Artists of Theory: Roger Bagley
Boy let me tell you we have a very very VERY special guest to kick start this season with!!! Mr. Roger Bagels! I kid, no one calls him that, Mr. Roger Bagley everybody!
For the few that might not know, Roger here has been in the filming game a long time. His lenses have been pointed at everyone from Kenny Anderson to Tony Hawk, Jerry Fowler and Mike Carroll. He spent half a decade living with Bam's parents and filming the torturous antics that were abundant during those carefree years of the early 2000's. That must have been crazy man!? How many chairs to the head did you get?! Ha!!! I kid. He helped film the landmark production One Step Beyond for Adio Shoes (RIP, the Hamilton was the best BEST shoe ever) and that little thing called Pretty Sweet‚ ya may have heard of it. He is skate rat true and through, he's one of those folks that must roll or they go nuts. Personally, I think it's something in the water up there in Massachusetts or some sort of snow-fever-cabin-blind madness thingy but hey, what do I know? Outside of skating his skills are at use behind the lens of the YouTube show Hot Ones and that Nine-Club thing people have mentioned here and there. Here at TOA's "AOT‚" we thought it would be a good idea to get to know the man behind the Stella, notorious wall-crawler and curb fondler, the old Mass-Hole himself - Roger Bagley!
Interview by Isaac Mckay-Randozzi
You recently got back from a trip to China, how was that? What did you go for?
China was amazing! I went with the NikeSB crew and worked on a documentary for Stefan Janoski and his ten years with them.
So, lets just jump into this, where did you first start skating and how did you end up working at Something Else in Danvers, Mass.?
I first started skating in… fuck when was it, ‚'85, '86? something like that. I just knew I wanted a skateboard and I told my mom and my grandma I wanted a board and when I was on a trip to Florida my grandmother bought me a board. It was an Uncle Wiggley Tony Magnusen.
Something Else, I used to go to that shop quite a bit and one day Brian, the owner was slammed with customers and I just basically offered my help and he's like can you set some boards up, and I'm like yeah so I started setting up some boards and at the end of the day he asked me if I wanted the job. It was rad because Charlie Wilkins was working there at the same time.
And you're still friends with him?
How old were you?
I was like right out of high school at the time so 18. Well, I was still in school when I started working there, I was probably 17 actually.
How long after that did you and Matt O'Brien (no to be confused with former ZooYork/Real AM and current runner of Otherness‚ Mat O'Brien) start Positive?
I worked at Something Else for about three years, I think. Boston didn't really have a good skate shop other than Beacon Hill. We were at a party at 486 and someone said you should fuckin' open a shop. Someone just mentioned it, might have been Panama (Dan) or someone like that. And I was down and Matt was down so we just kind of hit the ground running, literally and from when we thought of the idea til we had the shop opened it was probably like a month, month and a half.
It was that fast?
It was real fast.
How did you guys get the Newbury street spot because even back then it was prime retail real estate?
It was actually pretty affordable at the time, I think rent was only $3000 a month.
There were, and are, a lot of high end shops on that strip and great street traffic.
Yeah, Placid Planet was on that street.
I remember going there, then they moved to another spot. Did you guys ever get vibed from them because of that? Moving onto their old turf?
No, DeeDee was gone. Her store was gone. She was doing focus groups for companies, for Converse.
No shit, I sat in on one of those with Jad at Placid Planet.
She brought Guy (Mariano) to the shop once and she was psyched that there was a skate shop on Newbury street.
I've always wondered why that shop didn't last, was it the high rent of that street?
Two harsh winters, two really bad winters in a row and then our landlord. He owned a bunch of property and he was always telling us that we need to carry snowboards and scooters and rollerblades and all this shit. And we were like we are skateboarders and we just want to carry skateboards. So he basically opened up a Blades right across the street. And that happened and then Matt from 3D Innovations opened Hanger 18….there became an over saturation of skate shops all in one small area.
Was there a gap between working for Converse or did you go straight into working for them?
