(Featured: Sidewalk Magazine, 1st Decemeber 2015)
In the time since this interview took place, I’ve lost count of how many drafts have been drawn up and then discarded whilst attempting to whittle the original twenty page manuscript down to what you’re about to read. Although, considering the length of time these two have been friends, it’s not all that surprising that what was planned as a ten question interview during Globe’s EU Trippin’ tour turned into an hour plus debacle. Originally intended to be a straight forward interview with Louie Barletta, he strolled down to meet me at the bar of our hotel accompanied by long time friend Chris Avery, (the man who you can thank for the Tilt Mode videos if you’re unfamiliar with the name), charged me a pint of Stella as admission price and this was the eventual result.
Basically, Louie’s conversational patterns are much like his skateboarding, quirky is putting it lightly and there are countless subjects that wouldn’t have come up if wasn’t thanks to having Chris along to encourage and take the piss. With enjoi skateboards celebrating its fifteenth anniversary last month, it seemed fitting to get this out there and deliver some insights from two individuals so important to one of skateboarding’s proudest pieces of self parody.
A frontside half cab flip helps old Louie down a bunch.
Can you just say your name to check my mic is working okay?
My name is Louie Barletta; I’m nineteen years old, from San Jose, California.
You’ve always taken an unorthodox approach to skateboarding. As odd and simple as it sounds to ask – why?
Because I grew up skating with this cocksucker [points to Chris Avery]. (Laughs) A lot of my skating was around Marc Johnson and Jerry Hsu and those dudes were actually really good. We would go to spots that they wanted to skate and I would just try and skate. The way that they would skate it, wasn’t the way that I could skate it, so I would try to figure out my way of skating those same spots.
Chris Avery: Also, he loves Simon Woodstock.
Sit over here dude, this could be the best interview ever.
Chris Avery: It’s going to be the worst for you.
The reason I ask is because of the shift in focus towards ‘creative’ skateboarding. Whereas the way you skate has always been creative and different. However, to me it seems the foundations of what gets considered ‘creative’ right now, really rests on a set few tricks and variations of those tricks. It seems that what is being considered ‘different’ are the same powerslide, wallie, no comply variations everyone else who skates ‘differently’ or ‘creatively’ adheres to. What’s your attitude towards that?
[Louie looks at Chris.]
Chris Avery: It’s your question, you can answer! It’s gonna show how old you are when you answer this. Bitter, old man. You love when you do it, how about when a fourteen year old is doing it?
(Laughing), I’m not bitter. I guess that’s the difference, when you do a trick and it’s nostalgic for you it’s part of your past and you’re paying homage to your predecessors. Kids nowadays are doing it because they want to be cool and that’s a trendy trick now and that’s the unfortunate part about it. They don’t realise why they’re doing it, they’re just doing it because it’s cool now.
Would you say that now that particular style of skateboarding kind of has a mass following, that there’s less originality to it? The best example I can give is that to me, wallieing a wall isn’t particularly imaginative as it’s just obvious as an option as kickflipping a stairset.
Chris Avery is one of the best walliers ever. Chris had a sequence in Transworld or Thrasher; remember that, wallieing the tree? Maybe it was a still; it was like a Check Out in Thrasher. You were wallieing the tree which back then was pretty fucking epic. In front of my house, actually the beginning of where I thought wallies were cool, because back then, I didn’t think they were very cool.
CA: Because Mike Carroll didn’t think they’re cool, right?
He did it in Goldfish and after that they were really fucking cool. I still love Mike Carroll, I can’t help it dude. Anything Mike Carroll does. Mike sent me a Fourstar package the other day. I was so fucking psyched.
Louie gets up to his kinky antics using the backside grinding method.
CA: But you’re bummed your name still hasn’t been in the credits of a Girl video, right? To give you a little history, back in the 90s/early 2000s, Louie was so on the nuts of anything Girl and Chocolate did. It was the best, you couldn’t touch it. You really don’t need to use any of this.
Yeah, Chris’ name has been in a Girl video. I can’t quite get that. When Jerry got on Royal trucks, the first thing he did was bring his first check over and show me because Girl cheques have the Girl logo on them and I was obsessed with Girl and Chocolate. I only rode Girl boards. Every company I rode for, I would get Girl boards and put my company’s stickers on those boards.
