Ed Templeton has been in the forefront of the skate industry, blood sucking the kids across the planet with his company Toy Machine Skateboards and pushing his own skateboarding through every possible nook and cranny in the process.
He visited London through his wonderful art and photographic skills and met Zac at his recent exhibition in East London for a chit chat. Questions were chucked in from Ralph LD from Crossfire and many other skaters from forums in the UK…this is what went down…
Full name: Edward Albert Templeton (laughs!)
Welcome to London fella, tell us all about why you are here?
I’m over to do an Art Exhibition at Modern Art Gallery here in East London and this is my first official UK exhibition.
Well I don’t have any choice over this but it is the 2nd biggest art market the world after New York I guess and the people from here at Modern Art invited me to do a show which was cool. I have not done a show in almost a year, so here we are, right in the winter!
Yeah, it’s cold and wet huh?
Yeah, it’s not too bad, I thought it was gonna be worse, in fact I did not even bring a board with me, but then again I was really working on getting this all up and running which took 5 days so not much time to skate really.
When did the exhibition kick off?
It started in January and will run for 6 weeks until March 6th.
What is the theme to this exhibition?
There isn’t really a theme, I was just given the space and told to do what ever I wanted so if someone gives me this much space then I can usually do something like this which is putting every thing I work on up there on the walls including photographs, drawings, paintings and paint all the walls. It’s nice to be given the chance to have so much space.
There are a lot of different themes within what I do that you could put a track on. I carry a camera all the time and shoot pictures of everyday life and don’t really go out of my way to shoot these photos, as they just happen. Luckily I’m privileged enough to be a pro-skateboarder and an artist now and traveling for both, so I just keep the camera on me and shoot whatever situations that come about. This is youth culture, this is my personal life, someone coming into this exhibition from outside that is not related to skateboarding looking in would have a pretty good idea of what it would be like to be a pro skateboarder. Although it’s not why I do it, but I think you can pull that aside. But as a skater I think you get more out of it as you can recognize guys that you are familiar with from videos and magazines.
After seeing the gallery space, I think that is spot on. There are no photos of people actually skating though right?
No, I don’t shoot skating. If we are all skating then I’m skating to, so I shoot only when we are traveling or partying or just hanging out. I read and study other people’s photography and art and am trying to create works that are as good as those other people. I hope that people see that to.
If you are skater reading this interview right now, what skaters would they recognize at your show?
Well, there’s lots, including Brian Anderson, Brian Sumner, everyone that has been on the Toy Machine over the years and Emerica riders. All the Flip guys that came to stay in Huntington Beach all those years ago like Geoff Rowley and Arto, I get on really well with those guys.
You have a very defined art style and work with an abundance of different media. What do you prefer to work with and in what direction do you think your work is going?
Question by Frontsiderocker:
To me I’m interested in all of them; I don’t feel like have a tendency to go all to one or all to the other. When I’m at home I paint but you can’t take the easel on a tour or when you travel, so that’s when the camera comes out. So there is not one definitive direction so I will keep doing what I am doing here unless someone in art wants me to do a photographic show only or something. I think next year I will do an exhibition in LA with paintings only.
How long would it take you to paint one of your pieces on average?
I’m really quick! I think every painting in the show was done between Thanksgiving and Xmas, so one month basically. There are about 7 or 8 pieces in the show.
You don’t fuck about then?!
(Laughs!) Yeah, I like to do portraits of people, so once I get the drawing and outlines down with a sitter, it starts to be quicker. Getting someone to come over and sit down for a drawing is the hardest part and then once that is done it just takes a bit of work. I spend a lot of time on them, I go megalomania style and work 4-5 hours at a time flat out for 3 days or something.
How come so fast?
I think I had to do them so quick this time as I working on the ‘Good and Evil’ video, so that kind of crunched the time that I probably would have had to work on getting the show prepared. So straight after the Premier I was able to put skateboarding down for a second and work on the show so I kind of rushed stuff. I don’t think it looks rushed, but I had to do it quick. But you know with art, it’s never done but it was good to have a finishing point.
Do you sell your art?
Yeah, it’s all for sale here, it is a commercial gallery so they will try and sell it.
What would someone expect to pay for one of your paintings?
Since my first real official exhibition in LA in a commercial gallery they have become quite pricey. Up until that point it was DIY style, you know.. I show up, put the work up and skaters show up and you meet other skate artists, real mellow stuff and sell a few things. But since then, the prices have gone up and the guy in LA is kinda managing me a little bit which is strange. It’s kinda funny seeing the 2 worlds, you know I have Toy Machine and I am the Team Manager for these guys and the riders always want advice on sponsors and stuff and I feel like I am the same over here. These guys have a team of artists they manage and the art world is a real weird, different thing. They would ask me how much I would sell my pieces for and I’m thinking of skater kids buying the art for what I would call silly figures like $500 and they are like, ‘your name is much bigger now‘, you have had this show and that press etc and saying I should be selling my stuff for nothing less than $1100 to $1500 dollars a piece now!
