INTERVIEW BY CURT BAKER
INTRODUCTION BY CHRIS MEARKLE
PHOTOS BY PATRICK STALEY
Chris Collette A.K.A. “Chief little stomach,” “Keith Richards,” “ColeEchy,” “The Mouth of the South” (although some would argue this title to Jimmy Leaphart). I’m not sure when I first met Collette, it must have been at one of the earlier Skatopia bashes. That’s where my Yankee ass met most of my Confederate brothers. STARS AND BARS, Volusia COUNTY, FLorida, BABY! For those of you that don’t know Collette, you suck. Your lives are empty, boring and unfulfilled, plus your livers are probably in better shape for it, too. What makes me laugh about Collette is the fact that you would never have any idea he skates. He looks and talks like some backwoods redneck. NASCAR, BABY! But when he drops in, it’s a whole other bottle of Jim Beam. Collette has that classic shark style, some call it the Dracula. (front arm bent in front of his face). It just oozes style. I dig it. He’s built a lot for skateboarding and doesn’t ask for anything in return, except for maybe an ice cold brew… before, during and after. I’m proud to call him my friend. The only thing bigger than his mouth is his heart. THE SOUTH will RISE AGAIN!“IT’S ALL ABOUT NASCAR AND SKATEBOARDING. GO FAST AND GO HUGE.”
Hey, Collette. What’s happening? We’re recording everything for Juice, so don’t say anything you’ll regret.
Everything. What’s been going on with you, Curt?
I’m sitting on the edge of the bowl right now.
You gotta love that. I’m just kicking back, drinking some beers. We were going to go skate today, but I’m in bamboo torture hell. I’ve got a splinter right under the thumb. It’s the bamboo torture thing. It’s really terrible. You have to laugh about that one. Let’s talk about some good stuff.
How was Philly?
We tore all that up in five days. We made it good. They had the Gravity Games there. Some of the boys did good. Fox got fourth, and beat some of them big-time pro guys.
Did you like working in the skateboard industry?
Well, the industry has that Ed McMahon rivalry going on between Omar and Benji. It’s like WWF. They said they had to run through this smoke screen stuff. It’s turning out like you have to put a belt on, throw salt in the face and attack each other. It’s getting pretty ridiculous. I say they should just go out to the clubs and beat each other up.
Are you going to California to get in the mix?
It’s Tinsel Town illusions every time. They just throw it right in there. I hope they had a good contest in Philly. I’d really like to see the video. I was going to go up there for it, but I just didn’t have the time. I’m working on this ramp here and trying to keep the bowl going. I’m trying to add an addition to the bowl. Then we’re fixing to build Otis’ bowl. You know how it is. You’re down home. You guys are building all the time, too. I’m just in and out now. I don’t even feel like I’m from the Samsula Death Squad anymore.
You haven’t been to Florida in a long time.
Yeah. It’s been a while. I’m fixing to come down next weekend though. We’re going to go big. We’ll party ourselves up and skate Hiler’s bowl. Hiler’s is the best. Has he been skating?
Good. It’s on. I know you’re ripping. You always kill the hips.
Yeah. We’re riding right now.
I wish I were there.
Are you coming back to Florida or staying in Charleston?
I think I’m a Charleston resident again for a little while. It’s looking like it’s going to happen. I’m trying to keep the girl happy. I’ve been skating the bowl. I love skating Hank’s bowl. I’m building a lot of stuff. Otis and I are skating all the time. It’s a war.
Is Science living there?
Science is living in Nags Head right now. He was building that park in Corolla. He’s skating every day. His knee is good. I told him to call Little Eddie up in Indiana. Eddie’s building two full pipes, elbow-sized. Eddie’s going crazy, too. Eddie’s wasted and wild as always.
What’s up with the West Volusia Strain? How do you catch that?
That’s a tough one. You might catch it, you might spread it, but you have to drink a lot to suppress it. You just better watch out. You better drink a lot of beer and a lot of whiskey.
How much do you have to drink to have a good session?
I always bring at least a 12-pack. Hopefully, all my boys bring a 12-pack, too. Then we have at least two cases of beer. We get pretty wasted and have a good sesh. Somebody’s going to make something and somebody’s going to fall. That’s what always happens. You get good sessions with lots of beer. That’s how I warm up. I don’t know how people stretch out nowadays, but I smoke a Camel Light Wide, drink three beers and I’m ready to go. After another three or four beers, the session is on. I get a good buzz and things happen. Then it’s like, “Let’s start drinking!” Then it’s on to the next place.