CA: So anyone who was Louie’s friend, anytime they had something from Girl, like a cheque or credits in a video would come and show Louie.
They would give me so much shit! I just wanted it, just once. I still haven’t. This is how fucked up it is. The first time that Fourstar sent me a box I still have the packaging slip because it has my name and address but it’s from Girl. Like “yes! They sent me something.” It’s in my scrapbook of fucked up memories, I have my first tooth I ever lost, I have my first slip from Girl…
So… Marc was on enjoi then Chocolate…
Yeah, fucking asshole, (laughs).
How was it when Marc left for Chocolate?
Here’s the fucked up thing – Marc asked me and Jerry to ride for enjoi. My only stipulation was that if I ever got the chance to ride for Girl or Chocolate I could leave enjoi and he was like, “yeah totally.” Then he fucking left to ride for Chocolate and then Jerry left. When Marc left it was, “dude, I’m leaving, I’m gonna ride for Chocolate.” Jerry was more like, “dude you’re going to be so bummed, I’m going to ride for Chocolate.” I was like, “you fucker! Please take me with you!” He was fucking with me dude. You couldn’t ride for Toy Machine or somebody else, why Chocolate?! That’s a dagger right to my heart.
I think you need a guest board, it seems fair.
With two of my friends there I got a chance. I’m still waiting; I’m going put out another video part. I just want one package, (laughs)
CA: Before you’re fifty right?
Oh fuck I gotta go fast. I got a few years left. What was the original question?
CA: I can go back to that table if you want?
No way dude, this is way better.
The original question was now that ‘creative’ skateboarding has a mass following, do you still think it’s a creative option when so many people are doing it?’ Or what’s perceived as creative, like we said.
Erm… fuck. Going back to what we were talking about, to me skateboarding is the way Mike Carroll skates. To me that’s skateboarding. Everything else is just people trying to be like Mike Carroll. So if you say I’m creative, that’s cool. I don’t consider myself being creative, I’m just skating and that’s the way I skate. If somebody actually says, “I’m a creative skateboarder” out loud then they’re a fucking kook. If you’re trying to be different and weird, you’re trying and that’s fucked up. In a perfect world, I would skate like Mike Carroll, do sick back tails and front feebles and
CA: You had a sketchers ad with a sick back tail once.
You rode for Sketchers?!
CA: (Laughing hard) there’s an ad out there; it’s definitely on the internet. I think he had green hair… And early 90s pants in the mid 90s.
I can’t help it dude, I like that shit. So yeah I guess I wasn’t being creative, I was just being an idiot.
That kind of answers my next question. I was going to say over the years you’ve always had a lot of focus on lesser seen or ‘rejected’ tricks; no complies, Sal flip variations, inverts on the street, bean-plants, etc. So would you film those tricks simply because you thought they were fun to do? Or is skating not that pre conceived for you?
Avery could probably answer this better, he filmed them. He filmed everything so, it’s more Avery’s question.
This is like a parent/teacher meeting.
CA: You want me to answer this? With Louie, the problem is; him in Tilt Mode would’ve been all manuals and ledge tricks like a part in Goldfish . We decided to fuck with him and give him a part he didn’t want. Then he said, “hey it works for me, I’ve got a gimmick now.” He said, “Hey if it works for Simon Woodstock then maybe it’ll work for me.”
I got pigeon-holed (laughing). Don’t put the Simon Woodstock part in. I don’t fucking ride skim boards. But Avery is totally right, if it was up to me my part would’ve been all manuals, ledge tricks and lines. That’s all I wanted to skate.
CA: We made a part out of your reject footage. There’s the real footage out there if you wanna see it.
CA: It is (laughs).
When you retire are we going to this footage?
CA: We could have it online by the end of the night if you want. Louie’s been to going retire for years.
We can go get it right now.
Out for a brief moment and legging it across the wall and then back in.
With what we were saying before about doing those tricks just because they’re fun – I imagine that’s the reason you did those anyway. You didn’t think they’d go in a video part, you just did then because you thought they were fun.