I met some folks from Converse at the shop, it was right before they started the skate program and I remember talking to this guy Joe, who actually ended up eventually becoming my boss and he was basically saying that they were getting into skateboarding, yadda yadda yadda. This was right before they brought Guy out. After the shop closed I helped Matt with Hanger 18 and I worked at (ZT) Maximus for a little bit and then Felix (Arguelles) and Kenny (Anderson) came out to stay with us at 486, our old house because they had a meeting to get on Converse and I mentioned to Felix that if you guys needed a team manager, I'm down. My parents actually lived a half mile away from Converse and they basically put it in this dudes ear and they were totally into it. It took like two months or so, back and forth for them to offer me a job.
Had you started filming at that point?
No, I ended up buying a camera when I was working for Converse because we would always do these fucking trips and they always had money in the budget to bring a photographer, they were always down to get editorial but they didn't see the importance of video at the time. Felix said that if I brought a video camera he would teach me how to use it. So I basically had my mom buy me my camera and he sat me down and showed me how to set it all up and I went from there.
What camera was it?
It was a Sony TRV900.
Do you still have it?
It's probably in my parent's basement, the lens got knocked off of it and I upgraded to a VX2000 after that.
Do you remember the first thing you filmed with it?
Um, probably some party footage or something (laughter).
You shared a house with some notable Boston folks during the 90s, not too far from the legendary Boston City Hospital spot, who were they and how many ladies did the walk of shame over the years there?
[Laughter] Um, not as many as you would probably think. A lot of us were wifey'd up back then. 486 Mass Ave. with Mike Bell, Charlie Wilkins, "River‚" Jim, Ezra Brown and Mike Denny aka "Nike‚" Mike.
Mike Graham didn't bring them over?
Not really, Jerry Fowler more than anyone.
Really?! It's always the quiet ones.
After your stint with Converse, did you try and get another team manager gig?
I basically quit Converse because Converse was doing a lot of shady shit. It just got weird because my boss would be like tell Felix this bad news and I was the barer of bad news all the time. Like, "hey guys you can't get any more money‚" or whatever it would be. Then my boss would call them and be like, hey I got great news! And be the hero and it happened a bunch of times and I went to him and said stop telling me to call them with bad news when you are just going to call them with good news. You are making me look like an asshole in front of my friends. It just got to me.
They were selling a Kenny shoe (Kenny Anderson), a pro model shoe in Japan that he didn't even know about. So they were doing some shady shit and I wasn't into to it so I basically just fuckin' ended up quitting. I thought maybe I could start shooting skateboarding.
Did you find work with anyone?
Not right away. I worked for my mom, she owned a cleaning company. I was just helping her out. Then I met that dude Courtney Early, he said he wanted to start a skateboard company and I ended up doing Versatile Wheels with him. It was pretty slow growth, basically myself calling shops and Ben Colen's sister, Alysha was also helping out to move product. Then Will Harmon asked me if I wanted to go down to Miami because he knew all the Adio dudes had they had a house down there and I was like, fuck yeah lets road trip! Basically, I thought I was going to be gone for two weeks and I ended up never going home again!
I went down there and met up with Kenny and Felix and all the dudes and they were working on F.O.R.E. and Friends and the Adio video. I filmed with those guys the entire time I was down there and Will was like, hey dude we got to go home. I was like I'm staying here and keep shooting with these guys. I didn't realize how bummed Will was at the time, he ended up having to drive back by himself. From there I stayed in Miami for a month and we ended up going to Ecuador and then coming back to Miami and then going home. Once I got home Jeff Taylor gave me a call. He heard I did a good job down in miami and asked, "you want to go to Philadelphia and shoot Bam for a week?‚" I was like yeah sure and they sent me the next day down to Pennsylvania. Met up with Ed Selego, Brian Sumner and some other dudes. We spent a week down there with Bam.
Was that pre-Christian Sumner?
Yeah, it was bad-ass Sumner. We shot a bunch of stuff then went back home. The night I got home Jeff Taylor called me again and said, "you crushed it, you want to come out to California and help us finish this video?‚" So I said sure, when do you want me out there? "Can you come out tomorrow?‚" I said sure and I literally left the next day and just never went home.
Has California been your home base ever since?
