Push Periodical has been going for a year now. That happened fast.
So, to mark the birthday, here is the Matt Field interview from issue 1 (September 2015, 700 copies).
This was a special project for me, and a big reason that the magazine happened, really. I had been toying with the idea of doing something in print, and when these pictures started piling up- pictures which I am proud of, and which I believe to be quite special, trick-wise- I felt that they would make an excellent first feature.
And I would like to thank Matt for trusting me with such an honest and uncensored interview.
-Richard Hart, Sept 2016.
Interview and photography by Richard Hart, introduction by Mark Whiteley.
Matt Field and I met during my freshman year of college, in 1995. It was the first time I’d lived away from home, and the first few months of it were miserable for me, especially on the skate front. But one day Matt and I were both skating the same spot and were introduced by a friend. Matt was psyched, saying he had noticed me skating because we were the only two people there wearing shorts and nollieing things. We just clicked. You ever had an experience where you meet somebody and immediately it’s like you’ve always been friends? It was that. Matt pretty much saved my skateboarding life that day.
The timing of things was perfect. Matt was a hungry am trying to make it happen, I was a young filmer doing the same. We just went after it. Our results can be seen in Real’s “Non-Fiction”, the Sheep video, our shared part in a Skateworks video, and lots of other little clips from ’95-’97. We had a shared vision and a mutual understanding of other during a defining part of both our lives. I think we both really helped each other get where we were going next.
Matt defined that style and era (mid-’90s) for me. Simple tricks done with big power, energy and flow. He would just charge and barge, dreads flying or beanie bulging, nollie and fakie pop like few others, mashing up walls, snapping over whatever you’ve got, speed and smiles. He led that pack. I can still see his face; happy eyes, big smile and excited yells and laughter. It was just a blast skating with him so much back then.
Over the following decade, I watched him rise. Turn pro. Start Half Life. Start I-Path. Start Rasa Libre. We always had a strong connection whenever we’d meet, but after those first couple super close years, we never lived in the same place again and fell in with different crowds, different scenes. I watched what he was doing from more of a distance, proud of what my friend was achieving with his skill and dedication. He worked hard to carve out a place for himself and his beliefs in skateboarding.
That bit of distance made it more difficult when his rise began to crash. He had hard times with hard things, and we were removed enough from each others’ day to day lives that it felt like it wasn’t my place to be involved in some of the things that were going on around him. To be honest, I felt like a bad friend but didn’t know what I could do to help. In the end, it was something that only he could do himself anyhow, I guess.
Now, at 40, Matt is in a whole new stage of his life. The days of running companies and being a ‘big pro’ may be done, but Matt is standing solid on his own two feet with supportive people around him, beautiful children beside him, and his love of skating is as strong as it’s ever been. It makes me so happy to see all the new footage he’s posting on Instagram, and getting a sneak preview of these photos got me a little misty, I must say. I can see his power and unique approach to skating have not faded.
Matty, I am proud of you, and all you have done. I miss you, I love you, and I send you nothing but the most majestic salmon swerve essence from the deepest parts of my heart. Respect.
So is that really how you ended up in San Francisco- following the Grateful Dead on tour?
Yeah, in a Volkswagon bus. I guess it was around ’91/’92 that I started going to Dead shows a lot, it was kinda cool; you could visit new cities every other week and skate and go see music, and the Dead community was an on-the-road family for you; you would see the same people from coast to coast.
How did you end up stopping here?
I was in SF and Jerry Garcia got sick and the shows got cancelled. I called Shrewgy (then- DLX team manager), who used to send me wheels and trucks; I went to his house and he had got me a Salman Agah board and a set of Spitfires and Thunders. I remember putting that board together and bombing Fillmore street with Rick Ibaseta, Peter Huynh and Julien (Stranger), and I thought “I’m never going back”. SF had everything I wanted; music, a counterculture history, people that were into Eastern wisdom and traditions, meditation, psychedelics.. It was a freer environment.
And it was Barker (Barrett) that made you go out skating with Jim (Thiebaud) and Tommy (Guerrero)?
Yeah, we would meet TG and Jim at DMV and make our way downtown. I was in awe ‘cos I was rolling down the street with these guys thinking “Wow, am I in my dream or is this reality?!” and to have your dreams manifesting was something I wanted to harness. Jim would always tease me about the dreadlocks and stuff though!
So you inevitably ended up riding for Deluxe/ Real?
