21st December 2006
Stereo Sound Agent 547 a.k.a. Chris Pastras was passing though London on a secret mission to spread the gospel of stylistics and hang ten hill bombing when Crossfire intercepted him getting his flair on.
Chris happily replied to our inquisition and even spilled the beans on a movement that’s sweeping catwalks and boardwalks alike: this is Chris Pastras of the Stereo Sound Agency. Interview and questions from Ralph Lloyd Davis and Zac
Please state your full name, any alias’, Agent names or nicknames you might have. What does your mother call you?
My mother calls me Chris. Christopher Malik Pastras is my full name.
Malik? That’s rather suave.
(Laughs) Yeah. Now let’s see… My Agent name? 547! I almost forgot. Then my nickname: Dune.
‘Dune’ – that’s stuck for quite a while now, huh?
Oh yeah. It’s been with me since I was like 13.
What brings you to London, Agent?
547! (Laughs) See, it’s not that exciting… I could make something up?
Yeah, go for it!
We made a massive Stereo PR budget, and we’re doing a massive PR sweep of Europe!
Nah !(Laughs) My girlfriend works for Kangol hats, and I came over just to visit our distributor- Out of Step. I thought it would be super freezing and snowing (in London), so I didn’t bring my board, and ended up having to get a board.
We’ve got a couple of rigs here you can roll around on. A couple of old 70’s sticks you might fancy?!
Nah… The guys from Kingpin have all this free product because they get it sent in for reviews, or whatever…
Oh! So that’s what all that is?
You guys don’t pull that scam over here?
No! We do it legitimately, unlike Niall on the scam. If you’re listening Niall – We’ve rumbled ya! :) (Laughs)
No! Thanks Niall! He had a full kit for me and hooked me up.
Well, we won’t mention what board you’re riding right now. It might offend someone.
Oh no! I’m riding a Shut board. They were my first sponsor!
Ah… Then it’s a nice gesture.
Yeah, I mean I’m putting it to use.
Yeah, but I bet there’s some poor kid out there who could have had a Shut skateboard, and you’ve nicked it!
So, obviously Stereo’s got it’s legs back off the ground and it’s up and running again, and we all know what’s going on… Well, we know a bit about what’s going but we’ll find out more soon from you, every little detail.
Yeah, I can explain: We basically just went off on our own. Being the sort of underground left of centre brand Stereo is, it didn’t really make sense to have it in a licence because at the end of the day the distributors only making a certain amount off the product, and you’re only making a certain amount too. But, when you’re on your own, you can control the product, put it out when you want, how much you want… We’re basically an underground fun brand just doing it to keep the integrity of the brand up, but if you’re in a licence then you really want to drive up the volume in order for it to make sense.
Absolutely! Put the effort in…
Yeah! I mean, we put the effort in, but this is for Stereo’s true essence, and not for what the distributor wants. It’s just like anything, like a record deal: if Sony starts putting out, then they’ll start sniffing around, whereas if you can put it out yourself and sell just as many, then you that much more excited about it.
No, absolutely, but it does take a lot of effort. Are you guys playing the underdog card vis à vis promotion this time around?
No! I wouldn’t say we’re underdogs! I would just say we’re not trying to compete with the top three bands who are totally obsessed with trying to get the newest kids, and impress you with some stupid new product like, “We’ve got a super bolsar wood ply!” or something… They are totally volume driven, and they’re fighting each other over pricing, and that 12 year old kid they’re trying to sponsor… We’re just not playing that game! Stereo’s true to Stereo. We’re not competing with the top brands.
So, who would you class as a Top 3 brand then?
Sales wise? Because I can list my favourite brands! But, sales wise- and I’m probably completely out of the loop- I’d say Zero in Southern California with the rails, and Jamie Thomas who I totally respect. Ummm..? Element… Another big brand is Dwindle with all the World stuff.
Yeah, Enjoi is doing it legit.
Yeah, there you go! So, those are like what I’d consider competitive skate brands.
They’ve got their own styles, and some great styles too I might add! But what happened to style in skateboarding?
Oh, I think it’s still around. I don’t know what happened to it, but it’s around more than ever now. You’ve good styled skaters doing all the big stuff too.
The Gonz is still ripping it up out there! Holding onto the back of cars and things… I love it! Does Krooked go down as well in the States as it does over here?
