MAGNETIC TAPE & SOUL Premiere & Interview with the Threads Heads
With the endless onslaught of videos and content every week, it feels like skate videos have become as disposable as a box of tissues. Diminishing the perceived value of rad skate projects through the basic economics 101 class lesson of 'supply & demand' . The more diluted the content pool becomes, the less you appreciate any single individual piece. But then a new project pops up that reconnects you to that feeling of inspiration you've been missing. And it restores your faith in the value of a meaningful skate video, and demonstrates the importance of the filmmaker behind the lens. This is how I felt when I first came across the work of the Threads crew years ago, and they're still at it creating inspiring work and introducing us to new faces and under-appreciated talent and cities. So we're more than stoked on the opportunity to not only catch up with the Threads boys to talk shop, but to also have the honor of hosting their new full length "Magnetic Tape & Soul" on the TOA Youtube channel. So give the interview below a solid read and then enjoy the full video at the bottom of this story.
Herbert Brown & Alex Rose
Josh recently sat down with the minds behind Threads, Matt Creasy, Alex Rose and Josh Shupe, to discuss their newest project MAGNETIC TAPE & SOUL, VX1000, independent projects and more....here's what transpired:
For those who aren't familiar, how and when did the Threads concept come about? And who was all originally involved?
It was originally myself (Matt) and Alex Rose, and the concept was to merge two separate crews over neighboring scenes to make one video. The title was threads, which was meant to describe what the video was, threads of different kinds weaving a pattern over a short period of time.
I knew I was going to be moving to California and only had planned about 6-8 months to make the video (I think we filmed for just about 9 months), so the concept is to film mini trips back and forth from Chattanooga to Atlanta like they were each for a mini edit to encourage getting not only as many clips as possible, but show as much personality as possible by getting b roll for just about every clip.
Ultimately, Alex and I shared a goal to show ensemble production can be good, it was motivated by feeling like a lot of videos we had worked on were worse off for debates and negotiations for clips that were being considered for other videos. I think Alex and I felt like this maybe was often unnecessary if more video maker cooperation could happen. So we agreed to make a video like that together.
Are all of the Threads filmers shooting with a VX-1000?
Yeah, everyone does, But Matt uses a lot of hi8 now too. It's sick though, he has been using it since it was the standard. You can tell he takes filming with it seriously, not just a tool for nostalgia.
Everyone has one, but each person has their own mix.
Alex is primarily VX, with lots of 16mm, some super 8, and occasional hi8.
Josh is primarily VX with some super 8, and occasional hi8.
I primarily use hi8, some vx, and some 16.
At that point HD had already been well-established. What made you guys decide to make your project all standard definition?
I felt a lot of relief a few years after HD became the norm because of how strenuous it felt like the unwritten skate video rules were. In a way it was like you could manipulate people’s memory of what was acceptable in standard def. Using a hi8 and filming it with the SD Panasonic dvx off the TV was something I’d been doing for several years, but never felt like it could fly as acceptable for a video that you want to distribute. But, I felt like the eyes moved enough away to provide an opportunity to do new things and the new perspective from people used to HD left them more open-minded not to just disregard videos for deviating skate fouls, which I think was most prevalent from Mid 90s to mid 00s.
SD still had a lot to offer, and really it was only underutilized because from hi8 to mini DV was so technology driven that it only made sense for video considerations to be similar. For example, it was important to not have hi8 clips when 3 chips dropped, then it was important to not have non death lens (.42) fisheye clips, then it was having vx 1000 clips without needing GL1 (or later 2) or trv900, then only editing with media 100 or FCP. Not sure if it was universally seen this way, but i felt a pressure to adhere to that kind of rigidness. But, when SD became a novelty to most, it felt like an opportunity to be more brave in what you could use and experiment with format and editing wise.
Mostly because of the VX. I've never really tried anything else for filming skateboarding, other than a couple of dv handycams when I was really young. I like the Century fisheyes and the cameras that shoot 4:3 natively; Like the Bolex h16 and even DVX100s. I would be open to trying other cameras because I'm sure they could help me become better at filming, having to think about things differently.
Nick Guertin - Backside 5050
I feel like I see some inspiration in your videos that might not exactly all be from skateboarding. What would you guys say you've mostly pulled some inspiration from for your art direction?
I think that is very accurate for me. During my teenage years there was a lot of arts-music, skating, or general culture items that left heavy impressions on me.