Wow, that is a big hike? What about the skaters, they don’t have that money sitting around right?
It kind of bums me out as I feel I have a connection to the skaters who would come to see the show and it’s almost like they cannot afford it now. So I’m trying to devise some ways that I can make the prices come down. I wanna do things that are more affordable for the younger fans.
If you had to compare your gallery to a song, what would it be and why?
I actually wrote a lyric on the wall down there in the gallery from a band on Dischord Records called Lungfish, so I would say ‘The Words‘ by Lungfish from the album ‘Necrophones’ as it’s a really weird song and the lyrics are amazing. I was just talking about this to someone to day; I want the show to be like a finely crafted song in a way. Say someone like Dylan for example, who is telling a story, and I am telling a story but he is taking that story and turning it into something that is aesthetically pleasing as a song and I am doing the same that is crafted into an art show.
Are you planning any future books, be it art or photography?
Question by Robbie.
There is one out there right now that came out 2 years ago called ‘The Golden Age of Neglect‘. If you type in Ed Templeton into Amazon.com you will find it.
Yeah but if you visit www.edtempleton.com you will get the Toe Sucking site instead of the Blood Sucking site right!? Does that piss you off? Question from Simie 65
No, I’m not pissed off about it. It’s a weird story. This kid got the URL as a fan site, and I saw it, and I was a little weirded out. So I contacted him and he said that he wanted to do this site as he was a big big fan, so I was sending him stuff for the site and he was putting it up until I felt a bit strange that he owned my URL. So he was supposed to hand it over to me and these people are ‘using’ it. I mean I’m not bummed as I would not want to do a edtempleton.com ‘check me out site’ you know, I would rather do something a bit more creative that that. But yeah, it’s there!
Sorry, that was too good to miss! Where were we? Oh yeah, is there a new book in the works?
Yeah, it’s gonna be called ‘Deformer‘ which will be paintings, photo’s and all sorts of other stuff. I don’t know when it will come out but it will be sometime this year.
Let’s talk about the content of your photography. Some of it is quite full on with erections and soft porn etc. When taking photographs at what point would you feel that you had crossed the line in your observations of someone’s private moments?
Question by Monster Network:
There is no crossing the line! (Laughs)
Number one, the people know I’m there and they know I am shooting it and do art shows and stuff, so there is a certain trust there and they know that I wouldn’t do anything that I know they wouldn’t like and if there is something where someone’s nude or something like that, I will show them and ask if it’s ok to use. So far no one has said ‘you can’t use that‘ yet.
So you have not been sued yet then?
No, but Toy Machine got sued recently. There was a Toy Machine advert where we had a photo of 2 girls on a bed smoking with shirts on that said ‘mullet‘ on them and it cost us $40,000! Skateboarding is a lot bigger now so it’s harder to get away with things, you can use something and people will run a cease and desist order on you. For the new video ‘Good and Evil’ we had to clear all of the songs on it, we couldn’t just punk a song like the old videos like Welcome to Hell when we would use Pink Floyd etc but we got away with that then, now its different but our distributor sells mainly to skate shops and not the bigger cheesier stores, because that is when you run into problems. But of course we wanted to be able to be available anywhere so the rights were important to sort out.
And art content?
Well, I have had the luxury to take a subject and go after it that I really enjoy and like. I hope that when I retire from pro-skateboarding I can just go pick some subjects to go and shoot like a war or riding motorbikes or something as it just happens naturally at the moment because I’m just shooting my personal life as I have this access that a lot of other people don’t have as I am a pro skateboarder hanging out and working with other pro skateboarders.
It’s a very good litmus test of youth culture as these kids are young, earning a lot of money to do what they do, and here I am driving the van taking them to what they are doing and partaking in what they are doing, so I’m lucky in that respect. I’m taking my story and documenting it, putting it out there and when other people come in they see the connection with their own life, so they can relate, as these are trials and tribulations that everyone goes through in life. Hopefully there is a conversation or a relationship that people get out of it and it’s interesting to see my life and my friends photographed then placed on a piece of paper and put on a wall, it’s like a celebration of life and dicks and pussies are part of that life. Like everybody I’m not gonna censure myself. If there is a beautiful sunset or a beautiful naked woman or some sort of scene going on, then I want to capture it.
You like shooting your wife quite a lot in the nude right?