Yeah, sure! It does well, and it’s got its own core base. I mean, I guess you could use (Krooked) as an example- but I’m not saying it’s the only one- as something running along the same lines as Stereo rather than a company like Flip. We’re not trying to compete with Flip. We’re just doing our own unique thing; having our friends do the graphics and keeping it true to what we know skateboarding to be, so it winds up being left of centre even if we’re not trying for it.
Who had style when you grew up-on and off a skateboard?
Ah! The Gonz, Jason Lee obviously. I like the way Natas skated a lot. Eric Dressen and (Ben) Schroeder on transition. I don’t know there are so many…
How about companies?
When I was growing up? It was probably Powell Peralta, Santa Cruz, G&S, Vision! (Laughs)
Who has style today?
Definitely the guys on our team: Olly (Todd), Benny (Fairfax) and Clint Petersen. There are a lot. (Geoff) Rowley and the Flip guys have got good style. It’s cool because everyone has their own style nowadays. Skateboarding went through a lot of weird phases, but right now I think pretty much anything goes. I see a lot of the new younger kids coming out, and they’re doing beanplants to handrails and 360 bonelesses! Just wacky shit down stairs, and wallrides. (Skating) has kind of got fun again because people accept transition skating too, so I think it’s a really good time for physical skateboarding.
Yeah, it’s merging quite nicely.
For me, the best ones come up with something original, or merge something old skool with some thing new skool… Look! You’ve got a Louie (Barletta) poster there. Louie does a good job! Ali (Boulala) does a good job too! Ali’s got good style, and he’s doing new shit, but with that style, he looks like he could have skated in any era.
Absolutely! Ali’s actually passed through Crossfire a couple of times, and Louie’s up for a grilling next. You know Richie Jackson?
Oh, that guy’s awesome! I was just thinking of him when I mentioned the beanplant to handrail stuff. I saw that and I was like “What the fuck???”
He rides for Death Skateboards, a UK company looking to take over pretty soon.
Hold onto that one tight!
Ok, so say you and Jason were sitting around in your Agents office…
(Laughs) With the big round table, and the sales chart!
(Laughs) Yeah! So, you’re sitting there and you’re like “Where are we going this week?” Which skater would you plan to nick?
God! (Laughs) that is a tough one! Oh man, I might have to come back to you on that one later…
We’ve got time. People will be sitting there waiting for you to reveal your plans! (Laughs)
It’s funny because when we first re-started Stereo, we were talking to Jerry Hsu, and Jason had never seen him skate, so he was like “I don’t know… he’s kinda weird. I don’t know if I like his style..?” (Laughs) Jason just didn’t know anything about Jerry because it was out of his era, but then we ended up going on a WE trip with Jerry some two years later, and it was so funny because Jason was so upset, like “Jerry Hsu is the best skater of all time!” (laughs) This was back when it seemed Enjoi was going to break up after Marc Johnson left. That’s one name I know Jason is kicking himself over not getting for the team. There’s your bit of background gossip! (Laughs)
Cheers! Back in the day, you used to ride for World Industries with Steve Rocco at the helm. Actually, I heard there was a documentary coming out about Steve…
That’s right! I just got interviewed for it.
Tell us a bit more about that, because over here we’re only just starting to hear about it.
Sure. They just asked me about trips and stuff, just standard issue stuff, nothing too outrageous. I was asked your basic skate related questions like who was on the team, where did you go, what did you do..? I don’t know what they’re cooking up for with this film. They could be editing me with Martha Stewart into the footage for all I know! (Laughs) I could be super-imposed into a monkey cage or something…
If you’re editing the Steve Rocco documentary and you’re listening- You know what to do! (laughs)
Yeah, but it was a pretty low-key interview just asking me about the original days, how I got on, what was it like filming for the first video..?
How’s it changed for you?
Well World has changed a hell of a lot, but how about the World!
(Laughs) Oh, how has the World changed???
We’ve got another 35 minutes or so… Why not? (Laughs) How has life changed for you since then?