Watching all the music videos in the early 90s created my love of 16 mm (old tws vids also fueled that to be fair). Before watching the music videos I had no idea how rich 16 mm color could look, or how strong the black and white 16mm was. If all you’d seen was Hollywood mainstream movies and cable tv, you wouldn’t have been exposed to that visual depth can be on 16mm.
The text/font and the early heavy visual note style were influenced by Kurt Vonnegut and the illustrations he did and what was made for his paperback covers. Almost equally, we took from Saul Bass poster style. There was lot of time looking at his design books by recommendation of my friend who is a really strong graphic designer.
Edgar Hernandez - Backside Melon Grab
What do you think was you guys' main motivation for starting the first Threads project originally?
I was 23 when we first started filming for Threads and had done a few full-lengths, but I still had a lot to learn. At that age I was completely consumed by skateboarding. I needed someone like Matt who had taken time away from skating at some point and who had come back with the experience of letting it go. but being able to see the bigger picture of making something special; The qualities a video needed to be original, palatable, and stylish. Getting my friends in a video that Matt would have a big hand in making was enough motivation for me to start, but learning more about style and being more creative is what kept me hooked on Threads.
Aside from the art direction you guys created with Threads and the unique feeling it gives me when I watch the videos, I think my favorite aspect of you guys' projects is that I get to see a bunch of skaters I would never see otherwise. You guys have a rad crew of dudes who all rip in different ways and who's personalities seem really unique. Does it give you a lot of satisfaction presenting these guys to the rest of the world?
Yeah, I love showing the crew we have. We're definitely still a big skate crew but everyone has other interests and passions as well; Thankfully, since we're in our 30s now. It's fun to hang out with everyone and it not be about skateboarding all the time. It's taken some of the pressure off and made things a little more casual, which I've noticed gives people more room to be themselves, and that translates into the videos. It's great to show personality. I think that's what most people identify with in these videos. It can be something small , like hearing Kaleb Mann's deep southern accent between songs in transition, to all-out staged 16mm filming of character sequences. Matt is great at writing the more developed, cinematic ideas.
I also look at our crew and I see a lot of different approaches and strengths. Obviously you're going to lean into what you're better at, but I also think the people we skate with are into different styles and even peaked in their interest of skating at different times. For instance, Cameron Dell was already a great skateboarder when I was 13 years old, so he's influenced by a different era of street skating than I am.
Personally, this is the most gratifying part. I don’t get to watch videos as much now, but from ages 19-33 I was so interested in finding new clips from unknown people. Discovering people that maybe wouldn’t make it into the bright lights, but existed in a rad pocket of skating and made video parts that stood out without being even an established am. For example, San Jose had a rad video scene obviously, but some of the smaller scene videos focused on less known people like Julian Quevedo. I was a huge fan, and it’s not like Julian never got any credit, but I wanted to a video that showed those people.
When I used to watch basketball a lot, it was like the difference of NBA to NCAA. The NCAA can’t rely on talent or skill like the nba can: there are a few hundred NBA players, and compare that to the NCAA where there is close to a few hundred teams. There isn’t enough super talent to field hundreds of teams, so things like creativity, ingenuity, and heart can make a huge difference. That’s the same for amateur/scene/homie videos.
It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole process for me as I’ve gotten older. We’re getting this great blend of styles and different approaches to skating through the people we’re filming and that allows us to bring in our own artistic liberty to the process. I think about how to change up my filming from video to video and our somewhat rotating casts help do that just by encountering new people with approaches to skating I’m not as familiar with. It always feels nice to know you’re really representing someone’s skating in a way that makes them shine.
Warner King & Herbert Brown
Do you guys run into creative conflicts sometimes? One editor/filmer wanting to take something one direction while the other/others want to go another?
Creative conflicts are key to making good videos I think, it’s like the funnel that improves ideas and sheds the weak part of concepts. In threads I want to say we established an extremely strong mutual respect of each others skills and style. So theres always going to be conversations about concept, direction, and execution and everyone in threads does an excellent job about advocating and articulating their ideas.
We’ve had a handful of those times where it’s like everyone is trying to cut the baby in half to get what they want to happen, but it always ends in a fair compromise. Other times, us having a conversation about it leads to some new idea all together and that reshapes things. I think it’s just part of that creative process when you’re working on a long- term project with a close- knit group of people. Always works out in the end, somehow. We all just want the video to be the best version we can create.
Living in Tampa for 30 years, I know how hard it is to keep milking the same small city for spots after you've made multiple videos in that area. Has that become more and more of a challenge for you guys every time you start working on a new project?
