10 Years After "Static II": An Interview with Paul Shier
From left to right: Shier, Frankie Brodsky, Travis Sales, Jon Newport, Steve Brandi, Colin Kennedy and Josh Stewart
So let's roll back the clock 10 years or so……..it's 2004 and we're in a 15 passenger van driving at about 85 mph through the desert in the middle of the night. Blueprint rider Colin Kennedy from Scottland, Jon Newport from Atlanta, Steve Brandi from Tampa, filmer Travis Sales and Kenny Reed from fuck knows where are strewn around the van, half of them are passed out snoring and the other half are wired on 7-Eleven coffee, trying to stay awake to soak in the experience. We were 2/3 of the way through our filming trip from San Fransicso, California to Houston, TX. The second leg of a massive journey starting off in Miami a month earlier. As the van crushed the occasional tumbleweed under the weight of 8 skateboarders and a massive metallic vehicle we sat listening to the live radio reports as the US and British forces just invaded Iraq in retaliation to trumped up charges of harboring 'weapons of mass destruction'. Paul Shier, sitting shotgun turns and looks at me at the driver's wheel eyes in shock and slowly shaking his head. We were nearing the end of an even longer journey of traveling the world together working on what would soon premiere as the 2nd installment to the 'Static' series. "The Invisibles".
Shier, Colin Kennedy and Newport thrifting in the desert. And Honen, Colin and John Igei in Washington DC
Can you believe that it's been 10 years since then? Shit, that almost seems like 20 years ago to me actually.
It really does seems way longer to me too! I guess so much has happened in both of our life's since that time it does not feel quite right that only 10 years have passed.
What was going through your mind that night as we were speeding through the night in the middle of nowhere?
What I remember most about those journeys whether it was driving from S.F to Houston or Miami to N.Y was your infinite ability and art of story telling from anything ranging from conspiracy theories to secret societies to Alien life forms. You were a fountain of information. We all just sat, drank beer and listened while you spoke freely informing us about what, at the time, was all new to me. Having Jon Newport or Andy Honen on the trips also made for some other kind of interesting conversation and antics away from what you were talking about.
Can you remember any classic Andy Honen or Newport quotes or moments?
Newport was full of funny shit and always is, I remember at that specific time though his favorite quote I guess was 'I'm trying to come up'!! He was hungry for sure. Regarding Andy, that night you filmed him with John Igei outside of the White House on the grass with a generator was pretty insane, the fact you got away with that is crazy, imagine trying to set that up now!
Josh and Andy Honen, beggin for a drone strike
Was that your first time driving across the United States?
I am still yet to drive the whole way across from coast to coast. It is something I always wanted to do though and will one day. Static 5 road trip maybe?
We had spent the previous year traveling between London and Barcelona, sitting on hour long tube rides from your house into central London and sleeping on the tile floor in Jerry Hsu's 105 degree Barcelona apartment. The traveling we did for that video was unbelievable. What were we thinking?
That was the glory times, back in the days when you could get companies to pay for you to go anywhere you asked without any questions being asked or anything requested from you. Pre high speed internet and social media. HAHA!! Good times for sure.
Haha….yeah, now it's too easy to check up on skaters and see what they're really doing on those trips. Instagram is a double-edged sword. So, right about when it looked like we were done filming for Static II, we hit you with a last-minute trip. The wildest of all of them. What did you think when Joe Brook and I told you we were going to Egypt?
That was a trip that there was no way I was going to turn down. Big thanks still to you though as you payed my flight and hotel for that trip. It was a strange location for a skate trip at the time but with you, Joe Brook and the Kenny's (Reed and Hughes) it was for sure going to be good one. I think the original idea of why you wanted to go there was for the solo reason to get a 16mm shot of Kenny riding a camel at the Pyramids which of course you got. That trip definitely comes in the top 5 for me.
I can remember Hughes almost didn't even make it due to having an incident against a bouncer at a Barcelona night club(city hall) a few weeks before which turned into a bar brawl ending with Kenny breaking the guys nose, getting charged with assault and almost getting deported from Spain. It was actually the day we left for the trip that he got the green light and off we went to Cairo.
Haha….yeah. The most expensive b-roll shot in the history of independent skate videos. Jesus. Well, what about that lobby in the Nile Hilton? Did you ever imagine that the process of filming for an independent skate video would place you into a scene like that lobby bar?
The fact alone that you put us in at the Hilton on the Nile while filming for a small independent video is insane enough for me but smoking Shisha in the lobby bar while watching you on an internet date was priceless! This was 2004 so it seemed way less the norm to be meeting some girl off the internet than now that's for sure, you met her via myspace, friendster or something like that I remember? You were not too successful though right?
