Let's start in the beginning, what was your first proper set-up and where did you grow up?
I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia. It’s a suburb about 10 miles west of DC. I remember going to Ocean City, MD and seeing the G&S completes in the early to mid eighties and wanting one of those so bad. I think when I finally saved up for a real board, it was a Kryptonics Ripstick. At that time I had a freestyle bicycle too and my friends and I would switch between biking and skating.
Who was in your "skate crew" when you were younger and coming up?
Super early on it was mostly the kids around my school in Fairfax, Eben Jahnke, Randy Bobbitt, Steve Amigone, Corey Little, John Freestone. Those were the jump ramp days, so anyone who had a PVC railslide bar or a launch ramp was pretty much your friend. We knew one or two older kids with cars but when we were 14-15 it was just skating the parking garages and the local spots in and around Fairfax.
Do you remember the first time you went to Pulaski?
I was 14 and I think Randy, Eben and I took the metro (train) down to DC on a Saturday. I was so scared I was going to get caught. My parents wouldn’t have been cool with me going down. In the beginning it wasn’t all about Pulaski though, that was just one of the stops on the daily trip. We’d hit Archives, Welfare Banks, Georgetown, all over northwest. We’d skate like 8-10 miles easy in a weekend afternoon. Funny story, I think Eben actually got caught for going downtown because of a picture some photographer took ended up in the Washington Post.
Pulaski was DC's version of EMB. Did it ever seem to get out of control and crazy crowded?
Early 90s it started getting pretty ridiculous. There could be 150-200 kids on a Saturday; multiple filmers and photographers. Early on we’d get the bums to buy us booze too and pretty soon the people in the liquor stores just stopped ID-ing us. It got ugly some nights with everyone drinking all day. The days were usually pretty tame, but when it got dark it was like some Lord of the Flies type shit. Seemed like we could smoke, drink, break shit and skate all we wanted. Like a paradise for adolescents. I remember one night breaking like 100 bottles at the park just to hear the glass break. It was almost like we were pushing the limit to see what we could get away with, like my 4 year old does to me now. That’s probably part of the reason Pulaski ended up with Park Police really cracking down.
Do you remember the first time you meet Pepe? If not what's your earliest memory of him?
Again, before DC was “defined” by Pulaski, there would always be these local contests in VA and MD. Just little contests in parking lots sponsored by shops with ramps and stuff brought together by all the local skaters and anyone with a pick-up truck. I remember Fairfax Surf Shop would do contests at Frost Middle school across the street from my house, Pep came with a bunch of dudes from Arlington and DC and they were killing it. I think that was the first time I saw Sheffey outside of the city. Pep was like 4 ft tall and ollieing up this knee high box (when that was a trick) and seemed super natural on his board. In hindsight, he was one of the first people I saw that had real control of his board. This was when boards were like 20 some pounds too.
Who was your first sponsor? How did it come about?
In the late eighties, Dave Schlossbach came out to a contest in Anne Arundel, MD and I exchanged numbers with him. He ended up hooking me up with Jamie Mossberg at BBC, when it was The Better Board Company. Still had ties to Bad Boy Club though, so I rocked some just embarrassing shit in high school. That was actually my first video part too. The BBC video. Kanten Russell was on BBC then too. It’s pretty crazy that I work with him on skate park engineering stuff for Site Design Group now. From there, I got hooked with Speed Wheels, and Thunder and started talking to cats on the west coast. I ended up riding for Planet Earth, Dave Andrecht’s company 777 and probably a few others I can’t remember. Oh certainly can’t forget Steadham’s project ‘Citizen X'.
Andy, present day with Brian Moore and Kanten Russell
You were on the best company (101), during a time when East-coast skaters were hardly getting hooked up at all by the companies out West. How did you get hooked up with 101?
I maintained my relationship with Dave through the late 80’s and early nineties and he filmed a lot of east coast stuff for his Quiet Storm and Turn the Other Cheek videos. I don’t think I was aware of all the people he knew in the industry actually, and didn’t know until later all the video stuff he’d had a hand in. He was doing a lot of video for Mike T. and Plan B and was in touch with all the dudes at World. I ended up going out and spending about 6 weeks staying with him in SD filming what turned out to be most of the stuff for the Falling Down vid. I think I was pretty much down to ride for any of the World companies and ended up filling a spot on 101. I don’t know if there was any of the voting or anything by the team guys, I’m not quite sure how it ended up the way it did.
Caballerial flip, Big Brother #5.
