Way of the Road: Zach Slaughter Interview

Way of the Road: Zach Slaughter Interview

Everyday, people put their lives on the line for skateboarding and pay heavy prices for doing so. However, few people that have ever set foot on a board can say that they’ve sent it and gotten broken off the same way that frontman of Skull Fist, Zach Slaughter can.

Aside from being a badass singer/guitarist from Canada, Slaughter is a ripping street head  who broke his neck attempting a kinked rail back in 2013. Despite this and a collection of other gnarly slams, Slaughter has graduated from small scale skate sponsorships to living the heavy metal dream, releasing albums and touring with his Skull Fist bandmates. In preparation of the drop for their third album, Way of the Road, released through Napalm Records, we shot Slaughter over a few questions regarding time on the board and the influence that it’s grown to have on his music.

Who are you and how did you get involved in skateboarding?

I am Zach, singer and guitar guy of Skull Fist. I’ve been skating since I was real little in Northern Canada. I remember the cops, the punks (Being one of them) and the baggy pants. I stepped in near the end of the ‘little wheel’ phase – when those ‘Skateboarding Is Not a Crime’ stickers boards mattered.

Skating was for the outcast shitheads that had no other interests. I’ve been skating ever since. I sent sponsor-me tapes when I was 16 and got sponsored by a few small companies when I was a kid but then got into music as a “career” instead.

Let’s get straight to it, what’s the story behind breaking your neck?

Man, it was the end of a session. We had just seen this 6 flat 6 with a wooden rail and thought it would be funny to try and boardslide it. There was grass beside so I thought I’d just roll into the grass. Nope.

It was dark, I went to catch myself with my hands as I was about to faceplant but I swiped at the ground and missed apparently. Broken neck – lucky no spinal cord damage. I also broke my cheek bone, cracked my forehead and got a gnarly head scar from it. That’s not even the worst. I always get the weirdest skate bails, I cut my sack open with a jagged board once and got 12 stitches.

 

Are you able to focus more on music during your recoveries?

Yeah, music has always been the main attraction for me. Skating is like a meditation/zen thing now – I do it to chill and think about nothing else. I try to skate a few times a week, although I tweaked my knee last month and am currently on a break. Honestly man, breaking the neck was real calm. I just laid around for a month and relaxed. I had a real long concussion that made Super Mario really hard to beat though (laughs).

How does your style of music correlate to your style of skateboarding?

I grew up with street skating. Tons of skull fist songs are about skating or have plenty of references to skating. I skate recklessly, I think – always trying to push my abilities, which I suppose is why I always hurt myself. I just think [about] pushing it and always feeling the mad rush from rolling away from something.

Crushing obstacles, you know? Spending hours trying a trick and shitting your pants with hype after you land it. I think heavy metal/punk is a lot like that. I listen to tons of different music and if it’s Neil Young I usually just end up rolling around the skatepark doing half-assed ollies looking at the clouds.

What’s something about Way of the Road that people don’t know, but should?

It was recorded in a week, minus the vocals. It’s the first album we’ve done without all the 80’s sounding reverbs and shit. It’s the first album we’ve done without our little skull dude on the cover too.

Any particular skater-fronted or skate-oriented bands that you’re backing these days?

The Shrine. They are from California – really good band. There’s a band here in Toronto called HEAD too. The drummer/singer shreds on the board.

Those looking to get a listen to Way Of The Road will have to wait until it drops on October 26th. Stay tuned to the latest from the band on their Facebook here or from their Instagram here.

Beating Expectations: Voxel Boards

Beating Expectations: Voxel Boards

When it comes to innovation in longboard development, there are endless possibilities for those who make it their mission to experiment with the combination of available building materials in unique ways. For the ones that succeed in creating a functionally distinct solution, the result is a ride unlike anything the community has ever experienced.