Let’s talk some history.
All right. Let’s talk some history. What about you? Have you guys been skating any backyard pools lately?
We’ve had amazing hurricane pools, amazing Romans. Every morning, it was me and ten other people.
You’re one of the best pool skaters I’ve ever seen in my life. You blow some of those guys away.
The whole Glug team from the Stone Edge days was there.
They’re coming out of the woodwork now. You gotta love that. Did they get some grinds in or what?
Reagan was there. Both of ’em.
Smitty’s been skating a little bit too, huh?
Yeah. Smitty’s skating in front of me right now.
I bet he’s killing it. Smitty’s super good. He was one of the best additions to the Samsula Death Squad ever.
There are some people still ripping from the Stone Edge days.
Yeah. The Stone Edge days were some good days. We skated every day for six hours, seven days a week. That’s what learned us all how to get going. You guys already had the pools going and then you moved to Florida. The whole Meager squad was a big inspiration. We just kept killin’ it and killin’ it. It was a damn shame the day that we tore that down. At least the damn pool coping from the peanut is still sitting there on that property in Samsula. One day, we might make a replica of it. We all just have to get motivated. You know how that goes.
I remember I rolled up there the first day and it was Monty, Groholski, Murf, Hiler and Luxford.
You don’t even know. There were huge peanut sessions and huge egg bowl sessions. Then we had to walk over and skate vert.
They say vert was dead, but we were skating vert every day.
It was unbelievable. Everyone was ripping this big blue, icy, slippery ramp. Everyone was just dying, but we were there. Monty was killing it. Luxford was the best. I wish I could see him skate again one more time in this lifetime. Hiler just killed it. You killed it. Y’all just jumped over them hips at the peanut like it was nothing. I could get some good grinds in that thing and roll into it, but y’all just killed those hips.
How many times did you get kicked out of Stone Edge for life?
I don’t know, man. I jumped the fence every day for the first two and a half years. They didn’t even know who I was. I kept my mouth quiet. Then, one day, I gave them some attitude. Then they knew who I was. They looked on my card and saw that for four and a half years I’d only paid five times. Then they kicked me out for a long time. Then I came back and skated some more. Then they accused me of stealing an Indy banner. I was like, “Why the hell would I want to steal an Indy banner?” I can get one of them for free from anybody, you know? That happened in ’95. Then I hit the road. We started building shit and skating all kinds of other shit.
It was Skatopia after that, right?
Yeah. I went to West Virginia first and built that thing. You saw what that thing was. Then we went over to Europe and stayed over there for a while. Then we came back and got evicted. We tore that thing down within seven days. I went to jail for that gig. Then Brewce got the farm in Ohio and the next thing you know, we built the bowl. It’s all been history from there. It’s been history left and right. Remember when you and I were working on those Warped tours. We saw some crazy shit there, too. We skated all kinds of crazy shit.
We were VIP, huh?
Yeah, we were VIP. Give me another beer. Put it on Steve Van Doren’s tab. You gotta love that, bro.
It was ten years of road trips.
Yeah. I’ve been on the road the whole time. I’m finally trying to settle down for once. I don’t know if it’s going to work. I’m trying. I’m putting some effort into it. There’s a lot of shit to skate here again. I’m only seven hours from y’all. I’ll be coming down there a lot. I just want to skate everyday. That’s all I want to do. I try to work all the time and then I can’t skate. I’m tired of that. If I bust my ass every day, I want to skate every day. They can have me when I’m wore out.
Your big California sponsors don’t hook you up with lots of product and paychecks?
Do you mean all of the Tinsel Town illusions? Sure. I’m getting tons of shit. Those boys are getting in the magazines left and right. They’re doing whatever they’re doing. They come to my town and they do the same shit that I do. What the hell is the difference? This guy does this and that. I watch half of them struggle with half of the shit. I can’t believe it. It blows me away, but they get paid. They’re out in Cali doing their damn thing. I guess they gotta go out there and do the Tinsel Town illusions. Me, I can’t stand the place, honestly. I go out there for 60 days and I’m freaked the hell out. I might as well as well go to Oregon or Washington. Those parks are twice as better anyway.
What about our Tinsel Town Illusions road trip?
The Tinsel Town Illusions road trip was the best. We all had a good time. We were scraping out of our pockets, scraping by. You had the guys that are getting paid to skate, bumming beers and cigarettes from us. After a week of that shit, I was like, “Damn! Y’all are getting paid. You go buy some beer and cigarettes. Otherwise, get the hell away from my van.” We were sitting there on a wing and a prayer.” We had no idea if we were even going to make it home.
