Michael Sieben's awesome. He's so awesome that I want you to get to this interview and read about him and Roger Skateboards, instead of a bunch of paragraphs of why I think he's awesome. I asked him all these of questions and, to be a weirdo, I stole some from other interviews, because I always thought that would be funny, especially with someone like Michael Sieben, who's so funny and awesomeJosh Brooks
Qu'est ce que tu fais comme ecole et dans quel but (Question from the French mag Soma. The translation came out like this "That is what you make like school and with a which aim," so basically, what did you study in college, I think)?
I have a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. I graduated in January 1999. When I was there I was mainly screen printing, drawing, and making watercolor paintings. Most of my professors were really confused about what I was doing at the time. Looking back I think I was pretty confused too.
You started working for Thrasher in 2004. Can you explain how that happened? Were you originally writing or did you just do artwork at first?
Around that time I was making this skate zine titled Programmed from India, which was basically me trying to write humorous articles similar to the stuff they were doing in Big Brother. I actually had a few articles printed in Big Brother before they were phased out. Anyway, I gave a handful of zines to Ed Templeton when he was in Austin for a Fugazi show. He showed the zines to Michael Burnett and Michael started sending me random photos for my zines. I was really stoked. After a few months of corresponding with Burnett he asked me if I had any interest in becoming a staff member at Thrasher. I don't remember exactly what I said but I'm pretty sure it was close to "FART YES!" The opportunity to work for Thrasher means so much to me. I can't really even express my gratitude to those dudes for letting an art nerd in Texas be a part of the crew. Thanks dudes. When I first started I was both writing and doing illustrations. It wasn't one or the other.
It seems like you've definitely tried to focus more on your art as of late, writing less. Was writing something that you did as a way to accompany your art or would you have rather just done a bunch of drawings?
I just go through phases. There are times when I have zero interest in writing and all I do is want to draw and vice versa. It's also hard to continually think of things to make fun of within skateboarding which is sort of my shtick at this point. Writing was never really something I set out to do when I was younger. It just sort of happened as opposed to drawing which is something I've always pursued and been interested in.
Are there particular books you go back and read again and againnovels or anything else, before you write or anytime (Question from a Believer interview with writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)?
I've read "The Old Man and the Sea" more than once. Maybe more than twice.
How important do you think it is for people to go outside? Do you think there is too much time devoted to being inside in front of a computer (Question from Outdoor magazine)?
I think going outside is overrated. It's all polluted and there are too many bugs.
I know you've talked about this a lot, so can you explain what happened with "The Good Company" by means of a storybook-like allegory with fictional beast characters as all the different players that took part in what occurred?
I don't think I can do that. All I can say about "The Good Company" is that it turned out to be not so good. Enough time has passed though that I'm not bummed about it anymore. You can't win them all.
Alongside Roger, you run the Okay Mountain Gallery in Austin with ten other artists. When did it start? How would you explain the art you exhibit?
Okay Mountain opened in April of 2006. It was started by a bunch of like-minded artists pooling all of their resources and skill sets and finding a building that they could afford to rent and then doing a bunch of "learn as you go" construction. The gallery rose from the ashes of three previous artist run spaces in Austin: Art Studio Studios, Camp Fig, and The Fresh Up Club. We show all different types of art: paintings, drawings, video, performance, sculpture, pretty much anything we're stoked on. We don't want people to feel like they know what to expect when they come to an opening. I hope that younger artists can look at Okay Mountain as a model for how to organize and collaborate with other artists in their community to make something happen on a local level. This interview is getting pretty serious, huh?
Where did the ideas for your work come from? Did you grow up around animals, or did you just kind of invent those creatures out of your imagination? What are your influences?
My work developed from my primary visual interests which are children's book illustration and skateboarding graphics. I've tried to find a visual tension between the two disciplines that allows my work to be very approachable but also slightly offsetting. Where upon first glance it looks happy or celebratory but upon further inspection you realize there's something a little off about the scene or setting.
I came across this article on attending an art gallery opening. Do you think people really need step-by-step instruction on how to attend a gallery opening? What's the worst thing you've heard or witnessed at a gallery opening?
Before reading that article I would have said no. But after reading it I think it actually has some good information for people. Except for the "how to dress" portion. That's B.S. Always wear a hawaiian shirt to art openings with paint spattered jeans or overalls. That way everybody in attendance will know that you too are an artist
Is it ever hard splitting time between the artistic world and skating world? Are there any clear differences you've noticed?
I don't find it hard. I think it's good to have outside interests beyond skateboarding as you get older. And there are definitely obvious differences but there are also similarities between my art friends and my skate friends. We're all broke, we all dress sort of stupid, and none of us want to have a real job.
Do you know what a haiku is? Can you make one (Question from an interview between Rick McCrank and Silas Baxter-Neal in Color Magazine)?
I believe a haiku is some sort of 3 line poem. I think there are rules about the number of words or letters in each line or something like that. I guess I can't make one since I don't exactly know the rules. I'll write a different type of poem instead if that's cool.
Sad Girl cries and her mascara makes muddy waterfalls
The leaves turn black and winter slowly dies in her arms
While the sky turns grey like a dead mouse
But then she buys a beer bong and some Doritos
And feels a little less sad
My brain: Now, Roger. Where'd the name come from? Please, elaborate.
