Eric Koston

Interview by Zac

I have wanted to ask this fella a few questions for years. His unique style on a skateboard is quite phenomenal. So when he finally visited the UK this summer on an eS tour, I managed to get just over an hour with him in a tent at the Urban Games on Clapham Common before he signed autographs with the rest of the team for hours on end.

It was relaxed, the weather was overcast in traditional UK style, and we sat on 2 plastic chairs! The photo’s on this page are stolen off the web and credited to Atiba. They are great shots and i had to use them, sorry!

Ok Let’s start with the CV…Full name please.

Eric Lee Koston! (laughs)

Qualifications:

Erm, I was a boyscout, I don’t remember what badges I had though!

You could not have been that good then?

Yeah I was down! Can you remember which badges you had on your arm?

Actually – nope! – Ok, try this one…any crappy jobs taken on whilst needing money before being paid for skating?

Erm..oddly enough I have never had to have a crappy job!

Never?! (laughs)

Not one job, apart from yard work for the parents, and house cleaning for a little bit of dough, but I got sponsored young, at about 14 years old, so I think from that point I was able to sell boards and get enough money to get by!

What are your earliest memories of skateboarding, what board, what color lapper etc?

Yeah about 1986, white lappers, jump ramps, Powell, all that good stuff. Mark Gonzales was like my guy. I remember the Thrasher interview with Gonz all over my bedroom walls. That was my first board, it was a hand me down from my brother. The face graphic, the OG!

Did you skate when growing up in Thailand?

I was born there and stayed for 9 months, so I have no memories from Thailand.

Have you been back since?

Yeah, a couple of times..I have an aunt there.

Is she accustomed to riding with 4 people on a motorcycle on a motorway?

Yeah probably!

Let’s talk skateboarding: Is skateboarding still as much fun as in the beginning?

I’m still able to kinda do it the way I used to enjoy it, but it’s obviously not the same. I wish I could bottle it up you know, drink it, and go right back to those times, but I think when I go home, is when I can skate like that, with my friends, with guys who are not sponsored that I just skate around with and find a spot down the street and just mess around, those are the finest times.

But even like on these demo trips, it’s still fun. Sometimes they are not fun, like if we go to a demo in a crowded skatepark when there is no ventilation, smoke filled, you are boiling hot and you are trying to skate and all eyes are on you, and you try to land tricks and nothings happening.that is when it’s not fun

It’s pressure huh?

Well, yeah, it’s not so much the pressure, but it’s just annoying having a battle with yourself and having to have that battle with yourself in front of like 500 kids! Sometimes you just give up, because sometimes you just make yourself more upset. Some kids understand, but some kids don’t. Like for example you go on tour and you hear ‘The Zero Team came through here and did a better demo’ etc, kids will say anything, and it’s funny, every kid has their own opinion, you know, you always have your favorites. I always had my favorites back in the day, but it’s changed. For me, like watching Tony Hawk at a demo or wherever, it was cool just to be there watching the guy skate whether or not he landed a trick, he could have done anything and I was stoked.

Do you look at it as a job sometimes, or is that just impossible?

Yeah, there is work to do. I spend about 2-3 times at the most in a week doing work stuff, aside from being on a skateboard, which is good.. Sometimes, it’s all at once, but it depends on what needs to be done.

Is there a daily schedule or just whatever is going on that week?

A lot of times it’s harder to skate during the weekdays because kids are schools and a lot of skating is done around schools, there are only a few spots locally before we get kicked out of spots and harassed. Aside from that it’s night time, around midnight, light them up and skate.

Do you always shoot all of your sessions?

Yeah, depends on where it is, you know. If we find a giant handrail for example, maybe it’s somewhere I think I should film something, as it’s not as if you are gonna be skating that for fun for a couple of hours, or all day. If so, you are gonna be crawling away from it! So you have certain spots all the guys will go skate and fuck around at, or get some shots out of and get the work stuff out of.if you can call it that! (laughs)

Do you put a lot of input and creativity into the companies you ride for i.e. Girl, Es, Fourstar? If so, in what ways?

Fourstar especially, but with Es yeah I try to do a lot. Especially with my shoes, but also I’m trying to do a lot with other shoes on the new lines that are coming out, not my shoes, but team shoes, like going to meetings, going over the samples and designs etc. I wanna not only be able to back my shoe but also have as much of my personal input into everything in the brand.