Without a doubt you deserved to be on 101, but did you ever feel out of place on the company? Your teammates (Koston, McNatt & Rodriguez) were established guys in the industry that came from big companies like Powell and H-street, and here you were a dude from the East coast... where it snows, got shit ground to roll on, no photographers/ videographers really... You were like little Mac in Mike Tysons punch- out.
It was super intimidating on the surface, but once I met and got to hang out with the the guys, it was easier to kick back and skate; except I never really hung out with anyone on 101. I met Koston like 2 or 3 times and went to McNatt’s house one time, which was just weird. Back in DC, we pretty much made fun of everyone and everything, and the World and Blind guys were a lot like that so it took the edge off. I tried not to “fan out” while I was there and once we were skating, it was just that, skating. I remember going to a series of contests in the northeast about the time that we started talking about me turning pro. There was a contest at Brick in Jersey, and a contest in Connecticut. I didn’t enter any of the contests and really questioned whether I was even in the same league as any of those guys, but it was alright not to enter contests back then, with some guys living off video parts, some guys living off contest results, and some living off rep.
You rode for 101 while the whole Girl thing went down, Koston and Gabriel quit then Gino and Dill joined. Did this team change affect you at all? Or did it not make a difference to you?
I remember talking to Andy Howell at the SF Back to the City contest in 93 and him telling me about all the stuff that was shaking out at Giant with Element and all that. I had said that I wanted to go pro and that I wanted to see if 101 was going to go through with giving me a board. It turned out that my part in Snuff blew (I ‘m still not quite sure what happened with a lot of the footage that I had filmed for that). It wasn’t quite the same amount of filminig time spent on the Falling Down part, but a lot better than the 18 seconds of shit that ended up in there. I could read the writing on the wall and rather than stick around just because they were a World company I took Andy Howell up on his offer and did the thing at Element. I never really kicked it with the guys on 101 and wasn’t really impacted by their decisions to break out. I mean, I chilled at the warehouse for a couple weeks and got to know a few of the other guys pretty well but I wasn’t ever part of the crew.
You skated the World park back in the day, what memory sticks out the most from skating there.
Just meeting all those dudes was insane. Guy, Ronnie Bertino, Dae Won,and Henry and Gino were always super cool, like no attitude at all to someone they’d never met. I remember staying there and not believing the talent that I was able to skate with. It was really motivating and fun. Those guys were so good and that pushed me to try new stuff. Plus, all the rumors and stories about the product that was laying around… almost 100% true. More skate shit than could have ever been skated.
Who did you stay with when you went out to Cali?
I stayed with Schlossbach when I was filming for Falling Down, but stayed in Santa Barbara with my friend Eben’s dad, stayed with Scott Johnston once in SF, stayed with Natas once in Santa Monica which was a real trip, most of the times it was just floating around crashing on the floor of whoever’s or sleeping in the car.
1995. Perfectly caught fakie tre flip. video grab - chris ortiz
Did you ever meet Rocco? What did you think of him?
I never met Steve, but on a trip to SF I got all my shit stolen from my car from in front of Scott’s house the first night I got there. We ended up heading south to the World warehouse and I got to meet Sal Rocco. He basically loaded up 2 boxes of shit and totally hooked me up causeall my shit was gone. That was one of the other “rumors” that proved true. The team riders got a ridiculous amount of stuff. I never had the carte blanche impression at any other company that I had there.
Andy on the cover of SLAP - 1993. 360flip noselider.
After 101, Andy Howell hooked you up at Element, how did that go down?
When it was evident that 101 was pretty much a done deal I called Andy Howell and went out with Pep to meet Eric Pupecki and Bill Pepper at Johnny Schillereff’s house. We kind of talked about the transition from Underworld Element to Element and kick started that whole thing.
What's your earliest memory of Stevie Williams?
When he was amateur for Element he’d come down and stay at Pepe’s and my house and skate DC. He was always super talented and super funny. Fit right in with all of us.
What's your favorite memory from the Element days?
I’d say the trips to Europe were the favorite memories. And feeling like a real part of a real team. Those were the first organized tours that I was a part of too. Plus with the 411 VM vehicle for footage and all the money that Giant was putting in to skateboarding, I was able to get some decent coverage for an east coast skater.
How did things end with Element and start with Capital?
