The Full Brian Anderson Interview

Ben Colen

Tribe Called Mapquest Backtail.

Just sitting and listening to Brian Anderson talk about a game of SKATE he had with his childhood idol, Brian Lotti, I realized I had to dial it back a little bit. I mean, I used to watch this dude's part about four times in a row every day after school before going out to my driveway to learn tre flips. I can't say I studied his feet or anything, but I can definitely say that he is one of my most favorite skaters. I mean, I watched him win the contest in Dortmund, Germany in 1999 in real life. It was amazing. I followed his switch from Toy Machine to Girl. I accidentally flung my board at him while trying to caballerial a hip at Thrasher's midway stop at Carbondale, Colorado along the King of the Road…do you see? Do you see how hard it is not to fan out on some of these skaters? This interview definitely helped, though. When it's all said and done, BA's just a person like you or me. Granted, one that has had some of the most definitive video parts of the last nine years, but still human. But, I doubt any of the kids today will believe that. They'll probably fan out just as much as I did, which, I guess, is good for Brian. He's planning to have a career for at least eight more years.—Joshua Brooks

I don't think I've seen you skate in a contest in a while. What made you want to enter the Vans Showdown?
Yeah, uh, I haven't been skating that much in contests. I've been going to Tampa Pro the last few years. You know I was around when they started all that stuff—the contests, like the XGames and all that. It was actually really fun, because it was new and you were there with all your friends. Now, it's kind of changed with things like the Dew tour. But, I'm hoping to get back in some more contests and get my standing up or whatever.

It's crazy because I was in Europe in 1999 and I always remember that run you did to win Dortmund. It was insane.
Yeah [laughs], thanks. I remember just getting to the end of those five or six tricks and being really surprised I put them all together.

Before your run, I remember seeing you chilling in the middle of the parking lot by yourself, just smoking.
Yeah, that's crazy. Those were good times. Oh man, I miss those times—traveling around Europe with Ed and Deanna [Templeton].

You were ripping at the Showdown.
Thanks. I was just so thankful to get up there and skate with all those guys. Everyone was killing it. I just appreciate all those guys building those ramps only to be up for a day.

Yeah, the Creature Death Star was massive. So, you guys just got back from the Beauty and the Beast tour. Who was the Antihero MVP and who was the Girl MVP?
Oh, that's so easy. Rick McCrank from Girl and Tony Trujillo from Antihero. Trujillo would get to the park and get through everything in about 45 minutes and just sit down. And, McCrank would rip all day.

It's funny, because the two MVPs are pretty different. I mean, they both rip tranny, but Tony Trujillo gets pretty wasted and McCrank…I don't think he's even had a beer.
He might have had a beer or two. I think he might have had some, you know, crappy people around him growing up. But he was cool with us drinking. But, it's funny, the two personalities are so different—Tony's kind of an asshole, so I don't know.

So who came up with the Wizard staff game?
Brad Staba and Smyth had already done it on a few camping trips. They invited me a few times before, but I was so burnt, I told them I just can't come with you guys. On that trip, I was like, this is the perfect time to do it. The first time I did it—cause you can't cheat—you gotta be good about it. I started at like 10 am. You can't take breaks or nothin'. I had, like five beers before I even got on the ferry to go to Orcas Island. I left my staff in the car because I couldn't take it out. I had a beer in a plastic cup and ate a whole bunch of sh*t—a sandwich, clam chowder. Then, when we got to the island, I broke out the Wizard Staff again and started drinking. I was a Wizard by 6 pm.

It has to be harder to hit Wizard status since you're 6'3", right?
Yeah. I can't remember how many I had. I think I had 23 beers at one point. But, at some point, I was like, God, we're wasting duct tape and it's so jocky, but it's so fun.

Did anyone suggest Edward FortyHands?
No. I've heard of that. You duct tape 40s to your hands and you can't get them off until you finish them, right?

Well, here's our thing that we were gonna do, but didn't do. Carroll had light sticks on that trip. There were staffs with some light sticks on them. But, to be a Warlock, you had to drink a half pint of booze with your wizard staff and then you get to tape the half pint on top with the glow stick in there. It's like the lantern on top.

Did anybody get that?
I think I was trying for a while. It's possible, if you drink a half pint over a few hours.

Did anyone play Scrabble on the trip?
Ah, I don't think so. They just had the soccer ball that Morford brought. Everyone started playing hack and the nicknames got developed from the hack circle. You couldn't pick your name, it just had to come up.