You seem to be loyal to your brands and another new eS shoe out this year huh?

Yeah, the new K6 is out now, it’s cool to have so many models out and that the brand is very supportive. I have everything I need so the loyalty aspect just rolls with that.

How much input goes into your shoes, how many shoes do you go through until they are right?

You know what; the samples are never the same! (laughs) Sometimes it could be a year long ordeal and samples go back and forth, sometimes you can get a pair back and I’m like, all you gotta do is change this and this and then it comes back it’s ready, so it’s hit or miss.maybe I should fly to China more often or something

(laughs).

Have you been out there?

No, never been out there, but sometimes there are communication breakdowns or whatever, and that’s when things go bad, but roll the dice and you never know what comes back!

Let’s talk about video parts. I heard on the grapevine that you were not entirely happy with your part in Yeah Right?

Yeah, I felt I could have done a lot more, but I feel I feel like that all of the time. You always feel as you could do more but sometimes you cannot do it physically. Yeah Right had to be released, it took 3 years to that point and sometimes it just has to be made and finished, you can’t keep waiting, because you are gonna out skate stuff you started. If you see footage later and don’t wanna use it cos it was 3 years old, it’s really annoying.

What about the twisty rail at the end of that part, how many times did you try that?

Er.about 4 times. I did not manage to slip out of the back of it thankfully, and jumped off into the stairs a couple of times, and that is never fun, but better to do that than to fall out of the back of a railing and drop down!

Has that ever happened?

No thankfully! (Laughs)

Do you have the final say over what goes in the part?

Yeah, I have the final say, but sometimes people disagree, we toss it round, see what happens you know? Making video parts is hard, it’s hard to keep going sometimes, to keep making one better than the last one.

Is there a new eS video being shot at the moment?

We are working on one right now, trying to get it out for next summer.

You have appeared in a lot of skate videos ‘ do you enjoy filming them?

After my part in Yeah Right, filming has just continued. I have totally been filming video parts for like, 12 years of my life now, it’s like they do not stop. There a couple of gaps here and there but there is always another one, it’s crazy you know ‘ I’m gonna call it quits at some point.

Do you watch them back at all?

You know what, I rarely do. I go to the premieres and see them a couple of times, or I will be in a shop doing a signing and it will be on a TV in the back ground. I hardly ever watch skate videos, I don’t really get new ones, I don’t really go into shops to get them, unless somebody has it right there you know.

Would you ever consider putting out a video part with no street skating, just mini and vert?

Haha, I wish I could! I wish it was that easy. Mini ramps are cool, and I can still skate vert, but only with a couple of friends behind closed doors, not in front of a crowd, just fucking about. It’s hard skating vert. The last time I padded up and skated vert was at the skatepark in Tampa at one of their contests a long time ago, I just dropped in you know, but they are a killer on your back!

What about injuries, have you had your fair share of them?

Well, I have been very fortunate with injuries so far, there have not really been that many. Badly sprained ankles, no breaks but I did dislocate my little finger once! (Laughs!)

Maybe we should not hoodoo this then and move on!

Hey, talking of hoodoo, the Italians say that if you do bring stuff like that up, you do this (he does the heavy metal fingers!); it’s like their version of knocking on wood you know!

Wow, in my book that only means Slayer is on the stereo!

(laughs) Yeah, strange huh!

Talking of Italians, you have just been to Italy on this tour right?

Yeah, we just went to Rome, and also Basel, Rotterdam, and Brussels also, but Rome was the best. The food was obviously amazing. Seeing Rome in the whole day and half we had, we were like power tourists! We went down to the Coliseum, I’m glad we went there; we had to get up early to do it. It’s the only time we had.

Did much skating go down?

Not much, we kind of skated the day we flew in and fucked around. We went to The Vatican, and then we had the demo the next day which was a street course by the beach, pretty good place. I was thinking it was gonna suck, you know, being outdoors by the beach, it could have sucked, but it was a fun park, fun demo, not a lot of kids and everybody had a lot of fun.

Who is the character on the tour so far?

You know what, it’s definitely not that kind of tour, it’s been pretty mellow, we have not really been partying, and we don’t really have a party crew either so it’s been mellow. In Rome we had this weird press conference that was really strange. Imagine what we are doing here right now, but they took us to a meeting room like in a hotel, they had chairs lined up with tables at the end of the room and people fired questions at us like we were a basketball team or something! It was really funny! I was like, Man; you have the wrong group of guys!