Man! It’s come full circle for me a few times. I think I’m on my eighth resurgence! (Laughs). What happens is I get so busy running Stereo, doing ads or dealing with the team or budgets, that I kind of almost lose sight of the beginning; where you started when all you wanted to do was skate. For me, all I ever want to do is skate and make art. So, I’m now getting to the point where I can get back to that, because sometimes I’m at the point where I’m so busy that I’m supposed to be here to make art and skate but I’m not even doing that! I’ll just be stuck on the phone, and answering a hundred emails a day… like having budget meetings! (laughs)
So, that’s when it sucks, and I recently took a step back and said “Ok, enough is enough!” I’m going to skate more and make more art. It’s been a couple of months now and I’m having fun with it. At least I didn’t forget about skating because I was high on heroin or something! It could have been a lot worse… I could have left skateboarding with a really bad coke habit and no company! (Laughs)
How did the original Stereo brand come about?
Me and Jason were already starting to cook up ideas when we were still over at World. But, with a company that was as big as World it wasn’t like “Yeah, I like this Zippo lighter logo- throw it on my board”. We kept coming up with ideas, but they didn’t fit the image of World back then. Things got weird for Jason because Mark (Gonzales) left Blind, and then Rocco kind of handed over the team to Rodney Mullen. This was when Daewon (Song) and all the other younger kids were starting to come up.
They were flipping their boards a lot faster than me, so I just looked at my watch like, “I think I’m running out of flip time here…” Jason and I travelled together a bunch, and shared the same interests, similar music tastes, similar art tastes… We were just super into retro based stuff in our little unique world, so we decided “Let’s do our own shit!” Screw if it sells. Someone will make it, we don’t care. (Laughs)
So, we did Blue first, and that’s where we got to cook up a lot of the ideas for Stereo with all the Blue Note style, unique colour ways and hand-drawn art like the first crown logo. More than anything, I was looking at it like I could ride out my career at World with all their young new riders- at a time when pros had a three year lifespan back in the early 90’s. I wasn’t that confident about it. I didn’t know if the whole pro thing was going to last, so what if I just wound up doing creative stuff..? My mind just went “Wow! That would be fun!” Planning out ads, making my graphics, and before you knew it I was running a company.
Amazing! What about the riders? They’re an integral part to a company that’s going to last. Obviously you’ve got a couple of Agents on the team that we know very well being from the UK: Benny Fairfax and Olly Todd.
Ha! The Scrappy Elf! That’s what I call Olly. (Laughs)
Oh really? (Laughs) You might want to explain that one. It is Christmas after all!
(Laughs) Yeah, he’s like a little scrapper, and we would joke about him because he’d always come over with like no money and three t-shirts in his backpack, one pair of shoes and a shoelace. I was like, Olly could survive anywhere. He’s like one of those guys, like “Grrrrr!” he reminds me of an old-skool boxer from the 50’s, like you could see him busting out those old-skool boxer moves! (Laughs) He also skates like a magical elf because he’s so short…
(Laughs) I never thought we’d get stuff like this out of you! This is brilliant!
He’s so mini, but he’s got really quick feet, and somehow the scrappy elf was born.
Olly will never live this down!
(Laughs) I don’t if he’ll be too happy about that!
Yeah, so Benny…
Oh! You’re trying to change subject? Ok, then he’s the scrappy Titan! (Laughs)
Yeah! (Laughs) But, where did you find Benny and Olly because that’s what the UK wants to know?
Let’s see… Benny came first because we were both riding for WE, Jason and I were some of the first WE Activists. Benny had gotten on WE through the English distributor, and so Greg the owner was showing us pictures of Benny in Sidewalk and Document. It’s because of WE that we got hip to Sidewalk and Document. I mean, I had a subscription with them in like 2001 or 02 from back when I came over with Osiris, and that got me kind of Hip to British skaters. We told Greg, like “We really like the way this kid skates, it’s the original stereo style, he’s got good style” We’ve got to talk because we want him on our team. So, we got a hold of his number and called him up.
Then Olly came in through Benny. He was always talking about Olly and we had the same sort of deal with seeing him in Sidewalk and stuff. We really liked his style, he’s really unique, so it was perfect. But we didn’t want to make him amateur seeing as he was already pro in the UK. We just went for it!
Yeah, they are both amazing skaters. I think the first time we met Benny was when he turned up at the first ever Crossfire Easter Jam and he won it. I had never seen him before but it was obvious.
Nice! Yeah, they just won the Red Bull Seek and Destroy comp this year. You like how I propped my riders there? A little PR plug! (Laughs)
Yeah! So, let’s stick with the boys for a minute: What are their best and worst qualities? They must stick out like sore thumbs when they visit America!
Yeah! The best for them is that the ladies love their accents when they come over to the States. I think they do well with the British accents.
