Posted by Tilman on June 14, 2010 at 02:50 PM
What are you showing at your art show tomorrow night in downtown LA?
Actually, I have nothing here to show you.
But maybe you can tell me what it is all about? Are there paintings,
sculptures, collages etc...?
It’s an assemblage. It’s a mixture of everything. There is ink, paint, different fabrics, metal, wax, wood, platinum! Stuff like that. It has a message, it`s dope. It`s sick. It`s like the polo logo getting bombed by a tiger tank or M86. Everybody is shooting the polo logo or at least everybody is trying to shoot the polo logo. It`s sick. I had no idea that you were doing art at all...
You know, I don’t go around telling everyone that I do this and that. The sho tomorrow? Because I am a hustler! Now it’s time to hustle in the art world; take it to the next level! That’s what the show is tomorrow. It’s my first real show above ground and it’s a solo show. I’ve been in plenty of group shows but not a solo show yet. It’s fuckin’ funny! I’ve finished hanging the show and everything now!! So are you excited and happy with how it looks right now? I am psyched! Feels just like learning a fucking new skate trick!
What’s next for your art?
I want to show my stuff all around the world: Berlin, Dubai, Stockholm... every other city in the world, including places like Romania. But I only want to do art that has something to say... or art that shows feelings. I did this one interview with a chick who said ‘I really like this one work we all bleed’. I actually meant it to be sarcastic but it brought her to tears apparently! I was like ‘wow, you’re kidding me? It brought you to tears? Let me see your tits!’ ‘Now it’s time to hustle in the art world‘ ‘Everybody is shooting the polo logo‘
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So I heard that you are going to New York after the show. What’s happening
there? Do you go there often?
I try to go there as much as I can. New York is a second home to me and my kid you know. I took my kid to New York in ‘98. Nowadays he is ripping it (Alex Olson from Girl skateboards). We were hanging out with a friend and they were playing videogames. Then I said “hey, let’s go! It’s New Year’s Eve, let’s go to Times Square”. He was like “really? Fuck yeah, let’s do it. I’ve never done that before. Watch ‘99 come in! It’s a dope number.” And we started rolling down there... It was fuckin’ packed. We were only 7 blocks away and we couldn’t even see the giant ball from Times Square. We were in the middle of these absolute Americantypes, mixed with some Irish people. It was a weird combination of people. We had our skateboards with us and my kid was only 11 back then. We were just crusin’ and it was getting more and more hectic and he was like “hey man, let’s go!” when all of a sudden the ball dropped and some dude in front of us grabbed a trashcan and threw it at the storefront window. BAMM!!!! It was so amazing and all of a sudden it just got even more hectic and a fight started up. These Irish dudes against these black kids. And my son was like “let’s get outta here” but I said “hey chill, it’s on the other side of the sidewalk” and then looked down to see him by my feet... Since then it’s been his second home as well!
But you’re originally from the West Coast, right?
Yeah, I am originally from the Long Beach area.
How did you end up riding a skateboard? I mean nowadays kids are raised
with skateboards all over. On TV, in Videogames etc...
It was in the 60s. It was a toy. There were skate-teams and sponsors but then it died off. In the 70s they introduced boards with clay wheels, and before you knew it, the urethane wheel came out, which changed skateboarding totally. First you were riding on rock hard clay wheels and then you changed to a smooth, quiet ride! It was revolutionary and changed the face of skateboarding. Another revolution in skateboarding was the change from loose ball bearings (some primitive shit) to precision bearings. For me, watching this was fucking amazing! Then came the first skate parks, they were insane I was probably around 14-15 back then and we used to skate ditches, empty pools and whatever the streets had to offer us. All of a sudden there was a concrete-like-sculpture, kinda like a manicured skate thing for us to ride on! It was sick!
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But how did you get hold of your first board back then?
I got it as a Christmas present when I was a little kid. It was lying under the Christmas tree as a toy. I was living up in San Francisco at this time with a lot of hills around us so it was kinda like a roller-derby board with metal wheels. It was just a present and the next year we got a better board and every year after that we got a skateboard because we used it for transportation. We saw older kids who were quite the daredevils and that psyched me into getting into skateboarding more.
How did you really get known in the skateboarding world, how did you get
sponsored and that?
There was the first ever professional pool riding contest. We were competing against dudes that we had seen in magazines. That was another turning point in skateboarding which was sick. I did really well in that contest and won the overall champion of that series.I got a name from riding pools and racing you know.
Did you make any money back then?
There was money to be made but no one was pulling in the money that they could’ve made. It was in its infancy really, compared to what you can get in the present day. You know, I made a living out of it, it was amazing.
