Chet Thomas

On a windy wet morning in London 10/04/04, the Globe Team turned up to PSSP for a demo on thier way to Barcelona for the week….Zac hooked up with Chet for 30 minutes after the demo for a chat and this is what came out of it….

When was the last time you came to England?

Uhh. 1997 at Wembley. That contest where Mark Gonzales and Pat Duffy collided in the air.

That was a long time ago…and a good comp. My first introduction to you was from the Powell Peralta video ‘Public Domain’ in 1988, as it premiered in London at a rock club called the Marquee Club in Charing Cross Rd. Did you realise when you filmed that part just how influential it was on street skating?

Not at all. At the time, we had a little Long Beach crew, me, Steve Saiz, Eric Sanderson, Ray Barbee, and we’d always skate around Lakewood. Back then when you’d film, seriously you would go out for three days and that was it! Stacy (Peralta) would take us to downtown LA, he’d be like, ‘Look! A nice wide open sidewalk. Go for it!’ So then basically, you’d have three whole days of filming and that would be your video part finished. You don’t think about it like you do now, where you say, ‘I want to do this trick, this trick, this trick.’ Planning your video part 6 months in advance. Back then, whatever you came across, that was what you’d skate. I think it came out good!

Who played the music for your part? Was it McRad?

No, it was Stacy Peralta and Dennis the Dragon, from the Old Surf Punks? I don’t know. But it was Dennis Dragon who did that loop, and it was a classic song right there.

Skaters like Danny Way, Ray Barbee, Mike Vallely, they all got their first slice of fame through that video as well didn’t they?

For sure. Danny was on for a short period of time. It’s funny because him and Bucky Lasek got on at the same time, and they would always be riding these vert boards around. They were always really competitive with one another, and I hate to say it but I placed my bets on Danny.

How did you get on Powell Peralta? Was it Steve Saiz that put you on there?

Yeah! I was skating in a really small competition in Lakewood, and he was one of the judges, and I won my division. Three months later, I walked into this skateshop called ‘Eldorado’, that Steve was working at, and he was like, ‘Hey, you’re that kid at the contest!’ He started flowing me boards through Powell, like he’d get a few decks and pass them on to me. I guess I got on Powell flow after that. There was a Valsurf demo where the whole team were there, Stacy, Todd Hastings the team manager at that time.

Basically, at that demo, they set a jump ramp up in a parking lot, sat there and put me on the spot! It was pretty crazy that the whole team that I had always looked up to as a super small kid- I mean, I was small when I got on, but I was even smaller than that!- Just the whole team staring at me and the jump ramp. That was mainly what people skated back then, jump ramps. Tricks back then were like Ho-ho plants, stalefish backside 360s, judos, judo methods – All that stuff. So, that’s how I got on the team, doing that stuff.

Do you still see Ray Barbee?

Once in a while, I’ll see Ray. He lives in Corona.

Does he still play his music?

Yeah, he’s in a band. I’ve forgotten their name, but he’s really good. Super talented.

If you were to pick a session from back then, which one would it be?

I think the most memorable for me was the first Powell Christmas party because they actually set up a load of shit in a warehouse to skate. This was before there were any indoor skateparks. They invited the whole team up and had a street park set up in a warehouse, so we could just skate it al weekend. Seeing Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Lance Montain, Jim Thiebaud, Jesse Martinez, that whole crew, was pretty sick!

I remember seeing you at Jim Thiebauds Ramp Jam, how was that?

That was good, but Oakland’s sketchy! I remember after that day, three cars got broken into right outside the event. We were trying to find the freeway, and it was starting to get dark, so everyone just started freaking out because nobody wanted to be in Oakland after dark.

You also used to skate for Santa Cruz. How long were you there for?

I was only on Santa Cruz for about a year and a half, maybe even shorter. What happened was I was skating for Powell for so long, like 5 years or something, and I was supposed to go pro at the San Francisco contest that was 6 months away. They were like, ‘Yeak, yeah! You’re going, you’re going!’ Three months pass, same thing. One month left same thing. So, now I’m like, ‘Look, where are my tickets, I thought I was meant to be going?’ And they were just like, ‘Ah well. You have to talk to Stacy.’ So, I went in to talk to Stacy and he just figured it would be better if I got myself a new sponsor when I turned pro because I had been riding for Powell for so long. As if this was a mutual understanding and wouldn’t be shocking! I was totally caught off guard. It wasn’t like he was kicking me off, but it came apparent to me that they weren’t hyped on me so much anymore. After that, I got on New School, Public Skateboards, but that was just wack! At that moment Tom Knox and a couple of other riders quit Santa Cruz, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try and work something out.

I got on the team, but then a year later they bunked on the contract. I was supposed to get “X” amount of $ over a two year period, but 18 months in they cut my pay. I’m like, ‘Hey! You can cut my pay at the end of my contract. See this piece of paper here? X amount for X amount of time. Once this is over, I’ll take the cut no problem.’ But they were like, ‘No.’

The way I found out was when I got my cheque in the mail, it was half as much as usual. It’s not like they called me and let me know, it was more like through opening my mail. That was fucking sketchy!

I went from there to Channel One and skated for them for a couple of years. I was stoked, but it was unfortunate that Channel One was done through Acme and Jim Gray.

Wasn’t Channel One run from that warehouse where the Soul Bowl was stored in Huntington Beach?

