Australia, Breaking his Face & Turning Pro with Josh Pall

(Featured: Speedway Magazine, August 27th 2015.)

Portrait by Thomas Robinson.
Portrait by Thomas Robinson.

Easy Josh, what time is it in Oz right now, about half nine, half ten?

I’m half ten. I had an early night, I was just going to bed and was like ‘oh fuck!’ Emailed you and then fell asleep. Got the interview anyway I guess (laughs), but yeah, just woke up.

Yeah, sorry for the delay getting back in touch with you, had something on that ran way over.

Oh man, it’s sweet. Yesterday I was helping my girlfriend move out and then just when you were actually calling me I was talking to Middsy (Chris Middlebrook), the Nike TM over here, cause he just got back and every conversation with him is at least an hour long. Just catching up and stuff so I was like ‘oh fuck’ – could hear the beeps come through and you trying to call but yeah, we made it (laughs).

(Laughs) Let’s get this going then. So, you got on Nike SB shortly after gravis went under. How did you end up riding for Nike?

Well, gravis pretty much went bust overnight and I just kept skating like normal and got shoes off friends or whoever. Then Middsy had a chat to me and was for it, he gave me some shoes to try out and that’s pretty much it. I was just about to go on a little trip to New Zealand with some mates and from there it continued, then officially got put on and started filming this part.

Have you stayed in touch with any of the guys from gravis since then? Aside from Arto Saari and Tom Karangelov, everyone went to different teams after it went down.

Yeah. I guess the majority skate for HUF now but I skate with Sammy (Winter) pretty much every second day. Still keep in touch with Dylan (Rieder) and Austyn (Gillette) a little bit. I’m still friends with Tom K and Terps (Kevin Terpening) but I haven’t seen those guys in a while. I try to keep in touch as much as I can.

Did you grow up skating with Sammy?

I actually grew up skating with his little brother Bill because Sammy was a few years older than I was and we were the grommets, sort of. But then you reach a certain age and everyone starts skating with each other. We went to the same high school and I’ve known him since I was probably twelve years old so I’ve been skating with him a long time.

Did you study after high school or just got absorbed into skateboarding as a career?

To be a skateboarder you just skate and get any shit job you can (laughs). But I didn’t go to uni or anything. I figured out early on, what’s the point going to study for four years if I don’t even know or like what I’m doing? Just study for the sake of finishing high school? I grew up in Sunshine Coast which is two hours north of Brisbane. Moved to Brisbane which is a major city in Queensland and just skated, got a job, going with the flow you know? Trying to be as free as you can and not jump into a fucking full time job or full time study straight away.

JP Bump To Bar
Bumping up to bar in a land down under.

You’re pretty good friends with Cameron Sparkes, right? How far back do you guys go? I read in an interview from a couple of years ago that he said you’re “better than most Jewish accountants at spending money.”

(Laughs) I can’t remember the first time we met but it’s just like the skate industry anywhere, you meet everyone from around or everyone’s friends with each other. I think one of the earliest times we hung out I was like fourteen/fifteen, he was skating for Etnies and so was I. We did a Sole Tech trip in the Gold Coast for a week. Ever since, always kept in touch then when I moved to Sydney we got a place together. He kind of showed us the ropes of Sydney I guess you could say.

What was the scene like in Sunshine Coast growing up? How does it compare to the other areas of Australia you’ve lived in?

It’s super mellow, pretty slow paced. It’s a beautiful place, an awesome place to grow up or retire but I couldn’t spend these times of my life there. But you go back and appreciate it, it’s good for quick trips. There’s so many talented people, so many good skaters came out of Sunny Coast like Stu Hines, Sammy Winter, Dave Harris. It just produced all these guys but you’ve got to move on I guess.

Is there a big difference in the East and West Coast skate scenes?

Well I guess West Coast is only Perth, you don’t hear of many areas over there. Because Australia is mostly like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and that’s all East Coast. I guess it’s kind of a different style over in Perth to these areas but it’s all pretty similar. Not as drastic as America that’s for sure, maybe just because it’s not as big, not as many people to draw an opinion from.

With cities of the scale Sydney is, scenes can be quite cliquey and divided, was that something you encountered when you moved there?

Nah, not at all everyone was super friendly and good mates. There was never a need for that; you just skate with whoever was around that day. But it goes through states, Melbourne has a few little cliquey scenes and stupid shit like that but it’s all pretty friendly over here.

With England, there’s a misconception to people outside of the country that there’s nothing to skate outside of London. With Australia is it a similar case, that there are areas that are actually really good but get brushed off because they aren’t major locations? 

Yeah, but I kind of see it like if you’re a team coming over to skate Australia it’s almost like you’ve got to go to the major cities because you’re gonna get spots and stuff done. It depends who you meet up with or who shows you around because they’ll have good insights, all just on local knowledge. Definitely stuff gets slept on but there’s so much in the city and close by… I’ve been to London once and honestly it’s the roughest ground I’ve ever skated, the roughest city. I always thought New York was so hard to skate but…nah.

Did you know Nick Boserio and Alex Campbell before you got on Nike? 

We did a trip in ’07 to Osaka and that would’ve been the first time I met Alex and maybe Nick. I knew those guys for years but they both lived in Perth so we never skated together and then when I skated for Nike we actually hung out. But it’s like I said before, everyone in Australia pretty much knows everyone within the skate scene because it’s so small.

Nick seems pretty intense, that’s the vibe his skating gives off anyway. Is he really like that or is he actually pretty mellow?

He’s not really mellow but not an intense guy I don’t think. Just always down for a good time and gives off a good vibe. I guess you could say he’s the dude that gets the party started as lame as that sounds (laughs). But nah, he’s super friendly, won’t vibe you out or anything. 

You also got on Pass~Port around the same time as SB. How did you meet Trent Evans?

Trent I met back in the Sunny Coast, he actually grew up half an hour south from where I grew up. They used to run skate comps where he’s from and back then he ripped – well, he still does rip. He’s five years older than me so we don’t really see each other or skate together for years and years. He moved on from the Sunny Coast and I’m still there. Then we skated in Brisbane together and once I moved to Sydney; him and a bunch of mates moved maybe six months later. In Sydney, when I moved, there was about ten other people than came down from Queensland and the Sunny Coast. It was like we almost didn’t leave. Eventually asked if I wanted to ride for Pass~Port and eventually said yes.

Insane kickflip to treacherous ride out.
Insane kickflip to treacherous ride out.

Who were you riding for before Pass~Port?

I was riding for Habitat; actually Cameron Sparkes was the TM of all the Burton companies. I was fucking stoked on the company, loved the boards and everything so I was under the impression that I might as well just stay. Don’t wanna be one of these dudes that jumps and changes to the next thing or whatever so when Trent asked me I was like ‘I don’t know man…’ (laughs). Didn’t say ‘yes’ for a while then I just figured fuck it. My friends ride for it and Trent’s running it, I wasn’t even thinking of what would happen with Habitat. It changed distributions over here and it seemed stupid not to skate for a company with all my friends and that’s Australian, so after that it was a no brainer.

How much do think the brand being rooted in Oz defines the graphics and direction?

I think so for sure because there’s been a bunch of Australian board companies before but this is the first one that’s been… I don’t know how to say. I think they keep it Australian, they keep it to Australian humour and the whole aesthetic is pretty local. Most of the graphics and everything pretty much comes from the culture here you could say. There’s only really been maybe like four or five Aussie board brands and they’ve never really got to a big enough level with the whole industry over here. Pass~Port’s by far the biggest and has been for a while now. We’ve always been run by the major US brands. Now I guess we get the smaller brands but they’re not local small brands they’re more small brands from the UK and wherever.

There are a lot of brands outside of the US having a more substantial impact on skateboarding. Why do you think that is?

It’s just one of those things, kind of sounds stupid to say it but it’s like the trend now. The time for small companies. Trent and all those other little board companies are starting to get more recognition and more people are jumping on board with the small brand. Trent’s been around eight or nine years now and he’s always been there but now it’s like ‘oh this is kind of cool’; to support something that’s not so fucking big, a little more niche… Then that gives the opportunity for more people to turn pro or have their skate career where they live, sort of. But even in my case, Dean (Palmer) or Callum (Paul); we’ve got a board with Pass~Port but still work. If you want to stay where you grew up, you got to do what you got to do to support it. We all work, skate and just hang out with our friends.

What do you do as a job?

I’m a screen printer.

Do you have a lot of input into the graphical side of Pass~Port with doing that?

I don’t apart from when we did my board but that was just me saying what I wanted on the side of simplicity. At the screen printers I just do a lot of printing and I don’t do any of the graphical stuff there either.

Do the people you work with know you what do, skateboarding wise?

Yeah there’s only like ten of us and I started when there was probably only three so we’re all super close, obviously they know that I skate. My boss has actually been super cool, he’s one of those dudes… He wants people to succeed so he’ll let me go away and come back and still work. I’ll go away for months at a time and then I get back, he’s like ‘yeah fuck it, come back’ (laughs). He’s been supportive and knows I’m not going to be there forever or print t-shirts for the rest of my life so he lets me go off.

You’ve ridden for Pass~Port for three years now. How has it been seeing the company grow since you got on?

When I got on, kind of didn’t know what DIGGER MAN JPwas gonna happen with the brand. It could’ve stayed the same or could’ve just fizzled. (Laughs) I mean it wouldn’t have fizzled; Trent wouldn’t have let that happen. It’s cool to see, Trent being my friend, seeing him succeed. Each season; run of boards and new product or whatever – a bit more each time. It was kind of weird when you started seeing people in the street wearing a t-shirt. I’d text him like ‘hey just seen some random dude, don’t think it was a skater, wearing your t-shirt.’ It was the coolest thing but now, kind of see that shit everywhere.

You mentioned the graphics stick to Australian humour. So, what was the idea behind the guy digging featured on your debut board and the motif in your part?

Someone asked me the other day ‘what’s with the graphic, is it someone digging themselves a hole? Or digging themselves out of a situation?’ I like the idea of someone digging themselves a hole, digging themselves a grave (laughs). But Marcus who does a lot of the Pass~Port graphics made the graphic and Trent had a bit more of an idea than I did of what it was going to be. He drew that up and I always just wanted something simple. One simple picture in the middle of the board, nothing covering any of it and they came up with that. Before, my name was in the dirt with the shovel, it was real big and we changed it. There’s a guy in there smoking a cigarette and I don’t smoke so it doesn’t really reflect me, directly, I guess (laughs). A lot of Trent’s stuff is to do with working hard or working class, so it’s an Aussie bloke digging a hole… I think it’s funny that’s he’s flipping the bird.

I thought it was some sort of labouring or working class reference.

Yeah,  I’ve always done labouring sort of jobs and I’m constantly working so that as well. 

How did the idea for this collaboration come about then? Was it already in the works and it coincided with you turning pro or was there plans to turn you pro and then the idea for the collaboration followed?

I got on Nike and then after a little while it was ‘should we do a welcome clip?’ Me and Midsy were trying to do that. I think Brass and Alex were doing their Two Up part, or starting to, so it turned from a welcome clip to a full part. Once that got going in motion, Midsy kept thinking one step ahead and was like ‘what about you getting a board when this comes out?’ I was… I don’t know, I always thought it was pretty iffy getting a pro board. If I was happy with the part and Trent wants to do a board, he can do one. But I didn’t want to if I wasn’t stoked with what I produce.

