INTERVIEW BY IAN MACKAYE
INTRODUCTION BY DAN LEVY
PHOTOS BY GLEN E. FRIEDMAN AND TED TERREBONNE
Credibility is defined by adoring respect, coupled with indestructible integrity. Within the realms of music and skateboarding live two pioneers and two complete polar opposites, Ian MacKaye and Duane Peters. Their similarities lie within their ability to make you think. Watching Duane skate and slay punk rock music is like watching chaos simultaneously putting itself in order long enough to make a perfectly controlled masterpiece. When you listen to Minor Threat or Fugazi you realize you are hearing an entire generation of music through the voice of a fearless and influential DIY leader. This feature is more than an interview. It’s a backstage pass to the lives and inflections of two of the most credible personalities in skateboarding and music history. The levity of this conversation stems from the fact that Duane is Duane and from the fact that Ian has not interviewed anyone since 1981. I must say, “Ian, it’s about time.” It is with great honor and adoring respect that Juice Magazine presents, for the first time in history, a sit-down with iconoclasts, Duane Peters and Ian MacKaye.“WE WERE THE ENEMY AGAINST ALL THE SOCIETAL BULLSHIT. SKATEBOARDING WAS SOLITUDE. IT WAS ABOUT GETTING AWAY WITH YOUR CREW WHO WERE ALSO LOSERS.”
It’s early, huh? Are you always rockin’ this early?
Yeah, I’m old. I only sleep four hours a night.
I understand. [Laughs] That’s my schedule, too.
I used to sleep ten or twelve hours a night when I was a kid. Now, I don’t sleep at all.
Is it your body or your mind waking you up?
I think my mind is doing it. My body is harder to drag around anymore. I think the body follows the mind.
I agree. You know, I tried to say hello to you at the Vans “Dogtown” movie premiere in Orange, CA. We were standing next to each other, but you didn’t say anything. I think you were in the zone. You were skating so hard. I’d never seen you skate in real life. I was blown away. Your approach is so unique. It was clear that you were in a different place. I don’t even think you heard me.
I don’t even remember that. That’s how I am. When you do something so long, that’s how it is. That’s how I’ve always approached it. In contests, it’s like the crowd isn’t there. I’ve found that I can zone into something like a guitar riff. If you can lock into something like that and then lock into what you’re doing, you’re good to go.
For me, I was comfortable if I skated by myself or with a friend, but the park thing drove me away. It made me too aware of other people’s judgment. But in terms of gigging and all my years of playing music, I never cared. That’s how I knew music was it for me. When I play music, I’m there. I surrender to it completely. Maybe surrender is the wrong word.
No, that’s it exactly. You get lost in the music. If you’re not lost in the music, you’re just competing. Or you’re there for another reason. It’s the same with skating. It’s more revealing in a park and more intimate in a pool. With music, when you’re rehearsing, then you take it to the stage. It’s like, “Take it or leave it. I like what we’re playing. I’m doing what I do.” It’s the same thing with skating. Skating is a release and so is performing. They’re both endorphin releases.
I connected it when I was watching you skate. That was a heavy session. Some people were just there to make their bones. Others were just trying to uphold their reputations. Then there were the people that were just there to skate. Seeing you skate, took me back. When did you start to compete?
Actually, I was in the very first pool contest at the Anaheim Concrete Wave. No one even knows about it. It was right after they put the pool in. Olson won it. I got fourth. We were amateurs then. It was before Spring Valley, which everyone thinks was the first pool contest.
What year was that?
It was in 1977.
Were you at Big O?
I was at the second Hester Series. During the first Hester Series, I was in “Skateboardmania”. We were skating fourteen hours a day for this ’70s laser light show. We had Sid and Marty Croft costumes. It was like “Ice Capades” on skateboards.
[Laughs] I remember reading about that. I was thinking, “This is insanity.”
I had just gotten kicked out of my house, so it was nice to get a paycheck every week. I told them that I’d do the loop to get in to the show. I missed the tryouts. Everyone had to try out for it. The people who picked the skaters didn’t know anything about the politics of the skateboarding business. They picked these guys, the Alot-A-Flex skaters. I had never heard of most of them. It was Tim Marting, Paco Prieto and the Fisher Brothers.
What was their deal?
They were scrubby guys from up North who ripped on their skateboards. They were totally rad. I knew that Tim Marting had just made up the rock-n-roll. It was cool to meet him, but he was a freak. He had no style. Those guys were out of touch, but they were in touch. They were way ahead of a lot of people. Those guys could do nosewheelies starting in a big circle and then bring it down to a smaller circle all the way into 360s without putting their feet down. They attacked the pool. I was being exposed to a whole new thing besides DogTown. At the time, DogTown was at war with San Diego and the Badlands. It was all just a media frenzy that Stecyk and Warren Bolster created. I bought right into that stuff. I loved it. It was going off.
Where were you living at the time?
I was living in Orange County. We got left out completely. There was a shitload of great skaters there, but no one really went to bat for Orange County. There were a lot of people from all over the country in Orange County. It was a lot of rich kids, so we lived off of the rich chicks. We all came from dysfunctional families. We didn’t really fit in the mix, so we went to the beach. When the pools came in, we went inland. To the beach people, if you went two miles inland, you were a traitor. So we kept our skating away from the surfers. The high maintenance surfers didn’t buy into it.