Yeah because we’re skating the same spot and MJ is doing nollie flip crooked grinds on a ledge and I’ve never seen anyone do a flat ground nollie flip that high. Course I’m going to be doing something else because I wanted to be skating too.
So, with those tricks in mind, I guess people would refer to them as ‘dork tricks’ so how do feel them being put into a more serious context?
I think it’s what we were talking about earlier. Marc and all those dudes were doing them and they were dork tricks but you knew they were fucking great skateboarders. Now you have people doing them that don’t have the other side of it to back it up so it’s kind of weird. Like, “yeah cool, you can do a no-comply, can you fucking switch flip a double set?”
CA: If you’re gonna do a no-comply, put a little fucking finesse into it or just leave it out.
Yeah, put some effort into it, make it look good.
Anyone can do a no-comply but you can’t no-comply like Jake Johnson can.
Exactly, I feel like it goes even further than that. Talk to Jeff Grosso, he’s like, “That’s not a real invert!” It’ll go like that through every generation. The unfortunate thing is the generation right now; they’re only copying the last generation. They don’t having anything to bitch about when the next generation comes because they’re only copying the generation before (laughs). We’re in a weird transition.
Then there’s the fashion that goes with it…
You know what’s gonna happen? In another ten years it’s gonna be a whole other weird fashion and everybody now is gonna be like “dude when we used to fucking skate we dressed normal, look at these kids now!” It’s always gonna be like that, skateboarding is always gonna be on the forefront of fashion for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s really bad, sometimes it’s really cool.
You’ve had some gear over the years, definitely no stranger to a funny hat.
(Laughs), well I’m wearing this Brixton Fiddler hat right now, it’s a 7 ½ by 62 centimetre…
CA: You have a big head.
It’s because I had the bowl cut. So I needed a bigger hat, now it doesn’t really fit at all. There’s like four fingers there.
How come you ditched the bowl cut?
CA: Because it was shit!
Yes! Just print that. Chris Avery says, “it’s shit.” It was a shitty haircut. I wanted to just reinvent myself. I wanted to be like…
CA: Ringo cut his hair didn’t he?
He used to have a bowl cut? I thought John Lennon died with the bowl cut. Is that fucked up I said that? When people give me shit for the bowl cut, I think of how many chicks I fucked and I’m like, “Jesus, they’re worse than me!” They fucked a dude with a bowl cut, they’re insane. I always laugh about that. It was just a silly joke that went awry.
What actually started it? You know you can tell a silhouette of Gino by him pushing, you could tell it was you by the bowl cut.
For sure. I don’t know what it was. How did that start dude?
CA: You used to shave your head and leave… You wanted to be Morrissey. This is back in the 90s when no one liked Morrissey. If you were a skateboarder and liked Morrissey –
You were fucking lame. I wanted to be Morrissey in like 1992. He’s the fucking best.
CA: Was there anything in between the Morrissey and the bowl cut?
No it just went straight to it. There was but I didn’t cut it in between those, I just let it grow. I think in the Maple video my hair was more like this. While I was growing up but I think one day I was just like “I want a fucking bowl cut!” and I just grew it out.
Best and worst haircuts in skateboarding?
Fuck man. Skullets always the best. Caswell (Berry) had cornrows. Caswell’s cornrows were the best. The rat tail! Caswell’s was like a three foot rat tail, it was fucking terrible. Yeah that’s probably the worst and best. I feel like Caswell’s the victim of the best and worst haircuts ever.
This tricky situation calls for the filming wheels and some precise 5.0 aiming.
Best and worst fashion trend then?
CA: I think you got it summed up right here.
Striped Brixton shirt, Dickies pants, Stance stocks.
CA: Are you naming all your sponsors right now?
Isn’t this is the way to get dropped by them (laughs)?
(Laughing) Fuck, those are not the worst, those are the best.
CA: Long John Silver nose rings…
Fuck, the nose ring…
What’s your stance on the all white outfit?
Only Heath Kirchart.
I’ll give Rowley the pass.
CA: He can do whatever he wants.
It’s Ed Templeton man.
Alright so coming to now, Dylan (Rieder)?