Pretty much, yeah.
How long have you lived in that spot in Venice?
About fourteen years now.
So you've seen it change a lot.
I was scared when I first moved here.
You lived with Bam and his family for about five years, how was that experience? Do you keep in touch with him and his parents?
Oh yeah. I saw him two weeks ago at the Pro-Tec pool party. Occasionally I'll send April (Bam's mom) a text or something. I lived at his parent's house the entire time (filming viva la Bam etc.).
Over the decades you've filmed with some amazing and talented skaters, who did you like filming with the most? Was there someone that was more fun to film with than others?
The best person to shoot with ever is probably Guy Mariano. He's the most professional dude ever. He'd call you and say I got a trick I want to try, you want to meet at the spot at 10am? Go to the spot and get there at 10am and he's already been there since 9am and he's like, "break out the camera I'm ready!‚" He'll get the trick in like five tries and we're back home by 10:30am.
Was he a one trick a day cat? Did he skate more if he was feeling it?
Oh no, some days he'd end joining up with the rest of the team of whatever. But when he had something in mind he wanted to do he'd hit up Ben Colen and I and we'd handle business.
How was it working with Ben during those Girl years? You two have known each other for decades. When you two first met, he was learning photography and you were working in shops.
It was like hanging out with one of my best fucking friends! An awesome experience.
Was there anyone that was super fun to film with even if you didn't get anything that day?
Probably Joey Brezinski, I've put in the most work with that dude but it is always a good time.
You contributed to a lot of great and landmark skate videos over the years, which was your favorite to work on?
Pretty Sweet was awesome and working on Over Vert with Louie was an incredible experience.
Do you enjoy being a part of the whole, or doing the bulk of the filming and editing?
I like collaborating with people. I'm not a control freak, I want everyone to be happy.
Are you really self-retired from filming skating?
Umm, I just went on a trip with Nike so…
So it wasn't just documentary stuff?
It was half doc stuff, half skate.
Are you still freelance, or will this Nike work keep coming?
Hopefully it will keep coming. I like working on projects. Not really into running around with my head cut off trying to gather footage for a bunch of random peoples parts for companies. It's impossible to make a living like that. Especially with Instagram. But if people have projects they want to work on I'm down to do it. I would rather go skate then try and chip away at some kid's video part that I might get seventy-five bucks for.
If you're not getting a day-rate for a company and are going to rely on getting paid for the footage the companies decide to used, you are screwed. I learned my lesson with Aesthetics back in the day. Palmer who owned them called me up and asked if I wanted to go on this East Coast trip with Joey [Pepper], Clyde [Singlton] and Rob [Welsh] and I can't remember who else was there. They were like, "we'd love to have you come but there is no room in the van, so can you drive yourself?‚" So I rented a car and followed them around and it might have been like the third day, Rob Welsh was like, "I don't know why the fuck you are here Roger, we're not going to skate. All we are going to do is going to demos.‚" We were in New York and I was itching to skate and I was like, hey lets skate, they were like, naw we're good. Are you fucking serious? I'm going home, fuck this and I drove home from New York. Those dudes were super pissed at me afterwards even though they said, we don't know why you're here.
Was that the worst instance where you've been burned?
That was the worst one for sure. When the video came out it was whatever clips I did get and it wasn't even enough to pay for the gas for the rented car.
Back then was it better to work for a company on a project or sell that footage to 411?
It was better if you worked for a company and were able to sell stuff on the side.
Was that the norm back then, sell the b-side stuff to 411?
If you were lucky enough to work for a company you were psyched. Because you'd always end up at a session with a bunch of other dudes who don't ride for that company and they are going to want to do something with the footage you get of them. It was getting some extra little cash. I probably made the most money working for Adio.
How did you get involved with Hot Ones?
My good friend Eric Longden, he has his own production company Longden Films and Complex is a client of his and he was pretty much there from when they first shot in LA, a press junket or whatever with Key and Peele and I remember seeing some of it and saying this show is fucking amazing. And told him, if you ever need help I'm down to shoot. So he started bring me on jobs and they started doing more shoots in LA so now whenever Hot Ones is shot in LA, it's always Eric's company that does them.
