I heard a rumor a while ago that Danny Gonzalez was dead so I was pretty surprised when he wrote saying he wanted to do something with us. Danny Gonzalez did a kickflip melon down Wallenberg in 1999. He did a wallride on a ceiling. He did a lot of creative shit before everyone else, but new skaters don’t know who he is, and older skaters don’t ever talk about him. It seems that due to industry mishaps, constant injuries and some unlucky timing, Danny got shafted from many of the history books, despite his amazing level of skateboarding.
For the first time, Danny clears up some of the controversies of his past, and we release a montage of his entire career. All the VHS tapes and DVDs, slimmed down into one 3 minute video, covering 1996 to 2006. Watch that shit before venturing on to the skate nerdish interview below.
Why do you think you are an underrated skater?
Well, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. I just think my career was cut short due to injury. I could have prolonged my career and let the skating speak for itself, but I just couldn’t stay healthy. Also the choice in how I left, raised a lot of questions in people’s minds as well.
You did a kickflip melon grab down Wallenberg back in 1999, before most people were doing tricks down it. But very few people know. Why?
Because when I quit Stereo in 1998/99, everything else fell apart too. You couldn’t quit Stereo and continue to ride for the other Deluxe companies. It axed me all the way around, even for press.
Then later there was some legal stuff with Thrasher. And when they started doing the Wallenberg contests, they blatantly say no grabs, like a slap in the face. They also did feature of all the tricks chronologically done at Wallenberg, and they left my name out. So in a sense, they are trying to erase me entirely from history, so that is in part why, I don’t get a lot of credit or acknowledgment.
So what legal stuff happened with Thrasher later on?
Basically my silhouette was used for the promotional material and advertisements for the game Thrasher Skate and Destroy. Also when you turned on the game, they used my silhouette for a trick that only I did. Essentially, I didn’t care, but my closest friends and my family were just like that’s not right, you should do something. I ended up getting some lawyers and we sent them a cease and desist letter. They didn’t respond. More time went by and the lawyers said we were gonna build a case and bring them to court. I said what? Are you kidding? I’m not taking them to court, you’re insane. Then they told me if I don’t want to take them to court, I’m just going to have to pay lawyer fees. This was at a time when I had no money and no sponsors. I couldn’t pay for the work they put into it. I was kinda fucked. So technically I did sue them but we settled out of court. I felt like I was saving them kinda, what we ended up getting was a very minimal amount of what my lawyers wanted to take.
Have you talked with the Thrasher editor, Jake Phelps since?
When I would see him he would just talk shit out loud after I stopped skating. I don’t hate anybody, and I don’t hate Thrasher, but it’s a uncomfortable situation. Last time I saw him, I just told him to shut the fuck up. That’s after a lot of him just talking shit. It wasn’t like a to your face type thing. It was like a passing by thing as skating. I’m sure he still hates me. I would love to just let him know, how it all came about. It was never my intention to sue.
What do you think about people who dismiss some of your tricks as circus or dork tricks?
To be honest with you I side with everyone else. I do think there are circus tricks, and I do think they are stupid. If you notice a lot of tricks that I did, I only did them every now and then, just to show people that it was possible. But it’s not like I went overboard with it. I would go and do regular types of skating as well. It depends where the trick is done, when its done and on what obstacles.
So if your at the some tiny ass ledge trying some 1 foot trick over and over, it’s dorky?
Tell me about your childhood gang, the Vitzmas
My brother and his friends were all skaters and decided to make a crew basically. At most they were 16,17,18, but we would go to parties at a friends house which was a drug house. There were like no windows and only peepholes, and basically like hardcore drugs, acid, spoon burning, people having sex. I was just a little kid. It was gnarly. That’s what I grew up around. When we were skating and I was 11, we were also going on drug runs. They were trying to get acid while we were trying to get to the next spot. That was just normal, just how kids today go do Gatorade runs and go to 7/11.
You’ve skated fucked up a lot then?
When I was skating for Chapman I was all out, like smoking all day everyday. My whole Reason part, I was like really high, I was smoking gnarly amounts. The part was filmed in 6 days and Ty [Evans] didn’t even use all the stuff we got. A lot of my creativity was just cause I was like tripping a little bit. The day I did Wallenberg I had smoked 2 hits of pure keef out of a bong, like straight crystals. I was wicked high when I went to Wallenberg, but the time I had to jump down it, I was just so scared it just kinda woke me up.
Tell me about doing Wallenberg
That was the first I felt pressure from someone outside of my mind to do something. The problem was I opened my mouth and I told Ty [Evans] that I could do it. And then he came into town with other pros. I couldn’t say no, because up until then I had been telling him I thought I could do it. So on the drive there I was basically like, feeling fucked.
During the times when your doing moves of that kind of stature time seems to slow down a little bit, and I remember telling myself mid air, when you land, slightly extend your front leg out, so when I land the impacts not gonna throw me forward off my board. If you actually watch the video and slow-mo my landing, I actually land with my front leg more straight then my back leg, to keep me from falling forward. The reaction that you see when I’m landing is definitely shock, being surprised cause I couldn’t believe I made it then and there.
Did you really say, “I am the new Gonz?”
That was a rumor I think started by Mickey Reyes around the time I quit Stereo. That’s pretty much all that was really.
Is it true that Mickey beat you up when you quit Stereo in 1999?
True. I have never spoken to him since the occasion. I had to get a 3 year restraining order against him for that. I just don’t know him too much anymore. He was really upset. At the time when I quit, I think he thought I was being bated by other companies, which wasn’t true. He essentially told me on the phone when he saw me next on the street he was gonna beat me up. Obviously as a 19 year old kid, I was just kind of like ha ha, I don’t believe you.
He saw me at Pier 7, and basically tackled me and started pounding on me. I did not, try and fight him, because at the time I had just heard so many gnarly stories of what he had done to other people regarding fights and stuff. So for me the best thing I could do is get in a ball and just kinda protect myself, to a degree. When I tried to contact other companies no one would even touch me. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I thought that maybe he called other companies and said dude if you touch him I’ll kick your ass. Maybe everyone knew just off hand don’t fuck with that dude or you’re gonna have problems.
Why did you quit?
I just felt like Deluxe as a distribution took advantage of their riders. I felt like at the time I was doing the right thing, I was not only standing up for my myself, but I was kinda standing up for all the skateboarders too.
What seemed unfair to you at that time?
As a pro, I was expecting to make a certain amount of money, to live like a normal person, that paid their bills and could afford an apartment and start building their way up. But when I got there, it wasn’t like that at all. A lot of pro skateboarders on the team at the time, some of them were making $400-$500 dollars a month. When I found out it really upset me. At the time I was making $800 a month, and I was skating for Spitfire, Thunder, Lucky, Stereo….etc. For me, $800 to represent all 4 or 5 of those companies, you can understand it felt like I was just riding for Deluxe. I thought that was too little, because I was just doing so much work, and then I had a talk with Mickey and they did give me a pay raise, but I just felt damaged and I didn’t like that the other team members were making so little money. I decided I would rather stop skating for the company, then submit to that form of business.
What you want to be known as in skateboarding at the end of the day?
I think obviously the perception people have of me will always remain. But if I had my hand in it, I just want people to also know, I pushed the envelope of what was possible on a skateboard. That was only ever my intention, and that’s the only thing I ever want to be known for is that.
Check out more of the Jenkem Interviews.