I love Dylan. I absolutely love that dude, I’ve known him since he was such a little kid that was eager to learn. Everything Dylan does is because he understands it, he’s studied it. He knows the fucking history of skateboarding; he is a rad little dude. To me he’ll always be that. Only Heath can do that I feel but I’ll give Dylan the pass because he’s my homie.
CA: Is he still ‘a rad little dude’? (Laughing) he was a little turd better than everyone else.
Because you knew him when he was a little kid, do you think it’s funny seeing him go from little handrail kid with braces to the guy he is now?
I think it’s rad because for every Dylan Rieder you have twenty other dudes who just fell off and they’re gone. Or just kept being who they were as a little kid. So it’s rad to transfer into being an adult and having a style of his own and taking everything he learned as a kid and made his own style. That’s rad. Because for as many Dylans as there are, there are like a thousand other kids who never did that and never kept going and turned into adults, you know?
CA: That’s a problem for skateboarders isn’t it, turning into adults?
For skateboarders in general I think, it’s hard to become an adult and Dylan has done a really great job of that. You watch Marc’s parts and you see him growing up, you see Jerry’s parts and you see him growing up.
CA: Watch Louie Barletta’s parts –
You just see him aging. He’s just aging. I’m wilting like a grape to a fucking –
CA: Grape to a raisin.
I’m not turning grape to raisin I’m turning grape to wine dude.
CA: Turning grape to malt liquor.
(Laughs) I’m going grape to malt liquor. I’m getting old. Everyone does.
CA: Tell the world your age for real.
Nah, save that until the end… Have you visited England much in the past and how have you found that the skating differs here compared to back in the States?
I have. I love the accent. The first time I came was 1996 or 1995. I didn’t know anyone, it was right when the 411 issue came out with the London Metrospective and I bought a ticket on my own and came here. It’s like Winston Whitter explaining spots in London and how to get there on the tube and I wrote down directions to on how to get everywhere from the 411. Came here by myself with a stack of boards for two weeks or something and just skated. It was fucking sick. It was so fun dude.
How do you think the skate culture is different here to back in the States?
I think unfortunately with the internet, YouTube, social media and all that shit; everybody is on the exact same page whereas back when I came they were like metropolitan skaters. Nobody had a car, nobody filmed, you couldn’t carry a camera around and go to all the skate spots. Everybody was just skating to skate and it was rad, a totally different vibe. I feel like now with the internet and all this shit, like if you’re a skater in Zimbabwe you skate exactly the same as a skater in Manhattan. It’s all the same, if you wanna be the style of the ‘metropolitan skater’ you’re gonna dress like that whether you’re from fucking Perth, Australia or Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Like with all the New York/East Coast popularity right now, kids dress like the skaters they see in all these New York scene videos.
Exactly! You don’t have to go there and experience that to feel like you’re part of it. Because of the internet you can see the style and the vibe, cruise around your shitty little town wherever you’re from and think you’re in Manhattan trying to skate spots. I feel like this is probably the only thing, if anyone takes anything out of this interview that’s worth fucking anything. But this is the reality of skateboarding now. In the US years ago it was like nobody skated and it was an outcast thing, so if you skated you were part of this little subculture that was a brotherhood and you were immediately friends with everyone else who skated. That died out years and years ago. Europe used to be that, where if you skated you were like, “come over to my house, stay on my couch, stay for a month!” It used to be like that here. All that is being watered down now because skating is so popular that like every kid skates and it doesn’t mean anything to skate anymore, it’s not an outlaw thing to do. It’s so accessible that everybody’s doing it and we’re losing our culture, we’re losing our brotherhood. All this shit is fucking killing why skateboarding used to be skateboarding, we can joke around about everything else in life and the sad truth is now when I meet a skater, they don’t mean the same thing. Twenty years ago when I met a skater it was like you were a brother. That’s the sad thing about skating; our generation, the next generation, the next one; it’s slowly dying and we’ll never get it back.
Before the Barry Bowl was the Captain Caveman. Feeble up kickflip out using follicle power.