What was yours?
Mine was "Moves". Yeah, cause I wasn't really playing with them at all and they kicked the ball far away and I had to dribble it back in. They were like, "Wow, look at those moves."

You wear a lot of jerseys. Were there any sports you played when you were younger?
No, just soccer. I'm not really that into sports. I always liked hockey jerseys. I played soccer for my school for a second.

I think you're one of the few people who's pulled off the hockey jersey in skating.
Yeah, you gotta have big shoulders or something.

I used to play hockey and later on in college, I remember wearing a hockey jersey while I was skating. And my friends were like, "Man, you've gotta take that thing off. It looks like a cut off moo-moo."
Yeah, they're pretty big. I have a Red Wings one and I think they did well last year, so I didn't want to wear it. I didn't want to be walking down the street and have someone come up to me, shouting numbers and players' names at me.

I got a Cubs hat last year, just to rep the Midwest. Then, they started doing really well, so people would come up to me all the time and want to talk about it. All I knew was that they usually do bad, but they were doing well then, so I would just say, "Oh, yeah, they've really turned it around this year…they usually do so badly," all the time.
[Laughs] You're like, "Sh*t man, I should learn a few things just to say to these people.

Here's a challenge: Name three other skaters that have gotten photos or video skating in hockey jerseys.
All I can say is Mike V. He had a Philadelphia Flyer's one. Ahhh…

Think Canadians.
Probably Justin Bokma. Ryan Smith?

I bet Smith had one. I had Dan Pageau, Moses Itkonen and Mike Hastie.
Yeah. All those guys. It's so much more popular up there.

Here's a million dollar question: what hockey jersey was Dan Pageau wearing when he slammed trying to switch front board El Toro?

[Laughs] That's up there. I don't know enough teams.

You're from Groton, Connecticut, right? What are the big differences between Groton and San Francisco?
The biggest difference would probably be the weather. People, where I grew up, were pretty cool, pretty liberal. It's Connecticut, so it's super white. But, there was a Boy's Home in my town, so there were a few kids who had been kicked out of New York City. There were a couple of really real kids in my high school. There was a naval base there, too, so there were kids from all over the country in my school. So, even though it was Connecticut, it was pretty trife. It was blue collar. I like the seasons, too. I miss that—it made me appreciate when I could skate.

It's getting bigger. There's a new skate park there, but because the submarine company, General Dynamics, slowed down a lot, it's kind of stayed the same, almost. Business slowed down.

Then, SF obviously is a big city, where you don't have to worry about smoking weed. It's California. It's everything I wanted to skate growing up. I'm glad I'm here. But, I miss back East, though.

It seems like SF is the most East Coast of the West Coast cities.
Yeah, because it's got all the old buildings.

So, you were saying Groton was a naval town. Did you ever go and kick it in the old bunkers when you were growing up?
Yeah, there's one old fort—Fort Griswold. There are the old turrets for the cannons and a jail inside, with placards that tell you what battles went down. There's some cool Indian stuff, too. There's some preserve state parks by my house, where there's an old hut that the Indians built with a window for the equinox, when the sunlight comes through, in different places at different times of year. It's pretty wild. I like that whole Native American history feel there.

It seems like it's a historical little town. I was wondering how much that ties you to the East Coast tradition of knowing colonial and Native American history growing up.
You know. We went to museums down on the seaport and stuff. But, I have to say, my history's not that great. I never really got super into it. I just couldn't pay attention to history at that age, but now I have a lot more appreciation for that.

It seems like, when you get older, it gets like that.
I feel like the way…with skating and traveling, I don't read as much as I would like to.

How much do you think growing up in Groton accounts for your calm demeanor on and off a skateboard? Don't people usually call you the "Gentle Giant?"
I would say that has a lot to do with the big family.

How many siblings do you have again?
I have eleven sisters and two brothers. I was the youngest. My mom had to make big meals. My dad was a really chilled out dude. He was very much, you know, not a racist. He was really open-minded, just super polite. So, I learned a lot from him. He just did things like hold the door for people—he just had old-fashioned mannerisms. Just real straight up. But, I still got a temper. I still throw my board, don't get me wrong.

Speaking of kids, have you ever been attacked by a shark?
I've only been surfing once. I saw a giant turtle come out of the water, but no. No sharks.

The reason I ask that is because I read on a message board that some kid read a news story online about a guy named Brian Anderson. And, on the message board, he was certain it was you. He was saying something ridiculous, like "It has to be him. How many Brian Andersons could there be in the world? His name is too unique for it to be anyone else."
For real? That's funny. Actually, that reminds me. I have a good jersey story like that. There's a guy who plays for the Chicago White Sox and he's psyched on skating or his nephew is or something…I don't know. Either way, his agent contacted Girl skateboards and said, "You guys have a guy named Brian Anderson on your team. That's my client's name." So, I guess, they sent a Chicago White Sox Anderson jersey to Girl. So, Sam Smyth gave it to me on one of the Girl trips we went on recently. Then, the last time I was at Girl, I grabbed a board and signed it for him and Sam sent it back. When I was signing, I was thinking, this guy's gonna look at my autograph. I was like, trip out, I wonder what his autograph looks like.

What's the deal with the Street Pirate nickname?
I'll tell you exactly where that comes from. That comes from Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen. They were just watching me in the video and Dill was just like, [in a high-pitched Dill voice] "Ah, we just named you the Street Pirate. I mean, you got the sailor ship tattoo and you're this big street skater, so you're the Street Pirate, man." I think they wanted me to skate for Alien a long time ago, too. So, when I quit Toy Machine and went to Girl, Dill was like "Dude, we were supposed to get you dude. We made up your name—the Street Pirate. What the f*ck?"

Yeah. There's the street pirate tattoo right?
Afterward…not even because of my nickname, they made that logo with the skull and two skateboards behind it. I don't know who made it up, but it wasn't even for me. They just didn't have a name for that and it was in a catalog so they called it the Street Pirate logo. It's funny how that stuff worked out.

So, it's pure coincidence?
I don't think they made it up for me. It's on Mariano's shoe and it's on all sorts of Girl boards. I think they started chilling it out. For a while I was like, come on. But, skulls sell. Anything with teeth or eyeballs is gonna sell.

Going back a little, you were a line cook when you got here, right?
Ah, no. I didn't do it in California, actually. The only thing I did here was pizza delivery and roofing for a little bit. I used to dish wash at this restaurant in Connecticut and then I started prepping. Then, my bosses were like, why don't you start doing the oven. I started to do that. After a year of that, I was cooking. It was cool. I thought that was gonna be my job or trade. I went to check out this campus at Vermont—the culinary institute. I can't even remember now. I was about to do that and I went to California one more time. My friends were like, "You gotta come back out." So, I went out to Sacramento and skated with them.

It's crazy how one minor decision can change your pathway completely.
Yeah, it changed my life. I never would have been going to Europe for free when I was nineteen. Instead, I was flying around in airplanes. It was kind of weird.

Are you still doing art?
I haven't' been doing so much lately. I've been keeping a sketchbook on tour. But, now that this winter is here, I think I'm gonna paint this winter. I'm looking forward to it. There's not as much light to go skating and less trips.

I remember that painting from one of your video parts, you were painting a boxer or something—it was like print art.
Yeah, from a Thrasher check out or something. That was the first time I did that overhead projector sh*t, like Warhol used to do. You project an image on a canvas and trace it so you can do huge images.

Do you have a certain style of painting?
The only way to describe the type of stuff I like to paint is…I grew up on Hot Wheels, so I really like to rely on primary colors. And, then I guess, I'm influenced by the Mexican art I see in the mission. That's the only way I can describe it—Hot Wheels and Mexican art. Beside that, I just like to do little sketches.

That's actually a pretty cool description of your art. It's a easy to get a little bit too self-indulgent with it.
Yeah, you know. I'm not trying to be some cutting-edge artist. I like color and it's fun to paint. I'm not trying to have any art shows.

How much did Ed get you into that stuff?
I guess he did. In high school, already, those were the classes I liked to go to already. My Dad was pretty good at watercolor and figure drawing and stuff. That's another thing I get from him. I always drew and did little projects. So, when I met Ed—he drew and shot photos—so he was just like the people I already knew in Sacramento.


Brian Anderson's mexican art on a bust of Elissa's breasts for a good cause. To learn more about Keep-A-Breast, go to their website.

I was thinking about that Keep-A-Breast thing you did, too. I think you painted a bust of Elissa Steamer's chest. How did that come about?
That almost didn't happen. I was stoked, that was fun. There you go. There's the Mexican vibe, because I did a day of the dead skull.

So, do you help out with any of the Skate Mental stuff?
Uh, it's all Brad and some other friends. It's not all Brad, but he's definitely the orchestrator. I think I've given him some ideas. I gave him one corny, college idea that was a "Jesus Shaves" T-shirt. I did it and then I went to Berkeley one day and I was like, "Oh, they already made this shirt for college kids." But, it's really just Brad and these two guys Nick and Darren and our buddy Joe.

Do you hunt at all? Cause I was wondering about that Nike color way you had.
Oh, no. I just thought those colors would be cool. I would hunt if I were stuck somewhere and didn't have anything to eat. But, it's not really my thing. It's cool, but it's just not my thing. Sam Smyth said it best. He was like, "Dude, imagine shooting a deer and bending down to see it's dead, wet pink nose."

I always thought that was funny, to look at a deer and go, look at how beautiful that is…let's f*ckin' kill it! It doesn't really fit.
I just started shooting guns, though. I like shooting guns now. I went with this girl that I know and she took me to this indoor handgun range. She came over to my house and took the gun apart on the coffee table. Then, I went with Brad and Brandon to this place in San Jose to shoot discs with a shotgun.

That's pretty sick. With the Nike stuff, do they approach you to do art?
They have. I just did so much for so long with that Savier company. I put so much effort into that. I just felt so burnt and so f*cked with, because I just gave that my all for a couple years. We did sales meetings. As far as skateboarders are concerned, people don't do what we did. You could say it's easy, but I feel like we really busted our asses to make that do well and get it off the ground. But, I just wanted to not do that anymore. So, when I got on Nike, I was like, I don't want to do sh*t. I just want to wear your shoes and rip.

Do you ever get crazy requests from collectors that you meet?
Sure, I've heard it a few times. Like, why don't they make them like this. Why don't they fit like this? I just go…I don't know man. I just get in the van. That's my main thing on tour. People are like, where do you go next? I'm just like. I don't know. I just wake up, take a shower and get in the van.

On tour, you can basically go into Nike stores and take whatever you want, isn't that how it is?
Yeah, we have an allowance for the year. you can go to a Nike town with 24 hours notice, usually. You can pretty much take anything, except for something new, like a new Jordan. You get a couple thousand dollars for a year…a substantial amount. Usually when I have a visit, I'll grab a few friends and invite them along. At this time in my life, I'm just so burnt on sneakers that I just get socks. Last time, I went with Elissa. She got some golf balls and stuff.

She's on now, right?
Yeah, I'm psyched.

It's cool to have her back on a team with you.
Yeah, I hang out with her pretty much every single day.

Here's a challenge question that I asked Shimizu in an interview. You have to pretend. You're in Europe, your friend breaks his leg. You need a splint, but you're not close to anything but an official Nike store. What do you take with your discount to make a splint?
Aw man. I would grab a variety of golf clubs and umbrellas and some headbands and socks. I would probably use the Tiger Woods umbrellas, because they're pretty stiff. Then, I'd use the headbands to hold them on and put a sock on the bottom.

That's good. Shimizu said he'd get two golf clubs and shin pads to hold them in place.
Yeah, that's pretty good, too.

You have skated to all sorts of music over the years. What sort of music are you listening to now?
I've been listening to…you know, I don't even listen to my iPod anymore, cause I think we've gotten really spoiled with what we do. So, I've just been listening to R&B on the radio, like Earth, Wind and Fire—stuff that makes you want to cruise around in a Cadillac in the 70s. You know, I don't want to be a hater, but I don't even like to go to shows any more. I'll go to Slayer or something epic. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I went to a Cat Power show about two years ago and everyone is just sitting there, Indian style. I was like, I don't have the patience for this.

That's funny you say that. I went to a Cat Power show with my friend and I've always had a crush on her. But, my friend and I went and our girlfriends just left us there, because we were so stoked on her. We were like, she's so angelic. But, after about fifteen minutes, we were just like, there's really nothing to it. You just nod your head.
Yeah, right? Dude, it sucks. I respect what they're doing. But, you're just standing there with a beer in your hand and you lean into your friend and you just go, "This is pretty cool, huh?" and they're like, "Yeah, it is." But, I'm just thinking, get me out of here. I'd rather just go get a cheeseburger. So, yeah, I like old stuff, R&B, hip hop from the 90s…and the Eagles and old stuff. But, I just heard that a producer conjured up the Eagles.

Like a boy band?
Yeah, you know? Which, I'm like, I thought it was legit. But, I like Journey a lot, because the hipsters haven't gotten a hold of them. I just got a documentary with them. It's gratifying to see someone use their voice like an instrument. Most people don't even sing now.

That is pretty true. Journey is pretty epic. With regard to videos, which ones influenced you when you started skating?
Geez. I think the first one I really saw was…well, I had a book called "Skateboard Action" that I had gotten from the book fair. That's how I learned to ollie, because there was a three or four sequence drawing of a guy ollieing. It was random, it had all these people in it, like Lars Pulpanik. So, that was my first biggest influence, the "Skateboard Action" book. But anyway, first video? I think I saw Shackle Me Not and then I probably saw some Gullwing videos. But, the main videos I watched all the time, when I was getting good was…I used to watch Now and Later by Planet Earth and Video Days, pretty much every single day before I would go skating. I would cut school and skate with my buddy Paul. We would watch Jovantae [Turner] and Brian Lotti and watch Video Days. That's how I learned three flips. I played skate with him last year in Barcelona and I was like, "Yo, I don't mean to fan out, but I learned half my sh*t watching you skate every day." It was tight.

That's wild, because you guys both have really similar styles—real chill.
I really identified with him when I was little. I studied his tre flips when I was little. I mean, that's my tre flip—Brian Lotti.

That's funny, because how do kids respond to Welcome to Hell? I feel like, right now, it's almost like the new Video Days. It's that historic video that everyone tells younger kids to watch.
Yeah, yeah. During that time, that's when the handrails started coming out. toy machine was seen as something hesh. but, after that video, a lot of dope kids gave it respect, you know? Skateboarding was really changing then. Then there was all the Osiris stuff that started happening and that changed it a different way.

Yeah, that was definitely a weird phase.
Yeah, I mean, no offense, because half those dudes are my friends. But, you can't look back on that time and say it doesn't look dated—I mean, those pants and those bulky shoes and stuff. I actually want to watch that right now.

There are some good parts in that video, but generally, you watch that video and you're like, woah. That was a long time ago. It was one of those eras that wasn't gonna run on for a while, whereas, you watch Welcome to Hell and it's timeless. Everyone's style looks sick. The gear doesn't look weird.
Yeah, that's true. I didn't really think about it like that.

So, you've been skating well, man. Where do you see yourself in skating, as far as where you're at.
You know, I'm 32 now and I feel so much support from everyone at Girll and Nike. Mostly, Rick and those guys and Carroll. I really hope that, even though I'm 32, I've been skating with Malto and Bledsoe, and I still feel like I can skate and do a good demo. And, I still like talking to the kids. I'm hoping, man, I can do this until I'm 40. I can still do my job.

It seems like dudes are still skating well a lot longer. Maybe it's with all sports. People are lasting longer. I would like to see you guys skating just as much as some little kid—no offense to the little kid. You know what I mean?
Yeah. Something I look at too is baseball. There are some old dudes still playing. Obviously, baseball is more structured, but, back in the day, those guys had beer guts. There's always been kids that are looking up to baseball players that are 40, so I'm like, Wow, if those guys have little kid fans wearing their hats or whatever, we're still gonna have kids watching us. And, I think, skateboarding being high impact, you just realize as you get older, maybe chill out on the stairs a little bit. We can still skate tranny and do some rails. Fully Flared is a good example of that. Those dudes just started ledge dancing and skating ditches and doing killer tricks on medium-sized eight or ten stair rails. I think skateboarding's gotten to the point where, if you're not trying to do the Leap of Faith—I mean, no offense, because I love Jamie, I'm not trying to make fun of it—but, if you're not trying to jump down some huge thing, you can still do some technical stuff and probably last a little longer. I'm like, fine, let those kids jump down those stairs. I already did that.

If you watch Jamie's most recent part, it's pretty cool stuff. It just looks fun. There are a few rails, but in general, it just looks fun. People have the ability, because you're so good, you can make hard tricks look simple. It seems like it can last longer.
I'm hoping so. I'm so happy at Girl. I will never leave there. Those guys are just awesome. They just know me really well and they're just awesome. People throw money for other things, but I'm just like I won't be with my friends any more. I'll just stick with my friends.

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