I don't think so, Chattanooga has great spots and there's new stuff being built all the time. We're also geographically lucky that Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Knoxville are within 2 hours from us. It's home, and our scene is really sick.
It seems to come in waves. Everyone knows what it feels like to go back to the same spots over and over and it can become really mundane and rob some of the spark from the session. We certainly face that here, but sometimes a new spot will pop up and make us forget for a little while. Other times it seems like having this finite amount of spots in Chattanooga to draw from makes the skaters reevaluate how to approach the spot or think of new tricks to try. So it forces some creativity out of all of us. They’re trying to squeeze something new out of an old spot and I’m trying to film it in a way that isn’t exactly the same as every other clip filmed there over the years.
Herbert Brown - SS Heelflip
It seems like the overwhelmingly popular approach to independent videos over the last 10 years or so has been for videomakers to give each of their videos a really random one-off name as it's own stand-alone project. But you guys chose to keep each video under the "Threads" moniker. What would you say are the pros and cons to that decision?
I am very happy with having the consistent moniker, mostly because it creates a reason to have a consistent group, even if it didn’t necessarily start that way. It’s a way to keep a group making videos together without being a traditional brand. The only down sides that really stick out to me are related to other brands/entities usages of threads. because it isn’t a terribly unique word, it’s not surprising that has happened, but it has been frustrating.
The pros are definitely continuity, and continuation of the series. We’re able to give the individual videos their own name and identity but the Threads moniker remains the anchor point overall. I can’t really think of a con, we’ve made it a point to remain Threads, so I think we’re going to ride it out. We do have our side-name; Supervisual. It’s nice to have that one in the back pocket for other projects in the future too. I think between the two of those we’ll be able to keep it moving and continue to make videos.
Yeah, that's a good idea....the side-name concept opens up other opportunities. Wish I'd thought of that. Haha...I feel like in the early 2000's there was kind of a network of underground filmers and videomakers who chatted with each other on forums and whatnot, maintaining a sort of independent filmers network...does anything like that still exist any more? It seems like everyone is too focused on doing their own things these days and it's rare for filmers to collab or help with each other's projects the way they used to.
I was certainly one of those little kids on skateperception reading forum posts about gear and setups. Obsessing over finally acquiring a MK1 and just talking to random people about filming and skating. These days it’s more like a DM on Instagram from someone in the underground scene reaching out about local spots/wanting a tour guide. Which is always cool. It’s rad to meet like minded groups of skaters when they wanna roll through town.
On the point of collaboration; it can be really difficult in todays instant gratification landscape via social media. Instead of keeping their prime clips for a video, people will just post some wild shit on Instagram for likes and comments. Skater and filmer alike on that front unfortunately. We’ve had some moments in the past where a contributing filmer wouldn’t want to come off a certain clip, so they could hold it back for their own project or something. We get it, but it mires down the process a little and can detract from the overall video if the wrong clips are withheld. That’s always a struggle when you’re working with a bigger group of contributors, but it’s the only way to make these videos with people from all over the country.
Warner King - Backside Disaster
This is a strong year already for independent skate videos. We had your video, Great Northern, a new Deep Dish, Corey Rosson's new "Third World Cuntry". It's amazing that there's still a strong underground/independent skate video culture out there. What have been your favorite projects to come out over the last few years and do you take inspiration from new videomakers as well or mostly older classics?
There's been some great stuff for sure. I’ve been paying attention to scenes more than specific full lengths for the past few years. That Scumco video Striking Distance 2 got me really sparked on Pittsburgh's scene though. Tristan Mershon made that video and it was badass. I think the Pittsburgh scene has good style. I love the Baltimore crew too. Ben Schmidt and Colin Heindel are holding it down filming there. Everyone street skating there has great style, and they have good influences to pull from with the history of their scene. Watch Ben's newest video "My Front Stoop". I think the Static series is the standard for modern independent videos in all phases from the cast to the branding. Those videos had all of us trying to find brooklyn spots in our small towns. I definitely still get inspiration from older videos, street skating and recently a lot more ramp skating. Trying to apply weird tricks that Ben Schroeder or Chris Miller did on pool coping, to some crunchy bank spot in Tennessee.