One of the things about living on the east coast and skating for a west coast company is that you’re not part of the day to day stuff at the company. A little background… when you are earning a board royalty check, those are usually based on a minimum number of boards selling. Like if my min. was $1200 a month (which isn’t that much) and I was getting $2 a board, I’d have to sell more than 600 boards to get any more than $1200 in a month. Well, there were rumors that there would only be 600 of any particular board produced at a time and therefore people weren’t able to make any more than their minimums even if the board was selling a lot. I don’t think they were intentionally ripping me off, but I needed something a bit more secure than $1200 a month. I had a wheel with Nicotine and the owner Mike Agnew talked to me about starting a board company. He originally offered me 30% ownership to be a part of it. I really wanted to have Pep a part of it also, so I said I’d go 15/15 if Pep was down. He was so stoked he said that if I could get Pep to do it, he’d hook us with 20% each. We had legal doc’s drawn up and everything, but neither of us actually got lawyers to look at them. Pretty foolish because that’s probably what ended my career when the company was done. If I’d taken it more seriously I probably could’ve taken the name over and kept it going when Agnew bailed.
It seemed like Capital had a good thing going, what do you think lead to the downfall of that company?
Well, we had done a couple tours out of the country and it really seemed like it was on the way up…Mike kept starting new companies and I think that rather than concentrating on keeping the core people happy, he was trying to make the most loot. There were aspects of it that sucked for me too. Mike would expect me to keep control of all the shit that happened on tour; stuff getting broken and rental vans getting trashed. He expected me to keep everyone in line. Getting people to meet ad deadlines and input on product design and graphics. I liked that sort of involvement but he put a lot of the dirty work on me to get done, and I was still trying to be the skater guy. I’m pretty sure greed is what ended up being the downfall. I think he had a small to medium sized drug problem and I’ve heard about a lot of gambling with company funds too but that’s speculation and rumors.
I remember I got a call one day and basically was told that he’d fired everyone in the warehouse, shut down all the companies and that was that. Completely out of the blue. He was nearly impossible to contact by phone and it took me three weeks of going up to the warehouse just to get my last check. Sucked. Well, I’d been pretty much concentrating on my skating and not so much on the business end of things and I was so pissed off at the fact that I’d been duped about the ownership (I found out that my ownership was crap) that I kind of took a couple months away from skating. Partially, I think I was waiting for a phone call from another company asking me to skate for them too. Not sure why I thought that was going to happen or how much I cared when it didn’t.
Did you ride for Grey Market after Capital?
I never rode for them, no. I started to work as a valet at a hotel in VA to keep paying my bills. Rent had to be paid.
What is your favorite memory of Pep?
I’d say the time we were both riding for Element was the best times we spent together. There were 3-5 years where the whole crew would meet at Pep’s house in Arlington every day and head skating from there. His house was the jumping point for most everything we did. All the time with skating as your only responsibility, those were the days.
Do you remember the last time you saw him before he passed?
It had been a few years since we kept up and he was bouncing between living in SF and NY after the time that we were keeping in close touch. I don’t recall the last time in fact. I think a lot of the people on the team held me partially responsible for Capital going down. I was just as shocked as everyone else and just as up the creek without a paddle.
How did his passing change your own life?
It was crazy to see how many people came together after his passing, but I wasn’t surprised. He’d known and impacted the lives of so many people, a lot of whom were totally peripheral to the actual skating part of our lives. I think like the death of any good friend, you immediately think of how it can happen to anyone at any time. Kind of grounds you about the fragility of life.
What are you up to now? Do you still skate?
I worked at the hotel for a while and decided to go back to school in like 99. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to keep skating professionally I had to choose a major that was going to pay me enough money to live how I wanted to live. I had my fiancé look at the top paying jobs with degrees my local school was offering. I went and talked to the deans of those departments. After meeting with the Urban Systems Engineering (Civil Engineering) dean, I decided that was what I wanted to pursue. 6.5 years later I finally got my degree in Civil Engineering and just this past January I passed my license exam and got my Professional Engineering license in the state of Colorado. I still skate about once every 3 weeks. I wish it were more often but I have 2 kids and a couple other things I choose to do besides skate now, like golf, so I keep it pretty safe when I go ride. It sucks too because when I go skating a few weeks in a row and start to get stuff back I always think about “what would have happened if…”
Anything else you want to add?
I try not to have any regrets about some of the shitty, immature decisions I made when I was skating but if I hadn’t done all those things, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am generally a really content person. I have a wonderful wife, two beautiful kids and a solid education that should provide for my family. I look back fondly on all the years I got to spend with my friends and all the people I got to meet along the way. I’ve had a few lifetimes’ worth of experiences and travel and I feel fortunate to have seen what I’ve seen and known whom I’ve met along the way. Oh, and thanks for caring enough to ask these questions.