A Visual Sound #1: Josh Stewart

The first instalment in a series of articles highlighting iconic soundtracks to skateboarding videos.

Speedway Magazine

May 2019

Photography by Pep Kim

A Visual Sound vol. 1: Josh Stewart

Speedway Magazine, May 2019

photo: Pep Kim

Achieving the perfect harmony between footage and music is a priority for cinematographers and the ability for a song choice to make or break a video part is a time honoured cliche.

In the first of this series devoted to the audiovisual links which shape and continually redefine our musical taste as skateboarders, Static auteur and Theories of Atlantis mastermind, Josh Stewart, shares his thoughts on an eclectic mix of  videos, spanning three decades, underpinned by the music which scores specific sections from them.

Sometimes pairings of skateboarder and song are simply good matches and often music can sway our opinions towards those we we previously had little interest in. However, sometimes song choices hold much deeper meanings. Case in point – Steve Brandi requested ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ for his Static IV part as it resonated with his feelings about people finding out he was gay.

Static IV was a tough period for me and that’s part of the reason why I chose that song, too. I thought maybe some of my friends that I told in skateboarding might say something and people may be hearing things through the grapevine. So I thought, “You know what? This song might mean something to me down the road.” It’s like a piece of art in my portfolio as a skater … I thought that song fit well but it was also very personal to me,” said Brandi, in an interview with Stewart last year.

Considering this intrinsic link between skateboarding and music, no title lends itself to this series better than that of Stereo Skateboards’ first full-length video (which makes an appearance in this instalment). Furthermore, Stewart’s interest in conspiracy theories stems from youthful encounters with the Alien Workshop team it’s fitting, and of little surprise, Memory Screen takes the opening spot. There’s another iconic, albeit forrest-hued, offering from The Sovereign Sect thrown in alongside some early ’90s classics and, perhaps, Kate Bush’s best known hit – Bronte references aside…

Read on to find out what Stewart had to say about some of his most cherished video part soundtracks, listen to a mix of them below and and download it here.

‘A Little Ethnic Song’

 by J Mascis (Guitarrorists, 1991)

Introduction, Memory Screen, Alien Workshop, 1991

There probably hasn’t been any other section in a skate video which captured my imagination or stuck with me the way the opening of Memory Screen did way back in 1991. Although proper video introductions have been all but abandoned, by most modern skate video makers, I believe there is nothing more important or more effective for grabbing the audience’s attention and giving them a fully immersive experience. Mike Hill’s choreography of incredible visuals set to a specially-made song by J Mascis just takes the cake.

‘The Knife Song’

by Milk (1991)

Jason Lee, Video Days, Blind Skateboards, 1991

Something has definitely been lost with the immediate accessibility of all media in the 21st century. When Video Days came out in the early 90’s there was no internet and the CD was cutting edge technology. So, when I first heard J Lee’s song in this video part, not only was I obsessed with it, but the only way to listen to it would be to watch, or record it off, this video part.

‘Carry the Zero’

by Built to Spill (Carry The Zero, 1999)

Cairo Foster, The Reason, TransWorld Skateboarding, 1999

In the golden era of TransWorld videos, with Ty Evans at the helm, TWS introduced skaters to a lot of rad new music. Perhaps their greatest contribution was Built to Spill, which graced my ears for the first time in Cairo Foster’s part in The Reason, who were then backed up as a new musical staple for me with Marc Johnson’s incredible part in Modus Operandi [2000].

Continue reading…