Interview: Ralph LD
Images courtesy of DVS Shoes
There must be something in the water because the East Coast of America, and more precisely Boston, has produced some of skateboarding’s most talented and versatile skaters yet.
Zered Bassett, or Dr. Z as he is known intimately, took time off from skating to shoot some pool and have dinner with our man Ralph LD. The result is this interview that covers the past present and future of one of skating’s brightest stars.
Which stance does he skate? What does he think of Marc Ecko? Will there be a sequel to Viscious Cycle..? Listen to what the good Doctor has to say.
Tell me , what was it like growing up in Cape Cod (Small fishing town near Boston , Massachusetts)?
Living in Cape Cod was pretty mellow. I played a lot of hockey. There’s not that much to do…
I went there when I was a small kid and really liked it, but I couldn’t imagine there being any heavy skating going down there.
Yeah! It’s a beach town where rich people buy houses to visit at the summer, but I was stuck there all year round. My parents didn’t have a lot of money so I was just stuck there.
Did you move up to Boston a lot to skate there?
Yeah, I met a few people from Boston. I used to stay over at this one guy’s house- Steve Nardone. He used to ride for Dynasty. I stayed with (Steve) about a year, and I used to stay with Jereme sometimes, a little bit out of the city.
It’s got to be said that you have some serious switch skating skills, perhaps to the point of doing some stuff better switch than normal. Is it a normal process for you growing up to make sure you learn each trick both ways?
Yeah, I’ve been skating switch for a while, and my best friend growing up used to skate switch a lot. I started skating on ramps but he got me to start street skating and switch. So, I guess it’s been a while and now it’s just what feels better, switch one day then regular the next. (Laughs)
It definitely helps with spots that can only get taken in one direction.
Yeah, like you can only roll up frontside, but I can get to it the other way.
You said you rode ramps growing up- Were they mini ramps or jump ramps..?
Uhh… I grew up skating around town ollieing up curbs and grinding curbs, but then they built a skatepark so I was riding the mini ramps there. I’d just do whatever because there weren’t any professional skaters around, so it wasn’t like someone was influencing me to do what was cool. I just skated whatever.
Right, fast forward to when you get sponsored by Zoo York. The team has gone through several major changes but you’ve stayed put. How did all those changes affect you?
Basically I just want to skate. I just want to skate and not worry about switching teams to make more money and this and that. I’d just rather get on with it and skate instead of worry about those things.
If you could get someone on the team, who would you like?
Oh! I don’t know if I could make that decision. (Laughs)
How about a rapper or a sportsstar?
Umm… Probably Dave Chappelle, the comedian.
Without dwelling over Zoo for too long, I must ask you about Harold (Hunter) passing.
Yeah, that sucks.
What was your favourite memory of him?
I think it would be me coming to the city (New York) those first few times, meeting up with the guys and Harold showing me around, going to parties and introducing me to people. He introduced me to so many people. I have loads of memories of Harold and they’re all good. It’s funny because we’d have little fights or something and five minutes later we’d be laughing about it. He had such a good personality; he was real easy to be with.
Is it easy to work with (Giovanni) Reda (New York Photographer), because I know he’s got a sharp sense of humour and likes taking the piss out of people..?
When I first got on Zoo, I shot my first ads with Reda. He was there at the beginning of my career and he’s still there today, so I just got used to working with him. I respect him and he respects me.
Is it hard to get the job done on the East Coast?
Nah! If it’s skating then you can get the job done. Only in winter time does it get difficult, so that’s when we head out on trips to Miami or California. During the Summer or Fall, whenever it’s not snowing then you can skate fine.
Do you travel a lot between the East Coast and the West Coast?
Not really. I’ll go down to Miami for a week or something, or Cali for a couple of weeks with DVS, go see the guys at the office or something.
When you’re travelling through Europe, do you ever get tired of constantly living out of a bag and being away from home?
I’ve got a girlfriend at home and I just bought a baby English bulldog, so it was really hard for me to leave and go on this tour (DVS Euro Invasion) when I’d rather be skating New York. But now that I’m here and I’m having fun, then I’ll try and make the most of it and get as much stuff done as possible, you know?
What’s it like when you run into regular people and explain that what you do is skate for a living and travel the world?
Oh, it’s definitely weird! People don’t get it how I can make a living out of riding a skateboard. They’re kind of ignorant towards the fact that you’re a skater and feel there must be something you don’t like about your situation. I mean, we’re getting paid to do what we love and they don’t understand it!
It’s a dream job.
Yeah, it’s fucking awesome! But it can get tiring at times…
But wait! There are rewards like hanging out with the Hubba girls!
(Laughs) Yeah… No!
That must be pretty crazy doing those photo shoots, right?
Yeah, I’ve talked to Tony (Hubba Boss) about getting more skating in the ads, but they are just going to keep doing their stuff with the girls. Everybody on the skate team knows one another and knows how they skate, but if we put that in the ads then we’d just end up looking like everyone else. So, I guess that’s why we’ll stick with the girls.
It kind of reminds me of how Shortys used to run the old Rosa ads back in the day.
Now that skateboarding has embedded itself in the mainstream, you’ve got Lupe Fiasco rapping about varials and Pharrell (Williams) launching Ice Cream, has anyone approached you to take part in such projects?
Yeah, actually recently my friend Vinnie Ponte- he’s a DJ right now- he makes tapes for Raekwon and a lot of the Wu-Tang guys hang out and one of their managers has been talking to me about doing a video game with the Clan. That’s the only type of thing so far.
Do you keep up with all the media hype like Myspace or anything?
Yeah, I’ve got a Myspace account on the internet. I check my e-mails, and I like electronics a lot like cameras and all those gadgets. They keep me happy while I’m on the road.
You stock up on the goods when you’re in Japan?
Yeah, definitely! (Laughs)
I know you put out a video… I can’t remember if it was Vicious Cycle or City of Killers, but was it of your own initiative to do a tour video like that, just travelling with the homies through foreign lands..?
With City Of Killers it was a Zoo York project with us touring around and stuff, but Vicious Cycle was my idea. I had a lot of footage and I didn’t want to give it to random people, I’d rather keep all my footage together and put it together with all the footage of my friends. I figured I’d just make my own video, like PJ Ladd had his video and that got me psyched, so I wanted to do my own with my friends having fun.
I thought it was a good idea. Do you think you’ll do something like that again in the future?
Yeah. Right now we’re filming for the Zoo York video, but when that’s done I’ll start working on the Vicious Sequel. It probably won’t be out for a few years, but I want to do it for sure.
Since Marc (Ecko) took over at Zoo, it hasn’t made such independent ventures tricky or anything? Have there been more responsibilities?
No, I wouldn’t say its more responsibility. I can’t really say, but for me it was more of a fun natural thing to do than a job. I’m working with people, I like who I’m working with, but I’m not working with my friends that I’d hang out with after work, you know? Now, I’m skating for a company where I hang out with people simply because I have to for the job.
When you grew up skating, did you ever build ramps and stuff?
Yeah, my father used to build me a lot of ramps. I’d come up with the ideas, and he’d build it. We had a skatepark a miles from my house and they were re-doing it, so I had my dad build something that kind of resembles what they had at Tampa- the pyramid, one of those. He built a lot of ramps for that park. Then when I was younger, he would build me quarter pipes like 3 foot high with 2 feet of vert! (Laughs) I didn’t know how to do it!
Do you think some kids take the new wave of skateparks for granted?
Yeah, I think they do. I mean, if you’re skating a park and getting real good, having fun and stuff, then you’re skating will gat a lot better for the future. You’ll have more control over your board and you’ll have skated a lot more than the kid who had nothing.
Do you still skate ramps now?
Yeah! Yesterday I did a rodeo flip.
Yeah, at this skatepark over a funbox. I was with Reda and I was kind of drunk, but I’d done one before so I figured I’d try and do one and made it! (Laughs) I love skating ramps.
Talking about rodeo flips, I’ve got some pick and mix questions here: If you had to pick a trick for the week, would it be a benihana? An underfoot flip? Or a miller flip?
A miller flip, yeah! That’s when you’re upside down with your hand, right..?
Yeah, like a flipped over handplant. So, if you had to skate a spot for a month, would you choose a curb cut? A damp parking lot like rough asphalt? Or, a ledge that has been waxed beyond recognition by rollerbladers?
Uhh… Probably the ledge waxed up by rollerbladers. Either that or the curb cut because I’d like to learn more ledge tricks.
Ok, and finally, if you had to wear the same gear for a year, would you wear Vision gear circa 1986 i.e. day-glo colours, berets and all? Some Boulala gear i.e. frilly shirts, trinkets, velvet drainpipe pants and winkle pickers? Or, straight up Muska with fingerless gloves, Burberry scarfs and skydiving goggles?
Oh! I think I’d be on the Vision circa 1986 tip for sure! (Laughs)
Do you remember when you started skating what was going on then, which period it was?
Shhh… I’ve been skating for like 9 or 10 years, since I was 11 or 12.
So you started during the Menace hey-day, like 20 Shot Sequence period..?
Yeah, but during those first few years of skating I didn’t watch any videos or read any magazines, so I don’t really know about all that. But when I did start reading magazines, I remember there being a lot of noseslide bigspins and Mike Vallely dropping off roofs getting gnarly and shit.
Do you ever seek inspiration from the past, like educate yourself with what was being done back in the day?
Yeah, I definitely check out what happened on the East Coast because that’s where I live. I skate with some older people and I like to know what it was like for them coming up and what skating was all about back then for them. I usually hang out with my really good friends, not random people, so if they were around back then I’ll listen to what they’ve got to say.
So, what are your plans after this tour? Are you heading home or going somewhere else?
Yeah, I go home for 4 days and hang out with my girlfriend and dog, and then I’m off for two weeks to Russia with Redbull.