(laughs) I think we do alright over here!
Their worst qualities? Errr… Benny never learnt to clean before he left England.
(laughs) Dishes, clothing, anything! His apartment looks like a crack house. But I don’t think that’s a British thing. I think that’s just a Benny thing.
Have they introduced you to stuff like Marmite or something?
Errrr..? Beans on toast! I have had marmite- I like it, but I don’t think those guys do. Most of the things they had brought over, I knew about for quite some time already.
What about your partner in crime, Mr. Jason Lee?
He’s doing his Earl thing. They film 10 to 12 hour days.
People are starting to pick up on that series over here.
Then he’s got a son who just turned 3; Pilot, my godson. So, Jason’s super consumed by work. He gets home around 9 o’clock at night, and has to get up again at 6 in the morning. Then he spends the weekend with his kid, so we have to work our way through all this, so we mostly connect through email. Jason manages to keep more in the loop than people would guess! He’s fairly particular about his ideas, but he manages to get in there so it’s cool.
Whatever happened to that Stereo TV pilot? Were the riders featured in that?
It was all the Stereo guys with me and Jason as the sort of ‘hosts’. We’re trying to re-tool it for a different network now. But, way more skating this time because that first pilot was more MTV’s version of Stereo with producers and people like, “You really need to build up these characters!” It was fun, but they built some ridiculous $100,000 set: A Stereo Sound Agent head quarters. It was insane!
Yeah! I have photos of the set which I was waiting to release at some point. I was waiting for it to marinate because we couldn’t use it yet… But anyway, (MTV) built this crazy set with a full-on crazy budget pilot, movie crew style, but it was a bit much. It’s disappointing because we knew it could help Stereo immensely, but in other ways it was refreshing because it would have made life a little bit crazy. (laughs) Right now, I do stuff with Fuel TV here and there, so we’re trying to come up with something way more skate driven and we’re in the works with that now. It will be a much less Hollywood, and a lot more skateboard.
Well, it’s cool to see you’ve got demand. At the end of the day, are skaters looking for mainstream attention, or are the suits looking for you?
The skaters on our team? Oh, our guys aren’t mainstream at all! In general though, it’s gotten to the point where it works both ways. The best way is to walk the line and use the money from bigger companies and still maintain your integrity, and do your own thing. That’s the trick! (Laughs) That’s why you have to stay on your toes, and I don’t spend days on end wasted off my ass because I’m trying to walk that line successfully. We’ll just try and keep this Stereo thing afloat, do as much promotion as we can without being totally horrible. (Laughs).
What about the actual skateboarding? How much do you actually get to skate these days?
Me personally… Not enough! (Laughs) Lately more, if I’m lucky enough to get a few days a week. It’s been tough! The last year, we have been re-launching Stereo on our own. It’s been about 6 months since we left Giant (Distribution), so that really cut into my skate and art time altogether. I pretty much disappeared for a few months, and I’d skate like once or twice a week briefly. But now, we’re working on our new video, and I got some help. We’ve go a brand manager guy, and what looks like a marketing manager coming in pretty soon, and those will be the two people to do what I used to do. Then I can re-focus and really skate again.
What about spots? When you go skating, is it street or ramps?
I like skating transitions, just because the older I get, the less time I have to skate. If I only have two days left to skate, it’s frustrating when there’s all these variables thrown in… like getting busted. Plus, transition is easier on the bones. I’m 34, and there comes an age where you know you’re no longer going to be able to keep up with the likes of Arto (Saari), in your mid-30’s to early-40’s. You probably can, but you’ll probably break your knee cap off! (Laughs)
There’s comes that point where you want to have fun with your board, and cruising cement parks and bowls and stuff became the way. I always skated transition anyway, so it just took more form. The less time I had to skate, the more I really enjoyed transition.
San Fransisco has seen a few legendary spots un-knobbed. Which spots from the past would you like to see resurrected?
Hmmm…? It’s tough because Los Angeles spots aren’t really shutdown like they are in SF or New York.
Any parks that have been bulldozed..?
Hmmm… I’m glad that the Brooklyn Banks stayed around because they destroyed the small banks, which was a real bummer because I think that that was always like a legendary spot. That’s gone and I wish that hadn’t been destroyed.
Southbank will have its come-uppance too one day! What constitutes a Stereo Sound Agent?