It’s so popular every company is using skateboarding to market their products whether it be toothpaste, soda or hair care. It used to be people would turn to skateboarding because they didn’t like anything else; “I didn’t give a fuck about football or baseball so I picked up a skateboard because I could do whatever I want.” But now there are kids being turned onto skateboarding because they see celebrities or –
They do that, but they’re also not free. Their dads are taking them to the skatepark everyday and they’re training to become skateboarders.
Skateboarding has never been an elitist thing but now, it’s kind of lame to say it and I imagine guys of your age agree, there are kids that shouldn’t be skateboarders because they’ve been turned onto it for the wrong reasons.
For sure and that’s what I’m saying, there’s no brotherhood left anymore. It used to be one mindset was the kind of person who skated and you were all cool, listened to the same kind of music and were into the same shit. Now it’s kind of all over the board because it’s so mainstream and that’s the sad thing about skating. The lucky thing about it, I got to be pro when there were only like hundreds of people who skated. Now there are millions of people who skate. It’s gonna be so hard for kids to turn pro. So I got in at a really lucky time when there wasn’t that many people who skated, you didn’t have to be that good.
CA: I didn’t wanna say it.
So you kind of just answered it. Do you think that skateboarding in general has got too serious?
Yeah it’s gonna become a numbers game at some point because mainstream kids only do it because they wanna win or be the best and that’s what’s gonna change all of skateboarding. Because unfortunately the masses rule and dictate what is happening within whatever you’re doing and unfortunately the masses are going to become regular kids who should be playing baseball and they’re going to be the ones who inevitably determine what our little thing is, which is sad because it used to be all the outcasts.
CA: Skateboarding will still collect all the fuck ups.
I tripped out on this the other day. I was talking to somebody about Ricky Espinoza. I was like, after you pass 25/26 and all of your friends are getting ‘real jobs’ and ‘growing up’ and you’re still skating; there’s something weird in your head. That this is what you wanna do, this is who you are, this is what defines you and that is real. Skateboarding is so fucked up that you could slam and get up and be like “I could do this better” or “I can land this.”
We’re the only people that do that. It’s insane. Gymnasts and all those people, they do that in a trained facility where they have pads; they have all these things that stop them from getting hurt. We thrive on bleeding. I remember the first time I met Chad Muska, this was the height of Shorty’s and Chad Muska. Both elbows were bloody and scabbed over and I was like, “fuck yeah, he really earns it!” and that’s weird. I don’t think actors look at each other and think, “this dude earns it.” They just look into the hype of, “this dude got an Oscar, this dude has an Emmy” or whatever the fuck it is that they strive for. But for us, we strive for like bleeding and getting hurt and that shows your badge of honour you know? That’s the fucked up part about skating – is that’s who we are.
I was thinking the other day how when I was younger, and I guess this isn’t all that long ago either, that when I saw someone with a pair of skate shoes I knew they were a skater.
We were at Southbank having a beer and were watching dudes walk by and like, “this dude’s wearing Janoskis, he doesn’t even skate.” This dude’s wearing like some weird shoes, does he skate? There’s no definitive like – you’re a skater or you’re not, you know?
The fucked thing now is you used to get shit from people that obviously weren’t skateboarders. Now we get shit from people thinking they look like skateboarders.
Oh for sure, that’s the weird part, right. That’s what goes back to what I’m saying, it’s kind of sad that our little culture is being like watered down by people trying to make money off of it. Everybody wants to look like a skateboarder but it’s still gonna take those dudes who really wanna bleed for it to keep skateboarding going.
I like that with skating getting so serious, a company like enjoi will happily take the piss out of skateboarding and itself so much. Like the ‘mandatory no-comply moment’ and the thing about Jerry jumping ship in Oververt. Even the whole idea of using the little Louie marionette was because someone said you were ‘dwindle’s puppet’ right?
Yep. It goes back to “if you can’t laugh at yourself” – then what are you even doing? It’s life and you only have one shot at life. You can be fucking serious as shit or silly as fuck and in the end you still just die. So why not take the awesome route and have fun with it?
Frontside wallride over the Californian clean muck.
As you’re now brand manager at enjoi are you finding that you have to take skateboarding more sincerely than before?
(Laughs) for me, personally? Now I don’t have to do shit!
CA: You probably take it so much less seriously now than you used to.