Oh my god, I forgot about that. Yeah, I could pretend like it was MySpace but I think it was actually Match.com. And I guess it depends on what you mean as "successful". I ended up going on another date with her remember? When she invited me to go have dinner at her family's apartment and you and Hughes thought it was a ploy to kidnap me and hold me for ransom? Can you believe I actually went through with that?
That is true, quite ballsy for you especially as you were not the biggest risk taker back then and rolling out to go to some random girls house in the middle of Cairo seemed sketchy to all of us.
What was it like skating in Egypt at that time? I mean, the US and British forces had JUST invaded Iraq. Westerners weren't exactly popular in the middle east. I think we told everyone we were Canadian, remember?
I actually don't remember this at all, maybe you were just dreaming of being a Canadian.Just getting to skate at the Pyramids was insane, paying off the security so that Kenny could film a trick there was incredible. I am sure not too many people can say they did that or could get away with it now. Check out his old Slap cover and footage from his part in Static 2 ,so sick!
Ok, well, let's get back to how this all started. I went to London with Kenny Reed in 2002 with the goal of finding a local skater to do a part with and he suggested you as the right guy for the job. How did you know Kenny already?
I had known Kenny from living periodically in the Bay Area during the mid to late 90's. I would go out and stay on his floor or with Strubing and Cairo for 3 month stints.
At the time that you visited London with Kenny we had already spent some time in Barcelona and planned to move there which we did shortly after so everything just happened organically after that, you were filming him so it ended up working out perfect.
When I first got to London and started meeting different people it seemed the general consensus at the time was "you're trying to do a part with SHIER?!......good luck mate". Why was everyone so doubtful?
I am not too sure how to answer that. It may have not been skating too much at the time due to one reason or another. Also it may have been due to coming back from an ankle injury too for what I seems to still be recovering from. Possible 2nd surgery on it soon though I am happy to say.
What would you say was the golden age of London skateboarding?
Looking at it over the past 20 years I would have to say that it is right now. There is so much rad skateboarding coming out of the city it is incredible. London has become home to a large majority of skateboarders from all over the country now and the scene is growing at a rapid rate. Skateboarding not only in London but all over the country has grown so much and way beyond my expectations when I was growing up in the closed minded society towards skateboarding and skateboarders in the 80's and 90's in the U.K.
And how many hours would you say you've spent at South Bank in your years as a skateboarder?
I grew up just outside London in a small town called Croydon and we had our own spot there (fairfield) so growing up for me Southbank was just a place we went to skate every other weekend or so as we had everything we needed where we lived. Also back then Southbank used to be a lot sketchier than today, there was always concern of people wanting to rob you on the daily or the inhabitants of cardboard city hanging about. it was not the most inviting place and there was not the scene of tourists watching and the restaurants you see today. The local skaters held it down though, I was a small part of crew but I would never say I was that much of a local in the Southbank scene really.
What aspect of British skateboarding separated you guys from the rest of the world?
There was not any particular aspect that separated us from the rest of the world, just like other skaters growing up we had to deal with harsh winters, rough spots and being looked down at by other people but this is what shaped us to who we are today and what my stand is with skateboarding. There are many cities and countries that can relate with the U.K scene in that respect.
Architecturally though footage in the U.K looks amazing, any video coming out always looked completely different from anything else, this is a personal shout out especially to what Dan Magee was in that era as he portrayed the U.K scene in a way no one ever had and opened peoples eyes to the scene and skateboarders in it.
Well, speaking of Magee that brings us to Blueprint. You were one of the main faces of the London-based Blueprint Skateboards. For such a strong brand it seemed to take a really long time until skaters across the Atlantic took notice of you guys. What do you think propelled Blueprint into becoming known internationally?
It takes time and a lot of work for any small brand to get noticed, even more so back then, there was shit internet, no email, no social media, we just magazines and the odd video that came out to see skateboarding so it was very hard to be seen. The brand slowly grew day by day until Waiting for the World was released and then it all changed. There had been nothing coming out of the U.K on that level of production before. Everyone killed it and Magee created a classic that then got noticed all over the world and lifted Blueprint from a small U.K company into a global success.
Dan did pretty much everything, right? Brand manager, filmer and videomaker. He was a big influence for myself and probably countless other video guys around the world. What was it like working with him?
Dan always knew how to push people buttons and with that strategy he always got the right results. He would also always play the younger skaters on Blueprint up against each other, telling them they were blowing it and that someone else was getting better footage so they better step it up. Whatever and however he did, it always worked. He is a gifted guy, it was and is always a pleasure to work alongside him.
When you first started kicking around the idea of starting Isle Skateboards, did you try to get Dan involved at any point?