I remember this documentary on Mark Gator where you could see him on photos with INXS and other famous stars from back then; seeing him skate in front of thousands of people and all that. How was it in your period back then? How was it for you?
Ok, here is the difference: Gator had his photos with INXS and I had photos with DEVO in Skateboarder magazine! We were in the first skate music videos with DEVO: me, Jay Smith and a couple of others.
But did they have big audiences back then, like you have nowadays with
these huge corporate sponsored events?
Hell yeah, it was crazy! It was the same. It was just more concentrated in California because of the weather and not as spread out as it is today. I went to the Long Beach arena to a contest a year before I entered pro. It was dope going to a huge arena to see skateboarding but that was already happening in the 60s.
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But it seems like there were times in skateboarding when it nearly died out,
like in the 80s and all through the early nineties...
In the early 80s it died out, yeah. it was done, it was over, it was gone. No skate parks, nothing. It was harder than any other time: one minute you were making money and the next you weren`t making anything. So what you gonna do now? What you gonna do with your life now?
But you were still skating?
Yeah, I was but because it died, I played in bands as well. I was in music a lot. Punk rock was coming up in skateboarding! Like when I heard some shit at the first pool contest thing, like the Ramones, Mink Deville and some Pistols! It was insane. And I really got into punk rock: I cut my hair and dyed it blonde which freaked people out. I got an award for skater of the year in 1978! So yeah, we brought punk rock into skateboarding...
Any plans for your music? Like a record maybe?
I wanna do a record. I am going to try to do a record with Dante Ross from New York. I’ve known him forever and we just rehooked and were like, let`s bring out a record. Make some hits bitch! It needs to be done.
So let`s talk about your son. How was it seeing him on a skateboard?
He liked to roll on one just like any other kid does. He was at my parent’s house all the time when he was really young. Back then I had a bank slalom board: the one that was on the cover of Skateboarder magazine and it had super fast wheels and bearings on it, faster then your typical board. He used to roll around on his knees around the condos on it. Then I saw him standing up and he was eating shit and getting knocked out. When he was around nine or ten he moved in with me and met some dudes around Malibu who were skaters and I got him a couple of skateboards and was like “I used to skate blah blah...” We used to make skate park trips and hit up to 8 skate parks a day. I also showed him how to walk through a warehouse since there were a couple of my friends with companies up there and I was like “bitch I need some shit. And all these kids with me need some shit too!!”
But how is it seeing him nowadays, like in the Lakai video?
It`s dope! I told my friend that it`s like him being my son and my brother. Going over to Supreme to throw down some slashes and grinds with him. It`s fun and it`s dope!! I can`t complain.
How did you end up working with Vans Syndicate?
It came together because of Supreme and Berto. They have a bowl, and sessions go down there. Being able to skate a bowl and coping with it was how it basically came together.
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Simple: just give me some shoes, whatever style Vans, and then I fucking just put them together and make them look so ill... I thought there was no way they were gonna be able to produce them! I want to keep it simple, it is more or less the shape of a chuck.
So tell us a regular Steve Olson day...
I go to Starbucks in the morning since it`s our office! You run into all kinds of people there: Lizard King, Reynolds etc. If I don’t go surfing in the morning, I come back and do something in the world of art. Or sit down and jam a bit. Who are some of the people you like to watch nowadays in skateboarding? The new-school so to speak! Tony Trujillo, Rick McCrank, Dae WongSong. It is crazy how much board control they have! Amazing, they blow me away. This guy Alex Chalmers: he`s blasting every fucking skate park!
I remember you were both on the cover of the Skateboarder and then one
day there was a cover with the both of you together. Tell us a bit about the
cover you shot with your kid. Wasn`t that the one shot at the supreme bowl?
Not just the cover was amazing, but also what went into getting the photo done with him was. There was a fight between the old school dude and the new school kid. He was trying to tell me how to drop in doubles! Dude you’re seriously kidding me right?!! I’m the one who should be telling you how it’s done, but he was screaming “you have no idea, you are so clueless!” I just laughed and the more I laughed the more crazy he got! It was funny... I liked the cover, it was sick!
Thanks a lot for taking your time to do this interview!
interview and photos by Alex Flach
“Steve Olson came into the skate scene around 1976. By 1978, he was Skater Of The Ye ar. By 1979, he had changed the look and soundtrack of skating from hippies to punks. Steve is the best skater to ever turn a skateboard.” – Lance Mountain
“Olson changed the look and outlook of skateboarding forever.” – Eric Dressen
“Sweaty cigarette .” - Anthony Van Engelen
“The John Wayne of skateboarding.” – J.Kutte r
“He’s lived a full life more than once” – Alex Olson
“Old school, new school, fuck school!” – Steve Olson