Sean Evans is probably the most professional host I've ever seen.
Was there a guest you were more stoked on than others? There have been a lot of talented folks interviewed.
I was the most stoked on Weird Al for some reason. Just because I grew up listening to Doctor Demento and shit like that and I was hyped like a little kid.
Most guests have been able to go the distance, who couldn't do it?
The only person who ever tapped out early was DJ Kahlid but I wasn't there for that. Every episode I've worked on the guest has completed it.
How did the Nine Club start?
The Nine Club started for a couple different reasons. One, I got laid-off from Dwindle and I was looking for something to do. Before I got laid off I had pitched Dwindle about doing a podcast. Bod Boyle and Steve Douglas were really stoked on the idea but then when they asked how much it would cost them I told them I would need six cameras and this and that, they were like, "we can't do it.‚" At the same time I was pitching the idea, Chris was doing the Back 40 radio with Marc and Kenny but he was always struggling to get those dudes together so if you watch any of the original Back 40 radio it's only Chris and Marc. They shot only one time and Chris split it up into a bunch of different episodes. After I got laid-off I hit Chris up like, yo dude you are onto something if you need help I'm down to help you. He was into doing something on his own because it was so hard to get those dudes involved. I wanted to be behind the camera, I didn't give a fuck about being in front of it. We talked about it, what we could do then one night we set up the cameras and interviewed Kelly. He had just gotten home from a trip from Japan, he was hungover as fuck. He was sleeping when we were setting everything up and he had heard us talking about it before he had left. After everything was set up we woke him up and had him sit down. So we did like a pilot episode, it was so much fun like really fun, kind of bizarre how fun it was. Then we started to cut it together and I showed it to Eric Longden and he was like, "yo, you guys have something here. I'm down to help you guys shoot this better.‚" The original one was shot on two of my cameras and a couple Go-Pros and he was like "get rid of them and you can film on my good cameras.‚" We did the first one with Brezinski and Eric did all the cameras and we made some tweaks and it turned out well
When you three started doing it, how many episodes did you think you would do? Or did that even cross your mind?
It didn't cross my mind, I knew that between Chris and I we knew enough people that we could do it for a fuckin' solid year if we really wanted to. Chris, in the beginning he was like I don't really know if this will work or not. Because at the time no one was doing any sort of long formatted shows. Everything was three or four minutes tops on YouTube. Every company thought no one had the attention span to watch a half-hour or hour or whatever else.
Or four hours, in your case sometimes.
Mike V. was over five hours.
Did you cut his down? He is a long-winded fellow.
You know we didn't cut it down. The only thing we cut out was the "ums‚" and "ahs‚" and shit like that. We will take ten or fifteen minute breaks sometimes and we'll cut those breaks out.
Is there anyone you would really like to get on the show?
I'd love to get Rocco on one day.
You guys don't exactly ask what some might call, hard hitting questions. Is that intentional, or do you just dislike talking about controversial stuff?
Our main goal is to make that person sitting in the chair look as good as possible. We don't want them bummed on the experience with us and we ask them if there is anything they don't want to talk about. And they will be like, "I don't want to talk about this, or I don't want to talk about that.‚" So we can respect that and we want to bring out the positive and not the negative you know.
Has there ever been an interview where you thought that this is not working?
No, every interview has been great. It's not even interviewing, we just sit down and bullshit. It's a natural conversation you know. Chris has his timeline he likes to do which is basically how did you get into skateboarding. We want kids that are watching it to see how this person got to where they are at today and when we have these dudes that have worked in skating it shows that you might not be the best skateboarder but you can be a designer, you can go on to do this, or do that.
Have you thought about getting artists and other folks on the show?
Yeah, I'd love to get Todd Francis, I want Bratraud and Cliver, there is a bunch of dudes I'd love to have on. And dudes that no one has heard of‚ I want a dude that does sales for a company to come on and talk about sales. Even on the Experience would be good for like twenty or thirty minutes. It's a matter of scheduling and us getting our act together. Honestly we do this by the seat of our pants, like Chris just now quit his full time job to focus on this and I'm working side jobs.