In the end it came down to shooting this Thunder ad- if I made the trick, I was on the team. It was a kickflip 5-0 on Hubba… it was actually kind of a curse in a way because from then on i was expected to do all this ‘big’ skating which really wasn’t my thing- I just liked doing flip 5-0’s on stuff.
Who were the skaters you looked up to, growing up on the East Coast?
Sean Sheffey and Coco Santiago. Mike V and Chris Pastras. I grew up one town over from Chris so I was skating with him when i was 11 years old; going to Brooklyn Banks contests, ESA contests, entering in the ’12 and under’ category… It was always Sheffey that stood out to me the most; his rawness. He was a teenager but he was a grown man. He was like a psychedelic Einstein. The first time I took LSD, I remember fro-ing my hair out, trying to be like Sheffey and Einstein. It was when skating really opened up for me. Something kind of clicked where I was able to not-miss a 360 flip and learned backside lips on ledges and was Japan-ing everything in sight at 4AM in downtown Manhattan. From then on it was always about trying to channel that raw Sheffey/ Gonz style. Probably didn’t need the acid for that, but you can get some insight the first couple times taking it; after that, if you haven’t figured it out, it’s kind of pointless and not too healthy.
And then you moved to SF, a town which I think can make you a better skater- learning to skate the hills..
Your awareness has to be a lot sharper in SF. There’s a recklessness but with heightened awareness; you have to be in touch with your board or that Prius comin’ behind you will take you out. It’s not just about bombing the hill, it’s about every little crack, every little curb-cut. There’s motion, there’s feeling. And that’s where skating’s really come back around for me, it’s about being in my body, not just trying to do some tricks or trying to film some part. Through yoga I feel like I’ve become more conscious of being in the moment; just being present is a beautiful place to be.
You had a kid when you were just a teenager. Did that make you do a lot of growing up pretty early?
I feel like I’ve done more growing up in the last 3 years than in the previous 15 years!
My Mom passed away when I was 15, and I was 17 when my daughter was born.. and so something told me I had to settle down, and we moved to Santa Cruz and I chose to pursue skateboarding.
How did your first company, Half Life come about?
A friend of mine had some money to start it, and I wanted to bring a different element into skateboarding. Bring hemp and a conscious lifestyle, reggae..
Things were pretty hip-hop at that point..
I wanted an alternative. It lasted about 3 years, my friend ended up getting in a lot of trouble and so that was it.
Then how did I-Path happen?
I found a money guy, his family was Jones New York. I was thinking of doing a shoe company and there was a company (Nice) that wanted to do a different brand.. So we decided to start something. I wanted it to be the Patagonia of the skateboard world, I liked their business model. I think I-Path was pigeonholed for a bit- ‘just for Rasta skaters’, but then when Fred Gall and Tim O’Connor and those guys got on, it branched out a little bit. We were a crew of brothers, it was beautiful- everyone contributed in their own magical way, whether it was Rodriguez or Nate Jones or Kenny Reed, if it was Bobby Puleo or Quim, Nilton.. Everyone brought something special to the table. And though we were all like-minded and forward-thinking people, we all had our own attributes. I tried to make sense of all that and bring it all together.
The team got pretty big, how much were you dealing with the guys and their different needs, as well as designing?
I took on a lot of that. We took so many shortcuts. I would be designing shoes on my way to the factory in Korea, on the way to make a whole season of shoes; 20 different shoes and color-ways; and still be dealing with the team. We never had a full-time shoe designer. So some stuff came out pretty hack and some stuff was a pretty good idea. We brought back some of the classics before anyone else did. We did a Half-Cab; that wasn’t even available any more when we did the Kenny shoe. Or the Grasshopper- those were classic Dunks before you could get them again. Nike weren’t even offering them, they weren’t in the scene. So we were bringing these styles back before anyone was doing reissues or before that whole retro-shoe thing was really happening.
Did the growth of the company go hand-in-hand with more partying?
I think so. As problems got bigger, we hired more employees. Barker, Marcus (Brown) and Dan (Wolfe) being there every day helping out, it gave me more and more room to play. But it wasn’t really a healthy choice. I didn’t really know what to do with all the money; I was making a lot, and ‘more money, more problems’… I wasn’t equipped to handle that stuff, I was still a kid; I went from skating to running these pretty big brands and I never had much of a business sense. I’m still learning about all that now.