That was after I had quit riding for them. You see, I got on the team with Chris Senn so I was amped, but the month I got on, Chris quit! That was a shock because then I was the only pro on the team. It got to the point where Jim Gray just wasn’t starting anything because he wasn’t into supporting pros as much as he says he does by putting out generic boards and not pro models. It got to the point where I was hanging out with Danny, and we started the A-Team with Ben and Tas Pappas and Henry Sanchez. It was good for a little while, but before long nobody was pulling the reins anymore at the company, there was no direction. The first year was alright but then it started to get messy.

By then, I had already started Darkstar Wheels and we had made a couple of Darkstar team decks which sold really well. We were doing our own graphics, catalogues etc. So, I figured that if I was doing my own thing and it worked, me and my brother wouldn’t have to worry about 6 other guys and who’s doing what. We’re just trying to do what we want to do, and we have a definate strategy, direction and thought process so.

-You’ve been leading Darkstar for about four years now?

Yeah, and it’s working really well. We’ve just been trying to stay consistent on what we do. Having the same feel to all the graphics, not switching it up and followings trends like going from punk to hip-hop. Anything that’s dark, powerful an tough is how I’d sum up Darkstar.

So, tell me all about these sugar coated things you were all hyped about back in the day.

Oh, Cheerios! Nah, they’re done. I haven’t done a commercial for them in a while

That was basically why I didn’t have to work when I was a teenager -Commercials.

The first one I did was for McDonalds when I was 13 years old, then the Cheerios commercial after that. I did around 15 to 20 commercials between the ages of 13 to 18. I didn’t have to work, that was my gas money, my car payment, my beer money! (Laughter)

Would you recommend this to new skaters if the opportunity arose?

Any kid who has the chance to get into that industry, I would try to do it! A lot of the times they don’t even go on how good you can skate or not. You just do whatever they are looking for, which is usually pretty basic stuff, and then you have to correspond to the look they want for that specific part, then you’re in there! It’s the easiest money you could ever make. Just sitting around all day in a trailer, eating food, hanging out… They call you up, you skate for half an hour, and they pay you a grand. Then, you get royalties on the commercial and you don’t have to work for 6 months. So, I was super fortunate to be able to do that!

Are you a big music fan?

Yeah, but not so much that I’m into a lot of underground stuff. I’m into a whole different array of stuff, like I might listen to house music as long as it isn’t some hard techno stuff. Some hip-hop, a little bit of gangster rap, a little bit of East coast stuff, a little bit of West coast stuff. No country! A little bit of old school punk, just a mix. I can’t listen to the same thing for too long.

Seeing as you are travelling through Europe at the moment, what have you got playing on your I-pod right now?

Israel Vibrations- I.V. Dub, Andre Nicotina, he’s banging right now. We used one of his tracks, ‘Yae-yo’ on the credits of the Darkstar video. Murder City Devils, Led Zeppelin, some Metallica, some Slayer of course! Classic Bob Marley.

That all sounds like a nice little package right there! So, what are you doing here? Nobody knew you were coming until about a week ago.

We’re here to do a demo! Then we’re going to Barcelona for the next 5 days to just try and film for the next Globe video. The Darkstar video is done, so that’s next in the list.

How involved do you get with Globe?

I’ve been with them almost eight years now. I’m involved as much as I can, but not to sound selfish, in so much as what I have to do for them and vice-versa. If I get too involved with stuff that really doesn’t pertain to me, then I won’t be doing what I need to do which is skate. I need to keep in shape for skating now. I’m 30 years old and can’t skate all day anymore, five days in a row, and not have to do yoga, stretching or all sorts of shit like that.

So, I do as much as I can, be it ad layouts or photos. The main thing is I try and design my shoes and put it in their hands. I don’t just say, ‘Make whatever you want and put my name on it!’ It’s going on my feet, with my name on it!

Some designer that doesn’t really know what they’re doing will just design something and put your name on it. I want to make a shoe that’s good for kids to skate in, and they can spend a decent amount of money on it, without worrying that it will blow up or fall apart on them. For $80 or £60, I will try and get triple layers on there so the toe pieces don’t get destroyed.

Over a couple of weeks, I’ll try and draw 5 or 6 different sketches, give it to the artist who’ll put it in the computer and clean up the lines. I don’t really deal with computers; I just do a lot of spread sheets and business stuff, not like graphic art stuff. I get it back from them, and then I’ll take what I like from there so everything flows right. Specify the materials, thickness of the sole, how soft it should be, the tread pattern.

I’ve always got the tongues that attach to the heel so you barely have to lace your shoes. This all goes to the factory, who then send us some samples. After about five rounds of this you eventually get the shoe that works! It takes a long time because they are working on 20 different models at the same time.

Plus, they are changing the line they sell every three months or so.

Between testing, sampling and getting your shoe in the mix, it takes a little while.

Ok, it looks like you guys are splitting – Any shout outs?

Thanks to Crossfire – What’s up to the whole Darkstar crew! Everyone on Globe,

Matt Hill for sending me out here. My wife Laurie. Annex Trucks crew, Gailea Momolu, Pierre-Luc Gagnon.

Everyone who supported me, I wouldn’t be here without the support of the kids. They buy Darkstar and Globe goods so our companies can grow and we can travel around the world. If it wasn’t for their support, we might still be skating, but we wouldn’t be able to travel and visit the kids. It’s thanks to them that we are here today.