Are the merch sales able to cover the rent yet?
Hell no! Kelly and I pay rent on this place. The Nine Club pays for like one room, that's where all the merch is. But the house is still taken over by the Nine Club other than my room and Kelly's. A lot of work goes into every show from the Experience to Two Dudes One Game, the other show we do in the house.
When did the running joke about the switch flip manny start? Chris seems to really be going with it.
He knows the joke is funny, he's done better tricks on the stage. That was one that came up and just kind of stuck.
How much research do you do before each episode? You seem to be the one to tie the room together as it were when it comes to the history of the subject of each week.
I really don't do much research, if I have the time I might watch a couple video parts to refresh my memory but that's pretty much it. I seriously have no time to sit down and do any research. Wish I had a research team.
Has there ever been someone you wanted to get on the show but flat out said no?
What camera has been your favorite to film with over the years?
The camera I'm using now, the Sony FS7 I love that camera. I do like keeping it simple I do wish there was like a real good HD/VX you know. I want something that is camera body and lens, nothing else. I hate lugging around five lenses, external monitors and now a VX mic it's a fuckin' erector set. The Panasonic VX170 was awesome except you had a giant windshield that was going to cost you $1500 to get the front element replaced if someone hit it. It gets pretty pricey when you don't have a company to replace it for you.
Do you think the days of the freelance filmer are gone, is that lifestyle sustainable anymore?
The only way to do it would be to start your own YouTube channel and post all your clips and you have full ownership of your footage and you can monetize your stuff because you've built up your own audience.
So more of a filmer as a brand than something else.
Yeah. No one is really doing that.
Fat Bill has kind of done that but the footage isn't his?
He's got the dream job right now, running around in the streets having the time of his life and skating with the best kids in the world right now for the largest brand in skating.
Not too bad.
Where there any filmers you looked up to when you were starting out?
Not really I just wanted to capture it good. The first person that I recognized that had a unique style was Ricky Bedenbaugh. I started paying attention to him. It always looked so clean, he wasn't trying to get all weird with it. He basically filmed good skating and the crew of skaters he was filming were good skaters. And then obviously Ty [Evans] and Jason Hernandez.
It sounds like you prefer the just plain nuts and bolts type of productions, or do you see that there is room for both in skating?
There is definitely room for both. When I did Over Vert, one of the things me and Louie agreed on was no b-roll. And when you watch that video there is no people throwing their board down or testing the grind of a ledge. I think there is only one "b-roll‚" clip, it's an establishing clip in a part and we even put on there mandatory b-roll clip or something like that. Obligatory b-roll.
Was that something you both agreed on?
Yeah, because at the time the amount of b-roll in people's parts was ridiculous. A shot of the person's eye, a shot of them tapping their tail on the ground, tossing their board down then rolling to the spot and then when you look at their part they might have twenty clips in there. It's filled, how do we fill up the song‚ trees, sunset bird's flying, taxi cabs etc… it's overkill.
Would you recommend anyone going down the path you took?
If you want to be living check to check, don't follow my path.
People do that at normal jobs too.
I know, I definitely lucked out at certain points like working for Adio and being able to do Viva la Bam at the same time was a blessing. I wish I knew it at the time and saved my money more back then. I was young and I was ready to party.
What's the saying, "young, dumb and full of cum?‚"
Yeah, pretty much.
What do you find more annoying, guys of our generation complaining about the state of skateboarding now, or younger skaters not knowing their history?
If you look back at it we didn’t know our shit back in the day. Someone schooled us. Eventually you start picking up things and you learn. I do find it funny when people complain about the state of the skate industry when the state of the industry is always going to be fucked. If you go back to the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s – people have been getting screwed over in skating for years. Skater’s they come and go and these companies they know that they can find someone equally good or better that they can turn pro tomorrow. Everyone is disposable. That’s why you need to carve your own path and fuckin’ start your own shit instead of working for someone.
And, finally, I’ll ask you what’s your favorite skate video of all time?
Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies. It’s to the point.
Interview by Isaac Mckay-Randozzi