Yeah, that is the personal side. I shoot whatever is happening you know, like anyone else who is like enjoying sex, you could look down and think ‘wow, this is beautiful, let’s shoot it‘. Like right now, I’m away from my home in a cool country, where there is a cool setting and it’s 100% just for personal things and then it comes down to selecting things for an art show and I know that I’m definitely gonna put them on a wall. So I use an editing process as I know there will be a lot of people seeing these shots. I have seen photos where it just come off as ‘check me out, I’m fucking my wife’ or something and there is a line between that and putting it on a wall and I’m sure everyone would have a different opinion on it and I’m sure a lot of people would think that it’s completely fucked!
The Taschen books are like that?
Yeah, you are right, the Taschen books are really into the erotic side of things and that is why I probably wouldn’t want to do a book with him because I wouldn’t want to be lumped into that Terry Richardson world. I really don’t feel like I’m doing that. Just because you are doing shots with sex in them, people are very quick to lump you in different categories. So I get kinda bummed when I get compared to Terry Richardson’s shoots as he is doing photos of himself having sex with people exclusively and they see me having sex and it’s so NOT what I am doing. Sex is part of life and I’m doing that as well, but it’s part of life and there’s a lot of things I shoot that don’t involve that.
Do many people bring up the issue?
Yeah! Loads of people have mentioned it, but look at the show, you will see there are 160 pieces on the wall and you can count about 20 nude photos. But as far as actual sex or something like that it is a real small number. Whatever I am shooting, you have seen before at some stage in your life. This is really normal stuff. I have been married for the last 14 years to my wife Deanna, completely monogamous, regular relationship. I am a married regular guy with a regular cat, who lives in a regular house and I go on these skate trips with these kids and shoot it all. So I’m not trying to deliver you deviant, crazy people, it’s just real life. Something in those shots tell a story, they are not meant to be lewd at all, a lot of them are funny and document suburban life. The mega sprawl of Southern California is a subject that I cover as I have lived there all my life.
What introduced you to the European scene and how did it affect you?
In 1990 when I first turned pro for New Deal, I took my first trip to Europe for contests with Steve Douglas and others, I was 18 years old and have never really left HB. Experiencing Europe changed my view on a lot of things, its was all new to me, like the way the walls are and the history and the art, so these guys are hanging in the bar every night and I’m off in the streets checking out all of this stuff, it was amazing. You have been to Orange County Zac, so you know we have no statues really or squares designed for populists to come and hang out and meet like in Europe and you know that the US is all about Malls and strips, it’s so different. Seeing all these things like museums and stuff really hit me. Everything about me changed, I saw things differently. I have always been a really big fan of David Hockney, he came from a small school in Bradford, England and when he came to California he took his own perceptions of what we do here, immersed himself in the gay culture and did these paintings. He was amazed by the different light that this country gets and it was interesting reading about him before I went to Europe. It made me think how much of a weird place this really is. From an outsiders point of view. Americans are really weird; I think we come off as really strange people!
You were instrumental in building up New Deal when it first started, which in many ways helped kick start the rise of the skater owned company. Was it hard to leave after all that time? Question by Ciaran.
Yeah, it was a tearful departure, in a lot of ways I cannot look back and say that I regret it but at the time, I really left because of Mike Vallely. He rode for New Deal at the end and came from World Industries where his board was one of the best sellers. He was making about $10,000 a month which was amazing back then. It was a whole different world with New Deal though as he was making like $2000 dollars a month and he wanted to start our own company at a time when skating was changing. The industry was smaller and it was hard to have a company and make money. So it all happened at the weirdest time and looking back I’m glad we did do it, as it lead to Toy Machine.
Do you still hang out with Mike now?
Yeah, we had a falling out during that period and money was real tight and stuff, but after a couple of years we decided to bury the hatchet as we knew each other for so long it wasn’t worth it. I met Deanna through Anne (who is Mike’s wife), and she was going out with Jason Lee at the time and he was going out with Anne. She would drive us round to skate spots and one time we went to a concert in LA and Anne brought her friend Deanna, we met and that is how we hooked up. Deanna and Anne have known each other longer than I have known Mike so yeah we hang out.
Has Deanna ever skated?
Yeah, she did try to skate at one point, we actually still have her mini-Gator set up but the first time she skinned her knee she was off it!
How is it going with Emerica, do you have a new shoe coming out this year?
Yeah those guys are ready to release a Templeton 4 shoe that I am wearing a sample of right now, and they are really cool about everything. I work with Justin and we went to school together which is kinda rad. He was like the little runt when we where skate kids at High School and now he’s my boss! Shoe companies can look a bit mercenary sometimes and whoever looks good they will sign up, but Emerica are different and have a really strong team and everyone gets on really well. I have been riding for them since the beginning. I have no idea what year that was but it’s cool.
What criteria are you looking for when you hook up a new rider to Toy Machine?