There are so many crews making rad videos in the scene so it’s hard to think of them all. Deep Dish videos are always super sick, and the Grains video series is a good watch as well. The Cuntry video series Corey has put out has also been a favorite of mine. He just has his own lane with it and it’s always jam packed with great skating. I’m a fan of all the crews out there like us, still making it work around full time jobs and everything else in life. It comes through in the videos, and you can tell these people are all in it together. It’s nice to see other crews across the country getting after it. I’m also still going back to Lost and Found and W.F.T.W. when I want some inspiration. That’s a well that never seems to run dry.
Yeah, I do that too. Go back to the videos that inspired me the most creatively. For me it's like "Memory Screen", "A Visual Sound" and I'll revisit Dan Magee's work too...I was really inspired by the texture/vibe of "First Broadcast". Is your process more digestable and attainable by having multiple people working on the project? Do you guys often help motivate each other to keep going when things get tough or life gets in the way?
It takes a village around here. Everyone has their role to play and it’s kind of always interchanging between the three of us in certain ways. I think we motivate one another just by keeping at it. If I take a weekend off and Alex goes out and gets some really sick clips with the guys, I’m bummed I wasn’t there to film or contribute. Or, Matt will text us his clips from the weekend with the L.A. crew and it sparks us to go get some in Chattanooga to add to the video. Gotta keep the fire burning within the crew to stay after it.
Is there anything, any idea or any skaters you feel like you've still left uncovered or unexplored? Something that's going to start eating at you to start up another project soon?
Alex and I had this conversation a few weeks ago. I called him while I was having a slight panic attack about what to do for the next video. We were about to premiere Magnetic Tape & Soul and I was freaking out about what’s next. Moreover, who’s next? We have our constant cast of guys you can depend on to get footage, but there are some people in the scene that are coming up or just hitting their stride in skating right now. So there’s always that part of you that sees potential in skaters and wants to bring it out of them. Dudes we’ve known for so long but just haven’t really had the chance to connect with properly and film. Really looking forward to continue to show off the talent and people we have in Chattanooga and letting their abilities dictate new spots to film at and ideas for their parts.
I like making parts with people while they're developing as skateboarders, and coming into their style. Seeing them figure out style and ideas through reviewing their footage. It reminds me of skating as a little kid with my friends and filming stuff, having no idea what we're doing or how we look, but maybe once and a while someone does something really sick, and something about the clip is good, and that sticks with you. Like 'ok, let's try to be that good for every clip'. Then those tough conversations, stuff getting used or not, for this or that reason. Herbert is the best example I've seen of this development in my time as a video maker. He hit an incredible stride with his style and control of his board in the last 5 years. I have a couple of people here that are in that stage now, that need that video part under their belt to get to the next level of their skating. I suppose it never really ends though, because I look at my friends that are close or past their 10th video parts and their stuff is still getting better, and that's just incredible to see.
Herbert Brown - SSBSTS
Would you guys ever do a travel project? Like "Threads takes Chicago" or do you think your location is integral to the feel of the videos?
I think earlier on, people didn’t know where to expect our footage to be coming from. We were known for Atlanta and Tennessee footage, but we had parts from people skating in San Francisco, Miami, New York and Baltimore. That’s one thing that Threads hasn’t played around with, was shorter form web-edits. We just always found ways to work that travel footage into full-lengths.
Annually, Nikola and Elvis from the Vladamir Film Festival get in touch with us about showing Threads videos in Croatia, at their festival. We always talk for weeks about how amazing it would be to get over there, meet those guys, film and support the festival. If there was one place I’d like to do a travel project idea it would be there!
Yeah, that would be dope. I finally visited Vladimir in 2019 and was so glad I did. You guys HAVE to make it there ASAP. There's one happening in 3-4 weeks!!
I hate when people ask "So what's next?!" so I'm just going to say I really enjoy the Threads videos and hope that you guys continue to create new projects in the future. But people should take some time to appreciate "Magnetic Tape & Soul" and watch it more than once so they catch all the subtleties and actually celebrate a good video for once and not just move on to the next thing. Thanks for your time and do you have any last words you'd like to leave with?
Thank you, it means a lot to us that our videos are appreciated and that you’ve given us a platform to show them and speak on them as well. We’re well into the next one already here in Tennessee and it’s been exciting getting some new people in the mix. I’m personally excited for Static 6 next month. Our friend, Wil Harcrow, is taking the trip to N.Y. for the premiere, so I’ll be bugging him for a full report.
Thanks for your support and kind words about the project, Josh! We really appreciate you giving us a platform to speak about the video. I hope everyone continues to enjoy our videos and maybe takes some inspiration to go make indie videos for their scene. We’re a dying breed, but we don’t have to be!