I did most or all of the talking, PJ chipped in, which was surprising as he is quite shy, but it’s not a natural setting for skateboarders, not like this, this is personal, this is the way it should be, 2 people shooting the shit! But that is the way they wanted it..

Is that how it is in the States with all the XGames stuff these days because we don’t really have that stuff here in the UK, is there more demand now than back in the day?

Well, back then, when I first started, that demand was there. I remember a TV show called ‘That’s Incredible’ that would have some guy doing magic, or have a weird story, death defying stunt etc. I remember seeing Rodney Mullen on that thinking whoa, what is he doing on TV?! But it was cool because you could see skating on TV, and it was rare but what those guys were doing is not quite on the scale it is now, but it was close to that just before it went dead in 89′. And now you have Tony Hawk on talk shows, and all sorts of commercials, Andy Macdonald on late night talk shows, it’s in the public eye and got to strange level.

Even I’ve been on local news channels, most of the time you are trying to describe what skating is, how it works, you just try your best.

Whilst we are on the subject of fame, have you seen the Stoked.Rise and Fall of Gator movie?

Yeah, definitely. Obviously this movie epitomizes the rise and fall of fame; he was definitely a random example. In fact he got into Christianity and if you remember Eddie Elguera, he was the guy that got me first sponsored; he kind of set it all up for me. He was a born against Christian also from San Bernardino and I remember going up to a mini ramp content in San Jose with him, and he is like ‘hey Gator is coming up here later’ and they were gonna read stuff out of the bible and discuss it, and it was the first time I met Gator. I was tripping out, as he was the most famous skater alongside Mark Gonzales and Gator came down, hung out, watched TV, skated that contest and the fact is, Gator had already killed that girl before this comp, and I remember finding out exactly when he did it and remembering that it was before the time I had first met him. I was tripped out, I was 15 then, I found out later on at a skate camp, you know, like Woodward in Wisconsin and I was there as a skate councilor and Gator was the guest pro for that week, and he did not show. Eddie had to tell us what had happened, that was when he admitted what he had done, that summer. It was bizarre, he had already done it, and I was tripping out!

You mentioned the Gonz being a major influence back in the day, are there any up and coming skaters that are ripping out there right now in your eyes?

PJ Ladd for sure, he is really fun to watch, how good he is, how consistent he is, but there are other guys like Bryan Herman. It’s great to watch people progress quickly, they go from being small, good and then go bigger, they grow up and blow up. Paul Rodriguez is another person I like to watch skate.

Let’s talk about tricks, what tricks are you learning right now?

I feel like I’m done with learning tricks, they just come out, you know, you try to create, by throwing in old stuff with new. I guess I don’t work on a specific thing; I just have a thought, and see if I can do something new with it, that is how I go about things. You throw it around and almost pose it you know, sometimes you get a mental image of what you could really be trying and things fall into place, but no real dairy of when I should get stuff done. If I try and set my self up for something I would get disappointed.

What about videos do you see others do tricks and ask yourself if you can do it?

Yeah, sometimes things look fun and I ask myself if I can do it, and try it out.

What is with the hardflip Eric?!

Oh, the hardflip! Yeah, that is my bane man! I don’t know why, but my body has a problem with them. I can do them but they are really ugly! I feel awkward, I feel like shit when I do them and I have been doing them for like 12 years, but sometimes I just get em. I feel like throwing in the towel with that trick, they do not feel natural for me, that trick is very humbling! (Laughs!)

Outside of skating, what are you up to.I hear you like Golf?

Yeah, I like golf, every week I play golf. I try and sneak in a 9 hole at the local public course for a couple of hours!

Who do you play with?

Attiba Jefferson, the photographer, and his brother who is the graphic designer for eS, and Tim Gavin at Podium, DVS,. In fact he is the one that got me into it!

You like basketball too?

Yeah, the Lakers man! It’s all about the Lakers!

So, who’s a bigger Laker fan you or Rick Howard?

Well, er.that is tough question, let me think about that for a second. (pause) you know.I think I am, and you know why?

Why’s that?

Well, Rick was over here with you for your Bay 66 Jam on the Girl UK Tour when the play offs was on! I was like, how the hell are you going there, you are gonna miss it! I was scheduled in for that tour but I did not have to go, disappointing for him though! But you guys don’t have a lot of basketball here in the UK no?

