Natas Kaupas interview

Zac hooked up with Natas Kaupas at the Marseille Bowlriders 04 and instead of going for the traditional swim in the Mediterranean; they exchanged socks in a tent, and this is what went down!

Ok fella, what is your name and where are you from?

My name is Tony Alva from California!

Haha, he caused chaos here last year huh?

Yeah, as ever. Nah man, this is Natas Kaupas in Marseille. (Haha!)

So Mr Kaupas, you obviously are now working with Quiksilver, how long now and what do you do?

Yeah, been working with Quiksilver for about 5 years now. I started designing some t-shirts for them on a freelance basis and they liked that so I ended up doing some skateboard ads and snowboard ads, and now I’m doing all their ads!

Full time now then?

Pretty much, I spend a lot of my time on it now, they pay the bills, keeps food in the belly, it’s great!

You told me earlier that you are you are starting your own skateboard company, how fresh is this news?

Very fresh, yeah, nobody knows yet really but yeah along with a full time job, I’m starting ‘another’ full time job which is starting a skateboard company but it’s gonna represent what I’m to now which is artwork, as in working with artists and being an art director. So I’m sponsoring artists instead of skateboarders.

So what are we to expect? How is it gonna work? Who have you got in your sights?

We are treating the boards like fine art prints where there is a limited run on each one and you can get one, ride it, or hang it on your wall, which ever, and each one is limited to just 500. The first run, we have got a board designed by Thomas Campbell, Shepard Fairey of Obey, and this great painter called Paige. You will be able to read all about the artists with little booklets that come with it. We will also have the guys from Lowdown design, you know, the magazine?

They have 2 designs they contributed and a few of the artists will also do representations of the old Santa Monica Airlines Panther graphic. They are given really loose guidelines, and just to let their creativity to kinda go forward with it..one of the new classics as it were. We are looking for good art and good aesthetics.

Sounds fun. The Panther is a classic design though. In fact, I almost said it WAS a classic but it’s obviously not dead just yet!

Yeah, history is never done! (Haha!)

Will you be scouting artists from all over the World? Is there anyone from London on your radar?

We are really trying to get hold of Banksy in London it’s just a matter of tracking him down; we have private investigators on it over there at the moment!

You like his stuff then?

Yeah, his books, his philosophy goes in lock step with skateboard mentality, the kind of stuff we like to promote.

And to promote it, what plans are there already?

Well, I think in a few years we will have enough good art to do a book as we already have a tentative book deal and plan to do art shows and tour it around, but most of the art is in computer form so we have to figure that out! There are a few raw pieces right now, we are still figuring it all out and it’s a little bit problematic!

All of the different riders will have their own styles, is it totally open ended?

Yeah, definitely open ended, we are also looking to work with a few painters who will paint a large installation and photograph it and put it on a board. We just want to people to push the whole thing of doing a print I guess.

The whole thing is about showing things to people that people haven’t seen before. We are working out and flexing new muscles there by bringing all of the artists together. We feel there is a new aesthetic that was born a few years back, you know, the do-it-yourself way; the confidence and style of showing a personality and individuality that skateboarding represents. When you see it, it will probably all make sense. Haha..it’s called Designarium by the way.

Ha-ha that was my next question! OK, so is there any connection here with music? What are you rocking out too right now?

I’m listening to a band called the Detroit Cobra’s who are girls doing covers of Motown songs, and it’s all pretty wild, raw, and has a super guitar-garage sound, the singer has an amazing whisky smoked voice and they just belt out the old Motown classics, that is on constant rotation right now!

Lately it’s all been about the recording quality, you know? You wanna hear some personality and you don’t get that when stuff is overproduced. I think The White Stripes brought it back and did it very well. You know you take Bowie’s latest album and it’s so slick and boring you know, over produced and it’s over, nothing really grabs you, and er, it’s just not great to hear. There is another band from the USA right now called The Gossip. Same deal, you know, you can tell that they are doing their own garage which is great!

As far as what we are doing, we wanna bring the artists together to do skateboard graphics, and mix them in with musicians and film makers and hopefully we can make some DVD projects and films and we are really looking for good distribution, and function as an agent to get things shown and get it out there. It’s not about making tonnes of money but we will hopefully be making good connections for others and just representing our culture to people.

Doing it the way you see it through your eyes?

Yeah, I would hate for someone else to do this that didn’t skateboard or grow up in it or didn’t know about what’s important or what the history is.

Is there anything else out there right now that is similar to what you are about to unleash?

Er – No. There are obvious examples of where you have the skateboarder in the right guard ads, fashion ads or whatever and they have totally cropped the photo wrong. I think that we are just totally maturing all of these ideas that are coming forward and it’s just as important as any other artwork that is happening right now. In a gallery they will make a fine art print, they silk screen it..it’s the same process, but I just wanna put it on a new way on a skateboard. It’s a way of putting skateboarding culture toe to toe and be representative I think.

And clothing, will you have limited runs?

Yes, I wanna make sure that we can bring something to the table that has not been done before and keep the quality there.you know?.like if people said hey ‘I’ve never seen that before!’ I don’t wanna do the same old thing.I wanna bring something new, just like skateboarding did for the rest of the world.

Just like what you did for skateboarding in the 80’s?

Haha, yeah I guess so.

Let’s talk about that briefly. So, when I started skating, you were everywhere, and since that day, you have set standards for today’s street skating? How did that affect you when you were younger?

Ha-ha, that was not up to me! Maybe for what I did but the people remember it and followed it, I dunno, it’s sort of like the motion was done. I did what I did and it grew and had a life of its own. I’m just glad that people remembered it or liked it – it’s cool.

Any regrets along the way?

No real regrets. I did the best I could! Haha! The only one I think is probably that I could have been more focused on what I was doing more, but I did not really appreciate the human connection for a while, as I was pretty young and I didn’t handle the attention really well. It’s not really a regret but I think I could have probably handled it better. A little training would have been nice! Haha! I really just wanted to go skateboarding and was stopped to sign autographs and it was really not why I was into it. But no real regrets though, cos it’s all good fun!

What about now, are you skating weekly, where are you hanging out and who are you skating with?

I’m down in San Clemente these days. It’s a sleepy little town between San Diego and Los Angeles. I just moved there and there is a cement park down there and I’m mostly skating with little helmeted kids! Yeah, I’ve been skating a bit but not as much as back in the day. I’ve been surfing a lot more and get to travel to all of these great spots so, anyway, yeah..still skateboarding!

If you had to pick one, what was your favourite ever skate session over the years?

Years ago, skateboarding with friends midnight until four or so… it feels like the world is yours skating at those hours!

How has skateboarding changed through your eyes compared to back when you were riding for SMA?

A lot has changed, but the skateboard it self if pretty similar. So it’s up to the skater; there sure are a lot of them these days!

What are your fave movies, the ones you always go back to, Skate or feature films?

I have a hard time watching any movie twice. Except maybe Fight Club because of the whole twist thing.

Have you seen the ‘Stoked. Rise and Fall of Gator’ Movie?

No…..not yet.

You must have skated together at some point back in day, how did his lifestyle change affect you when you found out what he was going through?

We never really got along from the first moment we met, so there was always a great emotional distance between us. But it was a bad and evil thing to do, so that part made me sad- but not in a real personal level. People should know to be decent to one another.

When will the Designarium touch paper be fully lit?

The end of summer 04. We are already questioning our slow start, there’s a pretty big demand- hopefully some products make it over the ocean to you guys.

Good luck with Designarium and thanks for the chat.

Yeah, thanks!