Over the years I feel like a psychologist! I have to pick somebody on so many different levels. I suppose I have a track record that is pretty good but I can’t pick someone just for talent alone, there has to be personalities and every level of that person gets kind of studied to decide. Lately we have been taking kids on tours that we flow product to. We wanna make it hard to get on the team and wanna get someone dedicated to ride for Toy Machine.
It’s important to get a kid that wants to ride for us and not just to get sponsored. So if they want that, then we will put them through a trial and if they are dedicated they will go through with it. We have had flow riders on tours and demos and even that level is hard to get. I have to see that rider in the van with the rest of the team, and ask the team what they think as they have full say of who is in here. Everybody has to have a say, we vote. But sometimes before there have been problems and some members of the team have been a bit biased when a new rider comes into the mix especially if the other members of the team have been kinda threatened by a new rider because he is so good!
With Johnny Layton, the consensus was strange as people where like ‘er.I don’t know‘ and I was like, this kid is really cool, he likes cool music, can skate really well, and he is good. So that is when the psychology comes in because I have to ask people one on one about why they feel like they do about a certain person as you are dealing with a bunch of young kids who skate well, get coverage, make a lot of money and are really strong willed with big personalities so it’s important top get it right.
But you have signed up some serious players out there over the years.that track record is pretty good huh?
I can’t say I knew they were gonna be as big they have all become, but if they get past the things I was just talking about with the potential and the drive to get to a certain level then that is what I am looking for primarily. For example Brian Anderson did not have that when we first met him. He was amazing and a real cool guy as he was friends with Donny and others and he was coming from this angle of ‘hey yeah, I just skate and maybe I will just quit and become a chef or something‘ so he did not have these aspirations until a certain point and that is why I lead by example with these things. Not because I am a strict, driven guy or anything but I run my side of it that can lead by example to the guys on the team. Toy Machine demos are known for being really good because that is how I want them to be, I set the example you know. There is no coming through a town and hang out and be cool and saying, ‘no I’m not skating that course because I will kill myself and I may suck the whole time‘, it’s a case of skating everything and getting on with it. This is the key.
If every skate company had that ethic, then I think they would be more successful huh?
Yeah, this is how it has always been; this is how we run our ship.
How do you keep all of this together?
I think a Chinese proverb said once that ‘A man with many talents is a master of none‘ and I really truly feel that if I had only focused on skateboarding all this time and not started the company or have started doing these art shows I would be killing it. I don’t think I am ultimately talented, but I know that when you put effort into something, you get something out of it and I feel that I have dropped levels, which is fine with my age, that is normal, but I feel like I could hang with the best up until maybe when I broke my neck in 2000 and then all this stuff has been getting bigger, better and busier so the athletic side of things is something I do think about.
Sometimes I think it would be really cool to be a 32 or 35 year old dude, doing big rails with kids but I would get injured more. Between the years of 2000 and 2003 I had 6 concussions and I have never had any before that, so I’m on 6 right now and after 3 you gotta start to think about it. I feel as though sometimes if I keep falling on my head or tweaking my wrists it could ruin a lot in my life. I feel though in Good and Evil, I kept it pretty low key, but it’s me you know and I have got a lot of good responses from it from various people which makes me happy. There’s maybe not a 17 stair lipslide in there but there is lots of other stuff.
How come you did not have Sonic Youth in your video part?
Question from Londonskater
Ah, well, I just spoke to Kim from the band recently on email and I wanted to use a song on the video but it had to go through the label with all the bureaucracy so it did not happen. I always have these songs as back up but I always wanna use Sonic Youth.
Top 5 Fave bands ever?
Well, Sonic Youth and Fugazi for sure, after that it gets all over the place, er.Rites of Spring, Breeders, Pixies and all that sound stuff on the punk and metal side etc.
What are your Top 5 Skaters Ever?
Let me see, The Gonz, Geoff Rowley, Marc Johnson, and I guess Hawk would be legally on this list, he has to be and I reckon John Cardiel, he deserves it.
So what does the future hold for Ed Templeton? Will you retire as a pro? Is this on your mind?
More of the same, i guess. i have been doing the same thing since 1990 and I’m constantly looking at myself going when should i retire and it comes back to the same point where i can’t retire, I’m a lifer, there is nothing i can do about it. I keep having fun, i keep skating, I keep managing to produce video parts out of nowhere, I don’t know how. I actually sat down with Lance Mountain as he is a wiser, older man and asked him what he thinks of me retiring and he just said ‘Ed I don’t know how you see yourself but you have gained that sort of status where you don’t really retire, you are just a lifer, and there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t quit, you can’t stop, and people like to see what you are doing so you are never gonna be milking it’.
Any plugs, thanks etc?
Yeah, to Modern Art, what’s up to Ben Powell and thanks for the interview Zac!