsylvania, a Hispanic man was beaten to death by five football jocks. Initially they got away scott-free. Then the FBI got wind of the situation. A few of the town cops went to prison, along with four of the five kids.
JM: There's definitely a divide.
JB: In small towns, it’s more in your face. I think that attitude stems partly from human nature and there tends to be less change in smaller towns. Many people just don’t know how to react to things that are different than their own reality. Though this doesn’t go for everyone.
JM: Skateboarding brings that escalation back to neutral tho?
JB: Maybe, for us it has been a reason to see things from different angles
JM: Describe the feeling/cloud over some of these far removed towns that don’t have much going for them.
MA: I grew up in a town similar to the ones we skate in the video. For me it gets so depressing, I get in a pretty negative head space.
JB: It’s the reality of the times in middle class America. The main streets feel desolate and not appreciated for what they are. There isn’t much community in many of these places and the people are suffering. Not all of them though. There’s also lots of potential.
JM: I felt that way too but plenty of people are content and don't complain...
MA: They don’t know anything else. They have accepted their reality. But maybe they do know, and are just scared to act on it. Or they purposefully lock themselves out of the outside world to try and avoid some depression.
JM: Are we exploiting the situation by just coming in filming for a minute then dipping?
JB: No, you could say that about anyone documenting anything.
MA: Definitely, although we do spend money in the towns and try to mingle.
JM: Seems like a slippery slope either way to me.
JB: There is a message involved in this video and not all of it’s pretty, maybe more negative than positive at first first glance. I’ve been skating in the street most of my life and I don’t come from a silver spoon. This is the environment we skate and live among. I want people to see it in this light and see how it’s all connected.
JM: Tell the reader about the incident with the Newark cops.
JB: We were Skating a spot in Newark and the people in the building thought we were breaking in.
MA: It was Friday night during the summer. People were everywhere, it was rowdy.
JM: I think we all had open Coors Lights.
MA: The door was right next to the window so the light was shining through. A lady came to the window, I tried to signal to here that we just wanted ten more minutes.
JM: Waving your beer at her.
MA: She looked scared. We shoved it off and continued. Then 10 minutes after that...
JB: Five cops came blazing around the corner with guns drawn and not fucking around.
MA: Arms shaking. We all froze and put our hands up.
JM: I put down my beer then I put my hands up.
MA: After a tense 45 seconds they put their guns down and started talking to us normal.
JM: We primed them with plenty of "sirs."
MA: We explained we were just skating and I had a camera in my hand with a light.
JM: The cops wanted that light.
JB: They searched and mildly interrogated us.
MA: My buddy James wears a knee brace and the cop searching him got spooked when he felt it, but James pulled down his pants to show him the brace.
JM: I think all those cops were even younger than you two.
JB: Fortunately we were able to explain ourselves and reason with them. They let us go and we haven’t gone back
JM: When was your first time going to Knoebels?
JB: The first time I went there I was seven.
MA: The first time I went to Knoebel's I was fifteen. The campground was so packed and our spot was so tight that we couldn't even get our little pop up camper in there, so we had to dip and set up at another camp ground down the road.
JM: Tell the readers what Knoebels is and what’s different about it.
JB: Knoebels is an amusement park in the middle of Pennsylvania.
MA: Its an old amusement park in Elysburg, PA. It's old timey, which means cheap and got some sketchy rides.
JB: You only pay for what you want to do and everything is reasonable. It feels honest and majestic.
MA: The thing that's different about it is that you don't have to spend any money to be entertained.
JM: I liked how I had the opportunity to pet a live skunk.
MA: Central Pennsylvania is an interesting spot for people watching. Go there and you'll see.