Stacy and I really didn't want to try to think of a cool name for the company. We just wanted to think of something stupid and funny. It turns out it's actually really hard to think of something stupid that is still funny a day or two later. At some point we came up with the idea of naming the company as if we were naming a kid. We both like the name Roger because and it's not a name you hear too much anymore. Sort of a throwback to our youth. We also have a mutual friend named Roger Seliner who was a big inspiration to both of us so we thought that was kind of cool too.
My brain: You now have only tall skaters on Roger. How tall are Nate Broussard and Nate LaCoste if you were to stack them vertically on top of one another? How tall are they each separately?
If you stacked them they'd probably be over twelve feet. Individually I guess that makes them around six foot something each. Stacy is pretty tall too. My friend Brandon and I are the little dudes in the bunch.
That's impressive. I've heard stories that these athletes can lift a surprising amount of weight in the deadlift and other lifts, even though they never train these lifts. Is that true? And if it is, how's that possible (Question from T-Nation.com)?
That is true and it is possible because each of them believe in the power of spiritual crystals and circular breathing.
Is your friend Brandon (Ziskind) also on the team? How tall is he?Yep, Brandon is on the team. I think he's around 5 foot 9. Brandon is such a rad dude with contagious enthusiasm. Plus he makes skating look super neat. Before we started Roger I asked him if he had any interest in not paying for skateboards anymore. He was down.
Broussard is from Houston. How long have you known him?
I met Nate after Bueno was started. I guess I've known him for about four or five years now. He's one of my favorite dudes ever.
I would describe Broussard's Static III part as f**king amazing and think more people should know about it? How would you describe it to anyone who hasn't seen it?
I'd just say Nate is one of the most gifted and stylish skateboarders I've ever seen. He's got butterfly wings. If you are reading this and you haven't seen Static III then you probably buy your skateboards at Wal-Mart anyway so you're already blowing it.
I've always been a fan of Roger ads. Where do your Roger ad ideas come from? Does it allow you to be more creative since you're not able to run them?
For sure. There's complete freedom because we're not spending any money on them. They're just stupid jokes for the website. If we could actually afford to take out ads I'm sure there would be way more pressure to actually try to convince people to buy our stuff.
Your ads are pretty tongue and cheek. I think most people get the joke, but some might not be able to get the joke or are unable to dismiss it as silliness. Have you ever had anyone get upset about an ad?
Not that I know of. I hope nobody would ever be offended it really is just satire. I like to make fun of skateboarding but at the end of the day I'm just a skateboard nerd and I have an appreciation for all aspects of it. Take something like Deathwish, if I was a young kid that would probably be my favorite company. When I was little I idolized the Bones Brigade. I used to track down Batman t-shirts at comic book stores so I could dress like Steve Caballero. Baker and Deathwish are like the new Bones Brigade. I'm too old to wear the stuff they wear and not look like somebody's weird dad, but I still think it's cool.
This time around, you took a grassroots approach with Rogerr. It's a good way to start. If you were able to grow Roger in the way that you would want it to grow, what would be your ideal size and direction?
I'd like to see it get super huge and then sell it and drop out of the industry and just skate ditches 'til I'm old(er) and not worry about what people are saying about me on the internet. I'm sensitive.
When you think about skating, what's the first image that comes to mind?
The Rob Roskopp Street model graphic. (The first real board I bought.)
Do you think it's been going in a direction toward being fun again, instead of being so serious?
I think it's always going in a fun direction. I don't understand when people say skateboarding is too serious. What's too serious about it? If you don't like certain aspects of skateboarding or you think they're too competitive or whatever then just ignore that stuff and watch the enjoi video.
Does art keep you young or skating keep you young? Or, is it something else?
I think both reject the idea that you have to follow a specific path with your life to be considered a grown-up.
What differentiates adults from children in The Little Prince? Is the distinction simply one of age, or is it based on something else (From a study guide for "The Little Prince")?
The adults are drawn with a .01 Micron pen whereas the children are drawn with a .005 because they're smaller.
You've chosen some great Rogers of the Month (see all ROTM here). You've helped provide a forum for showing their footage off, which is good. It seems like a cool grassroots way of making little areas around the US (and wherever else future Rogers of the Month are from) connect with what you are doing. Has it helped you grow in the areas where those kids are?
Truthfully I have no idea because I don't really do any of the sales stuff. Our goal for the ROTM program is to give kids a way of getting their footage seen by a larger audience. Ideally we hope that they get lined up with some additional sponsorship offers as a result. We also wanted to spread the skateboarding spotlight further than California to give other scenes some attention.
Broussard and LaCoste were added only recently, which gave you and Stacy Lowery more incentive to grow the company. How are things going? What do you have planned?
The company is growing every month despite the economic climate. It's still super small but it's bigger than when we started. Our plans are pretty simple. Just get bigger and bigger and bigger until Roger turns into a parody of itself. We're no dummies.
Are there any ideas of putting out a promo or a video that compiles the guys fully on the team and the current and future Rogers of the Month? Do you have any promos coming out soon?
I think we're going to skip the promo video and just go for the full blown video, which is going to take some time. Broussard is filming for an Adio video right now and that takes priority. So that gives LaCoste and Brandon a good full year or so to work on their parts. We'd like to have a ROTM montage in the video too where all the previous ROTMs are invited to send new footage. And I've set a personal goal to have at least 3 tricks in the video. Hope everybody likes ollie blunts on parking blocks.
I notice you've got an ankle tattooa Celtic cross (Question from a Lara Flynn Boyle interview in Maxim)?
I actually just burned that off with a Doral Light.