Hi Kenny, it seems you are traveling a lot lately, how many trips have you been on until now this year?
I was actually at home healing for the first half of the year. As soon as I felt good enough to skate I met up with the Cons guys in Italy and then Berlin. It was nice to surround myself with such amazing skaters and start conditioning myself back into skating.
How was this Cons trip to Italy? How was coming back to Milan?
The Cons trip was fun… Everyone on that tour was so unique. It was interesting to watch them all skate Centrale in so many different ways. I always love visiting Milan.. I met a lot of the locals over the past 12 years and they’ve all become my family. So it’s always good to see all of them.
What does it feel like to be the oldest guy on the team? And what’s it like to be on tour with Ben, Sage, Sean Pablo, and the Blobys? Are you starting to feel the age gap? Ha ha ha…
I don’t really feel a gap. I guess that’s what skateboarding has always done… it bridges gaps. I’ve traveled with Sage and Sean before and skated a little with the rest. It was actually really inspiring to learn more about everyone. We had time to sit and have deep talks just as much as skating and messing around. That’s just me though… maybe they all look at me like uncle Kenny. Ha ha… we’re all just balls of energy having fun and skating.
You were an OG Cons rider back in the days, then you skated for Adio for some years when Bam Margera was on… in some videos you guys were flying on private planes… what do you remember from those times? Being in the loop with the Adio thing with Bam and co…
Off the top of my head… Autograph signings that turned into riots, girls hyperventilating, police escorts, private jets, kids asking Bam to slap them and kick them in the nuts and Bam doing it, Sumner and I discussing God and Buddha, Nate Broussard jumping a train track and breaking his ankle, me being known to most of the kids because I was on one episode of Viva La Bam or The Kenny V1, Ed Selego vs. Ernie Torres, PC, CT, LT, Danny Montoya Fan Club, Steve Nesser pop shuving his way on, in awe of J. Wray, MTV movie awards, Josh Stewart drinking a carafe of OJ, sleeveless Curren, Dompierre being just as strong as he is now, conversation with Farah Fawcett, Markovich throwing up, BELTON! I can keep going… Those were some of the best trips of my life and some of my closest friends came out of them.
Bs lipslide in Milano Centrale.
Then you went back to Cons. How was Cons back then compared to now? You have been dealing with Cons both before and after Nike acquired the brand. Do you think that this acquisition was pivotal in gearing up the brand for penetration in skateboarding?
The acquisition supported it… but, I think it was about hiring the right people. People that already knew skateboarding and can support and give back to skateboarding as much as they can. They had a solid program and we traveled the world, but it was completely different with direction and product. When they offered me a shoe, I fought so hard to have a version of a Chuck. Instead I got some sort of a slipper shoe that fit inside of another shoe. Back then they did exactly what they wanted with their product. They wanted the lightest shoe, so they put helium in it. Haha. Everything Chany, Felix, and I wanted to do with product in the late 90’s is happening now. It’s really cool to see that happening and a lot of skaters supporting that. There is one guy that still works there from back then. I love seeing him. It reminds me of that time in my life.
The brand has a lot of connections and mutual riders with brands like Supreme and Polar… Polar played an important role in making Cons so popular among skateboarders… do you agree?
Yes, of course. There were a lot of conversations about who to support. Polar is a unique vision and I think the timing was perfect for both to help each other grow. Same with Sage, Sean, and Ben with Supreme, Al and Dela with Habitat, and Baca, Zered, Eli, Tom, Manderson, Jason Jessee etc… Everyone on the team played a crucial role in developing Cons.
From a strategic point of view it seems like the marketing heads found a place for every big shoe brand to thrive… Nike is performance, Adidas is classy, Cons is creative, Vans is rebel. Do you see this as intentional? I think everyone’s perception is different. I can only speak on behalf of Converse and they are all about supporting the creative spirit of people… who they really are. I guess that shows with the team that was formed. There have been a lot of big name pros that have showed interest throughout the years. You just have to use your instinct and know who is really down. I’m happy with the direction we are going in and who we are supporting. So in that sense, yes… who we are supporting, what we are doing, and why we are doing what we do, all are very intentional.
Talking about photography and skateboarding. It really seems like video killed skateboard photography. Kids are far more interested in minute-long, weak skateboard clips than still images. Do you think this phenomenon is going to affect the aesthetics of skateboarding as we move forward?