Anyway, we just kept filming for the part and eventually Midsy says ‘how about we do a shoe with it?’ and I was like ‘fucking hell!’ Turned into a board and a shoe from a part. Putting the pressure on. Brass and Alex had their one and the Two Up shoe which was fucking sick. Then Midsy was the same with me, ‘yeah we’re going to have a part for you, we’re gonna have the shoe launch, the board…’ Then at the last minute ‘yeah we’re gonna make this book.’ A one minute welcome clip to all this shit and I was like… My main thing was working full time so hopefully it turns out alright, I don’t want to disappoint anyone (laughs). Fuck, in the end I got hurt in the last few months of filming and then that was it. I completely broke my face and was in hospital and all this shit. Whatever we had was gonna be it because the launch was in two months. Midsy made an edit and I was actually stoked with that, as stoked as I could be. We were already too far in but I’m happy how it all turned out.

Josh alongside his debut board & the Pass~Port Blazer.JP-BOOK

Started out with a welcome part and dug yourself into an entire collaboration then?

 (Laughing) Yeah you got it!

Are there any tricks in that part with a good story behind them?

Some, I honestly went back to fucking four or five times (laughs). Like it didn’t work out, so you say ‘fuck it, next time’ and then it’s ‘fuck I have to do it now, been here twice’ or three or four times or whatever. The nosegrind in SF, it’s the little bank-stair-bank thing. That was the third time being there and it was three different trips to America. I went there the first year, tried it and think I had a smith grind on it that was a Check Out and I nearly nose grinded it. But it went dark and the next day we were leaving. Then we ended up on a trip up there with Chima (Ferguson) on a Vans mission while they were filming for the video and tried it one morning. It didn’t really work out in half an hour and was holding these guys up. Then went back on another trip with Brass and my friend Andrew Peters. I was like ‘alright I’ve got to do this because I’ve fucking been here twice’ and it took five hours. Guess it worked out in the end (laughs).

“If there’s an obstacle in the way, he’ll overcome it. When a shirt needs to be printed, he’ll screen it. The day the code needs to be cracked, he’ll crack it. And God dammit, when a spot needs to be skated, he’ll destroy it. He’s Josh Pall!” – Dylan Rieder from Transworld’s International Issue 2012. Photo: Chami.

What was the injury that you mentioned?

So there’s this hubba at Central Station down the road from my house. Because I drive past it every day going to work I’m always thinking ‘wouldn’t mind giving that a go one time.’ It was getting towards the end of filming so might as well try it soon. Then one day I went down there and gave it a go. Just jumped onto it, got kicked out and was like ‘sweet, come back tomorrow’.

Went back the next day and ended up with a few of us skating. I was trying a boardslide and it’s quite long and I was fucking scared (laughs). I was kind of rushing it. After trying it for fifteen minutes security came out so last couple of attempts, kind of rushed and just jumped on it. I guess I just went the wrong way, got my legs caught and it just whiplashed me to the ground and went face first with no hands down or anything directly on my left eye and cheekbone. I had this huge gash on my head and I was conscious the whole time and thought I just split my head open. But my jaw and teeth, my bite was a bit off. So, ‘fuck! What’s wrong with my teeth?’ Went to emergency and told them my teeth feel weird but they were intact, didn’t feel broken or anything. Got a CT scan and the doctor pretty much told me I broke my whole face. My left cheekbone was crushed, my nose and into my other cheek was broken and had a few breaks around both eye sockets. I’ve got five plates in my head. It wasn’t good but I feel pretty sweet now. I’ve still got a bit of numbness in my head which is fucking driving me crazy because it’s so itchy but I can’t feel it.

The injury happened maybe three months ago, I started skating two weeks ago. It was just my head that got hurt, usually I’ve had rolled ankles and you get back skating a bit sore. My body feels sweet, I’m just a bit weird. Like ‘don’t fall on your head, don’t fall on your head’ (laughs). Just confidence, but been taking it real easy, think it’ll be alright. Just try not to fall on my head again (laughs).

That’s fucked, glad you’re all good anyway. So, how come you went with a blacked out Blazer for the collaboration shoe?