You must have style and charisma. You must be brave, loyal, know how to drink Martinis… He’s got to smoke! Nah! (Laughs) The (Stereo Sound Agent) was just our quirky way of not saying ‘rider’ because we also give free shit to our friends who are musicians and actors. Stereo Sound Agents could be serious like our team, or it could be an old hunched over man with a bunch of plastic bags that we’ll call the “Minister of Black plastic bags”. It’s just tongue in cheek, our inside joke that we promote.
What about the Pink Panther, could he ride for Stereo?
He’s a smoker! (laughs)
The Pink Panther is an inspiration for us.
What other celebrities?
Ahh… Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson, Molly Ringwald… Mr. T !(Laughs). We’re doing a board with a graffiti artist friend of mine called RealStar, and when we made the Way out East video, we were working with Midlake and another band called Truth and Soul for the music. They are friends of mine from New York, and we are going to do some Truth and Soul skateboards with a free CD. We’re giving RealStar a board… We figures Stereo Sound Agents worked really well because we can sponsor our friends that don’t skate, promoting their art or music.
What are your top 5 desert island discs?
Ah man! I’m really into a band called Wilko. I like the Smiths, Bad Brains…
Have you seen American Hardcore?
Yeah. I wasn’t too crazy about the movie, but I liked the material. Let’s see… The Clash I like a lot.
Are you a fan of the Globe / Clash shoe?
I haven’t seen them. Right, I’ll take a pair then shall I? (laughs) Don’t ruin my high! Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me Vans have got a Bad Brains shoe out! (laughs) I like the Descendents too. It all depends on the mood I’m in. I have so many musical influences. I listen to Wilko stuff when I’m painting. I don’t know why… I listen to their albums on repeat. But if I’m going skating, I’ll dig out Devo or the old stuff I used to skate to when I was 17. It really depends… And if I’m moody, then it’ll be some sad Emo music.
It’s official- Pastras is Emo! (laughs) And he’s on MySpace… So, you like a bit of Emo then?
No, not really!
So, you just lied???
I don’t even know what current Emo bands exist!
Damn… All those Emo kids listening to this are probably going “Fuck! Pastras sold out!”
Is Scott Johnston still the ‘rippingest skater in town’?
He definitely is! There are a lot more rippingest skaters. He’s just one of the rippingest skaters, not the rippingest.
Now, before we wrap this up, you must give us the name of the skater you want as an Agent!
Oh! The skater! You’re back to that… I have to answer? Oh man! Let me think… I’m trying to rack my brain for current skaters… Do you have a pause button? (laughs)
Sure! Bip, bip, bip… Who would you take for your team right now?
Can you guys help with suggestions? (opens it up to the office)
No, this is on you! You can dig one up if you like? I know that’s bad taste, but it’s what Crossfire is all about. (Laughs)
Naming one is just too nerve racking… I can list a few we’d like to see ride for Stereo: Dylan Reider! Good style, definitely a good blend of old and new. Alex Olson! He got snatched up by Girl, but we were flowing him boards years ago because we are really into his skating.
Errr..? You said one!!!
Well, yeah but you’re rolling them out now brother! (Laughs) One more- an established pro.
You guys are trying to get me into trouble here! (Laughs) Well, I named Jerry Hsu already… I can’t say.
Ahhh! You’re not getting out of here alive. Pierre (Andre Senizergues) from Etnies gave me one!
I’m not telling you, you’ve got to hit up our site and find out! (Laughs)
I have to say though, that when I think of current days, the only other people who do what Stereo does as far as riders and stuff is Alien Workshop and Habitat. They do a good job of promoting original street style, not just going for the crazy handrail guys. You can pretty much say that anyone on that team would fit Stereo in our eyes.
Perfect. But you’re still avoiding the question! (laughs)
I gave you like two or three names! (laughs)
Alright, we’ll wrap things up here.
If I could have one skater of all time, it would be Bill Danforth.
Oh, what a choice! I bet his shiny head is glowing right now! (laughs) That was amazing, thanks Chris for dropping by Crossfire HQ.
Thanks for having me.
Where can we find you on the web?
The Stereo site is www.stereosoundagency.com , and then we’ve got a MySpace. I’ve got my own MySpace, I think it’s /agent pastras..? I have a website for my art too: www.thelovestation.com is that enough plugs? Mom, dad, how’d I do? Am I good to eat now? (Laughs)
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