Actually yeah, this is a better question for Avery because although I seem like I’ve always been super haphazard with skateboarding –
CA: I used to film a lot of people and a lot of the pros I filmed were very nonchalant about it. Louie treated it very professionally from the start. You wanted to do it right. Wake up early, let’s go out and do this, let’s go skate. It was never not fun.
I don’t think it was a question of fun or not but I definitely took it as like a job.
CA: But you were never “sleep until three, see what the day brings and maybe I’ll film a switch flip or something.” This is very true; it was never a question of going out to film Louie and wondering whether you would walk away with nothing.
If I asked Chris, “do you wanna film this?” I would battle it until it was fucking done. I would fucking kill myself to get the trick. I would never go back to get a trick because I would either do it that day or… I mean it wasn’t a question at the time. There are certain dudes that are like, “you wanna film this trick?” and be “today? Or tomorrow? When?” I would give it 100%. Every single time we tried filming.
CA: Although sometimes you would blow spots out of proportion. “Hey I wanna go check out this spot so bad, I think I’ve got this trick, can you drive?” It’s like forty miles away. Drive out there and this hubba ledge he described is a fucking curb down a set of stairs with no run up and no landing.
(Laughs) I tried man.
CA: There was never a question of effort.
I think that’s another thing that makes skating so different to everything else. Like a football player, once they’re professional they’re doing it to keep the money rolling in. Whereas with skating, your sponsor is more than a pay cheque, it shares the same vision of skating that you do and it’s like a family.
CA: That’s true, but your sponsor is your pay cheque and you should treat it professionally.
I grew up having a real job my whole life. Even when I was pro for enjoi I was a manager of a coffee shop while I was pro.
CA: He can make cabinets; he can work a fucking walnut farm too. (Laughs) you will make those nuts swell.
Oh I’ll make some nuts fucking grow.
I always had a real job, so skateboarding; ethically I took it as a job. Monetarily it didn’t pay for shit. I treated it like a real job, that’s what I’m saying.
CA: A lot of skateboarders are picked from a young age and they don’t know what a job is, they don’t know what it is to clock in/clock out and have a manager tell you “you need to do this.” You always treated it that way. From my point of view it was good.
CA: Oh you’re welcome Louie (laughs).
But I see a lot of people now who waste people’s time.
CA: A lot of professional skateboarders would benefit from working real jobs. It’s the real world and skateboarding sort of makes kids pro from an early age and companies do nothing to prepare them for when they’re not professional. Then they’re fucked, they’re packing skateboard boxes for the rest of their life.
With enjoi, Cairo and me actually sat down and talked about the new dudes on the team and I was like, “we’re not putting anybody on who doesn’t understand the value of working for it.” There’s a million fucking talented kids out there but it takes you to the very end of everything you got and still be able to be like, “I’ve got more, I wanna do this.” Because I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and go to my normal job. That’s like a huge thing with drive. Anybody can look cool and be doing shitty no-complies.
CA: Not hard at all are they?
No it’s like the easiest trick you can learn. It’s the easiest fucking move.
CA: At the end of a line (laughs). Do it like Ray Barbee.
No one will ever do it like Ray Barbee.
So with everything we’ve discussed in mind and the cyclical nature of skateboarding; what do you think skateboarding will look like in ten years time?
Hopefully we’ll have hover boards. I want hover boards, that’s what I see in ten years.
And how old will you be in ten years?
CA: Do you want me to answer this? I know the actual truth. Nobody in the skateboarding world actually knows the real –
Maybe not ten years… I’ll be almost sixty in ten years.
CA: He’ll be twenty seven-ish.
Oh yeah I’ll be legal to drink.
I got more of an answer from you then. So Louie in ten years how old will you be?
If you don’t want me to put the real answer in just give me something funny to end on.
CA: Don’t say seventeen-ish.
In ten years I’ll be older.
[Mark Appleyard walks over.]
CA: How old is he gonna be in ten years?
Mark Appleyard: He might be like thirty four.
CA: How grey will your hair be in ten years? What side of the nose will your ring be on in ten years?
Let’s go get drinks…
Photos courtesy of enjoi skateboards.