Between their adventurous blend of bamboo/maple/birch/fiberglass decks and their 3D printed foot stops and wheel cores, Voxel Boards is a prime example of an up and coming innovator in the Southern California longboarding scene. As the brainchild of Ventura County-based skater, Shawn Jones, Voxel Boards was born out of a desire to experiment beyond traditional street skateboards. Over the past three years, the operation has continued to develop and remains fueled by curiosity.

More recently, I ran into Jones sometime after midnight at one of The Gel Lab’s Downtown LA Sessions. Besides standing out as one of the most approachable people at the session, he also stood out as the only one who had personally hand crafted the board they were riding. To learn a bit more about the story and the mindset behind Voxel Boards, the two of us connected afterwards and chopped it up:

Let’s start from the top: where did your respective interests in longboarding and product development begin?

My interest in longboarding specifically came in 2015. I’ve always been a hands-on, creative sort of person and have a background in engineering and design. I had been into street skating when I was around 13 and spent that Summer by refurbishing and repainting decks that were donated to a skate club that I started at our local Boys and Girls Club. You could say there was a natural marriage of my curiosity to do more with my hands and the love of the sport that got me where I am today.

Between foot stops, wheel cores and decks, how do you separate/break down your efforts?

In a sense, everything is developed as it is required. A deck will design itself over time, so not quite as much attention is required after a design has some age behind it. Our footstop took an afternoon to design, and our wheel cores are being worked on tentatively. My greatest strength is my ability to cross-discipline, and I hope that one day my work will be looked at as a positive contribution to the community.

What was the response like when you gave out your foot stops at one of the following Gel Lab sessions?

That was actually one of my favorite Gel Lab sessions! I had arrived a little later than I usually do and missed a chunk of the session that night. But Ari “Shark” gave me a chance to show off what I had been cooking up and to give back to the community. People were stoked about the different colors and I got a lot of verbal encouragement and support that night. It’s honestly the most accepted I have felt in a given community. People roll up to sessions with my foot stops of their setups, and I’m happy to get so much positive feedback about them!

How do you think 3D printing technology can be adapted to the skateboarding world?

I’m not really the first one to bring this technology to the industry thankfully, so there’s been some things tried and groundwork laid. Landyachtz actually mentioned using 3D printed nose guards during the conception of their Triple Beam deck. I think for 3D printing to be integrated into our community, there has to be more well fit demonstrations of the technology. There seems to be an impression that 3D printed objects are “weak” and other usually negative misconceptions about their potential. I kind of saw potential within that natural skepticism. I realize my foot stop could be a person’s first experience with a 3D printed object, so I wanted to take that opportunity to show that not only could this technology be used for prototyping but for a full fledged products as well.

You mentioned getting into shops in the near future. Are we talking brick and mortar or online shops or some combination of the two?

I want to answer this one in a fun way. (See the image below. A man can dream!)

Definitely a combination of the two. We’re in a unique spot with our direct sales compared to Amazon, since they don’t typically cater to customers who want custom graphics.

What does 2019 hold for yourself and for Voxel Boards?

2018 marked roughly three years since I began. The biggest challenge in my fledgling career is making the transition between garage and shop quality.  We’ve expanded into our own workshop, and I am currently in a golden age with our line up of artistic talent! I really want our artists to be a highlight of our brand. I’m currently working on getting new moulds CNC’d and have plans for an Alchemy 808 rework to start off our Spring. I have also been approached by way too many people who want me to make a dancer, so maybe that can be a summer release? I would need a lot of dedicated rider feedback to make something like that work. I want to invest in a laser cutter. Maybe by the end of next year? It would dramatically increase the sophistication of our manufacturing process.

I didn’t get to finish my wheel project this year’s, because I 100% didn’t expect to get a new workspace, and that definitely put a dent in our budget for the year as well as brought me back to square one in terms of setting up to build comfortably.

To keep up with the latest from Voxel Boards, drop them a follow on their Instagram here or keep an eye on their website here for the latest releases.

Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media

Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media

Though skateboarding has made it into Hollywood on screen and in the streets on plenty of occasions in it’s 60 year lifespan, it’s presence in the music and media capital of Los Angeles this past week was unlike any other depiction of skateboarding this area has ever seen. This can be credited to the Finding a Line event, hosted at the Ford Theatre. Billed as a celebration of the intersection between skateboarding, music and media, the county owned space provided the grounds for one of the most progressive events that skateboarding has seen in recent years.

Beginning this past Tuesday, the process was kicked off by a gallery exhibition, panel discussion and film screening, curated by the likes of Collegiate Skateboarding Educational Foundation Board Member, Neftalie Williams, former pro skater, Laban and filmmaker, Diana Wyenn. Featuring visuals from around the world, the issues of race and diversity in skateboarding culture served as an underlying narrative carried by some of the most iconic people of color in the skateboarding community, including Paul Rodriguez and Stevie Williams. Drawing solid reception at the beginning of the week, this event set the tone for the days that followed.

The resounding capstone to this weeklong celebration was a performance by jazz pianist, Jason Moran with backing instrumentalists, The Bandwagon, fused with a live skate demo. Thanks to some help from the OC Ramps wood shop, the stage for such an unconventional event directed a group of skateboarders front and center as a crowd of hundreds gazed on. Unlike other skate-centric events in the area, this crowd was not intrinsically filled with messy haired teenagers but rather with patrons of all ages whose banter indicated that they hadn’t a clue of who these skaters were or what tricks they were throwing down. At the same time, the mix of pro and am skaters taking the stage seemed undeniably unfazed by the fact that they were skating in front of hundreds, rather than in the privacy of their local park.

However, the interplay between the different occupants of the space was something that Executive Director, Olga Garay-English, noted in her opening address. Speaking on the ownership of physical space that skateboarders take in their communities, Garay-English noted that the evening was a way for a recognized institutions to better embrace skate culture. At the same time, she noted how the weeklong event was a means of skateboarders being able to celebrate their culture alongside the culture of their neighbors in one of the most multicultural places in the world. Though these opening remarks praised skaters as “philosophers” pursuing a “counter culture art form,” the crew of rider sat idly by, seeming less interested in the compliments as they were about sizing up the ramp for the shredding that was set to commence.

With no further ado, the likes of Greg Lutzka, Brad McClain and a host of other rippers began to drop in as the performance commenced. Coming out firing, Lutzka stomped out a series of 360 flips and backside flips that evoked greater ovation from the crowd with each consistent land. Then, after a period of somewhat standard runs for the jam, the cast of skaters began attacking the ramp from all angles. What originally started with casual manuals on the deck led a pair of skaters to take over the entire area, ollieing a gap from the band stage into the half pipe before promptly launching a kickflip indy grab and a massive 360 grab (respectively) out to the other end of the stage. At the same time, there were nose manuals across the deck, 360 spins from Jim Gray on the flat of the ramp and even a drop off the stage and into the crowd.

With all of this was going on in the forefront, Jason Moran and the Bandwagon remained equally unfazed by the crowd and the skaters as they powered through their performance for well over an hour. With instrumental improvisations that matched the off-the-cuff skateboarding, the sounds and the visuals complimented one another perfectly. Plus, Ron Allen tapped into both his skate and MC side by switching from freestyling on the ramp to freestyling on the microphone throughout.

All things considered, the evening and the week of programming represented much more than a couple nights out in Hollywood. Instead, it was a visual testament of skateboarding’s ascension into mainstream culture as we know it. Whether through jazz musicians tailoring their notes around the actions of skateboarders or skateboarders dropping in and skating to the tune of music they had probably never skated to before, it was as much a learning experience on the stage as it was for those in the surrounding crowd. With a positive example of the benefits that sharing skateboarding with other cultures can have on the community, we sincerely hope that efforts like this one are replicated in the future.

All photos shot and authorized to use by Lindsey Best.