I lived with (I-Path employee) John at the time, and it seemed like every day at the office was a different thing- Margarita Mondays, Tuesdays were something else, Wednesdays were something else..!
Yeah, the substance abuse definitely became a huge part of our environment.
How does that ‘party era’ seem when you look back on it?
It got me to where I am today… I had a blast, we partied hard, we had a lot of fun and thank God I made it out the other side, somewhat OK.
Did you feel like you checked out of skating?
Oh yeah, I feel like I checked out of skating right after ‘Reel to Real’ came out. I ripped my ACL and I was taking a lot of pain killers; they kind of ran the show for a couple of years there. I was living this life of acting like the rockstars I heard about- Hendrix, Janis Joplin; who died young. I wanted to live fast, and when I was at my peak with I-Path, I pretty much could buy whatever I wanted; I had the Mercedes and the big house.. I wasn’t planning ahead.. I remember being 28 and- ‘Saturn return’ they call it- if you don’t make the right choices and change your life, you’re liable to just replay it all over again, and end up at the same place when you’re 60.
Was there one moment that made you stop?
It was gradual, it took having two more kids, it took a long time to open my eyes and see the damage I was doing to myself. I missed the class on how to live a healthy, grounded life. I always burnt the candle from both ends… My days were always detox/ retox/ detox/ retox: I was eating healthy and doing yoga, but at the same time, putting all this crap into my body and going out and partying.
Do you have regrets about the way you were treating some of those around you?
I do, I have a lot of regrets, a lot of amends to make to a lot of people...
2010/ 2011, things came to head. I’d sold I-Path to Timberland in 2008 and made a good chunk of money. I had started it, and it seemed so solid, like it was never going to go away; I just thought I would always have income from I-Path, that I was just lucky like that. But it didn’t work out like that. And when the company went corporate it lost it’s soul, it lost the grass roots authenticity. My partner and I had a falling out and we both got let go by the new owners. As soon as that happened, it was sort of a domino effect; everything started falling apart. I-Path ending made me reach my bottom quicker, but it probably saved my life at the same time. I definitely went to a dark place, and it took a divorce and almost losing my kids and everything I love, for me to climb out of that depression.
Did skating help you through all that? I always think that skating is always there for you, it can be a big help mentally.
Skating is such a good release, especially, for me, through the divorce and the stress of losing the brands and stuff. I really just wanted to skate for myself then. No-one wanted an ad from me, there was no-one to skate ‘for’. It all went back to that Sheffey feeling. Being in my body and being present, it just felt right, it’s my connection to the world.
I was so numbed-out before; now I feel like I have so much lost time to make up.
I’d actually like to start Rasa up again, I’m not sure what as, but something..
How does the state of skating look to you now?
Skating’s in a rad place; skaters I look up to, like Al Davis, Ben Gore, Brian Delatorre and Jake Johnson, they’re just so rad, they’re doing the tricks I always wanted to do… Then there’s that whole other (more mainstream) side of skating where they’re taking it so far and the level they’re at is amazing- amazing physical ability to do the tricks they’re doing, but there’s something missing. The soul and the feeling, that jazz; the notes don’t matter, just let it come out, just feel it; not everything has to be so pre-meditated.
Yeah, I got bummed out for a while with skating, it felt formulaic and got so ‘big’.. and there is still that, but I feel like there’s a whole new generation that have the kind of mentality we grew up with..
It felt like “wow, skating’s still there? I can come back to it?!”; I could’ve got bummed and said “fuck skating” and done something else, but I just love skateboarding so much that it wouldn’t have been honest to myself. So now at 40 years old I’m skating with all my homies, they’re somewhat like my sons! Even though I’m a bit older than them, I love being part of the crew, and it’s just amazing that we have Zach (Chamberlin) and Ben (Gore) and Evan (Kinori) and this younger generation that we helped inspire. They’re here, still doing it, and they’ve welcomed me back with open arms; it’s such a blessing. How true the words of the late Jay Adams are, that you never get too old for skating; you get old when you stop. It’s my life force, like air. That’s why I’m so stoked to be on my board any way I can, whether it’s giving kids skate lessons- passing on what was so freely given to me- and keeping that light lit, or just inhaling and exhaling nothing but radical oneness with my boys.
I want to thank my kids Dekoa, Hana and Ryder and big thx to my girl Jen.
Roots Rock Radical Forever.