When I walked away from Blueprint and started to have the idea behind Isle I knew what I wanted to do with the brand from the outset. Aesthetically I did not want Isle to be seen as a Blueprint 2. I want Blueprint to just be an amazing memory of the company we all created and were a part of before it fell into the wrong hands.
I did not approach Dan about Isle. I wanted to start something different going forward and see where we could take it. However, Dan and Isle have worked together on a small project that we did with Dazed and Confused where he really helped us out on filming, producing and editing one of 4 videos that we put out. I would always love to work on a project with Dan again.
Dan Magee and Paul, London 2009. And a terrifyingly beardless Shier.
What did you want to do differently with Isle than what you guys had done with Blueprint in the past?
Actually own the company and have full control. Blueprint changed dramatically over the last 3 years after it came to the states. We tried our best to steer it in the right direction but without any of the people who had been a part of it for so long having any ownership or real say it was always an uphill struggle to stay committed and true. Owning a company gives you a completely different perspective and passion towards skateboarding and the skateboarders involved within the brand. A real important part for me is making sure that everyone involved with Isle is always staying in constant communication with each other, even though I am in the U.S and people are scattered all over from London to Berlin to S.F, everyday we are talking and keeping up on what is going on where ever and this is crucial in the brand.
Can you explain Jensen's role in the design aspect of the brand?
Nick has an eye that most people do not possess and has a great knowledge for art, and works incredibly with paint and sculpture. He also has a great relationship with other artists in the U.K which allows us to work with great people in collaborations such as we did with Lee Marshall on our newest Artist series. This is an ongoing project that is very important to us. When starting Isle it was such an obvious decision that Nick would be the Art Director and it all fell into place with everything that we have worked on and released so far is on point and unlike many other skateboard graphics you see on the board wall. Nick and Chris Aylen put so much time and energy into our board graphics you can see actually see it and appreciate it rather than just seeing a board with a logo on it. They both smash it.
You now live in LA, a married man with a full time job as the DVS team manager. Yet you're still managing to run your own brand at the same time. How's that working out?
Once I started the job as DVS team manager that allowed me to actually get some money coming in and even though my time was taken up a little more with working it also made me way more secure especially after a good solid 6 months of pretty much having no income and not knowing what was coming each month. Over the years I did still manage to save up a little money and after the job started at DVS it was a perfect time to start Isle. Isle will growing at our own pace, we are in no rush to be something we are not, there are no investors, no one we need to impress with numbers. Isle was started for the reason that I want to highlight my Favourite skateboarders, look out for them and build something that stokers them out and we are all proud to be a part of.
It seems like by your skating and the vibe of Isle that I would imagine you living in London or New York. Has living in LA given you a different perspective on things?
I already lived in London for a very long time and New York is not the right place for me, I love NY to skate and visit but living is a different story, after living in Barcelona for some time I am in no rush live in another city that does not sleep.
I am attracted to a certain style and aesthetic within skateboarding and that will never change whatever city I live in and living in L.A definitely has not changed that. The real big difference about being in L.A for me is that I now skate way more parks as driving an hour from spot to spot is not something I enjoy. However you can have the best of both worlds here as downtown L.A at night time is a rad place to skate and it not utilized too much, everyone is gone and it is all yours. So to answer your question, L.A has not given me a new perspective on skateboarding, just educated me on some other important parts of my life.
How do you see the current state of the skate industry?
We are at a rad place for sure. Smaller skater owned brands are beginning to run the hard goods world. I love skateboarding and have seen it go through so many changes over the past 15 years but it is it really rad to start to see a change and makes the future a very exciting time. The market of selling skateboards should always be ran by skateboarders whether that is a store, distributor or company. If you look at companies like Magenta, Traffic, Polar, Hopps, Isle, Scum Co, Politic these are all brands that are skateboarder driven with everyone still being an active skateboarder. This is what is making a huge difference and a dent on the so called bigger brands in skateboarding. Look around your scene, under your feet, you will probably see one of the brands I mentioned above if it is thank you for supporting what people are doing and will continue to do so.
So when are you going to film a clip for Static IV? Time's running out man.
I know mate, I got to get on it for sure. I am also filming for the Isle Promo we are working on too so hopefully I can get you something so you don't have to use a trick from 2008 or something, that is how long you have been filming it for right?
Sssshhhhhhhhhh…….don't remind them. I actually found a clip of you we filmed for Static II that I had lost. I may have to use that if you don't get something soon.
Well, it's been pretty rad traveling the world filming skateboarding with you for the past 10 years. It's been insane. Where should we go next?
Around the world in 40 days, we talked about it so lets do it.
I'm down………but I'm not paying for the tickets this time.
Check out Paul's part from "Static II: The Invisibles" Below: