Mike, when did you start skating, and why?
I started in either 1986 or 1987 and, I don’t know, I just did it for the fun of it. I had 4 or 5 friends all on the same block who were skating. I had a GT Coyote 3 that was red plastic with yellow wheels, and I would just sit on my butt and go. I never played team sports much, so I was just down for skating.
And you grew up out near Worcester. When did you start going into Boston?
Mike Bell was a little older than me and Kyle Vadeboncouer. When he got his license, we started riding into the city in his parent’s Caravan. We met up with Jad Angel, and I just remember I thought he was the shit because he had Half Cabs. He helped us out a lot and showed us all the spots. Our crew was Mike Bell, Kyle V. and Jim Wharton from like 89 – 90. After that, Bell moved to 486 Mass Ave. and I was couch surfing there, always skating with Jerry Fowler, Roger Bagley, Ezra Brown and Nike Mike. A lot of other dudes were around all the time, too, like Jahmal Williams, Robbie Gangemi, Panama Dan, Ray Echevers and thisdude named Chowder.
Mike Graham -1992. (Unfortunately a sharpie was taken to this page.)
So you pretty much saw everyone around and that seems to be best documented in the old “Messin’ Around” video. What was it like putting together the 3D video?
That was pretty fun. We were on daily missions. Ray Echevers was always around to film and James from Panama. It was relaxed. We really did it whenever we felt like it.
Who has influenced you the most over the past 20 years or so?
Damn. Definitely at the beginning it was Hensley, Jason Lee and Danny Way. I wrote Danny Way a fan letter when he was on H-Street. He was my favorite dude on H-Street. One day the phone rang after school and it was him. The dude actually called me in response to my letter and it made my year. After that, it was Carroll, Howard and Guy Mariano. Actually, way back it was Jason Jessee and Natas. I liked Jason Jessee’s frontside alley oop ollies and Natas was in the first videos I ever saw. With all these guys, I liked their style. It wasn’t the tricks they did but how they looked. They just had style that I liked to watch.
My first memories of seeing you skate were at the park in Bellingham, skating in Clarks and stuff. Tell me a little more about Eight Ball.
I helped build Eight Ball, probably in like 1990 or so. It was my home away from home during the winter. It was like my World Industries park. I was there almost everyday with Bell, Kyle, Andy, Jim Boyce, Jay Moelk and 360 Flip Jeff.
When did you make the move out to SF?
The first time, it was for 2 weeks in 1995 right after my high school graduation. I made a sponsor me tape for Experience, which eventually became FIT. Scotty Thompson asked me for a tape. He liked it when he saw it and he asked me to come out to SF. I went out there guerilla style with my friend Aiden. Aiden eventually went back to school and I ended up fully hooked up on Experience and Pure. I met Kelch when I was out there at Union Square. It was kind of intimidating, because he literally is the King of SF. Rolling around SF with Kelch definitely gets you noticed. I stayed on his couch and went home for the holidays. Then, when the weather was bad in New England in 1994-1998, I would just go back out there.
What was FIT like? How did you get on?
This dude named Roger owned Experience, Pure and CREAM. He also had Civilian, which was Kelch, Maurice Key, Stevie, Henry, Pat Washington, me and, later, Joey Bast. There was also C/O Wheels and Jason Dill was on that. Roger embezzled some money from the companies so two other dudes had to buy him out and it became FIT. We used to raid that place. We would grab boards, wheels and clothing and bring all of it down to the Pier, which was like Embarcadero used to be. All the kids from other countries would buy boards for like fifty bucks and that was like a deal to them.
So clearly you saw a lot at that time when you were outside of Massachusetts. What are your favorite memories from the years you were traveling?
The Pier and Boston. At the Pier just skating and then chilling at Kelch’s house. He would bring chairs down to the front porch in the TL (Tenderloin) and we would just chill. That dude showed me the ropes. We would just smoke a blunt and go skate. In Boston, we would chill at Copley. It was just fun and comfortable. Yah, really being in Boston at Copley was just comfortable, which was great.
Who else have you skated for?
When I was really little, I rode for Molotov out of Minnesota. Jahmal rode for them, too and I didn’t even know it at the time. They used to make up names for pro models, which I always thought was funny. Then they merged with Small Room. I also got some OJ II Wheels. After that it was Tasty, which was owned by Brian Hansen, and then Experience and FIT. When FIT went under, I rode for Zoo York for a few months. Robbie Gangemi asked me to ride for Zoo. We went to Zoo York and whatever Robbie said went because he was on there the longest. When Robbie left Zoo, that was my last contact with them because my whole affiliation was through him. Hanger 18 in Boston was around back then, too.
Of all the people you’ve been around over the years, who’s the best you’ve ever seen or skated with?
The best I’ve ever seen? Marcus McBride at the Pier. He skated so fast and with an East Coast Style. He charged at things but was totally in control. I underestimated the Pier. I would be there and see Marcus, Lavar, Shamil, York, Henry, Carroll, Jovontae and Sheffey. Girl and Chocolate was the local crew. One time I saw Lavar do everything in the rain without falling, and that place is real slick when it’s wet. Also, I saw Danny Way skate a demo in Connecticut and that was really amazing. But really, man… Mike Carroll. I didn’t see him skate the most, but, I remember one night at Union Square he did everything he was doing first try and so casual. I’ve seen so much skating. It really makes it hard to choose.
How does SF compare to skating here on the East Coast to you?
It’s very similar, but there are a lot more hills. You can skate everywhere out there. The Pier was perfect. The ground is just perfect. And then, you have to deal with bricks and skating spots that are not so ideal, just like Boston. I don’t know, you see someone do a frontside crooks and not know that they had to deal with a crack and a manhole cover to get to it. Boston and SF just have a grittier feel to them. LA always looks brand new.
Who are you skating with these days?
I go out solo a lot to tell you the truth. There are a lot of little pre fab parks around. I skate with Mike Curtis, who owns One Luv in Hudson. We play skate at local parks. I bomb hills pretty often. I get out there with Nate Keegan as much as I can. We get out every now and then.Basically, I’m out there by myself a lot, though.
Word. What else are you up to these days?
I’ve been chilling. I’ve been hibernating and skating as much as I can. New England gets snow covered, so you do what you have to, I guess. I have my own little board company going. I made some boards up, sold them and flipped them. They’re sold out of One Luv in Hudson, MA. I’ve been working on some ideas and artwork.
It’ been two decades. After all these years, what does it mean to you to be a skateboarder?
I’m in awe of it. These days, I just have fun. I could skate a four foot quarter pipe all day and just do pivot fakies. One thing, too, is that I get excited that some people took notice. It’s been ten years since I was sponsored and I didn’t realize that I had an impression or influence on some people. That feels good. But, really, it’s all about fun now. There are no deadlines. Just fun.