Nah, it’s all about Football over here, or soccer as you Yanks call it. It’s huge. But, here is a basketball connection for you. – I actually got into skating through basketball as there used to be weekly school trips to watch it at a place called Crystal Palace and they had a ramp out the back

that people like Lucien Hendricks used to ride back in the day and I saw that and was like, screw basketball and swimming, I’m getting a board!

So I can relate to basketball somewhere along the line..!

See, you gotta love it…That is cool.

Anyway, let’s talk about music. What format do you play your music on when you are on tours like this?

Ah, the IPOD of course.

So what’s on it then, what do you listen to?

At the moment, the new Morrissey album is on a lot. I had not heard him in a while and the new album just came out and I was listened to The Smiths growing up. I like Morrissey a lot, I had to get that record. Also Modest Mouse, Kanye West.I listen to Bowie, Hip Hop, loads of different artists really.

So which 5 essential records would you pick, if you had to?

On shit, I go through so many cycles and come back to stuff all the time..er.

Ok, lets narrow it down, one essential record then?

OK – Radiohead – The Bends, it reminds me of so many good times..but maybe also NWA – Straight out of Compton, as I remember coming back from school in 7th Grade and was all hyped on it, I’d do my homework to it, as I always had to do homework before I was allowed to go skate, so maybe that one too, such a great record, full of attitude. Music is a part of my life, it’s an everyday occurrence.

So, Mr Eric Lee Koston. What future is in front of you, for you and your skateboard?

I er…….I just want it to end! (big laughs).

I just wanna be able to skate for as long as I can, no matter what. I don’t know how much longer that will be. You know I’m 29 years old, and I’m sure there will be a time when I will look at myself on video and think, maybe it’s time to hang it up as a pro, you know, you could be the guy at the park that cruises around the bowl. I see myself turning into that guy at the local skate park, it’s a lot of fun stuff just cruising around as there are a lot of cement ones where I live. That urge will not be there for a long time, but I’m still gonna stay in it, I will be around working on the other side of the skateboard, but sometimes I feel like it’s the thing to do, quitting being a pro. You know, sometimes I’m trying tricks filming, and I can’t make it, I think about it. It feels fun but everyone has a time and we all know when that is eventually.

Ok , here are some Rapid fire questions from various website forums around the UK :

Would you rather skate a rail with Rick Howard or a Big 4 with Jereme Rogers?

Er..a rail with Rick.

How Ghey was that Konami Video ‘ King of Whatever!?

Oh, it was bad! I have not even seen it!

Game of SKATE with Guy Mariano or Paul Rodriguez?

Guy Mariano!

A week at OG EMB or MACBA?

OG EMB

Tickets to every Laker match or a 6 week journey wherever with your friends?

Haha! (you should see his face!) well, you know what, I love the Lakers but I’d go for the 6 months with friends, we just went on a friends bachelor party and that was great!

A demo in front of thousands at the DC skate plaza or a regular session at Southbank, London?

Southbank for sure, I skated there last night in fact for about 4 minutes! I hear it’s closing down in the future, which is a shame. It’s like Love Park in London. It’s part of UK skate history.

Do you feel any responsibility for the thousands of kids trying in vain to K-Grind?

Somewhat..but it’s not all my doing! (laughs)

Name 3 interesting facts about yourself.

Oh boy, er..I have a t-cup Yorkshire Terrier called Tiger.(laughs).er.I’m addicted to reality television! I have Tevo so it just stores it for me, I don’t miss any of it, so I watch a lot of it, I’m a junkie for it, and the third.er.I’m not a big car guy, but food, I love exquisite foods, really expensive restaurants, for example i love going out for food that you don’t get anywhere else accept for that one place you know.like Nobu.

Yeah, you like sushi then?

Yeah, you know Nobu?

Yeah I have been there for a meal in London.

Is there one here?

Yeah, near Hyde Park inside the Metropolitan Hotel. Check it out if you have about two hundred quid to spend!

What do you still want to do, as far as skating goes, that you haven’t got round to doing yet?

The Loop for sure, maybe one day I will get around to doing it.

Ok, that is all I have to throw at you. Thanks for coming out for the interview, do you wanna thank some people?

Yeah, obviously thanks to you and Crossfire for hooking this up, A4 UK, eS, and all of the kids that have come out today to see us here for supporting skateboarding!