Caleb Barnett – Slam City Skates Interview

An interview with Caleb Barnett following the release of Nike SB’s Trust Fall video.

Slam City Skates

July 2019

Photography by Ben Colen

portrait: Ben Colen

Caleb Barnett reminds me of Brian Anderson and, as BA is one of his idols, I hope he’s thrilled with this comparison. There are the obvious similarities between the two; their imposing frames, lanky power and occasionally looming pre-trick stares (clock the opening seconds of ‘Hockey 3’ then check BA’s ‘Welcome to Hell’ frontside blunt). However, the most striking resemblance is that, much like the other big man, Caleb’s imposing stature gives off the impression he could be reserved – which is completely incorrect.

It’s a shame Caleb’s explosive laughter can’t be perfectly conveyed in written form as, after we got off the phone, it stuck with me for a few hours. Within minutes it silenced any worries I had about speaking to the 21 year old Hockey rider, who appeared out of the blue less than two years ago – manhandling various street kickers scored to an ominous Jóhann Jóhannsson track, who I’d managed to discover very little information about beforehand.

Born in Columbus, Ohio (an appropriate state-based connection considering he rides for one of Alien Workshop’s spiritual successors), Caleb moved to Detroit, Michigan at three years old. At 11 he moved to Arizona, living there until he was 17, before taking a three-year stint in LA. 

During his time in LA, Caleb occasionally bumped into Jason Dill on Fairfax Avenue and he befriended Sage Elsesser. This lead to him being flowed Fucking Awesome boards and shortly after becoming roommates with Na-kel Smith, he joined the combined FA/Hockey crew on a US tour. Over the course of this trip, Covina’s finest pawnbrokers, Donovon Piscopo and John Fitzgerald, warmed to Caleb and pushed for him to get on Hockey. Hockey 3, Killshot, so on and so forth… He’s called New York home for just over a year now.

A couple of days after the premiere of Trust Fall, I got on the phone to Caleb to talk about becoming part of FA World Entertainment’s gang of eclectic outsiders, classic New York spot appreciation, starring in a music video for Blood Orange, filming with Jacob Harris and boying off interviews.

Caleb Barnett, nollie, Sacremento, photo: Ben Colen

Slam City Skates Interview, July 2019
Straight nollies are an underutilised trick but this spot was made for one. Caleb clears the rail and crack before enjoying a skeleton rattling ride away on Sacramento’s finest tarmac. photo: Ben Colen

Last week you mentioned that you were in the middle of moving house. Where in New York have you moved from and to and how difficult is moving everything you own across a city so large and hectic?

I used to live in Bed-Stuy and I’ve moved to Chinatown. I got rid of as much shit as possible beforehand, just so I had less when I moved into my new spot, I feel you’ve got to almost start over.

I actually live right around the corner from Johnny Wilson. I live with two other people. I’m not ready to live by myself yet, that doesn’t sound too fun. They both skate and they also work in set design.

You’ve lived in a bunch of different cities before you settled in New York. Where, in and around all that moving, did you start skating?

I started skating in Arizona. I used to play basketball and run cross country when I lived in Detroit. When I moved to Arizona I saw a bunch of kids from my block skating. I’d never really seen that and I got into it because I was curious.

[Laughs] alright, so the first board I got, or the first board I did an ollie on, was a Speed Demon board. It was a blue bandana board that belonged to my friend. It wasn’t even the first board I owned, it was the homie’s board, but I borrowed it for a month and a half then he asked for it back, randomly.

My first actual board, that my mom bought for me, was a Paul Rodriguez Plan B board and I got it on Craigslist. The trucks where called Frontage and it had plain white wheels. It was a crazy set-up. I didn’t really understand where you went to get boards so I just went on Craigslist.

Did you ever hang out at Cowtown Skate Shop, in Phoenix, when you lived in Arizona?

Yeah, later on in my life I started fucking with Cowtown. Before then it was Zumiez and this skate shop, where I lived, called Phenom but that only lasted for like three months. It was too hard for the owner. There weren’t enough skaters around. It was a random ass shop though. They only had dipped boards. It was all white dipped boards and all black dipped boards, [laughs]. But yeah, once I found out about Cowtown, it was the only place I went to at one point.

What prompted the move from LA to New York? 

I went on a skate trip. Then I broke up with my girlfriend and wanted to get away from LA. At this time, my friend’s room was available too, randomly, so I just took over his room and moved here.

Has the change of scenery influenced the way you skate?

I don’t think it influenced the way that I skate, it’s just different. It just has more of the shit I want to skate. I like being able to skate, or ride a bike, to a spot and not drive, you know? It’s a totally different scene but I feel like it works better for me.

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