Who was on that tour?
It was me, you, Sci Sci and Jimmy Leaphart, the mouth of the south. Leaphart was out of control. We skated so much shit on that trip. It was crazy. You and I went from Daytona Beach, Florida to Phoenix in 29 hours, straight pull. I swore I wouldn’t drink on that trip, then after we got through Texas, I grabbed that 40-ounce. I had my feet kicked up on the dashboard. Then we hit Border Patrol. We got tortured there.
I had a big bunch of something in my shoe while we sat in the Border Patrol office.
Yeah. I know. I was laughing. When we got out of there, I was like, “It’s the last one we got. We might as well do what we gotta do.”
My favorite part of the trip was when the hotel manager was banging on the door at seven in the morning because you were in the bathroom screaming “Spackle!” for an hour.
That was a good one. We were in Ventura drinking cold ones the whole time with John Wayne on ’em. We were just sitting there in the park. People were like, “You can’t just sit there in the grass?” We were like, “What are you talking about? This is a park. We’re partying.”
Who do you think is killing it nowadays?
There are a lot of people killing it that you don’t even see in the magazines. That’s the damn shame about it all. Hiler has always killed it. He’s one of the best skateboarders I’ve ever seen in my damn life. I’d love to see him go on tour. You’ve always killed the pools. You’re doing inverts and airs. It’s ridiculous. Shaggy always killed it in them pools. Smitty always kills it. Sci Sci ain’t never gonna stop. That kid is one of the best. Otis, Mr. Smith, is doing unbelievable shit in Charleston now. He did a crazy fastplant over a round hip yesterday and that shit was head high. This was after we worked on a roof for nine hours and fried. We were training in hell. Everyone up and down the East Coast is killing it. No one is getting their dues. You keep seeing the same old people in the same old magazines everyday. Go out there and look around. There’s other shit going on, but they just want to keep on doing the same shit. That’s who they are. I could care less. I haven’t looked at a fashion magazine, I mean, skateboard magazine in forever. The only magazines I look at now are Juice and Concussion. That shit’s real. They put real people in there.
What’s up for the future?
All of my buddies are building skateparks, so that’s awesome. There is just going to be more skateparks built. Right now, two blocks from my house, we’re building a 32-foot wide vert ramp. It’s just waiting to get dug. We’re going to add the steel. Hank’s adding an extra part to his place, too. A lot of my buddies are building pools in the backyard.
Don’t you know that vert is dead?
We’re fixing to build a peanut in Otis’ backyard. Suede is coming to do that. We’re going to put the stars and bars tile around it. That’s going to be sick. We’re going to put a lot of effort into that one. We’re gonna do it. Everyone has skills. If someone doesn’t have the skill, we’ll find someone who does. Everybody puts in something. That’s the beauty of it all.
What’s the NASCAR, skateboarding connection?
It’s all about NASCAR and skateboarding. Go fast and go huge. We’ve got the Fiber Rider out on the property. I’m getting ready to have the Milwaukee’s Best 500 and invite everyone there and see who can go the fastest. I wish someone would sponsor it. The winner wins 20 cases of Milwaukee’s Best. Go fast. I’m all about NASCAR. I have to watch it every Sunday. I’m addicted. I’ve been around it my whole life. I’m watching qualifying right now. My buddy just got a 55-inch wide screen TV with surround sound. The party is on for NASCAR.
I wish I had a Sony IMAX theatre in my backyard. I’d watch it every day, go party and then go skate. That’s what we do.
Milwaukee’s Best and Camel Lights?
Camel Light Wides all the way. No Camel Lights. I want the fat ones.
Okay. We’d better wrap this up.
Okay. See ya next weekend. We’ll skate the bowl and enjoy everything.
Is there anyone that you want to thank for giving you all kinds of product?
I want to thank Lance Mountain. He’s the only one that’s every really given me a pile of product. He gave me some Adidas stuff. Murf’s given me some stuff over the years. I appreciate that. Thanks to everyone that’s ever helped me out and given me a place to stay. That’s a big one. I want to thank all of my friends. You know who you all are. It’s all about my friends. Thanks to the Samsula Death Squad and the original Grind Syndicate. Thanks to the whole East Coast and a couple of buddies on the West Coast. They all know who they are. I love them to death and I appreciate everything they do. I’ll see y’all again one more time.