The surfer dudes couldn’t conceive of the idea of making the effort to go in town or what?
No, it was the same reason that we dropped out of school. Those guys were going on to college and we didn’t know where we were going. We were embarrassed of our houses. Nobody could come over. It was like, “Hey, I’ll meet you over there.” These were the social stigmas that we were raised around. Because of that, I could relate to the Dogtown thing. We just couldn’t get any coverage. I was riding for Hobie then. At the time, Mike Weed was their star guy. We’d all go around to the skateparks in this Hobie van. I’d do Pepsi demos for $50, but I never got any coverage in the magazines. We had a team photographer for Hobie. His name was Jeff Ruiz. He would only shoot photos of me behind the owner’s back. He was really scared about it. He was ordered not to shoot anybody but Mike Weed, but I was blowing that guy away.
Was management handing down this command?
Yeah. They didn’t give just anybody a board. I always felt like I didn’t even deserve a board. Then as I kept skating I found out, that the more you put yourself out there and get into it, the more people who just fall off and disappear. Eventually, it was just me and this other guy from our crew still skating. I just kept skating and entering contests. After “Skateboardmania” and the loop, I fell into the hospital.
Did you smack yourself in the loop?
Yeah, I broke my collarbone. Then the insurance people came in and put a stop to it all. I wanted to do successions of that loop. I did that loop so many times. I was past the 6 o’clock position and coming back around. I went back to 10 o’clock so many times and went into spins. I got thrown out of that loop so many times. I was so hard on myself. I wouldn’t say that I’d “done the loop” because I hadn’t gone perfectly around and out of it like a Hotwheels track. By nowadays standards, once you pass the 6 o’clock position, that thing is made. I did the 4 o’clock position the first time the bag was put in. I tried doing it without the bag for two weeks and just kept getting my knees drained. We sat up there and got drunk while they were making that loop. I designed that loop when I was 16 years old. I said, “It’s going to be a Hotwheels track meets Mt. Baldy.” I’m an uneducated Evel Knievel worshiper. You know what I mean?
I would sit on top of that thing drinking as the skeleton was getting made. I knew I was going to die. I was thinking, “Well, if I make this thing, I’ll get some work.” I’m a tweaker, so I wasn’t going to do it without making it. Then they took it to a studio and the thing fell off a flatbed truck on the freeway. It turned into an egg-shaped, weak, flexible nightmare. And I still did it. That’s my life story. What are the chances of the thing falling off of a flatbed truck? Then they wanted me to teach the star of the show to do the loop. He was some wanna-be-actor guy named Tony Jetton. Nobody had every heard of him. He didn’t make a mark. I was teaching him how to do the loop and he kept smashing into the bottom wall. I was up on top of the loop drinking with the riggers. I had about six Colt 45 Talls and I was hammered. We were all up there just laughing at this guy. Then here comes the cocky drunk kid. I went down in it, the thing flexed and I went out into a gnarly spin. I got thrown out of that thing at about 2 o’clock. I smacked into a wall and landed on something. They all thought I’d snapped my neck, but I just broke my collarbone. The producers of the show freaked out. They thought I’d sue, but I didn’t know the politics of it. I went back the next day with my collarbone brace and started doing fakies on it. Then they really freaked out. They said, “If that guy ever gets back on that loop, he’s out of the show.” I was seeing my paycheck just going away. Tim Marting and I were the only guys that skated the whole show. At the beginning, we were earthlings and we were aliens in the second half. It was a total multimillion-dollar Lazer show production.
There was a story to the show?
No, not really. It’s not anything that’s interesting to anybody.
I vaguely remember it. I also heard about this skateboard show that Peralta and those guys were doing. I kept wondering if they’d come to my town. It was so interesting. Those shows were so commercial and contrary to the way that I was thinking about skateboarding. On the other hand, I was stoked because I thought I’d get to see those guys skate.
It was cool to see the guys that you’d read about. You get to see what’s real and what’s not. That’s one of my things about skate contests. I was always thinking, “Am I a jock now because I’m competing with these guys?” But it was just a proving ground. That’s how backyard pools were, too. It was a proving ground. You had to jump a fence to a localized pool. And you had to have a runner. That’s one of your guys that had to jump in the pool. And you better know how to skate or there was going to be a fight. Rock walks and tail taps were all made up in backyard pools, not in parks. We start skating and the next thing you know, we’re trading pools. Otherwise, if you were a kook, you were going to get your ass beat. That’s why they’d call it a runner. I was a runner. I was the guy out of the five. We called our crew the Thai-L Stix, until they all fell off the map. Then my friends started to hate me because I was finally getting my picture in some magazines. After I finally started winning contests, they all claimed me again. It’s the same thing with music. The hometown heroes hate your band because you’re trying to get on the road. You get out there and make a name for yourself, and then they all claim you. They think you’re cool again, for a minute.