Alan Watts said, “The best way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” I think “move with it” means to create your own movement within. If you feel something is missing then create whatever you want to exist. Maybe the majority of kids will always want to re-watch life happening as opposed to a still image of it… but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as interested in the still image. I feel it has always been that way. We just have a lot more of it now. Everyone is shooting photos and videos more than ever before and they have access to decades of photography at their fingertips for inspiration. I think moving forward we’re going to see more unique approaches to both video and photography. Just like we are seeing in skating right now. Skateboarding, photography, and video are all forms of art and they should be explored as such. I encourage everyone to experiment and express themselves in new ways… whatever leads you closer to being comfortable with yourself.
Feeble grind in Brescia.
On tour you lost your film camera!!! How long have you had it? Have you already bought another one?
Yes.. I did. I skated away and left it… just sitting there… all alone. I had that camera for a little over 20 years. A Nikon FM2. My favorite camera. I still can’t believe somebody took it. I was more bummed about losing the roll of film inside though. I haven’t bought a new camera yet. I have a bunch of cameras at home so I’ve been shooting with some random ones. I brought this 1970’s Konica with me to Berlin. That was fun to shoot. No expectations.
While on tour, the news came out about Marc Johnson leaving Lakai for Adidas and getting kicked off Chocolate… you are close friends with Marc, Carroll, and Howard. How was being in the middle of that? I remember you spent a lot of time on the phone those days…
Yeah… It was definitely emotional and a little harder to focus… but it was all good, the Cons crew got me feeling good again.
From your “privileged” or “uncomfortable” position, what’s your point of view about it? And after all the things that happened and were said in the following days, is the mood a bit softer now between them?
I am sure the mood has softened. They have a lot of history together and it’s between them, so it will be handled however they choose.
Do you think that 16-year old kids out there really have an opinion or care about this skater-owned vs. corporate-owned fight? Will the next generation of skaters really even think about it?
I’m not sure how much they care, but guaranteed they have an opinion. That topic is always popping up and there are so many skater-owned companies that have been starting up. There are more and more interviews and posts expressing their opinions about both of them. I think it is really important to speak up about experiences so that everyone can learn more. Most of the time it goes deeper than just skater vs. corporate. There are good and bad in both and with more information we can make more conscious decisions on who we support. That will all affect the next generation. Hopefully we are all thinking about it and taking responsibility by aligning our values with our actions… in and out of skateboarding. We are all a part of this revolution happening right now… the art of skateboarding is flourishing and the love for skateboarding will sustain itself.
Footplant in Milano.
And now the question every skateboarder in the world over 35 years old would ask you: what’s happening at Crailtap? What about Lakai, Girl, and Chocolate? Everybody knows about the team changes and the new investor… but what happened and what should we expect for the future of Girl and Chocolate?
Girl and Chocolate are 100% owned by Rick, Mike, and Meg right now. In the future… maybe new fabric on the Crail Couch, definitely more chunks of Chocolate, more laughing, more of our favorite skaters from all generations, amazing art, fun tours… I guess, more of what we’ve always done, along with new ideas and new team riders.
When Koston first, then Guy Mariano, then all the other guys left… it seemed like the whole OG lineup was going to leave. What went through your mind when you saw everybody leaving?
It was a surprise. I just felt that there must be a really good reason why they are leaving. I asked questions and I understood it more. I stayed because I am backing what we’ve all built for so many years there and I love that we can continue to support skateboarding the way we always have.
You have three kids, how do you combine the pro skater life with the commitments of being a dad? What’s your opinion about the politics behind skateboarding and your perspective on life in general?
It definitely slowed me down a bit on spontaneous sessions. I just had to adjust to my new reality and structure my time better. I can’t describe the kind or amount of energy that I receive from my own children. Other parents know. At first I was so fulfilled that I didn’t care about anything else. Then they helped me deeply connect with myself, which led to more clarity, thinking about the necessities of life, and skating a lot better. When I’m out skating it reminds me of being a little kid and having fun, and when I’m with my kids I turn into a 10-year old. My life as a skateboarder is a huge part of being a Dad. They know and understand that I make a living and can support them by doing something that I truly love to do.
Every video part you put out had some special gems inside… (like the bs power slide in Pretty Sweet or a super stylish bs ollie in an old Adio promo, the one with the Stevie Wonder song). We want more Kenny footage, are you still motivated to film? Are you working on something at the moment? What’s next for you?
Thank you! That means a lot… I’ve had a long injury and I’m feeling better than ever. I am having a lot of fun riding my skateboard right now. I am working on a few fun life projects and a possible video that I’m not supposed to talk about. I’m sure you’ll see everything on instagram tomorrow.
Interview_ Mario Torre, Guido Bendotti, Davide Biondani, Luca Basilico.