I used to have a pair of all black Blazers when I first got on and really liked them; I like all black shoes in general, hadn’t had a pair in a while really. The idea was to make an all black shoe that wasn’t jet black and had a bit of definition. We had this design one night and I went to bed and was thinking ‘this design fucking sucks.’ I woke up and said ‘we’re not doing that, let’s do this.’ I guess I got the waxed canvas from skating for gravis. All the fine details like the embroidery for wear and tear so the swoosh is gonna stay on. And mainly the heel piece, that was from the pair of Blazers I had years ago which was the comfiest thing ever, so put that on.

Josh Pall Blazer 1Josh Pall Blazer 4Josh Pall Blazer 3Josh Pall Blazer 2

I couldn’t find that much about you whilst I was writing these questions. The most extensive thing I could find was what the Sparkes quote at the start was from. Are interviews usually not your thing?

I’ve done them if they’ve come up, I guess I’ve never been the most outspoken person or anything like that. Two or three little magazine interviews, other than that they’re pretty sparse. Then in the last two or three months I’ve probably done the most I’ve ever had (laughs) with the video part and whatever. Never shied away, just not out there (laughs).

I feel that now, when there’s a pro who and a little less known about them, it makes them more interesting. As opposed to the guys who are always at your attention, almost unavoidable…

Seriously these days, whole fucking social media and everything going on, you can find out anything. Just look at their Instagram and ‘oh they’re into cars’ or something you know? Shit like that. But yeah for sure. If you’re actually into someone you’re going to dig deeper and find out.

Yeah I browsed your Instagram whilst I was writing this (laughs).

Yeah but it’s just an easy way to learn something and then you’ve got more to talk about, see what someone’s like or get an idea of this person you’ve never met before. You don’t really want to know everything about your idols. Especially for people I’m really into in case something fucking puts me off and I’m like ‘damn it, now I can’t even watch that dude!’ (laughs). But I mean there’s dudes now from back in the day; if you just see two clips of anything it would be amazing. When you get bombarded with footage all the time from certain dudes, you kind of just get the impression of ‘ah fuck it’ – that good you almost don’t care. Not don’t care but you’re not as impressed anymore. I always think less is more. You know what I mean (laughs).

What do think about some skaters choosing or having to market themselves across social media really heavily?

It’s pretty insane and I think it’s going to get gnarlier. It’s one of those things, when it gets back to the business men – ‘you’ve got this many people following you so you’ve got to put up some photos’ because it’s marketing. It’s already is written into peoples’ contracts, it’s pretty crazy. It’s just such a low level on my behalf though so I got nothing to worry about any time soon (laughs).

Riding for Nike, there’s some massive names. It’s way more interesting, for me anyway, to have guys a bit lower key like you, Alex Olson, Grant Taylor, to name a few.

Yeah for sure, I was actually talking about this to Middsy last night. It’s rad how in New York, Nike have Johnny Wilson who made Beef Patty and Paych. Their whole crew, now he’s able to produce these videos way more often, like every year and it’s the skating I like to see. It’s just a whole different side. You got P-Rod and Luan (Oliveira), but then these East Coast rippers able to put out their videos more often. I guess what you’re saying is you got your dudes, the big heads, but it’s cool to see them put some more money and time into these other riders or things.

So, to round this off, what can we expect from you for the rest of the year, is anything else in the works?

We’re all going to Tokyo in October so that’s the next thing coming up, kind of working for the rest of the year but that’s going to be the whole team and a couple of the mates. So maybe twelve of us for two weeks. I think it might be separate, like a Japan clip. But we are just starting to film for the actual Pass~Port video so you can look forward to that in about two years… I don’t know. However long it takes (laughs).

Thanks Josh, sorry for keeping you on for so long. Anything you’d like to end this on?

No worries man. I mean, fuck, thanks to everyone that helped make this happen obviously. Cheers for the interview and hello from Australia (laughs).

Sweet, well it’s nearly three in the morning and I’m off to bed. Enjoy the rest of your day man.

Yeah, get that. Good night mate! (Laughs). Take care.

Any uncredited images courtesy of Pass~Port Skateboards and Nike Skateboarding.

For all UK Pass~Port inquires contact Keen Distribution.

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