The parallels between skateboarding and music are very interesting. As a kid, I loved rock n’ roll. I was crazy about it. But it became clear to me early on, that during the age of Peter Frampton, only royalty could play rock n’ roll. It was like you had to be anointed or something in order to make a record. Because of that, I didn’t think I had a chance of playing music.
It was the same thing with skateboarding. It seemed impossible to get anywhere. Then I was like, “I’m just going to skate.”
Totally. I got into skateboarding through really primitive BMX. We used to strip down our Schwinns.
Yeah, we did the same thing. We’d do wheelies on them all over the neighborhood.
We had ten-speed seats on our Stingrays. It looked so bad ass. We’d ride around, make dirt tracks and watch “On Any Sunday.” Being Evel Knievel freaks, we just wanted to jump over a car with our bikes. We were always trying to come up with ideas like that.
We always wanted to do the Grand Canyon jump before Snake River. We would put on football helmets and jump ditches.
Exactly. After BMX, we got into skateboarding. At first we got those plastic Rolling Star boards. Remember those? We used to do this thing called ‘chicken fighting’ which basically entailed riding down this steep alley and trying to knock each other off of our boards. That was all we did for a long time. Then someone said, “Have you ever heard of “Skateboarder” magazine? After we saw it, we were like, “Whoa.” We didn’t really even know that other kids were skating. A whole new world opened up to us. Skateboarding was our world to define. It wasn’t a matter of royalty. Anybody that wanted to skateboard could do it. There were no rules.
There were no rules and no teammates. We were skating together, but we didn’t really have to rely on anybody. It’s a solo thing.
Yeah, I just wanted to roll with my friends. Most people didn’t even think twice about it. We were invisible to people, which was fine with me.
You were on your own level.
Yeah, then when the parks opened up we were psyched. We used to ride a bus for 10 miles and then skate another mile to get to a park. But what I found out was that the parks were largely populated by assholes. I mean there were all these kids, but they were really competitive. All of a sudden, everyone had an attitude. I started thinking, “This sucks.” I wasn’t interested in competing. I just wanted to ride.
It gets invaded. It’s a bum out. A lot of those assholes were people who wanted to be part of a trend.
Yeah, and then after Rectors pads came out, skateboarding just didn’t seem organic anymore.
There are these points of no return. It’s like when the invert came in, a lot of the Dogtown guys stopped skating. At the time of Rector pads, it was time to look around and say, “What else is there?”
What is it about the invert? I’m curious about that.
It was a point of no return. It’s weird because in skateboarding history, a lot of people think that Bobby Valdez did the first invert. People don’t know that this geek down at this indoor park in Mission Viejo did it in the clover. The guy couldn’t do any tricks at all except these sketchy carves and this weird invert. We were like, “Did you see what that geek did?” He bounced up the coping and grabbed with his wrong hand. He was a foot below the tile with his hand, but his board went out about 2-3 inches. His board kind of bounced around while he was sketchily holding on to it. He did this roundabout thing, came down and kept rolling. At that time, the only thing that really went out of the bowl when your hand hit the wall was “The Weaver. That ended up being the frontside invert. That was impossible at the time. Then we saw Jay Adams in the magazine doing what ended up being the Andrecht. We called it “The Adams”. It was the flyaway. It didn’t get made and we knew that.
He didn’t pull that off, did he?
No. He was over it before he was over it.
Jay is so rad. That was the very beginning. Those inverts were impossible. Then it became possible. This geek did it. Then Bobby Valdez did it. Bobby Valdez and Darrell Miller used to go down to that indoor skatepark all the time. There was this whole underworld of park skaters that the media wasn’t seeing. These guys were way more on top than the guys getting photos in the magazines. When Valdez learned the invert, we were all laughing at him. But he learned it and then applied his style. Then he took a photographer down to Del Mar and got the photos. I remember seeing the pictures of him in the magazine. He looked better doing them than that other guy who got buried somewhere and never skated again.
I saw Bobby Valdez do the invert at Big O at the Hester contest in ’78. Henry [Rollins] and I took a Greyhound bus across the country to California to check out the skating. We went to that contest and saw that invert. It was so baffling to us. We were still just trying to do frontside airs. I saw Jay Adams skate at Big O, too. He basically blew off the contest completely. His whole session was in the warm up pool. In the capsule, he just went back and forth, kicked his board out and then walked away.
How great is he? Were you stoked or what? He rode so low and attacked everything.
He was destroying. The way he was skating was so incredible. What blew me away was how fast he was. You couldn’t see that in the photos. He snaps those things so hard and so fast that the wheels don’t even have a chance.
Jay was one of the Dogtown guys that went beyond the invert. He could have been one of those guys who said, “Screw this.” He had already gotten his media play for “The Adams”. But he was like, “I want to try to make that.” He was blowing everyone away at Marina. He did gnarly tail slides, gnarly inverts and Andrechts. He was on top of all that for a long time. He would blow the contests off, but his style was the best.
That’s what really resonated with me.
There were some contests where he was one of the guys that would have won. At the beginning of the contest, he would be in the top 16. Then he’d drop in and shoot his board out twenty feet. Then he’d walk away, flipping everyone off.